Alright everybody welcome to another YouTube hangout. Super excited to be back with my friend Stephen Kelly, the CEO of the best accounting software in the world, Sage. We had a month off. We some technical difficulties or just scheduling issues last month. But we’ve got two happening in June. And today we’re going to talk about how to stand out with your customers. Stephen, welcome back.
Hey, great to be here Evan. Love these hangouts, so it’s always cool. Even just to be in your company 3,000 miles away, Evan, lights up my day.
I love it. Well, I’m excited for this topic. But before that, I heard just before going on that you are starting a vlog, and the first one comes out today.
Yeah, yeah. Well I just thought, you know, obviously, Sage is a big company, great technology company, largest tech company in the UK, all those good things. And actually, amazingly, our customers, Evan, my guys told me this, manage or move money around the world to the equivalent of about four trillion U.S. dollars. So it’s like, massive. It’s probably twice the size of the Canadian GDP. Gross domestic product.
But we feel like the world’s most exciting and yet the biggest startup. That’s the way we think. And I just thought, wouldn’t it be great if everybody who’s kind of one of your followers and the folks out there, aspiring entrepreneurs, grafters, who want to build a business, follow their dreams. What about if I kind of gave ’em a day in the life of Stephen Kelly? Just run a kind of video diary that we kind of post. And so that’s what we’re starting. We’re starting a vlog, and actually, when I come out and meet you we’d have to do special editions and stuff like that. When I’m in Toronto. Maybe even go to a Blue Jays game, yeah?
I like it.
And I love that. Kind of September, October and Blue Jays kick off. I think it’d be interesting to see what are the, ’cause it must seem I suppose, you know what it’s like being an entrepreneur from the outside seems pretty glamorous, but when you’re there in the heat of the daily battles, the ups and downs, the sort of daily roller coaster, that everybody, all your followers experience, it can feel very different from the inside. So, I want to give people a kind of uncut version of what’s it like to me a chief executive or what’s a 31,550 company, one of the biggest companies in terms of technology around the world. So that’s the purpose. And what I should say is, obviously, love all your followers to pick up and look at the vlog, and we’ll post it later today. But also love feedback, two way feedback. So, if you guys want me to cover different things, or you don’t think it’s useful or whatever, I really want to make sure there’s content in there that helps people, entrepreneurs, just overcome any fears and make good decisions and grow their businesses and expand.
Very cool. I’m excited to see it. The audience is already excited, we’re getting people writing in, Dash: “So excited,” all caps, “to see this duo again. “I always intake so much vital information.” So I’m pumped to get it going. Now, before I get into the topic, people always love the Stephen Kelly quotes to kick us off, so we’ve been waiting for a month. What do you have for us, Stephen? Give us some good quotes.
I’ve got some pretty cool quotes. Obviously, one of the legends around technology at Apple, Steve Jobs. So Steve captures some of the essence, he says, “Get closer than ever to your customers. “So close that you can tell them what they need “well before they realize it themselves.” And obviously he did that with the iPhone and stuff like that. Brilliant, brilliant innovation. And music. So next one, another great, amazing entrepreneur at Amazon, Jeff Bezos. And obviously he says, and he’s built incredible culture around customers, “We see customers as invited guests to our party. “And we are the hosts. “It is our job everyday to make every important aspect “toward the customer experience just a little bit better.” And then this is so true, and you know this, and I know this, is a great quote from the Sage himself. The Sage Warren Buffet.
I like that, I like that, he is the Sage. The ultimate investor Sage. And anybody who doesn’t know him, check him out. Warren Buffet, Google him. Probably the most legendary investor of the last 50 years. And still incredibly strong. And he says, which is great, and we know this, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation. “And five minutes to ruin it. “If you think about that, “then you’ll do things differently.” So I think kind of three quotes to kick off from amazing learners is Warren, Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs just to kind of get it going. But this customer experience and standing out from customers is the essence of a brilliant business where your idea or product really builds love from the customers point of view. So I think it’s a great topic and it’s great also, Evan, probably, to say that your viewers are the guys who made this topic for us. So, I hope we’re going to give you in this hangout some really fantastic material. How your businesses can really stand out for your customers.
I love it. Well before getting into the questions that are already popping up in the live chat, what are your overall thoughts, what are your top line kind of overall advice, big three things that entrepreneurs need to do to stand out with their customers?
I think something we’ve said all along, you’ve got to put yourselves in the shoes of the customers. You’ve got to live, and breathe, and go where your audience is. And then you got to do things really intelligent around what is the need that you’re serving for your customers? What is it they need or want? And then the big thing around this topic is how do you do it so differently that they’ll remember that forever? How do you make their lives so much better? And how do you differentiate yourself? You build massive early massive loyalty, fanaticism. We want your customers to be fanatical for you and feel love for your brand and your product and your service. So, I think they’re the things. Now number one, sit in the shoes of your customers. Secondly, really think about what is it they want, they need, to be successful. And then the big thing is how do you stand out? How do you differentiate yourself? Why are you different? Why are you the must-have product that they’ll rave about to their friends when they go to a college party, or whatever?
I’m wondering, in my own personal interest, for Sage, what do you guys go? And I know you personally, every time you go traveling, you have to go and talk to customers, you make that a priority to go and meet some of the customers, but what are some of the ways that Sage as a business, or you personally, work to try to stand out with your customers?
