How to Build a Single Source of Truth to Make Better Decisions With Briana Yarborough, Co-Founder at C-Model
In this episode of the Revenue Insights Podcast, host Lee Bierton is joined by Briana Yarborough, Co-founder at CModel. They discuss how C-Model combines big data at companies with AI models to deliver decision intelligence and sales revenue prediction. Along the way, Briana shares her insights of working with companies across the growth spectrum, from tech startups to enterprise-scale companies.
Briana Yarborough is the co-founder at CModel, a decision intelligence company that helps CEOs make informed decisions on their revenue streams. She has over fifteen years of leadership experience in numerous tech companies and revenue consulting roles. At CModel, Briana has built a decision support engine that combines a company’s big data with AI.
- Briana’s LinkedIn
- CModel’s Website
- Briana’s Book Recommendation – How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- 00:41 – 06:09 – Briana’s story
- 07:32 – 10:32 – How to help your CEO to make informed decisions
- 11:11 – 12:02 – The importance of data in making a decision
- 12:32 – 14:08 – Why predictable revenue growth is a realistic goal
- 14:45 – 17:02- The fundamentals for planning
- 17:39 – 19:49 – Common pains when you don’t have a single source of truth
- 20:02 – 21:32 – What is C-Model planning for 2023
- 22:20 – 24:30 – How to use the learnings from building businesses in building your own business
- 24:29 – 25:55 – Why red tape creates bottlenecks at large businesses
- 27:19 – 29:48 – How to hit the ground running in 2023
- 30:21 – 31:44 – How C-Model is educating the market on decision intelligence
- 31:50 – 33:02 – Briana’s Book Recommendation – How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie
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Briana: In the revenue operations space a lot of the work that we do to try to come to that single source of truth that we always talk about is in support of allowing our C Suite leaders to be able to make the right decisions for the company. And going through those experiences and literally being the person that tells the CEO what we need to do is mindblowing.
Lee: Welcome to Revenue Insights. Every week we’ll be joined by revenue leaders from some of the most successful and highest growing companies. Together we explore how they built their revenue teams, the journeys that they’ve been on, and the lessons they have learned along the way. Revenue Insights is brought to you by Ebsta we’re a revenue intelligence platform designed to help revenue teams to build more pipelines, close more deals, and retain more customers. Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the Revenue Insights podcast. Today I’m joined by Briana Yarborough. She’s the co-founder of Cmodel and serves as an advisor and executive leader for several high growth startups. Briana, it’s lovely to meet you at last.
Briana: Yeah, great to be here Lee. Thank you for having me.
Lee: No problem at all. We’ll start where we normally start. I’d love to hear a little bit more about your story. I’ve mentioned kind of in the intro, you worked at various different startups in tech. You now started your own startup. So can you give a little more context around what that journey has been like?
Briana: Absolutely. So I started my career maybe 15 years ago and based out of Houston, Texas. The natural path of any career in Houston, Texas is for you to go into oil and gas. That’s what I did. I started oil and gas and supply chain management and procurement. Got a little bit of a finance skill set while I was in that role. Lived and bounced around the country a little bit in Billings, Montana, Oklahoma, and then moved on to tech. And it was completely a fluke. It was not intentional at all. I just had an opportunity to fall into my lab. I was a cyber security company and everything was great. Operations and strategy management. The chief strategy officer was supposed to move to Houston from California, never did. So I was pretty much the chief strategy officer here in Houston. What a great way to level up your skillset. Just be thrown into the fire. Right. And then a couple of other companies have done AI and customer experience and machine learning, as well as employee development and learning and development for tech edtech companies. And throughout that career, it kind of remained in the strategy and operations realm and then it kind of pivoted into finance. And so I went and reported into the CFO within Tech altogether, always reporting it to someone in the C Suite, which is also an interesting dynamic for the tech world. Right. But grew into this finance role and determined that there was a need for business intelligence. We have disparate systems, we had data that was not matching up. I’m sitting in finance and trying to forecast and understand where we are from a financial perspective so that we can report up to the investors and the board members unable to do that because what we’re getting from sales doesn’t match what we have. And we’re just finding that all of this is just a cluttered mess. And we’ve got years of background data because the company has been in existence for about six or seven years and no one had thought about just turning on the integration or just how important it is for our information to match what other stakeholders internally had on their end. And so I became the director of Financial Planning and analysis, and then we tagged on business intelligence and then we tagged on revenue operations. So I’m the director of these three different but very related departments and it was life changing for the company. Grew the revenue by 300% in one year and was really able to integrate our systems and create a single source of truth and build out dashboards that made sense that we knew exactly where we were and we didn’t have to spend the weekend running numbers and crunching things in Google Sheets or Excel or whatever system. And then from there on, I did some consulting for a while, very passion driven for me. I did