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The #1 Question That Will Fast Track Your Career Into a Leadership Role with Sam Estes of Authenticx

Do you want to move quickly from an individual contributor to a leadership role? Then you need to listen to the people around you. Get their ideas and use that information to make decisions and grow.


Today, we have Sam Estes, the Senior Vice President of Revenue at Authenticx, a SaaS platform that works with large healthcare providers to help them understand their patients and use it to make informed, proactive decisions.


Prior to working with Authenticx, Sam first worked in different sales leadership positions at Aerotek, Paycom, and Bluecrew. He continuously built his career from an individual contributor to now one of the sales leaders of the startup.


In this episode, Sam talks about the first and most important avenue for the growth and development of leaders. He shares his leadership journey, the challenges of coming from a more established company to a startup, and the role of the company’s environment and culture in long term success.

Episode Highlights:

01:42   Sam’s first sales job and his career progression

04:14  Fulfillment in managing and leading people to success

07:48  LinkedIn connection with the CEO of Authenticx

10:40   How Authenticx solve problems in the healthcare industry

15:45   Sam’s leadership role and game plan to help Authenticx

18:15    The most important role of leaders 

26:35   Creating a feedback-rich environment

29:25   What metrics do startup companies need to look into to scale

33:00   Simple recipe for growing your leadership career

36:31    Handling leadership conversation with the team

38:04  Sam’s favorite non-American food and hobby outside of work

Grayson Faircloth:  18:59  

Yeah. When you're going out and hiring and recruiting. And just talking with people who could potentially be good fits down the line. Are there specific characteristics, like traits or like what are you looking for, during that portion of the hiring process? That has been helpful for you?

Sam Estes:  19:19  

We're looking for builders, people that understand you know that we've made major strides, but we're still building everything that we're doing. And we've got defined processes. I listened to a podcast a couple of years ago with the CEO of Uber. He described this dynamic of evolving from pirates to Navy, right? It's like you go from a startup where you had a pirate mentality, everything's urgent, you're kind of free for all to a process oriented navy. Well, to me, neither one of those sounds perfect. 

I think you kind of want to live in a state of in between we want to be agile fluid, but we know that processes is what equates to scale and allows us to, to iterate actually faster and better in my opinion. So, you know, if they've lived if people that we've hired have lived in that type of environment before, it's always a win for me. 

But to me, I want people to have our core values at our fifth at Authenticx. Excuse me, our authenticity, as you might imagine, courage and having fun. And I think that that means something different for each of us. But we want people that can align to those. We want people that can always evolve learning, they're focused on development, they can give us some unique skill sets. But we also want people again, that are very clear that if you want to help build something and you embody those things, then that's somebody that I want to talk to you

Grayson Faircloth:  20:36  

How do you go about fleshing that out in a conversation with people?

Sam Estes:  20:43  

Well, hiring is an inexact science, you know, it's hard to do that, you know, to me, I try to be my main methodology Grayson for doing it. It sounds overly simplistic if I'm an open book with candidates on again, what I think we do really well, what I think we need help with and what they would be walking into. 

And I think being an open book, and being transparent allows those individuals that I'm meeting with in person or virtually, to say, yeah, this is something I want to be a part of, or uncomfortable at least voicing that I'm excited about or no, this isn't for me. versus, you know, Tony, an answer that you want to hear. 

So that's my main method for doing my best to, you know, not wait individuals out, but just identify, “hey, are we talking to an individual here that could be a fit for us?” And vice versa?.

Grayson Faircloth:  21:35  

Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. So, I'm interested. So, you were the primary sales or first sales hire outside of the founders? How has the sales team changed and grown since you've started? Like, what? What was kind of like your plan of attack? And how is that you know, gone about?

Sam Estes:  21:52  

Yeah, we, you know, we've grown from a team of one to a team that is quickly approaching 20. Folks on our sales team, we do have additional sales leaders. At this point, a couple of the first hires that we made are now leading teams and leading verticals for us. We also have built and scaled a sales development and SDR team that has a SDR manager and an account management function as well. So we have taken our sales org, if you will, is much bigger from a personnel perspective. It'll continue to be bigger and grow in the coming years, but I think that this isn't something that you ask. But I do think what's important is maintaining that same culture of accountability, urgency, and, you know, push to get the job done that we had almost two years ago, which I think we've. I think the team has done a really good job of that.

