The Sales Hacker Podcast
The Sales Hacker Podcast

Episode · 5 months ago

BONUS: Exploring the Role of Revenue Operations within Blueboard w/ Jen Nelson


Revenue Operations is a relatively new but essential role being adopted by many companies to improve systems and processes internally. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever to maintain internal systems and to keep culture alive.

Jen Nelson, Director of Revenue Operations for Blueboard, joins the show to discuss her experience creating the Revenue Operations role for Blueboard, how it’s benefiting the company, and why other companies should adopt the role.

What was talked about:

  • The Response & Successes of the COVID-19 Pandemic
  • Monitoring Progress, Driving Alignment, & the Function of Revenue Operations
  • Advice for Those Getting Into Revenue Operations
  • Transition from Nonprofit to For-Profit

 Check out the resources below for more information:

To hear more interviews like this one, subscribe to The Sales Hacker Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your preferred podcast platform.

One two one: Three: Three O everybody at Sam Jacobs, welcome to aspecial bonus episode of the sale sacker podcast today on the show we'vegot Gen Nelson, the nemly self appointed director of RevenueOperations for Blue Board blue words an incredible company. What they do isthey sort of flip experience on its head as a means of rewarding andrecognizing great people on your team and your company, and so they give youand deliver all of these incredible experiences. It's a really cool company,they're growing, really fast and Gens, and exceptional revolaver, and really agreat business person in human being. We have a great conversation. So thanksfor listening to this special bonus episode, we don't have our normalslates sponsors for this one we just have as brandnew Barton would say onhis show. Is this a good time all meet and no Phillis? Let's get right into myconversation with Gen Nelson from Bluebird everybody at Sam Jacobs. Welcome to theSales Hacker podcast today on the show. We've got Jen Nelson Gen Nelson joinedblue board in two thousand and nineteen after spending over a decade leadingprojects, programs and change in various industries. Blue Board is theworld's leading experiential reward and recognition program, and there gencreated a revoo role in which she now serves with the growth focused approach.Gen seeks to standardize reporting, increased transparency andcommunication and optimize tech solutions. Gen Welcome to the show.Thank you it's great to be here. We're excited to Havy, so I just gave alittle bit of an overview of blue board, but we always like to start with thebaseball card, where we learn a little bit more about the company and the rolethat you're currently in so your name is Gen Nelson you're, the director ofrevenue operations for Blue Board. I read the description, but in youropinion and your words, what is Blue Board Yeah Lu board is a solution forcompanies of all sizes. So you have a really nice seamless way to recognizeyour top performing professionals with meaningful recognition. So the ideahere is that gift cards point system, those really fall flat and they don'thit the mark. We offer experiential recognition, meaning that people can berecognized with the opportunity to do something, that's meaningful andinteresting to them. We have a full menu, that's available, so things likepeople can learn to kite surf. They can swim with whale sharks or do somethingthat maybe is a little bit more close to home. Like our master class serieslearning, you know a new skill, really we have experiences for every type ofpersonality and that drives you know internal communication and socialability of our own. You know like sharing mancating more about why you'rerecognized in what your interests are. Amazing sounds amazing. How old is thecompany Yeah we've been around, for I think seven years we have really grownin the past couple years. I have a lot of enterprise clients now workingreally hard to bring many more program types out there into the world. It'sexciting. We've had a really wild year coming out of Ovid and roughly how bigis the company? You can answer that in any way you want number of employees,rough revenue range yeah. So when I started two and a half years ago wewere about twenty five or so employees were at about a hundred and fortyemployees. Now so we're really in a great place. We just SEC heared arounda funding last year, so we've been hiring like crazy, were really rampingup all of our teams and it's an exciting time to be a blue board andit's exciting time for our clients to because such new and interesting stuff,as just being added to our platform and our menu all the time and was was ovida good thing. I imagine I imagine it was, but how did blue board respond toOvid and what's been your growth over the last year or so yeah? It's beeninteresting. You know, I think, like most smaller startups, you hit thismoment you're like Oh, my gosh like how are we going to rebound from this? Howare we going to react? You know everything sort of shut down and at theend of the day I think we sort of had unique new use. Cases come up fromCovin people are now a remote work...

...force they're feeling less connectedthan ever. People aren't always engaging in their interest becausethings are closed, so our clients are really great and they're very loyal,and they, you know our clients love us, which is an awesome thing that I'm ableto say here right and new clients started looking for ways torecognize employees during this time. So we started to see new use casesPresident's Club. You know a better way to really recognize top performingsales folks with an opportunity to do an experience, that's relevant andmeaningful to them that they could talk about. You know, maybe if somebodywants to go, see the northern light, so their wife and doesn't necessarily wantto go to Cabo. So it's been interesting. We've had a lot of new sort ofopportunities to bring experiential recognition out there so much so thatat the end of last year we were really busy. We've grown some of our teams. Somuch just to support the new client and flux and that's part of how I was ableto sort of migrate into this new role and revenue operations as there werelots of gaps and lots of opportunities to sort of do our work better and moreefficiently, as that scale hit so fast. So the role is new, but you've been atthe company two and a half years. Is that right, yeah yeah? I my most recentprofessional background is implementation. So implementation is agreat role, because you're really responsible for standing up clients andyou work with everybody internal. You have to work well with product. Youhave to work well with. You know the client success team work really wellwith sales you're, helping with pre sales. So in implementation you reallyhave an opportunity to be a part of all the different function, areas to getworked, one which is really great. So I stood up an implementation teaminternally hear a blue board, which we have now sort of moved into. Our ClientSuccess Division and you know towards the end of last year. I really you knowwe were all sort of noticing these gaps and these challenges, and I brought theidea to our founders that we consider starting a revenue as function to helpfill in those gaps and think about how we're going to be more aligned acrossteams and really meet the need and the demand that we were seeing so they agreed. I apparently did a greatjob on that pitch. So now I am standing up a reb ops function here, a Leward,so I've been initially doing it for the past few months. Awesome and do youhave a background and Revenue Operations? If I sort of yeah I mean, Iguess, that's the first question I've, many more, but no, I don't thinkanybody does it's so new and it's been interesting to me to learn from peoplein the community. So I was actually a member of the revenue collective nowand everybody it's in this sort of world seems to come from so manydifferent places. For me personally, my journey is pretty unique because I camefrom a non PA profit background. I have my masters in social work. It wasalways important to me, even from you know, being in high school and college,to try to make things better, so in any job that I've had. You know for myfirst job out of college was working at the Food Bank in Chicago, and I hadopportunities to work with people to build better systems for Pood, pantriesand soup kitchens and shelters, and I'm like never, okay with it just beingsort of good enough. So it's sort of transcended into my nonprofit work thatbrought me into health care and in health care. I had the opportunity tojoin a start up, that was electronic registration for health care, healthoffices and that's when I really started to move more intoimplementation and really challenging project management. Work reallychallenging issues that you're working collaborative ly to solve withtechnology and people so sort of t e. The trend, through all of my jobs, hasbeen people process and technology and systems, and really at the end of theday like. That is what the definition of revenue operations is. So it's sortof been a really nice, a nice way to sort of cap off all the things that areimportant to me and that I think in my strength I love that you sort of ledinto my to one of my sort of one of my questions, which is exactly to yourpoint. Right Ravo is so new, and yet it's so in demand. Everybody feels likethey need a revenant operations...

...function in their company, so youmentioned it's people, its systems, it's processes its technology. But whatis the formal definition that you might use if we're thinking and what's theoutcome? You know when we think about we've invested I'm on the Co Blue Board,Jena's building this amazing rev ops function. What should I expect to seeover six and twelve months? That tells me that they're out that the functionis performing well yeah, I think there's a few ways tothink about it when I originally did sort of the idea of coming together.With this rule, I thought about it in terms of collaboration plus alignment,equal strategic growth, that was sort of like what I pitched and, at the endof the day. I think what success looks like for me in this role and and whatthey've bought into it with this idea is that we will have better systems andprocesses internally and the way to measure that is really sort of how yourstake holders are feeling at the end of the day, about what work is like reallyreducing that friction. That happens, sort of naturally, when you, when youhave this work, so I think that's one important way. Also, I think they'rereally looking to me to be an agnostic, neutral person here. The reason rebabsis important is this: is a function that doesn't live in a silo whichdoesn't live in a specific function like marketing or sales. It's reallydesigned to be the person who is the realist and sometimes pointing at theuncomfortable truth. So really, you know, I think I'm often relied on daytoday. Is that person and that's important to them? You know asking theright questions and leveraging technology in the right way. I think ayear from now, if I don't have our text deck cleaned up, if I don't have reallystrong technical processes with sales fors and with our you know, integratingsystems, then I will have done something very wrong. So that's acentral component that I think everybody internally is really excitedand looking for at the end of the day, though, you know we have okaysinternally. So I have objectives and you know sort of t results and in thisrevenue operations role it was really important to me to have my objectives:Tiedto revenue, not just because it's in your title, you know, we all say reops, but because really the work that we're doing should support an increasein revenue and, if you're not seeing each of your reps each of your asselling more and bringing more in than you're, not making them pact and you're,not helping, so that's really sort of what I'm working towards. I love itwhen you think about alignment that word gets bandied about a lot. What arethe key elements? Do you think that that foster or are required to drivealignment? And I guess you know I'll- lead the witness a little bit one ofthe things when I talk to people on the show. We always talk about a singlesource of truth for data and trying to make sure that different functionsaren't all referencing their own spreadsheet. That has a differentnumber. That's one of the mechanism through which we drive alignment. Butwhen I say that you know what does it mean for you and what ideas come tomind yeah, so a few things a couple of years ago here if blue board are okay,our process that I mentioned before each team would sort of go off, come upwith their direction and then present it to everybody and go in there. Youknow get take their marching orders that they created for themselves andrun and what we've really done over the past year, or so as think about how wecan change our objectives to be company objectives with each team having keyresults that sort of thread up through that company level objective and that'sreally helped with alignment, because now it's not just one functionary, asyou know, job to do something. It's a team, a sub committee, if you will havepeople across functions that have to work together and I think the morepeople work together, the more that alignment happens really. So I thinkthat's one important thing to think about organizational goals with crossfunctional key results where people work together. Additionally, I thinksomething, as simple is having a meeting where people have to talk toeach other. So I know internally, I joke, but I love to put meetings on thecalendar, but at the end of the day, especially in a remote world, it's soeasy to just forget to talk to each...

...other and the amount of things that getmissed or not shared or not. Brainstormed, about is a lot even whenyou're in office, but it's even more now that we're in more of a remoteculture, so getting people on the phone to look at things to analyze togetherto brain storm is like very important and, in my opinion, having like a rebops function to sort of have that accountability for driving. That helpsmake sure that it's happening where it might not organically happen. If teamsare responsible for initiating that, I'm also somebody that tends to likemeetings. Meanwhile, there's like a whole group of people that don't likepeople like you and me Jen, and they are very against meetings and thensometimes I'm on a meeting, and it feels like we invited the whole companyand it doesn't require the whole company to make this particulardecision. So I'm always cognizant of trying to balance the need to bringpeople together to find common ground at the same time that the more peopleare in a meeting the more expensive. The meeting is from the perspective ofthe time of your employees. So how do you balance that tension of making surethe right people are in the room but you're still getting enough peoplethere, so that you can find that alignment and collaboration? Yeah twothings come to mind. First, is I think something that we're working to dobetter on internally and companies may struggle with. This also is making surethat you're empowering your individual contributors and people throughout thefunction area to own tasks within some of these subcommittees, so everythingdoesn't have to be the leader of the group. It always doesn't have to be oneperson. I do think that really making a cohesive organization where people areexcited and aligned and understand the mission means that people at all sortof ranks have involvement in these bigger projects. So I think, thinkingabout who needs to be there and really challenging people to give a delegateto be responsible and have ownership. Its professional developmentopportunity gets a new voice to the table. I think, depending on theproject, that's a great way to think about it. The second thought that cameto mind is having a really crisp facilitation of those meetings. So I dopride myself on having very strong meetings. I have you know an agenda, Idrive it pretty quickly. You know we have good fun banter throughout, but Ihope that people internally aren't like Gen doesn't drive. You know anefficient meeting, so I think efficiency and doing a good job ofsummarizing and doing the like too long did read at the end is a great way tokeep people's engagement because you know they're at home and they're on thecomputer and there's definitely things happening the last. I thought that sortof came to mind as everybody doesn't retain information the same way and ifyou're, in a function, if you're in a role where you're working withdepartment, leaders or like up and coming department leaders like theseare type people they're, often control freaks, and it's important that yougive information and more than one way so that they could. You know, control alittle bit of how they retain and accept that information from you. Sothat's where the people massaing almost comes in and is so key to this role. Ilove all of that. It's so important. Well, just when we're on the topic, wecan give a one or two tactics to the folks that are listening any number one.No, no or you know top two pet peeves when it comes to meeting things that weabsolutely shouldn't do because they drive you crazy and in your opinion,they lead to terrible meetings. Yeah, there's a difference betweenbrain storming and meandering off and to your ideas like publicly right. So Ithink, as a facilitators, ICH are important to you, like tactfully, bringthings back to the relevant topic. That's really top of mind for themajority of the folks on the call so really being strong and not shy aboutinterjecting and saying that's great or I don't know if I agree, but we need totake that off line, and the key here is: If you take something off line,somebody has to make sure it happens right and that's where, if you havesomebody who's, facilitating the meeting and is strong and it's theirjob to sort of do this, they can have that accountability for making surethat people are taking those off line.

