The Sales Hacker Podcast
The Sales Hacker Podcast

Episode · 1 year 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 bonus episode 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 and incredible company. What they do is they sort of flip experience on its head as 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's a really cool company. They're growing really fast and JEN's and exceptional revops leader and 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 our normal slate of sponsors for this one. We just have, as Brandon Barton would say on his show, is this a good time, all meat and no fillers. So let's get right into my conversation with Jen Nelson from Blue Bird. 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 Board in two thousand and nineteen after spending over a decade leading projects, programs and change in various industries. Blue Board is the world's leading experiential reward and recognition program 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 currency and communication and optimized tech solutions. Jen, welcome to the show. Thank you, it's great to be here. We're excited to have you. So I just gave a little bit of an overview of blue board, but we always like to start with the baseball card where we learn a little bit more about the company and the role that you're currently in. So your name is Jen Nelson. You're the director of revenue operations for Blue Board. I read the description, but in your opinion and your words, what is Blue Board? Yeah, Blue Board is a solution for companies of all sizes. So you have a really nice, seamless way to recognize your top performing professionals with meaningful 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 meaningful and interesting to them. We have a full menu that's available, so things like people can learn two kite surf, they can swim with whale sharks or do something that maybe is a little bit more close to home, like our master class series learning, you know, a new skill. Really we have experiences for every type of personality and that drives, you know, internal communication and social ability around you know, like sharing and chatting more about why you're recognizing what your interests are. Amazing. Sounds amazing. How old is the company? Yeah, we've been around for I think seven years. We have really grown in the pass couple of years. I have a lot of enterprise clients now working really hard to bring many more program types out there into the world. It's exciting. We've had a really wild year coming out of COVID and roughly, how big is 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 we were about twenty five or so employees. Were at about a hundred and forty employees now, so we're really 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 teams and it's an exciting time to be a blue board and it's exciting time for our clients too, because such new and interesting stuff as just being added to our platform in our menu all the time. and was was covid a good thing? I imagine. I imagine it was. But how did blue board respond 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 are we going to rebound from this? How are we going to react? The you 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 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 able to say here right and new clients started looking for ways to recognize employees during this time. So we started to see new use cases Presidents Club, you know, a better way to really recognize top performing sales folks with an opportunity to do an experience that's relevant meaningful to them that they could talk about. You know, maybe somebody wants to go see the northern life to their wife and doesn't necessarily want to go to Cabbo. So it's been interesting. We've had a lot of new sort of opportunities to bring experiential recognition out there, so much so that at the end of last year we were really busy. We've grown some of our teams so much just to support the new client in flux, and that's part of how I was able to sort of migrate into this new role and revenue operations, because there were lots of gaps and lots of opportunities to sort of do our work better and more efficiently as that scale hit so fast. So the role is new, but you've been at the company two and a half years. Is that right? Yeah, yeah, I my most recent professional background is implementation. So implementations a great role because you're really responsible for standing up 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 teamwork really well with sales. You're helping with presales. So an implementation you really have an opportunity to be a part of all the different function areas to get work done, which is really great. So I stood up an implementation team internally here, a blue board, which we've now sort of moved into our client success division. And you know, towards the end of last year I really you know, we were all sort of noticing these gaps and these challenges and I brought the idea to our founders that we consider starting a revenue ops function to help fill in those gaps and think about how we're going to be more aligned across teams and really meet the need in the demand that we were seeing. 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've been initially doing it for the past few months. Awesome. And do you have a background and revenue operations if it sort of yeah, I mean I guess that's the first question. I have many more, but no, I don't think anybody does. It's so new and it's been interesting to me to learn from people in the community. So I was actually a member of the revenue collective. Now and everybody that's in this sort of world seems to come from so many different places. For me personally, my journey is pretty unique because 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, being in high school and college, to try to make things better. So in any job that I've had, you know, for my first job out of college was working at the Food Bank in Chicago and I had opportunities to work with 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. So it's sort of transcended into my nonprofit work. That brought me into healthcare, and in healthcare I have the opportunity to join a startup that was electronic registration for healthcare health offices, and that's when I really started to move more into implementation and really challenging project management work, really challenging issues that you're working collaboratively to solve with technology and people. So sort of the the trend through all of 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 revenue operations is. So it's sort of been a really nice a nice way to sort of cap off all the things that are important to me and that I think are my strengths. I love that you sort of led into my to one of my sort of one of my questions, which is exactly to your point 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 you mentioned it's people, it's systems, it's...

...processes, is technology, but what is 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 CEO Blue Board, Jena is building this amazing revops function. What should I expect to see over six and twelve months? That tells me that the opt that the function is performing well. Yeah, I think there's a few ways to think about it. When I originally did sort of the idea of coming together with 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 the end of the day, I think what success looks like for me in this role and what they've bought into it with this idea, is that we will have better systems and processes internally, and the way to measure that is really sort of how your stakeholders are feeling at the end of the day about what work is like, really reducing that friction that happens sort of naturally when you when 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 person here. The reason rebops is important is this is a function that doesn't live in 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 pointing at the uncomfortable truth. So really, you know, I think I'm often relied 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 think a 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 you know, integrating systems, then I will have done something very wrong. So that'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 have okay ours internally. So I have objectives and, you know, sort of q results, and in this revenue operations role, it was really important to me 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 the work that we're doing should support an increase in revenue and if you're not seeing each of your reps, each of your a's, selling more and bringing more in than you're not making the impact and you're not helping. So that's really sort 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 you think that that foster or are required to drive alignment? And I guess you know I'll lead the witness a little bit. One of the things when I talk to people on the show we always talk about a single source of truth for data and trying to make sure that different functions aren't all referencing their own spreadsheet that has a different number as one of the mechanisms through which we drive alignment. But when I say that, you know, what does it mean for you and what ideas come to mind? Yeah, so a few things a couple of years ago here at Blue Board are okay, our process that I mentioned before. Each team it's sort of go off, come up with their direction and then presented to everybody. Go in there, you know, get take their marching orders that they created for themselves and run. And what we've really done over the past year or so is think about how we can change our objectives to be company objectives, with each team having key results that sort of thread up through that company level objective, and that's really helped with alignment, because now it's not just one function areas you know, job to do something. It's a team, a subcommittee if you will, of people across functions that have to work together, and I think the more people work together, the more that alignment happens really so I think that's one important thing 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 have to talk to each other. So I know internally I joke that I love to 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 to each other and the amount of things that...

...get missed or not shared or not brainstormed about is a lot, even when you're in office, but it's even more now that were in more of a remote culture. So getting people on the phone to look at things, to analyze together, to brainstorm is like very important and in my opinion, having like a rebops function to sort of have that accountability for driving that helps make sure that it's happening where it might not organically happen if teams are responsible for initiating that. I'm also somebody that tends to like meetings. Meanwhile, there's like a whole group of people that don't like people like you and me, Jen, and they are very against meetings. And then sometimes I'm on a meeting and it feels like we invited the 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 together to find common ground at the same time that the more people are in a meeting, the more expensive the meeting is from the perspective of the time of your employees. So how do you balance that tension of making sure the right people are in the room but you're still getting enough people there so that you can find that alignment and collaboration? Yeah, two things come to mind. First is, I think, something that we're working to do better on internally and companies may struggle with this. Also is making sure that you're empowering your individual contributors and people throughout the function area to own tasks within some of these sub 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 a cohesive organization or people are excited and aligned and understand the mission means that people at all sort of ranks have involvement in these bigger projects. So I think thinking about who needs to be there and really challenging people to give a delegate to be responsible and have ownership. It's professional development opportunity gets a new voice to the table. I think, depending on the project that's a great way to think about it. And the second thought that came to mind is having a really crisp facilitation of those meetings. So I do pride myself on having very strong meetings. I have, you know, an agenda. I drive 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 of summarizing and doing the like. Too Long, didn't read at the end, is a great way to keep people's engagement because you know they're at home and they're on the computer and there's definitely things happening. The last I thought that sort of came to mind as everybody doesn't retain information the same way and if you're in a function, if you're in a roll where you're working with department leaders or like upandcoming department leaders like these are type a people. They're often control 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 they retain and accept that information from you. So that's where the people massaging almost comes in. And is so key to this role. I love all of that. It's so important. While just when we're on the topic, we can 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 we absolutely shouldn't do because they drive you crazy in your opinion, they lead to terrible meetings. Yeah, there's a 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 tactfully bring things back to the relevant topic that's really top of mind for the majority of the folks on the call. So really being strong and not shy about interjecting and saying that's great or I don't know if I agree, but that we need to take that offline. And the key here is if you take something 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 their job to sort of do this, they can have that accountability for making sure that people are taking those offline. You...

