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As CEO for WP Engine, Heather has steered the company to hyper-growth and global expansion with offices in Austin, San Antonio, London and San Francisco serving 45,000 customers in 133 countries. A 26-year technology veteran, Heather helped create billions in value, driven customer success and led business strategy for both privately-funded new ventures and Fortune 500 companies. Heather served as COO of Bazaarvoice (NASDAQ: BV), seeing all stages of early, rapid global growth, through to IPO and two acquisition integrations. Before Bazaarvoice, Heather served as President and CEO of Nuvo, a wholly owned subsidiary of Trilogy, and COO for B-Side (acquired by Slated), a privately funded entertainment technology company.  She has held other executive management roles at leading technology companies, including Coremetrics (acquired by IBM), Trilogy, Concero, Oracle and Accenture.

Heather holds a bachelor's degree in international economics from Trinity University. Heather was awarded a Silver Stevie Award in 2015 for Female Executive of the Year. The Austin Business Journal awarded her “Best CEO” in 2015 and a Profiles in Power “Woman of Influence” in 2010. In 2015, WP Engine was named a top workplace in Austin, Texas by the Austin American-Statesman as well as a top place to work by the Austin Business Journal. Heather was judge for the 2013 and 2014 E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year awards for Central Texas. She is also currently an angel investor, start-up advisor and Partner at the Capital Factory. Heather is an active, decade-long volunteer with the Capital Area United Way, serving on its board of directors. She also serves as a board director for the Entrepreneurs Foundation and Bazaarvoice Foundation.

You can follow her on Twitter: @HeatherJBrunner

She will be live on May 24 starting 930 AM PT for one and a half hours during which she will answer as many questions as possible.

  • ES

    Edward Stephens

    11 months ago #

    Your career has been nothing short of a master class!

    1) What motivated you as a kid and how did you accumulate and retain all the information required to take on the many roles you've succeeded at?

    2) What inspires you and what technological innovation will you continue to lobby and strive for that you think will have a large impact on the world? Or rather more which companies/sectors would you be investing into at the moment?

    3) How different have the growth challenges at each role you've taken on been and has any one piece of advice held true in each instance?

    • HB

      Heather Brunner

      11 months ago #

      Thank you Edward for your kind comments! I’ve been very, very blessed to have 26 year + career in the technology industry and see so many advances in our lives during this time.

      Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been fascinated by different types of businesses and I loved going to the office with my father and asking him tons of questions and just being in different business environments. I was a temp in the summers between college and I got to go to so many different types of businesses and was in hog heaven!

      I believe you retain what you think is important, so if you make learning and absorbing new things important, you will do it!

      On your 2nd question... that's tough. There are many things inspiring me in technology, but if I had to pick one it would be bio technology. There is still so much to learn about the human mind and body. I believe that there will be huge advances in what we discover about ourselves that will be amazing via technology. The internet of things and the pervasive access to our connected world lays the foundation for the new insights to come on top.

      On your 3rd question, I have had the privilege and opportunity to work at very established companies all the way to 10 people in a room startups. The advice I would give to anyone based on my experience is to be bold and to seek new challenges that will stretch you. No one is going to tap you on the shoulder and say “are you ready to get out of your comfort zone?”. YOU are the steward of your career. Ask for the stretch assignments, put yourself in situations that take you out of the norm, shadow folks in other roles. Expand your point of view. Find business problems that need to be solved and take on the "dirty work" assignments. Be okay that you don’t know everything and be willing to work very hard to stretch up to the new opportunity. You can do it.

  • KS

    kris shkodrani

    11 months ago #

    Hi Heather. Great to have you here!

    1) There are plenty of WP hosting companies. How have you managed to differentiate WP Engine and have this remarkable growth?

    2) Would you recommend the WordPress framework to a startup?

    3) What growth advice would you give to your customers for their business or startup? (WP site owners)

    Thanks!

    • HB

      Heather Brunner

      11 months ago #

      Hi Kris, thank you for your questions.

      On your first questions, I agree that businesses have a tremendous number of options when it comes to powering their digital properties. We have focused our differentiation on being truly WordPress specialists and experts. This focus guides our innovation in our technology, in our customer experience and in our ability to partner with other technology solution providers in our space. Our WP Engine tech platform is built to optimize WordPress and give our customers access to the tools, workflows and insights they need to build better websites. By being 100% focused on WordPress our customer support can quickly and with confidence guide & help our customers b.c they have seen so many of the typical issues/challenges/opportunities for building on WP.

      I would absolutely recommend the WordPress framework for a startup. We have hundreds of customers who have launched/built their businesses on WordPress. WordPress gives you control, flexibility and high technical & functional capability. The ease of getting your idea up and running quickly on WordPress is what I think attracts so many businesses (large and small) to use WP.

      5 Share
      • HB

        Heather Brunner

        11 months ago #

        The growth advice I would give customers or anyone building their business is to know your hero customer inside and out. I shared this earlier with Terence, but again, I see too many early stage companies guessing what their hero customers wants vs. actively seeking as many conversations with their target customer as possible to really seek to understand how your product/solution is going to benefit them. Let these conversations guide and shape everything from your offering, your go to market approach to your pricing.

        I hope this is helpful to you!

      • KS

        kris shkodrani

        11 months ago #

        Thanks! You are very helpful.

      • HB

        Heather Brunner

        11 months ago #

        Happy to hear that Kris! Best of luck!

  • HQ

    Hila Qu

    11 months ago #

    Hi Heather,

    Going to your twitter, and stumble upon your tweet below:

    "Just like money, there is a time value of work. Hard work done early in your career will pay massive dividends over time. #hustlenow"

    Can you share some stories from your own experience how you hustled and how it paid off? And do you have any practical suggestions how people early in their career can #hustlenow?

    • HB

      Heather Brunner

      11 months ago #

      Hi Hila, thanks for your question. Ultimately time is our most valuable resource and how you leverage your time is critical. When I was starting out at Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) I wanted to make a big impact and get increasingc control over the types of work and assignments I was able to do. So I hunkered down and asked to take on the assignments and projects that no one else wanted and just did it. Exceeding expectations on my work + taking on extra work differentiated me from my peers. I was promoted faster and I earned the right to build mentor relationships with folks much more senior than I was.

      If you have the ambition to take on increasing responsibility, let that be known to your managers. Be ready to work hard, perhaps harder than your peers, but through your hard work you will differentiate yourself and ultimately earn yourself the experience and "right" to take on increasing levels of scope, responsibility and ultimately earnings.

      The faster your rise up, the faster you can earn more, the faster you can save more and control your destiny. Whether that is to have the savings to start your own business, or the savings that give you the foundation to take more risks in your career.

      #hustlenow

      I hope this helps!

      4 Share
  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    11 months ago #

    Hi Heather,

    Thank you for doing this AMA with us. My question is: As CEO, what role do you play helping WP Engine hit it's growth goals? Do you mostly trust others with responsibility to "figure it out" or do you take a more hands on role helping to hit growth targets? If hand on, what specifically do you do? Thanks!

    • HB

      Heather Brunner

      11 months ago #

      Hi Sean. As CEO, I believe it is my ultimate job to build what I call EV to the P. Or Enterprise Value, to the power of Purpose. It is my job to build the vision for what's possible for the business in concert with our executive team. The vision is not just the financial growth objectives to maximize our enterprise value, but our culture that creates the environment in which we act with purpose to serve our customers and very importantly, to serve our employees.

      As an executive team we work together to build our growth goals and we are constantly reviewing our results (daily, weekly, monthly) and identifying both how we improve as well as take advantage of new opportunities that emerge. We practice open book management with our employees, so we teach everyone how to read our P&L and KPIs. Everyone in the company feels ownership for our growth, customer satisfaction and retention goals. I can't recommend this more highly for you to consider doing with your team.

      I hope you found this helpful!

      5 Share
  • TS

    Terence Strong

    11 months ago #

    Hi Heather:

    Thanks for doing this!

    What are the key revenue milestones (in regards to overcoming the 90% failure rate) for early stage startups?

    -Terence

    3 Share
    • HB

      Heather Brunner

      11 months ago #

      Hi Terence, Thanks for your question!

