The Sales Hacker Podcast
The Sales Hacker Podcast

Episode · 7 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. Hey everybody, it's Sam Jacobs. Welcome to a special bonusepisode of the SALESACER podcast. Today on the show we've got Jen Nelson,the newly self appointed director of Revenue Operations for Blue Board. Blue Boards andincredible company. What they do is they sort of flip experience on its headas a means of rewarding and recognizing great people on your team and your company, and so they give you and deliver all of these incredible experiences. It'sa really cool company. They're growing really fast and JEN's and exceptional revops leaderand really a great business person in human being. We have a great conversation. So thanks for listening to the Special Bonus episode. We don't have ournormal slate of sponsors for this one. We just have, as Brandon Bartonwould say on his show, is this a good time, all meat andno fillers. So let's get right into my conversation with Jen Nelson from BlueBird. Hey everybody, it's Sam Jacobs. Welcome to the sales hacker podcast.Today on the show we've got Jen Nelson. Jen Nelson joined Blue Boardin two thousand and nineteen after spending over a decade leading projects, programs andchange in various industries. Blue Board is the world's leading experiential reward and recognitionprogram and there jen created a rev ops role in which she now serves.With the growth focused approach, jen seeks to standardize reporting, increase trans currencyand communication and optimized tech solutions. Jen, welcome to the show. Thank you, it's great to be here. We're excited to have you. SoI just gave a little bit of an overview of blue board, but wealways like to start with the baseball card where we learn a little bit moreabout the company and the role that you're currently in. So your name isJen Nelson. You're the director of revenue operations for Blue Board. I readthe description, but in your opinion and your words, what is Blue Board? Yeah, Blue Board is a solution for companies of all sizes. Soyou have a really nice, seamless way to recognize your top performing professionals withmeaningful recognition. So the idea here is that gift cards, point systems,those really fall flat and they don't hit the mark. We offer experiential recognition, meaning that people can be recognized with the opportunity to do something that's meaningfuland interesting to them. We have a full menu that's available, so thingslike people can learn two kite surf, they can swim with whale sharks ordo something that maybe is a little bit more close to home, like ourmaster class series learning, you know, a new skill. Really we haveexperiences for every type of personality and that drives, you know, internal communicationand social ability around you know, like sharing and chatting more about why you'rerecognizing what your interests are. Amazing. Sounds amazing. How old is thecompany? Yeah, we've been around for I think seven years. We havereally grown in the pass couple of years. I have a lot of enterprise clientsnow working really hard to bring many more program types out there into theworld. It's exciting. We've had a really wild year coming out of COVIDand roughly, how big is the company? You can answer that in any way. You want number of employees, rough revenue range? Yeah, sowhen I started two and a half years ago we were about twenty five orso employees. Were at about a hundred and forty employees now, so we'rereally in a great place. We just secured around a funding last year,so we've been hiring like crazy. We're really ramping up all of our teamsand it's an exciting time to be a blue board and it's exciting time forour clients too, because such new and interesting stuff as just being added toour platform in our menu all the time. and was was covid a good thing? I imagine. I imagine it was. But how did blue boardrespond to covid and what's been your growth over the last year? So,yeah, it's been interesting. You know, I think like most smaller startups,you hit this moment where like, oh my gosh, like how arewe going to rebound from this? How are we going to react? Theyou know, everything sort of shut down and at the end of the day, I think we sort of had unique new use cases come up from covid. People are now our remote workforce.

They're feeling less connected than ever.People aren't always engaging in their interests because things are closed. So our clientsare really great and they're very loyal and they you know, our clients loveus, which is an awesome thing that I'm able to say here right andnew clients started looking for ways to recognize employees during this time. So westarted to see new use cases Presidents Club, you know, a better way toreally recognize top performing sales folks with an opportunity to do an experience that'srelevant meaningful to them that they could talk about. You know, maybe somebodywants to go see the northern life to their wife and doesn't necessarily want togo to Cabbo. So it's been interesting. We've had a lot of new sortof opportunities to bring experiential recognition out there, so much so that atthe end of last year we were really busy. We've grown some of ourteams so much just to support the new client in flux, and that's partof how I was able to sort of migrate into this new role and revenueoperations, because there were lots of gaps and lots of opportunities to sort ofdo our work better and more efficiently as that scale hit so fast. Sothe role is new, but you've been at the company two and a halfyears. Is that right? Yeah, yeah, I my most recent professionalbackground is implementation. So implementations a great role because you're really responsible for standingup clients and you work with everybody internal. You have to work well with product, you have to work well with you know, the client success teamworkreally well with sales. You're helping with presales. So an implementation you reallyhave an opportunity to be a part of all the different function areas to getwork done, which is really great. So I stood up an implementation teaminternally here, a blue board, which we've now sort of moved into ourclient success division. And you know, towards the end of last year Ireally you know, we were all sort of noticing these gaps and these challengesand I brought the idea to our founders that we consider starting a revenue opsfunction to help fill in those gaps and think about how we're going to bemore aligned across teams and really meet the need in the demand that we wereseeing. So they agreed. I apparently did a great job on that pitch. So now I am standing up a REBOB's function here repard. So I'vebeen initially doing it for the past few months. Awesome. And do youhave a background and revenue operations if it sort of yeah, I mean Iguess that's the first question. I have many more, but no, Idon't think anybody does. It's so new and it's been interesting to me tolearn from people in the community. So I was actually a member of therevenue collective. Now and everybody that's in this sort of world seems to comefrom so many different places. For me personally, my journey is pretty uniquebecause I came from a nonpo profit background. I have my master's and social work. It was always important to meet even from, you know, beingin high school and college, to try to make things better. So inany job that I've had, you know, for my first job out of collegewas working at the Food Bank in Chicago and I had opportunities to workwith people to build better systems for food pantries and soup kitchens and shelters,and I'm like never okay with it just being sort of good enough. Soit's sort of transcended into my nonprofit work. That brought me into healthcare, andin healthcare I have the opportunity to join a startup that was electronic registrationfor healthcare health offices, and that's when I really started to move more intoimplementation and really challenging project management work, really challenging issues that you're working collaborativelyto solve with technology and people. So sort of the the trend through allof my jobs has been people, process and technology and systems and really,at the end of the day, like that is what the definition of revenueoperations is. So it's sort of been a really nice a nice way tosort of cap off all the things that are important to me and that Ithink are my strengths. I love that you sort of led into my toone of my sort of one of my questions, which is exactly to yourpoint right. REV OPS is so new and yet it's so in demand.Everybody feels like they need a revenue operations function in their company. So youmentioned it's people, it's systems, it's...

...processes, is technology, but whatis the formal definition that you might use? If we're thinking and what's the outcome? You know, when we think about we've invested blue on the CEOBlue Board, Jena is building this amazing revops function. What should I expectto see over six and twelve months? That tells me that the opt thatthe function is performing well. Yeah, I think there's a few ways tothink about it. When I originally did sort of the idea of coming togetherwith this role, I thought about it in terms of collaboration plus alignment,equal strategic growth. That was sort of like what I pitched and at theend of the day, I think what success looks like for me in thisrole and what they've bought into it with this idea, is that we willhave better systems and processes internally, and the way to measure that is reallysort of how your stakeholders are feeling at the end of the day about whatwork is like, really reducing that friction that happens sort of naturally when youwhen you have this work. So I think that's one important way. Also, I think they're really looking to me to be an agnostic, neutral personhere. The reason rebops is important is this is a function that doesn't livein a PSILO, it doesn't live in a specific function like marketing or sales. It's really designed to be the person who is the realist and sometimes pointingat the uncomfortable truth. So really, you know, I think I'm oftenrelied on day today is that person and that's important to them, you know, asking the right questions and leveraging technology in the right way. I thinka year from now, if I don't have our text DEC cleaned up,if I don't have really strong technical processes with sales force and with our youknow, integrating systems, then I will have done something very wrong. Sothat's a central component that I think everybody internally is really excited and looking for. At the end of the day, though, you know, we haveokay ours internally. So I have objectives and, you know, sort ofq results, and in this revenue operations role, it was really important tome to have my objectives tied to revenue, not just because it's in your title, you know, we all say reb ups, but because really thework that we're doing should support an increase in revenue and if you're not seeingeach of your reps, each of your a's, selling more and bringing morein than you're not making the impact and you're not helping. So that's reallysort of what I'm working forwards. I love it when you think about alignment. That word gets bandied about a lot. What are the key elements do youthink that that foster or are required to drive alignment? And I guessyou know I'll lead the witness a little bit. One of the things whenI talk to people on the show we always talk about a single source oftruth for data and trying to make sure that different functions aren't all referencing theirown spreadsheet that has a different number as one of the mechanisms through which wedrive alignment. But when I say that, you know, what does it meanfor you and what ideas come to mind? Yeah, so a fewthings a couple of years ago here at Blue Board are okay, our processthat I mentioned before. Each team it's sort of go off, come upwith their direction and then presented to everybody. Go in there, you know,get take their marching orders that they created for themselves and run. Andwhat we've really done over the past year or so is think about how wecan change our objectives to be company objectives, with each team having key results thatsort of thread up through that company level objective, and that's really helpedwith alignment, because now it's not just one function areas you know, jobto do something. It's a team, a subcommittee if you will, ofpeople across functions that have to work together, and I think the more people worktogether, the more that alignment happens really so I think that's one importantthing to think about organizational goals with cross functional key results where people work together. Additionally, I think something as simple is having a meeting where people haveto talk to each other. So I know internally I joke that I loveto put meetings on the calendar, but at the end of the day,especially in a remote world, it's so easy to just forget to talk toeach other and the amount of things that...

