How to Think About Being A Leader w/ Steve Hopkins

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This is a podcast episode titled, How to Think About Being A Leader w/ Steve Hopkins. The summary for this episode is: <p>This week Steve Hopkins, Chief Customer Success Manager at Compusoft, joins the show to discuss Customer Success leadership.</p><p><br></p><p>If you want to join the discussion with thousands of other customer success leaders, join Gain Grow Retain: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p><br></p><p>This podcast is brought to you by Jay Nathan and Jeff Breunsbach...</p><p>Jay Nathan: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p>Jeff Breunsbach: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p>
Where to Start When Thinking About Capacity Planning
01:14 MIN
Building Your Team and Strategy Around Things That Won't Shift in Time
01:37 MIN
If We Have Data, Let's Use Data
02:40 MIN
Mistakes Within Hiring
01:39 MIN
Valuable Questions
01:26 MIN
Getting the Biggest Bang For Your Buck
04:48 MIN

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Gain Grow Retain Podcast.

Jeff: Welcome back to another episode of Gain Grow Retain. For today, I've got Steve Hopkins, who is the Chief Customer Success Officer at Compusoft Group. And he's coming to us live across the pond right now, so Steve, appreciate you hopping on. Especially, we're recording this on a Friday. It's in the midst of summer, so I appreciate you taking some time to do this probably when you're looking to get your weekend started.

Steve Hopkins: Yeah, thanks, Jeff. No, thanks for having me, and yeah, I'm excited. This is a great way to start the weekend. So appreciate you having me on and having the time.

Jeff: I like it. Well, I always like to start off with a couple of fun questions that I don't prepare you for. So I think one right off the bat, given that you're over in the mecca of football, who's your football club? Who have you watched since you've been growing up?

Steve Hopkins: Man, yeah, good question. So I've got to unfortunately say I'm a Manchester United follower, if I could claim to be one. But really, that's just because when I was a kid in Australia, somebody bought me a Manchester United top. And so that was it. That's all it takes when you're seven or eight years old or something. So I guess that's got to my answer, which is slightly I think... I don't know, I'm just not sure yet how to play that. I don't know, but I've really enjoyed watching the Euros here in the last month, that just wrapped up. That was pretty big here, and England got all the way through, and yeah, really enjoyed watching them. Really enjoyed and was terrorized by watching Jordan Pickford, their goalkeeper, play keeper. He equal part terrified and enthralled me, so he maybe gets my vote.

Jeff: Yeah, that's fun. I know what you mean. Yeah, I love soccer. I've watched the football, whichever term you want to go with. And yeah, I enjoyed watching the Euros. I had a bunch of friends over for the final on Sunday to watch.

Steve Hopkins: Oh, good.

Jeff: And I can agree, I've been a big Premier League fan. I'm a Manchester United fan. I'm a typical American Manchester United fan. But watching Jordan Pickford is very nerve- racking, because his decision making at times, he makes a great save but then a minute later, he gives the ball up and throws it to the other team. You're like, " Whoa, whoa, whoa, what's happening here," so.

Steve Hopkins: Oh, man. It's terrifying. Yeah, absolutely terrifying. He pulls out these great saves sometimes, and yeah, anyway. You got it. You got it.

Jeff: Well, the second question I want to dive into before we get into the hard- hitting stuff is if you're going to go on a beach vacation, if you're going to go spend some time in the sun getting rays, are you a lay out in the sun with a book kind of person? Are you walking on the beach? Are you active, playing some sort of sport or game? How do you operate when you're going on a beach vacation? What's the modus operandi for you?

Steve Hopkins: Yeah, definitely some sort of game or fun activity to do. Yeah. I've got three kids, so that is pretty easily taken care of now crosstalk. That's the game.

Jeff: I can imagine, yeah. I always joke with my wife, I could go either direction. I'm very content to read a book and sit there, or I'm, " Let's go play a game, let's do something." And I always just joke with my wife, because when we talk about going on these vacations, she's talking about relaxing, talking about laying back. And then as soon as we get there, and within about five minutes of her reading her book, she's normally getting antsy. She's like, " Hey, can we play a game? Can we do something?" So it's always fun for me.

