Suddenly, Àlex wasn’t just selling to keep a passion project alive. He was selling to support a growing number of employees.
“There were three, four, then eventually ten families depending on my performance as a salesperson. A feeling of vertigo crept over me.”
<quote-author>Àlex Bacardit<quote-author><quote-company>Co-founder & CEO of Marsbased<quote-company>
Each new developer meant Àlex had to make an additional €5,000 in sales each month, just to avoid that hiring quickly becoming a firing. But if he focussed too much on new clients, he’d lose his existing ones. That’s a lot of pressure for a first-time entrepreneur more used to writing code than contracts.
On the surface, things seemed fine. Àlex was hitting his sales targets. You’re doing a great job, his co-founders told him. The company was growing. But underneath it all, Àlex felt like he was frantically treading water. He couldn’t understand why his colleagues put so much faith in him to keep the company afloat.
Assuming nobody would relate, Àlex did what many people do—he bottled up his anxiety and got on with the job.
“I literally don’t care”
Over the course of the next three years, the company grew steadily. Through time and repetition, Àlex became more comfortable with this growth—in fact, he was now the one badgering the other co-founders for more developers.
But the idea he wasn’t right for the role clung to him like a malicious bug in the code. Suddenly, they lost two of their biggest clients—and Àlex started doubting himself all over again. He felt like his opinion was worth nothing.
So he checked out. As co-founders, they were supposed to make decisions as a trio. Àlex’s stock response?
“Whatever you guys decide. I literally don’t care about the outcome.”
Demotivated with business as usual, his ideas became disconnected from the reality of the company. Like the time he suggested they organise a flashy conference with private dinners for their existing clients—when all they needed him to do was find new ones.
Àlex felt disconnected from the team, too. He wasn’t in the trenches, coding with his comrades. He was strutting around the general’s office, chattering away on lengthy phone calls about who-knows-what. He didn’t feel worthy of their respect:
“I wasn’t a point of reference for the developers. They could look up to my co-founders, but not to me.”
Opening the door to vulnerability
In 2020 the sales pipeline completely dried up. Pre-pandemic, Àlex was getting five leads a week. In the first six months of the pandemic, he got five leads total.
He had a realisation. For the company to move forward, perhaps he had to step back. That’s what companies do, right? Get a new CEO when the old one becomes ineffective? In a fit of desperation, he opened his laptop, drafted a letter, and posted it on the company’s internal message board:
“I’ve been underdelivering. I might not be the right CEO for you.”
He waited. Then the responses arrived.
Many of them reassured Àlex he was doing a great job. That he couldn’t be blamed for external forces.
But perhaps more significant were the responses in which employees shared their own struggles: