The Pavilion Podcast
The Pavilion Podcast

Episode · 1 year ago

Ep 104: Give Your Employees A Meaningful Experience:

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Ep 104: Give Your Employees A Meaningful Experience: Kevin Yip, Co-Founder, Blueboard 

Part of the TGIM (Thank God It's Monday) series hosted by Tom Alaimo.

All right, thank God it's monday. Welcome back to the Pavilion podcast. This is your co host, Tom Alamo. This is where revenue leaders come to learn about the tips, the tactics and strategies that they need to become better at their job and learn throughout their career. Thank you for joining me today. Super excited about this episode. Before we get to the content, I want to give a quick shot to our sponsor. This episode is brought to you by drift. More than 50,000 businesses use drift to grow revenue and increase customer lifetime value faster drift, helps their customers alliance, sales and marketing on a single platform to deliver a unified customer experience where people are free to have a conversation with the business at any time on their terms, learn more at drift dot com. For today, I've got kevin yip on the podcast. Kevin is the Ceo and co founder of Blue Board. Blue Board essentially helps companies reward their employees with memorable and meaningful experiences. He's got a really interesting background, really interesting company. We talked about his background coming from PWC, why he started blue board as a company, some of the trips that he's taken, what the process has been like founder led sales, a lot of great things. I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with Kevin. If you liked it, you can learn more, check us out at pavilion, you could add me on linkedin. My name is Tom Alamo. I'm to be Tahoe on twitter and instagram as well. Without further ado, let's get straight into my conversation with Kevin, yep. Alright, Kevin, welcome to the show, How are you? I'm doing well, doing well, tom thanks for having me. Absolutely. Where, where in the world, in this exiting quarantine world are you right now? Currently I'm in san Francisco. So this is where I was born and raised. But I've been, you know, as restrictions have lifted up, I've got my vaccine, I've been traveling a bunch.

So I was in SAN Diego last week, meeting up with some of the team were doing the founder retreat in santa fe next week. So yeah, it feels feels good to be moving around a little bit. I just had my first experience today in SAN Francisco of going into a store without a mask, fully vaccinated and being able to buy something without a mask for the first time since, you know, last february. It's crazy, wow. Future mask off. Who would have thought? Yeah, cool man. Well, I'm excited to uh, to get into your story. I'd love to start with kind of a founding story. It looked like from some of my linkedin creeping in research that you came straight out of school to PWC really kind of more of that traditional track Big Four accounting firm before going off and starting blue board. I'm curious did that start as like a side project or did you just quit Cold Turkey and decided to set up blue board or what was the process like of founding the company? Yeah, I quit cold Turkey, but not after a couple of failed side projects. And so a buddy of mine and now my co founder, we've actually known each other since third grade. We were played basketball in the Bay Area together. High school classmates studied abroad roommates after college and him and I had been working on several different projects since we were about freshman in college. So we had always wanted to start a company together. And I think the one thing I learned over those early projects Was if you don't give it 110% of your effort and also time generally these projects are not going to take off, right, there's going to be kind of that inflection point where like in order to make real progress, you're gonna need to quit your job and then that's like the also the inflection point of like do I want to quit my job for this opportunity and you know, for the past for the you know, a couple of the early opportunities, I decided not to this one blue board, I felt really...

...compelled to and so quit cold turkey, but not after a couple of learnings. So yeah, so there's a couple other like projects that you're working on that were interesting but not interesting enough to pull the trigger on full time. Exactly, exactly, and so for blue board, what was interesting, it just, it really came from a personal experience and so you know, we were not early twenties living in san Francisco working these jobs. My my buddy Taylor, my co founder was you know a consultant at accenture, I'm working at PWC where long hours, late nights, you know weekends and you know you just got burnt out doing that, you know putting it at the time and we felt ourselves losing a lot of the interests and hobbies and passions that we kind of pre kind of first corporate job like spend a lot of time doing right, I spent a lot of time doing martial arts. My buddy Taylor spent a lot of time making music and that just kind of completely fell off a cliff and so I'd come home one day and you know we're you know we're probably having a beer watching sportscenter reruns and I was like we are the most boring fucking people we keep, you know, I love sportscenter, I love watching the Giants, you know, enter bay or sports team, but it's like, it's like, it's repetitive, it's redundant, like we're getting stuck in this like rot routine and you know, at the end of that kind of vent session in my conversation, Taylor myself in another roommate, we decided to be like, hey, like, let's commit ourselves to something we've been wanting to do, but we haven't made time for, right? And so for me that was like, I'm going to do probably got I've been really wanting to try this and I do it once a week. Pretty simple commitment. Taylor took singing lessons and everybody took guitar lessons and every week we're, you know, we're looking forward to it, we're building this like anticipation, we're having this new wrinkle to our character and gave us a lot of happiness, right? And so that was kind of like the ah ha...