Yeah, so kind of what we think about is everything actually, from the planning process for the company, through to the daily activity, always says, what is it for the customer? Where is the customer in this conversation? And it’s so easy. I’d say this, it’s so easy for big companies to start kind of becoming sort of naval gazing, internally focused, whatever words you use, like analysis paralysis. And it’s easy for, particularly everybody will know this, if you’ve been in a big company, there’s some people who get a bit complacent, a bit comfortable. And what you need, you as the entrepreneurs, is to always have that kind of shock therapy, where everything’s always about the customer. And sometimes you can be extreme, and I do it here, little symbolic things, like if we’re on an internal meeting with marketing and product development, I’ll keep a chair free for the customer. I’ll turn around, and I’ll say, here’s a customer that they’re in a plumbing business or they’re in a digital marketing agency, and they’re fast growing. What are the things they’re going to be worried about that we can really address in this conversation? And then I think the other thing, as you scale and grow your businesses, all the entrepreneurs out there, and you hire your tenth employee, and your 15th, employ 20, you want to inject that everything you build has to be centered around the customers you serve. And even things like in the recruitment process, make that explicit. When they join, you do some sort of onboard, induction, whatever you want to call it, and again, make sure it’s explicit around the value you’re driving to your customers, and why you’re different, so they kind of get it. ‘Cause what you want is really, it’s kind of mother and apple pie to say so, Evan, you want your colleagues, the people who work in your company, to be the biggest advocates and the biggest ambassadors for your product, ’cause you want them to tell your friends that you’re a great business, you got amazing vision, you got a great idea, you’re going to change the world. ‘Cause you want them to attract their friends and recruit more people and more customers and partners. So I think the essence is, the question, Evan, is, everything you do from getting up first thing in the morning to going to bed, everything whether it’s planning, strategic, everything’s got to be centered on the customer. And ultimately providing massive differentiation and value to the customer on a sustainable basis for them to be successful.
I love it, I love it. Dropping some wisdom bombs right off the start. First question’s coming in from J Rise, who’s asking about your blog. So it’s not a blog, it’s a vlog, right? It’s a video version, right?
Yeah, yeah, much easier.
And they want to know where the link is. It’s just going to be on the Sage YouTube channel?
Yeah, and I’ll post it on all the channels, obviously things like Twitter as well. So I’ll post that. So if you guys would follow me, it should be on the screen, but @SKellyCEO. Then you’ll get it coming out today, I’ll post it. And I’ll post it to all my channels as well, Instagram, Facebook, and also Twitter and stuff like that. So, that’d be good and it’s video, ’cause this is kind of a related topic. We think video, and actually the channel on YouTube is unbelievable for you guys to really market and sell your products, and your brand, and why you’re different. And we think video is just an amazing way people consume technology choices, ideas, and all these sort of things. And this is kind of a digression, actually, but it’s kind of interesting, Evan, I think you were there. We had Chad Hurley, who is the co-founder and CEO of YouTube when it started.
And I was sitting in the Sage Summit back in, I think it was New Orleans, and we talked to Chad about his dream for YouTube. And I think at the time he said, “Well, “we would have been blown away if we’d had “like 20,000 YouTube subscribers, “and we thought if people could post hundreds “of video pieces a day, that’d be incredible.” And that would’ve been success. And I think I read something even six months ago, there’s like 400 hours of content being posted every minute. So we just think that the level of consumption by both consumers and, actually, business people around video content, is great. So this vlog, my mission is I’d kind of do it probably, initially, every two weeks. And it’s no more than five or six, seven minutes. So, it’s very easy to consume. And we’ll probably have to make sure, when we have a special moment Evan, we capture it on the vlog.
Yeah, I’m excited. And for those of you guys watching, I’ve been talking to Stephen about video for awhile. I remember way back on one of our first hangouts, one of our audience members couldn’t make it because they were doing cancer treatment, and Stephen ended up at the airport making a quick little video on his phone wishing that person good luck, and hope the treatment goes well, and we’ll see you hopefully at the next episode. And I thought it was a really cool thing to do for, you know, you’ve got this CEO, who’s got 13, 14, 15 thousand employees and taking out time out of his day to make a custom video. And so I think he could do really well on the vlog, and I’m excited that that’s coming out. Okay, let’s get to some questions. They’ve been piling up as we’ve been talking. The first is from Sharique who’s asking, “How do you surround yourself with great people “who care about the customers?”
That’s a great question. Do you know what one of the things you can do in the early days? Is probably hiring your company a customer. Or someone who lives, and walks, and breathes the customer journey everyday. And the other things we kind of do, which I think’s pretty cool, is have things like entrepreneurs in residence. So, we have Nicole Harding, who’s come into Sage to work for us. And they’re entrepreneurs, they’re grafters, they started their business and they’ve walked in the shoes, and they’ve done maybe three or four businesses where they’ve done start ups and grown ’em up, have done an exit, gone on to the next one. So, I think the other thing is, in reality, loads of things that we sort of touched on is make sure you as the entrepreneur and the founder talk always about customers, and you will very much, by that, you will attract similar individuals who really care passionately about customers. And then the other thing I think is a really good idea, if it’s achievable, is you actually join the communities of your customers, and you can do that on social media. But also I’d always advocate, if you can without crossing the line in terms of upsetting customers, if you can recruit customers into your business, you’ll understand, obviously the customer perspective, but also understand how to scale and grow your business as well. That’s a fantastic lens for you to have within your company.
That’s interesting. I’m curious what you guys do with customers. So you have some of them who sit in on board meetings, or who advise you guys, or have you hired them away from their business and now they’re working in side stage on different projects?