Grayson Faircloth:  22:43  

When you're thinking about, I guess, structures in the roles that help your company grow. So you mentioned SDR AEs. Now, you've got some sales managers involved? How did you determine, Okay, we should use an SDR model, we should, like, how did you come about that, and I had to determine which rules were actually necessary for Authenticx.

Sam Estes:  23:07  

I don't know if I had a formal plan or mapped out grace. And, you know, I know that when we first started, we knew that we needed individual contributors to help us grow, grow our verticals, we made the decision very quickly, that we were going to segment based on vertical because we sell to, again, the the we sell for the healthcare market, but each part of that market is different and unique. 

So having verticalized expertise was important. But then we just had to evolve as our business evolved and what the market was dictating. So for us what that meant was, you know, we sell into very large entities. So our sales cycle is not necessarily short. So we needed to dedicate, we needed our sales team to be able to dedicate an extensive amount of time to their deals in the prospective clients they were engaged with, and oftentimes can mean meeting with 20 plus people at a particular account. 

So with that, that meant that we needed to have a dedicated resource and team to help start new conversations with prospective clients, which is what led us very quickly to the SDR model. So that's really what it was for us. We sell something that is very powerful, takes longer at times to get in the hands of folks. 

And we needed to make sure we delineated those responsibilities. So we had two functions, two levers to pull into functions to support, you know, pipeline development, and fluidity and velocity through our funnel where possible.


Grayson Faircloth:  24:29  

Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. And so I'm interested in just like, your development as a sales leader, again, going back so you did some initial training your very first sales job, but once you become like that sales leader, that VP of sales, it's not as straightforward to learn like, How can I do better in my specific role, so I'm interested if there are any resources, communities, people, you just things that you do that you would attribute your development as that sales leader.

Sam Estes:  24:57  

to? Well, I think the most important thing you can do is ask your team and be like, I tried to prioritize vulnerability with my team, I'm not perfect, I'm far from it, I'm gonna make mistakes, I might make more mistakes than anybody on the sales team. And I think that creating a feedback rich environment, if you will, where you're certainly

comfortable giving your team feedback, but you can, you should expect that from them I think is most important. So my first and most important avenue for growth and development and understanding if I'm, you know, guiding this team on the right path is my own team. In addition to that, it's my executive leadership team. 

And we've, we've got a multitude of resources that we have internally, but also externally, we do have a sales consultant locally, Lucian that we partner with, I have an executive coach that serves multiple members of our team. So I feel like I'm surrounded internally and externally with folks that can tell me where I'm screwing up when I screw up and also tell me when they think I'm doing a good job, but to me, yeah, it can be when you lead a team that can be lonely. But oftentimes, I think that people do that to themselves. So I tried to be very vocal about, hey, I want feedback as much as I'm giving it to you.

Grayson Faircloth:  26:05  

And I'm interested, that's kind of a good frame of mind. But it's also sort of hard to execute, just because people might feel uncomfortable giving that type of feedback and stuff like that, how have you created an environment? 

Where it's great that, you know, we say, That's okay, I'm happy to take feedback, stuff like that. But how have you created an environment where people are actually doing it, versus it just being? You know, give me feedback whenever you want?

Sam Estes:  26:32  

Yeah, you know, I think as your team grows, then it needs to become a self led team, like they adopt the culture and the mentality, you certainly want to have an influence on that you're a big piece of it. But it's more about them. My ambition and goal is always to have a player led team, right? If they can look at their unit, their team, the company as a whole and say, Hey, I played a really active role in that. 

So I think it goes back all the way to who you're hiring. And are you hiring individuals that, again, are builders that want to help you build something, I think that dictates it. But I also think for me, you know, it is much easier to say, hey, I want feedback and give it to me, it's about being very intentional in a one on one about, you know, whether it be there's there's this concept of a stay interview, hey, tell me why you stay at the company? 

What are we doing? Well, what are we not doing? Well, what do you need to see more of? Where do you need to grow? You know, you can do 360 interviews, where you kind of flip it around a little bit. But I think that having defined again, mechanisms in place where you can create not just an environment to your point of, hey, give me feedback. But hey, no, this is that stay interview, I think can be very, very powerful folks. And I've done that.

Grayson Faircloth:  27:39  

And then. So going away from the people side of things, and getting into more of like, process technology side, what are some important metrics that you think either may be for Authenticx specifically, or just startups in general, that are more early stage building scaling? What are the most important metrics, in your opinion, that you're looking at? And how did you come about this?

