The Sales Hacker Podcast
The Sales Hacker Podcast

Episode · 1 year ago

189: Meaningful Recognition: How to Show Your Employees That You Care


In this episode of the Sales Hacker Podcast, we have Kevin Yip, COO & Co-Founder at Blueboard, an employee recognition company he founded after working 100-hour weeks without appreciation. Join us for a frank conversation about recognizing your employees’ achievements and rewarding them with experiences that matter.

What You’ll Learn 

  1. The rich reward of giving your employees personal experiences
  2. Building a company out of joy
  3. Learning what you’re good at as an entrepreneur
  4. Scaling to offer a community 

Show Agenda and Timestamps 

  1. About Kevin Yip & Blueboard [2:20]
  2. How burnout led to Kevin’s entrepreneurship [5:00]
  3. The surprising things about running a startup [12:25]
  4. How to scale sales & marketing [15:15]
  5. A philosophy for finding and keeping talent [19:00]
  6. Paying it forward [23:00]
  7. Sam’s Corner [26:20]

One, two, one, everybody, it's Sam Jacob's welcome to the salesaccer podcast. Today on the show we've got inspiring entrepreneur and cofounder and Chief Operating Officer of Blueboard, Kevin Yep it's going to talk to you about the origin story behind starting this company, which is fantastic, and also some of the lessons that he's learned over the course of building the company of the last couple of years. Before we get there, we've got a couple sponsors we want to thank. The first is outreach. Out Reaches the first and only engagement and intelligence platform built by revenue innovators for revenue innovators. Out which allows you to commit to accurate sales forecast and replace manual process with real time guidance and unlock actionable customer intelligence that guides you and your team to win more off in traditional tools don't work in a hybrid sales world. Find out why outreach is the right solution at quick dot outreach Dil for three hundred and two MPC. PODCAST is also sponsored by pavilion. Pavilion is the key to getting more out of your career. A private membership gives you access to thousands of like minded peers, dozens of courses in schools through Pavilion University, and over Onezero workbooks, template scripts and playbooks to accelerate your development. The best companies in the world are purchasing pavilion for teams corporate memberships for their employees to ensure that you are trained and supported over the course of your career journey. So if your company doesn't have a pavilion membership for you, make sure that you ask your boss. Learn more today at join PAVILIONCOM. And finally, Conga. As doing business becomes increasingly complex, it gets harder to do it well. Businesses often sacrifice agility and lose sight of the customer experience. CONGA's expertise and comprehensive solution suite for commercial operations, transforming the documents and processes surrounding customer engagement, CPQ and Celm, helps businesses meet customer needs while increasing agility to adapt to change. Who wrote that is barely English, but that doesn't matter because Conga is a kickass solution. From that description, I don't know what they do, but I'm sure it's important and I know a lot of great people that work there, and God bless them all. Check them out. Congacom, forward, slash, sales hacker, CPQ, Celm all the things that you need. It's comprehensive and it's a suite for commercial operations. So that's great. Now let's listen to my conversation with Kevin. You. Hey, everybody, it's Sam Jacobs. Welcome to the sales hacker podcast. Today on the show we are excited to have Kevin Hip. Kevin is a cofounder and Chief Operating Officer of Blue Board, and experiential recognition platform, rewards and incentives company. Prior to blue board, Kevin did a lap in the corporate world of PWC and owned Rant, a small Japanese curry bar in San Francisco. If you run into him, ask him about his night hanging out with the USA basketball team in Shanghai, a peak experience, and things have been downhill ever since. Kevin, show to the show. What's up, Sam, thanks for having me. Birth I own. We like to start with your baseball card, but we're definitely going to be asking you about your running with the US basketball team. But before we get there, you're the CO founder and Coo Blue Board. Tell us in your words, what is Blue Board. Blue Board is an amazing company. Well, we do is we help organizations reward, recognize and celebrate their people by giving them awesome experiences. So if you are the top sales person for the quarter or that, you know, you said the most meetings, and as an str or, you get recognized for getting a patent, as an engineer, your manager, director, boss, company, whoever, can reward you to a blue board experience. And that goes from anything to a couple's massage Michelin, Start Dinner Napa, going sky diving for the first time, all the way up to, you know, we've had people, you know, do the incatrail, you know, Eighty Mile Hike, hiking up to match your Peachu or, you know, learning to surf in Bali. So it really runs a spectrum. Adding last year we did experiences in over seventy countries. I want to choose from? Yeah, thousands of experiences. That's awesome. And how how old does the... on? Give us help us frame the where the company is in its growth projectory. How much money they right, you know, whatever you want to tell us about how big you are. Yeah, I know, definitely. So as of now we're about a hundred sixty employees. We've raised a couple rounds of venture capital. Not Sixteen million total, you know. How about, you know, three hundred and fifty companies to use in the product? You know where? We know where. We have ask platform. Yeah, so, we so it's kind of like a it's a Sass market place, right. And so we have a software for you know V, piece of HRV, piece of sales, to manage kind of their recognition and incentive programs. So, you know, approval, is, budgeting, etc. And then, as an employee, you know, we have an online many you importal, where you log in, choose an experience and then you get paired with the concierge that helps plan and book the entire thing for you. And so it is a mix of kind of like SAS marketplace and then a service component to get you out on the experience. It's awesome. How did you how did you in your cofounder? You know what? Tell us the origin story. I'm sure it's interesting. Yeah, I know, definitely. So me and my buddy, I went to high school with them out here in San Francisco. We were roommates and our first corporate jobs after college and I was working as a fun, sexy auditor at Price Water House coopers. Fun Job, but you know, we were you know, we came home one time and we lived with a few other guys that we had grown up with and I kind of just like was venting at the end of the day. We were like it was kind of like the count, you know, like that, you know, the eighth night in a row I come home a roommates are, you know, in the living room. We're watching like a San Francisco giants game or warriors game, what have you. They just like felt so like routine and I'm like, Dude, we become the most boring fucking people and it only took one year working in the corporate world for it's like suck like the life out of us. They like we were just like really low energy. We'd live for the weekends, like we weren't doing anything interesting. It was just like kind of like this sad moment and realization, and so we started talking about just like what we've been wanting to do, and so we took a pack between roommates and so with the Path was, hey, we're going to spend one day a week. That shocking right, like very difficult one day a week doing something we've always wanted to do right, and we're not going to let work, we're not going to let like anything kind of get in our way of it. And so I took Krab Magon lessons, kind of Israeli martial arts, my cofounder did singing lessons. We had a couple other of our roommates take up guitar, and so basically what happened was, you know, we did that for about, you know, three, four months, and we started to, you know, become happier, we started to feel more fulfilled. We were building mastery in like Kravmagon, right, we were looking forward to it. It was adding this new wrinkle to our character and at the end of a kind of like the path, it was just kind of done on us as like it's like something so simple, doing something new you've always wanted to do one day a week could lead to just so much like happiness and fulfillment, and so we're like, we're literally just like we want to start a company helping people do exactly this, like things they've wanted to do, try love experiences and and so we we kind of abruptly quit our jobs and probably a little too soon because we actually didn't have a business model where like how do we get to experiences into the hands of people? That was in June two thousand and twelve now, because we quit a little abruptly before we actually had a product of business model idea, it took us a couple of years to kind of evolve and come up with a business today. And so like how we ended up kind of, you know, becoming like a rewards, incentives of recognition company. Was We had been bringing story and I've been talking about my experience at...