      With the early stage companies I work with, we typically map out a path to their first $1M in revenue. Each company could have different timetables for achieving $1M in revenue, but using $1M in revenue as the long term focus is clear, simple and gets the right conversations happening. Survival rates go way up with this type of focus on revenue (as your question suggests!). Having a hypothesis (or two or three!) on spend/burn and months to achieve $1M is very clarifying!

      On that path to $1M here are some of the "hard things" that I don't think get enough time and attention to improve chances to survive and thrive.

      Pre-revenue:
      1. Clearly identifying your primary "hero customer" inside and out and why your clearly articulated product/service makes their lives better. You may have several personas you serve, but for now identify your #1 and go deep, deep, deep on them.
      2. Meeting with/interviewing at least 25-40 folks who represent your hero customer. This is a step that I see too many early stage leaders skipping. Don't do it! These potential, and hopefully soon to be, customer relationships will be invaluable to you in the future.
      3. Leverage the insights gleaned from interviews to build/refine your MVP beta of your product/service and ask as many people as you can to use it for free and give you feedback.
      4. Be open to experiment with pricing until you hit on market fit and truly know your cost to serve. You are going to get it wrong at first, that's ok!

      Post-Revenue (yea! paying customers!)
      1. The fastest path to growth is delighting and retaining the customers you have worked so hard to attract. Invest in customer service. Be relentless in asking for and acting on customer satisfaction feedback.
      2. Measure customer retention with as much vigor and care as you do new customers.
      3. Ask your early customers to participate in case studies, quotes, social proof focusing on how your product/service has tangibly benefited them.
      4. If at all possible, seek ways to measure profitability by customer. This will help you build your true cost to serve and be invaluable for tweaking your pricing model or service model as you continue to scale up.
      5. Plan for success now, what will your organization need to look like to support the # of customers at $1M+ in revenue? At $2M? Beyond?

      I hope these thoughts are helpful!

      4 Share
  • AA

    Aldin A

    11 months ago #

    Hi Heather,

    Thanks for being here! I loved your answer on revenue milestones, very insightful!

    1) You mentioned in your first response that the survival rates go up with a focus on revenue. Can you please talk, and elaborate, on the other things early stage startups can focus on to increase there survival rates?

    2)What are the subtle (and not so obvious) things you see early stage companies screwing up on that they really can't afford to screw up, and how do they fix them?

    3)In the previous answer, under pre-revenue you talk about experimenting with prices. I don't know if you have any experience with marketplaces, but I'm personally fascinated by them (so I thought i'd ask you anyways). I've been thinking about about transaction costs (ie.how to price what you charge the seller for every transaction on the platform). The common advice is don't price too low to start with because it's hard to increase prices later. Is starting high and working downwards the best option? Do you have any advice on how to calibrate and arrive at an optimal take rate percentage? -- I've also read that having a lower take rate is great (I get that), but how do you look at the issue when your bootstrapping (at least initially)?

    4) Can you talk about how you look at retention and how you go about finding ways to retain your customers? In the same instance you talk about delighting customers. Can you talk about your process for finding opportunities to delight customers?

    5) Can you please talk about the challenges you face as you scale a business and how you overcome them?

    Thanks again

    • HB

      Heather Brunner

      11 months ago #

      Hi Aldin, thank you for your questions!

      I am going to hit #1 and #2 together and come back to your other questions. Early stage startups must have incredible conviction for their idea and ensure that they are focused 200% on building a business that will make money. This seems obvious, but I see too many plans that are only thinking about user metrics in terms of usage, downloads, etc. (btw, these are all great & important momentum metrics) vs. how are we building something that our customers will pay for or others will pay for to fund our customers’ activities. Define your path to $1M in revenue asap. Be relentless in your pursuit of building a business that can fund itself.

      Another thing I see early stage companies doing is setting the bar on roles and titles too early. When you are still early, you need to fill the company with folks who share your passion for your idea that you are bringing forth to the world and want to be on the ground floor. Not folks who need a VP or Chief in their title. Let the needs of the business guide you to when you need to designate or hire senior leaders with commensurate expertise/experience. There is so much needless drama and turmoil that comes from having to demote early employees when everyone realizes that s/he shouldn’t have been named “VP” or “CxO”.

      5 Share
      • HB

        Heather Brunner

        11 months ago #

        You are so right. Pricing is notoriously a complex decision point. Particularly when you are starting out or creating a new offering. So my advise would be to prepare to get it wrong and adjust over time.

        Jeff Bezos is famous for saying there are two way doors (i.e. you can come in and come back) and one way doors (i.e. you go through and you can’t come back). I think too often pricing is viewed as a two way door vs. particularly when you are early stage, it’s really a one way door. So you price something too high and people don’t buy it, price it lower. You price something too low, price it higher but perhaps grandfather the folks on the lower price for their full contract period. When you are early you just don’t know. So try, experiment and learn. Repeat.

    • HB

      Heather Brunner

      11 months ago #

      Retention is critical and can be different than delighting your customers. In fact there is a school of thought that retention is more tied to the level of effort your customers have in using your products vs. being delighted. The less effort to engage, the strong the retention.

      A delighted customer is a customer who has had their expectations exceeded. Exceeding expectations comes from many things but ultimately are you adding more value to their business or lives than they expected. If you know your hero customer and why they buy your products you should have some ideas about what would exceed their expectations and how to deliver that experience. That said, you may not be in the position to invest in exceeding customers expectations yet, so be realistic. The most important thing you can do is to deliver on the primary promise of your product/service. If you do that, you can build up from that foundation. Measure customer retention as closely as you measure growth. As customer retention = growth!!

      4 Share
      • HB

        Heather Brunner

        11 months ago #

        Thanks again for your questions Aldin, on #5 re: lessons from scaling.

        This question could fill a book! Scaling up is very challenging, yet very exciting. If could focus on one thing in preparing for scale I would recommend that you instill the discipline of quarterly planning into your business asap. I coach folks to create quarterly
        “Run the business” and “Change the business” goals. Goals for running the business are typically focusing on all the things you will need across people, process and technology to deliver on your core product/services as you go from 10s to 100s to 1000s of customers.

        Changing the business are things you need to build that don’t exist today, but are new organizational muscles or capabilities you need to scale or innovate for the future.

        For example, one of our big change the business initiatives was launching 24/7/365 chat. For the past 12 months, we’ve been delivering incremental goals against our plan every quarter to finally be able to launch this important capability. Now that it’s launched, 24/7/365 chat is run the business.

        Creating the space to predict, plan and set clear goals is key to scaling!

        Hope these answers are helpful to you!

        4 Share
  • AL

    Arsene Lavaux

    11 months ago #

    Bonjour Heather,

    Thank you for doing this AMA.

    What was the most challenging growth phase at Bazaarvoice and how did the team overcome it?

    Merci!

    • HB

      Heather Brunner

      11 months ago #

      Bonjour Arsene!

      Thank you for your question. We went through all types of challenges at Bazaarvoice, but I learned so much there. One of our most challenging growth phases at Bazaarvoice was during the economic downturn of 2008/2009. We tightened our budgets and slowed down on hiring in anticipation of the ripple effects of the recession on our business. Anticipating it would become more difficult to sell our products to new customers, we shifted our marketing and sales messages to be highly ROI focused with customer case studies demonstrating the positive impact of social commerce on driving up online conversion.

      While we were bracing for the worst , we actually experienced an increase in demand for our products as more and more Retailers and Brands took the leap to put customer feedback directly on their websites and then experienced the lift in conversions and customer satisfaction. Momentum actually was growing when we had slowed our internal engines down, so we had to quickly restart our hiring and growth plans which was very difficult. We had folks working double, sometimes triple duty to keep up. We made it through and it brought the team even closer together. I learned what happens when you get too lean and don't build enough "bench strength". Instead of planning only for worst case, we should have planned for medium case. Of course, it's easier to now look back with 20/20 vision, but it was a good experience to learn from!

      4 Share
      • HB

        Heather Brunner

        11 months ago #

        Arsene, bad reviews are just as important as good ones. Your product/service is not perfect and bad reviews help you improve. For customers it's important that bad review are visible in the mix so that they know the feedback is authentic. One of our high profile fashion industry CEO customers once said "All the gold is in the 1 star reviews." I love that!

