Challenges of running sales teams and starting a company

August 16, 2023

Insights on finding early adopters and staying focused on product excellence.

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Challenges of running sales teams and starting a company

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In this episode, Tom Lavery, the founder and CEO of Jiminny, a sales intelligence platform, shares his journey of starting the company and discusses how Jiminny helps businesses improve performance and increase conversion rates by analysing important data from video, voice, and email. He also talks about the company's expansion from the US to the UK and the challenges and opportunities it presented. Learn about Tom's story and the impact of conversation intelligence in the tech industry.

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The key moments in this podcast are:

00:03:25 Contribution to the economy.

00:04:30 Spending time together.

00:09:44 The importance of getting things done.

00:11:15 Finding your fit in startups.

00:15:10 Finding early adopters.

00:18:30 Pushing yourself for success.

00:21:22 Removing barriers for user interaction.

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Read the transcript

Welcome to the Tech Story podcast, a place where we interview interesting founders and people in tech. Today, I'm very excited to welcome Tom Lavery on the show. Tom is the founder and CEO of Jiminny, a sales intelligence platform for sales and customer success team. Thank you very much for being with us today. Would you like to introduce yourself and the story behind the company.

Yeah, it's great to be here, Charles. Yeah, I guess it's called conversation intelligence, revenue intelligence. That's fine. Absolutely. So yeah, CEO and founder of Jiminny started the company six years ago. Before that, I was a SVP of sales for a tech company. We were just talking before we came in, where you get your inspiration for starting a company. And mine came from running sales teams for a long time and seeing the challenges of doing that. Not all of those challenges have gone away, but we've definitely solved some of them. But no, basically what we do is capture the most important data in the process. So video, voice and email. And we analyse that so businesses can use it to improve performance, increase conversion rates and it works across the whole kind of revenue function. But yeah, so being a journey, still a journey and yeah, enjoying it. And you're saying that you started a company in the US. Yeah, I was living in Boston at the time. So all our founding customers are there and still like 50% of our customers are there now, but very early back on, early on in the company and moved back to the UK. And yeah, we have a lot of customers here as well. And what was the reason for the move? Generally UK companies are trying to get… Yeah, it's a bit of an odd one the other way around, isn't it? I'd been living there for a long time and we'd sold the previous company and I just, me and my wife had been there for what? We just had our… She fell pregnant with our third kid and we were like no family there and the business was young. Shelley was just about to start working in the business and we just felt it was the right thing to be closer to family. Everyone has a different path and journey. So yeah, the right thing to do for me. It's worked out well. Yeah, exactly. And what's been your favourite moment since starting training? Oh, not the end of the quarter, which it is right now, the last two days, but no, I don't know. I look back at my previous business where I was the SVP of sales at Allgateway and it's an amazing business now and gone on and did a huge exit just very recently. And by the time I left, I had 350 people. Honestly, when I look at our employee NPS and I look at the scores and why people enjoy working at Jiminny, they love the culture and they love the people they work with. I think you are, I know it sounds a bit cheesy, but you are contributing to the economy. So much as people analyse, oh, am I growing this fast or have I hit this goal or milestone, probably the one of the biggest things that I was proud of at Allgateway is that it was nothing. We were a tiny little office in Notting Hill with eight people when I started or 10 people. And now it's a company that sold for a billion and has like 450 footballers, like 500 people or whatever. Jiminny, we employ nearly 100 people now. And I think that contribution to the economy and what we do and people's happiness and seeing them progress in their career is really important. And obviously we have our own mission as a business. It's always about Jiminny reaching its potential. So I think there's vanity milestones along the way that kind of make you happy. But I think just generally enjoying what I do and seeing other people benefit from that is probably the long answer. Yeah, I guess with a 100 person company and it was in the office and everyone's going out for lunch or whatever, then that does contribute meaningfully to the economy. When people want to come into the office, that's another thing. We're pretty good at it with our Grosje team and then we have a team in Bulgaria. I think it's really important to spend time together. Lots of our countries are much better at it than the UK, right? In terms of like making sure you have lunch together and spend time together. But we try and do that as much as we can as well. I think the average is probably about two and a half days for us. Kind of hybrid.

Yeah. Well, we've been in the office for the first company since the beginning and we've only recently introduced an optional worker from their own policy. Oh really? For five years. It's rare you hear that now. It's rare you hear that. Yeah. And I think it's, I mean, I'm a young founder and I have quite a young team and I felt that it was important to… It's the best way to learn. Yeah, exactly. You don't learn by sitting at home, unfortunately. I just don't believe it. You have to have a meeting to do anything to interact. Yeah. So, yeah, I think it's a bit of a myth that… And it's kind of a thing as well, whether it's conscious or subconscious, you know, outside our mind. If you really want to progress in a business, you want to develop your career, but you're not willing to put a little bit back in your own pocket to get the training each week or to go and see, you know, you're not… You're going to get overlooked for stuff because you're not contributing in the same way. That's my view. Maybe I'm a bit old school. I mean, I think, you know… Because that's why our policy is optional because, you know, plenty of team members want to be in the office and to come and… Well, I think it's led by example, right? I've got three kids, but I still go in for over three days a week. So I think it's also good, and people talk about, you know, mental wellbeing and stuff. I don't think it's healthy sitting here all the time. I think you need different environments. You need human interaction. And you might not have a proper work environment in this one.