Yeah, we’ve got a number of things. Actually, I think you met some of these guys. We got this Sage Ambassadors program, so we’ve got business experts. And I go out all by myself probably every month and meet up country by country, and meet the local management team at Sage, talk about issues relevant to the customer journey. And also I tend to check in with those guys. The other things we do is have these kind of conceptive entrepreneurs in residence, where they come in and kind of help us understand more about what are the pain points and gain points that customers see. And then also, yeah, we have taken on some folks, I mentioned Nicole. There’s a few folks, a lot of folks actually, in the company who have been entrepreneurs themselves, and come to work for Sage, because there’s no better perspective than having kind of done it, and worn the T-shirt, and started a couple of companies. And also, Evan, not only companies that have been successful, but some of the best learnings you get is when you hit the skids, and you have a failure. And you have to exit prematurely, or you don’t realize your dreams, because, inevitably, the reality is there’s something fantastic in the U.S., there’s millions of businesses start every year. Over in the U.K. there’s about 600,000 new businesses started last year. But within five years probably, 60% of those would have failed. I don’t like that word failure, ’cause if you fail and you fail fast, that’s probably the best learnings you’re ever going to get as an entrepreneur. And you can go on a greater, fantastically successful business next time.
I love it. And thinking about attracting a great team, I would say too, that when you stand for something, it’s easy to get the right people on board. If it’s really clear in all of your messaging and all your activities that you care about the customer, you’re going to attract people who care about the customers. If people are applying to Sage, and they see Stephen on his vlog interacting with the customers and continuing to care about them, then the people who like that are going to be the ones who also believe in the same thing. And so if you’re really clear about your mission, what you stand for, what you’re here to do, and if serving customer needs is your mission, then you’re going to attract people who want to be a part of that. If it’s unclear what you stand for, then if you’re hiring a programmer, or customer service representative, or whoever into your business, you’re going to get all kinds of different people. And so you want to be really upfront and clear what your mission is so attract like-minded people, and the people who don’t agree with your mission, they’re never going to apply. So, they self-eliminate from the start. Great, let’s get to some more. So, Dash is writing in, “How would you suggest “being successful with limited resources? “Do you believe in your character, personality, and “or values driving the business “as opposed to the equipment you own?”
Yeah, Dash, that’s a great question, and I think we’d probably also say it’s all about leadership, it’s your personality. You are the expression of the idea. All the product you sell. And we talk about the integrity that you have, the love, the dream, and the inspiration and the vision that you can not only inspire your customers, maybe partners, but also people who work for you in the business colleagues. That’s really, really fundamental. And the personality is really important. So, I think there’s a lot of things you as a leader, when you want to stand out, it’s so easy to be swayed by a lot of people. And I think if you have a really strong conviction, and to Evan’s point, hashtag believe, then how do you stand out from the crowd? We stand in the shoes of the customer. You’ve got the big ideas, so I think there’s a whole theme around, obviously you want to listen to the colleagues, you want to listen to the market really carefully, but you also got to be confident and be decisive and make those calls. And then put a lot of the word behind the few hours and really focus on being successful. And I’d always encourage you to have that beginners mind. Be different, think differently, think about the next thing, what is it, especially in the word of disintermediation, customers will, in five years time, be doing that you can invent today. So, do think differently, and I think a lot of that comes from, as you said, it’s your personality, and make your brand very visible in terms of your personality and your leadership, ’cause that will inspire all the important people like the customers and especially your colleagues. If you get those two right, you’ve got a fantastic business.
What was the analogy you used? Focus on the wood behind your few arrows? Is that what you said?
Oh. Yeah, yeah. So, this is kind of, this is crazy. This is not a metaphor for the digital age. But when you’re an entrepreneur, one of the biggest problems you have is prioritization. Hey, this is really interesting, apparently prioritize, I think it comes from a Greek word. And you know how we say, “What are your top four priorities?” Well, that actually breaches the essence of the Greek word. Prioritize means you can only do one thing. Uno. One thing. No more. You can’t do two priorities, three priorities. So it’s ruthless, and obviously, in a modern age, we have lots of priorities. The biggest challenge we have as entrepreneurs is that single focus around the thing that’s really going to move the needle, move the dart. And so we have this phrase as, you can have 50 arrows out there, and go to 50 markets, and try and do 50 different things, or generate and create 14 different products. We’d say, no, no, no. Have a big vision, but then day to day for the first 90 days, put all the wood behind one arrow. One arrow, as in bows and arrows and all that sort of stuff.
And get all the wood on those arrows. So you put approach huge critical mass. And they create a beachhead where you’ve got momentum, you’ve got fanatical customers, and then you use that love to actually go on to the next beachhead, and then the next beachhead, and then the next. Honestly, my experience of entrepreneurs, we are so optimistic, we are so excited, we are so into our idea. And yet sometimes we’ve just got to check ourselves, and instead trying to be all things to all people, we should be brilliant at one thing at a time. And then that can build a great company.
I like it. I’ve never head that expression before, so I like it. It’s good, it’s good. Extra ammunition to play with there. To the question of limited resources, I mean, that’s entrepreneurship. You never have all the resources that you need. That’s why you go out and create something new and innovative, because you’re forced up against a wall to find another way to stand. I think what really helped me when I was first getting started was recognizing that people that I looked up to, the people that I aspired to have that kind of impact, some of the people behind me on the wall, they started with less than what I already have right now. The people who you look up to, and you want to be like, the titans in your industry, look at their story, and look at how they started. Chances are it wasn’t just handed to them, and they started off with less than what you already have right now. And so I use that as motivation to say, these guys could do it, I can do it too. And instead of seeing limited resources as a complaining point, use that as your opportunity. That’s where you have a chance to do something different and stand out. That’s the game. That’s entrepreneurship. You will have limited resources.
I love it.
You got to use them wisely. Put the wood behind the few arrows.
