The Pavilion Podcast
The Pavilion Podcast

Episode · 1 year ago

Ep 106: Starting a Startup w/ Melanie Fellay

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Ep 106: Starting a Startup w/ Melanie Fellay

Part of the "Is This A Good Time?" series hosted by Brandon Barton. 

Hello everyone and welcome back to the Pavilion podcast. I'm your host, Brandon martin and you are listening to Is this a good time? The show where I put Pavilion members on the hot seat and ask them questions for 15 minutes. They got incredible stories. It's a lot of fun. We really shows Tuesdays and Thursdays hit subscribe, don't miss anything and especially not. Today's guest, our guest today is Melanie fillet. She's the ceo expected tons of energy and fun. We talk about starting a startup and an incredible origin story that I just think is right place, right time and and just so happy for Melanie that she got this business started. This episode was brought to you by drift. More than 50,000 businesses use drift to grow revenue and increased customer lifetime value faster drift, helps their customers online 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. Alright, let's do this episode 46. Is this a good time? Alright, I am so excited to have Melanie fillet. Here she is the ceo of spec it. And um honestly could not be more excited about this conversation because I feel like we're on such a closely similar path. Maybe starting companies doing the ceo thing as a sales leader. Melanie, great to have you, great to see, to super excited for today. Great, great. Well look, this is all meat. No fillers jump right in. I have to hear this story clearly, you know, having and starting your own business is probably been the last three years for you. This is what we'll talk a lot about. But how did you get here To that point? And then of course, tell us about spec it. Absolutely. So my background is in is in tech startups. The last company has, that was called Realty shares. It was a real estate crowdfunding platform had raised up to us to receive. But I joined super early on and I held all sorts of rules really, mostly in either customer facing roles...

...or operations and ended up really owning biz Opps, which was sales enablement sales, operation systems. But the way that I got there is that our company and implemented Salesforce, it was very much an I. T. Led initiative a year in a million bucks down the drain. No one was using it. We were getting crappy data etcetera. So the leadership to you decided to get rid of Salesforce and just solve the solve our serum a different way. And our ceo came out to me was like, hey, now here's what was decided at that point. I was leading over operations, not socks. Um and and he's like, what do you think? I'm like, I don't know the first thing about Salesforce, but like I started the silver tower under construction everyday, like they're doing something right. We probably fucked this up. Excuse my language internally. Like let me get my hands dirty, got my hands dirty. Fast forward. Two years later I implemented it re architected it, integrated it with all of our different tools like yes, we're not etcetera. And in that process was still challenged with driving adoption because our our serum wasn't like you're kind of cookie cutter fancy phone book. Like we have a lot of complex processes and workflows and terminologies and stuff. And we were hiring like crazy and you are on boarding was like empower points or courses and we had all these policies procedures elsewhere. Like we're making changes for processes and workflows every other week they became in a slack and email is just so inefficient, there has to be a better way, so spent about six months we have a variety of tools, learning management systems, knowledge management systems, digital adoption platforms. I was like, it's crazy me that I need to use three different tools to solve a very simple problem, which is how to make sure employees know what they need to know whenever they need to know it. And to me, there's no difference between the employee and salesforce of how do I navigate salesforce of this process or how to do my job, what's the competitive battle card and access to or whatnot? So we really took a platform approach where we combine the key most valuable features in my mind of digital action platforms have knowledge and then learning into a single contextual platform that serves as a layer on top of all of your text so that wherever an employee is the answer they need, whether that's helping them navigate the process,...

...we're going to change or find an enablement resources right there front and center, wow, incredible, incredible. And I've been more to kind of how you founded the company, I mean like what's your founder story? How about, well, you know, once I got like the bug of like holy crap, this is a problem that's universal. Every company struggles with two on boarding change is only getting faster. The change management is a huge problem and training just overall knowledge. I mean all these things were universal broad problems and every time I asked someone, an expert in the industry is my career and still lives in the moment for short lived compared to others. Every time I ask people I was like, I was met with like spirals are like, oh well we're using this hodgepodge of solutions and I'm like, okay, so this is a universal problem that impacts one of your like highest most valuable things in the company, which is your people, how can we solve this in a much more simple, intuitive way that removes all the content burden from stills, any moment people etcetera, etcetera. So I have like once I, once I started thinking about that, I started thinking like well what is the ideal solution looks like? I'm like, well I want to integrate into our systems, I want it contextual for user, he needs to be super simple, we need to have advised content. So I started kind of my dating on the, on the idea. We ran surveys like I started just like really do not what I was telling my last job, but then I got a big promotion, I became chief of staff for a new Ceo and he was like the former Ceo of Cushman Wakefield, number three building stacks. Like it was an opportunity lifetime for me and that's right when I was planning to leave. And so that was really, really hard decision because, you know, talking to my was still relatively young in my career. Talk to my parents and other folks like that of him there. Like this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn under that you can't just pick up and go, I know, but this is also once in a lifetime. Like, you know how often you have an idea that you think really has lex. I had like design my own mocks, like I love getting my hands dirty and sketch and put it in front of a few people were like, yeah, this is like actually like if you can figure out how to actually build this, this would be huge for onboarding, change management etcetera, etcetera. But it wasn't until I met my co founder, so we've been working...

