My name is Dave Rietsema and I am the CEO and founder of Matchr. It’s a free service that helps HR professionals select the best HRIS, payroll, or applicant tracking software systems. Our flagship product and service is our Software Match tool, which takes users through a series of questions that are designed to help narrow down what software would best suit an HR professional’s needs. After that, they’ll meet with one of our software advisors via phone call to get more information about prospective HR software.
We serve two sets of customers. The first is HR professionals, who can use our services and our Software Match tool for free. The second set of customers is our HR software vendor partners, who use our platform for lead opportunities. Matchr is the result of many years of work turning what began as a side hustle into a full-time job.
What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?
I grew up surrounded by farmers, who are essentially entrepreneurs. They’re self-reliant and have a very strong work ethic, which they passed on to me from a very early age. I initially wanted to be an interpreter or work at an embassy, so I majored in Spanish. While I didn’t initially intend to work in HR, the Spanish major helped me to get recruited by Target and start working in HR. They had been looking for a bilingual HR rep and hired me to work at the corporate office in Minneapolis. I hadn’t even known what HR was at the time and had had to Google it. However, the job worked out very well, as I discovered an interest in HR. I had stumbled into it at the beginning but decided I wanted to make it my career. I later got an MBA in HR management.
When I decided that I wanted to move to Florida, they transferred me to be a manager in the stores. Eventually, I reached a point with Target where I didn’t feel that my career was going anywhere, so I put out feelers via email and was offered a job as an HR generalist and then later an HR manager at Remington. During my last six months working at Remington, I was the VP of HR. This helped me start my own business because I was used to living on the salary from my previous position at Remington. This allowed me to save all of the extra money from the VP position and put it towards leaping to start my own business.
I went through the process of finding HR software myself when I worked as an HR professional, which is how I validated that there was a need for a service that matched HR professionals with HR software in the market in the first place. At that time, I created HR Payroll Systems, which is now Matchr, to help that sector of the market of HR professionals, especially those working for smaller businesses, who might not have the experience or bandwidth to take on a huge research project like finding HR software. The idea was to create a service that would take some of that process off of their plate.
The reason I wanted to create my own business was that I had more than $100,000 in student debt at the time. I wasn’t making enough money as an HR professional to make much of a dent in the amount of debt I had. The only way I thought I could chip away at the amount I owed was to start my own business. For a while, I continued my HR position at Remington while also building my own business. I took calls in my car on my lunch break and worked on the website during my free time after work.
I decided to take the leap and truly go out on my own because my customer base was increasing. My company was establishing a good track record of being profitable. I knew what needed to be done to take the company to the next level, but there were only so many hours in the day. I could no longer continue to grow my own business while continuing to work a full-time job. I couldn’t balance both anymore and I knew that it was time to leap.
Going out on my own was terrifying. Subconsciously, I hate change. I went through a lot of emotional turmoil leading up to the day I left Remington. I had panic attacks. My employees were depending on me, I was the primary breadwinner for my family. It was difficult for me to handle the pressure during that time and this was after I’d spent years preparing and growing the business. I had thought everything through and had all of my ducks in a row, but taking that final step to be an entrepreneur and strike out on my own was still terrifying.
Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?
My entrepreneurial journey began in an apartment in Maitland, Florida. I was talking with a friend about an idea I’d had for a business. We decided to go into business together. My friend handled the IT side of things while I was responsible for operations and HR. We didn’t know what we were doing at the time but fumbled our way through it. It was a “fake it until you make it” sort of a situation.
The first step was to make an official agreement between the two of us and to file articles of incorporation with the state of Florida. We also had to set up a bank account and make sure that everything was set up for taxes. While we were handling the logistical side of the business, my friend was also busy setting up our website. The website was especially important because our goal from the beginning was to go after Google organic traffic and to do this, we needed a website with quality content.
We started with one customer, who is still with Matchr today. Eventually, my friend decided that he wanted to move on to other opportunities, so I bought out his share of the business. The business was holding on by a thread and was in debt. I then got extremely lucky and met Brett, a content marketer and SEO consultant, who worked with me to get things back on track. We essentially started from scratch with the few customers that we had and created a brand new website.