I love it. Hey, you’re going to love this, Evan, you’re going to love this. So, one thing I talk a lot about here is, and you’ll love this, you can have this quote, “The answer is never more resources. “The answer is always more resourcefulness.” And that’s why entrepreneurs are hugely successful. They always overcome difficulties. There are never any excuses. They always touch the stars. I think we got to save that quote for next time, you’ll lead us off with it. That’s a good one. Yeah, it reminds me of Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple, who said, “Stop thinking about the resources that you don’t have, “and instead think about what you can do “with what you do have.” And I think once you change your mindset from just being complaining, or desperate, or upset, to a positive one, okay I have something here, let’s use what I have to build it. That’s when you start becoming more successful. So, I like it. Next, Randy is writing in, “Hi Stephen, it’s Randy. “I own a resort on an island. “Should I act on all the feedback “from my customers, and should I encourage feedback?”
Yeah, I think Randy, if you own a resort you need to ping Evan and me an invite. We’d love that. So, I think just thinking of what people like, obviously people like Trip Advisor, but there’s just tons of social sites where everything is about reviews and obviously, seeing what people like Airbnb have done, and all those other guys, I think you’re in a super, almost transparent marketplace. And that’s obviously fueled by social media. And I think, just looking at ConsumerLink, the data point is about 70% of people now kind of bought resorts and stuff online. The old kind of model going through things like travel agents and stuff is pretty redundant. And the really important thing is this is where, and this is so important, customer love. How do we inspire customer love in terms of resort? And I think a message for entrepreneurs I’d always give is, if you can just do every little thing, every little interaction, like the book-in, the reservation, the welcome, the room, the breakfast, whatever it is you do when you break down the whole journey for a customer. And break it down to every component. Every touch point, every moment of their day. If you just exceed their expectations just by a little bit, then you will be remembered forever by that individual. And I think the other thing we forget, it’s like a resort vacation, is wow, if it goes well, typically you don’t get a level of fanaticism. If it goes exceptionally well, they’ll tell maybe five people. If it goes badly, they’ll tell a hundred people. So, the cons are stacked against you on the downside if you get it wrong. Now, I would say also that I think authenticity is really important. I get customers, we got wow, three million customers, businesses around the world use our technology. Do we get it right every day of the week, every second? Absolutely not. Do we drop the ball? Yeah. And when we do that, I’ll get customers DMing me, emailing me, calling me, and I’ll say wow, my aspiration is that we have the happiest, and most delighted, and raving fanatical, incredibly advocates out there, but we drop the ball. Sometimes the product say doesn’t work, or the internet it would connect in or the cloud went down, whatever. There’s some stuff, just stuff happens. So, what I do in those situations, and you could really do this powerfully in a resort, when stuff goes wrong, the visibility of you, Randy, as the leader, picking up the phone, calling on their cellphone at that moment, having a record response team, sorting it out, making them whole, and you might get a bowl of fruit delivered to their room or whatever it is, is very powerful. And then the other thing I’d say is when they go back, they come back to say Toronto, or Vancouver, or Minneapolis two weeks later. You know how it is on a vacation, this is interesting. When you have a vacation you have the best time in the world, and you talk about dreams and all that sort of stuff, and you have really sort of these esoteric conversations with your partner or your friends. When you get back, within six hours of getting back, you feel like you haven’t had a vacation. Do you have that feeling? Like wow, I’ve just been away for two weeks in Hawaii, and I’m back here, and wow, just my emails, my inbox, I’m overwhelmed, it’s crazy, I can’t see the wood from the trees. And it feel like you haven’t had a vacation at all. Now, how powerful would it be, Randy, if two weeks after that person’s vacation on your resort, when something went wrong, they got a bouquet of flowers to send we’re really sorry, we dropped the ball, we hope you had an amazing time. ‘Cause they’d remember you forever, and they would be your advocates. ‘Cause it is just about those little moment of magic that you create where you give them an experience that blows their brain.
I love it. That extra love. I love it. So, Randy is from Trinidad, the island’s on Trinidad, and he’s writing in that he’s writing all of this stuff down, he’s loving your advice. Randy, I would say I would split into two things. One, there’s the algorithmic marketing side of things with your Google Reviews and your Trip Advisor and Expedia reviews, and all the new game that you have to play because when people are booking they want to see that you have positive reviews. So yes, incentivizing your customers to leave reviews and share their honest opinions, that will help you with new marketing. But on the other side is just providing a great experience. Everything Stephen’s been talking about. I would study Steve Wynn, I would study the Four Seasons Hotel, the classic story of somebody left their bags at your hotel, and they went to the airport, and the bell hop gets the bags and follows them in the cab, and delivers them at the airport to them, right? Just looking for extra ways. If somebody asks for directions to the pool, don’t just tell them, take them to the pool, and show them. Every little touch point, everything Stephen was saying, to try to make it a memorable experience, to turn that one off I’m going to go to Trinidad and check out this new resort, versus every winter I’m going to this resort in Trinidad, and I’m bringing my whole family with me because these guys get it and have the best service. If you give them that amazing experience, they’re going to want to come back every year, tell their friends about it as well.
