Innovation Requires You to Creating Your Own Category with Joe Fuca at Reputation.com

Nearly every market has competition. You choose to be a little different than your peers, or you can lead your company to a place where you are creating your own category. Leaders that have courage will choose to innovate. Today’s guest is Joe Fuca, CEO at Reputation. Inc Magazine ranked his company #1962 on the 2020 Inc 5000 list, Reputation provides many tools to manage the customer experience. One of their flagship tools is their Reputation Experience Management (RXM) platform. Joe gives you a powerful reason for creating your own category. We look at the courage this takes as a leader. Join us for this interview on innovation and creating your own category.

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Joe Fuca: The Transcript

About: Joe Fuca is an American businessman, best known as the current CEO of Reputation.com and a former executive at DocuSign and FinancialForce. Prior to his CEO role, he previously spent more than 30 years in technology and Software-as-a-Service growth companies.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

Joe Fuca
Look, if you’re not failing, you know more often than you’re basically not pushing the envelope. And so we are constantly looking at better ways. I’ll give you an example. So if we deploy a major release, and we have some bugs in there that you would consider failure, then you know, the QA process needs to be looked at in a much better way, right? So how can we be innovative in finding more testing scripts and know more ways to cover a product, so that if it does go into production, these types of bugs were pretty well foolproof on it. So that’s an example of something that you know, you don’t want to test anything out in production. So the thought process there is that you want to be really innovative, about, you know, testing the limits of failure inside of your tests in your test site. And so, really important to us to embrace failure really could be anything right could be marketing ideas.

Intro [0:53]
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 [1:11]
Innovation. It’s not just a buzzword. It’s something you probably think about a lot within your company. How do you create more innovation within your culture? Well, it takes a special style of leadership, and really a lot of intention around what innovation is. innovative companies have a different relationship with failure. We’re gonna look at that in today’s episode, we have the CEO of reputation, calm, Joe Fuca. Joe is going to share with you some of the concepts that they’ve used over the years to create a category of their own really exciting, you know, information around how do you actually create this category within your business, why it’s necessary for you to be in your own category, versus kind of included in with your competitors. But when you have your own category, it requires you to innovate beyond the pace at which you probably are innovating now. So we look at that culture of innovation. We also talk about some of the things he’s changed inside of his style of leadership that have allowed this to happen. And finally, we looked at what did he change in the light of COVID. When everyone’s remote, that one simple change has really energized the company, around the value are creating in the marketplace, you’ll get all that in today’s interview. Before we get into Joe’s interview, make sure you download the free training available to you. Well, actually, you don’t have to download it. But when you go to genehammett.com/training, you’ll get this concept on how do you create a team of a players. Joe says in the interview, you want to hire your best players, but you want to also develop your best players. So this is all about you becoming a stronger leader, and leading people to have a feeling of ownership. Just go to genehammett.com/training,. Now here’s the interview with Joe.

Gene Hammett [2:55]
Joe, how are you?

Joe Fuca [2:57]
I’m doing great. How are you today, Gene?

Gene Hammett [2:59]
Fantastic. We’re gonna talk about leadership and culture in this journey of growth you’ve been on, I want the audience know a little bit about the company. So tell us about Reputation.com

Joe Fuca [3:08]
Sure. Reputation.com was founded in 2006, which seems like a long time ago, GE, the company was founded as a consumer product focused on helping people understand and protect their reputation online. In 2013, the company decided to rebuild the platform using some of that functionality and target really large global 2000 companies to protect their reputation, and essentially build out a platform so that you understand everything your customers are saying about you. So companies like General Motors, like Ford, like Kaiser Permanente, like a grey star, like loan depot, these companies in different industries that care about what their consumers are saying or what their patients are saying. And so the company shifted in 2013. And so literally, in 2013 to 2020 is really the current company, we sold off the original company back in 2017. And so the current reputation.com is all focused on enterprise customers.

Gene Hammett [4:14]
So it’s basically listening to what’s going on online, maybe social media and being able to organize that to your data sciences to create something that is actionable for these brands.

Joe Fuca [4:23]
Yeah. So if you think about listening posts, you want to think about people leaving reviews, you want to think about people answering surveys, social posts, there’s probably 11 different listening posts that you really care about. The key is to be able to access what we call the data in the wild, which is the what called non structured data, and that the whole idea here is how do I get all the feedback from consumers that are leaving me, you know, reviews that I don’t ask them to? So no words. It’s real unsolicited feedback. You can have customers that send surveys and ask Questions a certain way and and you get you think you’re doing really good. But if you get unsolicited feedback that counters that, then you really got something. And so that’s what we specialize.