Sam Estes:  28:04  

Well, to me, you know, you want to start with the end in mind. So the end in mind for a sales team is how do we grow the revenue for the company? So you take a revenue number and you back into that? I think it's going to be different for everybody. But the way that we've dragged into it is to say, what is the average value of a contract that we have with our clients? How long does it take to get those clients? 

And then we start there, and you can really start to piecemeal and model out okay, how many new prospective conversations do we need to be engaging in on a weekly, monthly, quarterly basis? How do we model that out? All the way down to, as you know, Grayson, the lead conversion level, right? How many leads do we need to be attaining on a certain cadence to the net towards our revenue goal? 

So to me, it's math, it's an equation, right? And it takes somebody who can piecemeal that out probably in a spreadsheet to say, here's the end in mind, what do we need to know? And what do we need to be obtaining in order to get to that, and that's how we started

Grayson Faircloth:  29:01  

and talk to me a little bit about our as well, I know that something, it's definitely, especially during the current kind of economic environment, but I think it's always been like a priority number number one are really up there at Authenticx. 

Talk to me just about like in our kind of like, you know, the activities that you all are doing to make sure you're hitting your goals, positions, how you came about that being an important metric, just in general for your company.


Sam Estes:  29:27  

Well, net revenue retention means that we're taking care of the customers that we serve. And there's nothing more important than that. I mean, our goal is to under promise and over deliver to those that we serve, right. So, you know, that's a really good metric to say, are we achieving that goal and that expectation that we have of ourselves, so to us, it's about not just like, when we form a partnership, that's the start of the journey, right? The start of the journey is not, you know, starting from a sales perspective and engaging with a perspective like the real start of the journey is when they become a former customer. 

And to us that is ensuring that we have frequent touchpoints that we create an environment just like we're talking about internally, we create an environment of what are we doing? Well, what do we need to improve? What do you need to see from us? And also when we engage with these large entities always asking where else we could be of help, and of value. 

And that's are some of the biggest sources of growth for us is organic growth, growing with our customers organically because we're doing a great job, and they liked the work that we do, and we perform on their behalf, which is, there's no better feeling than getting a referral internally to some to another business unit or another business leader.

Grayson Faircloth:  30:39  

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And so I'm interested, the purpose of this podcast, and I say this on every episode, one of the sub purposes is about how can these people who are either earlier stage maybe individual contributor roles, or maybe they're they're in a leadership role, but are trying to get to the next step of their journey? 

So a couple of questions around that. The first one being, like, talk about career progression, from a big company standpoint, versus career progression from a more startup environment standpoint? Yeah, just in terms of how well it was defined, and then also how that might differ at a startup?

Sam Estes:  31:19  

Well, I think that in larger companies, oftentimes, their career progression or career pathing is more defined, right? I'd say, these are the steps that you take to get to the role that you eventually want. Now, it might take longer than what you want. But, you know, large companies have captured the power of scale, they've done something right, right. So they've scaled, and they've achieved a level of success, where they have to build in those rigid processes. And that includes career pathing, and career development, if you're in a startup or a scale up. Now, that might not be the case. 

So I think it's important to be vocal and upfront about where you're looking to go. But you also can play a role in that. I mean, I tell our team all the time, hey, if we're not doing something that we need to do step in and own that to the best of your ability, the best way to get the job that you want is to do the job that you want, without being asked or told to do it, if possible, if that's feasible in the role that you're in, but do more than what you're asked to do. 

Step out, ask questions, step outside your comfort zone, ask where you can be of help. And that is, it's a simplistic recipe. But if you follow it, a lot of good things can happen in the benefit of a startup or a scale up if you're doing that in those types of organizations, that opportunity might find its way through much quicker than at a larger organization.

Grayson Faircloth:  32:37  

And so I'm interested. So I love that idea of just asking where you can help. Are there things that you think typically, you know, sales leaders do need help with? But maybe they don't even? But no one? No one is asking them stuff like that. Like, what are some of those things that if you're in an AE role, or an SDR role, and are wanting to demonstrate some leadership ability, obviously, asking where you can help is a great start. But what about suggesting things that you might be able to do to help? Are there any things that you think are just common variables that might exist across all companies?

Sam Estes:  33:10  

Yeah, I feel like I need help with everything. So this is a loaded question. To me, when we have people that started Authenticx. Now, I asked our current team, Hey, what did you not have? When you started that would have been really valuable? Okay, how can you play a role in ensuring that that doesn't happen to the next hire, right? Help create the environment in that company that you want to be at. 

