Brian Seidel’s official title is CEO of Website Pipeline - but whatever you think you know about what a CEO does, you can throw that right out the window.
Of course there’s the standard balancing of employee time and cash assets, the strategizing ways to get, keep, and grow customers, and the day-to-day management of employees.
But Seidel isn’t like other CEOs. He doesn’t wear a suit and tie to work. He doesn’t oversee his business dealings from afar. He gets his hands dirty and works hard to keep the momentum of Website Pipeline going strong.
As many employees will tell you, middle of the night emails are not uncommon. Usually accompanied by hand written diagrams and innumerable bullet points.
In 1999, he was one of three who set off to start a business together, and today the company is one of the fastest growing tech companies in North America.
As everyone in the company inevitably has to endure, we’ve torn him away from his busy schedule, sat him down, and picked his brain for your reading pleasure. Enjoy.
What project/goal that you worked on are you most proud of?
Website Pipeline (the company). We literally sketched out the idea for the seed that grew into this business on a napkin over lunch at a local restaurant. Our early motto was “The hours are long, and the pay is low, but at least we are in a highly unstable work environment.”
We lived on naive hope, peanuts for wages, and 100 hour work weeks for several years to get it off the ground. It has turned into one of the 500 fastest growing technology companies in North America, and we did it with no debt and no investor money.
I am not sure I would ever start another business this way… but the experience has been incredible. I am proud of what the collective team of people at WSP has done. The business is still growing at a rapid click, and I am totally fired up about the future.
What's the funniest thing that has happened at Website Pipeline?
There’s been tons of funny things, but one standout was the year-end office party we had that ended our gift exchange forever.
We were at a restaurant and managed to get our bar tab cut off. Not to be deterred, the party-goers turned to the gifts and consumed every drop of alcohol available (including a bottle of homemade everclear, and loads of warm beer). It was an interesting scene. We got disinvited back to the restaurant, and Linda – our longtime office mom – permanently banned the gift exchange.
What's your favorite hobby/what do you like to do when you're not at work?
My favorite hobbies are wakeboarding and snowboarding. In the big scheme of things, I am not that great at either of them, but I love them both.
My wife and three kids also love water sports. We started a tradition in late spring and early fall during the school year called “Watersports Wednesdays”. We cut out a little early, go to the lake, get in as many back-to-back ski and wakeboard runs as we can, then come home. The water is like glass on most Wednesdays during the school year.
What programming languages are you fluent in?
I am partially fluent in pseudocode.
Which college(s) did you attend?
The University of Michigan. I was there to see:
1) Desmond Howard win the Heisman
2) The Fab Five make it to the NCAA National Championship game two years in a row
3) My entire fraternity (Sigma Chi) get put into alumni status because a national rep showed up unannounced and found 60-something empty kegs in our basement.
Somehow, I managed to negotiate my way out of there with a Mechanical Engineering degree.
What kind of TV shows, movies, or other entertainment do you partake in?
A few relatively recent TV shows I love(d) were/are: Entourage, Lost, House of Cards, Breaking Bad, and a new one on Showtime called Billions.
If you want to go old school… I loved the show Moonlighting. Bruce Willis was the kind of witty smartass in that show that I always aspired to be.
I am also a closet fan of a few other shows… that I would never admit to in this interview (because I would deservedly be hazed to no end if I did).
For books – I read and listen to non-fiction books constantly. A few of my top 5 must reads (I have at least 10 “top 5s” by the way) are:
- How To Win Friends and Influence People (cheesy title I know… but I read it as a freshman in high school and it totally changed my life)
- Getting Things Done
- Rich Dad Poor Dad
- Financial Peace
- Crossing the Chasm
- The Twelfth Angel
What’s your favorite thing about working at WSP?
I love logic puzzles… and trying to grow a software company from scratch is the most complex puzzle I have ever tried to solve. I love the challenge.
What is one thing you couldn’t go a day without, and why?
Air. I love air.
Do you have any pet peeves/things you hate?
I only have one pet peeve… people with negative attitudes. They’re infectious in all the wrong ways, and nothing good comes out of them. I try to get away and stay away from people that have them. Life, companies, jobs, relationships, everything…. are full of both good and bad things. They always will be. Your attitude is simply a decision on which set of things you decide to focus on.
What is your life motto/favorite quote?
Sounds cliché…. But it has to be “Think outside the box”
Tell us one interesting story about you that not a lot of people know.
I have had a series of successes and failures with “business ventures” ever since I was in elementary school.
One of the many I tried in college was for an annual event that takes place at Michigan called Hash Bash. In early April, thousands of hippies march to the center of campus to rally for marijuana law reform. I never smoked weed, but I had no problem making money off of people who did.
A friend and I decided to tiedye 200 pairs of boxer shorts (that was a nightmare), and had them screen printed with a marijuana leaf on the butt, with the words “smoke it down to the roach” on the front.
I know I am biased, but they were awesome.
We had about a 4-hour window on Saturday to sell them all (during the event)… so we went to work. They were selling as fast as we could pull them out of the massive duffle bag we were carrying them in. The price we charged ranged from $12 to $20 depending on how wasted the prospect was. We had sold about 1/2 of our inventory in maybe 45 minutes when a cop appeared and asked to see our “small vendor’s permit”.
We had no idea what that was, so he gave us $100 tickets, radioed all the other cops with our descriptions, and told them to arrest us if we were caught selling more of them. As it turns out… the small vendor’s permit cost less than the ticket… but we couldn’t get one on Saturday.
We didn’t rake in the profits we dreamt of, but we did cover our costs - and I had so many pairs of boxers that I was able to cut my laundry sessions down to 2 or 3 per semester.
Brian is one of 60+ Website Pipeline employees, all of whom are in North America. He has never given a presentation in under 10 minutes, but we love him anyways. You can learn more about the Website Pipeline culture on our website, or visit our Meet The Team page to see more WSP employees.