        4 Share
      • AL

        Arsene Lavaux

        11 months ago #

        Great entrepreneurial story Heather. Merci beaucoup!

        In that 2008/2009 timeframe, I was one of the customers for quite a few e-commerce sites in the retail industry. Big fan of the product at the time.

        Not sure if you'll see this but I'd have a quick follow up question for you:

        How important are bad reviews in e-commerce?

        Merci encore. :)

    • AL

      Arsene Lavaux

      11 months ago #

      Can't agree more about your answer to my second question on bad reviews. It always made me laugh a lot when companies try to hide them when they have such an authentic value...

      Merci beaucoup pour toutes ces reponses Heather :)

  • RB

    Ry B

    11 months ago #

    Hi Heather,

    Awesome having you here!

    1)Can you talk about the top skills that you think a founder needs to have to succeed?

    2)How do you go about empowering employees? What does empowerment look like at WP ENGINE?
    And how do you make them take on that ownership mentality (even without having an equity distribution plan)?

    3) What do you think are the top skills/traits that a manager needs to have to bring out the best in their employees?

    4) Can you please talk a little about how you look at competition, specifically when your going up against bigger, and better funded competitors? How does that affect your strategic plan, if it does at all?

    5) Can you name some of the resources you use to learn such as books, podcasts, blogs, etc?

    Thanks

    • HB

      Heather Brunner

      11 months ago #

      Hi Ry,

      For your 1st question. Being a founder is very hard and is a “long game”. So a founder must be absolutely on fire passionate about the idea they are bringing forth to the world. They must be patient as it will take time to get there. And they must have grit to take on the punches as they roll in. From a skills perspective, the best founders that I have worked with have a strong business financials acumen. Whether you grew up in R&D, Sales or Marketing, founders who can build realistic financial models and planning have a huge advantage. I see non-Financial background founders psych themselves out about the financials...dont'! You can learn this, you get can mentors & help. Investing in your financial acumen will pay massive dividends for you!

      3 Share
      • HB

        Heather Brunner

        11 months ago #

        As managers (per #3) it's our goal to help our team members realize their potential. Not to do things for them, but to help them discover what matters to them and have their backs on their journey to get there. I say to our employees all the time, I want you to be able to say "yes" to each of these questions and if you can't, then it's probably a good time to reflect on why and work with your manager on how to get back to "yes":

        1) Am I learning?
        2) Am I growing?
        3) Am I having fun?
        4) Does my manager have my back?
        5) Do I have a plan for the future?

        As managers we need to create authentic "real" discussions with our team members that challenge and inspire them to reach for their full potential.

      • HB

        Heather Brunner

        11 months ago #

        Thanks for the second question. I love this one! At WP Engine we genuinely believe in our core values (https://wpengine.com/about-us/) and they act as our touchstone for all that we do. It is vitally important to me that all of our employees understand the history of our core values and I teach a session with all of our new hires. Our first core value is “Do The Right Thing” and it’s all about empowerment and personal ownership. If you believe your actions are right for the customer, right for the company and you are proud of your decision, you’ve done the right thing. If you do something different than someone else, that’s ok. If you decide later that you would have done something different, that’s ok. The main thing is that we trust our employees to use their common sense and instincts and that "making a mistake" is ok. In fact, it's to be expected. Let's just learn from it and move on. By treating people like adults and trusting their judgment it creates empowerment and a high sense of ownership from everyone.

        3 Share
      • HB

        Heather Brunner

        11 months ago #

        Re: competition. Honoring your competition is vital. You must act with respect and compete on what are your unique capabilities with integrity. If you are in a highly competitive space you must identify what is going to set you apart, what is going to differentiate you to your customers and invest your energies there. Let your customers and your vision guide your roadmap and actions, not just watching the competition. Differentiate, focus, deliver on the promise.

  • SA

    Shaker A

    11 months ago #

    Hi Heather,

    Thanks for being here!

    What's your process for identifying you 'hero customer ' and figuring out there needs?

    What type of questions do you ask them?

    Thanks

    • HB

      Heather Brunner

      11 months ago #

      Hi Shaker, thanks for your question.

