Join us when we speak with Jay Nathan. Jay’s the CCO for Higher Logic and one of the co-founders of Gain Grow Retain.
In this episode, Jay is going to talk to us his recent blog post and newsletter on long term value and growth.
Guest: Jay Nathan
Chief Customer Officer at Higher Logic
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Jason Nobel: [00:00:00] Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, everybody. Welcome to another episode of the Jason’s Take on podcast with myself, Jason Noble, here in London, and my partner in crime. Mr. Whitehead, say hello, Jason. Hello, Jason. Hi. We’ve not done a podcast for a good couple of, a couple of months now, Jason. I know but we’ve been hard at work. There’s a lot of stuff going on in the background and I have had to cancel a couple that we had in the works. Not cancel, postpone. And one of those that we’ve had to cancel, sorry, postpone is the one that we’ve got on today. We’ve got the one and only Jay Nathan back with us. Massive. Welcome back, Jay. You’ve been writing some incredible blogs and articles. Newsletters recently. And there was one that really made me think and resonated with some great conversations I was having in London with some peers, some friends about. About the long game with customer success and it really resonated. And I think, I would love, as I said at the time, [00:01:00] love to get you on. It’s only taken me six weeks to actually manage to find a slot that works with all. Jay, welcome back sir. How have you been?
jay nathan: I’ve been great. Thanks Jason. It’s been a busy summer and so you know, it, the timing has worked out perfectly as we talked about before the show glad to be back. Thanks for having me. I always enjoy talking to the Jason’s.
Jason Nobel: I, so you said both. Super, super excited and this is gonna be a great one for those of you that don’t know Jay, and I don’t think there are many people out there who listen, I know him. Jay’s the chief customer officer at High Logic. He’s one of the founders of Gain, grow, retain. A phenomenal community out there around commer commercial customer success, leadership around customer success. And if you’re not already part of that community, do join. Jay’s worked in leadership roles. I think in all of the post-sales, the traditional post-sales, customer facing part of the business.
A and you have built up a really phenomenal way of, I think thinking is the only way to describe it thinking and [00:02:00] how to do. Business and drive customer outcomes. And you’ve got some really superb experience. And you did a podcast where us, Matt, it’s six months ago. It’s ridiculous. The beginning of the year, which seems like yesterday, a again, in response to one of your newsletters, but talking about strategic behavior I don’t know how that six months ago, But what have you been up to so far for 2023? Jay? We’re we’re now in, in H two. What, how’s the year been so far for you?
jay nathan: Yeah, it’s it really is crazy how quick the year’s flown by. I don’t know if many people know this about my job, but I’m the chief customer officer at Higher Logic, but I also, I. For one of, we have two business units and for one of those business units I run sales product our entire go-to market around, around that as well, including customer success and the backend of the customer relationship after the sale. And I’ve been getting a lot of, a lot, just a lot more exposure to what it looks like to run a full business, right? Not just thinking [00:03:00] about the customer experience and the customer success part of it, but also the, how do we go win in the market and how do we compete with those that we’re competing with?
How do we make a name for ourselves? And so that’s been a big part of my focus this year. I started doing that. Early last year, maybe April, q2, early Q2 of last year, calendar, q2. And it’s just been a pleasure. I came from running my own business. I sold the company to Higher Logic, so I like to have, I like to have my hands in a little bit more than just customer success, which I think, A lot of the things that I’m writing about these days are way beyond the scope of customer success. You probably see that it’s really more how to think about SaaS, how to think about, the type of businesses that we’re running within this bigger world of business. So I’m just having a lot of fun exploring that. But that’s been keeping me busy along with family and friends and all that kind of stuff.
