Guest Post: How Parker Used Systems To Hack His Way To Co-CEO


in Guest Post, Stories

Today, I’m proud to share a post from my friend Parker — an HtS reader, and Co-CEO of Recruiting Ninja.

It’s always great to learn from people who’ve accomplished cool things — and the immediate inclination is to skim an article, say, “That’s great…I should really do that,” and then do nothing.

But like many readers at Hack The System, Parker is different.

He knows that it’s great to learn new things, but it’s another thing entirely to turn that knowledge into experience.


Read Parker’s account of how he successfully hacked a contest that many people dropped out of immediately, and in the process, earned a 50% stake in a new company.

Here’s Parker…


Today, I’d like to share my story of how I became the Co-CEO of…and how you can use this information, tactics, and Jedi mindset to get exactly what you want.

To start this story, let me set the stage…

Step 1: Decide what you want and take the risk

I don’t remember how I first discovered it, but the opportunity was this: A few months ago, was running a “contest” where the winner would become the Co-CEO of the company and earn 50% of its profits.

“Not a bad deal,” I thought.

Obviously this was a promotion, aimed at getting attention and email addresses (since the only way to enter the contest was to sign-up with your email address).

So I thought about it, and it just so happened that this opportunity was in-line with what I was actively pursuing: Starting and developing a SaaS (Software-As-A-Service) company.

There’s no better way to learn how to start and run a SaaS company than to actually run a SaaS company, right

So I decided that I wanted to seriously enter the contest with the intent of winning — which, in all honesty, was half the battle.

Deciding to really go after something you want means you are committed and that you are going to take massive action. It implies risk — meaning you may lose money, time, or both. But it also implies reward.

The risk was worth the reward and I chose to go for it.

Step 2: Set up systems to measure your progress

Most of the people entering this contest probably came in with a mindset of, “Cool, I can enter this contest and maybe I will get lucky and win.”

This is the same mindset held by misguided lottery participants. “Let’s just roll the dice and see what happens…”

If you’re thinking like this, you’ve already lost.

CEOs and system hackers approach our problems differently.

We create systems that allow us to measure our progress in a predictable, repeatable way. Then, we use that information to gradually improve our results.

So how did I do this with a “contest”?

First: I never looked at this as contest or a “sweepstakes.” To me, it was always a competition.

Then, I found the achilles heel in the competition.

Like many online contests today, you can get more entries simply by referring a friend to the contest (it’s a marketing trick…or system used to get more entries). So I exploited this.

I needed to know how many entries would secure a win. So, I reached out to the people running the contest on multiple platforms.

I used phone, email, Facebook, and even Twitter.

 To my surprise, the owner of the company replied to me through Twitter. Had I stopped and waited for a reply after one phone call or one email, I would still be waiting.

Takeaway here: Don’t wait. Take action until you get the result you want.

In the twitter conversation…I simply needed to know how many entries they expected. From there I could extrapolate how many entries I would need to essentially “load the dice” and hack the system.

Here’s the conversation on Twitter:

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 8.43.40 PM

Perfect. Now I know the stakes.

From this tiny bit of information I extrapolated a few important data points I could measure and work towards:

  1. 50 entries, that’s pretty easy!

  2. This wasn’t a “lottery” style contest where they would just choose a winner at random. They were actively looking at candidates and asking them to jump through hoops to prove their worth and test them at the same time.

  3. The top 3 were already over 900.

Many people would see that, admit defeat and quit. Not me. I saw it, extrapolated the total time the contest had been running and how much time was left to arrive at a number I believed would set me apart from the crowd.

I know…it requires math…deal with it. Winners do math. Poor people play the lottery.

So, once I knew the number of entries I wanted to get (it was 10,000 by the way), I could actively start setting up systems to get there.

I now had a number that I could measure, take action on, and compare results to! Success was now a matter of taking action and getting 10,000 referrals!


Instead of taking a traditional approach…I hacked my way through it to get my desired result.

Here’s everything I did. Notice that I measured what worked and what didn’t.

Here’s what didn’t work (meaning less than 30 referrals):

  • Going to office parks and asking workers to sign-up through my iPad (I got kicked out of a building and escorted out by “security” which was a good rush of adrenaline)
  • Hiring freelancers to post my referral link on their Facebook wall
  • Asking friends and family
  • Calling and emailing contacts at the local news station
  • Leaving behind QR code flyers at local hot-spots
  • Google ads with my referral link


What did work:

  • Hiring freelancers to use my referral link to refer friends, family, and co-workers
  • Automating the system once I tested it

I tried, or tested, 7 different methods! Most people quit after asking friends and family. Most people never go out of their comfort zone. Most people quit after failing once. This is the greatest mistake, and in my opinion a travesty of the human condition. We are terrified of failure and conditioned to seek comfort, sometimes at the expense of progress.

Takeaway here: Fail often and fast. Failure leads to success.

 People often think success is a result of trying and being successful (in other words, sometimes you just get “lucky.”)

The truth is…success is the result of trying many different things, failing at most of them, and finding the one or two paths that end up being successful. It’s not luck! It’s just a lot of work and failure along the way.

 So, I failed a bunch, but soon found a system that worked. It required a bit of tweaking, but I tweaked along the way and just automated the system by hiring a VA to hire other VA’s to refer their friends and family through my referral link.