      For your company/product/service (going to just use product going forward) there are likely many potential customers. You should have a clear point of view on why your product exists: either to solve a problem or tap into an opportunity to add value that didn't exist before for a particular type of person/role. In fact, you likely will have multiple types of people and roles that you could serve. But when you are early and trying to find market fit, you will not be able to serve all of them. So your have to FOCUS and you need to pick which one will allow you to find market fit and pricing fit. This primary customer is what I am calling your "hero customer".

      For example when Jason Cohen, our founder at WP Engine, had the idea for building our WP Engine platform technology back in 2010, he thought he could serve both large, well known bloggers & he could serve established WordPress developers/freelancers. So he spoke with lots of bloggers and developers to understand their pain points and needs. He found that developers typically were the ones building the site for large bloggers and that by meeting the devs needs, they could in turn better serve their customers. So he then doubled down on doing 30+ developer deeper interviews with a set protocol (the questions you ask are really dependent on your product idea and what you want to learn). He reached out to developers and offered to pay them their hourly rate for one hour of their time. Folks agreed to speak, but no one made him pay! He took those learnings and plowed it into creating our core technology platform that launched WP Engine.

      The net, net here is that when you are early you need to focus. Your hero customer is going to be the one who will try/buy your product because they want specific benefits. Know thy hero!

  • HB

    Heather Brunner

    11 months ago #

    Hi everyone, thank you for your fantastic questions! I need sign off for a bit, but will be back to answer as many of your questions as I can later today. Thank you again to Growth Hackers for this awesome opportunity. My best, Heather

  • JC

    Joe Chierotti

    11 months ago #

    What are some of the biggest obstacles you've faced in your career and how did you overcome them?

    • HB

      Heather Brunner

      11 months ago #

      Hi Joe, thanks for your question. One of my biggest learnings was that I was being my biggest obstacle! In my quest to become a better and better professional, I was historically extremely self-critical. I was spending too much energy on shoring up what I perceived as my flat spots as business leader. With time I’ve realised that I should have been using that energy amplifying my strengths and helping others do the same. Lean into your “super powers”, build teams that complement each other.

      I wished I could go back and tell my 30 year old self this! (has to be 30 year self, as when I was 20 I wouldn't have listened!)

      The other thing that come to mind is when I was asked as a non-engineering background leader to run an Engineering team. From this experienced I learned the power of being straight forward with your team and saying, "I have not done this before, but I have done similar things. I am excited to be here and to learn. I want and need your help and I hope to help you through what I am bringing to the table." Being self-aware and humble is extremely powerful and it brings people in to want to help you.

      I hope this helped!

  • FC

    Fernando Catacora

    11 months ago #

    Hi Heather,

    Really awesome having you here!

    1) How do you research or figure out what will be the next trend on technology?

    2) What criteria you use when you are evaluating a person before work with him or her?

    Thanks!

    • HB

      Heather Brunner

      11 months ago #

      Hi Fernando, thank you for your questions.

      1) I am an economics junkie so I love to read books on future, macro economic trends. One book that I read last year that I highly recommend is "No Ordinary Disruption" by a set of McKinsey researchers. It talks not only about the global trends but the technology enabling them. It was an awesome read! I just started "Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization". So far it's really good. For technology specifically, I read VentureBeat, TechCrunch and the Fortune Data Sheet. For more specific research to inform our product roadmap, I talk with our customers and technology partners to learn what they are seeing in their businesses.

      2) On your question on hiring, our approach or criteria can really range depending on the level of experience or role that we are hiring for. That said, it's critical that you have a job description (even if it's very simple) to build questions from for interviewing for each role. If you don't have a job description, don't interview!

      No matter what role or level you are hiring for, it is vital, absolutely critical to hire folks that will honor and amplify your core values. As important as IQ is, so is EQ or emotional intelligence. How will they treat others? How will they deal with conflict? How will they collaborate and constructively share ideas? Make sure your interviewing and referencing incorporates questions about how the candidate has experience demonstrating your core values.

      I hope this is helpful!

  • BW

    Brand Winnie

    11 months ago #

    Hi Heather!

    Thanks for doing this...

    Can you talk about an experience or experiment (a win or a loss) that provided you with a great learning/insight?

    • HB

      Heather Brunner

      11 months ago #

      Hi Brand, thank you for your question.

