Hey, everyone! On today’s episode of Growth Everywhere, I share the mic with Didier Elzinga, former CEO of Rising Sun Pictures and current CEO of Culture Amp, which is a product that seeks to help companies create better corporate culture in order to get a higher rate of employee engagement and retention.
Tune in to hear Didier discuss how he went from software developer to CEO over the course of his career, how they attract new business and double employee retention, what CEOs rate the importance of culture for the success of their company on a scale of 1-10, and Culture Amp’s motto that brand is what you promise a customer and culture is how you deliver that promise.
[01:15] Didier ran a visual effects company and worked on major film projects.
[01:37] So much of running a successful business is people and culture.
[01:45] He was good friends with the people that started Atlassian and found their business model was far more successful than his.
[01:58] So he started the Culture Amp.
[02:48] They were one of the first companies who captured employee feedback, turned it into usable data, and put the company in control.
[02:59] They now work with over 1,300 companies globally.
[03:17] Culture Amp gives you access to the collective intelligence and not just the data.
[03:58] The challenge is building a culture in order to deliver a specific product.
[04:30] Companies use Culture Amp to get a sense of how their employees feel about the office culture and the product they are creating. They then use that data to allocate appropriate resources in order to improve upon their current methods.
[05:11] They are a classic SaaS business: based on subscription.
[05:33] The pricing structure is based on the size of the organization using the service.
[05:55] Culture Amp has four offices now: Melbourne, San Francisco, New York, and London.
[06:01] They have nearly 170 employees overall, which about doubles every year.
[06:24] Employee effectiveness is about giving individual feedback.
[06:49] Performance reviews are once per year, but you want to give people feedback that gives them tools to succeed on a regular basis.
[07:57] When one company was hemorrhaging employees, they did a survey and found their engagement score was only 50%.
[08:22] Engagement measures how happy employees are, if they believe in the company’s mission, if they are willing to stay long term, and if they would go the extra mile.
[08:35] If someone isn’t engaged, it’s basically just a gig and they don’t like the company or the product.
[08:48] Engagement measures employees’ emotional commitment to the company.
[09:00] You will never get 100%, but you can get close.
[10:00] Look at your retention and attrition as a basic way of determining ROI.
[10:40] Brand is what you promise to a customer and culture is how you deliver that promise.
[10:55] Think about the experience you want to deliver to your customer and consider what kind of culture you would need to achieve it,
[12:49] Smaller companies tend to have more involvement from the CEO when it comes to creation of culture.
[13:00] When presenting, Didier will ask a room full of CEOs how important culture is to the success of their company. On a scale of 1-10, they often rate it an 11.
[13:21] CEOs often care deeply about culture.
[13:45] Customer acquisition was hard at first, but a lot of it was networking.
[14:35] In the early days of Culture Amp, they would host a meetup group where you could meet in a bar and talk about corporate/office/company culture. That was a big part of their engine.
[14:51] They will soon embark on a Culture Amp tour.
[15:30] They do webinars and master classes.
[15:44] Over time, they have gotten better at curating these events.
[16:05] The thing that has worked the best for Culture Amp is the fact that they are not just doing one thing to gain customers.
[16:42] You can spend money, but the biggest cost is time and people.
[17:03] When companies plan events and task a single person with putting it on, it rarely succeeds, because you need to have the company culture the encourages learning and networking.
[17:14] Big events work for Culture Amp, because their employees truly believe in the company mission and like having a lot of face time with others.
[17:28] What has been interesting to Didier is seeing the increasing sophistication of account-based marketing. Particularly how the multi-touch model works.
[18:05] When Culture wants to connect with a company, they make sure to have many points of contact (marketing strategies), so that when they reach out personally, the company in questions already knows who they are.
[18:14] Events have proven to be a great way to bring people into the Culture Amp community.
[18:47] Didier explains his Letting Go of Your Best Employees blog post.
[19:24] Don’t pretend you will be together as a company forever; be realistic about each employee’s time at the company.
[20:00] When people are hired at Culture, Didier asks them how he can use his network to get them their next job.
[20:18] If Didier knows where you’re going (your goals), then he can help guide your time at the company so that you head in that direction (within and without Culture Amp).
[21:07] Didier talks about his blog post, The Seven Year Overnight Success.
[21:53] The first product Didier had, he found that there was no repeatable sales cycle.
[22:17] In the moment, it always feels like you’re just one feature away from succeeding.
[22:22] Eventually, you have to set a deadline for success and if you can’t grow, it’s time to close up shop.
