The Customer Experience Podcast
The Customer Experience Podcast

Episode 145 · 1 year ago

145. Establishing Core Principles for Yourself and Your Team w/ John Belizaire


The key to building a great business and getting a team focused is, first, having a set of consistent core values over time. Once you’ve established core principles around serving your customer, the next step is to continue to optimize around improving that customer experience over time.

In this episode, I interview John Belizaire, CEO at Soluna and Founder and Managing Editor at CEOPLAYBOOK, about building long-term relationships, the wow of customer experience, and his personal mission statement to influence a thousand young entrepreneurs.

John and I also talked about:

- Building a personal mission statement around what you want to be proud about

- Why CEOs should be deeply involved in creating customer experience

- Soluna’s commitment to support green power with global energy

- The relationship between entrepreneurship and storytelling

Check out these resources we mentioned during the podcast:

- John on LinkedIn



- Luxor Mining

- Interlude NYC

Subscribe, listen, and rate/review the Customer Experience Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play or Google Podcasts, and find more episodes on our blog. Listening on a desktop & can’t see the links? Just search for the Customer Experience Podcast in your favorite podcast player.

The thing about entrepreneurship is you are constantly trying to convince people that the picture in your mind will eventually be reality. Right, but it's just a picture in your mind right now, and that's why storytelling is so important to paint that picture for them. The single most important thing you can do today is to create and deliver a better experience for your customers. Learn how sales, marketing and customer success experts create internal alignment, achieved desired outcomes and exceed customer expectations in a personal and human way. This is the customer experience podcast. Here's your host, Ethan Butte leadership with long term relationships in mind. Today's guest is an incredibly successful leader and entrepreneur who is founded, built, scaled and sold a couple of technology startups. He's founder and managing editor of CEO Playbook, a publication providing practical sage advice based on real stories from real CEOS. He advises and serves on the boards of multiple organizations, including the Harlem Academy in the Center for American entrepreneurship. He currently serves as CEO at Saluna, a company operating at the intersection of blockchain and renewable energy technologies. John Bell is, are welcome to the customer experience podcast. Thanks, Eathan. It's a pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me on the show. Yeah, I'm really looking forward to the conversation. For folks who are listening, we're going to kind of like level up and talk a probably a little bit above functional stuff that we tend to get into on an episode by episode basis, and John is in a great position to do so. But before we get going, John into customer experience in particular, I previewed a little bit in the introduction and I think I even understated it. You are involved in a lot of stuff and you have a family. Like how do you choose what you get involved in, what you have to pass on and how do you balance at all? That's a great question. You know I have I like to be helpful. If an entrepreneur comes to me and says they need my help thinking through an idea or entering a market or getting connected into my network, I tend to say yes. If a family member who wants to wants me to help them think through something, I tend to say yes, and so I've actually have been trying to say no more, because I am so passionate about not just saying Yes for the yes sake, but to really do a good job wherever I say yes, and so unfortunate enough to serve on a number of boards and whatnot. And, to be honest with you, I've selected those because either I feel I can have direct expertise that I can share and provide real value to that board. I can help them think about things differently, or I have a real passion for what they're doing and I believe in what they're doing and I would like to help them realize that. And I think the third thing that I think is really important for me is the leader in that organization. How helpful can I be to them? And so I tend to evaluate opportunities on those three factors. You know, is the mission. There's a mission align with my core values as a person and my personal mission statement. Does my experience lend itself to being helpful? And then can I help the individual, because every organization is run by a leader, and can I really be that person that they can turn to and get some sage advice? And I try to filter everything through those three lenses. It's fantastic. I love that framework and perhaps we'll get into actually, let's just do it now, as much as you're willing or able, because I think it's so important, especially as a filter for the types of decisions you've already, you know, described, and I think it's people think about, you know, should I stay in my current situation? Should I say Yes to this opportunity? I think so many of them don't have as thoughtful a decision making framework as you've developed. Can you share anything about your personal mission statement or values, like how did you develop those? When did you develop those? Is that? I assume it might possibly be an organic thing, but there might be some nonnegotiables that you hold fast to. Like just talk about that a little bit, because I think it's really important to the work that we do. Yeah, so, to be honest with you, I wrote my personal mission and statement for the first time this past year, and the funny thing is I've been living it for some time but I never took the time to write it down. And the reason I did it last year, and I know you know, everybody went through a whole series of very challenging times in two thousand and twenty, and I did personally. I lost a very close friend and really lost my mom to covid and so forth, and they really got me thinking about life and sort of where I was going. And you know what my end goal was, I guess, for myself and my family. And there's a long time mentor and Friend of mine that I've known for I think it is about twenty five years or so,...