Gene Hammett [5:11]
I love that. Well, Joe, you have been a CEO of this company through, you know, various iterations. And you have really seen that you get to create something that you know, a category that you create yourself. Tell us a little bit about this creating your own category.

Joe Fuca [5:25]
Yeah, no problem. So I’ve been the CEO for reputation calm for two years, so not unsurmountable length, but came into the company and reputation.com was sort of the dominant player in this thing called online reputation management. But it wasn’t really a defined category where people like having a Gartner quadrant or Forrester wave or what have you. And then there’s this other market called the CX market, where you’ve got Qualtrics, and medallion, some other you know, well-defined companies in this thing called the customer experience space. And so when we looked at both those spaces, we were like, Look, we are the perfect model for something in between those two spaces, we call it you know, the was the marketing team and the customer experience team come together. And so we thought, the best thing to do is to come up with our own category called reputation experience management, so-called RX n. And we thought the best thing to do is to go all-in on that category. And the reason we did it, frankly, is Jianlian, when I was a DocuSign, back in 2011, you know, we were about 150 employees, maybe 25 million in revenue. And we were known as this thing called e signature. And one of the things that keep Kroc and I got together on was we just basically said, hey, look, what why would he signature trigger any kind of, you know, real market size with real marketing traction and analysts traction, and it didn’t. So we came up within 2012, something called Digital transaction management because the power of the E signature was actually just a piece of the entire digital transaction. And so when we created the DTM space, we created it from scratch, and it takes a lot of work. And so one of the things that we did is, you know, we started creating analysts attraction, our customers speaking about it. And so to be honest with James, I had the groundwork done for me before, right, so I’m just repeating some of the best practices there.

Gene Hammett [7:23]
When you think about this, as it relates to leadership, what you’re really talking about is creating innovation within your space. How do you lead others to be innovative?

Joe Fuca [7:35]
Yeah, I think one of the things that we really want to do is create a culture inside the company to be innovative. And by the way, it could be anything it could be relative to the new space and category we’re building are about just our own company, and being diverse and, and having inclusion, you know, groups and that type of thing. So when I think of innovation, I mean, I think of you know, the key thing, what we’ve done is we have an executive advisory board when we took some of the biggest customers, we have pulled them together, we said, Hey, what do you guys think about this space? What do you think about this category, and when they all kind of jumped in, you know, biggest companies in the world saying, you know, this is exactly what you guys should be doing, because there’s a difference between some of the two spaces that are out there, and they got supportive. And so that innovative thinking around our executive advisory board, then trickled into my Chief Technology Officer, my chief data officer, and those two then started to think out of the box on how do we take that kind of thinking to the platform? So that’s what we did. We used our executive advisory board, we bounce some things off of some analysts in the industry. And then we started to create innovation inside of our company around that kind of

Gene Hammett [8:43]
What would we see inside of your organization on a regular basis? When you when it comes to innovation? Do you guys have different kinds of brainstorming groups? Or do you do anything unique around innovation?

Joe Fuca [8:54]
Yeah, we do. It’s kind of fun. It depends on your definition of innovation. But, we have a data science group that basically looks at massive volumes of data, and then tries to figure out, you know, through natural language processing, how do we make this sort of what I would call English proof. And instead of sounding like Spanish or some foreign language, how do we make it actionable. And so what we’ve done as a team is we have these hackathons where we inspire different groups throughout the company to come up with ideas on how to look at that data, how to work with our data science group, in order to be to make it even look more English like, and so, you know, between doing the hackathons, the engineering contests, you know, we try to do some things in you know, we use this tool called slack. And we have different groups, and we have the innovation groups, and we try to have contests around it. So it’s actually something that is really important to the company that we stay on the edge and thinking about this that way. We’re constantly being innovative.

Commentary [10:00]
Hold on for a second. Joe just talked about hackathons. Now you may have to think about that because you don’t have a software company as Joe does. But Hackathon isn’t just for software companies. In fact, you can have hackathons around the processes, which are companies are growing to the next level, where how you’re going to better serve your clients. Maybe it’s a hackathon around marketing or sales. What I know for sure is, when you include your people in decisions, it has a chance to bond them together, create more connection between them. Hackathon would be a great thing to do in a virtual environment because it would require people to be collaborative. And for you to do that. Maybe get it to get out of the normal day-to-day workload that really helped them become more connected to the work and maybe even have hackathons around. How are we going to move forward and grow from here? Or maybe have Hackathon around? What are we going to do within the culture of the company? Those are just some ideas that you can take from this. If you don’t have a software company to do, of course, you know what a Hackathon is, make sure you’re doing that during the times of COVID. Back to Joe.