And that's not to offload responsibility for myself or maybe others on our team, is to really tap into the knowledge that they have based on their experience, because I didn't have that experience that they did. So being able to say, where do we struggle? Okay, can you help me design that process? Or can you design that process? So to me, it's just, it's about being reflective. And, man, I hope that our team always feels comfortable saying, Hey, I think we need to do this as it pertains to, again, whether it's our sales process, or our go to market strategy, or our messaging, I think this would be valuable. 

We try to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable voicing that. And there is I mean, I can't imagine anything better than someone who's newer in their career that's on a team that makes a suggestion that someone wasn't aware about or aware of, or a problem address a problem that someone or myself didn't even know existed, and then addressing it, seeing a process be put in place to that put in place to having success, because I mean, that's a great feeling that I think only a smaller scale up type company can can offer.

Grayson Faircloth:  34:39  

Yeah, ya know, and to dive into that a little bit more talking just like general pros and cons of starting your sales career in like a startup environment versus like a bigger company that's got more of a defined path and like, what are your thoughts around that?

Sam Estes:  34:55  

I think it's tough to define, you know, pros and cons because they're so different. I think you know, if you work at a larger organization, and there is a defined process in place that you can kind of build off of, I think there's a lot of value in that. But at the same time, starting at a smaller organization where you're all figuring it out and figuring it out together, it just pushes you and forces you to iterate, and it forces you to adapt. And it also forces you to live outside your comfort zone, right? 

I mean, I want everybody including myself included on our team to spend time outside their comfort zone every day. And, you know, in a bigger company, you might be able to hide, you cannot do that at a smaller organization. 

Like you might say, live outside your comfort zone while you're going to be forced to anyway. And I think that there's again, there's obviously pros and cons to both, it's hard to list them all out. But I mean, yeah, you know, I think it's more about finding the right fit for you, what you feel most comfortable with, and, you know, moving forward with a clear head and eyes wide open, as I've mentioned a couple times and going from there.

Grayson Faircloth:  36:02  

Yeah, totally. And so I'm interested, obviously, you know, sales teams coming to you asking where you can help, a great way to see how they can progress in their career, stuff like that. But when you're having these conversations, I know you mentioned just promoting a couple of your first sales into more of a sales leader type role. 

What sort of things are coming up in these conversations around career progression? And how are you handling those conversations with your team? Like, are you the one that brings it up and kind of saying, Where do you want to be in five years? Or how are you handling those conversations? And then what advice then are you giving people if they determine or they say, oh, yeah, I would love to, you know, move into more of a leadership role?

Sam Estes:  36:46  

Well, I think that everybody on our team has a responsibility to be a leader, whether they want to be in a formal leadership role or not, you know, you can lead, you can lead as an individual contributor, certainly, whether you address it with your team or not, they're always most of them, I would assume or hope that most of them are going to be focused on their career development anyway/. 

So I think it's important just to say, where do you want to be? How can I help you get there, I take our new hires through a deck, and I talk to them a little bit about how I am and, you know, leadership is an inverse triangle, right? As you hire people, and your team grows, you know, from a hierarchical perspective, or an org chart, maybe there's more people reporting up to you. But it just means that you work for more people that are on your team. 

So and with that, you have to ensure that they know that you're intentionally focused on their development. Now, that does not mean creating roles and promoting people for the sake of promoting people you need to have very clear expectations on this is the next step for you. Here's what it takes to get to that next step.

 And I'm going to be following up on how you're doing, how you're progressing. And you should lean on me to be a resource to help you get there if you're putting in the time, effort and energy.

Grayson Faircloth:  37:58  

Yeah, I love that. Well, cool. I want to wrap it up with a couple fun questions. Okay, first up, what is your favorite non American food category?

Sam Estes:  38:09  

Non-American food category? Man, I grew up in a small town in central Illinois, and we had a couple of restaurants and one gas station, so there I didn't get out a lot. I like sushi. I like sushi. Pretty bland sushi choices. Honest, but I like sushi.

Grayson Faircloth:  38:30  

Okay, cool. Yeah, I thought I was a little bit with that. But sushi is good for them now. What is the favorite thing to do? Like outside of work? Like for fun?

Sam Estes:  38:40  

Oh, well, I enjoy golfing. I don't get to do it a lot, because I have a three year old and a one year old with two girls. So that's very time consuming. But it's also my favorite thing to do is spend time with them. 