...get missed or not shared or notbrainstormed about is a lot, even when you're in office, but it's evenmore now that were in more of a remote culture. So getting people onthe phone to look at things, to analyze together, to brainstorm is likevery important and in my opinion, having like a rebops function to sort ofhave that accountability for driving that helps make sure that it's happening where it mightnot organically happen if teams are responsible for initiating that. I'm also somebody thattends to like meetings. Meanwhile, there's like a whole group of people thatdon't like people like you and me, Jen, and they are very againstmeetings. And then sometimes I'm on a meeting and it feels like we invitedthe whole company and it doesn't require the whole company to make this particular decision. So I'm always cognizant of trying to balance the need to bring people togetherto find common ground at the same time that the more people are in ameeting, the more expensive the meeting is from the perspective of the time ofyour employees. So how do you balance that tension of making sure the rightpeople are in the room but you're still getting enough people there so that youcan find that alignment and collaboration? Yeah, two things come to mind. Firstis, I think, something that we're working to do better on internallyand companies may struggle with this. Also is making sure that you're empowering yourindividual contributors and people throughout the function area to own tasks within some of thesesub committees, so everything doesn't have to be the leader of the group.It always doesn't have to be one person. I do think that really making acohesive organization or people are excited and aligned and understand the mission means thatpeople at all sort of ranks have involvement in these bigger projects. So Ithink thinking about who needs to be there and really challenging people to give adelegate to be responsible and have ownership. It's professional development opportunity gets a newvoice to the table. I think, depending on the project that's a greatway to think about it. And the second thought that came to mind ishaving a really crisp facilitation of those meetings. So I do pride myself on havingvery strong meetings. I have, you know, an agenda. Idrive it pretty quickly. You know, we have good fun banter or throughout, but I hope that people internally aren't like Jen doesn't drive, you know, an efficient meeting. So I think efficiency and doing a good job ofsummarizing and doing the like. Too Long, didn't read at the end, isa great way to keep people's engagement because you know they're at home andthey're on the computer and there's definitely things happening. The last I thought thatsort of came to mind as everybody doesn't retain information the same way and ifyou're in a function, if you're in a roll where you're working with departmentleaders or like upandcoming department leaders like these are type a people. They're oftencontrol freaks and it's important that you give information and more than one way,so that they could, you know, control a little bit of how theyretain and accept that information from you. So that's where the people massaging almostcomes in. And is so key to this role. I love all ofthat. It's so important. While just when we're on the topic, wecan give a one or two tactics to the folks that are listening. Anynumber one, no, no, or, you know, top two pet peeveswhen it comes to meeting things that we absolutely shouldn't do because they driveyou crazy in your opinion, they lead to terrible meetings. Yeah, there'sa difference between brainstorming and meandering off and to your ideas like publicly. Right. So I think as a facilitator, which you're important to, like tactfullybring things back to the relevant topic that's really top of mind for the majorityof 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 thatwe need to take that offline. And the key here is if you takesomething offline, somebody has to make sure it happens right, and that's where, if you have somebody 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 offline. You...