Step 3: Follow through to succeed

Finally, I sat back a little, monitored progress, and shifted my focus elsewhere. That’s right…I still didn’t quit.

I started connecting with the people in the company. Through email, I started asking them questions, developing relationships, opening the lines of communication.

Next thing I know, I’m in the next round of applicants.

The task here to make a video and explain what I would do as Co-CEO.

 There were 10 people in this round and I felt pretty good from the performance of the last round and with the connections built up that I could get through this round with a simple and clear video. That ended up being true, and I was into the Top 3.

This is where I reached out to Maneesh for some help. I even promised him this article in exchange for his help. In other words, I pre-sold him something I hadn’t even created yet.

I wasn’t being manipulative. I was simply offering him potential value, or value to his readers (that’s you) in exchange for some help. He said “ok” and shared a few tips and techniques. I was back to the races…

I was in the Top 3…and there was another task to complete.

The task: Contact 100 past customers and determine why they left and from this information how you would change or make the product better.

Ok, sounds simple…but contacting 100 people can be seriously time-consuming. Maneesh recommended a few things, and I took him up on his techniques and even took them a bit further.

Maneesh’s suggestions:

  1. Email the 100 people with a simple survey and/or use a scheduling service, like so that people could schedule a time to talk or…
  2. Hire a VA to do the interviews and phone-calls


Simple, effective solutions, right?

The only problem here was that I didn’t have time to talk to all of these people — and I definitely didn’t have time to properly train a VA.

 So, I made an offer to my community of readers: In exchange for a few hours of work calling and interviewing past customers, I would share my experience of running a SaaS and a portion of the profits with them.

Again, I pre-sold them on something I didn’t even have, but I did so honestly and openly. People were ecstatic to help. They jumped in with passion (something that can’t be bought) and did an awesome job of calling and talking with past customers.

In the end, the system paid off.

You’re now looking at the Co-CEO.




Do have any questions about my systems? How do you think you could apply some of the things I leveraged to your own challenges?

Let me know and I’ll respond in the comments.

Huge thanks to Maneesh for letting me post!


Shari March 12, 2014 at 1:42 pm

Thanks for sharing your story – really inspiringly different! I’m curious about how you reached out to the company without seeming annoying or stalker-ish? =)


Parker Woodward March 12, 2014 at 10:28 pm

Short simple sentences.

Just reach out. I believe most people are afraid of just reaching out out of the fear of being annoying or stalkerish.The truth is that I’ve been “stalkerish” and annoying before, but I didn’t mean to. You live and learn. Just reach out and try to make a human connection. Short simple sentences. Try to make one clear CTA, usually with a question. Does that make sense?


kayvee March 11, 2014 at 2:57 pm

Hi Parker

Congrats on your success. I wish you much more success

You said that you made an offer to your “community of readers”

What do you mean by that? Do you mean you have en email list?


Parker Woodward March 12, 2014 at 10:25 pm

By “community of readers” I guess I meant my network…email list, groups, network, etc…


marcie March 11, 2014 at 3:03 am

Can you post the link to your post to your community of readers? I’m interested in seeing exactly what you wrote. Thanks


Mancho March 11, 2014 at 1:44 am

Parker, great post mate. Funny to see my name in the twitter with Dane lol


Chris Reynolds March 10, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Parker, great post I really enjoyed the hacks. While reading I was thinking about applying this to 3 areas that I am involved in. 1. Fundraising for a charity project that I am working on. 2. With a Kickstarter project. 3. Winning Speaking Contests. I like the system of hiring freelancers to use referral links. Where did you get your freelancers from specifically? If you are open to it, how much did you spend? Also, can you elaborate some more on how you automated this?…..Thanks ahead of time and keep rockin’ it!!!


Parker Woodward March 10, 2014 at 11:05 pm

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Great artists steal…I haven’t done anything “original”…I just took action. As for kickstarter, check out other successful campaigns and pick up the phone and call these people and ask them what worked and what didn’t work for them. That’s where I would start. As for where I hired freelancers, is great (another great Maneesh suggestion) for long-term staff. Other than that I’ve found good people on elance and odesk. How I automated it?…I found that most people have a “social limit”, meaning they only have about 10-20 referrals or shares and their social network is tapped. Much like in the contest, people shared, got about 20 entries and quit. I jsut hired freelancers and VA’s to share my referral link…then I hired a VA to start hiring VA’s to share my referral link. Even VA’s reach a “social limit” so I hired them for a few hours each and they were happy and paid well for the easy work. As for total expenditures…maybe $150 total for the whole contest. Pretty cheap right? Well, that’s more than most people would have put in…again, risk vs reward. Does that answer your questions? Got any more? : )


Chris Reynolds March 11, 2014 at 1:49 am

Perfect, TYVM Parker and thanks for the speedy reply. $150 a lot cheaper than I was thinking….Gracias and Cheers bro


Roser March 10, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Excellent post, that’s persistence!! Very inspiring.


Parker Woodward March 10, 2014 at 1:49 pm

This article was already too long but there were a few other “hacks” I used. If you have questions I’d be happy to answer them here : )


Leave a Comment


  • Previous post:

    Next post: