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Building Scalable GTM Teams in a Legacy Industry: A Discussion with Jessica Wilkinson, CRO at Swish Fibre
In this episode of the Revenue Insights Podcast, host Lee Bierton speaks with Jessica Wilkinson, CRO at Swish Fibre, a full-fiber broadband service in the U.K. She has built a robust multi-skilled toolkit over a seventeen-year journey that cuts across functions ranging from public relations to revenue operations. In her free-wheeling discussion with Lee, Jessica touches on a broad spectrum of topics linked to RevOps, including the difference between RevOps at legacy and tech companies, the three pillars of revenue operations, and her process of reimagining RevOps at her company. She also gives tips to upcoming revenue professionals and insights on measuring revenue teams’ success.
Jessica says that she has been and has done many things, including being a PR expert, an investor whisperer, a management consultant, an innovations strategist, and an integration & change sherpa.
Jessica’s Book Recommendation Range by David Epstein
- 00:39 – 03:48 – Jessica’s backstory
- 04:29 – 06:14 – Difference between RevOps at legacy and tech companies
- 08:32 – 11:38 – Three fundamental RevOps changes instituted by Jessica
- 15:30 – 17:34 – How to align internal stakeholders to change
- 21:37 – 24:35 – The three pillars to move the needle in RevOps
- 24:42 – 28:10 – Reimagining RevOps functioning at Swish Fibre
- 36:48 – 41:05 – Tips for upcoming product leaders
- 41:49 – 42:45 – Jessica’s book recommendation, Range by David Epstein
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Hello there. You are listening to Revenue Insights.
Today, I’m joined by Jessica Wilkinson. She’s the Chief Revenue Officer of Swish Fiber. Across her career, she’s worn many hats from PR through to commercial development, and now she’s scaling telco companies. So Jessica, welcome to Revenue Insights. Really excited to chat. Thanks for having me. So first things first, you’ve had a really interesting career, as I mentioned, going from PR, got a really cool route into where you are today.
So for our audience, everyone listening, would be great to hear in your own words, how you’ve reached where you are in your career now. Great.
Well, I have the most random career path, I think. I started in my career in public relations and really around commercial community development and in the energy industry in Canada. I really focused on media, regulatory, investor. I did a lot of crisis comms at that point.
Then there came a point in my career where I was sick of writing press releases about what other people were doing and I wanted to do the thing. So I was working for an energy company in Canada.
We had just started an oil by rail division and I knew nothing about rail, obviously, but I went down to our new Vice President and said, basically, I know nothing, but I’m pretty hungry and basically taking me on a convent for six months, and you can always send me back to media if I’m not performing for you. I think it was two or three months.
He said, okay, you’re not going back, you’re going to stay here. That was really my first taste of what a commercial role looks like. At the time, I was also doing my MBA. So it was being able to learn something at night school and then apply it in the daytime.
It was really around how do we figure out how to profitably move oil around North America which was having some difficulties at the time. I ended up on the acquisition team. We bought a rail terminal and then it was something that was really non-core to our company. It was not anything that the company ever done.
I ended up running the rail terminal for a bit and building out all the commercial principles and we did the integration. It was really one of the most random but most fun times in my career of getting that going. Then from there, I moved on into consulting and that’s why I spent a lot more time working across a number of different industries.
I went from energy to financial services, to a bit of healthcare, a bit of government. I did one telco project back in Canada. I ended up in a bit of a weird little niche around open banking and personal identity. When I moved over to the UK to open up the UK office or European office for this consulting firm, that’s right, I doubled down on that.
Then at the same time, my partner had actually just was selling his telco to a company, a subsidiary basically of Octopus Investments. He had to scale from 20 people to 250 people in a year and I had the weird range of background experience to help with that.It was my first introduction into telco and jumping in and really building the connective tissue around how do we build everything from scratch in less than a year. That was from some of the commercial principles to operations and logistics.
Basically, what are all the pieces that you need to make a company run. Then I had the opportunity to join one of our portfolio companies, which is where I’m at today, it’s called Swish Fiber and I’m the Chief Revenue Officer.
I lead basically the commercial aspects of it from sales, marketing, supporting product, customer care, all of those things into and then revenue operations, which is the model I set up when I first joined Swish. Amazing. So much in there that I feel like we could dive into.
I definitely want to come back to the running a rail terminal because that’s definitely, it feels like a career highlight that I definitely want to touch on. I think the bit I’d like to dig into first is around those commercial principles in telco. You touched on your commercial team there.
In your words, how would you say it’s perhaps different in what is really a legacy industry, perhaps to a technology company or something that is, I don’t know what you say is the opposite of legacy. Yeah. I think the telco market is really interesting in the UK right now. There was a regulatory change a few years ago that basically spawned a bunch of investment.
The history of telco in the UK has really been a monopoly and that’s been controlled by one large infrastructure provider and what they made a regulatory change that allowed, I think there’s about 100 to 150 of what they call alt nets, who are building a physical asset across the UK.
I think one of the interesting things that I’ve seen in the market is, essentially you have to be a really good construction company first, and you have all these companies are going and they’re putting physical asset, physical fiber optics in the ground. Then you do have to build before you sell. It’s really interesting proposition where you have to go into someone’s community, rip up their roads. No one really wants you there.
To be honest, they want to take their kids to school. They don’t want to be having to deal with road closures, and then you have to go back and try and sell them a product. It’s a bit different from that perspective.
What I’ve seen across the market, what I think the market is experiencing is, you have a combination of these companies have gotten bigger, you’ve gone from startup mode into scale up mode, and then you’ve also had to shift from being a construction company to, what is essentially a retail brand and those skill sets. If you’ve got the right teams working together can be very complementary, but they’re not the same.
A lot of companies that I’ve seen in this market are more weighted toward construction and they have a, I built a thing and they will come mentality, and the sales part is easy. I think a lot of companies in this sector at this time are really struggling to commercialize that and that’s because it’s an entirely different approach. I love that.
Let’s begin then with, what was the state of play when you first joined?
I’m guessing that it was probably in that construction buildup mode.
Yeah, so what had happened with Swish is I think the company started and it had one prototype community in the sales and marketing team was doing a really good job in that community on a proof of concept, small scale and achieve what they needed to do. Then all of a sudden the build area got massive.
We were in 30, 40 communities almost overnight and the sales and marketing function just didn’t scale in line with that. Then at the meantime, everything is getting more complex, getting reliable data on the build program and understanding what’s going to happen. All of those things had started to, nothing was really working in sync with one another.
When I joined, there was a lot of pressure from the investor and a lot of pressure that the team was putting on themselves to attract customers and add customers to the network. I’m almost maybe a bit pedantic going back to first principles, but for me it was around, okay, there’s no quick wins here. There’s just doing it right and getting the basics and the foundation right.
So when I joined it was understand what we have for marketing, understand what we have from sales. Then one of the big things for me was what was missing was that, I think of rebops of that connective tissue of some, it’s basically a team that has a mandate to work cross-functionally and tie all these things together and see the whole picture. That was something that I put in place.
Little by little it’s worked. We’re coming off of, I keep refreshing our dashboards, we’re basically doubling our sales, our record-breaking sales this month. It is really cool to finally see these things coming together.
But it’s taken six months of hard work and bringing the right people in and really breaking down some silos, not only within the teams in my departments, between there were some silos between sales and marketing, they weren’t necessarily working well together. Now we’re going out and trying to work more constructively with the rest of the business, which is a big construction machine at this point. I love it. Okay.
The bit that stood out to me, and I’d love to dive into first from that then, is you mentioned the foundations and you kind of alluded to revenue operations role in that.
Could you expand a bit more on perhaps three most important foundational pieces that you brought into, in your words, do it right?
Yeah, I think when I came in, there was a lot of, and this is not unique to Swish, this is kind of a lot of places I’ve gone to. When I was consulting, one of the things I was reflecting on is you just see a lot of things aren’t working. No one asks a management consultant or strategy consultant to come in when things are going well.
|They’re like, oh, the company’s doing amazing, come in and help us be any better. Something’s pretty fundamentally broken, whether it’s the management team or they’re sort of like bringing some consultants where we don’t know what to do here. So I’ve seen a lot of challenges across different teams in different sectors. And for some reason now, it always comes down to the tool.
And they’re like, well, we don’t have the right tool or the tech team isn’t doing it. And for me, a tool is never going to solve your business problems. And it always comes down to figure out your business process first, figure out what you want. And here it was a lot of, well, the tools aren’t working, we don’t have the tools, we don’t have the tools.
And I was like, you actually don’t have the business processes.
So we had to go in and sort of reimagine, what does this look like?
What do we need?
What does the cadence of a good marketing campaign look like?
You know, we’re basically having to restart a fairly large marketing machine, figure out what those processes are, then go into sales, figure out what those processes are. We’re hiring, obviously, into these teams at the same time. And then you can look at the tools and say, OK, now that we’ve got our house in order, we’re working better together as a team, then we can go to the tooling.
And I think that’s something that a lot of people skip over. And part of it is because there’s, you know, all the B2B SaaS companies are like, well, I have the magic tool that’s going to fix whatever your problem is, or I’ll fix your data.
And the tools are great, but I use a lot of, you know, SaaS tools, and I love a lot of SaaS tools, but you’re just spending money if you don’t have the foundations within your team to really understand what you want out of them, just how you work, match with this tooling.
And I think one of the big power things in bringing in my head of DevOps has been, and he’s fantastic, and I brought in someone who was in the military, because I needed to basically like, OK. But I think he’s got a really interesting crew, too.
But I think being able to come in and have a really clear understanding of what the tooling can do and what’s the potential, and then being able to be that, not a single point of contact, but be able to run the tech roadmap from the business side, that’s been really essential. And as we’re growing and as we’re transforming and we’re basically rebuilding our entire tech stack, that’s something that’s critical.
But that only works if you’ve got the business processes in place.
So then the question is, of all the processes that you’ve implemented, what is the one that you would say has been the most impactful?
Oh, God. That one’s really tough, because I think there’s a lot of things. It just comes down to doing 100 little things right or better every day. I think there’s not kind of a silver bullet.
I think for me, the one thing that we did was set up, and it sounds really stupid and really obvious, but just being able to surface some of the data and things that we understood and understand how some of that data relates and sharing that data across the team.
So I think there’s a bit of a cop out, but one of the big things has been just getting into the cadence of data sharing and KPI and getting everyone to understand from sales, marketing, product, all of these things, where they show up in the numbers and how they can influence these numbers. That’s been a big thing. We’re sort of in the mess.
I think one of the things that is very under, probably underrated in terms of complexity is always billing processes. So I think we’re spending a lot of time with our finance team, and that’s really where having someone, the RevOps team is responsible for our operations management and our end-to-end customer processes. They can bring all the teams together.
For me, solving the billing process and getting all the teams understanding what needs to be done in each step and where they fit into it and how they show up and where they see the other one has been sort of, this is really banal, but order changes.
There’s a whole bunch of stuff that goes on in Telco and upgrading and downgrading and changing stuff around, and we didn’t really have, and we’re not quite there yet, but we’re getting there. So I think we have a really good discipline and hygiene around how we treat that.
And it really, for me, comes down to how do you make the people who are on the front lines, like the frontline sales executives, the frontline customer care execs, the frontline installation people who are actually going to rock up at your house and install fiber in your home, how do you make their jobs as easy as possible and take the guesswork out of 90% of the situations they find themselves in a day?
And make sort of all of the standard of the 80% of the things you’re going to experience, you know exactly what to do. That leaves the mental capacity and the energy and the time to deal with the 10% of, you know, truly weird shit that does pop up and you shouldn’t build for edge cases, you should build for that, the 80% of just the boring stuff. Absolutely.
And I’m not going to drill you anymore on processes because don’t worry, you’re in the right place to talk about them. I love to nerd out on a process flow.
I mean, everyone on my team knows, I’m like, okay, what’s the process?
Write it down, like let’s get a mirror board and stick it out. Exactly. And it’s often the thing that gets overlooked as well. So often it’s particularly a couple of years ago, it was no, grow, grow, grow at all costs, let’s, you know, we’ll throw that out the window.
And actually it’s only when you’ve started to steam ahead that it’s like, oh God, I’ve built no, I like to refer to it as like building tracks behind you as you go so that everyone can follow it kind of in your own footsteps, right?
So what I’m intrigued for us to kind of dig into then is we’ve talked a little bit around kind of what is kind of like a legacy industry. So in your role as CRO and going in, you’re bringing in what is a very different approach and having spoken to revenue leaders in kind of more traditional industries, bigger companies, you know, bringing in change like that, that always proves to be a challenge.
So how did you approach kind of bringing in your way of running the revenue team with key stakeholders within the business?
I think this is not going to win me any friends, but I think one of the things that I really focus on is hiring people from outside Telco. Like we’ve got a lot of good expertise in the technical side. Like we’ve got really good network operations and we have people who know how to build networks.
But I think if you’ve grown up in these really big Telco companies like BT and Openreach and Virgin and you’ve sort of got a mentality of, oh, this is how it should look, that doesn’t always yield the best just because that’s how it’s been done doesn’t mean that’s the best way it can be done.
And I have a lot of empathy for people who are trying, you know, anyone who’s worked in sort of a change organization, these massive, massive companies, it’s a nightmare. Like you’re trying to knit together a whole bunch of legacy, you know, systems. Getting data is awful. Every time you touch something, it costs like, you know, 200,000 quid minimum. So I do have a lot of empathy for that.
But for me, it was we’ve got such a unique opportunity in the way that the altnet market and some of the challenger brands are coming up in this. Bring in the best from that really good retail operations and who’s scaled. I’ve got people who have scaled energy brands. I’ve got people who are head of marketing right now used to be at Ringo.
And, you know, I was like, if you can care about a parking app, you can definitely care about fiber. And I think for me, that’s been a really big thing is we don’t have to do it the way that the industry has done. And in order to do that, you need to attract people who haven’t been sort of locked in how this industry thinks.
And I think it’s probably a little bit to my detriment. Like there’s definitely, I’m naive a little bit even coming into telco and saying, well, this is how I think it should be done. Sometimes the network operations team will put their hands up for our tech team.
Be like, that’s not how.
But you need to have that kind of tension of, OK, what’s possible?
And always kind of push that that limit. And I think that’s been the that’s been the interesting thing is balancing.
And it comes it’s all industries, right?
Like you always need to kind of inject some fresh thinking and fresh talent.
And and, you know, always look for what industry I don’t look at competitors as, you know, what are the other altnets who are building in our area?
I look at my competitors as what are the brands I want to emulate?
What is the feeling that, you know, people have when they when they build into those brands and then and then how using that is our commercial challenge?
I like that approach because I mean, inevitably, if you’re going to change things and do it in a different way, particularly to what your competitors are doing, it never means that you’re going to step on some toes because it’s hang on, everyone else isn’t doing that.
So why are we doing it differently?
That just doesn’t seem to make much sense.
So how do you then kind of prove to them the success of of what you’re doing?
You kind of alluded to earlier that you’ve had a really successful time recently.
So is it literally here’s the revenue number, that’s it?
Or or is it a little more sophisticated than that?
There was. So when I first came in, I trash sales, I and I have to kind of get my colleagues on our executive team and our senior leadership team some credit because I there was a lot of like, just trust me, this is going to work. But it’s you know, the the numbers were not going in my direction in the first few months of my of my tenure.
And and and for me, it’s it’s building those credibility.
We we we talked a lot with our board and our team about reasons to believe and looking into, OK, what are those?
What are those proof points?
Because I think I had one of the fewest since we started a pretty bad. September was brutal. October was not quite as brutal, but still not the trajectory that we wanted. And for context, I started in a part time reswitch in June, I was still transitioning from another portfolio company. It was like full time August. So it’s not really confidence inducing for a team or that you bring in someone.
And then, you know, she immediately trashes, trashes the machine that you already had that wasn’t really working. So there was a lot of trust that I had to to build with that.
But, you know, to the team’s credit and the board’s credit, they gave us, you know, some breathing room and let us build what we needed to do. So a lot of it was just pulling out those glimmers of hope and saying, OK, I know the overall number doesn’t look like this, but, you know, we’re really gaining traction on on our our insider direct sales team or, OK, we’re able to recruit.
We’ve got, you know, we rely on field field agents. And we took a very different model than what’s happening. And you just kind of have to pull those points and say, OK, it is it is going to show up in the numbers. And then it really wasn’t until I would say the November back half of November that we really started to gain traction.
Then, of course, you go into December holidays, Christmas, that whole thing. So you don’t really even get to see any of that come forward until, you know, January, the beginning of February. I was completely breaking it to be complete. Things weren’t it just was really slow. Like the numbers were really the beginning part of February.
So I did send this email to our team and said, OK, here’s some more reasons to believe. I know the numbers don’t look, you know, great mid month. And then we, you know, since mid February, it’s it’s like a rocket’s been been under our team.
And now it’s around, OK, is this, you know, can we maintain it?
And and it really is picking up those proof points and saying, OK, it’s showing up in the overall numbers, it’s showing up in the lead gen, it’s showing up in, you know, revenue. We’ve been playing with products and there’s a lot of tests and learning that that needs to happen.
We need to be disciplined about testing and learning as well and actually extracting, OK, when we change the price of this thing, we’ve seen this volume increase or we’ve seen this this yield.
And and how do we capitalize on that?
So we’re definitely still in a lot of, you know, proof point mode. Is that you mentioned the particular on testing and learning.
What I was going to ask is, you know, why why do you think you’ve been successful?
But what I’m actually really interested to know is kind of within that and is it perhaps like three things that you’ve done that you’ve found to be, you know, this has really moved the needles for us?
Yeah, I think, you know, one thing we did is. So we use we use field agents for for a good chunk of it. We we were we were working with a partner prior to me coming in. They had an agreement with a partner who was basically a national brand and they go in and subcontract field agents and and that just wasn’t working for me.
One, I didn’t like I didn’t like the lack of control. I didn’t like, you know, I didn’t know where people were going. I wasn’t really getting a great engagement from that team. They were really trying to, I think, strong arm us.
And and, you know, when your your field agent contractor is trying to strong arm you over product and pricing, it was like, this is not working. So we stopped working with them and and our head of sales had some people he worked with before and we went to a you know, we work directly with with these agencies.
You know, we know who’s at the door. We know what they’re doing every day.
If there is in a rare occasion, because the thing I’m most worried about whenever you’re relying on on contractors is are you eroding the brand?
Are you damaging the brand in some way?
And we’ve managed to because of the approach we’ve taken in contracting and building those teams where where we have control over that. They they care about it just as much as we do. And and and that’s gone really well. And I think in the in the last few months in particular, that’s really grown. We’ve gotten really good feedback.
And and, you know, this market is very competitive at the moment. Like I said, there’s 100 to 150 and they’re all feeling pressure from their investors. They’ve pumped a bunch of money into this market and not anyone, I think, is is getting the selling rates to the penetration rates that were maybe promised in the initial business case. So it is really competitive.
So for me, it is it is important that we’re we’re shown as a, you know, a partner of choice whether we’re working with affiliates or referrals or agents like that. That’s something that is really essential and will be more and more essential as we grow. One of the challenges we’ve had has been the big one has been just surfacing data.
And that’s something that anyone who anyone who’s been working kind of hasn’t been if your stack hasn’t been built with sort of future case in mind. And in this case, it was the the team before me really worried about speed to market. And they were like, we want to get an initial customer.
And some of the tooling that they some of the requirements and things they built into the tooling just wasn’t necessarily built to scale. So we spent a lot of time in the first initial month kind of trolling through what we could surface, what our limitations were.
And and there’s some there’s some definitely some manual processing, which I always hate coming out of out of tooling, but really getting into the numbers and understanding those types of things we couldn’t test and learn until we unlock some of that data. That was one of that foundation. So setting up a team that could really dig into the data.
And even though the tooling is still very imperfect, we can at least now surface those insights that do help our marketing team, our sales team make those better decisions. Love all that you’re saying.
Is that therefore then where revenue operations is coming into it for you?
Yeah. So the rev ops team is really focused on kind of three things. And I feel like I’m explaining to the converted, but we’ve got the data insights and analytics. So being going in and supporting our team, there is some manual processing that has to happen from a marketing perspective and a sales perspective.
So they do a little bit of that as well, but really setting up a team that can dig into the data and use that same kind of data data source to support sales and marketing installs and customer care.
And to me, that’s important because if you have these things in silos, there’s just something inherent about companies. And I can’t even kind of pinpoint what happens, but people do put their head down, they get the job and they don’t necessarily lift their eyes up to the horizon to see what’s happening.
So for me, having a centralized data team across all of your customers facing teams that’s the only way you can kind of contextualize and say, okay, well, if this is happening in customer care, the impact on sales is or can be X and you need people who can see that full view.
Then there’s obviously the process operations management, business process optimization, whatever you want to, whatever consultee word you want to use for it. But essentially it’s giving them the mandate to own those end to end processes.
Because and everyone runs into this where you, I was going into our leadership team meetings and it’s like, well, billing had this problem and finance has this problem and customer cares this and no one’s kind of owning the whole, if that makes sense. And there’s no one. So the people that I’ve had have been really good about bringing the right stakeholders together and kind of doing that.
It would essentially grind work, but saying, okay, what do you need?
What do you need?
I just remember when I was doing this in an energy company years ago and we were kind of it was the company, it was like over a hundred years old. It was kind of it started a crown corporation in Canada and evolved into things.
And in our teams, we had people who were, their job was literally just reformatting data into spreadsheets because the data they would get from the traders, for example, came in a different format than what someone else would need it. And there was so much of just putting data in spreadsheets through this whole thing.
What all you need to do is say, well, can the traders just change their format of whatever they’re capturing it in slightly different way. And it changed everyone’s jobs downstream. So you do need to have someone that digs into that. And then the big thing is the third thing around RevOps is that tech stack and that tooling and there’s, we’ve been kind of scoping out what does a complete rebuild look like.
And we’re rebuilding CRM. We need to rebuild our front end, all of that stuff.
But then also in the, how do we optimize what we have?
We can’t just stop all work, clean, build the perfect system and then restart again.
So there that team and I’ve got a solutions architect in there right now who’s helping with simple things like how do you do self-serve for installations?
And everyone’s like, oh, there’s a tool for that. And you’re like, yeah, well, there’s a lot of process and data and ways of working that you need to improve before your magic self-scheduling tool works. So that’s really the core of the RevOps team is data process technology.
And then really their mandate is to work with not only everyone on our team, but that’s kind of the interface for all the other teams in the business. It also is really exciting. Like in terms of everything that you’re building together, the one thing… It’s sexier than you think. I feel like I’m being sold on it. I know exactly.
The thing that I was really curious around was you mentioned around, obviously from the data, you’re pulling some of those insights for your teams.
Could you perhaps give a bit of context around the types of insights that you’re surfacing for them, but then also the processes that you have in place for teams to then leverage those insights?
Yeah. So a lot of it has shown up in marketing. So when the team was going through some challenges when I first got in and they were basically in survival mode a little bit and very highly reactive with what things needed from the business. So we had lost kind of that regular cadence. A lot of what we’ve done is really simple A-B testing, trying some things, learning.
There’s nothing sexy in it to be completely honest, but a lot of it is understanding what creative or what collateral, what messaging works for the audience. And I think we’ve been, as an industry, Telco has really been sold on that price v speed. And everything you look at, you’ll get flyers from any line or everyone’s trying, playing in that.
And what we’ve been really playing with over the last six months is, okay, what if we didn’t play in that market?
Or what is that emotional, what is the emotional response to broadband?
And so we did a lot of consumer research at the very beginning. And it was really interesting to me because the former Telco was enterprise B2B only in London. This is retail consumer residential. And people have a really weird, it was just an interesting emotional connection to your broadband.
Because you think about it as a utility, but you don’t have the same fear around your water being shut off or your electricity not working or your lights not coming on. And there’s really a lot of security that comes with utility. Broadband is utility that’s really essential to the backbone of a home when you think about it in terms of how people play, how people connect, how people work.
And yet there’s this kind of underlying fear of what happens when it goes down. And I think there’s a lot of, I was surprised, and I think it’s because I don’t have children myself, of how much anxiety people had.
Not when the broadband goes down, because it doesn’t even cut out very often, but the fear that if it does and then it does create unrest when your kid can’t play a video game or you’re trying to pitch, you’re trying to work from home and you don’t have the right connection. And so it’s a really interesting emotional response that people have with their broadband provider.
And so what we’ve been doing a lot is kind of testing and learning different message points and saying, I don’t want to just choke price v speed because no one understands speed of broadband. Let’s be clear. I work in this industry, I’ve worked in this industry for a few years now, and I still can’t conceptualize what’s the difference between 200 megs and a gig and what’s fast.
And everyone’s like, oh, mega fast and super fast and slightly more faster. And it’s really, it’s a really confusing market to kind of come in.
So we’re trying really to strip that back and say, okay, well, what did normal people who don’t really want to know, understand the underpinnings of how their internet gets to them, how do they want to buy broadband?
How do we make this easy for them?
How do we give them the confidence?
Because anytime you’re switching broadband providers, there’s always faff around, install and moving stuff around. How do we give them the confidence that during that install process, like we won’t let them down, there won’t be unrest, family members won’t be fighting.
And really, it’s been playing with that messaging, seeing what kind of engagement we’re getting with our collateral, seeing what kind of response we’re getting from what we call registrations of interest, which is basically just leads that we collect during the build process.
How is that converting into actual sales and orders?
And most importantly, how is that connecting to installs and customers on the network?
Because the challenge with this industry in particular is your pre-install cancellations are sort of a jokingly referred to as like a bit of a valley of death of when you’ve made a sale and before someone can come and actually install that. There’s a lot that can go wrong. There’s a lot of technical stuff. There’s a lot of construction scheduling stuff that can go wrong.