consulting primarily for founders of color and that was just something that spoke to my heart as a DEI champion. And I did that for a while and got to be in a variety of different organizations, helped an organization understand that they were a PLG product when they didn’t know. They just wanted to create something, they created it, and they were hitting the ground running but selling it like an enterprise pool. And it was not right for them. And so just making it available for purchase on their website grew their revenue by 20% in one quarter. So that it was instrumental. The proof is always in the pudding. When you get to see those results of your efforts that you put into things, it’s really rewarding. And then that brings me to the day all of that journey and all that experience. One year in tech is like five years in a regular dinosaur world. So I really have like 100 years of experience. All of that experience led to me just kind of networking on LinkedIn and meeting new people. And I came across Teasha Cable, who is my co founder of Cmodel and the CEO of Cmodel. And we really started talking about at the time she was VP of Business Ops for a major sales sort of ed tech company. And we started talking about all of the things that were missing in the technologies that we were currently using and what we wish we had and what good looked like and decided to build Cmodel. And so Cmodel is a decision intelligence staff company who provides insights and recommendations. That’s the icing on the cake, the recommendations to CEOs and leaders who really want to grow their businesses. We have a proprietary decision support engine that aggregates all of the critical business data across the entire company. And we use machine learning to analyze those metrics assumptions. We use benchmarking. We have an expert network that also provides insights and helps us kind of concatenate all of the information that is coming across from all over the place to bring down here. This is what we’ve noticed. Your, for example, cap spin and return on investment from that. Cap is not what it was last quarter and these are the reasons why. Maybe something’s going on in the industry, maybe something’s going on in the market, maybe you have a competitor that is leading or taking over sort of the market share. That’s what our system does for CEOs.
Lee: Amazing. Just before we kind of go down the Cmodel a little bit more of the companies that you have kind of worked with and consulted on in terms of size, are we talking like usually kind of small tech startups or have you also been on the more enterprise size of the scale?
Briana: Oh, both. It’s definitely been a multimillion dollar deal for one year all the way down through PLG. You can put this on your company card on a monthly basis.
Lee: Beautiful. And then so really fascinated to learn a little bit more about Cmodel. But actually what I’m really intrigued by is, and I’m making a wild assumption here, is that decision intelligence sounds incredibly useful first and foremost, but I’m guessing that comes from a lot of learnings from the businesses that you’ve worked out working with CEOs that probably could do as a helping hand making decisions. I think decision making is a topic that comes up a lot in this and making decisions is really hard whether you’re a CEO or just a regular Joe. And so can you share some of those experiences and learning that you had that really inspired building Cmodel?
Briana: Absolutely. So in the revenue operations space, a lot of the work that we do to try to come to that single source of truth that we always talk about is in support of allowing our C Suite leaders to be able to make the right decisions for the company. And going through those experiences and literally being the person that tells the CEO what we need to do is mind blowing. You become a strategic partner, you’re not a tactical salesforce or HubSpot administrator or anything like that. It becomes a part of the process, the people, the data, all of that rolled up. And then understanding what this means for organization, understanding what’s going out in the rest of the market in the competitive landscape to come back and say, well, we need to really up our marketing game, or we need to be at this conference or we need to stop spending as much in this area because XYZ to have informed decisions become something that is easily accessible. And if you think about a CEO or C Suite leaders day in the life, they’re in back to back meetings all day. They don’t have time to do a whole ton of research, they don’t log into a benchmarking platform. Even the revolts folks on the ground, unless you have some massive team, you don’t have access to as much information as Cmodel does. Right? And so that whole concept alone helps you understand the value proposition that brings. And it’s not just about the revenue piece at all. It’s about how is the product performing, how are the users interacting with the product, what is the sentiment around employees internally? I mean, it goes as far as that for us to talk about motivation and talk about how much output we’re getting from individuals in the workspace. And if there is something, maybe there is an answer to a survey or we have slack data that’s coming into our system that’s saying, okay, well, this person isn’t really on the same level as some of the other people within the organization. I think over the course of my career, being that person that was more it almost feels like a chief of staff. You’re almost a right hand person to the CEO, but you’re in a RevOps role and you have all of the skill set and all of these experiences that you’ve had that you can really consult and become that strategic partner to help them understand what needs to happen next. A lot of CEOs are first time CEOs, especially in the tech space, and they don’t know unless you tell them and educate them the same way that you would during a sales pitch. Right. You would say, these are the reasons that you need this and this is how it will help you. This is the value that you’ll get out of it.