...together at the same company, she was a product manager and I found out that she was leaving the company, I was pulled into a meeting and she not to toot her horn was like the only person keeping it together on the product and engineering side of the house. So when I found out she was like a craft, like we are so screwed and I slapped her like maybe by the elevators and we won't work. We've been in a lot of meetings because I had a spin and product management, I was kind of a floater in the company wherever, there's probably had a had a temporary role, that makes sense. Um But Isil actor, she's like, hey what's up? I was like so here's the deal and I start pitching her and all the problems we've been facing around data quality and forecasting and all the root of it was that people didn't know how to use her systems and all the money that was going out the window etcetera etcetera. And I'm like and here's I think what the solution is and so I picked her on that, she's like 100% that's amazing if you want that to be the last purchase I make before I leave, like I'll make it, it will make the company better. I'm like no no no no. I was like this doesn't exist. I was like we should build it. And she's like oh snap. So that's what it was like the bounding story. But she's like super burned out. She was, she's like I'm going to Fiji with her ex husband. She's like I maybe when I come back, like I just don't know what I want to do with my life. And like two days in she messaged me, she's like I can't stop thinking about it. And by then I already had the name. I you know I already had all that stuff but she's like I can't stop thinking about it, let's do this. And uh yeah the rest is history. I love that is so awesome. Just to meet me by the elevators. It's got to be like a phrase you put on a plaque somewhere we're redesigning. So we just signed a lease for Denver office and we're redesigning it and my mom is an artist, I love art. And so we're doing this like the mural I met with the muralist this morning and our mascot is an octopus. And so each arm of the octopus is going to be holding on to like a symbol of the company. So we're going to have the skills first tower, which was what I stared at every day as I thought about this problem, the elevator as the prompt. And then we're going to have like basically like symbols of like the story of second within the bureau. I...

...love it. No, I love it. I think it's so cool. I mean like that's this kind of stuff that it's just kind of story but also just the kind of stuff that builds culture. And so I'm super into it and you and I both know that before you're at 100 employees, it's really important to have strong culture. Right? So yeah, so tell me a little bit about either a moment you know, it almost feels like you just did but a moment of kind of hard work or luck that that got you to where you are. I mean maybe the luck is that she hadn't found a job yet, right? Like I'm almost thinking to myself, how did you know, how did she give her notice, so to speak and not have something else to go to? Yeah. And honestly like in terms of luck, I think we've had a lot a lot of lock throughout. Like that's a good example. I mean hard work, a lot of hard work just fyi you're gonna start a company like those first two years just like plan to not have much of life. I like back is looking at my career was literally like basement for for a year. But I think the hard work for me happened and like when I was at my last company, like I just raised my hand whenever there was a problem, which is why I have so many different titles and that's the kind of grit and growth mindset. I look for people that I hired. So I think like I, someone told me your twenties are for learning your thirties are for earning. And so I had that in my mind, I was like, I don't care how much I'm making, like I'm just going to go like everything I possibly can. And so I think I put in a lot of hard work early on and got me to like a pretty high, like high profile in the company in terms of the kinds of projects. Like when I left my hand I was like, I don't want it does. I don't know sales were going to figure out the stills first thing in like the exact team was like sure to figure it out. You know, I think I put my hand, putting that hard work got me a long way and then I think like the first years of second, like we didn't originally want to go to the sea route, so we kind of got a little bit of friends and family or former Ceo has invested etcetera. But we didn't have funds to hire a lot of people in the other people so they can identify ourselves salary. We invested a little bit of money that we did have and then like I said, you know, we kind of both made different sacrifices but we didn't...