So as they get older, my older one, she just turned three. So I'm hopeful we're getting into the winter months. But I'm hopeful that maybe a golf course can keep her attention in the spring and summer months next year.

Grayson Faircloth:  39:06  

Yeah. Love it. And the last question I have for you is what is the best part? And what is the worst part about living in Indiana?

Sam Estes:  39:15  

The best part and worst part? I've got multiple I'm not going to adhere to your question. I know that people are great. The people are great. We love our neighbors. We love the connections we've made professionally. Cost of living is great. We enjoy that. I enjoy that you get four seasons in the Midwest. 

I told you I'm not adhering to your question. I apologize. You know, the worst thing is that and I would say this is the worst but I've also this has been kind of my whole life. At least where I grew up has a lot of cornfields like there's not there's not a lot going on. I mean I'd like it if we had some mountains or something. But the good the good certainly outweighs the bad. If there is any, we enjoy it.

Grayson Faircloth:  40:01  

Okay, awesome. Well, I want to give you an opportunity as well to mention our plug any LinkedIn website, where should people find you?

Sam Estes:  40:08  

I am on LinkedIn. I'm not super active, Sam Estes. And then I would drive anyone or encourage anyone to check out our website. Our marketing team has done a great job with just

Grayson Faircloth:  40:23  

And we'll include the links and stuff in the show notes as well so people can easily access. Well, we'll go ahead and wrap it there. This was awesome. Thanks, Sam. Hey guys, your host Grayson here with a quick announcement. Let's stay connected. If you look down in the show notes, you'll see my LinkedIn. Feel free to send me connection requests. And when I'm not podcasting, I'm helping startups and scaleups get the most out of their HubSpot. We've helped quite a few startups including some of our startup executive guests. So if you know anyone who uses HubSpot, and wants to learn how to unlock all of its hidden benefits, shoot me an email. My email is Grayson that's And there may be an extra bonus if you mentioned in the podcast. So I'm looking forward to hearing from you.

Grayson Faircloth:  0:00  

This week I'm joined by Sam Estes, Senior Vice President of revenue at Authenticx. Sam's helped build out the revenue team from one to almost 20 people over the last few years. And you can tell just from this short conversation, how passionate he is about growing and building his team in the work that they're doing at orthodontics. So in this episode, we talked about a couple of things, some of those being Authenticx, and how they're disrupting the healthcare industry. 

Some of the challenges that go with, you know, coming from a big company into a startup. And then the number one question that will fast track your career into a leadership role. Let's get into it. Thanks for coming on. Sam. I'm excited to dive into some stuff with you today.

Sam Estes:  0:42  

Yeah, of course. Thanks for having me.


Grayson Faircloth:  0:43  

So where I like to start is just a general background on yourself. You know what brought you to Indy, then what kept you here?


Sam Estes:  0:50  

Yeah. Well, I love Andy. Love being here. We have been here for five years. January moved here in January of 2018. I grew up in central Illinois and spent time in Chicago, a brief stint in the St. Louis area and then moved to MD from St. Louis. So we've settled in Westfield. At this point. We did live in and proper for a few years and then moved to Westfield about two and a half years ago. All of the moves that we've made have been work related. So work brought me to Indy and then I left that job and took a job at a startup based out of Chicago. I spent a lot of time in Chicago and traveling and then had been Authenticx, my current role, current company since March of 2021.


Grayson Faircloth:  1:33  

Okay, awesome. And thinking back to that very beginning when you just got started. Yeah, what was the very first sales or sales related job? Like what were you selling? How are you selling, just put us into your mindset back when you first got started in sales?

Sam Estes:  1:48  

Yeah, I work at Aerotech, which is a pretty well known national recruiting firm and started as a recruiter and then moved into sales. But the whole career progression at Aerotech. Grayson is all built around being in sales, recruiting is very similar to sales. So you know, I was somebody who had a liberal arts degree, which maybe isn't the case for everyone, but for me, meant that I didn't really know what I wanted to do. 

But I knew that I enjoyed talking to people, I knew that I was impatient and enjoyed fast paced environments and I could not have been more fortunate and lucky to land with Aerotech. And work for the leaders that I worked for. It was a really good proving ground, for me and for others that I'm still really well connected with. 