...and I had reached out to him because I was in a really tough place dealing with the loss of my close friend, and I explained to him that I was sort of I felt a little bit sort of without a rudder, you know, like where am I? Where am I going, and is that real? And he sent me his personal mission statement. It was a one page document and he said this has been something that has helped me in the past because I felt like, you know, I think I needed to write write it down sort of what I'm doing, and it was the best thing you could have ever done. And he's you know, this is a longtime friend of mine. His name is bill and he just has his way of just, you know, kind of getting to what I what you need at that particular moment, and that's that was perfect. So I went through an exercise I actually asked my wife for some time. I am to myself for a couple days and I didn't actually go anywhere. I just sort of lock myself in one of the rooms in our apartment because there was no really place I could go, and I really sat down and started drafting it. And what you'll see in my personal mission statement or the things that I really care about, which is lifelong learning, being close to family. I'm passionate about travel and I'm really passionate about building technology companies in sectors that are sort of emerging. But the mission statement itself is really focused on doing what I do such that I can stop doing what I'm passionate about and go do what I really want to do, and that is to help young entrepreneurs that look like me, of color, of, you know, diversified backgrounds, to become entrepreneurs. One question, and sort of this founder process to kind of helps you write a personal mission statement, and one of the questions they ask you to ask yourself is, you know, what do you want people to say about you, you know, after you're dead? It's kind of a morbid question, but it's kind of important than that. Is Helping you sort of think about what you're going to be proud about in the end, and what I like to be proud about is having influenced, you know, a thousand young entrepreneurs to follow their dreams and become entrepreneurs. And so I want to yield a company that's big enough such that I don't have to be building companies anymore and go help young people build companies and do that with a lot of them. Thank you for sharing that process and I love that you put a number to it. You know, I think that. I think that's important and important part of setting any kind of a goal and I think that foreshadows somewhere else I want to go maybe later in the conversation, but let's start with the customer experience. When I say that to you, John, what does it mean? What does it conjure? I have this view that people really don't value things as much as they think they do. So people acquire products and everybody has an iphone and, you know, people buy clothing, they buy different types of things and the reason they buy a particular thing, if you will, or product or or engage with a service is really about how it makes them feel in the end. How it makes them feel, how I'll give you an example. I used to. I don't anymore, but I used to use this service that basically send you clothes, you pick the clothes and you know if you whatever you like and then they charge you for it and so forth. And if you like, you can actually go into a essentially store size fitting room, almost where they'll have the different piece of clothing there and you can select two different items that you might like and so forth. And I went to this location, is one here in New York, Raham and I went there and it's like this beautiful tacon this big mansion and they have like this little coffee shop. You go into it's kind of like a giant living room and there's a massive closet that you can't see that they're just start bringing stuff out and you can try clothes, clothes on, and there was this particular shirt that I was introduced to and it's made with apparently this super engineered cotton and so forth. And you know, I took off the shirt I was wearing and I put the shirt on and I just went like wow, and the person who's assisting me just was like yeah, right, that's what I'm telling you. This thing is amazing and I said I got to have this shirt. Why did I choose that shirt? Is like, okay, it's a shirt, is guy sleeves, has got buttons, but it just gave me this incredible feeling that I will never forget and I'm a huge fan of the shirt and there are everybody I talk to I say like you got to get this thing and then suddenly it's an experience that becomes part of my psyche that I can refer to to enhance the way I experience life, and I think customers experiences about that. It's about delivering the wow effect for customers using your product or service. You know what you exist to do. Creating that for your customers such that they have an emotional response to it is is the way I like to describe it. So while for me, you know, I spent a lot of time reading...

