You have a culture that is either intentional or not. When you focus on creating a culture, you have to look at the long-term benefits. You have to let go of the excuses of being too busy and focused on the next business building milestone. Creating a culture that genuinely works is humbling and hard. Today’s guest is Joe Welu, Founder of Total Expert. His business was #105 on the 2019 Inc list. We talk about creating a culture that focuses on customer success. Discover how you lead a team of people driven to add value in each customer experience. We look at creating a culture from new perspectives to shape how people work with each other.
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Joe Welu: The Transcript
Target Audience: Joe Welu is the CEO and Founder of Total Expert. Total Expert is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company that created the first enterprise-grade Marketing Operating System (MOS) specifically for regulated financial services organizations. Total Expert’s MOS aligns marketing, sales and compliance in a single system of record, empowering salespeople to grow their marketing and sales efforts while ensuring they stay compliant with complex regulations.
If we can provide value to one customer, we can make them a raving fan, that we can sign another customer. And if we can do that a couple of times, we can end up building a business on top of our customers being successful. Right? And so we started talking to the market and what we learn and we sell software technology, right? And what we learned is that there’s a huge disconnect between software firms and their customers, a lot of them, they sign a contract, they deliver the service, and then you don’t hear from them again, that’s the destination. Right? That’s the like signing the contract is the destination. Maybe it goes to a third party. And what we believe is that, hey, what if we were looked at as a partner? What if we were looked at as somebody that came in and we were going to have a relationship with them to where we’re looking at, how’s the solution working? What additional needs do you have? in the software that we built the solution we deliver? What additional things should we be doing that will help you?
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs, the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host, my name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett [1:31]
Creating a customer culture of customer success? I know it sounds like something that everyone’s doing. But too many companies I see are focused on the product focused on sales focused on you know, other metrics, but really believe that companies must focus on customer success. Nothing matters more than the results. You’re getting your customers if you create a team that’s focused on the customer success elements, and you have something really to be proud of, and we’ll continue you over time. That’s exactly what our guests did today. His name is Joe Welu, He is the CEO of Total Expert. They are focused on the financial industry in the software space. But what you can learn from them is things around why you must develop the leaders inside your company, why you must put customers first how you do that on a day to day basis, and how important the core values are to their overall hiring, development, and firing of employees that in a lot more inside this episode with Joe Welu.
Before we dive into the interview, I wanted to remind you that you can actually get a tool that I’ve been working with clients with for the last couple of years, I’ve refined this tool has gone through several iterations. Now we have it completely automated, you can actually go online and fill out the leadership quiz. To get the leadership quiz. Just go to theleadershipquiz.com that’s pretty easy, right? theleadershipquiz.com what you will get when you do that. Did you answer a few questions, you will see where you rate based on the core principles of fast growth companies. If you’re ready to grow your company or you want to see where you are, then make sure you go to theleadershipquiz.com inside it, you will get insight to where you are, understand where you want to improve. And you will get them mapped into the 10 areas that are most specific to fast growth companies. Again, go to theleadershipquiz.com and you can get that right now.
Gene Hammett [3:27]
Joe, how are you?
Joe Welu [3:29]
I’m good, man. How are you doing?
Gene Hammett [3:30]
This takes two so you’re gonna be better than the last time.
Joe Welu [3:35]
All right, good to be with you. Thanks for the opportunity.
Gene Hammett [3:37]
I’ve already introduced our guest about who you are and give me some background on the leadership. Tell us about Total Expert.
Joe Welu [3:44]
Yeah, so Total Expert is a software company. We build a platform for financial services firms, banks, lenders, mortgage companies. And so if you think about if you’ve ever went into a bank or a mortgage company became a customer, and then received a bunch of different communication from that organization that doesn’t exactly make sense to you, or feels like maybe they’re a little bit disconnected from who you are, right what your needs are. And we help them solve that, right? So we help them actually bring the data together to communication, human connection and deliver really a much better experience, from the very first part of the customer journey, which is maybe that first brand awareness, all the way through becoming what we call a customer for life. So we’re very much focused on helping financial service organizations build, build a customer for life models inside their companies.
Gene Hammett [4:45]
I love that phrase customer for life. I was a working workshop with a client, and we had a group of like 10 of their executive leadership team. And we were talking about, you know, great customer service. And I was just like, you know, that’s not it’s not really answering Firing, like, what would be another phrase that we come up with? And that’s exactly what they came up with customers for life? Where did that come from with you?