I made some lifelong friends there. So we were selling to answer your question. So we were partnering with various companies in the Chicagoland area. That's where I lived at the time. And the customers that I was partnering with and serving or selling recruitment services


Grayson Faircloth:  2:51  

How did you go from knowing nothing about sales, having no sales background into actually being able to successfully like, find people and find placements? Like, what was the training? And what really worked with you? And you're super early on in your sales career?


Sam Estes:  3:05  

Yeah, you know, I think for me, and this is still the case, it's about failing fast. And I actually just talked to our team about this this morning about the importance of consistently living outside of your comfort zone. So Aerotech had phenomenal training, onboarding, orientation process, and the training truly was a process, not an event, it was ongoing. 


So I know they still have that today. So that was certainly critical to any success that I had. But it was also just trying to run towards failure, run towards objections as best that you could and learn from those is probably what I would say was most important to me, because to your point, I had no background in anything that I was doing at the time.


Grayson Faircloth:  3:47  

And then I guess fast forwarding a little bit, you kind of worked through various, like, what I would consider more individual contributor type roles, and eventually joined on to Blue Crew, were you joined as their VP of sales? And so what made you realize that you wanted to go in to sales leadership versus you know, there are a lot of people who just crush it as a salesperson, and continue to bring home, you know, the good commission checks, like what led you to want to develop into more of like a sales leadership role?


Sam Estes:  4:18  

Yeah, you know, for me, I had been in some like sales management leadership or regional management type roles prior to Blue Crew. And I had led people at Aerotech, as well as led teams there. So leadership wasn't foreign to me when I started at Blue Crew, but to me, I've always gotten fulfillment out of managing and leading people and trying to drive a team or a unit to success. I've had a ton of failure along the way, just in terms of, you know, how do you manage people, how do you lead people? How do you communicate to people differently? I was not very good at that early in my career. 


I feel like I've made major strides. We still have a long way to go and probably always will, but I just enjoy it. I really enjoy feeling like If I see someone much like I was describing Aerotech, right where I didn't know anything at all, and I had to lean on people to develop and hone and iterate on skill sets, well, I enjoy being that for other people, when someone can get a big win, and you get someone that tells you how I wouldn't have done that, or I didn't know this without you. That's very, that there's nothing more fulfilling to me than that. 


And I really like that. This is true for individual contributor sales as well. But No day is the same, you know, I might have a day jam packed full of one on ones and leading people. And the next day, my favorite thing still about this role is being on sales calls. Still, today, I do more observations in those than leading on myself, but I just liked the variance of it. And I really enjoy playing a role in people's lives, not just professionally, but personally as well feeling like if we can cultivate an environment that makes them grow and develop at work, but also, again, personally, it was very fulfilling.


Grayson Faircloth:  5:57  

And then talk through a little bit of that, like, you know, you've learned a lot over the last couple of years in a sales leadership role. But you came in maybe having, you know, some leadership, but not like a full on VP of sales. Like how do you think you have progressed? And where do you think you've progressed from that initial like Sam joining Blue Crew to now like Sam today leading the team at Authenticx? Like, what specifically do you think you've improved on from a leadership perspective? And how did you improve on those things?


Sam Estes:  6:28  

I think one area that sticks out to me is just not making assumptions. You know, there's a lot of conversations. While this isn't just today, it's been ongoing for a while about people who don't want to be micromanaged. Well, I think that there's a big difference between micromanaging individuals, but painting the path and showing them what success looks like everyone needs a path to go down. And it's really easy when you hire someone that you believe in, and has the skill set and the talent to perform really well in their role. That does not mean that they don't need to be told, especially when they start on what to do. 


So to me, one area where I feel like I've improved a lot and just kind of go into everything with eyes wide open more clearly than I did before is when we hire someone, and even when we develop someone and they they become more tenured not making assumptions about what they know what they need from me, but really leaning in asking and creating it creating an environment in which they feel comfortable doing that, I think is equally if not more important, I think that I've I've been forced in a good way to make strides in that area in particular.


Grayson Faircloth:  7:31  

Yeah. And then you spent a little bit of time at Bluecrew. But then the next step was Authenticx. So why don't you talk about, you know, a little bit of background Authenticx. And then how did you first got involved?


Sam Estes:  7:44  

Yeah, I got connected to Amy Brown, our CEO and founder actually, via LinkedIn, when I say connected, I connected with her. And I messaged her, because I saw that there was a role. And I'm really thankful that I made the choice to do that. So we got connected via LinkedIn, I was looking for a role again, I was leading a sales team that we had, we had grown at the company Blue Crew based out of Chicago. And this was actually when I message Amy during COVID. But prior to COVID, I was traveling a lot. 