PBC and I was basically put on a project a year and audit and then in the beginning of it had a couple team members quit. I ended up having to take on their work. We weren't able to replace them and I was working on a hundred hour weeks for about two and a half months, rights twelve, fifteen hour days, seven days a week. You know, for that bankers out there right, you know, they know it's a complete and not a grand and I was in you know, I'm salaried, so there's no overtime, there's no bonus and at the end of it, frankly, just like stress, like anxious. I'm also twenty five pounds heavier. My girlfriend at the Times on the verge of breaking up with me. It's a miserable human being. And my manager comes out to me. It was like, Kevin, thank you so much for your hard work, like we could not have done this without you, and she put down like an mx gift card on my desk and like split it over and it just felt, you know, just super impersonal, transactional. Honestly, it kind of felt like a slap in the face. You know, I had done like hundreds of hours of overtime and I got like a two hundred fifty gift card for it, and so I was kind of like pissed and you know how we kind of started talking about as I oh, would have been alternative experience. Imagine if my manager come up to me and said like hey, Kevin, like I know you've you know, you've been really frustrated with your health. We look a little puggy. I don't know if she'd say that, but I shouldn't be. It's okay. I told myself I just had see myself in the mirror every day and she'd be I got an Eve boxing actually got you out. You know, a boxing membership to the gym reround the corner, you know, for three months. You know, go enjoy that after work. Or Hey, I know you and your girlfriend haven't send much time together because you've been here seven days a week. You take her out to a nice dinner date, but maybe she's a one pain class. Same cost as the MX gift card, but imagine how much more personal and thoughtful that would have felt for me as this hard working employ and so that was kind of like the Aha moment of like, Oh shit, like companies are really well intentioned, managers are really well intentioned. Right. My manager, like you know, the COPBC had probably, you know, millions. Now I know millions of dollars budget. My manager had to, you know, write aver quest to reward me, like I had to get approve, she had to go pick up the gift card. A lot of work and at the end of it I felt like it was a slap in the face. And so like kind of like that last a mile of like let's deliver something meaningful and personal. And so, yeah, that was kind of the origin story. You know, it's been, you know, feel feeling really grateful to kind of just to kind of see you know over the evolution of the last couple of years that you know, forms do care about the employees. They want to do something cool for them, you know, they want to celebrate them in a fun way, and so it's been it's been good, good for business and just good to see. I think that's awesome. And so what how did you it's always an interesting story question how you split responsibilities as you grow. So you all been doing this for a while. I've been doing this for eight years at least, and you're the CEO and I would imagine that your other buddy is the CEO. How did you figure out what it happens to be a CEO, because I think the definition of that job evolves and changes, and how obvious split responsibilities between yourself and your other cofounder. Yeah, yeah, so that kind of early on. We honestly used to do everything together. Let's design product, let's let's let's sell, let's, you know, get experience providers on our platform, let's sell organizations, and so we did everything together. Obviously it's not scalable and you know how it end up splitting. was as CEO, I run our go to market, so marketing, sales, customer success, or Account Management Team, and then finance rolls up to me. He splits product engineering and operations, and so that's kind of how how it's laid out. You know, I think the Clo at varying stages is, you know, is a pretty ambiguous title,...