And if you can make customers feel supported through that valley of death, then actually are quite sticky and you just need to treat them right after that, which unfortunately is where a lot of the legacy telco providers really fall down. This is great. I’m really enjoying this.
So the one thing that I really wanted to ask then is, because it sounds like all is going very well, it sounds like you’re really starting to prove the value of it.
And so if you could, so you’ve been with Switch for, is it eight months now?
Yeah, eight months.
If we could wave a magic wand and go back in time to the very beginning, knowing what you know now, would you do anything differently?
I would have moved faster on some of our tech builds because now we’re, we’re, we’re part of a group. So the fund that that we’re a part of, they funded a number of fiber to the home companies were all going through a bit of an exercise to see if we can come together and work together. So that’s unfortunately slowed down some of the tech build we wanted to do.
So I think selfishly for me, if we would have been able to go faster on on some of that tech builds, I would have been able to unblock a lot of our systems and tech stack problems. I think I would have. It’s a tough one. I think I still would have fixated on the data.
I had, when I came in, I reorganized the sales team in a way that made sense at the time and it was, it was a bit of a knee jerk of, okay, we just need to create a little bit of certainty on that. And I rearranged them regionally, which wasn’t quite the right move, but I didn’t really have another option, if I’m honest.
I would, but what it ended up doing is meant the team over the last, you know, eight months. It’s not that they’ve been massive reorgs, but there’s definitely been some, you know, nudges and changes in org structure. And you know, there’s a lot of, you know, time and reporting lines and all those things.
And at any time you do that, even though everyone does end up in the right place, it does just create a lot of like, okay, uncertainty.
So, I think I would have done some different things around how we reorganize the team in those, in those early days. I’m not sure what I would have exactly done differently.
any position where if any member of the team who’d been there didn’t feel confident or didn’t feel certain, and I think for me, my number one job as a senior leader is to make people feel confident and empowered to do the best they can in that role.
And that’s where whenever you’re moving teams around, I think it can be really difficult for some people, because it’s not just a job, it’s can I pay my rent, can I pay my mortgage, like there’s a whole bunch of emotional things that come with the things surrounding your job.
So that was one thing that I wish, I think I could have done it differently, or I think I could have brought in some people sooner, or those kind of things.
I really held out, I did a lot of interviews for marketing and brand, and I wanted to bring the right people who were biased or outside telcos, and I was getting a lot of initial CVs from people who were from other altnets or from the other industry, and I was a bit of a stickler and a bit pedantic about like, no, I want someone who scaled a retail brand before, or scaled something like that.
So I think I was maybe a little bit slower to hire some of the senior leadership roles that we needed to provide that guidance. So those kind of are the big things that I would have done differently.
And then, yeah, I just wish I would have moved faster.
I think we all wish we could have moved faster, right?
Time seems to be the most finite resource at times.
Yeah, exactly. So the last thing I kind of wanted to touch on, obviously, for everyone listening, there’s a lot of people that are in rev ops roles, or they’re kind of working their way up towards really, you know, quite an aspirational role as a CRO, and it sounds like you’ve really embodied, you know, making revenue operations and really a data-driven approach to go to market, a core part of your strategy.
So for anyone that’s on that journey, what would your advice be to them in terms of, you know, stepping up to that role as a CRO?
I think the number one piece of advice I give everyone is, don’t fixate on titles. And I give, it doesn’t matter whether you’re rev ops or anything, for me, it’s around, you know, not that I think my very meandering career path is necessarily the right way, but I think people do get a bit sticky on the external validation that comes with a certain title or a certain thing.
And for me, it’s always been around, like, chase the interesting work and chase the interesting problem, and things come out of that. It’s worked out okay for me so far. We’ll see. We’ll see what happens next. But it really, for me, comes to, this is still a bit of a, not emerging anymore, but it’s still a bit of a new concept.
And especially if you’re going into trying to explain what this is to senior leaders and what benefit it is, it does come down to being able to have those defensible proof points and saying, okay, I’ve got this data, I’ve got this idea, and how can I help my colleagues or how can I help other people really succeed at their job through, you know, a revenue operations thing that we can do?
And so, the most interesting problem, I think that most companies, so startups have it a bit easier because they often are, you know, more software-driven as their nature.
A lot of early companies just have more inherent tech literacy and data literacy, where some of the, I think there’s gonna be a lot of opportunity for people in this area to go into some of these legacy companies, or legacy industries and say, okay, let’s bring in a really tech-forward, data-forward approach. But that does come with, you know, not resistance, but I think a lack of understanding.