Steve Hopkins: Yeah, growing up, maybe sort of weirdly talking about Jordan Pickford again, but I was a goalkeeper. I played field hockey growing up, and I was a goalkeeper. So I used to get my friends, my old man, whatever, when we went to the beach to just... We would stand, and it was in the Bay, so it wasn't big waves. But I would just stand in the water and they would throw balls at me going hard and skimming them off the waves, and I would dive around and try and save them. So that was my go- to game at the beach growing up. That was how I did it, so.

Jeff: I love it. Yeah, I remember doing that too. We used to have a couple of balls like that when we were growing up that you skip off the water, skim the surface. Awesome. Well, I know one of the things that we were chatting about before we hopped in here was just how customer success leaders are thinking about capacity planning and org design. I think again, it's something that is coming, with the maturation of the customer success profession. I think sales and marketing have gotten really formulaic. The sales world is very, " Hey, you give me an extra person, I already know their quota. I know what they can achieve, I know what they can attain," and it becomes really numeric, and really straightforward, I feel like at least, compared to what happens in customer success. So I'm excited to dive into this today, because I think a lot of people who go through this process are trying to find ways to make it an easier process. But when you think about capacity planning and org design, where's the place that you start? What's the thing that you're thinking about as you go in, and even start thinking about that challenge, that problem?

Steve Hopkins: Yeah. Yeah, thanks, Jeff. I think that's actually a really good intro, you're right. When you're looking at folks in sales or many of the other disciplines that are facing the customer, they've often really thought this through. They've got that predictable answer, they understand the model and they really get it. So I would just start by simply saying, if you just think from a financial perspective, and if we think about the world like technology startups, perhaps, just to limit our scope, because I know most customer success professionals are in that world, so maybe most of my advice today or thoughts will center on that. But if you just think from a financial perspective, the investment that the business is making in customer success is employees. There's almost no cash investment that's really taking place. Yes, we buy some systems, we've got some subscriptions there to look after, but by and large, the majority of that investment into the people costs. And so if you're a customer success leader, that's your only lever. That's it. That's all you get to pull, really. And sure, you get to look at all the processes and playbooks and technology that those people use, but at the end of the day, the thing that you're using to move closer towards your objectives are people. And so it's one of those topics I think that because of that, it seems to me to not get as much discussion as it warrants, because at the end of the day, I think most customer success things are running reasonably effectively. People are putting in reasonable processes. The big leather, the big thing that can really help you have a step change is arguing for more people or getting more investment basically from the business. So I think from there, that's probably where I'd start. But it's the biggest lever you have to pull, because that's it. That's all the customers.

Jeff: Yeah, and I think too the thing to call out, it is the biggest cost, I mean, at the end of the day. When you think about that, the investment that they're going to make in the human capital. And I just like the way you articulated that though. I think we can't shy away from that. Again, there's the opportunity to look at tools and systems that are going to help. They're going to augment some things. You're going to look internally and say, " Hey, can I dotted line a resource here or there to help curb some things that we're doing?" But I like the way you said that, because then, more in my mind naturally starts to go and become curious is okay, if I'm looking at adding a human capital investment into the customer success organization, now my mind starts going, " Okay, where are they most appropriate? Where are they going to make impact?" And I think a lot of times, I think people just start thinking about stacking CSM resources, and they just say, " Okay, I'm just going to get one more CSM and that means my CSM to account ratio is going to drop." So now, instead of handling 500, they're all going to handle 400. But I think the way I'm taking your perspective is like, " Hey, if we know that human capital investment's going to be our largest area, then that also means that we need to be making the case and making sure that we're putting those resources in the right areas to make the biggest impact for the customer and for us as a business." And so I like that. So how do you think about that next step of saying, " Okay, I'm understanding that human capital's going to be the big cost expense and the lever that I have." So how do you start putting the pieces together, okay, where do I put those people? And how do we make the biggest bang for our buck?