Joe Welu [5:07]
You know, for us, it’s just been, we just looked at weeks number one spent a lot of time just really understanding what if I’m a bank or a lender, we focus specifically on financial service organizations, financial institutions, so started to really understand what is it that is the holy grail if I want to be just an amazing business? Where’s, you know, where is all the profit at Where is all the where’s all the value? Right? And what we learned is that lifetime value of the customer that customer relationship is, that’s where the gold is. Right? That’s where the magic opportunity is. If you can come in, provide a service to a customer to be considered a partner, right? Are the companies that we work with, they provide different financial products, right? They want to be the financial partner for the lifetime of that customer. And if you think about that, that loyalty, there’s so much value in that loyalty versus just the transaction. A lot of organizations look at and not just businesses and financial services, but really all businesses focus on acquiring a customer and doing a transaction. They don’t focus on customers for life, right? and sell loyalty is ultimately where the value is.
Gene Hammett [6:40]
When we were talking, you met with my team about what really drives the growth of your company over 3,000% growth in the last three years. Really impressive, but it was really all about this. So what steps did you take to ensure that your employees are customer-focused?
Joe Welu [6:57]
So, Customer Success SAS for us, it’s our number one core value, right? So we have our vision of where we want to go with the company, we have our core values, which we hire and fire on those core values and really operate and make decisions for the business. On those core values, you have to fundamentally believe what we believe to be a great cultural fit here. And Customer Success is number one for us. And it has been since the beginning and the premise was very simple. When we were building the first Minimum Viable version of our product. We thought, listen, if we can provide value to one customer, we can make them a raving fan, that we can sign another customer. And if we can do that a couple of times, we can end up building a business on top of our customers being successful. Right? And so we started talking to the market and what we learn and we sell Software Technology, right? And what we learned is that there’s a huge disconnect between software firms and their customers, a lot of them, they sign a contract, they deliver the service, and then you don’t hear from them again, that’s the destination. Right?
Joe Welu [8:20]
That’s the like signing the contract is the destination, maybe it goes to a third party. And what we believe is that, hey, what if we were looked at as a partner? What if we were looked at as somebody that came in and we were going to have a relationship with them to where we’re looking at? How’s the solution working? What additional needs do you have the software that we’ve built and the solution we’ve delivered? What additional things should we be doing that will help you? And so we just built the whole company, on the foundation that if we’re driving value and making our customers successful, that would create the momentum to build a company and we’ve just never taken our eye off that ball.
Hold on for a second God just talked about hiring and firing on core values. What does that mean? Well, you want to understand the core values to a point where you actually are hiring people who already aligned with those values. If you bring in people who don’t align, you will stress to lead them to stress to engage them, and inspire them to get the work and you will end up probably losing them because it’s probably not the right fit for them. They might operate better under a different set of values that our company has, you’ve got to be clear about your values, you must also develop people by those values, and you end up firing them when people don’t align to the values the way you want them to and the way that culture is developing. really a great culture will tell you who you should let go up. But in this case, make sure that you are hiring and firing and developing your employees along with the core values of your company back to the interview.
Gene Hammett [9:53]
So are there any specific strategies that you think stand out that what you do is rituals or practices that make this possible?
Joe Welu [10:00]
So first of all, it’s gonna seem very simple, but we talk about it all the time, right? We talk about the fact that every white every meeting, we have customer successes, number one is written on the whiteboard. It is the focus and then we always go back to okay as what we’re working on. Is this project or this new initiative? Is this going to add value and help our customers win? Or is it some shiny object that we think is cool? So it’s just The main thing is staying focused on it every single week. And then, of course, we’ve got an obsessive culture of being involved with our customers, meaning we’re listening to their feedback, we’re going out and spending time with them.
Joe Welu [10:48]
I mean, I not at the moment, I’m not traveling a lot, obviously, but I travel a ton. I have a chief customer officer who travels almost non stop and it’s all about setting down With leadership of our customers, and listening, right, it’s listening to how we can help. And sometimes those conversations are, Hey, you guys are screwing this up. And we have to own it and make improvements. But I think the line of communication with the customer is a best practice that it’s maybe not natural to companies that start with maybe technical founders or product-focused founders that say, Hey, we’re just going to build the best product and that maybe works for some businesses, but we sell enterprise software and for us, it’s all about the continuous communication and partnership.
Gene Hammett [11:43]
Is there anything within the feedback loop between customers and your team that you have seen works kind of really smoothly or has an impact to the business?