...moment we kind of got back together three months or like the world and people need to pursue more of their passions, hobbies and interests because it's what makes them happy and so like kind of with that like that kind of energy we're like let's create a company to do that. And so that was like the origin of Blue Boy. And so it was interesting because it felt like a little premature quitting our jobs. But what that kind of evolved into was really talking about how do we bring experiences to market and in which place kind of pocket of the market could we build a business? And so for us you know we had talked about our times at P. A. B. C. And accenture and taylor really similar experience with me but I was on a year and audit for all you accountant, Former accountants out there. It's the worst time of the year. It's busy season. And then there was a couple of teammates that quit at my level, very high churn in the organization at that level and they were able to replace them. So I did take on all both of their work, including my own ended working 100 hour weeks, about 2.5 months, seven days a week, 12 to 15 hours days. It's pretty grueling. And During the course to kind of have this per diem. So I was like, you know what? I'm ordering the burger, I'm ordering the flaming Joan. I'm wearing the lobster tail with butter extra butter and I gained about £25 over the course of the audit. And so while I was doing really well professionally, like my personal life was just completely falling apart, right? Like super out of shape. I'm £25 every year. My girlfriend at the time was on the verge of breaking up with me. I'm stressed, I'm anxious, I'm just miserable human being. And at the end of it, my manager came up to me and said, hey Kevin, amazing job. We could not have done this project in this audio without you. And she put down an Amex gift card on my table on my desk and just kind of slid it over to me and...

...at that moment I was like, you know, I kind of, rather than feeling appreciated me like, oh, thank you so much. I really feel like acknowledged. I was like, well, like I I put in like hundreds of hours of overtime. I probably saved the project 50 or 60 degree and from taking on these other people's work and I get a gift card out of it, right? It felt like a slap in the face and when I came back I was, you know, once again I'm inventor. So I started venting to my roommate and he's like, oh, think about all the things that had to go right to get you that gift card, right? The company had the budget for your manager, had to ask HR fridge there to go get the gift card to kind of find the time and then give it to you, right? And you still feel like, you know, like it was almost like it was better to not give the gift card, just say like have a heartfelt, thank you. And so we started talking about what would have been better and you know, we kind of said, hey, oh imagine if my manager come up to me like martial arts, said, hey kevin, I know you love boxing, actually got your boxing membership for next month, around to the gym around the corner, you know, so you can get back in shape or hey, I know you and your girlfriend, but spent much time together, take it out to a nice dinner day, right? Maybe she's in wine pairing class, same cost to PWC to my manager of the team as that gift card, but imagine how much more personal and thoughtful that would have felt for me is the employee. And so that was like the ah ha moment we got a business here and so that's what we focused on in building and you know, Launched that, you know, we quit our jobs in June 2012, little bit, a little bit of time ago, launched that In June 2014, it took some time, some battle wounds from those first two years. But then, you know, Were you know here 2021 got a company about 150 employees, you know, serving Few 100 enterprises, you know, last year I think we did experiences in over 50 countries and so yeah, it's pretty, it's pretty cool to think, think back on. That's crazy. It's it's a super interesting story...