Steve Hopkins: Yeah, it's a really great question. So I think starting from that position gets you into that mode where you are thinking, as you say, " Okay, where is the biggest bang for buck going to be?" I think then it instantly forces you as a leader to ask yourself the question, " Well, okay, what's my strategy? What does good look like? What am I doing? What does the business need me to do?" What bloody areas that I've got to focus on. And I think yeah, as you say, at some elements, there is just a reality to CS capacity and resource planning that is account numbers, book of business revenue numbers. At some level, that's true. But I think if you're going about it the way you're talking about it, and also the way I try to think about it now, it's very much more about what's in the business plan? What is the business calling out that we've got to go and achieve? And then how am I best going to do that? If I've got three people to go hire, or 30 people to go hire, or 300 people to go hire frankly, how am I going to use them? I'll give you a good example. One of the things I think Microsoft got really right on its customer success stuff, and I don't even think these people or the team I'm about to mention were called Customer Success. But it was definitely in that direction. So I was at Microsoft by way of a company called inaudible being acquired about eight or nine years ago. I stayed at Microsoft for four or five years, I loved it, and that's what brought me over to San Francisco. And when we were in San Francisco, I guess this is about five years ago, six years ago, a bit longer, Microsoft was really ramping into its Office365 migration to cloud. And moving all of its customers over to Office365. And it was tough. Like anybody out there who knows what that's like, migrating customers to the cloud, I think most customer success people now have had the scars on their back of those sorts of migrations. It's really hard. So in the engineering group, they basically decided to take control, because it's gone on for about 12 or 18 months, and customers were getting an okay experience. But it just wasn't happening fast enough. So Microsoft, I'll share numbers here, but it's subjective. I was close enough to have some sense of how big the investment was, but I don't know exacts. So I guess take it with a grain of salt, but they basically invested in hundreds, I think four or 500 could have been the number. It could have been more. Four or 500 people that were migration engineers, and these people would just... You're a Microsoft Office365 customer, and they would ring you up and they were your person. They were assigned to you to get you across to the cloud. So right away, if you're looking at your strategy, if you're looking and you're sitting down and you're going, "Right, we're going to move these customers over to the cloud. What am I going to do? How am I going to do it?" That's your big problem to solve. That's the big thing the company's got to go off and achieve that year. And then you think, " Okay, cool. Well, how much do I trust my processes? How much does that work? I feel like we've got pretty good traction on these things." But at some level, it just becomes how many people am I going to need to move the needle on that? And credit is due to them. They just backed up the bus. They said, " Right, we're not going to stop around. Here's 400 people to go inaudible." And it worked. I mean, look, there's a lot of other things they did right. Obviously, it's easy to say, " Look at how well it worked." But now, Office365 and Microsoft in general is really performed incredibly well the last six years. I think just that rational viewpoint on that, what's our strategy? What's the biggest thing we've got to do in business? And then how many people do we need to go off and do that properly? It sounds so easy, but most orgs, most people I talk to, it's confusing. There's not clarity on it. There's not alignment on it, so you never get that massive effect. And so you tend to just sprinkle resources across everyone, because now everyone really wants to make the hard call and say, " We're going this way. Here's the people who are going to get it done."

Jeff: Yeah, I love that example though, because again, it asks yourself when you look at that, I would imagine that like you said, there's probably a ton of business cases, and there's probably a ton of metrics and things that they looked at behind this. But if I had to look from the outside, I think they're probably looking at that saying, " Hey, there's hundreds of millions, billions, I don't know what the number would be, but when we look at the opportunity of shifting these customers over to a cloud- based model where we can start looking at subscriptions and then their growth over time, it's worth us to make that four or 500- person investment now even if it's all human capital- driven." And we can look at process improvement, we can look at this, but really, these are small, incremental changes. Can we just go do the big bang? Get it done, and now look at all the opportunity we have on the backside. And I love that though, because I think a lot of times, like you were saying, we're looking at small changes here or there. " Hey, if I change this process that's really probably going to only impact a percent of a percent, it's going to be small." That feels great, but can we start looking at the bigger problems and saying, " Hey, I don't want to impact just 100 customers. I want to impact 1, 000 customers. And if I do that, then what does it mean and what does it do?" But just asking yourself that question. And the other thing that just comes to mind as well, and I'll give credit to Jay. I've worked with Jay for a long time now. He was a business partner, now he's our Chief Customer Officer. And he does a really good job of looking at scenarios. He's thinking years ahead. He's saying, " Hey, we're going to be this big or this... This is where we're going." But then he steps it back and says, " Okay, if that's where we're going and here's what we need to look like when we're there, what does the midterm look like? And what's the short term look like?" Because we can't just overnight get there. And so I think that's to your point as well, is I mean, you have to be... As a leader of the organization, you're being paid to work in the here and now, but really think in the future and start planning about where to go.