...know, a lot of times people forget about it or don't think it's that important, which is great that it did its job. You got it off the conversation. So I think really facilitating strongly around meandering versus like actual functional brainstorming is important. I also you know, it's a fine line between getting the agenda out to people so far in advance so they can think so thoughtfully about what they want and how they're going to get what they want and strategize, versus getting it to them and enough time to be prepared but actually common sort of this vulnerable and like collaborative way. Like coordination and collaboration are different. Right coordinations like you know what you want, you have a plan, you're coming in, you're strategizing against it. There's sort of like this calculated element. Collaboration is really coming in with an idea and then coming out with a shared concept. And I think if 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 before or, you know, the night, the evening before an afternoon meeting the next day. I do think agendas do a great job to drive conversation, but give people ahead start. I love it and your point, and send it the night before, but don't send it the week before so that they can form their views dig into their views and then they're not as open to, you know, the magic that happened through true collaboration exactly, because the reality is there's two people right. There's the person who reads it the week before and then spends a week calculating everything they want to do in that meeting, and then there's the person who doesn't open until ten minutes before the meeting. 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 not surprised 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's great. One more question on Rev ops and then I actually want to love to hear about your transition from not for profit to for profit, on what your key lessons there were. But before we get there, what's a piece of 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 are embarking 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's everywhere. I can't I've just am saturated with reading blog post and webinars and like job postings and it's great, but it it's you know, I think it's so cheesing when people stay drinking from a firehouse, but it like really feels like that. You know, there's just so much and there's so much conflicting information. So I think at the end of the day, a couple of things that some really smart folks in the community, many of which I've met through the revenue collective. But what they've shared with me is you're not going to boil the ocean. Don't try to do everything. Be Really Crisp and 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 to look at every week so we're monitoring together. That sounds easy but that is very hard. So if you stick with that one objective, there's lots of tasks and conversations and iterations that have to happen in there. If you have that focus, even on something that doesn't feel gigantic, you can really make impact full change quickly. So I think really picking two or three things, sticking by it and moving forward. said that, the second thing to think about is, I think, my other this is where I am like right now. I'm planning and I'm thinking about how do I do this? So how I'm viewing it now is those big objectives that sound small but they're actually really big. So I have two or three of those. But you also have to like think about some of the smaller gravel that goes around those big rocks. And when I say smaller grable, I'm thinking about the lowhanging fruit to help make processes better for your team here. Somebody talk to you about something they don't think is working, really set up a system to better communicate about bugs and issues so you can work with your sort of vendors on your technology system them. So, like,...

I think there's small things that you do need to think about doing, but if you have those big rocks that are 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 you stop talking to people. You're missing out on what's actually happening. And we're almost like client success reps for our internal teams right, like it's our job to help and make everything work. So it's great advice and that's exactly right. That because you're not an AE, you're not a CSM, and so if 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 like the worst part of being a consultant when all the people think that you don't quite 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 transitioned into 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 economy is is funneling capital and opportunities and jobs to you know, software, to recurring revenue businesses, to Sass, and there's probably lots of people with lots of different backgrounds that don't quite have the experience in Sass specifically and maybe in for profit more generally. What was your transition like in any advice or 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 skills you learn. So I've my master's and social work. Obvious a lot of people nonprofit don't necessarily have a social work degree specifically, but a lot of folks in nonprofit 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 really important to me to have it aligned with sort of these nonprofit missions. And as time went on, sometimes a nonprofit things don't work as quickly 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 there and nonprofit. To Me, moving from nonprofit felt like an opportunity to get into a world where I can work in a more fast paced environment, where I can be a little bit more nimble and flexible and really work in a consultative sort of project world. For me, I was really fortunate because the startup that I picked to move to from the nonprofit space was healthcare software and after managing a community health center, I saw how hard it is to do the 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 and I was able to sort of reposition my interest in helping people by thinking about how I'm helping ultimately these resources in these doctors offices Chi patients in in a more efficient way. So I really sort of was able to take that passion for helping and sort of morphit into my mind into how my product is a solution that actually does help impact patients and staff. I'm fortunate because with Blue Board, you know, I was able it's a similar idea here, like we want to empower employees to engage in, you know, their passions and their interests, challenge their comfort zones, do those things that make you feel alive 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 and helping people be better and helping systems be better really sort of threaded nicely through my 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 space and you're really thinking about moving into another industry, I think that there's so much opportunity for people who think differently to join companies and help make change that's positive and new. You know, most companies need somebody who helps them do it 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 so many job opportunities right now that requires so many different skill sets and I just encourage anybody to really sort of think about what brings them the most joy and what aligns of their strengths and go for it, because there's so much out there that you can do awesome. Jen or almost at the end of our time together, we'll talk, of course, on Friday for Friday fundamentals, but before we get there, one of the last things we like to do is 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 helped you get where you are today that you want us to know about. When I frame it like that, who comes to mind, or what comes to mind that you think we should to book, we should read, it's a podcast we should listen to, it's a person we should look up on Linkedin. WHO COMES TO MIND? Yeah, I have two sort of thoughts that come to mind. One is there's a podcast called manager tools, manager and tools, and when I was newer in my career, transitioning from nonprofit in too start up and then I started working my way up into management, this is just an overwhelming resource for just about any scenario and use case like they really have content that's relevant to everyone, especially people who are newer managers or managers 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're talking about on that podcast. So I really recommend that. Additionally, I do think it sounds cheesy and people say like it changed the trajectory of my career. But I was gifted a book Clifton strengths finder, and it's basically 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 strengths. And when I got my results back from this book and I sort of read about all these strengths, my five strengths all aligned so well with this new role in revenue operations and it really gave me sort of the the push in the momentum and the energy to think about how I can pitch this new role and how I can really help our 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 get like 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 the show this week. If folks want to reach out to you, are you okay with that? Maybe they want to learn more about revops, 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. I am newer to this, so I'm learning and I learn every day and I would love to help anybody who is also learning with the knowledge that I might have. Do you can always reach out to me at Gen at blueboardcom with one end jen at Weleboardcom, or look me up on Linkedin. Jen Nelson. Awesome, Jen. Thanks so much for being on the show and we'll talk to you on Friday for Friday fundamentals.

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