Jason Nobel: It’s like you, you weren’t doing enough previously, so you’ve now expanded at all.
jay nathan: I always tell people, if you wanna learn about customer success, don’t read about customer [00:04:00] success. Go read about everything else. Learn about finance, learn about sales, learn about marketing. Cuz you have to understand. A business to really understand customer success because you don’t deliver customer success unless you have a successful business. Anyway, we maybe didn’t,
Jason Nobel: I think you, you’re so right, and Jason and I with some great guests on our own, we’ve had conversations around this and we all know there’s a, I think it’s a period of change for what we’ve called customer success over the last five, 10, even 15 years. And it is it’s that wider commercial revenue responsibility, visibility. What is it really? And we’ve said, but I think that breadth across all the different roles, how it interacts with them, what it’s really about, and what it means to this other functions is so critical. I think. Jay what prompted me back in June to reach out to you was the post that you did written about playing the long game. And how Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett, how they invest as part of Bashi Hathaway and they’re I think they [00:05:00] called it their sit on your ass investing approach. And it was surreal cuz only the day before I’d been talking to someone about just this need to think longer term about not just about investing, but about customers, about growth. And it’s something that I think. In SaaS and particularly in the startup world, we’re challenged with, we’ve got short term, quarter to quarter approaches, much shorter, short term focused on roi and particularly for those early stage businesses it’s. You can’t just say, Hey, I think about it for 35 years. When Warren Buffet was talking about how long has he had Coca-Cola as a company, an investment, 35 plus years. Yeah. So that there’s a disconnect, but I think we’ve got to introduce that way of thinking and that business philosophy approach that how do we change, how do we think about things differently? And I don’t think there’s a switch that we can all flip. To make that change. But I’d love to hear your thinking. What made you write the article? What [00:06:00] was drew you into that?
jay nathan: Yeah. Like I said, I, so I just, I’m gonna put in a plug for another podcast that I love. It’s called Founders. And this guy, David Sra is his name. He, I don’t know him, he doesn’t know me, but this guy’s amazing. He actually had dinner with Charlie Munger as part of what he’s been able to do with his podcast. He’s a young guy like us. He’s probably younger than us.
Jason Whitehead: I don’t think that word means what you think it does.
jay nathan: We’ll have to compare notes, but He so his basically what his podcast is all about is he goes and reads, biographies and autobiographies of. Incredible people. Most of them being founders of companies. But also like right now, I was just on my daily walk, I was listening to his podcast, one of his podcasts on Winston Church on Winston Churchill. So he’s done Kobe Bryant. He’s done Michael Jordan and what you he does a great job of pulling out the real stories behind. These people and their incredible businesses, their incredible accomplishments, and then [00:07:00] correlating their behaviors and their activities and their mindset across one another. He’s just very good at it. So if he, if you haven’t listened to that podcast yet, I would highly recommend it. It’s been an inspiration to me. But let’s see. You asked a question, and now i have already gotten lost, but I started listening.
Jason Nobel: What prompted you to write the article? That, that, into it?
jay nathan: I went and re-read it today in the first line. In that article, it says I’ve gone down a rabbit hole. Cuz I had listened to a couple of podcasts on Charlie Munger and Warren Buffet. I had been reading the book, the Snowball for a long time. I listened to several of his podcasts. I ended up reading another book called the Dow of Charlie Munger, which I also linked to in that article. Would recommend it. Just all these little aphorisms and quotes that Charlie Munger says. Just simply brilliant wisdom is what I would chalk it up to. And I was like, These guys think about the businesses that they invest in a lot differently than most of the companies that I’ve worked with before. Think about their business and I’ve worked [00:08:00] mostly in b2b SS my entire career, right? But they think long game, to your point, to sit on your ass investing Charlie and Warren Buffet will tell you. That they feel like they’ve probably made 10 decisions in their entire careers of their 50, 60, 70 year careers that have made Berkshire Hathaway what it is today, including like investing in Coca-Cola in 1988.
Whereas, we all feel like we have to be constantly moving, changing, doing new things, trying some, you can’t. Appear to be sitting on your ass. But what is the strategy where we really take a long approach? And instead of trying to do big things every quarter, it’s just no, let’s do the little thing today to make us 1% better. And then we’ll do the same thing tomorrow. We’ll do the same thing the next day. Same thing the next day. And that’s called compound compounding, right? We all know that from our. Hopefully our personal investments, compounding interest. Einstein said it was the eighth, Warner of the world. Those that under those that understand it, benefit [00:09:00] from it, those that don’t understand it will basically, they’ll be paying it. And I think, if we think about our companies in the same way, then we have a real opportunity to build some really amazing companies over time. But we do have a short term focus, and it’s largely due to the way that. And this is not a knock, and I’d love to hear y’all’s perspective on this, but it’s largely due to the way these companies have to be funded because technology companies are expensive to get off the ground.