...have money to hire like the market over CSR sales and I had a background sales, so investment coaching and like just try to learn as much as I could. But I built our website, I built in like, honestly, like I still read the two pages on our current website. Like I love like getting my hands dirty even as I see, I was just taking on a couple projects here and there. But I think like that work which is like doing it all myself, but I think that's the best thing that I've ever done. Like I when I talked to the founders and take a ton of funding early on, I'm like even if you have this funding, like don't go hire people to do the job before you understand it because now I feel like I'm such a stronger leader because I know what questions to ask of our leaders and of our team members because my first two years I had to learn everything about product marketing, acquisition, ECM ECM sales, like everything I know that stuff in my last job. So it forced me like by being scarce in How much money I had forced me to learn it myself. I'd say we got really lucky was actually having bought her first investor Brett, he's on their board, he was at salesforce for like 14 years under Marc Benioff. He was one of the first investors and outreach and penned, oh and guru while he got introduced to him when I wasn't fundraising yet, I was afraid of fundraising. So I was like, well just how long we can do this ourselves sort of thing. I'm also afraid just having seen the negative side of you so you can look like, um, or as a company. So I was just very cautious, I'd say. But we got introduced their partnership, like we were working on a partnership with another company that he's on the board of and they were like, hey take a look at second. And so we got introduced him through this partnership and so I was kind of catching him, he's like that's what you're solving and like he starts tearing my deck apart but not in a mean way, you know like you've got something so much bigger here and you don't know how to crystallize it. And so he started talking about law and eventually by the way are you planning fundraising? Like yeah maybe. I don't know but I don't know that this whole like P. C. Thing, he's like my punch to take a look at this. He's like it's right up my alley. He was like the king of sales off so he invented seals off and Salesforce. He let all the acquisition of all their technologies and so he is just the most incredible, incredible person to have...

...on our side. And I feel like I got lucky because like, I didn't go seeking him, like it just kinda happened and from there a ton of other Yeah, that's awesome. And by the way, for those listening, when anyone asks you what your fundraising, the answer is always no, not really, that is the right answer by the way, don't read it that way at the time now, I know that, but at the time, I know it's like actually like, I'm sorry, but that to me is the pure luck of that story that, that you just stumbled into the whole hard to get, you know, VC thing, which meant he was like, yeah, I, I should look at it. It's a term cheap, perfect investor for us. Then again, like, he, I mean, he's just amazing. That's great. I mean like, I also know so many stories of bad fit there in terms of investor and entrepreneur and like, that just goes sideways and it just ruins somebody's dream, right? Like, and takes, you know, probably takes a lot out of the V. C. As well, but Vcs don't have feelings, do they? I'm just kidding you. I love you. So, uh, would love from you, a sales or marketing tactic that we could use, uh, on a daily basis or just kind of something that somebody can use tomorrow? Well, I'd say because I was doing it all myself in the early days, I was a big hacker the system. So I told you earlier and more from a productivity. Same point like I used course and have like a virtual yeah. That was taking all my notes and putting them in. Sales were just like making more productive. I think there's a whole like virtual assistant play there, but more so from a market standpoint, like to me it's all about community. I read MArc Benioff's behind the cloud and that was the last book I read before taking the leap and I realized how much your brand, like when you think of Salesforce, you think stills for synonymous lee almost with marketing off and it's so important to have like an image of a person with your brand. And I really took that to heart and study growth marketing and start to figure out how do you build? Like I had 200 followers on linkedin and twitter when I started the company...

...is not that percent, but I realized how important it was to be perceived as a thought leader in your space. And I'm like if I want to, if I really want to solve this problem, I need to understand it better than everyone else. So I just started reaching out to everyone and anyone to talk and ask questions, etcetera. And because I wasn't asking them to buy early on, I was literally just curious in terms of getting them to understand. I think that's where a lot of STRS go wrong there. Like I'm like, how often do you just reach out to someone just be like, hey, would you be open to a 15 minute conversation? Give me a little bit of feedback on like how you think about things so that they can get better. I did that and as a result my network built and then basically started growing and growing and growing. And now when I post, we get a ton of traffic to our website and like it's been our business. So I guess from that I'd say like invest in building a personal brand because it will help with hiring, it'll help with driving your company, especially if you're at a company and you're at a start up. Like whether it's your ceo, whether it's you, whether it's someone else, like if you can be that visual that people associated the brand within, like you see max at outreach, you think you see Kyle lacy lesson we, there's a ton of examples of that and it's actually well and it benefits the individual, but it benefits the company like crazy. Um, so I would say that and don't just post the post, don't post about the company, make it more personal valuable content and like I don't have like a schedule it terry like I haven't posted in a very long time until today. I just do it when I have something thoughtful that I think is interesting and you know, people follow is the way that I have the lights on. I like that by the way for Those listening, Melanie has almost 10,000 Lincoln followers. So she, she's obviously doing something from 200 to 10,000. So great. Give some shout outs, uh sorry, any positions you're hiring for? Yes, so there's one position that I think it's super relevant, they're having collective, so please please please please please reject. So we are hiring for a head of customer enablement but the way to think about it is almost like a head of sales enablement as a service. So as I...