Lee: I’m really interested actually, because what underlays a lot of this is data. Right? And I think going back to what you were saying kind of earlier around like the different roles that you play, you know, intelligence, revenue, operations, all of it is underpinned by data at the end of the day. And do you think that that is one of the biggest challenges that many businesses have? And I’m kind of curious to know through the lens of Cmodel as well in terms of it sounds great to have it all in one place, but does not rely on having good, clean, reliable data all being fed into a single location.
Briana: Absolutely. I am a huge advocate to say yes, that would be the best chance of survival for any organization. When you have different systems, disparate data and there’s no data governance in place, it’s been trustworthy, trash in, trash out. I mean, that is the phrase that we use here. And you put trash in and you don’t have anyone that’s actually looking and monitoring or setting up the right processes to make sure that people are capturing the right information, then you don’t have anything worth using in the end to be able to understand anything for your organization. And that’s another thing that Cmodel does. We actually look for anomalies in your data to say, hey, you might want to go take a look at this. It doesn’t look right.
Lee: Lovely. I want to take us in a slightly I’ve got really interesting questions when we first we were actually going to speak back in July of 2022 and I was looking through your LinkedIn page, something that you were really passionate about, certainly at the time interest has noticed changed is predictable revenue growth. This dream almost for many businesses. From your experience and doing what you’re doing now, do you think predictable revenue growth is ultimately achievable?
Briana: Absolutely. I think that you have to get your handle around what is going on outside of your business. You can’t just be stuck in your business and think that what happened last year is going to happen this year. Seasonality is a thing. There are a bunch of different variables that affect what predictability means. And so if you have someone that is good at analyzing the market on your team, or you have a reliable resource getting market intelligence, then that will help you create a more predictable forecast for your business. But predictable revenue underpins a lot of things. Like it’s fed by so many factors. Like no one knew that COVID was going to come and people were going to get laid off and this was going to happen. But as soon as it happened, people that understood the implications of freezing financial purchases and how long that might run and thinking about that and just not even being not even being conservative about it, like, let’s be realistic. About this and try to see how long our business can last with our current employee group and what we need to do to cut back on specific areas so that we’re not affected in the same way that these other companies are affected. So just kind of being on the lookout for what might happen, what might come that might throw you off a little bit. But also the predictability is very much so attainable. It just takes you doing the extra step of doing the research.
Lee: Yeah. And obviously the time that we’re recording this is November 23, going into 2023 and knowing what the market is like at the minute, I think now is probably the time that predictability is going to be challenged, certainly at its most in covered. Really. I’m interested to know from business that you’ve worked at an argument for Cmodel, although I know kind of at the stage you’re at, you might have a slight different approach to it. When it comes to planning ahead for the year. And what would you say your approaches to it and how do you achieve that predictability?