So the more people can be really clear and concise around, I’ve got this data point, it will create this result or have this impact, or this is something we’ve done, and kind of coming back to that, reasons to believe, that’s always helpful. I think most of my job is having the, I guess the confidence to make decisions based on imperfect information.
And I think a lot of people are always trying to get to, okay, well, what is the, how do I make the exact perfect decision?
And sometimes it’s not about the perfect decision, it’s just a decision. Someone needs to make a decision and keep momentum going.
And the more I can, I’ve been able to increase my trust in the data and the team, and, you know, for the first few bit, whenever I saw numbers, I’m like, ooh, I don’t know where they’re coming from, I don’t know, is that right?
The little kind of data points, the very few, few data points I had, did I trust them?
Now I’m in a position where when my team comes to me with something and says, this is gonna make a difference or this is what we’re seeing, it makes my job so much easier. So I think it’s, don’t try and be, you know, perfect.
Don’t strive for perfection, whether it be in title or whether it be like, just keep some momentum going and be able to demonstrate if you’ve got a good idea and you can back it up with data, like that’s how you’re going to make the biggest impact and, you know, and climb the ladder.
And the big thing is just, you know, being, a lot of it is just around like being someone that people want to work with. And I think there’s such, we get kind of stuck on the data analytics and the tech and everything in this role, but a lot of it is, most of your job is around how do you encourage other people to work together.
So those soft skills are so, so essential when you’re, you know, you can present a bunch of data and charts and everything, but if you don’t know how to bring people along with that journey or tell a compelling story around it, so things like communication skills, things like interpersonal and even a bit of negotiation as you’re trying to balance priorities, like don’t neglect the soft skills and ask, you know, ask for feedback on the soft skills.
I got some feedback this week and, you know, especially I think in the UK, not everyone is really forward with feedback, so like always ask for it, be like, could I have done something differently in this meeting?
Is there something that’s, you know, not coming off the right way or can I do things differently?
I think that makes the biggest difference. That’s what I see the kind of biggest skills gap between, you know, who can be a really great senior leader and who’s a really great analyst and a lot of it just comes down to those soft interpersonal skills.
Yeah, you’re 100% right. British people aren’t very good at coming forward for feedback, I can second that.
I think I shocked someone where I sent an email, I was like, hey, I’m hearing some things, can we please have, and he was like, oh, okay, but I think it’s so important, like you have to be, like we’re all adults here and no one, no one, I can’t do anything differently unless I get the feedback or ask for the feedback and you do kind of have to have, it’s always a bit of a, it’s always awkward, but everyone gets better as a result of that.
Jessica, one final question.
What is one book that you would recommend to other revenue leaders?
I’ve been waiting for this one. This is about the highlight of the interview for me.
I read a lot, but one of the things, one of the best books I’ve read is, it’s a book called Range by David Epstein and it’s essentially, I think I like it because it validates all of my life choices, which is probably something I should discuss in therapy, but it’s really about how generalists triumph in a specialist world and how, kind of knowing a little bit about a law and it’s really just around, I think the thesis is around having more context, I think even you, if you, and specialists are great, don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful there are specialists in all sorts of different fields, like medical and different things, but you need to balance that with somebody who has that, I guess the skills and the context of, okay, how do you use this information, how to use this, the specialism in the best way.
So for anyone who’s had a bit of a, whether it’s a meandering career path or feels like they’re not an expert in something, don’t panic, read the book and you’ll feel a lot better about yourself. That’s a perfect recommendation off the back of the previous question as well, so I think that’s excellent.
Jessica, it’s been an absolute pleasure. I think I blurted it out earlier, I’ve really enjoyed this, really great to get insight into a very different industry, particularly from a UK focus as well.
For everyone listening, if they wanna reach out, if they have the same kind of feelings of excitement, like listening to it, where can they find you?
Probably LinkedIn is the best way to find me on there.
Yeah, send me a message, I’m always happy to. People who have experienced, I guess this is more a plea for help than anything, people who are coming in and experiencing the same challenges, please reach out, I love to get some advice and guidance on how other people are tackling this too.
Amazing, we’ll put a link down in the show notes below.
And well, thank you again, and for everyone that’s listened to the episode this week, thanks so much, we’ll catch you next week. Thank you so much, it’s been a pleasure.
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