The success of Adpearance
David Steinberg wanted transparency with the latest open house at Adpearance.
This year, on April 17, he proudly showed off Adpearance's floor at the new Field Office building new the west end of the Fremont Bridge. The 300,000 square foot, $100 million building hugs the Dockside Saloon & Restaurant, which refused to sell out.
"For years at Design Week everyone wanted a job," he said of the firm he cofounded. "So this year we took the curtain off. We decided to make it less awkward and did speed dating-style interviews."
In at least a dozen spots around the building, while looky-loos and staff partied with snacks, beer and La Croix, conservatively-dressed candidates sat with staff members in official job interviews.
You could sign up for slots, which were posted on one of the giant monitors scattered around the space and be part of the pipeline within minutes.
Steinberg told the Business Tribune they were desperate to move because it was affecting their ability to attract talent.
"Our recruiting pipeline wasn't keeping up. At our space at 17th and Alder, we stopped caring about our space, and it affected our recruiting pipeline. They'd come in and be so unimpressed. People really were judging our space. And our recruiting pipeline is picking back up."
The office has account directors and managers on one side, and a large team of engineers making software, called Four Eyes.
"The software is getting a lot of attention, and our products are starting to take over the company." He even jokes about possibly changing the name of the company from the opaque Adpearance to the more popular Four Eyes.
"Our goal is to transition from a service company to a product company," he states plainly. "Last year revenue was 40 percent product, 60 percent service. In two years we expect to be 90 percent product, 10 percent service."
The manager wants to see you
They sell to heavy equipment makers and most of the big auto manufacturers are getting behind the software.
"Fiat Chrysler are big users. We're working with Jaguar Land Rover, Kia and Volkswagen, and also Toyota and Nissan called this week."
They all want the Four Eyes.
So what does it do?
"We have a patent associating the phone call to the web visit. If you're on your PC and you pick up the phone and call, we can tell what you've been doing. Then we can filter that and add it to the Customer Relations Management (software) and then check the CRM two hours later.
Steinberg says it costs $200 for car dealers to generate a phone call. If the salesperson doesn't enter it into the system, that money is gone. FourEyes proves to dealerships 20 percent of incoming leads don't make it into the system.
"The job of a salesperson is changing with technology. They're having a harder job getting results. We make more calls and texts than ever, but the thing we do less today is respond. The salesperson is having to call 100 people to talk to three. They're going home frustrated...."
"They're told call more people, be more aggressive, but that's not a good customer experience. We're using the website as a virtual showroom. That guy who never responded, he's back on the website. Salespeople love this. We send a 'coffee report' every morning to 6,000 dealers and say these are the people on the website. Often they haven't responded."
It turns tire-kickers into real leads. And management can see if salespeople have followed up and called those leads. It can help management to see that often "they haven't got a marketing problem, they have a sales problem."
New Portland engineers
Auto dealerships are all about filling out online forms, but "the best way to sell cars is person-to-person. So how do we connect people?"
Adpearance is now hiring a lot of engineers and project managers. "Companies in our space over hire engineers but they don't hire managers to set them up for success. Now we're keeping the right ratio and we're feeding them the right work. Good engineers come to us and say 'We like what you're doing...' But the first thing they say when they come in and see our stuff is 'You gotta rebuild your tech stack.' We needed product managers to push back."
Steinberg speaks with a surprising frankness about his business, something done at few tech companies.
He turns a tale about how his buddy and cofounder Aaron James was sidelined for five months by illness into a business case study. James was holding out for the company as a service company. Steinberg wanted to get more into selling the product to verticals such as car makers and dealers. They were always having what he calls a healthy debate. While James was off sick they changed their focus. When he came back, James accepted the change because it was working.
New digs for New Portland
Adpearance is in the north section of the two-building project. There's a handsome lobby with a live wall of bright green lichen, and furniture reminiscent of an architect's office. Natural light penetrates to the center of the building, and plants are everywhere, trees on balconies and wires ready to train climbing plants up columns.
Lease Crutcher Lewis did the tenant improvements.
"I was going to vote to have our own contractor, but (the developer) project^ talked us into using (LCL)," he says. "They were fantastic and they got it done on time and mostly on budget."
Steinberg was actually won over by the building's fancy bike room and showers with the aromatic cedar. He's excited to give a personal tour, pointing out the common area outside with its white oak picnic tables, the large, well-appointed kitchen, and the vestigial charm of the Dock Side Tavern.
"Our employees love the Dockside," he exclaims. "It's like going into a 'Stranger Things' episode." You could probably not get a sharper juxtaposition of old and new Portland. The bins where Tonya Harding's incriminating trash bags were found are a few feet from where the new childcare center, The Children's Garden, is building its leafy fairy house. The quinoa and kombucha crowd are unlikely to be stopping in the Dockside for yellow eggs and pink meat that often.
The old Adpearance HQ was spread over four buildings. In the two weeks they've been moved in — office dog Lucy, cereal dispensers, ping pong and all — he's been overhearing people meeting colleagues that they had no idea existed.
"The appearance of success precedes actual success," says Steinberg.
He was worried his staff might think they suddenly had more money to throw around.
"Our big concern moving here was people were going to say 'We've made it! Show me the money!' There's a little bit of that. But the thing I didn't count on is the productivity."
Watching teams finally be able to work together, he realized that productivity would foot the bill. "And also having employees have natural light...People are working later, they're going out at lunch..."
He's spent money on a mural by neighborhood artist Blaine Fontana (see also Target downtown), in trying to balance comfort and efficiency. Steinberg buys all the plants and makes sure each one has a popsicle stick with someone's name on it.
"If your name is on that plant you better keep that effing plant alive," he says with a chuckle.
They can't stock the office snacks fast enough, because so many people are in the office.
Although they have a cleaning service, since it's Hacker-designed Class A office space, he makes sure everyone is on kitchen duty rotation, including — and forgive him a minor humble brag, he's excited — Steinberg himself. "At the old place the kitchen was my partner's old kitchen table and some sh-y wood chairs," he jokes.
The idea of making them clean their new space is so they look after it rather than expecting someone to pick up after them and letting things slide.
Talking of nerds (and that's what they call themselves — the Nerd Herd) another tenant coming soon is Ampere Computing, the chip startup co-founded by former Intel Corp. President Renee James.
Adpearance staffers have so far been coming in to work by bus, car and bike. They get a TriMet pass and stipend so they can get an Uber or a Lyft if the weather is really bad. Staff are starting to move into the new apartments along Front Avenue, just minutes from the office.
This part of town sorely needs activating at street level. There is space for retail on the ground floor. Highlights of the neighborhood include Breken Kitchen, Cascadia Coffee and the fish market.
"I think people should get out," he says. "When I see people who bring their lunch every day I actually worry about those people. The process of getting out is good."
Field Office's design principle was to make it feel like outdoors inside, and to an extent vice-versa. Steinberg and his 160 staff are giving it a go.
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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