Briana: Yeah, absolutely. So I start off with reviewing historical data. How have we performed so far? What was it like last year? Who was on the team and who was not? Who just got here? Needs to ramp. There’s a lot of questions that I asked. It’s about asking all of the right questions and to the right people. And so if an organization says, I want to grow by 20% next year, we need to do a top down analysis, we need to do a bottom up analysis, and we need to see if our numbers match and do them separately. And what does it mean to stretch our quotas? What is our quotas payment to begin with? Do we need to hire more people or do we need to do something like be more intentional about the pipeline that we’re generating instead of just letting all the leads come in? Maybe we need to come up with a new discovery sort of questionnaire or strategy as we’re thinking about the types of people that we’re actually spending time and energy on because time and energy equals money. And so that would be my answer to that question. And I really think that with all of the questions answered in building out your forecast or using the right tool to house your forecast, it really helps you stay on track of things. I have noticed from a lot of companies that I’ve worked for that they’re just not data driven at all and they don’t plan and they don’t look at their pipeline and they don’t look at how they are doing from forecasts versus actual on a regular operational cadence. And that’s what gets businesses into trouble. And so I would say yes, plan accordingly. Ask all the right questions up front. Think about your ramp, think about all of the sellers that are involved. Think about your implementation, your time to revenue, because you have revenue recognition implications that are different for every company. It might take one company twelve weeks to implement someone or onboard them onto their tool or technology or service, or they could be provisioned immediately. And you start gaining that revenue right now, right then. And so it depends on the company, the nature of the business. And regardless of that, ask the right questions, think about planning and measure yourself against it.
Lee: Something that you said I’m curious to know the answer to. You mentioned that a number of businesses don’t have data and they’re not planning. To me, that’s kind of baffling in a way, but that’s how my brain works because I need to have a plan for everything. So why do you think some businesses don’t have data and don’t have a plan?
Briana: I think that they’re working in silos. They don’t have a revenue operation structure. And when I come into the picture. I’m asking these questions and they’re like, we didn’t even think about it, or we didn’t have someone to do that work. We got the system, but we don’t have a data governance plan so that anyone is making sure that we’re crossing our T’s and dotting our eyes within the system and we’re just going off of whatever the dashboard says. And then you go and you dig into the data and there’s 100 and 5200 line items of things that they’re disqualified and they should be closed, loss or any of that. While the companies that I’m referring to tend to be non tech companies because rev ups have become fairly industry agnostic, it also happens in the tech world. You may have the systems in place and think that you’re doing the things right, but your tech isn’t talking to each other or your team isn’t talking to each other. There’s information hoarding that’s happening. I see that way too often. I don’t know why, but you know, instead of the collaborative revenue engine team, it’s almost like people are, you know, in this little box and then if you try to poke a hole in their box to see what they’re doing, they’re like taping it up. Don’t look at me. But yeah, I think that some of the trends that I’ve noticed across various companies is you’ll put the system in place and you just won’t follow through with educating people, enabling people to use it properly, and then you end up with all this tech debt and all of these fields and all this crazy. I mean, it’s like a spider web or you have the system, people are using it fairly well and you’re just not planning appropriately against that because your finance team is busy handling apart or not really doing a lot of financial planning analysis. And if they do do it, maybe they do it on a quarterly basis. They’re not as into the weeds or the data as much as they should be. With a close pulse on what’s going on in the business.
Lee: I’m really intrigued to know. With that in mind, from Cmodels perspective, what is the most important thing that you are planning for going into 2023?
Briana: Yes, the most important thing that we’re planning for is revenue. We’re looking at what’s going on in the market, we’re looking at our competitors in our competition and we are planning to really immerse ourselves in the conferences. We were backed by AWS earlier this year and we’ll be at the conference later this month. And so really building up the network and building up the, I would say buy in relationships that it takes to have people see what we’re doing. Because if you’re not visible and you’re not creating awareness, then you’re invisible. And also just building up that pipeline and building up those relationships so that we not only have friends that think of us when someone needs our technology right, but also because relationships are super important. That’s another thing that I love about the revenue community altogether, is that we always look out for each other. If we have questions, I’m always available. People are always in my DMs, asking me questions or wanting mentorship or whatever. I think I say yes too much, but it works and I am always willing to pay it forward. At one point it was me, right? At one point I didn’t know what the heck I was doing and I had to figure it out.
Lee: I don’t know how you have time in your day to have so many people outright, barely. Yeah, I’m very much in the same boat. The advice was always say yes to everything. You never know where it will take you, but after a while you build up so much debt saying yes to everything that it’s okay, I can’t actually do the things that I need to do now, which becomes slightly troublesome. Something that I really wanted to ask you that came to mind when we were chatting at the beginning as we’ve kind of touched on you’ve worked with businesses both large and small, and what have you learned from building businesses that you’re now taking into building your own business? What are the foundations that you’re putting in place?