And we had again, set up routes in Indianapolis, we really want to envision ourselves being here for a long time. At this point, I wanted one of the things that I had observed is this growing and thriving Indianapolis tech ecosystem. And I wanted to be a part of that at some point. And I actually wasn't in a really good role. I didn't actually have a desire to leave. It was more about getting connected and got connected with Amy, and really, really felt her passion for what Authenticx was doing and where Authenticx could go. 


And the combination of how powerful our product and offering is, with the connection with Amy, other members of our leadership team, and that it was local and close to home was a slam dunk for me. So it's been I cannot believe that in March, it will be two years here. It's crazy to think about, but I couldn't be more happy with the decision to join the team. I'm glad that they still keep me around.

Grayson Faircloth:  9:12  

Well, I'm interested because your background before this was all I guess what I would consider like there were some publicly traded companies or just all like bigger companies in general. Did you have any worries about going into a startup life? Or did you think you know, I've got this? What was your mindset there?


Sam Estes:  9:30  

Yeah, there was, you know, no worries. But you know, I think I mentioned this earlier, I tell the team, our team often, like to go into everything as best as you can with eyes wide open. That's what I tried to do. I was really excited. You know, my prior role. We were owned by a large publicly traded company, but we were 100-ish people. So we were a small team, but we had the resources of a much larger organization. 


That was really fun because that gave me a taste of what true or what startup was, but this was you know, building and scaling a team from scratch and I was really excited about that. But I also knew I felt like I knew the challenges that would have come from it. And there certainly have been challenges. But what has been critically important is the team that is around me, the executive leadership team at Authenticx is phenomenal. 

And then we've gotten lucky with some of the hires that we've made on the sales side that make my life a lot easier and have become, you know, just huge pieces of my professional journey that I lean on every day. I could not I could not envision doing this without some of our first hires that we made.


Grayson Faircloth:  10:32  

Yeah. And then just for the people who aren't familiar with Authenticx, can you provide a little bit of background on you know, what exactly, you do, who you work with stuff like that? 


Sam Estes:  10:43  

Yeah, we're a SaaS platform. And we're a conversational intelligence company that has been purpose built and partners exclusively with enterprise healthcare. So we work with large payers, we work with large hospital systems and providers, and we work with large pharmaceutical manufacturers. 


And really what we do is we work with leaders who are frustrated about the lack of information or clarity that they have in their patient or their member or their customer journey, they might be deploying some solutions today, like surveys, or social listening programs. And what Authenticx does is tapped in, we tap into a pretty infinite source of unsolicited and organic feedback, which is day to day conversations that these entities are having with the individuals that they serve. And our platform allows them to understand what is happening in these conversations and allows them to act with confidence and clarity on behalf of, again, the customers or patients and the members that they're working with and serving every day.


Grayson Faircloth:  11:42  

And how did you know Authenticx? Did they just happen into, you know, the health care being a good fit for their software? Or from the beginning? Was it like we wanted to focus on these health care companies? How did that come to be?


Sam Estes:  11:55  

It's been very intentional, I didn't have much to do with this, you know, Amy, our CEO and founder spent, you know, 2020 plus years in the healthcare space, and knew that this was a problem that deserved and there was merit and solving. And from day one, we have, you know, we partner with healthcare, again, these large health care entities to solve big problems for them. So it's been very intentional continues to be intentional with who we work with, and who we partner with.


Grayson Faircloth:  12:25  

How do you have people on your sales team, and then yourself and people just who join Authenticx, who have backgrounds that are different from the healthcare industry? You know, not everybody has spent 20 years like Amy, like learning the industry, how do you get, where you learn more about the target market? And how, how do you? How do you go about learning the healthcare side of things?


Sam Estes:  12:46  

Well, just like anything else, I mean, it's much like I talked about with my first job, right, it's doing your best to be a sponge, it's using the resources, you know, we're a growing team. And as we grow, and as our company grows, and we evolve, we've gotten much more resources at our disposal to help people get ramped and understand, you know, much quicker than what maybe some of our initial hires were or what they had. 

So you know, it's a two way street, there's a lot that we do to help people get ramped, but also, personal professional development is critically important. So taking time, there's so many resources that exist today that allow anyone regardless of what industry rent, what you're selling, how you're consulting, if you take the time, put in the effort and energy, you can really compress the time in which you're able to get up to speed in my opinion.