[23:23] Didier worked for Rising Sun Pictures. He started as a software engineer and then ended up as the CEO.
[23:43] He could have stayed there, but he felt he needed to leave and challenge himself.
[24:25] Didier is a bit of a tool junky, but he feels like the following tool has helped him stay on top of his business: Donut, a slack tool.
[25:50] In his personal life, he likes to use Bullet Journal and Todoist.
[26:28] Didier recommends everyone read The Effective Executive.
Hey everyone! In today’s episode I share the mic with Jim Twerdahl, president of many companies, including JBL, Marantz, and a biotech startup.
Tune in to hear Jim discuss the importance of referrals and professional connections for faster growth, the marketing lessons he’s learned from being president of JBL and other companies, his process for hiring and interviewing executive candidates, and why most startups fail by getting diverted by too many potential opportunities.
Hey everyone, in today’s episode I share the mic with Bettina Hein, founder and CEO of Pixability, a video advertising platform.
Tune in to hear Bettina share how they’ve grown Pixability over 100% a year for the last five years in a row, what they use for successful customer acquisition, and how she started her first software company (text-to-speech software, which lives on in all Android phones and a lot of car navigation systems) right out of graduate school and sold it for $125 million.
[01:32] Bettina is a lifelong entrepreneur and has never held a real job.
[01:39] She started her first software company right after graduate school. It was a speech-technology software company, which was ahead of its time.
[02:00] That tech lives on in Android phones and navigation systems.
[02:24] They sold the company for $125 million
[02:32] Bettina then became a Sloan Fellow at MIT, where she founded Pixability.
[03:35] Bettina says entrepreneurs should have insatiable curiosity.
[04:14] She thinks she lost a few years when building Pixability because she had to learn on the go.
[04:54] Bettina tries to learn as much as she can by reading, asking questions, and speaking with leaders in the field of whatever she is trying to learn.
[05:23] You have to launch experiments to see if your idea has legs.
[06:14] Pixability helps brands and agencies with video advertising and finding channels for profit.
[07:23] They also help them find their proper audience.
[07:36] Fewer people are watching TV, so companies have to look at digital media.
[08:08] $260 billion is spent on advertising worldwide, every year.
[08:32] Younger people do not watch live TV anymore.
[09:17] There has been a flight to closed platforms for advertising.
[10:38] It’s now easier to track who has seen your ad and if they actually went to your store or site.
[11:00] It’s a confusing time for marketers because digital is so much more complex than just buying a newspaper or TV ad.
[11:31] Pixability makes it easier to buy ads on digital platforms.
[12:09] During the planning phase, Pixability looks at your target audience in order to see who is actually watching videos around the product you are trying to sell.
[12:37] They also look at what inventory is available, the location of your stores, and times of day the company is getting hits.
[13:06] Through that planning process, they find your audience and proper ad placements within your budget and for your geographical location.
[13:32] The campaign is broken into sub-campaigns so Pixability can test every variable.
[14:31] Pixability charges a percentage of the ad-spend.
[14:43] They have grown over 100% and are a team of just over 80 people, spread over five locations in the US and abroad.
[15:18] They start with “thought leadership”.
[16:31] Pixability uses their social media channels to create a large email list, but they also directly contact prospects.
[16:56] There are maybe 10,000-15,000 people worldwide who are in the business of executing brand advertising spend.
[18:10] There are a lot of industry conferences that make their money by selling sponsorships. Often, as a sponsor you are granted a speaking slot.
[18:55] They have had success speaking in the women’s fashion sector.
[19:25] The cost varies, but it’s anywhere between $5,000 and $50,000 to be a conference sponsor.
[20:10] The key to being successful is to not run out of money, which is a continual struggle for an entrepreneur.
[20:33] You have to be very strategic with the money you raise.
[21:25] “The most wonderful thing” is when your company becomes profitable.
[22:00] Bettina starts her day getting her two kids fed and off to school, then she heads to the office (where she eats her breakfast), and then starts her day of meetings (customer, internal, or one-on-ones).
[22:44] Bettina has a great assistant that helps her stay on schedule.
[22:55] She does her best to get home by 7pm, so she can eat with her family and put her kids to bed.
[23:13] Spring through Fall is a crazy time for her business and she ends up travelling a lot during this time.
[24:05] It’s hard to have a work-life balance when you’re a CEO of a startup.
[25:49] Bettina recommends Thinking, Fast and Slow, Behave, and The Sympathizer
Hey everyone! In today’s episode, I share the mic with Shan Sinha, founder and CEO of Highfive, a company that sells a video conferencing hardware/software bundle.