Steve Hopkins: Yeah. Actually, yeah, that's a great example. And I love that Jay does that, and it's something I do and have done too. I literally, with my people in the past or my leaders, I've sat down with them and drawn on a whiteboard like, " Okay, here's year one. Here's what year two looks like, here's what year three looks like." Is the shape of our org going to hold? And I think what I really loved about that example is as a leader, you're often being asked what's going to change, what's going to look different, what difference are you going to create? What thing are you going to come in and transform? Often, when we take these leadership roles, that's the mandate. But I love this Jeff Bezos quote when he says basically, he wishes people would ask him what won't change. And he talks about how at Amazon, there's a lot of stuff that does change. But he wishes people would ask him what wouldn't, because the things that haven't changed or will never change are things that they just never will move on. So he jokes about how no customer is ever going to come to him and say, " Hey, Jeff, I love Amazon, but I really wish you could send me my stuff slower." And, " Hey, Jeff. I love Amazon, but I really wish you had less things. I want you to have less things so I have less choice." These are just things that won't change. So equally as a leader, as an executive, they're the things you want to build your org around. You want to build your team and your strategy around the things that aren't going to shift in time, and then you can on a whiteboard look at year three, year four, year five, because you know those things aren't going to go anywhere. We can really put a beachhead in there today and make sure that all runs right, process is all right, tech's right, all that stuff, but then we know that if we succeed and grow at the pace the business is growing, we're going to be here. In three years' time, that team will be 20 people, but you get that point. Across these countries, because geography's often one of those things that won't change. Most companies don't come to me and say, " Yeah, yeah, we're pulling out of all these markets." In technology startups, we're expanding into those markets, so just being really cognizant of that and how you're making your investments I think really helps.

Jeff: Yeah. Well, another thing that this brings up for me too, I joke. I think I've said this before probably on the podcast, or even in just some of our office hour stuff, is I used to... Early in my career, I used to think at the beginning of the year, we do budgets and planning, and we do all this stuff. And then we're executing throughout the year, and it just never really occurred to me how malleable and how flexible those things actually are. You think when you're an individual contributor, a lot of times you're like, " Oh, our budget is set in stone for the year. Our plan is set in stone, our goal. And we just go." It's just when you're first in there, you're just doing, doing, doing. You're not really in that mindset or mode of operation. So I think one of the things that I've had to learn and I think you hit on this earlier, this is where I was curious if you have a story or if you've gotten into scenarios that you can think of, but you have to go build the business case and be persuasive to the other executives, to the finance leader, to the CEO, whoever it is that you're really going to make this pitch to, but I mean, you really have to... Again, I think we talked about marketing and sales have really gotten formulaic and it's a little harder for customer success. But that doesn't mean you can't not try and do it. It doesn't mean you can't not put the business case together. There still has to be scenario planning of, " Hey, what's the opportunity ahead of us? What are some of the situations that we can see? Okay, we want to add headcount. What's that really going to do for us? What's the hypothesis?" But I think this whole idea of building the business case, thinking about hypotheses, I always joke that it's so used in science where it's like, " Oh, we have a hypothesis, we run a test, and then we figure out what went right, what went wrong." But for some reason, that verbiage and that testing and iteration isn't widely used in terms of some of this. So I'm just curious if that comes to mind, or if you have a scenario or situation that you've gone through where you're like, " Hey, I've had to go do this and put this together?"

Steve Hopkins: Yeah. No, there's a bunch of things I want to share on that. So I think the first thing I would say is that classical... I don't even know who said it. But it's that old saying of, " If we have data, let's use data. If we have opinions, let's go with mine." So I think the first thing you've got to do, whenever you're having any of these, you have to have data. Even if your pitch is very subjective and very rooted in, " Well, I just talk to the customers all day and I know that they want this," even if that's where you're starting, you must, must, must bring data to the table to back that up with turn it into data. Turn your insight into data. And I think that I do a lot of coaching or mentoring of customer success folks in the various programs that are out there. And not thinking of any one individual. Almost every conversation ends up with me saying something like, "Do you have a model? Do you have a model of something in Excel where you've built up months of the year and how much revenue's going to be coming in to keep drivers of a customer success team or a support team for that matter too? And do you have basically your assumptions about when you need new people built in there?" And I think the mistake a lot of people make is they go into those pitches or those conversations with people that are holding the budget purse strings and they have a subjective conversation and they don't center the conversation on a model. They center the conversation on, " I need another head," or" I need another head in New York or in San Francisco, or in Sweden. I need a hired head." And I think the trick is to actually get ahead of that and have a conversation where you agree on the model that you're going to use to decide when you hire and that's something I've done here at Compusoft and the first thing I did basically, when I started. Which actually in a customer support sense, we sat down, we worked with our finance team. We were collaborating on it together. We built out this model that really go the support team together to say, " Hey, here's what good looks like. Here's how many calls we try to do and what a good call looks like, and how that all works." The finance team was able to pull that together with salary information and the bigger picture, and we were able to build out this model that showed actually we were slightly under resourced where we wanted to be and the support we wanted to be providing. And so end of story, we went and invested and brought that forth. So I think the fact that we agreed on the model just removes the overhead, from having to go and curry favor and play politics a bit and just go, " Ah, can you give me a head count?" So that'd be the first thing I'd say. The thing I want to quickly follow up and maybe just mention briefly, and then stop talking, but I think the other... I've lost it. I've lost it. I've lost my thought.