Grayson Faircloth:  13:33  

Yeah. Now that makes sense. And so when you joined, you know, almost two years ago now, would you have considered Authenticx to be pre product market fit? What would you consider there?


Sam Estes:  13:43  

No, I would not, I think that, you know, one of the things that I think Amy and Michael Armstrong, our CTO did really, really well. And we're really intentional about it, you know, we don't want to bring on a team of individuals to take this to market if we don't feel great about what we have to take to market. 

And so to come in as a sales leader, I know, not just think or believe, but know that we've got product market fit, and we've got something tangible that we can take out here that there's immense, immense value in for our customers. It's not just confidence building. I would argue, essential. So we certainly had product market fit when I started, and it's what's allowed us to continue to grow and grow pretty quickly.


Grayson Faircloth:  14:26  

How's that sales team developed since you started? So were you the very first sales higher than Amy and maybe some of the co-founding team? We're handling some of those conversations pre bringing you on?


Sam Estes:  14:37  

Yeah, yeah, I was brought on or to Authenticx grace a few months prior to our Series A, which we closed in June of 2021. So, you know, Amy, and there was a team of individuals that helped handle and onboard new customers, but they brought you know, my role was ultimately open to transition us from a you know, a founder led nailed to a process oriented, scalable, sustainable sales. org. 


So, you know, I've certainly been since day one have been involved in a lot of customer calls and meetings. But in addition to helping the company grow in that capacity, it's been focused on people processes and technology, right? And just understanding how do we identify and onboard the right people, and then ensure that we are creating an environment of growth for those individuals, but enabling those people to grow as efficiently as possible while focusing on what matters most.


Grayson Faircloth:  15:31  

And so when you are coming in, and you're coming into an organization that has a product market fit? How did you do? How did you get in the mindset of thinking, okay, here is my game plan. Here's my attack plan, like how did you develop that when you first joined on Authenticx?


Sam Estes:  15:47  

Yeah, that's a good question. There was a lot to tackle right? To me, when I sat down and kind of had a blank page in front of me, I created those buckets that I just mentioned, people processes and technology. And it kind of flows in that order. To me, Grayson, I mean, I knew that we were on the brink of raising some capital, raising more capital to grow and grow quickly. And in order to do that, I needed people on my team to help sustain that growth. So the first piece to me was identifying people that I felt we could, that we could grow with, and they could grow with us. And

then beyond that, it was defining the shell of a defined you know, sales process and sales methodology. 


And then just having a mentality of fluidity, agility, and iteration at all times. And knowing that everything that we do isn't going to work, it's not going to be perfect, but it's important from that standpoint. But let's get an MVP out internally, and utilize the team that we hired and trusted to provide feedback and grow and iterate. 


And then after that, it's when you have the folks on your team, you've got not just the shell, but you're deploying some processes, internally and externally. That's when you can really say, okay, what technology or what enablement do, we need to surround both of these buckets with to ensure again, that we're as efficient as possible. So it's really easy when you start a new role when you're building something from scratch, to get overwhelmed and start to try to boil the ocean? And I certainly have, I have failed at that many times over. 


But my focus is always okay, what's urgent versus what's important? How do we knock out some big rocks today, in this week, and let's just start making micro progress along the way, and it's compound interest. From there, you start to get those small wins that can become big wins much quicker than what you might anticipate. So that's how we shelled it out. And I say we intentionally didn't do it alone. So that's how we did it. And it's worked out well. So far.


Grayson Faircloth:  17:50  

Yeah. And something that I love talking about with sales leaders is the people side of the business. I'm interested. So when you break down those buckets, obviously hiring and recruiting stuff like that, but what are some of the other things that you might need to think about from the people's side of the business? When it comes to you know, your responsibilities as the VP of sales? I don't think


Sam Estes:  18:11  

There's anything more important in a leadership role than taking care of your people. I hope I'm answering your question here. I mean, I think that, for us, it's about setting expectations. Whenever we're from the recruitment process on here's where we're at, here's the stage right, here's what we think we do. Well, here's what we think we're struggling with. And also, you know, we tried to do our team is growing, it continues to grow. 


But we're always trying to find a skill set or skill sets or experiences that someone might have, that we don't have today that we can leverage. So I think that we've done a good job of getting an eclectic group that has, you know, obviously, the same set of expectations. I think that's really important. But they all bring something different to the team that we can lean on, learn from and act on.

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