Yeah, on that, Evan, I think it’s right to the subject, how do you stand out? I think this is a great area where Randy, especially if you’re in that beautiful island, Trinidad and Tobago. I love the Caribbean. You can really sit down and think about, based on all the reviews, number one is kind of any entrepreneur would say, what market am I going for, where is the audience? And I think this is where you can be really honest. So maybe, I don’t know, maybe your market is 20 to 30 year olds, maybe it’s travelers, maybe it’s families. So, where these kind of particularly resorts get it wrong is when they start mixing up the audiences. So, you get young families, and then you get party animals and 25 year olds going on spring break parties. That’s going to be a disaster. ‘Cause no one’s going to be happy. ‘Cause the guys that want to go out all night, and drink all night, and party all night, will be waking up all the families. So, you need to really say, what is the market I’m serving? Who is the segment? Is it families? Is it what generation, what nationality? You know, you can get really granular. And then I think people really appreciate honesty as well, so on your website you should say, look, if you’re a young family, you’re probably not going to have a great experience here ’cause this is a party resort. Yeah, but if you’re 18 to 30 years old, and you want to have the best time of your life, this is the resort for you. And then you really meet the market, and everything’s steelpans when they get to the resort, all the great music that comes from the Caribbean, all the fantastic stuff, cocktails on the beach, rum punches, all that sort of stuff’s where you’re very much differentiating yourself, making yourself different from the kind of big brands. So you can create a unique experience for your customers to really meet their needs and wants. And they go away feeling like they’ve been sitting with Bob Marley for two weeks and experiencing the real Caribbean. So, I think you can do that, and then I would advocate really to what Evan said even more, that you want to get that social listening. And actually on this area, there’s some brilliant social listening tools you can get where not only do people write reviews, but there’s stuff you don’t see that they write in other places where you can get a pulse of what’s going on. And I’d absolutely say that. And if there’s stuff out there, the best thing you can do as an entrepreneur is know about it yourself. The worst thing you can have happen to you is for someone to denigrate your brand, or your product, or your resort and not tell you about it. If they tell you about it, you’ve got every opportunity to fix it. And with these things, you know this as consumers, when you fix stuff for customers, when they go wrong, that’s when you see great companies. Great companies always will make mistakes, but when great companies make mistakes, they step up tall, they stand shoulder to shoulder with the customer, and they fix it and make the customer whole.
I love it. Paula and Peter, we’re coming to you guys next, but I just have a follow up question for Stephen. I agree with everything you say. You’re going to have some people thinking, okay, even though I get most my business from the party crowd, I don’t want to lose the families, because my place isn’t full, and so I don’t want to turn away business. What do you say, how do you respond to that reaction?
I think the beauty of a resort-type business, the economics is all about utilization. And then once you’ve got the utilization, that probably covers your cost. And then the profitability you make is through a food, beverage, all those sort of things. So, there’s a number of options you have in a resort business, I wouldn’t intend to be an expert, but you can look at times of the year. You could have the same resort in vacations, like Christmas vacation, all families. And then you could say, right, now we’re in mid-January, on to middle of February, you could just say it’s going to be party resort, and you could actually change the spaces and the areas to accommodate your audience. What I would say is you kind of don’t want to mix up in the same locality different people with different needs, and it’s all the case. Evan’s got kids, I’ve got kids, what I wanted to do when I was 21 was very different when I was 35 with kids. So, I think the other thing, if you’ve got a big resort, then you could have the latitude to have different spaces for different audiences. Again, it comes back to really what is the audience you’re serving, what is the segment? And then how do you leverage your property, your resort, to do that best? And then also look at the times of the year. You’ll get very different people coming to the Caribbean during hurricane season than you will do in that kind of January, February, March period. So, I think it could be different. And the other thing, actually Evan, this is different. When you have loads of resorts, do this. When you have off-peak times, and I think you’re right, you need the utilization, you need the occupancy, then you can probably target specialist interest groups. So, you could do yoga weeks, or you could do Pilates, and you could have a completely different audience and make sure that the resorts kit it out for that. But that’s a great way in low occupancy, and in bad off-season times, to keep the occupancy up with different communities. But it all comes back to who you serve, and what’s the audience need, what are their wants, and how do you excel at them?
Yeah, and I think sometimes you just have to turn away the wrong customer. If it’s not a fit for you. If all Sage had was Sage One, which is the kind of entry level package, you’re not going to go to IBM and say, hey, buy our Sage One software, it’s just not a fit. It’s not going to be a great experience for anybody. And so yes, it might bring short-term revenue into your business, but there’s going to be complaints, you’re going to get negative scores everywhere, it’s going to be a hassle for your staff, all your customers are going to be unsatisfied with it. And so if you understand who your ideal target market is, then just go strong after them and give them the best possible experience. That means, to Stephen’s point about prioritizing, and the Greek word, and coming down the one thing, it means that some customers are not going to be perfect fits for your business, and that’s okay. ‘Cause if you try to appeal to everybody, it means you’re going to strongly appeal to nobody. Let’s hit up Paula. Paula: “I have a question!” Exclamation point. “When your client portfolio grows to a point “where you realize that you need help, “what tasks do you believe are critical “for you to continue handling yourselves?” So, she’s struggling to kind of grow. It’s a good place to be, congratulations, Paula. She’s grown her client portfolio to a certain size, and she needs help. What should she be looking for, and how should she be spending her time?