Jeff: It's all right. It happens to the best of us.

Steve Hopkins: I've got it. I've got it, it's back. So the other mistake I see people make, and I myself have made heaps, and it's not really been until recently in my career, I think over the last few years that I've really understood this better. Hiring is not one of those things that's often like yes/ no. Often, it's when. So as you say, budgets are set in stone in some ways, but they're also very malleable when you get into the year and often, the lever is when. And so as a leader, but also actually if you're a manager or a frontline manager, or you're further down the pecking order where you don't maybe have as much control over your hiring budget, there is nothing stopping you from going and talking to one of your peers and saying, " Hey, I see you've got a head count slated for June. I really need someone for June now. And I don't know if you do. In three months, can we do a swap? I've got this one sitting out in December," or" I've got one." And I would love to see more teams actually, I guess as an executive now or whatever, if a team came to me and said to me, " Hey, we need a head count. But I've already organized with Jeff over there that we've solved this problem, and we've looked at the model that we've built with the team together and we've agreed that we're going to do this instead of that and move that forward," I'm like, " Yeah, great." So I think often, we look up to the higher- ups to make the decision. And I think there's actually a lot of negotiating and decision making you can do at your peer group level that often just doesn't happen in most teams I've seen, at least in the past.

Jeff: Oh my gosh. So many good things that I feel like we can jump into. So first, love the point you called out about building the model outside of your finance counterpart. I think a lot of times, it's hard to get started, especially if you're new in the leadership role, if you haven't really done it before. If you're sitting there and you can go pull somebody else's model, and try and make it your own. But it's really hard to start and get momentum. But I always find that if you can go work with the finance counterpart and be like, " Hey, I've got assumptions. I have data. I've got all these things, and I'm trying to build this case." Because at the end of the day, it needs to speak to them most, because they're the ones that are going to have to essentially fold this into their roadmap and their planning. And so it's like, " Hey, I've got all these things. Can we work together to figure out okay, what's the right way that I can take this and present it in a way that's going to be impactful for you?" And if you can get them bought in from doing that, because at the end of the day too, what I've found at least, the reason that they're going to say yes and jump into that is it's going to create less headaches for them.

Steve Hopkins: Totally, yeah.

Jeff: Because if you go down a path and you develop something, and you get buy- in for it and then you present it to them and they're just like, " Well, great. Now I have to go do a ton of work to actually go do all these other things that you didn't do as part of this initial planning," that's where you get in trouble. So I love that point, because I think again, just what you were saying, you can't sit and wait for things to happen for you. As a leader in the organization, you have to go make things happen on your own. And going to develop that, have the conversation, just getting the wherewithal too of where are we with the budget? What does it look like? You don't have to wait. As a leader in the organization, you're not paid to wait, I think is the thing I'm trying to say. It's just you need to go make things happen yourself.

Steve Hopkins: Yeah, and a quick point on that too is once you've done that work and as you're saying, you've done that work. You've collaborated to get that work and you're right. People doing work like that can be tough to get that prioritized or whatever. But once you've got it, as a leader, as a manager, and I'm using that term, but if you're a frontline manager on the way up, carry that thing around. And if you're in meetings, it comes back to that, " If we have data, let's use data. If we have opinions, we'll use mine." You've got data now. You've got your plan. Every time someone says, " Can we hire? Can I do this? Can I do that?" You're like, " What does the money say?" And it actually drives that decision making down into your org, which is where you want it to be rather than stuff coming up at you that you don't have an answer to.