So the question is how do we get them funded and yet hold onto that long-term. Vision for the market, for our product, the solution that we provide to the market so that we can be not only just a player that we can, turn around and flip this company in two or three years and sell it and make a million dollars, 10 million, a hundred million, whatever it is, but how do we really solve the problem for the long term? Let’s make ourselves billionaires, not millionaires, in 30 years. You just have to wait a little longer. Anyway, can we that up for you guys?
Jason Whitehead: Yeah. No I love that perspective too. And I, I think there’s probably also a distinction [00:10:00] between the funders and investors like a buffet who this is my, what’s my return as an investor compared to a founder or CEO who’s trying to build this business and please those people. So what’s your thoughts on. Trying to get that longer perspective in, in that your ass approach, how should the executives of a company try to drive that and what are the implications for how they structure and fund and build their CS programs?
jay nathan: Yeah I think the crux of it is really how do you think about making your money on these companies? We’ll sit with that for a second. How do the executives and the investors intend to make their money? Is it cashflow? And is it profits or is it enterprise valuation? And I think what in our world, at least in earlier stage companies, it’s all about the valuation, right? It’s all about, it’s like buying a house and flipping it, is the way I think about it, right? You’re gonna up, you’re gonna, you’re gonna, analogy, yeah. Put hardwood floors in and you’re gonna sell it to the next buyer. That’s like another private [00:11:00] equity firm or another, VC firms usually come in multiple at once, but I think you first have to think about, okay, founders of companies and investors in companies should make money.
They should make a lot of money, right? Because they put a lot of risk on the table when they do it. But the question is, how do you think about how you’re gonna make money? Are you gonna actually build a profitable business? Or are you going to build a fast growing business that the enterprise value is growing faster than the cash flows? It’s interesting if you go another. Fascinating human being to read about is Jeff Bezos, and from the very early days in the early in the nineties, mid nineties when he started writing his shareholder letters, they, he’s, he made a statement that I believe they still hold true to today, which is when they have the option to prioritize future cash flows or present day revenue per the generally accepted accounting principles, they’re always gonna choose future cash flows, right?
If you have cash, [00:12:00] You are in charge. So it’s also about having control. Having control to drive your vision. In the long run for a company, the more of your company you own, the less of it you give away. The more you can have control over what you do with it and where you take it in the long run. You don’t have to take those profits off the table. You don’t have to take that debt on to leverage investors. You can actually invest in your market, take those profits and pour them back in. So it’s building the snowball. So you asked a very specific question though, Jason. How does that apply to customer success teams? I think, you, we’ve probably talked about this last time, but. If you think about the long game, then you think about the entire company being in customer success. I was on a pod, another podcast a couple weeks ago, and we talked about SaaS companies are customer success machines. There is no SaaS without customer success. There is no customer success without SaaS. It’s part of the operating model, right? The real customer-centric elements of SaaS are the business model. Really in some of the,[00:13:00] the technology that’s evolved underneath how we deliver the business model from a product standpoint, those are the real innovations. It’s actually not customer success. The real innovation is you can get out of a contract anytime. You don’t have to pay me a million dollars upfront for software. You can pay me a hundred thousand dollars this year or Right. Whatever.
Jason Nobel: Do you think? But based on that, what do founders, executives, is there a how do they shift their thinking to think more long term? Is there something they can change or is it just it will naturally evolve. You’ve got your early stage founder that has to think more about that shorter term, what we’re trying to do, those shorter timeframes. And then as you perhaps, Go public, you go, i p o, different investors come in. Does that thinking change or is there a natural evolution or are there some fundamental changes that we need to think about making to generally think more long term and shift our shift what that value timeframe is that we’re looking at?
jay nathan: Yeah, I feel like it’s [00:14:00] built into the founders, right? The executive team. If you’re gonna go choose a company to work for what, what is the psychology of the founders? I think it’s hard. People are hard to change. And it doesn’t necessarily go from, I gotta think short term now to, I’m probably going be thinking long term.