Yeah, I think it’s a great question, Paula. And obviously, Paula, congratulations on the growth of your business. That’s fantastic. I’d say things that really matter is things that touch the customer. Typically you’ll find, Paula, you’ll know are you a really customer oriented, customer experience, sales marketing type person? Or are you like a product genius? Like a Steve Jobs. Where you really have the ideas. You rarely find the same person with both sets of skills, so you may surround yourself, you typically have partnerships started where you’ve got someone who’s very externally focused and someone who does either all the back office, all the inventing. What I would say is the first areas you should look to bring in other folks, which should be very easy towards me, is things like what we call the back office finance, paying your taxes. And obviously we’ve got a great network of people like accountants and bookkeepers who can help you with that. And you typically pay them a retain or an annual fee and they do all the billing, invoicing, cash collection, all those sort of things, to make sure you’ve got great cash flow in your business. The other things that then you can start thinking about is on some of the really specialist areas, which are really cool and do give you big differentiation. And I’ll pick out one area like that is digital marketing. There are genius rock stars, and there are some agencies who have got genius rock stars, who can do amazing stuff around SC optimization, search engine optimization, all these sort of things, social listening, social media. But that’s a great area where you can be involved, over see it, set the direction, set the mile stones and all that stuff. But bring in external people. But I would think the thing you have to keep hold of, Paula, is the essence of the customer, and keeping that customer absolutely. I wouldn’t advocate that you outsource or bring in third parties to do that. ‘Cause that’s going to be always critical to you having that customer experience and the advocacy that you can get.
I think if you’re looking at building on a team, that’s an exciting part as an entrepreneur. The first thing I’d actually do is before looking at hiring somebody, I would look at, what are the tasks that I’m great at, and where do I want to spend most of my time that I am genius-level talent at? And that’s where I need to spend as much time as I can, and then bring people on to support it. But even before hiring I would look at, can I automate some of the things in my business? Like, it’s insane how many people still use Excel to do their accounting. Just get accounting software, it’s going to save so much time. And that sounds self-serving, doing what we’re doing here, but it’s 100% true. Like, a lot of the tasks that you’re doing should just be automated and not given to somebody. When you are thinking of bringing somebody on, you’ve identified the tasks that need to get done in the business, that can’t be automated, that has to go to a person, but it shouldn’t be you ’cause you want to spend your time doing these higher level things. Those tasks are what you want to delegate. And then when you bring them on, you have to understand that now you’re a leader. You’re managing a human being. It’s not just, this happens to so many entrepreneurs, they hire the wrong person ’cause it’s not a good values fit as well. You think, okay I bring this person on, they’re going to save all this time for me, I’m going to off load all my work to them. And then you don’t guide them, and you don’t make time for them. The first month of working with them is going to take a lot of your time to train them, and manage them, and understand them, and guide them. And so recognizing that your role is now going to be a leader, and helping that person reach their potential is much more than just them accomplishing them tasks that will save you time, is super, super important. How much time do you think-
Another thing is, Paula-
Yeah. No, no go for it.
Just, sorry, sorry Evan. Just two other things, really. Is I’d always advocate, especially when you start early stage of the company, that you bring in, if you’re some marketing individual or someone to help with the automation, cash flow box, and all that sort of stuff. Try and maybe it’s one day every two weeks. So you don’t kind of jump into it with both feet. And the other thing I’d always say is it’s a really cool thing, if you’re going to look at someone on sales and marketing for your business, it’d be a really cool thing to, we call them interim, so bring someone in on an interim contract for three months, and if they work out, and it’d be really good, then make them permanent. So, you can have these sort of interim to permanent roles. And just the concept there is try before you buy. So, Evan’s right, when you bring someone new you want them to express the essence as if they were you, Paula. And that’s very powerful. And live your values, all those sort of things. And a great way, the only way to find that, and you can’t do that through interviews and stuff or references really, it’s hard. And recruitment, you know this, when you’re kind of starting a company, you hire your first five people, you don’t probably get it right all the time. And it really slows you down, you can cost yourself twelve months on these sort of things. So, a pretty cool way of doing it is try before you buy. Or for even a two week trial period. And then you do find out when you give them some real work to do if they share your values and share your dreams and can deliver the acceleration you want and expand your business.
I love it. What is the onboarding process look like at Sage? Like somebody’s been hired, you go through the job interview process. Okay, day one in terms of training and introducing to the team and getting involved, what does onboarding look like for you?
Everybody gets the one day. So all colleagues come in and get one day, and they either get flown up to Atlanta or Big Hubs in the UK, where we get everybody together, typically on the first Monday of every month. And that’s the one day, and that’s about the history of the company, what we care about in terms of our customers, a bit about the products, and then a lot of culture values, and where to go sort of thing, so they find it. When they leave that, they should be able to navigate ’round the company and know where people are and what we really care about around customers. Then for managers they get three days. And they get things like digital development, and all that sort of stuff that’s part of that. And then for sales people and product people, they typically get five days. So, I’ll be honest Evan, it’s an area where I think we could do a lot better. I think if we have this conversation in three years time, you’ll probably find in Sage, we’d want to invest probably three days for all our colleagues joining at that stage. ‘Cause I think, Paula, the other thing is, it’s so easy to hire someone, you get ’em a coffee, you say, there you go, here’s a laptop, and off you go. I would absolutely beg you to invest at least a minimum in the morning, and tell ’em about what your beliefs are, your ideas, your values, what do you want to do with customers, you know. And then break all that down and say, and the next 30 days I think we have to do these things, and the next 90 days we have to do, so there are very much results around what matters for customers. But it is work just taking that time out, even though it’s crazy, and it’s busy, just to really onboard ’em, and get them aligned with your way of thinking.
I love it. Alright, next. Peter: “Hey Evan and Stephen, what technology “or programs would you recommend to stand out “from the rest in customer service?”