You know a lot of times, people forgetabout it or don't think it's that important, which is great, that it didits job. You got it off the conversation, so I think reallyfacilitating strongly around me enduring versus, like actual functional.Brainstorming is important. I also you know it's a fine line between gettingthe agenda out to people so far in advance, so they can think sothoughtfully about what they want and how they're going to get what they wantand strategize versus getting it to them in enough time to be prepared, butactually come in sort of this vulnerable and like collaborative waylike coordination and collaboration are different right. Coordinations, likeyou know what you want, you have a plan you're coming in you're strategizingagainst it. There's sort of like this calculated element. Collaboration isreally coming in with an idea and the coming out with a shared concept, and Ithink, if you're sending the agenda out, so people can be prepared, but notmaybe over prepared. That's something. I've always seen success with like sendit like the day before, or you know the night the evening before an afternoonmeeting the next day. I do think agendas do a great job to driveconversation but give people a head start. I love it and your point is:send it the night before, but don't send it the week before, so that theycan form their views dig into their views and then they're not as open toyou know the magic that wall happened through true collaboration. Exactlybecause the reality is there's two people right. There's the person whoreads it the week before and then spends a week calculating everythingthey want to do in that meeting and then there's the person who doesn'topen it until ten minutes before the beating. So I feel like, if you send itlike the day before you really capture that sweet spot of people beingthoughtful and being prepared and not surprised, but also not maybeoverworking in advance or being you know, waiting until that very lastminute. Like those oaks, I love that it's great one more question on reopendthen I actually want to. I would love to hear about your transition from notfor profit to for profit on what your key lessons there were, but before weget there, what's the piece of advice that you can give you just started theREV ops function. There's all of this hype and mania around re OPS, all overthe world, new categories being created within REV OPS. What's your advice topeople that are embarking on their own journey to start a revenue operationsfunction within their company, yeah, that's a great question and thehype is real. I mean it's everywhere. I can't I've just I'm saturated withreading blog posts and webers and like job postings and it's great, but it'syou know, I think it's so cheesy when people say drinking from a fire hose,but it like really feels like that. You know there's just so much and there'sso much conflicting information. So I think, at the end of the day, a coupleof things that some really smart folks in the community, many of which I'vemet through the revenue collective. But what they've shared with me is you'renot going to boil the ocean. Don't try to do everything, be really crisp andclear on two or three small items that are actually big so, for example,cleaning up our data structure and standardizing our port for all teams tolook at every week, so we're monitoring together. That sounds easy, but that isvery hard. So if you stick with that one objective: There's lots of tasksand conversations and iterations that have to happen in there. If you havethat focus even on something that doesn't feel gigantic, you can reallymake impact full change quickly, so I think really picking two or threethings: sticking by it and moving forward. He this thing to think about is my all.This is where I am like right now, I'm planning and I'm thinking about. How doI do this? So how I'm viewing it now is those big objectives that sound smallbut they're, actually really big. So I have two or three of those, but youalso have to like think about some of the smaller gravel that goes aroundthose big rocks and when I say smaller, gravel, I'm thinking about the lowhanging fruit to help make processes better for your team hear somebody talkto you about something they don't think is working really set up a system tobetter communicate about bugs and issues. So you can work with your sortof vendors on your technology systems..., like I think, there's small thingsthat you do need to think about doing. But if you have those big rocks thatare dieting sort of your data day plans and your you know week to week, plansyou'll be in good shape. We just have to keep talking to people. That's thebiggest thing that you know you run into a risk if you stop talking topeople you're missing out and what's actually happening and we're almostlike client success, reps for our internal teams, right, like it's ourjob, to help and think everything work. So it's great advice and that's exactlyright- that Boure not an ae you're, not a c SM, and so, if you're not talkingto the people that are talking to your customers than you could potentiallymiss out on something and then and then that's like the worst part of being toconsultant when all the people think that you don't quite get what'shappening in the business yeah last question. For me, it's been great tohave you on the show, but you did mention that you know you got yourmasters or your degree in social work. You work for non profits for a big partof your life. You then transitioned into for profit. How was thattransition? I'm just curious for people out there, and I guess one of thereasons I'm curious is because the economy is is funneling, capital andopportunities and jobs to you know software, to recurring revenue,businesses to SASS and there's probably lots of people with lots of differentbackgrounds that don't quite have the experience and sat specifically and maybe in for profit. More generally, what was your transition like in any adviceor lessons learned from the movement from not for profit to for profit? Yeah,that's a great question, so I feel like there are so many skillsyou learn. So my masters in social work obvious a lot of people number of it.Don't necessarily have a social work degree specifically, but a lot of folksin non profit are doing it because they want to make change. They want to help.They want to have an impact, and when I was younger in my career, it was reallyimportant to me to have it aligned with sort of these non profit missions and,as time went on. Sometimes in nonprofit things don't work as quickly as you'd,like things aren't as efficient as you want them to be, and I'm an impatientperson and I'm sure, there's other impatient folks out there and nonprofitto me. Moving from non profit felt like an opportunity to get into a worldwhere I can work in a more fast paced environment, where I can be a littlebit more nimble and flexible and really work in a consultative sort of projectworld. For me, I was really fortunate because the start up that I picked tomove to from the non profit space with healthcare software and after managinga community health center. I saw how hard it is to do the job of a frontdesk person at the doctor's office. It's wildly challenging, but I have somuch respect for the people that do that job and I was able to sort ofreposition my interest in helping people by thinking about how I'mhelping ultimately, these resources in these doctors offices check patients inand a more efficient way. So I really sort of was able to take that passionfor helping and sort of Morphin into my mind into how my product is a solutionthat actually does help impact patients and staff. I'm fortunate, because, withBlue Board, you know, I was able it's a similar idea here, like we want toempower employees to engage in. You know their passions and their interestchallenge their comfort zones. Do those things that make you feel alive andhuman and those things that make you feel like you're connecting with others.So I feel like my ultimate goal here of always working with people and helpingpeople be better and helping systems be better, really sort of threaded nicelythrough my career yeah. The other thing I would say islike if you are in a non profit space or you're in a very nice startup spaceand you're, really thinking about moving into another industry. I thinkthat there's so much opportunity for people who think differently to joincompanies and help make change. That's positive and new. You know mostcompanies need somebody who helps them.