Like I like to see a company who. Again, Bezos, like in the early days, he was raising a lot of money for Amazon, but he was very clear in his 1997 letter to shareholders. He said Hey look. I’m just going remind you, this is our long term vision. And again, you’re not always going see things show up on the short term income statement. You’re gonna see it in future cash flows. That’s what we’re gonna prioritize. If you’re not in for that ride, then it’s cool, go invest somewhere else. But. But know that’s our strategy and that will not change. And it hasn’t changed. I’m sure you could argue that it has over time. They’ve had to become a little bit more short term focused, but not really. They’ve continued to invest. So the pessimist in me, Jason says, [00:15:00] you either have it or you don’t. You don’t really change. Because when you go public, things get much more shortterm f short term focused, they get quarterly focused. So
Jason Whitehead: how do you think would look differently if I initial stage investors said, Hey, we’re up here for, we don’t want an exit for 10 or 15 years. How would that change the way management approaches growing the company?
jay nathan: I think you would probably do more organic selling sales in marketing has gotten super, super expensive. You just look at what’s happening with Twitter and Facebook and these, and as these social media, outlets become more mature. They just, their reach gets lower, the cost gets higher. So from a, just from a pure social media perspective, it, and it’s a crowded world We live in everywhere else, not just social media, but the airways, the, the streaming services we, we subscribe to but I think you would build, you would do a few more things organically. Say I feel like, when a VC comes in, and this is a gross generalization, so I’ll just [00:16:00] preface by saying that, but typically when you get an, a round of investment, okay. That’s a serious round of investment. And those VCs expect you to spend money quickly. And they give you a lot, but then they expect you to quickly turn that into future cash flows for them. Or future cash flows for business. And so you hire a lot of salespeople, you hire a lot of BDRs, you hire a lot of marketing folks. Maybe before you even know what works, right? You have a general sense of what’s working in your go-to market, but you don’t have a real firm grasp on how to scale it yet. Yeah. Throwing money at that problem doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. It sometimes just makes it worse. Now you’re, if inefficient, I think you’re seeing that, right?
You’re seeing that and you hear and read on LinkedIn every day and read these articles about, over 60% of the Salesforce is under 50% of their quota for the year. Something like that. There’s all kinds of metrics out there. We’ve invested in sales and marketing to a point that it’s not sustainable and scalable yet because [00:17:00] scalable cause we talked about last time isn’t about just making it bigger. It’s about making each incremental thing we do a little bit more efficient. So you add another customer if she cost you a little bit less to add the next one than it did the than it did the last one. I think
Jason Nobel: I, I was gonna say, Jay you point there about, naturally your founders as an execs have to be, it’s a certain type of individual. It really is. Know, and they have, they have, they’ve got to be more willing to take those risks and quite often be prepared to shift very quickly. And change. So there’s a natural short-term thinking. And I love your Jeff Bezos. I think absolutely. Amazon to start with was a bookstore doing this right. And his is what’s missing sometimes that very clear, long-term vision, cuz Jeff’s vision has been to be the most customer-centric business on the planet and a big, bold statement like that. And I, there are some things that Amazon do. [00:18:00] And they do him so well. And absolutely. You could see where he is going and it actually, not changing the conversation, but you wrote another post about being customer-centric shortly after this long journey one and how a lot of companies think they are, but many, most aren’t. How would you define and it’s great because I love. This is almost bringing it full circle. The fact that Jeff’s vision is around being customer-centric. How would you define what it really means? What does being customer-centric really mean for us today?
jay nathan: Great. That’s a great parallel, by the way. Very. I’m sorry to do this. I gotta let my dog in cause he’s scratching up
Jason Nobel: some background music while that’s happening.
jay nathan: Sorry about that. When everybody else leaves the house, then the dog comes. You’re in charge, my friend. Yeah, exactly. So if you think about some of the things that Amazon has built as a customer obsessed company it’s not just.[00:19:00] It’s not customer service per se. They weren’t throwing humans at it to be more empathetic and high touch. They were designing process, customer centric processes from scale and actually even before that, they were building the infrastructure to do what, to provide the lowest cost. Goods to their customers.