...right. You can be the you know, the operating leader at scale, kind of like a Tim Cook to Steve Jobs, or you can be, you know, a sales leader or a product leader. Right, it just depends and I think everyone just needs to find what works for them in their org. What have you? Besides, you know, the epiphany, which is which is a great story, but what have you learned about running a company over the last couple of years? What's been the most surprising thing and, you know, what lessons have you learned that you can share for people that want to start their own company? Yeah, this is like, I mean there's so many I'm learning like literally every freaking day, like I make mistakes all the time and I think like early on, and I think you know it, you also have to find like what it is you're good at as an entrepreneur and really orient around that. Some people are like brilliant engineers, right. Some people are a brilliant product people, you know, for us. You know, I did. Yeah, I didn't have any like me, like it started this like when I was like twenty three or twenty four, I think, and I'd really know skills other than just let's work my ass off and let's be curious and being close to the customer, like really understanding like what they want, understanding your market. I think there's something, you know, principle I've always fallen on, you know, in an you know instance for this is when we when we got our first customer. We know, crunch based data used to be free, and so we had downloaded, like, you know, a report from from their website of all the startups in San Francisco that raised over ten million dollars, right, and we had all the address data. We layered it over this like kind of free application called like pad mapper, because they they had act, we had access to kind of their mapping, and so we literally just went door to door over three hundred companies a SF to pitch people, and so we got a lot of feedback, got a lot of nose, but I think what we did was every single time were like, how do we refine the pitch? How do we? How do we say hi to that? You know the person at the front desk better and you know, it was a grind. We got kicked out of tons of businesses. I got escorted out of dropbocks when they were another company. That was interesting, but we got one customer from it and that was all we needed, right, as a startup, you know, you really you know, out of a hunt, you a hundred thousands of knows. You need one, yes, to kind of like serve them and then figure out what other customers kind of look and feel like them. And, you know, and ended up being. We talked about you know, we were talking to a receptionist at the front desk of a startup called Vungal. At the time they were thirty employees and their new VP of talent was and the front waiting for a kidney to come in and he was like Eric was like, Oh, it sounds super interesting what you guys doing, and so he walked over to him. He's like, all right, I gotta go to interview, but email me. This is interesting and I think our team would love it. And like that was kind of you know, it's probably like number two hundred right. You know, there's two hundred business that we had gone to, but you know, that's all we needed and then from there, you know, you know, they're still a customer today. Have, you know, several hundred employees. But kind of that curiosity makes with grind has something we always like fall back on. How he developed your go to market chops to the point, you know, you were had a little bit of experience as an auditor, but now you're running sales and marketing. What's besides being curious? How we thought about scaling that side of the organization. Yeah, I know, it's been good and honestly, like you know, in the beginning it's a lot of what you know sales soccer offer offers. Now, right, it's community. It's like reaching out to people, asking them for lunch and coffee. Probably read every single, you know, sales book I could and started just developing kind of like my perspective right of like Oh, like, this is interesting, let's actually try it in real life and figuring out what works and doesn't work. You know, now that we're at scale right, you know, we... a fullblown kind of you know, go to market. You know, it's all about hiring the right leaders for us right is like how do we hire the right leaders to help kind of take us to this next level? And so I'm always kind of just looking for the best people. But over the years, like you know, there's different kind of mentors and advisors at different at different stages and, you know, a very like, you know, Awesome Mentor we had at the beginning of this journey. You know, we went through an incubator called five hundred startups in two thousand and fifteen, and we are like, you know, the the twelve batch of companies to go through that program. A Guy Matt Ellsworth, who had been a you know, a startup go to market leader, really helped us out and thinking about, you know, how do you position, like how do you message? How do you incentivize people with pricing and packaging? How do you you know, how do you going to be like as a you know, as a team of two? How are you thinking about being a full stack sales rep right, and customer success manager? Right? And so he helped us really think through that, I think, early on, which was cool, like tools, like we are one of the first customers of outreach. We know, we bought them, I think when they probably had like eight or nine employees and back then, like having the tool like that was super helpful because no one really