Joe Welu [11:54]
I can tell you what, what has worked and what hasn’t worked, but I think ultimately Having clarity, and being able to have a two-way conversation with the customer, they may come and say, Hey, we want this, this and this. And we want you to build that. And sometimes you have to, you have to listen to what they’re saying. But more importantly, you have to understand what they’re trying to accomplish. Okay? So what’s the outcome? They may think they need the product or solution to do X, Y, and Z. But that’s not necessarily in line with the outcome they’re trying to drive. Right.
Joe Welu [12:37]
So a lot of I’ll give you an example. A lot of our customers when we first started scaling the business they were focused on Well, I really, you know, I want my salespeople to log in. And if they’re not going to log in, I’m not going to, we’re not going to they’re not going to use the product and we’re not going to pay for the product. So I said, Listen, are you most interested in having your people logged In? Or are you most interested in getting net new business and growth out of those salespeople? And if you could get the growth from the salespeople without them logging in, would you still would that be valuable to you? And the answer, of course, is yes. So then it was a question of a being able to go in and say, okay, make sure we’re understanding the outcome, not just what they’re asking for.
Gene Hammett [13:30]
Have there been any mistakes that you’ve made that you can share with us around? You know, aligning the team around this, this big core value of customer focus?
Joe Welu [13:41]
Mistakes? You know, I would say that listen, every leader, every company, makes mistakes all the time, right? So it’s the list the answer would be the list is way too long to read it out to you today. We’re always learning every single question. Project every single new deployment, we have little nuggets on. Okay, what worked well, and what doesn’t work well. So I think that having, a focus on continuous evaluation of how you’re doing things is maybe a mistake that we made. We didn’t do that frequently enough, we did not evaluate and analyze our process quickly enough, in some cases, right. So we thought, well, this process worked for this situation. But then you got a little bit of a bigger customer a little bit of a different use case. And, and so you assume your processes that work that 5 million in revenue are going to work at 15. And it might not be the case. So I think the mistakes that I’ve learned are not evaluating and analyzing the current processes continuously.
Holding for a second. Joe just talked about the need for continuous improvement was one of the mistakes that he made as a leader not putting enough attention on the improvement of the product early on. When you think about the product, and the feedback you’re getting from your customers, that feedback loop is very important to not only to receive but also to act upon and getting your team to understand that continuous improvement is the way we grow and optimize the impact that this has. This whole episode is on customer success. So what are you doing to improve this continuous improvement inside your organization to optimize that experience? Back to the interview.
Gene Hammett [15:36]
Love it. One last question for you, Joe. And hopefully, you can think of something that really did shift the way you lead. But you know, is there a defining moment within your own leadership where you had to shift your view of who you were and what was going on, whether it be around confidence or courage.
Joe Welu [15:53]
So I think ultimately, there’s a lot of defining moments at each stage and I would say, you know, probably around five I’ve million in revenue for us. I woke up and realized that my most important job was going to be focused on fewer things, okay? And I could no longer do everything and I couldn’t, by brute force make things happen. So I had to focus on making sure I was clearly aligning the vision at all times. And then articulating that and communicating it out to the organization. And then I was ultimately my, my most important job after that was making sure that we had the right people in the right seats and then coaching and inspiring those people.
Joe Welu [16:43]
So you have to learn to drive outcomes through people. And that was a big moment where I remember distinctly that around that time, just being frustrated to where things started to kind of break down, I was able to make so much progress up until that point, really Fast, I was able to do everything in my not everything myself, but I was able to just by sheer force make things happen, right? And then you realize, whoa, this is like the wheels are gonna start falling off the bus here. And so, around that time I started to really dive deep and become a student of how do I develop the people around me and help them get better so that we can get better as a company.
Gene Hammett [17:28]
Well, I appreciate you sharing that. That’s one reason why I put together these interviews is to be able to share those insights and to be able to share the journey and content around that. So thanks for sharing your wisdom with us. Really appreciate it.
Joe Welu [17:42]
My pleasure, buddy.
Gene Hammett [17:43]
Fantastic love talking to leaders that have transitioned through multiple leverage points or defining moments inside their own leadership to get to the point where they truly are, know that they still got more to evolve when I talk to Joe about where he’s going next. It really was inspiring to see that he’s continuously learning. It’s continuously evolving as a leader. And that’s what’s necessary to be the kind of leader that his team deserves.
Gene Hammett [18:10]
When you think about your own leadership, how are you evolving? Are you being challenged beyond just the books you read and the articles that you can? And I know this because I write for these publications, I can see that most everybody’s scanning these articles and they’re really reading them enough to actually apply the message inside them. When you think about your own leadership, are you evolving? If you have any questions about that, make sure you reach out to me [email protected], and as always lead with courage. We’ll see you next time.
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