Briana: I would say that some of the foundational aspects that we’re putting into places culture is important, right? The way that you treat people is important. And that DEI underlying aspect of who I am as a value that I have as a person is something that I’m taking into building Cmodel. It will be a place that people want to work and they’re excited about and they’re happy about because they are treated fairly and they have a voice and the door is always open. That’s one thing. Another thing that I would say is a foundational aspect of growing and building a business is being really good about thinking towards the future, your future focus. You think about the present, you see the past. But if your eyes on the prize and you’re working towards a goal, setting goals for yourself, setting OKRs, going out, killing them and doing the same thing, what are the OKRs? What are the KPIs that relate? And tell us the measurements on any of those OKRs? What are the goals that individuals have that they are doing to help us attain those top level goals? That is an important driving factor for Cmodel as well. So that we all have our piece of the pie, we’re owning it and we have accountability for it, and then we’re going after it. And then by the close of whatever that particular time frame is, we’ve all reached our goal and we’re thinking about the next thing. And so being very future focused and building progressively.
Lee: Nice. And what would you in the state that you’re in at the minute, how many employees do you have now?
Briana: We have about twelve people on the team.
Lee: Okay, so you’re up to twelve people. And I know to our listeners at home, we’ll be coming from businesses the same size and much bigger businesses, particularly to some of those larger businesses. Often you can’t be as agile, you can’t be as nimble, but what advice would you give from a smaller business to pay it forward? Really, some of those bigger businesses of what they could do better, what they could do more progressively.
Briana: Oh, advice to bigger businesses, that’s a good one. Lee, get rid of your red tape. Stop getting in the way. Don’t get in the way. It happens way too often. Everyone is the police or the sheriff in town, and you’re really just a blocker, you’re a bottleneck. And so the experiences that I’ve had is very long, drawn out procurement processes. By the time the deal closes or by the time we get ready to actually get this closed, the client is going to walk away because they know what it feels like to work with us. And we’re taking things up because it has to go to legal and procurement and security. And over a year, I’m not saying take everything and do everything, but very much so. Make your processes internally more efficient. Set SLAs for yourself and your internal departments to say anything client facing will not sit with this team for more than 24 hours or 48 hours and stick to it. Oftentimes I just see things two months out. Why isn’t this signed? Why isn’t this done? Why isn’t this implemented? And the answer is kind of like, oh, it’s been sitting over in this team’s desk on their lap, and they haven’t gotten back with us. And be responsive and just hold yourself accountable.
Lee: One, that was a really good response, and two, I think it’s a fine line, right? Because sometimes it’s smaller business, there are no processes, and it’s carnage, because you’re really trying to work your way out as you go. And then ironically, there’s a fine line where you kind of tilt the other way, where you end up with so many processes that actually becomes just an absolute mess. And red tape is a really good way of putting it and actually finding a balance between the two. I think I was talking to someone recently who was saying a similar thing for actually as part of the planning process, like taking that into consideration of removing some of those blockers and improving some of those efficiencies, because there are often things that you really don’t get good visibility over. That is going back to the theme of the 2023 coming out of pretty quickly at this point. What advice would you give to businesses that want to hit the ground running from the first day of January, assuming that their financial year obviously runs from beginning of Jan to the end of the year, or in fact, whenever it runs, how do you normally work, or rather, how have you worked with businesses in the past? And I think you’ve probably touched it to see more of a minute. What advice do you give to actually hit the ground running from day one?