...that I think a lot of folks, people that are tuning into this podcast, let's let's call a spade, a spade. Their high performing sales, marketing, customer success leaders, right? That have spent a lot of time working and probably do spend a lot of time working. And um I can speak to that personally, just like, you know, it's end of quarter here, I'm a salesperson. It's like, man, I'm I'm not spending the time that I wish I could doing anything outside of work, you know, I like to play tennis. Uh and so like finding the time to have a hobby sometimes outside of work is challenging. So I think the pain that you felt makes sense and I love the idea of experiences, especially given like how important I feel like that is for millennials, like I feel like millennials and gen z, I don't have any data to back this up, but tend to, you probably do tend to love, you know, like an experience like when my fiance and I give each other gifts for our birthdays, like oftentimes it's to go somewhere or to do something rather than a physical object. I think that's, that seems pretty common for people in our general age range. I'm curious like if that you probably feel like that has to do something with the success of blue board as well. Absolutely. I think, you know, experiences and you know, have become almost like the social currency and like how we kind of, you know, tie our happiness right? Like a lot of folks aren't looking to buy that, you know, g class Mercedes Benz right, They're not like looking for that like house and white picket fence like they are, but it's not as like much of like kind of like the image of success, right? And I think it's a lot because our previous our parents right went through that right, achieve those things and you know, kind of backing out right now, they're telling us they like that's not necessarily what I would do it again, right? And so I think kind of our generations are kind...

...of taking note and learning from that. And so, you know, one thing we see a lot of is kind of superficially experiences and going skydiving, backpacking across europe are like kind of the experiences that gen z millennials I kind of love. But what we see actually is that all generations have this appetite for experiences, but the preferences are different, right? And so what we see with gen z millennials is it's all about novelty. What haven't I done, what haven't we done, where haven't I gone? Right, and let's go out and experience that. And for older generations, what we're seeing is they've done a lot, they've lived a lot of life and you know, they would, you know, at least in our data, it's rather spend time. Well, we kind of define this quality time with, you know, people they love, right? Hey, let's um let's have a nice dinner and get the family together, right? Let's, you know, go to Hawaii maybe we've only, we've been there like, you know, 8, 10 times already. But we love it and we always have a great time. And so that's kind of some of the data we see cross generations. I'm curious like how does blue board use blue board? Like how how do people at your company, how do people of blue board like use like what in what context is it, is it like a job well done? Is it like a reward? You know, like a competition for a sales team or something? Like how exactly does that do you guys use it? And and a lot of your customers use it. Yeah, no definitely. And so one of the ways we use it is with our anniversary award program. And so every time you hit kind of your blue board work anniversary, you get a budget to spend on experience. And I think what we've kind of, how we've structured it, it's actually about research and development and how we kind of frame it and what we want to get out of it. One is we want to make sure that all of our employees kind of understand what makes a great experience right for them because...

...there's a person like them out there that has that type of preference, right? And then they go out and do the research and so I'll give you an example. We had a person hit a work anniversary and she wanted to understand what the element of surprise does to kind of your reception of an experience. And so she took her mom to Thailand, right? But she didn't tell her mom she was taking her to Thailand, she was like, hey, we're going on an international trip, I want you to pack for a beach weather, I'm going to show up and I'm not gonna tell you anything we're doing until the day of. And so she basically told her mom, hey mom, we're going to Tyler. And your mom would obviously like, oh my God, to surprise. Right? And so she would talk about and kind of like measure over a form like, how are mom reacted to this? And then same with the itinerary. Okay, mom, we're going to go to the temple today. We're going to go like, red tuck, tucks in Bangkok. And so it's just, we've, it's really cool because I think on that program, it's it's using our product to kind of celebrate these anniversaries, but then also using it as an avenue to really level up our understanding of what makes a great experience and how to deliver that. What a lucky mom. Yeah. Yeah, that was, that was even Mother's Day to anyways, that's fine. Tell me, tell me about the early days of the company when it was you and your co founder, like the founder led sales model and then like how you've scaled it out because you're hitting your nine, was this gonna be 99 10 years of the business? So walk me through from a sales perspective, how you've kind of grown? Yeah. And you know what's interesting is now I'm I'm running kind of our go to market function and didn't have any sales experience prior. And so that was uh, in the beginning, a good learning experience and kind of for me to go through and think about like how do you sell blue board, how do you kind of get into resonate with the buyer? one of like the early stories that I like to...