Do it a different way. You know you gotto break out of that. That's how we've always done it mentality and reallythere's just so many job opportunities right now that requires so manydifferent skill sets, and I just encourage anybody to really sort ofthink about what brings them the most joy and what aligns their strength andgo for it, because there's so much out there that you can do awesome. Genewe're almost at the end of our time together. We'll talk, of course, onFriday for Friday fundamentals, but before we get there, one of the lastthings we like to do is pay it for it a little bit and think about ideas, books,authors, former managers, anybody or anything that's been particularlyinfluential to you. That's helped you get where you are today that you wantus to know about when I frame it like that who comes to mind or what comes tomind that you think we should a book, we should read it's a podcast. Weshould listen to it's a person. We should look up on Linkin who comes tomind a yeah. I have two sort of thoughts that come to mind. One isthere is a podcast called manager, tool, manager, hyphen tools, and when I I wasnewer in my career, transitioning from non profit into start up and then Istarted working my way up into management. This is just anoverwhelming resource for just about any scenario and use case like theyreally have content that's relevant to everyone, especially people who arenewer managers or managers, or maybe just sort of like burns out or feelingin a funk. It really energizes you to sort of listen to a lot of what they'retalking about on that podcast. So I really recommend that, additionally, Ido think it sounds cheesy people say like it changed the traduct of mycareer, but I was gifted a book, Clifton Strength, finder and it'sbasically a book of all these different strengths and you take a little quiz,but I liked it better than any other sort of personality or skill assessment,because it really boiled you down to about five strength and when I got myresults back from this book and I sort of read about all these strengths, myfive strengths all aligned so well with this new role in revenue operations,and it really gave me sort of the the push and the momentum and the energy tothink about how I can pitch this new role and how I can really help ourbusiness with the skills that I have so highly recommend. Thinking about thatI've, given it to many people as a gift. I should probably get like a kick backat this point, but highly recommend Clifton strength. Finder book, awesome,Clifton, strength, finder Gen. It's been great having you on the show thisweek. If folks want to reach out to you, are you okay with that? Maybe they wantto learn more about re vop. Maybe they want to learn more about blue board.Are you okay and if so, what's your preferred method of Communication Yeah?Absolutely I would love to talk to anyone who's interested in chatting. Iam newer to this, so I'm learning and I learn every day and I would love tohelp anybody who is also learning with the knowledge that I might have so youcan always reach out to me at Gen at Leeboard Com of one end, Gen Atoro, orlook me up on lint in Gen. Delton, awesome, Gen, thanks! So much for beingon the show and we'll talk to you on Friday for Friday fundamentals, a.

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