Gene Hammett [11:03]
I think a lot of companies want to be innovative, and they want their employees to be innovative, but yet they have an embrace of this sense of failure. I think innovation companies have to have a very positive relationship with failure. What is it like there for you and the reputation outcome?

Joe Fuca [11:21]
What do you What’s your term positive?

Gene Hammett [11:26]
If you’re failing all the time, you’ll never have innovation, right? You’re playing this verse. So how do you actually get people to embrace the fact that failure is just part of the journey? As you innovate?

Joe Fuca [11:39]
Yeah, look, if you’re not failing, you know, more often than you’re basically not pushing the envelope. And so we are constantly looking at better ways. I’ll give you an example. So if we deploy a major release, and we have some bugs in there that you would consider failure, then, you know, the QA process needs to be looked at in a much better way, right? So how can we be innovative in finding more testing scripts are no more ways to cover our product so that if it does go into production, these types of bugs were pretty well foolproof on it. So that’s an example of something that, you know, you don’t want to test anything out in production. So the thought process there is that you want to be really innovative, about, you know, testing the limits of failure inside of your test in your test site. And so, really important to us to embrace failure really could be anything, right. It could be marketing ideas.

Joe Fuca [12:32]
You know, one of them I would say that, you know, we’ve had some, we’ve had some challenges, right, we, we opened up a couple of markets in Europe, that were not the right markets to open up. We opened up Spain and Italy early in our life cycle, probably not the best countries to go to, because of language support, foreign countries support the currency, those types of things, data, data rules. And so we have a very large business in the UK, in Germany, but expanding outside was a big mistake. So we shut those down. So it’s an example of, okay, we tried something we failed, we shut it down, we move on. Right. And so that’s, that’s an example. It’s a pretty good example of, you know, failing and then making adjustments.

Gene Hammett [13:19]
Joe, when you think about leading your, your this team? And I know you said a couple of years, what are the things that you think have really defined your own style of leadership?

Joe Fuca [13:32]
Yeah, I think, you know, one of the things that the, you know, the company with the best people with the big motto that I’ve always felt that was important, there are two things that we wanted to really install in our company. One is to hire the best people, and we will really, we will always have a positive outcome. The second big thing is built to last, you know, many people don’t think about building last when they start a software company, or that growing really fast. And you know, you always hear the term about changing the tires while you’re on the freeway. And you’re actually going crap. But you know, if you really think about those two principles, right, you hire the best people. And then you make sure that your decisions are built to last, and you’ve got something and if you don’t, you know, show that leadership. So what does that mean like scalable platform, you know, building spending the extra money, to be able to have all the test sites that we can and to be able to show the kind of volumes that we get with the biggest companies in the world running on our platform, right?

Joe Fuca [14:34]
To build the last is a big decision. It’s an investment for the future. Some people might say, Well, why are you doing that now? Well, it’s really important that we do that now. So that we can have the data privacy in Germany so that we can roll out to some of the biggest German companies right so you’re always those are kind of the big two things, you know, hire the best people, and then always make build the last decision.

Commentary [14:57]
Now hold on for a second Joe just talked about hire the best Well, he knows that that’s important, right? Most of the time, though, people aren’t hiring the best people they hire who are available. And this job market, maybe you’ve got a little bit more choices around who you can hire. So you might want to look at hiring the best people what that would really do. Do you have to pay a little bit more money for the best people? Absolutely. Do, you have to create a different working environment for the best people? Absolutely, your leadership would be challenged. Because the best people don’t want to work with people that are mediocre. These players really do want to push the boundaries of what they’re doing, they want to grow. And you have to create a space for that. But here’s the thing, it helps the company grow. It helps you serve your customers, it helps the bottom line, having the best people, and hiring the best people really is an important aspect of growing your business. Back to Joe.

Gene Hammett [15:49]
I want to get personal with you, Joe, as a leader, we’ve all been through defining moments, you had mentioned to me that when you took over this role, you’ve felt invaluable to have sort of a CEO, coach, someone that has been there before you that can guide you through this. What is one big lesson or perspective shift you had from having a CEO COACH?