Yeah, not everyone has the luxury of having a home office or whatever. Very insightful. And what do you wish you'd known before starting Jiminny?

Oh, so many things. So… I think I've said this before, but… You know, in the early days, as a founder, you just… You worry too much about the wrong thing. I think generally, how quickly can I do this? How can we be the number one in the market? How big can we get? You know, and definitely as a company, you've got older. You know, you're still a start-up, but just running your own race. You know, you've got to be all over the competition and understand. You know, you want to be innovating all the time, but just, you know, if you do a lot of the right things, it will happen. You know, so just being a bit patient, I think, for me. So I guess in terms of the wrong things, you worry about speed, then competitors. Yeah, I think there's a difference. There's a difference for me between… How fast the success of the business goes and how much urgency you have in terms of what you're doing every day. So as a leader in a business, are you driving urgency? Are things happening quickly? Are people working in an efficient and fast way? That's different to like, oh, how… What's the trajectory? Everyone has a different journey. Yeah. Yeah. But yeah. For me, you have to have that urgency, you know, because you've got to get shit done. Yeah, I know. I mean, at least for me, sometimes I really, really ban, and then there's just execution and then when you're executing, how do you sort of maintain that urgency on the day to day? That's the challenge that I sometimes find. And sometimes, you know, clients then help bring that urgency, but sometimes it can be a bit artificial. Yeah, I think, you know, and that when hiring, that goes back into a challenge. And even now, after doing it for so many years, different teams, the bit that often people get wrong the most, and I think we have is like, are they stage appropriate? And the stage of business changing, because you can hire for culture, you can hire for skill, you can hire for team fit. You know, do they fit into the team that you've currently got? But are they really right for the stage that you're at? And then you often find out very quickly if they're not. But going back to your thing around, you know, driving urgency and whatever, I think there's a big myth of like, you know, the pyramid where it's like how operational, tactical, strategic kind of learning business studies or whatever. And how people have this, you know, view, oh, you know, I need to be more strategic. I'm going to be a manager from a tactical, like especially in this sort of stages of business that you are. And so few companies make it to a million. So few companies make it to the rarefied air of five, 10, 15, 20. And it's about doing. Yeah. You know, you can be strategic in the shower. Or you have in a swim or like, you know, that's generally how I think is like, you know, you don't have to. You can't just block out a day and go, I'm going to strategize today. Doesn't work like that. Your best ideas often come to you in your subconscious anyway. So I think if you can spend more time doing, you know, that that generally works at this stage in my experience. No, I mean, yeah, we were big blues in doing and so pretty she went to Traster. The team that I went for a little bit. Yeah. So some to one remote founder talk about their values and more than get shit done. And so but I find that, you know, getting when you're hiring for that value is sometimes fit up sort of ours is a polite version called be determined. OK, there's the same the same principle, right? It's just like, how are you determined to do your best job to get get work done? Yeah. It's a hard one to hire for. I think I think it's just really understanding people's personality types and their experience. Often. I think that the more I've done it and I think it's easier when you're in a position and you may be doing a final interview or. It's just being really open and honest and just just basically saying this is what it's like. Yeah. Like I was doing an interview the other day and I'm like, you know, well, this is what I have to do in the business to get us from here to there. This is what it feels like. This is how much change goes on. Do you want to sign up for this? This is the reality of it. And I think too many times people are trying to sell to each other or in the interview process and people aren't as human beings honest and open enough because then it would save a lot of heartache if people were a bit more honest and open with each other. And I think I also think sometimes, especially when you're fine for a role that you've never done before, you'll see it as a no. Like, yeah, everyone will say that they enjoy getting the offer. This, but no, in practice. Yeah, I think as well. In tech and SAS, like. It's 20 years old, like as a thing, maybe 10, 12, as people coining certain phrases, but, you know, people actually understanding, am I a startup person? Really? But it's like the idea of working in a startup. There's a massive difference, you know, and then there's all these different levels of, you know, very small to medium. I think people have to find their fit. And it's good. Some people just can't do anything that's less than the B or C round because I just need an established team, you know, and there's certain roles where you're just like, right, you've got to bring in that role to scale something that already works, rather than trying to bring someone in to get it to work, you know, saying very, very interesting. And with the company, you know, you did your series last year and the vision for the next five years, survived and thrived in the current market. No, I'm joking. I think I think for us, you know, when we when we took on, we've been very capital efficient previously, like extremely like probably spending as much money as we'd got to the ARR, you know, for every dollar we'd spent, we'd grown. So that's quite unusual, especially in the space that we're in. But yeah, I think for us, we spend a good chunk on R&D. We have a complex product under the hood and making sure that we're still really innovating so much potential in what we do in terms of how you mine data and use it in a business. And really always the same stuff is like a brand awareness and go to market. Like when people hear about Jiminny, they see Jiminny, they interact. Like the feedback we get is insane and how people like, but just, you know, people knowing who we are is always a challenge. And so we need to invest dollars and time there. So it's really those those two things, really. So basically global combination. Oh, I just say that. Yeah. I think it's like focus. I think, you know, just get that in question from investors, like total adjustable market and you're out with your eyes and, you know, I remember all day we're like, yeah, we can sell it to everyone. I said, not true. You know, but that was a premium product and only X amount of the market would ever pay for it. Right. But if I think about like having a total adjustable market, your Sam, your Tom and all that, like where do you really want to focus your time? And I think I thought previously we were focused, but there's layers to it. So I think a lot of it is just being focused with the time and the money that you have. And then there's another stage you can evolve to. Yeah. And then we we're going through a fosho spirit right now. Yeah. Especially because we inbound really help grow up. You know, we've got a great website, a great SEO. And when people come to you, you sort of get, I wouldn't say you get lazy, but you're not as disciplined with the focus. You sort of work for anybody for the door. And yeah, there's different layers of focus when you find the ICP and sort of drill down and. I'd argue that a lot of the time in that stage where you have your first hundred customers, you don't have them right and you probably can't be fussy. And you have to use them as a yardstick to learn. And then you kind of get to 100 customers and you do that kind of wagon wheel. It's like, well, how many of these type of customers have we got? How many of those type of customers have we got? What sort of customers do we we want more of this 40 percent? So I think you have to kind of go through that pain to really understand. You can't just say, oh, ICP is this, you know, we think we're enterprise or we think we're mid market. I think you actually have to go on that journey with those first hundred and work it out. And in terms of that journey of getting the first hundred customers, what sort of tips with all the intelligence that you've gathered and sales teams, what was it?