Jeff: Yeah. Yeah, and I mean, I think the second point that you made earlier too, just about how we can do a little bit more bartering or trading with your peer set. I mean, I think I agree with that too. I mean, I think the challenge always is that for the most part, each team is still thinking about their team and it's really hard to change that mindset. I think we're going to subscription businesses. It's going to be the predominant model probably going forward. It's going to become more and more. And the whole idea around the subscription model is that we need to keep customers for a longer period of time, essentially. We're not going to get the dollar upfront. We're going to get the dollar over a 10- year period, whenever that is. And so if that's the case, then we need to flip the thinking from, " Hey, I need resources in my department to do X," as into, " Hey, I'm a leader in the organization and whether the person's getting added to another team or my team, we need to make sure to keep this customer for 10 years. So what's going to keep the customer for 10 years? We need that plan and we need to be thinking in that way," and then the underlying piece that's going back to your finance counterpart is can we actually develop a model and a plan that is a little bit more across team, where we can actually look and say, oh, I actually can look into the implementation team and say, " You know what? I see you guys are operating and looking at the business metrics, looking at the business metrics, looking at the people headcount, it looks like you guys are actually good." Like you said, you have somebody slated in June. Oh my gosh, we're running behind over here in support and professional services and we really could use that headcount over here. All right, cool, let's move that over. But I think as a leader again, it's hard because you essentially have... Again, I'll credit Jay. He has a saying. He says you have two teams that you belong to. The first team that you belong to and where the priority is to the business. It's actually to your peer set. That's where it goes first. Then it's to your actual team, because if you're going to that first point, you're actually looking at making decisions and you're trying to have debates and make decisions that are across the organization a lot more horizontally than just thinking about what you need on your team. And so I continue to think about that a lot, and your point about how do you start cultivating that type of environment where you're debating, bartering, just more... I always call it good conflict. But I feel like we need a little bit more good conflicts, because I think people shy away from that sometimes.

Steve Hopkins: Yeah, and maybe as a quick tip to folks out there maybe listening, I think the sentence that gets you into that conflict in a healthy way is like, " I have a proposal." And I think a lot of folks, it's a really important word, proposal, because you're actually inviting adjustments. You're inviting dialogue. You're not saying, " I need this," which is well, it's on the offensive, and you're like, "Well, I don't want to give you that." You're saying, " Well, here's my proposal. Jeff, what do you think?" Like, "What if we did this and this and it's shaped like this?" Rather than saying, " What do you think?" Maybe saying, " What's your reaction to that proposal? What are your questions?" This is holacracy flow. You don't need to be a fully holacratic or self- owned org to do it. But I think those questions are really valuable. And often, between peers and particular, it just helps you shape those proposals. And then you can go, " Cool, well, if we do this, are we in agreement?" And then you're golden. And it does take some level of... most orgs, approval or final veto is there somewhere, often. But yeah, as a leader, I love my team coming to me with those forward- looking solutions that they've come to themselves and I very rarely would get in the way of those things. So yeah, what's your proposal?

Jeff: Yeah, I like that. Because too, I mean, the whole thing inside of an organization is how are you using... Persuasion might not be the right word, but you have to present things in a way and you have to use and look at the way that you're moving around the organization, because at the end of the day, companies aren't run just by systems and a ton of inputs. If it was that, then there wouldn't be any risk involved. There wouldn't be any choice. It would just be fully done and automated. But since there's humans involved, we have to go think about that component of it. We need to bring choices, bring discussion, and bring this persuasion to the art of the business side to say, " Hey, how are we making sure that we're looking at this and making decisions together?" And I couldn't agree more though. I think that's a good call out.

Steve Hopkins: Yeah, no, totally. Totally. Thank you.

Jeff: Well, I know we've got maybe another minute or two, and maybe one other question or one thing that I'm thinking about that we've been talking about a little bit here and there, but I'm curious if you've had to think about this as well. This whole idea just around... We've talked about it, but you've got multiple teams. Where's the biggest bang for your buck? And so for you, what's that process like when you're looking at again, if you've got purview over multiple teams and you're looking at this, how are you evaluating or looking at that? Is it the model like we talked about earlier? Are you looking for business metrics alongside of that to say, " Okay, what's happening today versus what's the model, what was the model?" And how do you look at where the biggest bang for your buck can be?

