HubSpot's Brad Coffey on Breaking Down Silos - Part 3
Brad Coffey, HubSpot's Chief Strategy Officer, joined us for our Strategic BizOps Meetup on July 12th. In 10 years at HubSpot, Brad has been responsible for business operations, product, pricing, packaging, strategy, investments and acquisitions. We covered so much ground in the fireside chat, that we decided to break up the transcript into three parts. Here is Part 3 - Breaking Down Silos. You can find the full transcript here. At the end of this post, you can also find the audio recording of the entire conversation with Brad.
In this section of the fireside chat, we talked about the challenges of breaking down silos and the role that operations can play. Brad also shared wisdom about (1) making data as accessible as possible and (2) having a big impact without building a big kingdom.
Alex: So, one of the things that when you look at Hubspot now, public company, pushing towards 500 million dollars annual revenue, it looks awesome, right… And a lot of people here are relating to a lot of the Salesforce issues, the data issues, they are trying to get more strategic, but a lot of businesses have silos, and those silos sometimes make it feel like you are hitting your head against the wall. Was there something really great about the way Hubspot set up from the beginning that made that a non-issue or was there something that you guys did to make it a non-issue that you could then improve your ability to scale as you have?
Brad: I would say we were a very siloed business at the beginning. It has gotten a lot less so and it’s made a lot of the types of things I just described dramatically harder especially as we have moved to more of a freemium business. We were very analytical and data driven from the beginning; marketing would produce leads and there was SLA on the number of leads that needs to be produced per rep and there was an SLA from the sales side that they would follow-up on those leads in 24 hours. Part of my job was to referee and decide what are the right numbers and who’s right? Same thing with sales; sales needed to sell the customers but they needed to sell high quality customers, so it wasn’t enough to kind of sell it and throw it over the fence and hope they’d stick around, but they needed to have expectations. It was very clean in the early days, because we had HubSpot on the marketing side, we had Salesforce for both sales and services and product was separate. I would say it has gotten dramatically harder now, because we have moved to a freemium business, it is like when the marketing ends, the product begins, and then the product is now in charge of actually producing leads for sales and actually the best way for sales to communicate to those people is not the emails and calls but actually engaging with them in the product and so it is a lot harder as we have tried to scale and we have tried to do new things.
Alex: Sounds like the ops team in that role of referee was kind of playing a silo-busting role from the beginning. A lot of times in these meetups, we talk about how ops can be optimally set up in order to play that Switzerland role, break down silos, provide the data. It becomes such a critical role and yet it is often unclear, where does ops report? I mean, you had a case where you were able to have this impact, but I am not sure everybody finds themselves in the business where they can have a path to that. If you were teaching at Harvard Business School and to help these guys understand how best to set up businesses for maximizing the value of ops and data, what would be the advice?
Brad: In the early days it was just me, and then we had 2 or 3 other mini-me’s. And as we grew out, I was very centralized and that didn’t work great actually. What would happen is, Mark who ran sales or Jonah who ran our services at the time, they would have a thing at the top of their list and they would try to funnel it to me, and their things weren’t on the top of my list. There was friction, where it was like, oh, I know you really need to do that staffing analysis, like the example I gave earlier, but actually we have this retention thing, I am actually going to do this analysis first. And that didn’t work. Where we ended up over time was actually putting more ops people into a lot of those organizations, so that they could respond, but then making sure that we had a strong relationship amongst all of us, across the whole business. So we’d hang out together, we’d share data and we do training together. We still had a small centralized ops team because there is a value to being Switzerland in many of these cases, like when you have pricing and packaging decisions, or sales rep compensation, because so much of it was based off some of the real levers that you can have in SaaS business, and you didn’t want to solve for sales, solve for services or solve for a specific group. So, I don’t know if that is great advice except for say, you should try to make sure that the data is accessible by as many people as possible. And I would avoid trying the kingdom build, I don’t think that gets you anywhere. I found that throughout my career I could have a really big impact without having dozens of people work for me, that was never the goal. And as long as you can provide unique value and have strong bias for action, those are the people that I really relate to. There are some people in our career who want to stay away from an ugly problem. I want the person who says, okay I am going to jump on top of that thing and it is going to be a miserable couple of months as we figure this thing out, but I am going to come out the other end. I’d say “What! You solved that thing? I bet you could solve all these other things that I have going on too.” So, you should say yes to opportunities, even if they are ugly, and I don’t think you need to kingdom build, but if you provide value you can have a big voice.
Listen to the full conversation with Brad here
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Alex is CEO and Founder of Rekener. Previously, he served as President and COO at ZeroTurnaround and as President of the Delta Division of BBN Technologies. At ZeroTurnaround, he grew high velocity inside sales by 6x in 3 years. At BBN, Alex co-founded RAMP and AVOKE, both recurring SaaS businesses based on BBN's world class speech recognition and natural language processing tech. Alex started his entrepreneurial career as founder and COO of NBX Corporation, which led the transformation of business telephone systems to Voice over IP. Alex’s companies have generated $500M in liquidity events and more than $1B in sales.
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