...about Tony Shay and what he was doing and Zappos, and I would use that as sort of a platform to tell my company what type of experience I want our customers to have. In the past, when I ran a offer company, that whole kickoff session around that and I told everyone to read the book and what I learned from the book was that it's a him his team a long time to sort of figure out what that meant. But once you got to again the emotional experience that you want to generate from your customers, positive emotional experience, obviously that's the customer experience and that's what it's all about. Yeah, I agree, it is how we make people feel. Two elements of your shirt story that I particularly enjoyed. One is is the obvious, careful choice of the setting and the atmosphere for even being presented with these opportunities. And then the other layer that came to mind immediately, just the way you described it, was the storytelling component of it. Right. That is such an important part of framing and advance how you might feel about this thing. This thing has special properties. It's not your normal gotton shirt and so as you put it on, you can't put it on without that in mind and perhaps even having taken it on in some kind of an emotional way. I also appreciate the way you added in Tony Shay and the way that you brought it into your organization. Just go one layer deeper there. For me, from an operational standpoint, perhaps at first best company that you found it led into an acquisition. You were there for about a decade, by the way. was that where as exactly where it was cool and so you said the whole company or some important chunk of the company. So Ay, how conscious of you were? Were you of customer experience at that time? And then, you know, you didn't say I introduced this to my customer success manager or my customer service manager. You introduced it to everybody, which is kind of the answer to a question I often like to follow up with, which is, you know, is this more functional role, title, person team, or is this like an ethos of the company? It feels like you obviously fall to the ladder. But how did you operationalize that? You said Tony Shay and his team took a while to to integrate it. How was the operationalization of it for you and your team? And maybe we're there steps to that. Yeah, the great question. So the reason I decided to bring this whole concept into the company is I wanted to so, first of all, taking a step back. Once a year I would bring the entire company in. We were fairly distributed. Our headquarters were in Boston and we had folks all over the country and abroad, servicing insurance clients and so forth around these different regions, and one of the things I did a CEO at the time was I would spend about a day a week, so about twenty percent of my time, talking to customers. I would call them and say hello, it's me, it's John, I'm just checking in how we're doing. You know, how are we doing? What's working, what's not working? And I noticed there was this period where a lot of my calls weren't that great. They were saying, we're not having a great experience his, what's his? What's going on? And I expected you guys to do better here or this could have worked better. And this might surprise people, but I actually like those calls because, number one, it gives me the opportunity to understand where we can improve, and continuous improvement was a core tenant, the court principle of ours, and number three, it basically highlights where the company is right now. So if you're falling down or things aren't working so well, it's usually because you're sort of going through some sort of inflection point where things used to works well but then they don't, and usually it's because you're growing faster or the projects are getting bigger. Something is different and when I went to sort of dig into it, I know as two things. One was that we were going through sort of a different change in the types of projects we were doing in the team hadn't sort of adjusted to that. And then too, there was this disconnect between who is the ultimate customer and where do the lines get drawn among the different teams and are in our organization, because we had a implementation team and then we have sort of at an operational team and they had to they had different roles from their own perspective, but from the customer perspective they had to kind of work fairly seamlessly together. So the customer would see one experience from one group and another experience from another group. I'm not going to say where there was good or bad, but the experience was different in the customer was unhappy as a result. So I had to in our annual kickoff, make it clear that this particular year was going to be focused on fixing those problems from last year and I had this whole approach that I would take where I would have sort of one word that would fundamentally define what our focus was. That year. For example, there was one year where was all about making implementations simpler. So we...

...were focusing on, you know, we need to simplify or something like that, and this particular year it was about customer. That was like the one word that I was using. I think I've written an article on CEO play books. Of folks can go check it out and it touches on this whole concept of commanders intent. So it's very hard for me to sort of go down to each individual person and say you must do three, four, five, six and follow this playbook to make the customer experience better. Instead, where I like to do is give them the experience of what a good experience looks like and then have them go through the emotional connection to that, the empathy that that's driven by that, and then let them make the choices about what's the right thing to do. And so I had to come up with sort of what to bring to them and I didn't want to use our own customer experience. I think it's so much better to use examples outside of your field, because people tend to be sort of blinded by just their own biases and so forth, and so I decided to choose a Zappos because I was a fan and I was getting the shoes and I was getting into running and and getting some of their equipment and my wife started having lots of boxes show up. Actually was just raving about it and then I just so happened to have seen one of those apples cofounders talk about the company. So I decided to pick up the book and I read the whole experience. Not only did I learned that he was building the company around the same time I was building one of my other previous companies, but and went through some of the similar pains, but I saw what they went through and how they what they were trying to achieve in terms of the customer experience. And so what I did is is I shared those stories and then I gave everybody a copy of the book and told them that it was mandatory reading for that year, and then I put up the one word commanders intent, if you will, the one word focus for the year and what we were going to do, and I just told them it would be simple for me to measure, I call our customers, and we did put in a host series of systems to measure customers. Sat and you know, referenceibility and so forth and a whole series of more quantitative metrics, but I measured it by just seeing how my conversations changed with the customers and it didn't kick in right away, but over time people really did think differently about, you know, that customer experience and we saw a significant change. And so I think it's so important that, you know, leaders understand that. People are smart once they know what it is you're trying to do and where you're going. And the best way to deliver that intent this through story, and so is apple's just head up like great stories, and I leverage that in the presentation. Yeah, really good. Thank you for sharing all that and I want to go back to the top. I don't know where you're listening to this as a listener, but I'm guessing there's probably a sixty two back button and you could click that like two or three times. What John just shared there was so powerful and I love that it's started with. I took twenty percent of my time as the CEO of this not small organization to get on the phone and talk to my customers and what it made me think of, John, is that you talked at the end about how you set in all these measures and metrics that allow us. Some of them are leading, some of them are lagging, probably most of them are lagging. But where you are on the phone call, I'll be at every single phone call. Is a sample of one. But over time, if you're doing this consistently, it's this pulse on what's happening today and, most importantly, it goes back to the way you to find customer experience. You were feeling out how the customer feels, not just whether they're clicking at ten or a six or a four or, you know, thumbs up thumbs down, or three stars or four stars, but really just their own stories explaining how and why they feel a particular way about working with your team and working with your company and working with your product. So it's fantastic. I thank you for that. In that book remain it mean it's it's a in this kind of style genre conversation what we're doing on the podcast in general. That remains a go to for anyone that hasn't read it. It holds up over time. It's a really, really good read. For folks who aren't familiar. You're now CEO at Saluna. I introduced it at the in the beginning is operating at the intersection of blockchain and renewable energy technologies. My understanding is that the renewable energy the way that you're doing it, kind of associating it immediately adjacent to a data center, probably takes it beyond blockchain. Is probably any energy intensive data processing. But for folks weren't familiar a this is super interesting to me personally. So you can spare no detail that you might want to include, but just tell us a little bit about it. Like who's your ideal customer? What problem do you solve for them? Yeah, so the core vision for Saluna is to make renewable energy a superpower. We believe it should be a superpower, but there are challenges to make it so and those have a lot to do with where the power source comes from.