So that was part of their strategy, right? It’s like Walmart, like Costco, right? Is we’re going build this massive infrastructure and buying power to bring the lowest cost to consumers. So right there that’s completely different than what we do in the technology world, right? We want to charge as much as possible for our software because we spent a lot of money developing it. But everything over time on Amazon tends to get less expensive except for their prime subscription, of course. But you’re you’re building customer centricity into. The entire thing is a little bit like Southwest Airlines too, right? They have a strategy of being a low cost carrier. They know who their customer is. [00:20:00] They’re not targeting the business traveler. They’re targeting the everyday run of the mill traveler, and they’re going to give them the lowest cost best experience that they possibly can. Is it going be a white glove experience? No. And they tell you that upfront. So sorry, tangent. But if you think about all the other things that Amazon has done, prime is a great example. They rolled that out their board was like, are you sure you want to do this? Shipping is so expensive, is this going work? But he thinks about it like a flywheel, right? You design these customer centric processes in, it drives more customers to the site, which drives more people to sell in the marketplace because they also. Allow their competitors to sell against them on their platform. Very customer centric. They allow reviews, positive and negative on their products and their competitors’ products. Very customer centric. So at every step of the way, Amazon has optimized for customer centricity, not by employing an army of people to talk to customers. It’s a B2C of course, but by [00:21:00] engineering it into the way that their platform and their offerings work. So it’s just a completely different mindset. So my question is, I, tying it back to customer success, I think of CSMs as a channel. CSMs are a channel through which you can communicate to customers through which you enable customers.
But it’s a very expensive channel, right? Whenever you have a human involved doing a high touch thing, it’s expensive. I don’t care if you sell something for $4,000 a year or $400,000 a year, it’s expensive to assign a human. You have to manage that human. You have to coach them, train them, all that kind of stuff, right? And then their performance. You have to monitor it, but. In some places, we need those humans to do those things, especially as you get up toward the 400,000 side of the equation, right on the a r. But how if you were going to build your company from scratch and that customer centricity from scratch, wouldn’t you start the way Bezos did and build it into your product first? And a lot of product teams don’t think that way, right? They’re building a [00:22:00] solution. They’re not thinking about how it gets implemented. They’re not thinking about Know how the customer has to use it every day or they’re not thinking about how to make it less and less effort for the customer to use it every day necessarily. They’re just getting more features out. So
Jason Nobel: It’s fascinating you’ve said that , because you, you’re right and I think that’s what a lot of business businesses are challenged with, but is this massive chasm and there is a gap between leaders, founders, people like Jeff Bezos and all these other great. And. I think a lot of them are B2C companies that, that actually have a better understanding as to what it means. A lot of them, not all of them, but is there always going to be that big gap and can some companies and people just not make that shift in thinking, like you say, we’re just going to stick products and features out on it.
How do we stop that? How do you really make everything. Customer centric by design. Customer obsessed by, I don’t like the phrase obsessed, applies negativity but centric, customer [00:23:00] focused, building everything from design. How do you get that built in? Because I think that’s what a lot of people are missing, and I think you do. You get some amazing product teams out there that build great features, great products, great services, but they’re not thinking with the end customer in mind all the time about value.
jay nathan: I think it a couple of things come to mind when you say that. One is you, and you said it earlier, the vision has to be really strong. What do you want to do for your market? How do you want to do it? What do you want to do and how do you want to do it? And then I think, one of the things that also comes out in these stories that I’ve been studying is that with all of the greats, There’s usually not a lot of committee decision making.
Yep. There there’s somebody who has that strong vision. It’s not a vision that’s being created by, putting a bunch of people in a room and saying, Hey, let’s brainstorm and figure this out. And that’s something that that I’ve [00:24:00] as I’ve reflected on the reading that I’ve been doing, it’s like I’m a big believer in teamwork to get things done, and I always have been, but that’s execution. When it comes to setting a vision and choosing a direction, I think you have to have somebody. Who is bold enough to pick a direction and get the team rally behind it and say, no, we’re going go this way. And then it comes back to the control too. Do you own enough of your business back to the financing piece?
Do you own enough of your business to be able to say, look, this is the way we’re going do it, and come hell or high water, we’re going burn the bridge behind us and we’re going go. And I can say that because I have that much, I think there’s a lot of companies that don’t have founders. They may have that vision. But they’ve given away so much of their business in terms of how much money they’ve had to raise and how much of the equity they’ve had to share, and how much of the, quote unquote advice they take from people who know how to do it better than they do or have been close to it, maybe never been operators. The investors, and I’m not knocking them, we need them, but it’s [00:25:00] hard, right? It, those two things. I think if they’re lacking, then you’re not going to get this long term purview. Does that make sense? Yeah. It.