Before we knew it, we were ranking very well. I attribute a lot of my success to meeting Brett. The right people can make a huge difference in how well a business does. HR Payroll Systems was founded in 2012 and began to do well enough that I launched two more sites. In 2014, we launched HRIS Payroll Software, and then in 2016 another site called Applicant Tracking Systems.
In July of 2021, we brought the three together to form Matchr, a play on match and HR. We have a completely remote team all across the world made up of software advisors, developers, writers, SEO professionals, and more. We’re all over the place, but we stay connected well through communication tools such as messaging and Slack.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
2020 was a rough year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 2021 has been much better for us, in terms of the number of leads as well as return on investment and profit. Our email subscribers are at 1,500. We have 588 followers on LinkedIn, 2,963 page likes on Facebook, and 2,803 followers on Twitter. Our year-over-year growth is 20%.
You’re never going to have all of the answers at the beginning and the best way to learn is by doing.
The operations of the company are all remote. We have people working on all sides of the business, from software advisors and developers to writers and SEO experts. SEO is still a primary focus so that we can get leads from Google’s organic search traffic. As the CEO, I orchestrate all of the company’s moving pieces.
Our plan for the future is to expand into new software categories, such as learning and performance management software. We can use the same software matching tool that we already have, but it would have more categories of software that it can help HR professionals find. We would also like to keep growing the business. Our goal is to grow by 30% in 2022.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
It’s so important to have good mentors. Finding people who were willing to give me their time and advice was pivotal for me in becoming an entrepreneur. Some of my mentors were people who had started their businesses. Others knew the industry in which I was starting my business very well. Others just encouraged me when I needed it.
The number one factor in entrepreneurial success is having the right people. That may sound cliche, but if you don’t have the right team, your company isn’t going to go anywhere. You have to make sure that your team has fully bought into your vision for the business. In addition to paying your team well, it’s also important to thank them for their contributions and to make them feel valued.
A mistake I see entrepreneurs make is trying to hire a lot of people too early. It’s important to keep your expenses as low as possible, especially at the beginning. Entrepreneurs should try to do more themselves where possible. Another mistake I often see is a lack of focus. Many entrepreneurs try to do too many different things with their business, sell too many different products, which means that they can’t do any of them very well. Focusing on one product will help the business differentiate itself from others in the market.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use ActiveCampaign for CRM and marketing automation. Google Analytics helps us to see how our website’s SEO is performing. We also just rolled out a new marketing dashboard that tells us everything that we need to know about the leads that we have coming in and the percentage of leads that are getting sold, as well as the profitability of the business.
Our website is built with WordPress and is hosted on WP Engine. If we need to hire freelancers, we use Upwork to find them. Online, we use all of the SEO tools like SEMRush and Ahrefs. Zapier helps us to integrate a variety of different tools.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I’ve been really into Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki. The book discusses the importance of financial literacy and entrepreneurship and compares the financial lessons the author’s wealthy friend’s father taught him to the lessons the author’s poor father taught.
As for podcasts, I listen to Pivot, which is a part of the Vox Media Podcast Network. Pivot, which is hosted by Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway, offers insights into news stories about business, technology, and politics.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
My advice to any aspiring entrepreneur is to fake it until you make it. You’re never going to have all of the answers at the beginning and the best way to learn is by doing. My early years as an entrepreneur involved a lot of stumbling through it, but I was able to figure out what worked for me, my business, and my customers through experience. No amount of preparation ahead of time will truly teach you everything that experience can.
It’s also important to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. At the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey, you’ll have to do everything yourself. Unless you have a lot of startup money, you won’t have a team to take on some of the tasks, so as the founder, you’ll need to be able to do it all.
Google is also a great tool. You can find just about everything you need online. You can also reuse things like contracts that you find online. Try to make friends with other people who have started businesses. Often they’ll have run into the same problems that you did. You can help each other with questions and resources.
Where can we go to learn more?
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