It's highly intermittent and there's all sorts of regulatory challenges to get through, infrastructure challenges, etc. But we are trying to use computing to catalyze and go as far us to say accelerate the renewable energy transition, and the way we do that is we look at the global infrastructure as sort of one giant into rated system. If you will, and what we're trying to do is to increase the percentage of that infrastructure that's powered by green power. And so when we started looking at that space, it became clear to us that not only is there's a increasing investment in that area, the technology is getting better. So the cost of deploying that that type of energy to the global grid is going down, which is exciting for the first time, and in fact it's going down much faster and making green energy much cheaper than legacy or, you know, fossil fuel based systems. The challenges as you increase more green to your grid. You have a grid that was initially designed for these, you know, coal powered or thermal powered plants, and now it's a transition to natural gas, etc. And they basically are designed to synchronize the load, the power that's being developed and the consumption of that power such that there is an exact match and balance. And the reason is because you're can control when that power plant comes online and how long it runs and so forth, whereas with your renewable energy that's not the case. Right. So you'll have your demand, but then your supply of power kind of goes like this. It's it's stochastic to some extent, depending on when the wind is blowing, when the sun is out, and depending on where you are in the world, that disconnect can be more cute than others, and so we look for places where there is that acute disconnect between supply and demand and we go to the generation companies, the people who build the power plants and provide that power to governments or to private enterprises, etc. We essentially deliver them a solution that mitigates the biggest problem that they run into. Power Plant costs multi hundreds of millions of dollars, depending on and the cost is going down, but it's a pretty sizable investment and it's usually done by huge infrastructure companies around the world, and those companies build out those power plants. They run a huge degree of modeling to determine how much power that will produce and then they lock in a business model based on what they could sell that power for over a twenty five year period. So these are long lead time projects. These infrastructure lasts for a long time. The problem is once they get running, it was all based on the assumption of sort of what the man was doing and where that wind would show up and and sometimes what you have is you have the wind blowing a lot because you can't control weather right. You can, you can't really control when the power comes online. It has its nature is controlling that. So you have periods where you know there's demand going out and then you have sort of like this spilled energy, energy that's not going anywhere, and that spillage is, in technical terms, called curtailment. It's curtailment because the grid will tell the power generation company to basically turn those things off, because I don't have anything to do with those electrons and because the generation facility is being powered down. It can't generate any revenue because that power is basically not going to get any any revenue tie to it. And so their financial model for that twenty five year period starts to experience a host series of stress because they're not generating as much return and so forth. What we do is we bring a computing facility into the same location and we essentially consume that spilled energy. We pay the supplier for that energy. We also essentially charge them for bringing this this this technology, if you will, and the net result is that we can return them back to what it would feel like financially to have something that's synchronized so that we can absorb that. So, from the customers perspective the Independent Power Producers Perspective, we have delivered a very elegant solution that is very scalable and highly distributed. Now, you could say I could have just put like a giant factory there and use that, but it's very hard to power up and power down a factory. But computing is a very flexible and globally distributable resource, right. So so by placing a imputing facility local to an area where there's built power, I can then sell that resource anywhere in the world, especially depending on what type of computing it is. So we've done is we've built a flexible type of data center to specifically designed to work in these types of environments and specifically designed to go after applications in a more batch oriented so you won't we will be running, you know,...