Jason Nobel: Thinking that you need because I’m the same. I, it’s about teamwork. I talk about we rather than I, but I, you need those two types of people. You’ve got your visionary and they’ve gotta be someone that’s got an idea, that focus and that, do those great ideas come from committees? Probably not. It probably needs one person wandering, one vision. And I think it is then that it’s the coming together of those two groups, and maybe the ones that are very successful are the ones that, it’s where those two groups work really well together. You can still work, very founder led under the founder’s vision, but you’ve got that more collaborative group function that can focus on delivering execution.
jay nathan: Those are [00:26:00] companies to work in too, right? When you’re, everybody’s pursuing something, it’s like bigger than themselves, it they’re much more fun companies to work in.
Jason Nobel: A absolutely, and it’s a great, it’s a very it’s a very ambitious and powerful place to be where you’re all trying to focus on something that’s bigger than all of you, what you’re doing.
jay nathan: Yeah.
Jason Whitehead (2): I’ve worked with several organizations where people are very committed to the organization and very kind and want building a, they want a high performing team. They believe in all this stuff, but sometimes they suffer from not giving enough direction or not being quick enough to say no and saying No, we’re going this other direction.
Jason Whitehead: So I think it is that tough balance of, it’s when to have a committee versus when to be very clear. If you have a vision how to quickly correct people who are straying off of that and bring them back. Jay, when you were talking about giving away too much of your ownership, but I can’t remember who said it, but, the golden rule of he who has the gold makes the rules and I think there’s, something to that as well too.
jay nathan: Yeah. That might have been a buffet quote actually.
Jason Whitehead: Yeah. So I’m curious though and Jay, from your perspective, you’ve worked with a lot of companies, especially as it [00:27:00] relates to being customer-centric, that think they’re customer-centric, but probably aren’t. What are some, can you give a couple of examples of. How that manifests itself in a B2B org and how the people listening to this podcast might be able to say, oh, that’s us, or we now recognize that we’re not as customer customer centric as we should be, and being able to recognize that and figuring out how to pivot.
jay nathan: Yeah. I think, one of the telltale signs is, again, if you’re throwing people at it and you expect, if you think customer centricity is. Having a highly empathetic support interaction or or having a CSM who will, compliment you and, tell you happy birthday when it’s your birthday, and so celebrate when your kids graduate from high school. This is all lovely things, right? And I’m not knocking that. Please. I hope nobody takes it that way, but. That is not customer centricity, right? That is just what kind human beings do [00:28:00] when you have a relationship, right? Yeah. My, my buddy Jeff, you guys know Jeff Kme? Have you heard this guy? No. You would love to talk with him sometime. He’s got a little podcast of his own and is very, he’s very articulate and But he did a post just this week.
He was like, Hey, I’ve reviewed, I’ve had a bunch of people come to me for executive CS roles and say, because I, he’s a consultant. He talks to a lot of companies and. 50% of the profiles that I look about look at, talk about being empathetic and customer centric. And he’s like, why don’t you just cut that and go straight toward be a business owner, right? Prove that you’re a business owner, you know how to drive revenue, you know how to drive you know how to drive renewals and retention and customer advocacy. Like talk about business outcomes and guess what Sales teams should be empathetic and customer centric too. So you’re not differentiating yourself by saying you’re empathetic or you’re customer centric. I just thought it was an interesting parallel, but yeah, look at where you’re throwing people at problems. because if you’re throwing too many people at problems, [00:29:00] there’s a great chance that as soon as the business starts to falter at all, you’re gonna have to get rid of those people. Yeah. You see it happening all over the place right now. And guess what? If that’s your method of customer centricity, it’s now gone, right? Again, are we taking, are we innovating on behalf of the customer or are we just competing with our competitors? Are we copying what they’re doing just to keep up? Or are we doing something new and innovative? That’s the product team, right? In the executive team, they have to have that vision. Do you have a vision that extends beyond. The next funding round for the company. Where are we going the long run with this thing? Where does it go? Do you, what else?