Tune in to hear Shan discuss his tech journey from Microsoft to Highfive, how much he sold his business DocVerse to Google for (who turned it into Google Drive), the difficulties of buildinga hardware/software company, and what they did to grow their YoY revenue by 170% from last year to this year.
[01:33] Shan has been in tech startups for his entire career.
[01:56] He left Microsoft to start DocVerse.
[02:05] Google then acquired the company and it was turned into Google Drive.
[02:28] He then worked for Google Enterprise Apps for a few years.
[02:46] Then he stumbled upon the idea for Highfive, which Shan deemed a remarkable opportunity.
[03:05] Highfive has been around for five years and is continuously growing (they now have 2,000 customers).
[03:35] They grew by 170% over the last year.
[03:45] They are a hardware/software company that operates like a SaaS-based business.
[03:50] The company handles over 150,000 meetings per month.
[04:33] The purchase price of DocVerse was around $25 million.
[05:20] It’s easier to build a hardware company today than it was 10-15 years ago, but it is still incredibly hard.
[05:46] When it comes to B2B SaaS, there aren’t too many examples to rely on.
[06:28] Shan and his partners set out to solve a problem: getting people dialed in to a remote meeting.
[07:01] When Shan and his team set out to solve the problem, they realized the normal meeting today required flexibility in the way everyone connected to a remote meeting.
[07:28] Some people will be in a conference room, others will need to join via a laptop, others will need to dial in via mobile phone.
[08:03] They realized the only way to solve the problem was to build purpose-filled hardware and software that people could use remotely.
[08:16] It turns out this issue is happening in many other aspects of our daily lives (hardware and software working in conjunction).
[08:48] Shan realized putting hardware and software together was the best course of action.
[09:11] To start a hardware company, adopt the mindset that it will be a hard road.
[09:30] Also, realize that you will need a lot of capital.
[10:35] Surround yourself with people who have experience creating successful hardware companies.
[11:04] Above all else, hire the “right” people.
[11:55] This requires a lot of networking and word-of-mouth.
[12:55] Shan had a contract manufacturing partner lined up, but they dropped out when Apple gave them a contract.
[13:29] Within 24 hrs, they landed a contract with another manufacturing partner.
[14:30] Shan thinks there is a difference between networking for networking’s sake and networking with an endgame.
[15:22] The answers are never readily available, so you have to actively seek them out.
[16:09] Figuring out the pricing structure was part of innovating the hardware/software.
[16:27] Highfive spent two years in R&D.
[16:50] The original plan was to sell the hardware in the typical way, but to sell the software on the basis of the number of users per number of months.
[17:56] It took them a while to figure out their pricing structure.
[18:01] They figured out a pricing model that bundled their hardware and software together; then they charge you based on a per room, per month basis (with that comes an unlimited software user license).
[18:42] Highfive now has a few different packages that they offer that cater to a variety of offices.
[19:13] Shan believes this makes conference calls truly collaborative.
[19:43] Competitors like WebEx, GoToMeeting, or Zoom will have a free option with limited capabilities, a cost for each software user license, and a per month charge.
[20:45] These competitors also charge for minutes used by people calling in.
[21:10] Basically, the competitors are nickel-and-diming everyone.
[21:47] When the iPod came out, Apple sold it based on how many songs you could store vs. the actual Megabytes, which was an effective marketing strategy.
[23:04] Highfive’s biggest challenge has been figuring out solutions to completely new and untested problems.
[23:33] There were very few examples of companies packaging hardware and software.
[24:11] They have reached the point where they have figured out their product and their business model.
[24:23] Now, they have to figure out how to take it to the next level and continue to grow their business.
[25:34] The goal was to make Highfive easy to use, deploy, and sell.
[26:01] Highfive tries to offer deals to gain new customers.
[26:30] They are anchored in the thesis that the product should be the thing that drives customer reactions and responses.
[26:43] All their marketing is done online and they try to take advantage of SEO.
[27:32] Shan thinks it’s important to create a consistent picture that stitches all your variables together in a single model and then work with your team to determine which variables you are going to optimize.
[29:24] The “tool” that has proven effective was simply paying attention to the payback on acquisition costs.
[31:11] Shan believes the thing that measures a company’s efficacy is tied to the payback on costs.
[32:11] Shan recommends Founders at Work and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.
Hey everyone! In this episode I share the mic with Adrian Salamunovic, co-founder of CanvasPop, a service that lets you create gallery-quality canvas prints.
