Search & Replace Episode S01E07: AJ Bruno

AJ Bruno wasn’t looking to make the kind of change that happened to many of us in 2020. Like many working parents in the Northeast United States, he and his wife found themselves upending their schedules during a government-imposed stay-at-home order that lasted throughout much of March, April, and May.

As the co-founder of QuotaPath, a startup that makes software to help sales teams meet and manage their performance goals, AJ got a distant early warning about what was to come. 

More about today’s guests:

Explore these related stories:

  •       We first met AJ on an episode of The Build.
  • How fear hurts and helps entrepreneurs.
  • Working from home could mean three more hours on the job.
  • Parenting during COVID-19.


Announcer: [00:00:00] Support for the following podcast is provided by the user experience specialist at Johns and Taylor. More information follows this episode. 

Joe Taylor: [00:00:10] When we are on the other side of the coronavirus pandemic, what things from your life stop taking for granted? I'm Joe Taylor, Jr. This is Search and Replace.

Many of the guests on our show share what they learned when they chose to make a simple change to their daily routines. Today's story is a little different. AJ Bruno wasn't looking to make the kind of change that happened to many of us in 2020. Like many working parents in the Northeast United States, he and his wife found themselves upending their schedules during a government imposed stay at home order that lasted throughout much of March, April and May.

As the cofounder of QuotaPath, a startup that makes software to help sales teams meet and manage their performance goals, AJ got a distant, early warning about what was to come. 

AJ Bruno: [00:01:02] I had actually spent the week before and at the beginning of March in San Francisco, and I saw how that city changed overnight.

I stayed in my hotel room. I had a meeting and I only went to that meeting, but I came back from it just kind of like white as it goes. I remember my wife saying you really came back, but you're kind of lucky what's going on there. And I was like, this is going to hit the east coast pretty hard and we're going to shut down.

So we took that and, the other side of it was, Austin was like two weeks behind us. So as we were shutting down and going in quarantine, March 17th-ish, I remember my cofounder about to sign a lease for an office in Austin. And I said, are you crazy? You can't do that. And he said, it's not that bad here. I'm like, just wait a week, you'll get there. 

Joe Taylor: [00:01:47] AJ's has got an interesting perspective on what happened next. He's the cofounder of a startup and his wife owns and manages a daycare center in the Philadelphia suburbs. Plus he works with sales teams in a variety of industries, so he could see how quarantines and lockdown rules were impacting people in all kinds of ways.

AJ Bruno: [00:02:07] Moving from an inside sales team to a whole work from home is a very jarring experience, where you're so used to being on a sales floor or having management help coach and mentor. A lot of the sales teams in our industries just got wiped out, in travel, in hospitality. We had some really good opportunities that we were working on contracts with that just were completely gone.

People that were bewildered or confused, and didn't really worry about their quotas or their sales comp. They didn't care about how much they're going to make right now at that moment. They just wanted that same security, safety blanket that I was trying to provide for my team. And they were trying to get that for their own team.

So we in March, April and part of May just really we're focused heads down on our launch in June. We saw some business come back. And then July and August have been fantastic. We've grown our company and we launched in payed clients in every month we've grown about a hundred percent month over month.

However, I would still say that there's still plenty of, this isn't normal but we're living with it going on right now. 

Joe Taylor: [00:03:15] Twin girls in kindergarten and an older daughter preparing to graduate first grade, that's a lot to manage under normal circumstances. The lockdown forced the whole family to think about priorities for themselves and for their community. 

AJ Bruno: [00:03:29] My wife and I working, we spent 46 days straight inside with the girls as we went through school and both of us working our full time jobs. Who we just make sure that every day we're feeling like our girls are going to have as much of a normal education as they possibly can, because that matters so much, five years, six years from now. And that they're learning the things that they need to learn.

And if they're not, we're going to have to, unfortunately for us, because we've just been worn down to the bone in March, April, and May and June, we're going to have to take on the load again. Andit sucks, especially now that my wife's center is open and while she was working, she was at least home.

Now it's going to fall on me. And my business is, as I said earlier, going up into the right, which is fantastic. I just, I don't know how, as a parent, as career-driven person, you're supposed to do this. Like, there's just no playbook for this. It doesn't exist. And it's like, there's so many forgotten corners of the US right now.

Unfortunately just things that we're going to see you look back in 10 years and you're like, Oh that was an awful, awful situation for these groups, these demographics and we didn't hear that the screams loud enough because everyone was screaming. 

Joe Taylor: [00:04:48] AJ made a few other discoveries during all that time in the house last spring.

AJ Bruno: [00:04:53] Working from home, I didn't realize how loud birds were on a day to day when it was like in April. Is it really this loud? If you were to play back my last interview- because I've done an interview with you before- and the pace and speed at which I talk and how I think about the world, I bet you'd find there's a difference. There's a subtle difference. I think I'm a little bit more methodical and thinking about my day to day, and I have a general sense that I'm not alone in that feeling. It's almost like we had this window pane when the world stopped and we got to look through it and some cases, yes, we all became worse. Politically, we became a mess. We were always over the last, I think it's actually been awhile, we've become this divisive country. But I still think that we have this opportunity to look and stop and think about what we're doing and how we're doing it. And I think that happened to me and I know that it happened to others.

Joe Taylor: [00:05:51] So I asked AJ to share some thoughts about what he's taking away from the experience of running a growing company while living with a growing family, all under one roof.

AJ Bruno: [00:06:01] Maybe in a few years we'll probably say, well, thank goodness I'm not in that time anymore. But I hope at least people remember that opportunity they got and how it made them feel about each other and about the people that we care for and they're around for. That we no longer get to enjoy the comforts that we did, whether it was having coffee in the morning, networking. I mean, I got to meet so many entrepreneurs. I get so much energy and passion from being in the office.

But when that comes back, I'll think- I'm not going to take this for granted anymore. I'm not going to take a walk along the city. I'm not going to take going to a conference or an event. I'm not going to take for granted that I will have to wear a mask everywhere I go. Those things change and they change all of us.

And I think that on the whole, that's going to change us for the better. 

Joe Taylor: [00:06:50] That's AJ Bruno cofounder and CEO of QuotaPath. You can learn more about AJ and get some links to COVID-19 mental health resources at our website I'm Joe Taylor, Jr. 

Announcer: [00:07:04] This has been a Podcast Taxi radio production.

Support for Search and Replace is provided by Johns and Taylor, user experience specialists serving media and technology companies that want their websites to work. Learn more about how top performing businesses eliminate barriers between customers and their goals at

Joe Taylor Jr. has produced stories about media, technology, entertainment, and personal finance for over 25 years. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, and ABC News. After launching one of public radio's first successful digital platforms, Joe helped dozens of client companies launch or migrate their online content libraries. Today, Joe serves as a user experience consultant for a variety of Fortune 500 and Inc. 5000 businesses. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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