...your you won't be streaming your movie from our data centers, but we might be running the model that determines what movie you should watch next in that data center. Now, that's what we do for the IPP we mitigate their curtailment, which then by improves their their financial returns and allows them to build more projects. But because they can now build more projects, because we've mitigated that curtailment, more green power will be built on the grid, which thereby gets us back to our goal and vision, which is to increase renewable energy penetration and from the grid's perspective, because there's an absorbation layer sponge that can balance the power generation with power with the demand, we actually help to make the grid more flexible to the increase and decrease in demand and power and so we're delivering a capability that enhances the global infrastructure for energy, thereby put you know, increasing our ability to move to more green power, which helps us fight the effects of climate change. That's what excites me about SALONA. We're doing something super innovative, no one's ever done before, and how we do it is unique, and we've developed the whole series of technology. For example, we have lots of data centers around these different locations. Then we mesh them together into sort of a global fabric, so it creates like this giant cloud that's powered by green energy, and so I like to say we we make local energy available cheap green power available locally and cheap green computing available globally. Love it. I have so many followed questions. We already answered a couple of the questions I had along the way, which was, as you were explaining. I was like, okay, you have a you have another customer, which you then did a nice job of defining, which is really cool that my first thought was you've taken one of the primary objections to someone that might be motivated to do this. You know, the inconsistency. You probably overcame another technological hurdle. My expectation is that you're overcoming the fact that maybe two problems. One probably not enough battery storage to take all of the sun while it's shining and hold it until there's you know, to even out that demand, which is not nearly as useful, I don't think, or as elegant as what you're doing with flexible computing, such an interesting approach in and the multiple customers there. I guess my only follow up is for either or both customers. How much do you think their engagement with you and your team is driven by, you know, because I feel an ethical undertone, perhaps even overtone, to the way you're thinking about it. How much of it is driven by a morality or an ethical component and how much of it is driven by this is an inevitable future, or this is only going to get less expensive, or some of the other more practical kind of Roe driven like I guess in a way, yeah, I did like there's a little bit of a divide there. You're satisfying both in my view, but you know you as you communicate with customers on both sides of it. How are they thinking about it on whole? So, on the power generation side, the folks would build power plants. The way they think, they think about it is they want to build more projects and this helps them to scale. They can take more or Fan offensive strategies, if you will, to go after projects because now they can bid in lower prices because they know that they have a better mousetrap for dealing with curtailment and they also have a defensive strategy in case they have a facility that had unplanned curtailment. They now have a solution for that and that that allows them to build better, bigger and more profitable businesses. On the customers side, where we're providing the compute resources to and use a customers that have an interest in performing more and more of this computing. The demand and interest for this type of computing is really limitless and it's causing larger and larger hyperscale facilities to be built around the world that, because of their size and scale and redundancy requirements, they actually exacerbate the continuing role of legacy fissil fuels and so forth. And as companies move toward a need to demonstrate that they're building more sustainable businesses their meeting SG goals that are going to be more and more important over time, they have to look at every aspect of their business and every business is a computing business at this point, and so they're starting to look at where their compute loads, if you will, are going and are those essentially green places, and so what we're doing is helping them to have an alternative to other places where it may not be green or they may not be able to assert that it's green. They know it's green here because we're directly pulling the electrons from the Green Resource and...