...know, a lot of times peopleforget about it or don't think it's that important, which is great that itdid its job. You got it off the conversation. So I think reallyfacilitating strongly around meandering versus like actual functional brainstorming is important. I also youknow, it's a fine line between getting the agenda out to people so farin advance so they can think so thoughtfully about what they want and how they'regoing to get what they want and strategize, versus getting it to them and enoughtime to be prepared but actually common sort of this vulnerable and like collaborativeway. Like coordination and collaboration are different. Right coordinations like you know what youwant, you have a plan, you're coming in, you're strategizing againstit. There's sort of like this calculated element. Collaboration is really coming inwith an idea and then coming out with a shared concept. And I thinkif you're sending that agenda out so people can be prepared but not maybe overprepared, that's something I've always seen success with, like send it like the day beforeor, you know, the night, the evening before an afternoon meeting thenext day. I do think agendas do a great job to drive conversation, but give people ahead start. I love it and your point, andsend it the night before, but don't send it the week before so thatthey can form their views dig into their views and then they're not as opento, you know, the magic that happened through true collaboration exactly, becausethe reality is there's two people right. There's the person who reads it theweek before and then spends a week calculating everything they want to do in thatmeeting, and then there's the person who doesn't open until ten minutes before themeeting. So I feel like if you send it like the day before,you really capture that sweet spot of people being thoughtful and being prepared and notsurprised but also not maybe over working in advance or being, you know,waiting until that very last minute like those folks. I love that. It'sgreat. One more question on Rev ops and then I actually want to loveto hear about your transition from not for profit to for profit, on whatyour key lessons there were. But before we get there, what's a pieceof a device that you can give? You just started the revops function.There's all of this hype and mania around Rev ops all over the world.New categories being created within REV OPS. What's your advice to people that areembarking on their own journey to start a revenue operations function within their company?Yeah, that's a great question and the hype is real. I mean it'severywhere. I can't I've just am saturated with reading blog post and webinars andlike job postings and it's great, but it it's you know, I thinkit's so cheesing when people stay drinking from a firehouse, but it like reallyfeels like that. You know, there's just so much and there's so muchconflicting 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're notgoing to boil the ocean. Don't try to do everything. Be Really Crispand clear on two or three small items that are actually big. So,for example, cleaning up our data structure and standardizing our port ball teams tolook at every week so we're monitoring together. That sounds easy but that is veryhard. So if you stick with that one objective, there's lots oftasks and conversations and iterations that have to happen in there. If you havethat focus, even on something that doesn't feel gigantic, you can really makeimpact full change quickly. So I think really picking two or three things,sticking by it and moving forward. said that, the second thing to thinkabout is, I think, my other this is where I am like rightnow. I'm planning and I'm thinking about how do I do this? Sohow I'm viewing it now is those big objectives that sound small but they're actuallyreally big. So I have two or three of those. But you alsohave to like think about some of the smaller gravel that goes around those bigrocks. And when I say smaller grable, I'm thinking about the lowhanging fruit tohelp make processes better for your team here. Somebody talk to you aboutsomething they don't think is working, really set up a system to better communicateabout bugs and issues so you can work with your sort of vendors on yourtechnology system them. So, like,...