Oh wow, Peter, this is, so I think around customer service there’s some companies who do this typically pretty badly, so the people who have done this badly maybe invested billions in, is typically banking and financial services. So U.S. data, and now I think the same with European data, only 38% of banks’ customers feel that they’re valued or rewarded for their custom. So, that’s the bad situation. And to Evan’s point around resourcefulness, and they’ve spent billions. Now, what I would say on the positive is there’s some really cool technology. I’ve talked about social listening, there’s some really amazing start up companies, actually a few that we’ve used internally around taking the pulse of customers, and you can do, what I’d advocate the future is all about, taking the pulse at every interaction. And customers are more and more used to this. And when you kind of build your system of customer journey, it’s really important at every stage that you try and exceed their expectations. So, it’s kind of not a one hit, one size fits all. It is a very much a journey, and I think there’s technology I’ve, actually a company we’ve been using, Rant and Rave, good name there, Rant and Rave, is a company where they do pulsing of customers and real time feedback, and also all the storing of… We use methodology internally, it’s a big step forward, but it’s not the end game, it’s called Net Promoter Scores, and people call it NPS, and it’s really simple, it’s basically would you recommend this to your friends and other people in your.. And they’re either advocates, and they’d recommend it, or they’re neutral, or they’re detractors. So, it’s quite a pretty simple measure. And I think the simplicity and the beauty of these sort of tools are when they actually grab the sentiment at every stage of the journey, and when they make it really simple that you can have actionable content that you can deliver on. Therefore obviously, Peter, the value you get is when you can change your process or how you handle a customer’s situation, how they take your products, it could be anything. It could be the packaging on the products, it could be any aspect of the experience that matters to them. But it’s really useful for us as entrepreneurs to know how do we change it, how do we improve it. And then also test drive it with a new prototype, and then also get new feedback.
I like it. I think to add to it I would say, a lot of the, from a technology perspective, a lot of the interactions are even behind the scenes. You know, things like making your website faster so I have a better experience visiting it. Things like does it take 25 steps to buy your product or get in touch with you. It’s a lot of the stuff that people want it automated, you want to save them time, so look through all your processes and think, can I make this better? I would also say, at the core of it, at some point there’s going to be an interaction with a human being. You can only automate so much. When somebody has a problem or somebody wants to say thank you or somebody has a question, they want to be able to reach a human being. And personally for me it drives me nuts when I have to call in to a help line, and then it’s like, press one of these five options, and then one of these two options, it’s like you’re cycled through this 20 step process before you actually get to talk to a human being. And so I would just look at what can I do to make the human interaction better. And sometimes the answer’s just get more people, as opposed to scale the technology. Like I look at my YouTube channel as an example, we get hundreds of comments everyday, and I want everybody to get a response. And I don’t want an automated response that goes to everyone that says thank you for commenting, thank you for commenting. I want a human being to respond. And so, I’ve hired two people on my team, and that’s their job is they go through the comments everyday, and they respond to everybody, and they save the ones that I need to see for me as well, ’cause I don’t have the time to go through, it’s like two people’s full time job. And so sometimes the answer’s just scaling people as well. And the technology that you bring on should be to make the jobs of your people easier to be able to have those interactions.
So Evan, a question for you is, with those two guys you brought on, is how do you get them to answer the questions as if they were Evan?
What do you invest in them? When they joined, how did you sit them down and say, this is my philosophy? What did you do about that?
So, my hiring process already eliminates most of the people who wouldn’t be a fit. It’ll start off with, “I’m looking for customer service rep “who believes in entrepreneurs,” and the first two paragraphs would all be about the mission. And some people will look at that and say, that’s the stupidest thing ever. It’s like, great! We’re not going to get along. This is not going to be a good fit. Please don’t apply, because we’re going to both be wasting our time. And so a lot of the non-believers are already kind of filtered out. From there I just look at, obviously people that understand the context, you know, English language writing properly, all that kind of stuff. But I don’t have them respond as me. They always put their name at the end. I don’t want people thinking that I’m responding when it’s not me. And so they always put their name at the end. But they believe in belief. They believe in the mission. They don’t always say it the same way that I would say it, often times they’re a lot nicer than I would be to somebody who’s leaving a comment. And so I want them to be themselves but still belief in a mission. I think if you turn people into robots, then they’re going to act like robots. Where I want people to believe in what I believe, and then use their judgment and their heart to solve it as they would solve it. And it’s always worked out. And then they save the ones that I need to see, suggestions for the channel, complaints about something that I did, that’s good feedback for me to be able to apply and learn from.
That’s really good, and I think that’s really authentic as well, Evan. The other thing for Peter is, if it’s like a product that you have, then I’d absolutely advocate within your early customers you create some sort of earlier adopter program. And this is a program where you directly get your customers, like Evan said on the website, it’s so easy when we have an idea. We might not be amazing website designers, but you’ve got to put yourselves in the shoes of the customers. So, what better way to do that than have an early adopter program where you get your customers to give you real time feedback, maybe with Skype, on what experience they’re getting on the website, and you just take ’em through it. And there’s loads of ways you can reward ’em for that. And it makes your customers feel really special. So, I would constantly innovate your product through, and your customer service obviously, through getting direct customer sentiment and feeling, real time through some sort of structured, early adopter program that the customers typically, I’ve found, love to be involved in.
Love it. Next up is Joy: “Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with “all the different customer questions. “How do you know how to prioritize?”