I think that over time that ethos is going to become more prevalent. Developers will become interested in where they're their load runs, you know, even though they sort of don't care right now, but they might want to implement a policy in their applications or their application components that say, I want you to have a certain amount of your time where you're running on a green resource so that I can deliver more sustainably driven applications over time. And so we are an interesting dichotomy in terms of how we approach things as a company and, of course, because of that, how we service our customers is also an interesting dichotomy. But I think there's alignment in that. Both sides of our market place, if you will, care a lot about the compute coming from green resources. But there's one other fact on the computer side. It's the cost. So when you look at these types of applications that we're targeting, their batchel oriented. They run for a long time and what we're finding is that there's a tremendous cost that comes with using the larger facilities for an application that really doesn't need all of the advanced features of that facility because those those facilities are built for continuous synchronous applications supporting things like zoom and things like that. But if you're running a batch application. Why should you pay for all of that infrastructure if you're really not taking advantage of it? So we've built facilities that that are more tuned to this type of application, which we believe will allow us to deliver those services as at a much lower cost, which ultimately is drives profit for the user and allows them to do more of these types of applications which, ultimately, depending on who they are, should improve their customer experience. Yeah, I love it. I love the way that those are both converging. I also appreciate the way you described it and for folks who missed any of that at all, in my view, I agree with John, that some of your customers and a lot of your employees are going to care a lot more about this. This had like your suggestion, John, that you know, to fvelopers are going to start to wonder like, yeah, how is who you know? How is all this getting getting run in processed, how is it being carried and I think that people are going to care more and I think the more that we can be conscious of how of these how these things are going blended with the idea that the cost is only falling, is just really fantastic. I think I'm very hopeful about it. I love that you, I love your approach to to the problem on multiple layers and I have several follow up questions but I'm not going to ask them out of respect for your time. Jod, I want to change gears just a little bit because I think it's really interesting. In addition to founding and building multiple organizations, you're also involved in venture funding. Your investor, you've raised money yourself. Your advising young companies on how to raise what are some of the key factors early on that you see are really really important, perhaps related to customer experience, like what are you looking for as someone that you want? What should young companies who are looking to participate in some way with you or the expertise that you've developed around these things? How should they be thinking about that approach? What things are you looking for personally, and how much does something like customer experience, the way you think about it, play into that? Well, I think customer experience plays in just on every aspect. I always look for not just the classic sort of investor Lens driven questions. Right, is this defensible? What's the ultimate end game? What's the competitive advantage and what does a team makeup look like that sort of thing. But I am sort of thinking about sort of does this new capability need to exist in the world and what, ultimately, does it change about the world? And I'm I tend to be more excited about those companies that I think really bring something that will excite people and sort of wake them up to a whole new way of doing things. I like to say that the thing about entrepreneurship is you are constantly trying to convince people that the picture in your mind will eventually be reality. Right, but it's just a picture in your mind right now, and that's why storytelling is so important to paint that picture for them, because they may not understand there's a shift that's under way and they don't they don't yet see it. But the other thing about entrepreneurship is once that's achieved or accomplished, it's kind of boring. You know, nobody really cares, just it's just a thing. You know that everybody does. I like to crack up that. Sometimes I walk down the street in New York City and I see a phone booth and I'm like wow, I remember that. I remember those things. They still have those things. You know. I point that out to my daughter, she won't know what that is like. Don't you make phone calls on your iphone? Yeah, and so it's just a thing anymore. And so the suggestion that I have for entrepreneurs when they're engaging either with me or anybody else, is to really think more about you actually, the entrepreneur, and what you're going to need to be be able to do in order to make things boring right, go from...

...being exciting to boring. And in my experience, what I have learned from my own experience and watching other entrepreneurs is that the secret is that what you need to do is change over time and as your company changes, how you go to market and the maturity of the business and what's happening, it's going to require you, as the leader of the organization, to go through a series of changes and you have to be prepared for that. And that's where the anxiety starts to build, when you're not aware that that's what's happening, and that's when things start to break and so forth. So I like to spend time to some extent, testing to see if the entrepreneur is aware of that and teach them about what's going to be important, what's important now and over time with what's going to be important. And most of the time, if they've got a good business, that's a good business idea. It's them that has to change and they have to be prepared for what that looks like for them, especially if they're going to be the CEO of the company. Super How much you know. I've heard you on your own podcast, where you are hosted, on your own podcast kingdom, which your number of interesting conversations. How we got super interested in the work that you while are doing at Saluna to I know that you will hold a lot of important principles from a leadership perspective and I would guess that these are the kinds of things as your as you're coaching a young entrepreneur, probably to pay attention to. For example, I would assume just what I know about you is that you probably have a biased toward a stakeholder theory over a shareholder theory. You obviously value long term relationships. You have placed a high value on diversity, diversity of thought and diversity of representation in decisionmaking and conversation. What role do you think those play in employee experience customer experience and successful movement from something exciting that you want to passionately tell stories about to something boring. Yeah, well, I would say it plays a big role. You first have to to think very carefully about who you're serving, and the simple answer is always your customers. But you may not know who those customers are from the day one. Actually most, most young companies don't really know who they're their ultimate customer is. They're trying to find out who they are. And so what I have found is that the key to building a great business and getting a team really focused is, number one, having a set of a really set of core values that are going to be consistent over time. You may add to them, but they probably shouldn't change that much. And so much of that has to do with who you are personally as a founder and what you care about and what you're passionate about. But so much of it has a lot to do with the type of business that you know you're going to be going after. For example, for instance at Saluna, we really had to have a real debate around, you know, a the core of our business is, you know, we're able to get a really low cost raw input right asset that we then turn into computing that we can sell on a global basis. So you could argue that it doesn't have to be green power, just has to be cheap power and it is so important for us that. Well, is that? What's our core tenant like? Do we care about that? And we you have to make a real decision there and stick to it. And we have had so many opportunities where people try to convince us that this aligns with our goal and we're saying, hold on a second, we have this framework we use. It doesn't align. So we're just going to say no. And it's so refreshing because I could be hiking in the adirondacks and I know that the team will make the same the same decision. So getting to court principles helps you a lot when you don't know who your customer is. But once you know who your customer is, you want to continue to optimize around improving that customer experience over time, understanding what it is, what they value, what drives emotions for them, what alternatives do they have, because you know things change right they get boring, and making sure that you're always right there with them. You're in that conversation on a continuous basis with them. That's why I do the calls and I think it's so important to sort of always be out there in front of the customer and understanding how you're thinking about things and help them think about their strategy such that you can be a real part of it in the last testing. I think. So there's his court, a course set of values knowing your customer and spending time with them, so so you have a really core conversation with them. And then I think the last thing is the people. When you get past the brand, the company, the product, it's place in the market, the investors and so forth, it's a loosely coupled set of people who volunteer to come to work for this enterprise every day. Spend time understanding what drives them to what drives the emotions for them, how are they wired, what do they care a about and how they engage with each other, and create an environment whereby...