had access to and so that kind of give us a leg up. And so I've always been kind of on the forefront of like ire what new tools are out there that can really help us get a leg up on the competition. That obviously that doesn't last forever, but it is like an advantage that, you know, as a start up in a free market, you're always looking for your advantages, and so anyway, so that's it's one I've been I'm always kind of like keeping a pulse on any tools recently that you've come across that you're super excited about. It's a good one, you know, to be honest, like there's some, listen, like you know, simple ones that I don't think would like blow your socks off, but like they're a little expensive, so we haven't been able to afford them. Clear, bit clean data at scale super important, and that has been a god sense. That's been amazing. Another one, you know, one of that is actually really helped. I mean just conversions everything, Chili Piper on our like, on our like actual like kind of leads submission to like demo booked. As I I think it's grown from like forty or fifty percent so like high eighty percent. So it's been super helpful for a couple. But what clear? Yeah, both, and both are awesome questions. So you mentioned, you know now, that job for you, and it tends to be for a lot of companies, is about finding and attracting the right talent. How do you think about an obviously blue board is one part of how companies themselves can make sure that they're appealing and attractive to potential employees. But when you're thinking about, you know, strategies for finding great talent and for getting them to want to work for Blue Board, what have you developed in terms of a philosophy or an approach that helps you find the right people to work at Blue Board? Yeah, and so, like when I think and just kind of like as like a principle that I tend to lean on and think about often. So there was this Antarctic explore Edward Shackleton kind of in London and eighteen, I think eighteen hundred's really nice. Hundred's not sure, but he was recruiting people to go on this. You know this, this this adventure and mission to an Arctica, right. And so rather than kind of, you know, talking about like the glory and like how nice is it's going to be, he was like adventures wanted a long line. I'm going to butcher this, but he's like adventures. Wanted like guaranteed scurvy, near certain death, like he listed out like the ten things, like of like you know you're going to die from. And he was at the end he's like, he's like, but he's like, but it's going... be a freaking adventure. You're going to remember it more or less, right. And so I think it's like coming out being authentic, just being true about the role in the company and leading from that has always been something I think about, right. And so you know, for us we talk a lot about our mission, right, and like our product, right, and why we're here. Right. Weren't expect you know, at the core, right, blue board, you know, kind of from the Oldin story, weird experienced company. Right, our mission is to help people challenge our comfort zones, indulge in their passions and try something new. That's why we exist. And so, like, we're very upfron about that and you know it tends to attract a certain type of people, right, people that are experienced, O inted, people that, you know, don't give you know, you know don't give things as Christmas gifts that you know they're buying. You know they're you know, they're buying their siblings like, you know, tickets to the game or like a like a road trip, right, and like so, like those are the types of people that like really grow what we do and get really excited about our company. And so that's what we lead with from there's obviously kind of like that's that kind of the principle, one of the one of the shadow Gi'es that like we've taken is, you know, it's always hard, you know, as a start up, to go and find the person who's done it before, right, and for us, like we've been able to, you know, we've, you know, kind of in the early days, been able to really grow the company off like kind of those zero to one meters, right. And so how do you how do you level people up, you know, when they haven't done a job before? Right? How do you get them access to your investors network, for Mentorship, for help, and so like that's been something like we always think about is like it's like not just finding the people, but once you find them, like I like, let's freaking invest in them, right, let's corrow them. But as a startup it's super freaking important. I think, like a lot of people would just think that's like for big companies. But you know, something we've thought about since day one. You know, as an example, our head of marketing, you know, she came from Google and was at an agency before, and you know, I've been awesome and leading kind of like our growth and development. When we brought on an investor, one of the the venture partners used to be the CMO at strife and was one of the marketing leaders at Linkedin, obviously during when they were coming up, and connected the two of them and you know our investor and mentioned her and like advised her and kind of like was a person to like run different ideas on or like at our stage, what's important? What do we really need to prioritize? And so just things like that, giving your people access to your resources and leveling them up super important. But yeah, but it takes a lot of energy. Takes flings of energy as it does. Yes, it does, Kevin. We're almost at the end of our time