...tell is early on. You just need a few yes is right. You can go through thousands of knows, but really you need those few yeses and You know what we did, this is back when crunch-based data was free. We uh, we downloaded crunch base of all the startups in San Francisco that it raised like, I think $10 million dollars and we mapped it out on a google. Like it was actually, we used like a pad mapper, a P. I to map it out. Really what we did was we actually went door to door and so we went door to door to these startups. We would talk to, you know, the people at the front desk, we would say we had meetings with, you know, the Ceo, the VP of sales. I like got kicked out of dropbox because I didn't know like the person at the front desk could check the VP of sales calendar. Amateur Move on my part. We went to about 350 businesses and had a lot of good conversations And we only got one. Yes, right. We got a, at the time a small 30 person startup called jungle as the only customer. And it just happened to be that when we were talking to the office manager at the front, their VP of talent was in the front waiting for an interview, an interview. We had showed up late and he was like, that sounds really cool. Like, yeah, let me give you my card, email me and we just needed that one. Yes to give us the confidence and obviously the momentum to sign up kind of our next 10 customers. Right? And so One goal, they started with their 30, 30 employees. There's still a customer today, you know, I think, yeah, they signed up in May 2014, which is pretty crazy. And so like, I think early on, right, it's kind of that next kind of incremental milestone and it honestly, it doesn't matter how many knows you go through to get to it, but you know, as long as you kind of get there, it kind of builds that confidence in moments of so that was, that was fun. Today, we're not...

...going door to door. You know, we hired a VP of sales, we have like an enterprise mid market and S and B team kind of built our way of quotas and things like that. And you know, I think the one thing that, you know, one of the big things that I learned because I was, I had hired our first salespeople and I kind of scaled out the team to To four sales folks and I would spend the first week telling kind of, they use being like, hey, like we do best in a storytelling sale and I want you to develop your own personal story and how it relates to the business. And they would spend this week like, like okay, like how could I like kind of, you know, take what, you know what I've lived in my life and position it. So it feels like authentic and well that turned out to be, is that it actually turned out to be inauthentic, right? Some people have great stories, others didn't and that was a huge learning because people kind of really struggled. You know, if you think about like your onboarding in your first week or two has having like a big kind of impression on your overall like kind of time at a company those first two weeks trying to develop your own personal story when you don't even know the company, it made it difficult, right? I kind of put the impression that this is going to be a difficult job and you know, kind of what I realized quickly after that is that like how I sell is not how everyone else is going to sell and so what are the common denominators to really focus on in the sales process to get there? But you know, that took a few iterations and honestly like some, you know, some big, some big failings, I think on my part as a sales manager to really kind of learn through and kind of get out of if you will. Yeah, totally. I was, I was curious how it's funny how you've gone from, you know, the PWC, so obviously you're great with numbers, you know, the product, the analytics, everything like that with the data to, you know, now running to go to market side of the business. And so learning about like you have to learn sales just like your early reps to, you know, it's like you're you're both kind of in that in the beginning stages of it together and to your point,...

...everyone has their own style. You know, some people tell great stories, some people challenge customers, some people build great relationships so on and so forth. And I think being able to let people express their own kind of style around, you know, general kind of boundaries and guidelines is usually pretty helpful. Yeah. And it's interesting right? Like because early on, right, I have no sales experience. And so like every book I read right, You know, it could be um you know, more like a similar method, right? I'm like doing the same method. Then I read the Challenger sale, I'm doing the, you know, the Challenger method and, and I think what, like what it helped me do is kind of just develop my own style and not necessarily be dogmatic about like, oh, this method works the best, but like, hey, let's pick and choose certain elements of different methods and figure out what works for me and develop my own style. And so like, I think one thing that like I've done is like, and part of kind of, you know, not being so dogmatic about, hey, you need your own personal story is like everyone, every type of salesperson is going to sell slightly differently. It's because they're different people and so of taking more like kind of that unique approach. But yeah, lots of learnings. I was definitely like, I guess in the Challenger sale I was definitely like the relationship builder and yeah, I got a lot of nose and yeah, like we really like you, but yeah, like we're just not budgeting for it now. And so it was when I read that book I was like, I'm such a relationship builder. Um Anyways, were there any resources or books like as you were learning sales and marketing and all of that that stood out as ones that were particularly helpful for you or ones that you advise other people to read or check out on your team. I'm always curious about that. Yeah. And so, you know, I was really just like I had like a big appetite for just all types of content and so like sales hacker was just coming up when max was, you know,...