I think there's small things that youdo need to think about doing, but if you have those big rocks thatare guiding sort of your daytoday plans and your you know week to week plans, you'll be in good shape. We just have to keep talking to people. That's the biggest thing that you know, you run into a risk if youstop talking to people. You're missing out on what's actually happening. Andwe're almost like client success reps for our internal teams right, like it's ourjob to help and make everything work. So it's great advice and that's exactlyright. That because you're not an AE, you're not a CSM, and soif you're not talking to the people that are talking to your customers,then you could potentially miss out on something and then, and then that's likethe worst part of being a consultant when all the people think that you don'tquite get what's happening in the business. Yeah, last question for me.It's been great to have you on the show, but you did mention that, you know, you got your masters or your degree in social work.You work for nonprofits for a big part of your life. You then transitionedinto for profit. How is that transition? I'm just curious for people out there, and I guess one of the reasons I'm curious is because the economyis is funneling capital and opportunities and jobs to you know, software, torecurring revenue businesses, to Sass, and there's probably lots of people with lotsof different backgrounds that don't quite have the experience in Sass specifically and maybe infor profit more generally. What was your transition like in any advice or lessonslearned from the movement from not for profit to for profit? Yeah, that'sa great question. So I feel like there are so many skills you learn. So I've my master's and social work. Obvious a lot of people nonprofit don'tnecessarily have a social work degree specifically, but a lot of folks in nonprofitare 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 careerit was really important to me to have it aligned with sort of these nonprofitmissions. And as time went on, sometimes a nonprofit things don't work asquickly as you'd like, things aren't efficient as you want them to be,and I'm an impatient person, and I'm sure there's other impatient folks out thereand nonprofit. To Me, moving from nonprofit felt like an opportunity to getinto a world where I can work in a more fast paced environment, whereI can be a little bit more nimble and flexible and really work in aconsultative sort of project world. For me, I was really fortunate because the startupthat I picked to move to from the nonprofit space was healthcare software andafter managing a community health center, I saw how hard it is to dothe job of a front desk person at the doctor's office. It's wildly challenging, but I have so much respect for the people that do that job andI was able to sort of reposition my interest in helping people by thinking abouthow I'm helping ultimately these resources in these doctors offices Chi patients in in amore efficient way. So I really sort of was able to take that passionfor helping and sort of morphit into my mind into how my product is asolution that actually does help impact patients and staff. I'm fortunate because with BlueBoard, you know, I was able it's a similar idea here, likewe want to empower employees to engage in, you know, their passions and theirinterests, challenge their comfort zones, do those things that make you feelalive and human 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 andhelping people be better and helping systems be better really sort of threaded nicely throughmy career. Yeah, the other thing I would say is, like,if you are in a nonprofit space or you're in a very niche startup spaceand you're really thinking about moving into another industry, I think that there's somuch opportunity for people who think differently to join companies and help make change that'spositive and new. You know, most companies need somebody who helps them doit a different way. You know,... got to break out of that. That's how we've always done it. Mentality, and really there's just somany job opportunities right now that requires so many different skill sets and I justencourage anybody to really sort of think about what brings them the most joy andwhat aligns of their strengths and go for it, because there's so much outthere that you can do awesome. Jen or almost at the end of ourtime together, we'll talk, of course, on Friday for Friday fundamentals, butbefore we get there, one of the last things we like to dois pay it forward a little bit and think about ideas, books, authors, former managers, anybody or anything that's been particularly influential to you that's helpedyou get where you are today that you want us to know about. WhenI frame it like that, who comes to mind, or what comes tomind that you think we should to book, we should read, it's a podcastwe should listen to, it's a person we should look up on Linkedin. WHO COMES TO MIND? Yeah, I have two sort of thoughts thatcome to mind. One is there's a podcast called manager tools, manager andtools, and when I was newer in my career, transitioning from nonprofit intoo start up and then I started working my way up into management, thisis just an overwhelming resource for just about any scenario and use case like theyreally have content that's relevant to everyone, especially people who are newer managers ormanagers who or maybe just sort of like burnt out or feeling in 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 and people say like it changed the trajectory of mycareer. But I was gifted a book Clifton strengths finder, and it's basicallya book of all these different strengths and you take a little quiz. ButI liked it better than any other sort of personality or skill assessment because itreally boiled you down to about five strengths. And when I got my results backfrom 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 itreally gave me sort of the the push in the momentum and the energy tothink about how I can pitch this new role and how I can really helpour business with the skills that I have. So highly recommend thinking about that.I've given it to many people as a gift. I should probably getlike a kick back at this point, but highly recommend Clifton strengths finder book. Awesome Clifton strengths finder. Jen, it's been great having you on theshow this week. If folks want to reach out to you, are youokay with that? Maybe they want to learn more about revops, maybe theywant to learn more about blue board. Are you okay? And if sowhat's your preferred method of communication? Yeah, absolutely, I would love to talkto anyone who's interested in chatting. I am newer to this, soI'm learning and I learn every day and I would love to help anybody whois also learning with the knowledge that I might have. Do you can alwaysreach out to me at Gen at blueboardcom with one end jen at Weleboardcom,or look me up on Linkedin. Jen Nelson. Awesome, Jen. Thanksso much for being on the show and we'll talk to you on Friday forFriday fundamentals.

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