Jeff Archibald is the CEO of Paper-Leaf. Jeff is a thought leader, influencer, visionary, and successful entrepreneur. Jeff provides the leadership and energy that has inspired the creation of Paper-Leaf. Jeff Archibald joins other leading CEOs and Founders taking part in our Leader Roundtable Interview Series. The DotCom Magazine editorial team is delighted to have Jeff join us for our Leader Roundtable Interview.
Jeff, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy day for this interview about your company, leadership, and entrepreneurship.
1. Jeff, please tell us about Paper Leaf. What is the elevator pitch?
We’re a UX-focused digital product agency. We use design & technology to help businesses and organizations grow – which might be in revenue, maturity of organizational processes or efficiency, or as a brand.
Basically, that means we use modern web technologies – React / React Native, Laravel, WordPress, things like that – to build mobile apps, web apps, and websites that achieve the aforementioned goal.
2. What is the one thing that makes Paper Leaf great?
If I had to pick one thing, I’d probably say attention to detail. It’s pervasive across everyone in the firm – detail in communications, UI design, architecture and development, project management, requirements gathering, and so forth. It’s not the most exciting answer, but thoroughness and attention to detail are absolutely essential when you’re tasked with delivering business critical software alongside a great customer experience.
3. Please tell us what is the key to being a great entrepreneur?
It’s tough to distill successful entrepreneurship down to one key element. The entrepreneurial journey has so many different stages – that said, the one constant is delivering value.
I know that’s a vague, somewhat intangible thing, but there’s various ways to deliver value to your clients. Early on, for us, value came from the cross-section of work quality, price – meaning we unknowingly undercharged – and velocity. We did reasonable work fast and cheap, basically, which had value for certain types of clients. As Paper Leaf grew, our value moved to being able to use technology and design to solve UX and business problems, which held value for the clients we worked with. Now, we do the same, but mitigate client risk and tackle complex technical requirements along the way. The common thread there is delivering value – the method in which you do that, as an entrepreneur, will always change. But the core element of value to the client needs to be there.
4. What is the best advice can you give to a young entrepreneur just starting out with a new venture?
Be reasonable in your expectations, and expect to put in real time before you see outcomes. Too many entrepreneur programs focus on spreadsheets and business plans that are based around total pie-in-the-sky numbers – you’ll be staring at these documents that tell you, say, if you get an average of only 25 customers a month, you’ll make $100,000!
Those numbers might be true, but that’s not going to happen tomorrow. You’ll work towards those forecasts over years. Every single successful entrepreneur I know made next to nothing for at least 3 years, did everything themselves for a long time, and they absolutely lived and breathed the business. I’m not glorifying sleeping in your car and working 60 hour weeks, but from my experience, that’s the reality of starting a business. So be ready for that, and make sure it’s something you’re fully committed to.
5. What is the one thing that you, as a person, want to be known for?
To be honest, the whole “legacy” thing isn’t really something that drives me. But I suppose I’d want to be known for creating a place, in Paper Leaf, that was a good place to work, and delivered good work. A place that employees look back on as a great place of employment that helped them grow and succeed, and a business that clients look back on as a competent partner that helped them reach their goals.
6. When building a business, what is the one most important thing to keep in mind at all times?
Prioritization. It’s really easy to work on the wrong items – urgent but not important items, items we enjoy working on but aren’t really critical, etc. There’s so much work to be done, especially when you’re in the early stages, that understanding how to prioritize work in order to work on the right parts of the business at the right times is key. We often refer to and use the Eisenhower Matrix as a tool for task prioritization at the shop.
7. When hiring employees, what is the one most important thing you look for?
This might be a cop out answer, but someone with the right mix of traits. They need to be at the cross-section of critical thinking, core competency, motivation, communication, and empathy. Being adept at only one or two of those things does not matter if they don’t have the others – for example, you can’t have someone who writes bulletproof code but is an asshole. You can’t have the nicest person in the world who shows up on time but has no technical skill. The right team members are at the centre of the Venn diagram you’ve outlined for the role.
8. What is your “Why”? Why do you get up in the morning?
We get up because solving problems with technology, and seeing the positive results from doing so successfully, is really fun. It’s rewarding, engaging work that is challenging, and the targets we’re aiming for are constantly moving. When you hit that target, there’s nothing like it.
9. What is the one thing that makes a great company?
A great company is one that respects people. That means employees, leaders, clients, end users – everyone needs to be regarded, and treated respectfully, as people. That takes many shapes – ensuring multiple voices and a diversity of perspectives are shared; that the right decision, even when it is tough, is being made, and so forth. A company can’t only respect people and expect greatness – competency, value, innovation, product/market fit, and the like all obviously play huge roles in success – but I think respect is a core value of great companies.
10. What is the one thing that makes a great leader?
Personally, I think a great leader puts their ego to the side, and puts their efforts behind the success of others. Their personal success comes secondary. When that happens, the team coalesces and becomes greater than the sum of its parts. A leader who is out for their own gain or recognition is not a leader. Instead, as leaders, we need to get our reward from the accomplishments of our team.
Jeff Archibald, thank you so much for participating in the DotCom Magazine Leader Roundtable Interview Series. We very much appreciate the time you spent helping our readers learn more about what it takes to build a great company and become a great leader. We wish you, your family, and of course Paper-Leaf, nothing but the best.