Tune in to hear Adrian discuss his career path as a serial entrepreneur, including DNA11 in which they turned DNA code into abstract wall-art (no two prints are alike!), how he started CanvasPop with just $35,000 and earned media, and the marketing tactics he’s used, such as putting the first 100 customers’ prints on a digital billboard in Times Square during the Christmas season as part of their launch campaign.
[02:17] DNA11 was started by Adrian and his best friend; they took DNA code and turned into abstract wall-art; no two prints are alike.
[03:03] It became a $1 million company and it morphed from there.
[03:58] DNA11 was started with $2,000. CanvasPop was started with $35,000.
[05:11] They used technology to streamline the canvas-creating process and have amazing customer service.
[05:33] Adrian is passionate about earned media.
[05:42] Adrian believes CanvasPop was successful because of great PR.
[06:25] He is self-taught when it comes to PR.
[06:39] Think about what makes your company remarkable and align that question with something that is trending in the media.
[07:25] There is something to be said about developing a relationship with a journalist or publications.
[09:06] There has to be remarkability or a spin to capture a journalist’s attention; there are a number of angles to work to attract a journalist and their audience.
[10:10] As part of a launch promotion, CanvasPop offered a deal to the first 100 people: print with CanvasPop and we’ll put it on a digital billboard in Times Square during the Christmas season (fifteen seconds per photo).
[10:55] This worked to CanvasPop’s advantage, because Reuters was running a special deal: they were giving you a free picture on the board for every press release that you gave them.
[11:18] The whole thing cost him about $10,000, which was significantly less than it would have been had Reuters not been running the deal.
[11:53] They still use earned media as a big part of their PR strategy.
[12:44] The bigger your company, the less earned media brings helps bring in a surge of customers.
[13:44] CanvasPop was the first company to accept Instagram photos for printing.
[14:15] This gave them some great publicity and they were the only company doing this, so they got a wave of business.
[14:43] “The best artists steal.” Adrian thinks you should look to similar companies, see what works, and improve upon their service.
[15:25] You want to “out-innovate” your competitors.
[16:20] Whether you are growing too fast or not fast enough, there is always going to be some sort of struggle for your business.
[16:35] Entrepreneurs should be expert problem-solvers.
[17:12] Adrian has learned that focus, discipline, and consistency are boring; but the key to success.
[17:52] Eric recalls that the X.AI CEO said something similar.
[18:35] Do advisory work on the side, which may help you have perspective and give back to your primary business.
[19:06] He doesn’t advocate working 14-hour days, but he acknowledges that there is a time at every startup where that may be necessary.
[19:47] Three days per week, Adrian will try to fit in a workout.
[20:09] Adrian likes to block out his time for different tasks (i.e. email, research, meetings)
[20:30] He likes to be home by five at the latest.
[20:56] You need to balance out your life.
[21:05] He would tell his younger self that “it’s a marathon, not a sprint”.
[21:25] Adrian feels as if he spent his 20s sprinting.
[22:07] Adrian loves Pipedrive, a CRM system. He loves it, because it uses an interface similar to that of Trello.
[22:51] He also uses MuckRack for PR purposes; it looks at what journalists are writing and tweeting about.
[23:37] Adrian absolutely loves TypeForm, because it takes something painful and almost makes it enjoyable.
[24:31] Adrian recommends the books, E-Myth and Play Bigger.
[25:37] Adrian’s favorite podcasts at the moment is “Legends and Losers” and “99% Invisible”.
Hey everyone! In today’s episode I share the mic with Mikael Yang, CEO of ManyChat, a program that helps businesses create successful Facebook Messenger bots.
Tune in to hear Mike discuss why messenger marketing is more fruitful than e-mail marketing, what they’re doing to power 100K+ pages and sending a million messages per day, and how messenger bots get up to an 80% open rate when email marketing typically gets 20% open rates and an insane CTR of 56% compared to just 1-2% for emails.
Hey everyone! In today’s episode, I share the mic with Dennis Mortensen, founder of x.ai, a revolutionary AI personal assistant.
Tune in to hear Dennis talk about how having 1,019 meetings in one year led to creating Amy the personal assistant, why they had to raise $44M in funding, the two major challenges of creating a simple concept, and how he effectively (and anally) manages his time.
Hey everyone, in today’s episode I share the mic with Jen Young, co-founder and CMO of Outdoorsy, a marketplace website that allows customers to rent local RVs for memorable adventures.
Tune in to hear Jen share how she did product market research by living in an RV for 8 months, how their customers’ needs forced them to expand their business model, what works for Outdoorsy in terms of marketing techniques, and why she embraces a culture of failure.