...kind of running that and I was, you know, on there all the time. I was, you know, just hitting people up on linkedin and asking if I can meet with them. You know, I would be meeting with like, you know, str managers to see how they did outbound when outreach was a really small company. I met with many a couple of times and you know, I was just like asking like, so like how do you build a company, how do you do outbound and stuff like that? So I was pretty um I made it a point to learn from others, right? And so like, you know, 11 of the things that, you know, and you go to like, I think early in your career, early in like the learning process, right? You want to like kind of surround yourself in that kind of the community environment where people know know what you want to know and learn and you know, at those conferences, like I wouldn't focus on like meeting as many people as possible. I would meet a few people and have like deep conversations with them and then kind of, you know, have a bunch of follow up conversations honestly around mentorship just around like, you know, grabbing a beard like a coffee and building that relationship. And so, you know, there's some people that I connected with, you know, 567 years ago that I still talk to today, which is pretty cool. Yeah, I'm curious this kind of leads me to something I was curious about on this podcast. Obviously, you know, I have a new collective helps kind of bring people together. It's a community helps you learn great networking opportunities, et cetera. I'm curious if you have a top networking tip or anyways that you've used this community to be helpful to learn or to meet interesting people. I'm always curious about people's techniques and stories there. Yeah. Like you know, I kind of touched on it a little bit but it's like I kind of, I'm not like the most like outgoing, like kind of like I'm not going to be like, you know, go into every single person and like being like, you know, talking a bunch, but I really want to like kind of if I'm networking, I want to leave, you know that event with a few just like deep connections, right? Like our deeper connections, right? And...

...be able to like kind of follow up with them. And so I was like, hey, like could I get a good conversation? Could cry ask you about how you sell lead a complex enterprise sales cycle because you know, we have a couple opportunities and I need some help. Never done this before. Right? So you know, people are always nice if you have a long conversation with them, they always say yes, I don't think I've ever gotten now. And then, you know from those conversations I'm really present. And so if something comes up where I'm like, you know, I said go like this, this article reminded me of you are like, oh like what do you think about this? And I'll try and start up like a follow on and just kind of like this is how I think about it will follow on with them to get their input or advice on it. So those are a couple of things. So you know, another thing and those are kind of pretty standard. There's sometimes right where you go to an event and you want to talk to this one person right? And you know, we've had a couple of those and when I go to these events, like my, my goal is like, hey, I want to connect it to that person, I want them to know who I am and I want to be able to like meet with them at a later time. And so one event like a long time ago that reminds me of this is this guy Christie a he's a go to market leader, he's uh he's a VC, he wrote this book with a Reid Hoffman, the founder of linkedin called the Alliance on how to think about the future of work and you know, we sell the HR and so I was like, oh, this is super interesting. We were kind of like a Launch event for his book. I waited till the very end of it and I went up to him and you know, he's surrounded by 10 people and I was like, you know, Christlike, love the book. I'm curious like what I said was I asked him a pointed question about, well what if you know your top person leaves, right and and you want them back? How do you think of that in terms of like your alliance framework? Because he talked about how you think about employment...

...and it's okay for people to leave and it kind of engaged in that people were just saying hi and stuff and I ended up, you know, meeting up with him for coffee, you know, is like kind of an informal adviser for us. He spoke at our all hands kind of offside retreat two years ago, he's speaking on one of our webinars next week. And so, you know, I think when you want to meet with somebody like make sure you have, like, a strong way to engage them and honestly don't leave until you do. We got one of our investors actually like that. We really liked one of our investors from Greg off marked her beak and we saw him talking at a conference, we won't be able to kind of get in touch with him through our network and through cold emailing. And so we literally went there, went up to him and said all the reasons why we think he'd be interested in blue board and just ask for, like, a, like, mind if I send you an email to potentially set up a meeting so you can learn more about this. He's like, awesome. Yes. Give us his email, you know, two months later he's leading the round. So when you have a goal in mind, like make sure like you're, you know, you're thoughtful and you know, you get it done more or less, I love it, and you did your homework right in that case. Yeah. Like you, if you didn't have that, that question, the right question to kind of get him engaged while he's shaking hands and doing all that stuff, you or another person just trying to shake his hand, all that stuff probably wouldn't have happened right, because you, you wouldn't have maybe earned more time with him as easily, so doing the homework. Yeah, exactly, gotta do how much you got to be prepared? I'm curious one of my last questions here, going back to what you were saying earlier, I found it interesting that you quit your job, that, you know, you're working those crazy, you know, 100 hour weeks, you weren't able to get into martial arts, your body wasn't able to get into music. So then say, okay, I'm gonna go found a tech company.