Jason Nobel: That, that’s where, that longer, so you know you want the response to be, yes, I’ve got a longer term vision and it’s not changed. This is my long term. Moonshot if you’re, it’s that really big ambitious goal. This is what I’m doing, this is what I’m going to do. Yeah. And that doesn’t change. That doesn’t change quarter to quarter. [00:30:00] Yes. You’ve got the shorter term, more tactical, sometimes strategic, but you’ve still got, this is where we’re going. This is the goal that we’re trying to get to. And I love, there was a thing you talked about in your post the original one about the long game. And that infamous letter from Jeff Bezos back in 2013 to his shareholders when he says that Amazon focused on their customers, not their competitors.
And that’s a such a big difference. It’s not, I’m not worried about the competitive market. Of course he is, but I’m still focused on that long-term thing. I’m not going to just add features and functions and benefits to differentiate us. Just cause customers are asking for them. What I’m going to do is do something that’s going to create that long-term viral growth loop that just keeps adding more value and delivering more value for them. But I, I think that’s, it’s a disconnect. I think a lot of us are struggling with that today. I, and particularly in times where there’s economic challenges, cashflow becomes so much [00:31:00] more important. You’ve gotta sometimes focus on the shorter term, but I think you always still need that, right? This is what we’re trying to do.
jay nathan: I got a question for you guys. Have you ever seen a customer stay for a long time because you built a feature that they begged for years or for quarters and quarters? Usually you do that kind of stuff and then. Don’t have to be pessimistic about it, but some business change happens on their end. The stakeholders leave and you still lose the customer. So you’re much better off if you’re looking for the next wave of innovation for those customers in applying it there, that’s not a customer success function per se, right? CSMs can contribute to that and they can, they have good visibility into it. Sorry, my dog. I’m gonna have to go close the door now. Can you hear it?
Jason Nobel: Just one little bark feed me. Ok.
jay nathan: Good. Doesn’t sound like a little one to me. Thank you for zoom. But so yeah, that is [00:32:00] the biggest, that’s the biggest telltale sign, right? Is where is your product headed and is it headed in a way, in a direction that. Everybody on the team believes in, or is it, are you just, trying to get any feature you can in there to try to save a customer? That’s a telltale sign. Going back to the last question you asked Jason, I.
Jason Whitehead: Great. No, I think that’s a great point. Just one, one thing before I move on as well too, cause I see we’re getting close to time here, I’d love to talk about being long-term focused and all the things that we’ve talked about, but Jason brought up quickly in these current times when things are a bit of a downturn, we’re seeing some companies, really slowing down and either laying off staff, whether it’s CS or otherwise and things like that. What should companies be doing to balance their need to be long term customer centric and CS focused versus. The short term realities of the marketplace and the economy today?
jay nathan: To survive and be viable. And, to make it to the next stage, you gotta free up cash flow. So the first thing, it sounds crazy but to be [00:33:00] customer centric, you actually have to be able to control your own investing again, and to control your own investing, you have to be in control of your p and l and your cash funds. And I think the first thing to do is what you see a lot of people doing, which is you gotta cut the fat and you’ve got to get really down to basics.
If you’re doing eight or 10 things as a business, like strategically, it’s too many. You gotta pick one or two and you gotta go all in on those. Whatever you believe is going to be the future of the business. Even Jeff Bezos in all of the, and I’ve read most of the shareholder letters cause I’m reading Invent and Wonder right now, which is, it’s basically all the writings of Bezos. And in every single one he talks about scrutinizing cost, right? And be, if you’re going to, if you’re going to provide. A a high value, low cost solution to a customer, then you yourself have to watch your cost. And I think it’s an area where over the past decade we’ve, as an industry gotten lax, right?
Is just we spend, right? We talked about sales and marketing earlier, but it’s not just that. It’s [00:34:00] we’ve, we spend on perks and all these things that we conflate with culture, right? But it really is about. Making yourself viable so that you can be the last man standing last person standing and serve your customers in the long run. I don’t know, that’s just one thing that hops to mind, but what do you guys think?
Jason Nobel: I think you, you’re so right and this I’m we could talk about this particularly with you, Jay for hours and this, I love the way this conversation’s gone over all sorts of different directions. It’s a challenge and I think. You’ve gotta look at businesses now. How do they grow? And as I said, particularly look at where we are. Look at the challenges we’ve got in the economies locally. We’ve got environmental challenges. The world shifting and is very challenging right now.