together and the last thing we like to do before we go is kind of pay it forward a little bit gets get some of the people or ideas that were really influential to you. That could be investors you look up to, it could be other founders, it could be mentors, it just could it could be books that you've read that you think we should read. When I frame it like that, you know, ways of paying it forward, to follow the bread crumb trail. You know, who comes to mind or what comes to mind that you think we should know about? Yeah, I know, absolutely so. You know, I'd say in the last kind of you know, couple years of growth, you know, kind of like going from like, you know, you know a little, you know, five to ten million ar to like twenty plus, kind of like the stage we're at right now. This advisor that we were introduced through it do, an investor, Scott Broomfield, has been absolutely amazing and just like a joy to work with. He was the he was a CFO and and and and CMO at a time of exactly the kind of incentive comp software when they went public and you know, took them public and then, you know, took them through their acquisition, of know with missed equity partners, and he's just been amazing to think, to kind of bat around ideas and think through... do we build kind of like blue board as a machine, right, and so like what types of you know, what types of models, you know, are we looking at? So he helped us build out our early plan forecasting model, how that kind of like filters into our revenue build and then how we look at what we call like a sales pod model of like okay, like if you're building pipeline, you know, and you hire on a pot of you on str and AE. What is that kind of the respective amount of kind of you know, marketing and sales, you know, investment. You need to generate pipeline along with that ramp and you know that's super important kind of at any you know, I did any scale the business. But once you kind of get starting, you know, you started getting consistent when rates you kind of starting to know your customer profile. Like building out that sales machine and that that modeled thinking an approach has been really helpful and I scrolling to where we are and I'm Scott Broomfield. Is that right? Scott Broomfield? Amazing Dude, he's and it once again like blueboard just attracts this certain type of person. He kind of rode up to our office and he's like gets an, he's like on this motorcycle and I'm like, he's like hey, you guys, got any tea coffee? Like I just wrote up from Santa Cruz. I was just freezing and I'm like okay, like anyways, he's are you also is loves racing motorcycles and death. Big Experience Guy. But you know, I think like in what you do, it's always good to it just kind of de reiterate that the tent attraction rate. Talk about the mission a lot and it's going to tract that, you know, the person that I resonates. Anyways, I love it, Kevin. If folks want to get in touch with you, maybe they want to work up blueboard, maybe want to buy blueboard. What's the best way to find follow up from this podcast? Yeah, I know. Now you can email me, Kevin and blue boycom. It's a good way to get in touch with me. But the best way I could shamieletin request in a note carry your pigeon San Francisco in a richmond smoke smoke signal exactly, but yeah, nine, I didn't email and lid to his best. Sounds great, Kevin. Thanks so much. We'll talk to you on Friday for Friday fundamentals. Thanks so much for being our guest on the show. Awesome. Thanks him, everybody. Sam, Jacob, SAM's corner. Great Conversation with Kevin. Yet he's been doing this for a long time. He quit his job in two thousand and twelve. It's two thousand and twenty one, almost two thousand and twenty two. So it's almost ten years that he's been working on this and I feel like we bore it's probably only kind of like a cheap escape velocity in the last couple of years. So this has been passion project, at Labor of love, and he did it and he and his cofounders did it really molded after their core identity right. They were people that he learned probow in the butcher I you pronounce Krav mccraw. You know somebody? I'm sorry, that's not how you saying. I'm not a martial artist, but you know some of his one of his buddies, his roommates, you know, went how to play the guitar. They we're gonna saying this is about experiences. They love experiences. Kevin loves experiences. He wants to leave his dent in the world. He wants to he wants to suck the marrow from, you know, from life, from the bones of life, and and so that's what blue board is built right. Blue Board is a company focus on providing experiences to people. And he did that and that that comes from his soul, that comes from his passion. And so many companies, so many founders, you know, they start a company because they just start convinced that they should be in charge of something, because they come from a privilege background and they're just they think that they are special, and they probably are. Many of them are special. But sometimes we will build things out of love, out of true joy and love, and that's those are the lasting companies from my perspective, those are the companies that people remember. It it's because these are things people would be doing even if you didn't pay them or if you paid them a little bit less. And I just feel that way about blue board, about about what Kevin's building. So thought it was a great conversation and it really is pretty cool. And you know, I love that anecdote that he had about working a hundred dollars a week and his...