      One of the experiments that comes to mind for me is a recent one re: our website redesign. We made a pretty significant change to the look and feel of our site and we had decided to streamline or "uplevel" the amount of information we were making available about our products and pricing. We a/b tested the new site, we gathered information from customers who tested it, etc, etc. But when we launched it, we immediately saw that our customers and prospective customers wanted more information. The cacophony of inquiries was pretty clear...this approach was not working! So we had to quickly course correct and we saw an improvement immediately.

      It was a great lesson that despite "doing all the right things" to test your hypothesis, you may find that at full scale your experiment doesn't work. And that's ok, you can't stop trying and experimenting.

      I hope this helps!

  • JF

    Javier Feldman

    11 months ago #

    Hi Heather!

    For an organization that doesn't have a customer success team in place, what would you suggest as the first few things they do to be able to lay the groundwork of a great customer success team?

    Thanks!

    • HB

      Heather Brunner

      11 months ago #

      Hi Javier, thank you for your question. Even if you don't have a team in place, that's ok because your entire team is the Customer Success team! Per my notes to Anuj and Aldin on this AMA, it is vital that you focus on and measure customer satisfaction asap. Customer retention = growth. If you don't keep the customers you have worked so hard to earn, you won't be able to sustain yourself and scale.

      Determine who on your team is passionate about talking with and learning from customers (hopefully it's several people) and ask them to represent your customers at your team meetings to bring their perspective to the table. Get them talking with customers to check in or helping handle support inquiries to identify pucker points or opportunities to improve. Implement a simple customer satisfaction measure post purchase & discuss the trend at every team meeting.

      If everyone "owns" customer success together, you can make it until you can afford a full time role.

      I hope this is helpful and best of luck!

  • TS

    Terence Strong

    11 months ago #

    Very helpful! Thanks!

  • SY

    Sia Yaghobi

    11 months ago #

    Lots of respect/adoration for you @HeatherBrunner.
    Lots. I too could not agree more with a few of your perspectives especially relying and concentrating on your "super powers"-it's a privilege to acknowledge these things early from mentors as yourself-so t.y. for your continued impact/influence in an industry were privileged to be working in!

    I haven't had a chance to look over most of the ?s Yet I want to hear your perspective on SaaS-what do you look for in early stage products & teams?

    Also hats your favorite or go to market tactic when it comes to affiliate/channel partners?

    PS I am a bit jealous of those around and who get to work with you. Thank you again, @HeatherBrunner
    ~

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    11 months ago #

    Hey Heather!
    A privilege to have you on for sure!

    I'm interested in how your thinking on growth has evolved.
    What's the biggest thing that's shifted in your thinking and what sparked it?
    Also, what's the biggest thing about growth that you think most people still don't understand?

    • HB

      Heather Brunner

      11 months ago #

      Hi Anuj, My privilege to be here. Thanks for the opportunity.

      I think the biggest insight I can share on growth is reinforcing what I shared earlier with Aldin. That customer retention = growth. I think entrepreneurs spend a higher % of time thinking about new customer acquisition and not enough time on building customer stickiness and advocacy. This means focusing on customer success from the get go and getting signals on customer satisfaction asap and into your key metrics that you track every day, week, month.

      Like the old Faberge Organics shampoo commercial (perhaps many of you are too young for this one!), you will love your hair so much that "You'll tell two friends, and then they'll tell two friends, and then they'll tell two friends, and so on and so on!" Happy customers attract other customers. Happy customers are happy to stay and grow with you. Happy customers will give you the benefit of the doubt.

      Deliver on your core promise, satisfy your customers and they will help you grow!

  • CS

    Christopher Saleh

    11 months ago #

    Heather, exceptional response. From my user name to company name, I am a big fan of Socrates who has a famous quote "The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing." - Socrates
    From early on I knew that the only way to reach my goals and dreams, was to follow what I am passionate about. I can see that you have followed your passion as well. Do you think we are more likely to succeed and beyond, if we are passionate about reaching the goals we set for ourselves? What role has it played in you reaching your goals? How does one align oneself to end up doing what they love and are passionate about?
    Thank you
    Sincerely,
    Christopher

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