And I think to balance all of those things together is tough. You’ve gotta invest and attract the right people, the right team to help you deliver and execute, but you can’t overdo it. You’ve also gotta make sure that you’re building up [00:35:00] a function that can scale and grow and it becomes very difficult. And I think my, my, my take on it I don’t think there is a single answer to any of this, but I think a lot of these founders doing the right thing. I, and I think with any of this, it’s the right person coming in that’s got the right mindset, that’s willing to take risks. And we need those people. And sometimes it’s not gonna be right.
Sometimes it will fail. But what those people are able to do is pick it all back up and go and try something again with what they’ve learned. Yeah, and I think that’s, that for me is probably the take from this. I don’t think, as much as, I hate to admit, I don’t think there is a magic switch that we can flip for any of this. And I think there are some phenomenal examples out there. And going right back to our first thing about that. Think about the longer term, make sure you’re all attuned to that vision. Have you found it? Really come back and articulate that vision, and [00:36:00] not just internally, but that’s very important.
But articulate it and say it out to the market. Tell people what you’re doing. The idea that, Jeff Bezos publishing, there’s a book, like you say, of his shareholder, and it’s a great read. But who else does that? Not many people. Yeah. And it’s a different way of thinking, right? If that makes sense. So I think, yeah. Yeah. I think there’s lots of great things for everyone to listen, to hear, to take away, say we do need to make these little incremental changes. And you say It is, it’s those 1% changes. It’s the idea of. The aggregation of marginal gains by all of these little shifts that you don’t notice suddenly massive changes. And I think you’ve got to think short term to what’s that small change I can make today, but what’s it gonna do for the long term?
Jason Whitehead: Jay, I think also you hit on something interesting of the, preserve your cash and that there is a lot of fat out there. And in fact, a lot of the CS teams that I’m working with and some of the personalities you described, like very empathetic, but that’s not this. I think there is, [00:37:00] Even today, a lot of fat and CS teams, either the wrong people, the wrong role, or what you said about. Software, the price always goes up, it never goes down. You the opposite of Bezos. And what just occurred to me as I was listening to you was how quickly we forgotten some of the lessons of the lockdown where everyone was losing all their customers very quickly doing anything to keep them and.
How do we lower our prices? How do we extend our contracts? How do we do what, whatever it needs to be just to survive? And it seems like right now people have forgotten some of those lessons that, that, we need to survive first and Maslow’s hierarchy before we can get long term thriving. So I appreciate you sharing your insight that really triggered things for me as well too. I’m like, oh, I hadn’t thought of that in a while. It’s
jay nathan: Sitting on the airplane. You gotta put your mask on before you help others.
Jason Nobel: Absolutely. But that’s what people forget about. But it is that mentality. Yeah. I, Jay, look this is, I’m going to break from tradition because I think you’ve already answered what we were going to ask. We’re not going to give you our traditional bold challenge question I, I. I love the conversations with you. They are great and we could talk for [00:38:00] hours more, but I and I think there’s more of these to come.
If you’re going to keep these emails coming and I’m going to read it again and say, Jay, I need to speak again. But this so topical, it’s front of mind for everyone. These are challenges that everyone’s going through now, so it’s just superb. I, let me give you a shameless plug for those few people that don’t know who you are. Shameless plug for what you’re doing, how people can reach out to you.
jay nathan: Yeah, sure. LinkedIn is the easiest. Just you can find me on LinkedIn by typing in Jay Nathan. Customer success.io is my newsletter that Jason has referred to a few times, and if you haven’t joined it yet, please sign up for Gain Grow retain gain grow retain.com, and it’s a wonderful. Set of resources and people and networking. It’s a community for customer success leaders and the more people that are in it, the more valuable it is. We have over 12,000 members now. Fantastic. We have I’ll put a plugin for this. We have an event, a live [00:39:00] event coming up in Denver, Colorado. We’ll also be doing one in Salt Lake City area in Austin later this year. Denver is, I want to say August 29th. If you go to ganga retain.com, you can register for a spot in that it’s free. Networking, food, fun. It’s great. We really love these events but I really appreciate hanging out with you guys because I always think we have this higher level of discourse that you don’t get in many places. And so I appreciate you, you always reaching out. No matter how long it takes us to schedule, I’ll do it any day with you guys. So
Jason Nobel: just, man, thank you so much. Really enjoyed the conversation with
jay nathan: you guys too.