...boss gives them a two hundred and fifty dollar gift card and it just, you know, no thought. So, unfortunately I've done that to my wife sometimes and I'm getting better, though. I'm getting better at at just taking a moment, being present, just take a second step back, be present and think, what does this person like to do with is this person love? Because once you think about somebody that you care about and you think about what they actually enjoy and love, and it becomes not so hard to buy presence for them, although sometimes they're very picky and finicky and and then, you know, you pick out something that you're trying to be yourself and you pick something that you genuinely like, and then they look at it say it's very ugly, and so that happens too, but not all the time, and anyway, it's a thought that counts in the effort. Just put some effort into it. Anyway. Thank you for listening. Thanks to our sponsors. We've got three of them. The first is outreach. Traditional tools don't work in a hybrid sales world. So find out why. outreaches the right solution at Click, dot outreach, dot Io, forward, zero and PC. We do have a pen. Click that Ourachteo. You can remember that. Forward Slash and then zero MPC. That is a special code. That code will get you access to a secret room where all of the secrets of sales engagement and resm innovation will be made available to you. Also, if you haven't asked your boss to sponsor your membership and your team's membership to pavilion for teams, what are you waiting for? The Best Companies, the pavilion certified employers are those that provide training, professional development, mentorship and community and comarronery to what can be really lonely jobs, and they do that through a corporate pavilion membership. So unlock the career of your dreams and tell your boss by applying today at Joint PAVILIONCOM finally, Conga. Conga does a lot of important things, such as customer engagement, CPQ and CLM, and that helps businesses meet customer needs while increasing agility to adapt to change. Check them out of Congacom for salesacker. Do you haven't given US five stars? Please do that if you want to get in touch with me. You can email me Sam with joint pavilioncom otherwise I'll talk the next time.

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