Joe Fuca [16:10]
I’m pretty sure it’s not one. So yeah, I am one of the things that I thought was, you know, you make a couple of good moves, you make a couple of challenging moves. One of my good moves was the first thing I did was hire a CEO coach, and he had been a CEO of a company that had, you know, for over 13 years. So we had really the experience of taking somebody from 5 million in revenue all the way to 100 million revenue and then having an outcome where he sold that company to a much bigger company. So his experience in dealing with board members, investors, the concept of, you know, themes, how about mergers and acquisitions? You know, you start thinking about all of the different pieces that go in, I would say up until about five months ago, he had experienced everything that I had experienced. Unfortunately, no CEO coke on Earth has experienced COVID-19. And I don’t know why I’m laughing because it’s obviously stressful. But the concept of, you know, small business loans, do you, you know, COVID-19? How do you should we shut down the offices.

Joe Fuca [17:26]
These are things that my CEO coach did not know that we had some good chats about it, it’s always good to have a second person to bounce things off of but I’d say a COVID-19 is definitely thrown a wrinkle in anybody’s perspective to be able to look at, but I would say the most positive thing. Having the CEO coach is I’ve looked at a couple of companies that I potentially was going to acquire. And he gave me a really good methodology to look at that company in a much different way. And it really helped me to say no, on a few. And so it was really, really beneficial for me.

Commentary [18:02]
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Gene Hammett [18:27]
I used to do mergers and acquisitions. And we said no, a lot more than we said yes on those things. But I think CEOs just see the opportunity because, by default, most CEOs are very optimistic. Right?

Joe Fuca [18:42]
Yeah, we are. And we think we think everything can merge, you know, oh, this is gonna be great.

Gene Hammett [18:48]
I could turn that around. But I really appreciate you. I wanted to ask you one final question. No, getting your employees to think like, how do we continue this category of that we own? How have you been able to continue that across the last couple of years of leadership?

Joe Fuca [19:06]
Yeah, I think one of the things that, you know, we’ve done is we’ve actually added a couple of interesting things we not only did we were creating this category but as an employee base. We said alright, what can we do in the different groups with a company, whether it’s marketing, whether it’s sales, whether it’s customer success, or whether it’s engineering? What are some ideas that we can continually feed off of this and so one thing we do during COVID-19, by the way, was I created this thing called an all-hands meeting every Friday now I know all hands me is not a creation. But my point is most companies don’t get together every Friday.

Joe Fuca [19:45]
Well with everybody external like this. I was like, Alright, let’s just do it. Like every single Friday, we’re getting on a zoom was 430 people. We’re going to talk about different topics. And it has really helped us as a company that culture. And one of the topics we cover in every single Friday meeting is the example of our XM reputation experience management customer stories. And so each week we tell a story. And by the way, it could be the engineering group telling the story. It could be the customer success group, whatever, talking about how somebody went live with this type of suite of technology, and how did that help build value for that company. And so yeah, we’ve done that it’s been a lot of fun.

Joe Fuca [20:28]
One of the other things I’ve done during COVID-19, is we’ve started a diversity, inclusion, and belonging team. And, man that’s really opened up a lot of different perspectives. You know, I’ve always been a big believer, as a leader that if I hire all the same people, and they all look the same, they’ll do the same, then you’re not getting a whole lot of new thinking. And so by adding this group, with different areas around the company, it’s really starting to bring some new ideas in as a company. And so I’m really excited about a couple of things that we’ve done during this pandemic period.

Gene Hammett [21:02]
I love that idea. And, you know, just parroting on what you said, You can’t have innovation. If you have all the same thoughts. And all the same background experience view of life, rarely ever, you’re going to have the innovation that you could have under the right, you know, kind of diversity. Joe, thank you so much for being on the podcast, sharing your wisdom with us.

Joe Fuca [21:24]
Yeah, no problem. Appreciate it.

Gene Hammett [21:25]
What a great interview. I love having Joe on the podcast today to talk about a culture of innovation. When you think about leading others to innovate beyond where they are today. Do you have a clear step-by-step plan? Do you have an understanding of what it’s going to take to create innovation inside your company?

Gene Hammett [21:41]
Well, one of the things I do is work with leaders to create. If you’re curious about what your next step is, you’re not exactly sure. Let’s get on the phone together. Let’s have a conversation around your next step as a leader, to send me an email gene@genehammett.com. When you think about growth, and you think about leadership, make sure you think about Growth Think Tank, as always, lead with courage. We’ll see you next time.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

 

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