Steve Hopkins: Yeah. I think one of the things I didn't do well as a senior leader, where you've got... I don't know. I'm using all these labels to describe myself, but one of the things I didn't do well as a leader was multiple teams, where you do have to start balancing that. You're not just asking, "What do I need to get my team better?" But you're asking, " What do I need to do to help all of these teams succeed?" The thing I didn't do well was really have a clear idea of what good looked like across all of those teams, for a while. And I would candidly say I'm still working and getting better at that. But I think that's exactly what you're asking for there. You do have to get into the weeds with your folks, and get down to as I want to say, front line. But you really have to understand what the customer is asking for and what they want and what they need, and maybe what they're not asking for that we really should give them. Or you had a great example before of like, we want this customer to be a 10- year customer. What's it got to look like to get that customer to be a 10- year customer? And I think just having a clear idea of what that needs to look like when it's engaging with the customer, but then pulling that out into those business metrics and into a model, that's the key thing that now I look at. So we have those now. It takes me a lot of work, because I'm not afraid of it frankly. But we work through that, and I get the team around me that are closer to that. We just keep asking. What does good look like? What does good look like? What does good look like? And then we learned. There's a great example, a chair, at Compusoft again, we did that word with the model, but it was preceded by us actually really under- serving our customers on the phone. So Compusoft Support is mostly phone support, but we are very localized in France, Germany, the Nordics, Spain, as well as in the United Kingdom. And frankly, we were missing a bunch of calls. We had a bunch of calls that were getting inaudible, which means the customer's not even speaking to someone over the phone. So we set ourselves a metric for that. We were like, " Okay, we want the number to be this number," and then we got that out there, and we were doing it in bigger markets, Germany, France, and the UK. And each team was doing it a bit differently. And I got the number down to that number, and then we went, " Hey, great. We've gotten to what good looks like." And then we extracted all of the data out of the system. We did something that we hadn't done yet that we probably should have done earlier, but I think it was that we did a data dump of all the raw call data. And we saw there are all these other calls that we were missing that we just weren't even aware of. So we were like, " Oh my God, this is terrible." Because we were hearing that customers were not happy still. So we were like, "But we're hitting our what good looks like." Customers are telling us this is not good, so there's obviously a disconnect. We went looking and we found that there were just more calls that were being missed. So first of all, we changed how we looked at the data. That was one. But then two, we drew the line in inaudible, and we just said, " We want none." Good looks like not a single call has been missed in a day. A customer calls us, we've done it. I just wanted to see could we get to a point where we got to that level of delivery. And I'm really pleased about it, the team did an amazing job and we now have zero days, kind of like perfect games in baseball, we have zero days pretty frequently now. And I think that's an example of where we just... It's just that dance between what's possible and what are we hearing from customers, what data do we have that can help us understand this? And then iterating through that a bunch until you get to a point where you feel like, " Okay, now I think we're not hearing any more complaints. Our CSAT now is through the roof." Great. This is what good looks like. Then you can balance that with your economic model and say, " Okay, now that's where the bar is," and we're pulling people in, that way to keep that bar high. And it sounds really good when I say it. It felt really messy for all of that process, and I would love you to believe that we were just like these scientists in a lab perfectly tuning these dials. It did not look like that. It feels awful, you're discovering data that would tell you stuff's not going well. You're hearing escalations and trouble from customers. It's not a pretty picture, but I would take that experience again in a heartbeat. Because you're in it together as a team, you learn what good looks like, and then you have that and you set the bar, and then you build to it. So, I don't know, crosstalk.