01:15 – Outdoorsy is a peer-to-peer marketplace; it allows users to rent the 13 million RVs that sit idle most of the year
02:35 – Outdoorsy has a million dollar liability insurance and has pay-as-you-go/on-demand roadside service, which makes them a more full-service company
03:40 – When they realized there were RVs sitting idle for most of the year, Jen and her partner sold their houses and bought an RV and hit the road for eight months. Along the way, they interviewed other RVers to get an idea of their needs.
05:44 – Outdoorsy’s original customer development was interviewing other RVers at campgrounds
08:45 – The business model expanded because of customer need/feedback. They now facilitate sales of RVs, as well.
09:43 – The struggles of building a marketplace: they needed to be national, but had to start small in counties/towns and then states.
10:41 – Embracing a culture of failure in order to be successful
11:45 – Outdoorsy has facilitated a million interactions this year and a have booked a quarter of a million dollars worth of trips.
12:58 – Families have reconnected on road trips, people have proposed marriage, and bucket list trips were made possible because of Outdoorsy
14:01 – Adwords and Facebook have worked in terms of customer acquisition, as well as engaging content
15:11 – Check out the customer stories and their branding tactics on Outdoorsy.com
15:45 – A cool photo and a great story angle go a long way in terms of marketing
17:05 – Injecting personality cuts through the repetitive style of advertising being used by other companies
17:30 – New tools they have used in the past year and what has worked for them (Quip and Slack)
18:45 – Every morning, Jen builds a to-do list and in doing so, prioritizes the most important aspects of the business that day.
19:30 – She uses the “getting things done methodology”, which helps her organize her to-do list and evaluate priorities.
Hey everyone, on today’s show I had the opportunity to pick the brain of Damian Bradfield, President and CMO of WeTransfer, the world’s largest file-sharing service.
Tune in to hear Damian share how they managed to build a business through organic growth and acquire 200K users from word-of-mouth, why partnering with artists like Moby and 21 Pilots is a genius marketing move (and why WeTransfer donates a percentage of ad revenue to the arts), and how user design and experience is key to their success.
Hey everyone! Today I share the mic with Aaron Fulkerson, co-founder and CEO of MindTouch, which provides customer self-service software that makes your customer smarter, happier, and more successful. Tune in to hear Aaron share what MindTouch is, how it increases average customer engagement for big brands from 40 seconds to 12 minutes, how MindTouch started as an open-source project in 2006 and evolved into a cloud-based business in 2012 with over 300 customers today. Download podcast transcript [PDF] here: How MindTouch Completely Revamped the Customer Self-Service Industry TRANSCRIPTTime-Stamped Show Notes:
01:11 – Aaron and Steve co-founded MindTouch, which started as an open-source project.
01:31 – As CEO, Aaron’s day involves strategy and vision, but he is still actively involved in sales.
01:51 – MindTouch helps people get support without having to call a customer support center.
02:33 – It’s an elegant solution for combining content types and creates a great customer self-service experience.
02:57 – An example is the Cisco Meraki documentation for a VPN. MindTouch gives answers and uses machine learning to identify other useful content.
03:36 – By driving engagement, average time on site has increased from 40 seconds to 12 minutes because users are finding useful information.
04:14 – Companies already have the content, but the way they deliver it needs to be customer first.
05:01 – Delivering effective content in a micro moment.
05:44 – They also drive 80% of organic search traffic in the product’s category.
07:18 – The software is cloud based and the pricing is value based on the amount of usage.
08:48 – MindTouch is seamlessly integrated in the brand.
09:39 – There is a touch point feature that layers the content across the customer’s journey. The well-structured content is injected throughout the website and self-service support journey.
10:56 – Value-based pricing is based on metrics and engagement.
11:32 – The way to set up value-based pricing is to take a guess and then adjust and find the engagement metrics the business values.
13:17 – Engagement, touch points, and usage are what the pricing metrics are based on.
14:13 – MindTouch started out as an open source project in 2006. The cloud based system was released in 2012 and they now have over 300 customers.
17:54 – If you stay at something long enough with a positive attitude and focus on value you will win.
19:56 – How distribution of open-source was completely disrupted by the distribution of cloud software.
20:49 – Customer referral rates are 96% and most customers come to them by referral.
21:44 – Having a marketing engine would be great.
22:09 – What makes self-service so important is if you have a subscription based business model, you need to provide continued value to the client. MindTouch helps customers achieve value from their purchase.
23:32 – Businesses that sell through distribution channels are at risk because they don’t have a direct connection with their customers.