Edison turns 30 this year! Each Friday through year end, we'll be giving you a little blast from the past. True to the Edison Code, this photo blog campaign emphasizes an important fact that here at Edison we are candid -- refreshingly and uncomfortably.
Corresponding to #6 of the code, "We celebrate victories", this month marks 15 years since CEO, Flint Lane, first started his company, Billtrust, and 10 years since working with Edison Partners.
In the Spotlight: Flint Lane & Billtrust
Q: First, congratulations! Not only did Billtrust turn 15, I see you recently rebranded; how else has the company changed over the last 15 years?
A: Ten years ago, Edison invested in a $2M revenue business with roughly 15 employees. I was a previously failed entrepreneur that Chris Sugden pushed hard to make a bet on. We are now roughly 400 people with over $60M in revenue. Just about everything has evolved at least 2 or 3 times. One of the business books that I read really early on was by Marshall Goldsmith titled “What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There”. We’ve been reinventing ourselves every few years and that allows us to continue to grow and continue to be excited about the mission we’re on.
Q: Since first working with Edison Partners in 2006, how do you think the relationship has evolved?
A: Edison and Billtrust have changed quite a bit in the last ten years, and as we’ve gotten to know each other better, we know how to work even better together. Chris Sugden has been on our board for ten years. He and I know each other very well and have learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The advice and guidance Chris gives is now more in areas that he knows we could use help and he doesn’t focus on those areas where he knows we have it covered.
Q: What is your best memory in the 10 years that you have worked with Edison? Any favorite event?
A: My favorite event is easily the Edison CEO Summit. I’m a big believer that in order for me to grow as a leader, I need to learn from others – other CEOs, business leaders, authors, etc. Edison has done an exceptional job of putting together this annual event in such a way that I always leave smarter than I was going in with several good ideas to bring to the business. I also enjoy the fact that I had an incredibly small part in the creation of this event by nagging the Edison leadership team to do more for their CEOs.
Q: We also appreciate your participation at our CEO Summits. You never hold back from sharing valuable opinions, and other CEOs have definitely learned from you. How do you feel you, as a CEO, have evolved?
A: I’m a completely different CEO then I was 10 years ago. The skills required to be the CEO of a 15-person company are very different than a 400-person company. I’ve had to evolve to be more of a leader than a doer. I used to write code part time and had to give that up. I now spend far more time coaching our leadership team, setting strategic direction, and making sure we have the right culture instead of getting dragged into tactical decisions. A great quote I recently heard, happened to be at this year's Edison CEO event, is pretty relevant - “it’s important to give direction to your team on the What and the Why, and then let them figure out the How.”
Q: One step ahead of me, I was just going to ask what's the best advice you ever received. How about, what advice would you share with others?
A: My Mom used to drill into me and my brothers – “you can do anything you set your mind to.” This is essential to the entrepreneurial spirit where you seem to be constantly facing incredibly poor odds for success. I can be a bit sarcastic with my leadership style, so one of my latest fun lines to share is when someone is complaining about something – “there’s easier jobs, they just don’t pay as well”.
Q: You are certainly an inspiration, Flint, and in more ways than one. You inspired us to get a ping pong table in our new office. How did you come to love this sport so much?
A: I’m inspired by people who are masters at their craft. For my 45th birthday, my wife surprised me with a ping pong lesson from three-time USA Olympian David Zhuang. I was an avid player in college and I was ready to show this guy my stuff. He demolished me. Like playing 1:1 basketball against LeBron James. I was looking for a new sport to replace basketball because my body had had enough. So I started taking lessons from David and I’ve been hooked since. Ping pong is a great aerobic sport, you can play it as you get older, and there are very few sports that you can continue to get better at later in life.
Trivia 1986: Did You Know?
Ping-pong became an official Olympic sport at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. Currently, there are several event categories, including men and women’s singles and team matches.
Picture on the left is from roughly 1986 -- Flint is just starting his Ping Pong career with some fraternity brothers. Pictured on the right, Flint is showing off his skills 30 years later at Princeton Pong - a local ping pong hall he opened in 2014.
We hope you'll join us on this #EdisonTurns30 campaign. Any and all contributions from our network are most welcome.