So because I am and I imagine the hours are similar or often very challenging. So I'm just curious uh, if you do get out into any martial arts or anything new nowadays, definitely. Oh man, like I'm a big believer right? If you don't model, you know the behavior you want, you don't deserve the right to tell others to do it or to sell it right. And so I think about that when it comes to experiences for our company, I think about that when you know our business, right? And our company helps other organizations improve their culture, right? And if we don't have a good culture, do we deserve to actually sell what we do? My answer is no. And so so yeah, I actually am coming off a trip to SAn Diego, which has been really fun minus the last day. I got stung by a stingray body serving out on Mission Beach. That was not fun, but definitely an experience. Yeah, I make sure to get out there and and have her fun. That's awesome, Kevin. I, I appreciate you spending some time with me. One question, last piece here for anyone that wants to get in touch with you, what's the best place to connect and then anything going on in the blue board world here as we're getting ready for the second half of the year. I don't know if there's any events or webinars or anything else that you want to, uh, you want to plug but or otherwise best place for folks to connect with you. Yeah, feel free to email me kevin at blue board dot com. You know, I think kind of on the ending note, you know, it's been really interesting. We never actually sold to sales teams before. We sold primarily to HR and, you know, at the beginning of the pandemic funnel activity just fell off a cliff. And so we were like, who's working right now, Like we were working, the sales team was working to sell. And so we started focusing on, you know, sales incentives and presidents club as like a kind of additional product line. And so that has been like, really interesting for us. And so, you know, that's, yeah, so, you know, sales incentives, products...

...and experiences are of interest to your folks now, Blue board could be something really interesting to check out. Yeah, other than that, you know, tom thank you for having me on, this has been fun. Absolutely. Well, I know speaking for me halfway through the year, I'm hunting presents club and I want a dope experience when I hit it so I could speak. What would you? Uh, I'm just kind of curious, you know, and you know, part of our thing, right, is like, you know, usually like you have these group trips, right? It's like usually I, we're going to Hawaii, but we're gonna go to, you know, combo, we do individual stuff. So what would you, you know, if you hit presence that, what would you want to do if like the world is your oyster, The world is my oyster uh, top of my list right now that I really want to get too. I'm feeling sir crazy as a lot of us probably are. I've been wanting to get to Machu Picchu. I think I've said this on the podcast before and do some hiking and some camping and some traveling that I've never been to South America. So that would be top of my list, awesome. So, I've done Machu Picchu. I highly suggest it. We do a lot of experiences over there. If you're doing the backpacking trip, you're gonna want to do this sulking tapout, you're gonna hit the inca trail, but you're also gonna, you know, kind of hike by the foot of the mountain sovereignty and its snow capped a year round. It's absolutely gorgeous. So when you do it, so can take about too much pizza. There you go. That's why you listen to this podcast people, you never know what you're going to get some good sales advice, some revenue pieces and a little bit of experience and travel advice as well. I'm stoked. I can't wait to get their cool right tom. I appreciate the time. Thanks for having me. Yeah, likewise kevin. All right, thanks for checking out that episode of the Pavilion podcast. Please head over to Apple and give this a subscribe and a five star review. You can also subscribe on Spotify wherever you're tuning in. Let's give one quick shout out to our sponsor before we...

...leave. This episode was brought to you by drift. The new way businesses by from businesses. You can learn more and get the conversation started at drift dot com again, feel free to add me on linkedin. My name's Tom Alaimo, Tommy Tahoe across other social platforms until next week. Get after it. Thank God it's monday. Say something. Mhm.

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