...there is a strong degree of empathy for those differences and people understand how to engage and communicate with each other and ultimately they'll work much better with each other. Teach them how to make good, solid decisions. You know, use your own experience to do that and teach them how to do that on their own and then encourage them to live inside of two things. One is conflict. Kind offlict is good. I was like to say argument is good. Let's argue and then let's be friends at the end, because it feels like we really work through a decision the right way. And then, I think the second thing is continuous improvement, finding ways to get better at what we do as a group to, you know, continue to grow as as a business, and it starts by the people continuing to improve themselves. So much good advice there again. Sixty two back button. I say it from time to time, but but you know, I say it because I need it. I'm looking forward to hearing this one back myself, and so much what you shared. Their reminded me of the journey I've been on here at bombomb, software company based in Colorado Springs. You know, I joined almost a decade ago and one of our two cofounders woke up in the middle of the night knocked out a whole bunch of these core values that you know, and they started is like short phrases and eventually got cotified into five key words that have, you know, clear understanding out of them. We find ways to celebrate them, but it's been so key to our success, as has customer contact. We do video, so like a lot of video communication with customers live, like we're doing now, but then also a synchronous lie to and any I think encouraging continuous improvement is the way that we improve as individuals, of course, and as a group. It's one of my most favorite things about hosting this podcast is sharing it with my team members. It's awesome to build an audience, but it's awesome to spend time learning from someone like you personally, but it's also this ability to make it part of our ongoing conversation, just as you shared delivering happiness with all your employee so that everyone is having a similar conversation about a similar time. Sharing a conversation like this, John, with my team members and talking about is one of the greatest privileges of hosting this show. So for folks who are who've enjoyed this episode, as I was preparing for it, it made me think about episode one hundred and twenty six with Coal Baker bag. While she's founder of Cool Audrey, she's also chief experienced architect at Red Hat software company and we called that episode the role of kindness in your company. She's very focused on the feeling components, the empathy components, some of the the relationship building, healthy conflict and some of these things that John just shared with us and actually has been sharing over this entire period with us. So That's one hundred and twenty six with cold Baker Bagwell, and then episode nineteen with David Cancel. Multiple Time Software Company found her most recently with drift, but several others, with several healthy exits, and he was a lot of where you were, John. We ended up titling that one. Why? Customer experiences the only differentiator left. You know that emotional resonance, in that connection that we make with people is ultimately what matters, because that's what matters to each of us, is as individual human beings, as groups of people, and then ultimately in the various forms of relationship we have with other companies, because companies are just people after all. Yeah, I know he's he's a he's an amazing guy. He's just a great CEO and I've hadn't had them on my show too. It's great, great conversation. I'm sure I've gotta number. Was that when you said episode nineteen. And so the cool thing about David in this and and you, you know, same with you. I'm sure, like episode nineteen of the show. I think the our conversation jot is going to be one hundred forty five, well established, a much bigger audience than there was in the beginning. I feel like I'm making better shows now that I was in the beginning. Like any ITERANTIC process, I'm always looking to make improvements and David was one of those guys who obviously, like you, a lot of commitments, a lot of demands on his time, probably has to say no to more things than he really wants to, but he said yes, like so many other people early on, before the show really properly existed, said yes, and I just think that that spirit of giving and and and the elevation in the conversation to you know, as I felt like you had a lot of thoughts that transcend the immediate kind of practical nature of what we're talking about here, of improving our businesses and providing better experiences for customers. It was the same thing with him too. So I'm glad you. I'm not surprised that you that you know each other, I'm still very pleased by it. That's great. Yeah, So, before I let you go, John, you even super generous with your time. I so appreciate it. I'd love to give you a couple of opportunities. The first is to thinker mentioned someone who's had a positive impact on your life, for your career, and then, secondly, a not or a shout out to a company or brand that you personally appreciate for the experience that they deliver for you as a customer. No, that's great. So the first person I would like to give...

