Entrepreneur 2 Entrepreneur: Clarence Bethea on Team



Clarence BetheaThank you to Split Rock Partners for underwriting the Entrepreneur 2 Entrepreneur Series.

Clarence Bethea is the founder & CEO of Upsie, a ‘new way to warranty’ using mobile as a gateway to insurance providers.

Bethea doesn’t just talk about team, he’s stacks it — recently landing some big names, including former Code42 CFO Jason Bristow and Best Buy veterans Stacy Webb + Brian Dunn.

Why is the team so important to you?

Our team is the lifeblood of our company. They build the product, service our customers, and their passion and ideas deem whether we are successful. The “startup life” is already tough, and finding people that you want to bring into battle with you is very important. In this startup phase especially, the people are the company. They are working in many different roles to keep things moving forward and gaining momentum.

And we try to have fun in the process, which helps. Where I think you will really find traction and a drive to push ahead is when your team feels like they have not just ownership from an equity standpoint but also the power to make decisions and fail. We’ve encountered a ton of failures in our short life, and I believe that’s why we are still here. You have to be willing and understanding of failure or you wouldn’t be in a startup position yourself in the first place.


What’s different about your team & culture and how does that relate to the business?

Our culture reflects our brand, and in a position of industry disruption like we are, we work to push some limits but keep things light and fun for relief/sanity. If you don’t, you can get wrapped up in the heaviness of just how big the boulder we’re working to move is. Startups are a heavy investment from a team. While they may not be as financially invested, they are often extending additional hours and effort, covering extra job roles we haven’t hired for yet, that kind of thing. So we focus on having a culture that includes some humor and fun—likely the opposite of what you get from dealing with anyone during a normal warranty experience. I think that culture is then reflected in our brand experience and its tone. We talk like people because we are just a small group of people. We think our customers appreciate that.

How have you attracted, recruited, and retained the right people?

I’m pretty aggressive when it comes to this. I think you find out really quickly who “gets it” and who you want to be around day in and out. There are people who don’t realize how hard working for a startup might be. They figure that out quickly and either adapt or go by the wayside. Thankfully, we haven’t had to deal with a lot of that.

Having passionate employees also does a lot for you. If they love the business, they believe in what they’re doing, and it shows. They evangelize it in their lives outside of work and sometimes that draws in their networks and contacts that are enticed to come work here. We have a talented team that are respected by their peers for their work, so people generally want to know what they’re up to. They also happen to be confident people who understand the value of taking risks. And its those kinds of people who can strike gold just because they tested a new way to do something. That’s the core of Upsie, and so I guess it’s natural that we attract and retain people who are also that way.

What suggestions would you have for the entrepreneur who either (a) hasn’t started building a team or (b) wants to improve on the current one?

My suggestion for an entrepreneur would be (A) find a great mentor or two that can help you. A lot of our hires have come through previous relationships or prior contacts. (B) be self-aware about your strengths and weaknesses. You depend so much on your team at this stage, and so your strength is the culmination of theirs and your weakness the same. If there is an issue or area that obviously needs improvement, make sure communication is open. Tap them and their skills first and see if they’ve thought of a solution amongst them. If they haven’t, you’re at least planting a seed. Whether it’s a new position required to fill a gap or a process that needs improvement, chances are someone there has already put some thought into this. If you’re struggling with ineffective team members or a difference of opinion, open communication is generally a line to either work out the issue or find an understanding if there’s a need to part ways.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

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