Briana: Yeah, absolutely. Definitely. I started my planning process last month, within the beginning of the last quarter of your fiscal year, make sure that you’re doing your planning and thinking about all of the OKRs and initiatives, strategic initiatives that you want to roll out for the organization to help the company progress forward. And if you can, if this is possible. I know December is a hit or miss for a lot of companies because of the holiday, but if you can, I would do a looking back, right? We have kick offs all the time sales kick offs or revenue kickoffs. But looking back in December and maybe even a kick off consolidated into two before January 1 rolls around, so people know what to expect would be. I’ve had that experience and it was really great because it put people in the mindset and they were ready to hit the ground running on Jan one. Whereas if you’re doing a kick off at the end of January, you’ve already missed a month and you’re not building up the motivation and you’re not getting people excited and they’re not ready to hit the ground running quite yet. They’ve just been working how they were working last year, and you’ve definitely lost down some time. But I definitely think that always celebrating the wins and patting people on the back, giving them the feedback and the ability to learn and level up themselves, thinking about professional development within your planning, that is also important. You’re only as good as your people, and if your people aren’t stretching themselves and thinking about ways to learn and develop, they’re just remaining stagnant and they’re going through the motions. You want to be surrounded by the smartest people in the room. I’ve heard people say, I’m not hiring anyone smarter than me. And I’m like, I’m hiring everyone that’s smarter than me. What? What do you mean? And so that’s another aspect. Your end of year sort of close out cycle in the beginning of the year kick off and getting ready to hit the ground running shouldn’t tell not only the numbers and the forecast and the compensation planning and all of the things that we currently do, but it should also be about what are our goals for next year? What are the things that we need to achieve and accomplish? How much are we going to grow? How do we expect to get there, how are we going to enable our people to do that?
Lee: Beautiful. As we kind of move to the end of our chat, something that I am kind of intrigued about is in fact, we’ve probably potentially touched on it already, but is there a particular project that you’re working on right now that you’re particularly passionate. About. I know that you’re kind of at the end of your year, kind of looking ahead, looking to start with events and conferences and stuff like that, but is there anything kind of beyond that or is that really like main focus now of, okay, 2023 is going to be our year?
Briana: Yeah, 2023 is going to be our year? It absolutely is. I cannot say that enough. 2023 is our year. One of the projects that I think we are working on, that we have to be passionate about, that we are very passionate about, is continue to build revenue and showcase that product market fit and look good for investors, right? We are getting ready to start having conversations about fundraising. And in those conversations, we need to demonstrate the value that we bring to organizations. And so that’s one of the very strong passion projects that I’m working on. And also educating people on what decision intelligence is. Right. We hear about revenue operations a lot, and decision intelligence is not quite a term that people are very much familiar with at this point in time. And so I think the educational aspect of here’s, decision intelligence, here’s how we think about it. We have an entire methodology. I won’t go into depth, but like, we’ve got a growth stage and we tell you what, KPIs are important and we help you level up to the next group stage. And so there’s all of these methodologies and frameworks that we’ve built out and put together that is our own proprietary information. Building that out, being thought leaders in that space and educating people and continuing to network with people and continuing to show up for people is something that I am definitely passionate about.
Lee: Alright, final question. Are you ready?
Briana: Let’s do it.
Lee: If there’s one book that you’d recommend to other revenue leaders, which one would it be?
Briana: I would say that the one book is probably How to Win Friends and Influence People. And I say that because this revenue world, I think everyone is nice and great and willing to help and all of that, and there are some people that aren’t. And you have to kind of like wheeze your way in like, hey, you want to be my friend, don’t you? That’s one of the last clips that I read, and it’s been a while. I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts. It’s very easy to just be hammering at work and listen to a podcast at the same time, or even an ebook. And so I’ve done a lot of that as of recently. But that’s definitely the last book that I read and I thought it was good.
Lee: I can only assume that you’ve been listening to the Revenue Insights podcast where you’ve been working through stuff.
Briana: It’s just playing for me in the background. Yes. Gaining knowledge. Knowledge is power.
Lee: I love it. All right, Briana, I know you’re super active on social media and in communities to listen to an audience who wants to learn a little bit more about you and decision intelligence as well. Where can they find you?
Briana: Yeah, I am on LinkedIn. I know people are super hot on Twitter. I haven’t picked up that train yet. I’m not on that boat yet. But I’m very active on LinkedIn and you can find me. Briana Yarborough and Cmodel. Look up Cmodel and there I am.
Lee: Awesome. We’ll put links out in the show notes. That makes it a little easier for wonderful. Briana, it’s been great to have you on. It’s been great to chat and to everyone listening at home or in your car or while you’re working, clearly. Thank you so much and we’ll catch you next week.
Briana: Thank you.
Lee: Thanks for listening to revenue insights. If you want to learn more, subscribe to our newsletter and we’ll deliver every episode straight to your inbox. If you have any questions, feel free to connect with us on LinkedIn. Our links will be in the episode notes. See you next week.