Jeff: One thing I like that you've kept saying over and over is setting the bar and trying to hit it, trying to move forward. And one of the things that I think about quite often is it was another Jeff Bezos quote when he said... For him, he was all about, " I wake up at 10: 00 AM and I'm basically trying to minimize the amount of decisions I make throughout the day, because I want those to be really impactful decisions." But the other thing that I got as he was talking and one thing that I keep hearing echoed and I think what you're saying too is we're making a decision, or as a leader, you're going to be charged with making decisions. Like you said, if you're overseeing multiple teams like you said, in the past, you've struggled with that. And you've figured out, how do I get the right pieces and the right elements? But I also think what tends to happen is people have this fear of making a decision and then having a failure. And what I think tends to happen most often is it's not... I mean, you can't really necessarily look at it as a failure. It's like, " Hey, I made this decision in this moment of time with this data, this information." And when you go back and look at it, instead of looking at it as a failure, it's like, " Hey, would I have made that same decision again with the information that I had at that time?" And then understanding, what's that context? And then understanding the next context, which is, "Hey, we made that decision at that time with that information. Now we're at this moment in time. We have new information plus the old information. So can I make a better decision now?" And it's really a series of learning how to become a better decision maker as you go forward in your career, because you're starting to understand how those decisions ahead of you or how the decisions behind you impacted where you are today, and then what information you need to make a decision going forward. But again, you always have that series of decisions that you're trying to make and I think people sometimes just get rooted in the idea of failure. But I think listening to you talk, you're always... You've throughout this mentioned several times, " Okay, we're just trying to figure out what's the mark that we're trying to reach, and can we reach it?" And if we can't, then okay. Great, we made it here. But then how do we reach that maybe in the future then? So how do we keep pushing? So I just like that mindset that you've put there.

Steve Hopkins: Yeah, no, totally. I think as you're doing it, you used this word earlier about pitching for resources. And I know how that word gets used, and it's probably the right word. But I think if you're doing this stuff right, you're never pitching. You're just constantly keeping people in the loop about what you're finding, what you're learning about your business, your model. What's working, what's not. And then David Tombre, who's the CEO at Compusoft is an amazing partner through that process. He could have gone one way and gone like, " Man, this guy doesn't know what he's doing. We keep resetting the bar." But he knew and understood I know what it's going to feel like when our customers are back to that level of service that we give them. So let's keep going for this. And so it's just a constant conversation and a constant agreement, a constant sharing of what you're learning. And I think when you're doing that and you're trying to operate in that way, every leader anywhere in the organization, any person in an organization is going to relish you having a better understanding of your agenda and of the business itself. So I think yeah, it's a crucial thing if you can get into that cadence of constantly sharing what you're learning.

Jeff: Yeah. Well, this was cool. I've enjoyed this. We talked a little bit about finance, and then we got into just leadership and how to think about being a leader inside of a company, which I think was just a good little evolution. I think people always like to hear that stuff. So Steve, I really enjoyed this. I think we had a nice conversation weaving from how do you think about staffing and resources and answering some of the questions, thinking about models, becoming partners with finance, and then really getting into some of the aspects of becoming a leader and thinking about how am I making decisions with the data and the information at hand. If people want to find more of you, is it LinkedIn? Is it Twitter? Do you have your own blog that you write on? Is it @ Compusoft? This is your minute to shine, where to let people come find you and try to get more of the stuff that you're sharing.

Steve Hopkins: Yeah, no, thanks, Jeff. It's been a blast. I've really enjoyed it. And yeah, this is the stuff I geek out on, so hopefully, it's been useful. So yeah, you can find me on LinkedIn. That's the best place nowadays. I have all of those other things. You will find an old blog out there if you go looking. You'll find a Twitter account that has been unfortunately shuttered or turned off a little bit, but LinkedIn is the place. So I think just my name is the URL Steve- Hopkins, I think. And yeah, come and find me. Come say hello. We're going to be hiring at Compusoft a bunch as we've been talking about this, so keep an eye out for that if you're interested in learning more. And we'd love to talk to you or anyone else out there in the community.

Jeff: Awesome. Well, yeah. We'll get this out here soon and make sure people come find you. But appreciate the time today and hope you get to go enjoy your weekend now after recording this.

Steve Hopkins: Yeah, thanks. You too, Jeff. Enjoy your weekend and holidays when they come. And yeah, look forward to chatting with you again.

Jeff: Awesome. Hey, guys. Thanks so much for taking the time to listen to the Gain Grow Retain Podcast. If you liked what you heard, please take a moment and share the podcast with your friends and colleagues and subscribe. We really appreciate it. Talk to you soon.


This week Steve Hopkins, Chief Customer Success Manager at Compusoft, joins the show to discuss Customer Success leadership.

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Today's Host

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Jeff Breunsbach

|Director of Customer Experience at Higher Logic
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Jay Nathan

|Chief Customer Officer at Higher Logic

Today's Guests

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Steve Hopkins

|Chief Customer Success Officer, Compusoft Group