...a shout out to is my wife. She and I met in college over twenty five years ago. Man, I think it might be thirty years, and we were friends for eight straight years before we became we felt it. We switched our friendship to loving relationship and I've never looked back. And it's because I enjoy the opportunity to be married to my best friend and it's just been fantastic. And she's now a mother of to two girls and we are very blessed. But more importantly, she's also my you know, she's like my sounding board for a lot of the decisions and sort of she sees me when I'm sort of holding holding my head in my hands with tough decisions that I'm making, and she really provides me a great perspective on how to think through things and when to just move on. You know, I think that's been great for me. A brand that I would say, as a customer, we are really excited about and happy with the experience is a company called Lux or, Lux or mining. They essentially are cool operator for cryptocurrency mining data centers where you can pool your computing resources into a giant pool and that's how you sort of monetize the asset and so forth. They built a incredible technology, a company that does things completely different, more transparent and open, and they have lots of ideas about the future for how, you know, the role of these types of companies will will be, and it's just always a joy to talk to them because they're really sort of thinking ahead of things. That that's that experience, as I was talking about, where I'm really excited about what they're going to do and when they're when they're done and when we're done together, it'll be boring, but then we can focus on the next exciting thing. So look sore as an example of one of those companies that I experience as a customer in our field. Personally, though, there's a coffee shop literally around the corner from where I live. It's it's called interlude, and right around this time, or maybe an hour from now, I usually take my sort of daily constitution. I walk. I walk for about an hour to just to meditate and disconnect from Zoom, and I'll stop in there and get a Macha, and the customer experience is a whole experience. Before I even show up, they're already calling my name. Hey, John, you want the John Matcha. They're already, you know, making I I ordered it a Chi and they show up with two drinks and I'm like what, I only ordered one drink and it says, well, we saw you coming and so we started making your match. You know, if you don't like the if you don't like to Chi, you know, just you have you know, you know you have your fallback. You know, I just felt that that was you know, that just blew me away again. You know, it's just they understand that to be a community service like that, you know, providing and they focus on sort of, you know, really high quality preparation. It's a small place, so it's not really about sort of hanging out there, but they really focus on the experience being a connection between them and their passion, which is to make homebake goods and and coffee and teas and what not, and the community that they're in, and so it's just amazing. You know, I really enjoy them too. It's fantastic. Thank you for sharing both of those and of course that shout out to your wife for all of the well, just the gift that she is to your to your life and, it sounds like, even to your work. So I hope that I didn't make you late for your Chi or your Macha, whatever you're feeling today. But before I let you go, I love you for for folks who are obviously stuck around for all this time with us. They obviously might want to follow up with you or CEEO playbook or Saluna or any of the other work that you're involved in. Where would you send people who've enjoyed this? If you are interested in what we're doing it Saluna, you should go to Saluna. Dot ioh. That's well. You're find lots of information about the team and we're working on in our projects and we're going to be updating the website. So definitely go check it out. And if you want to learn more about my views of about leadership and the role of the CEO and in a growing company, please check out my blog. It's CEO Playbook Dot CEO. CEEO PLAYBOOKCO and they are you'll find a series of articles on us a host of different topics and just choose one and there's a newsletter that comes with it so you can get updates on interesting new ones, and I curate a bunch of articles around the web to on a weekly basis. That gives CEOS a bit of inspiration every Mondays. I call it mental candy. So that's where I would send folks. Those two places super he's also a great follow on Linkedin. The also shares information like some of those. I'll round up all these links, including interlude. Next time I'm in the city. I'll have to check them out so you you can find video clips links to some of these things that John shared in more at bombobcom slash podcast, we always round these up there John, I thank you so much for your time. We definitely went over time and I just enjoyed it so much and learned a plenty. Thanks for having me than this was great. I really appreciate the questions and and really enjoyed, really enjoyed...

...the conversation. Clear Communication, human connection, higher conversion. These are just some of the benefits of adding video to the messages you're sending every day. It's easy to do with just a little guidance, so pick up the official book. Rehumanize Your Business. How personal videos accelerate sales and improve customer experience. Learn more in order today at Bombombcom Book. That's bomb bombcom book. Thanks for listening to the customer experience podcast. Remember, the single most important thing you can do today is to create and deliver a better experience for your customers. Continue Learning the latest strategies and tactics by subscribing right now in your favorite podcast player, or visit Bombombcom podcasts.

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