That’s a great question, Joy. And I think you’ve got to, there’s probably two categories, there’s stuff where it’s just a one-line answer. And actually what I find, particularly when things get crazy, and the volumes just go spike, some entrepreneurs, and this is quite naturally human, can just freeze and they think, oh my, OMG, how do I handle this stuff? And typically, we use JDI, just do it. So there’s some stuff, you probably 50 or even 80%, you can just carve them out and just say one-line response, boom, and it’s put to bed. And it takes a lot of the noise out of it. And then I think there’s kind of two categories, there’s one category, and it’s almost like a sort of two-dimensional chart, where you’ve got something that’s really important, and the other dimension is urgency. Timeliness and urgency. And I think as entrepreneurs we often spend a lot of time on non-important stuff that seems to be urgent. And what we should do is really prioritize the really important stuff. So, is it a new customer that’s going to drive more revenue, or be a big, maybe it’s a rock star customer, who’s going to be a big reference, who’s a poster child in their industry. Wow, if that’s the case, that’s really important. And then you need to determine, once you’ve determined the level of importance, and that’s a nano-second decision that takes two seconds, is literally then, on the level of urgency, and then prioritize it according into the most important, most urgent. And there could be important stuff, but it might not be time critical for today, and you can do that in 30, 60, 90 days. So, I’d just apply that sort of lens to the inbound to give you the clarity, the prioritization.
I like it. I would add, if you’re getting overwhelmed by how many emails are coming in, I would look at it, is my process okay? Can I just make my website more clear? So that I don’t get as many, ’cause people don’t want to write in with a question. They don’t want to write in asking for help. So, can you make your process better? Because for every one person who does write in, there’s another ten who just don’t bother, they don’t want to spend the time. And so if you make your process better, then you won’t have to deal with as much inbound. I think to then handle the rest of them, you have to identify what your priorities are as a company, here’s where we want to grow, and here’s how it fits in, and if you’re getting asked the same thing over and over and over and over again, hey, maybe that’s the indication that this is a new thing we should add. I’m sure at Sage people write in all the time and say, hey, it’d be great to add this feature, and this feature, and we’d love to see this, and can you include. Everybody has their opinions on how you should run your company. You know, in their own best interest, of course. And I think collecting that feedback is important. Obviously, Sage is not going to include every single feature that everybody has on their minds. But if you get the same thing coming over and over again, that can help prioritize and say, hey, a good percentage of our customers are asking this question, how do we pick the topics for these sessions, right? Like a number of you have similar kind of topics, suggestions in mind, and so the one that is kind of most popular, that’s what we go with for the next one. I think too though, also the people who, just letting people know where they’re at, letting people know what the realistic chance of that happening are, and just having some empathy for them. For people who want my channels translated into Spanish, you know, something we get asked all the time. It’s something that’s on my radar, but it’s not an immediate priority for me. And so I write back to them and say, thank you so much for the love, and I would love to be able to create this content for you in Spanish so that you could understand it better, and grow your business in whatever country you’re in. It’s just not at the top of my priority list yet, but the fact that you brought it up, I’m going to remember it, and hopefully one day we’ll get to it. Just recognizing them as opposed to them feeling like they’re totally lost, even if they’re never going to get the thing that they’re asking for, I think is important. And I think that’s the way to stand out, back to the kind of topic we’re covering today, standing out with your customers, I think it’s really important. There must be tons of people who write into Sage saying like, can you write this feature and this feature.
Yeah, tens of thousands. And with that we have sort of formal process, and it’s kind of this, we call it basically, the product marketeers and management, anybody. And we love it. Well, actually I’d advocate that I think, Evan and I, the more feedback we get from customers, the better. Good, bad, indifferent, whatever it is, feedback is golden nuggets, is absolutely magical. So, I’d absolutely advocate, and I think with social media, social antenna, there’s brilliant ways to get feedback now. And then you got to act on it. And you’re right, you’re absolutely right, Joy, you’ve got to prioritize it. And I think to Evan and his point, people just value the honesty. If you say, that’s important but we can’t do that for the next year or so, they appreciate that. And then the important thing is to put a process in to say, that’ll remind on your Google Calender or whatever, in a year’s time, friend them back to say, we’re ready to do it now. Or actually it’s another six months away. People just like to be kept in touch.
I love it. So speaking of feedback, you’re launching your vlog later on today.
We’ll link it up, ’cause it’s not live yet, but when it goes live, we’ll link up in the description. What kind of feedback do you want from people on watching your first episode of the Stephen Kelly Vlog?
Yeah, I think my purpose is two-fold. One is to make it useful for the audience. So, you can very quickly, guys out there, just tell me is this useful or not. And secondly, I want you to enjoy it. I want you to have fun. And watch it, and enjoy it, and think, oh, this is five minute of my time that’s, yeah, it’s good fun, I like it, and I got just one nugget or one idea out of it. That’s great. So, usefulness and enjoyment is important. And what would do us is thinking about this, Evan, is when we’re in Toronto in, actually at Sage Summit at the back end of June, I don’t know if they guys are working on this, but we should do some fun stuff, me and you for the vlog. We should do some, I’m maybe going up the CNN tower, do some stuff there that we could do that’s fun. And also showcases your great city as well, we love that.
I’m excited, I’m always down for that. So, we’re at an hour. It’s crazy how quickly it goes. Guys, and next time we’re coming to you live, it’ll be together, me and Stephen, at the end of June. So that’ll be fun. Stephen, kind of final words to wrap this up and put a bow on it for the audience?
Yeah, I just think something that pulls all together, this is totally random how this has happened, but one of our customers, Kitti Murray, who’s the founder of Refuge Coffee Company. She’s given this quote where it sort of says it all, “We believe in doing things that matter, “with people instead of for them.” When you do things for people, you affirm their inherent dignity and value. You bring them into the decision making table, and you make them feel very part of it. And that’s why we do things with our customers. Always with.
I like it. You might be starting the trend of now having to end every show with a quote as well as start, Stephen. People are going to like those. Well, thank you guys.
Well we got to stand out. Evan, I’ve really enjoyed it. You keep standing out, everybody there.
Thank you guys for watching, we’ll see you at the end of June. Continue to believe, and thank you for tuning in to watch.
Great show, thanks! I love that, too.
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