...mentioned earlier, we already essentially like a delivery mechanism for your training content. So we are essentially a layer on top of let's say, still forced on outreach etcetera. That makes it easy for someone to learn how to navigate the platform or reinforces your playbooks and Evil Men skills methodologies etcetera. Right? Where the user needs it now with any content platform, the biggest challenge is content. Right? And so we already have a content team internally that helps our customers develop content move out of the box content for different key tools. But we're working with some pretty amazing customers, the Ubers and snowflakes and data bricks and others of the world and they're still enablement teams are so freaking amazing. But everyone has the same challenge which is like, okay, how do I fit? Spec it into like they might have sites because their CMS where they might have an LMS and where does the content living? Like how do we design it? And so this role that we're in for is going to be like eventually like a revenue line slash department and it's going to be supporting our customers in building that content building that like methodology for strategy and like feelings Beckett So it's almost like a sales enablement as a service specifically related to our solution. But what I love about it is like you're helping some of these like phenomenal teams. Think about like how do I take this 80 page pdf of our sales methodology that I got from like you know first management value selling and how I translate that into actual valuable content inside of salesforce. With these are there is constant so that role is gonna be working very closely with this. I love this but I think it's going to have a huge impact on our customers and I think there's a huge need for in the market as well. So it's what I'm really excited about, it's a leadership position working with R. C. S work. But it's think like if you have a sales enablement background and you love helping the best teams in the world so they're enablement challenges like this is the rule for you and if you want to build the team area love it. Love it. This is definitely something that that the group can help with. Bell send anyone my way immigrant frontlines is working for a lot of other things so send them...

...my way, check out our website, we've got 30 plus open bowls right now so woof growing quick. Alright well so anybody that you want to specifically shout out that you did talk a little bit about marc Benioff and sales for us as a model here. Yeah which I mean I know it sounds cliche but at the end of the day like we have something animal because still present a stuffed animal because we were going to dream for us and it's like you know what, let me not reinvent the wheel here. Clearly that's working, let's take inspiration. So I think you know when it comes to I'd say the companies that inspired me the most like and it was chris or live in the early days like I think gongs content strategy is best in class, I think it's so insightful. I think there's ways that we can take inspiration from that as well. I think drifted a phenomenal job for marketing. So whenever I interview someone in marketing and if you ever interviewed here I'll have some like what are to be saas companies that you think have just absolutely nailed it from like a brand marketing standpoint. I think drifted God really stand out there in terms of individuals. I think there's some under the radar people that I know James Winter is an example. He's in running collective. You might see because he constantly, he doesn't post that much. But he is one of the smartest marketers. I know. So uh, if you don't already give him a follow, you'll, you'll learn a lot just from reading the comments he posts on. Yeah, I actually got the privilege of talking to James. So very, very cool. And uh, yeah, I enjoyed that conversation. All right, well look, all of this is cool stuff except at the end of the day we got to eat. So give me what I want, which is where she doesn't have to be Denver or Boulder or whatever. You know, you can be whatever you want. But if you want someplace out there I'll happily in uh Denver. Well I went to high school. They were, my parents saw them from the Bahamas. So I recommend going to the Bahamas and going in potter's cay it's literally a $10 meal, but it's under the bridge. It's like a real authentic conch salad and cracked conch comforters. And I was there 10 days ago. Not at all the nice restaurants that's like might go to stop, I have to go to water ski and get...

...some real authentic behaving conch salad. Love it. I will you know what this specific recommendation? I'm going to have to try this weekend. Perfect. There's other reasons to sam thank you for the budget to get down there and try all these places. I don't know if you knew that you were offset. We can get creative here. Yes, exactly. Melanie amazing to chat with you. You have so much energy and it's just, it's really wonderful and inspiring to hear your story and uh and I hope others find it the same way. Awesome. Thanks so much. Really appreciate it. Have a great day. Everyone. All right, that is our show. Thank you so much for listening. If you like the podcast, send it to somebody, tell them about it, man. Tell this to anyone who wants to start a business. Should get this podcast to tell you that the reminder of this episode was brought to you by drift new way businesses by. For businesses. You can learn more and get the conversation started at drip dot com. I had so much fun today. Hope you did too. Now go crush your numbers. Say something. Mhm.

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