16 ship. Or were the key trades of the top sales person? Or. Well, two questions there. Yeah, so I think getting to your first hundred customers you you have to find the early adopters. Yeah, so there are you have to find people that are willing to take a risk, you know, crossing the cows and willing to try something new. Often there's no point going to people who won't. And then what we did personally, I think I learned that we're all gateway and then did it Jiminny is really focus. It's not necessarily about volume. It's make the product great. Listen to them and spend time and give them, you know, great service and support. And then they'll go tell people like, you know, we got to the first big chunk, few million in revenue with no real big set like one BDR, one salesperson, you know, because we really did it through product and customer experience. And yeah, so the product should search us. And definitely not. And never that that theory never quite works. Depends. At least such products come in all shapes and sizes and prices or tech products do. But definitely in enterprise, people, you know, people need to understand kind of what they're buying and help. I think you need a balance of the product has to be great. A market has to be right. Is it generally simple enough for people to understand the ROI? And I think if to scale and you whether you've got 60 or six, you know, is it is it easy enough? They have to be great salesperson, do a good job, be engaging, ask great questions or that piece of product easy enough for them to understand. And so I think that's definitely something that's important. Well, and for the advice and for what sort of, you know, one piece of advice you give perspective founder or what about starting? Yeah. Anything. Oh, God, be successful. To be successful. So I think generally, again, I've never met anyone who hasn't done it through hard work and just be prepared when you sign up, if you think, oh, this is just going to be three years or, you know, it's just going to be an extra hour a day. Forget it. You know, if you're going to make a great business that lasts and really get somewhere, it's a it's a decade or more. You know, so I think you just got to be understanding what you're signing up for. But with anything great in life, whether people are athletes or any sacrifice. So you have to make sacrifices. So my advice is just be prepared to push yourself on every level because it's like anything. It just won't come easy. Yeah. Not only Korean, I guess. Is that why you got a word to push yourself? Yeah. Oh, no, I got this a while ago. But yeah, I try and work well, go to the gym every morning, but I find you know, I've built product. I like the the geekiness of the stats and everything it tells you about you. The main reason I did it, actually, is to tell me how I sleep. Yeah. Because like how much like it tells you how much deep sleep you get and how much REM sleep you get and probably don't sleep enough. I probably average like five hours or something. Really? Well, I have a weed, but it broke all the same. Really? Which I didn't think was possible. But but my replacement actually like made us. Yeah. But I feel when I sleep without the woop, I'm a bit worried. You know, because I have I sent it up. I know. Yeah. Where's your opto mount? Well, it's always telling me I haven't slept enough.

Yeah. Well, fair enough. And I guess, yeah, closing closing question that we asked. Yeah. Well, I guess from the Tech Story podcast, what's your favorite tech products?

Oh, favorite tech product. Probably this right now, I'd say, just because I look at it every day. It helps me. It tells you how many calories you burn when you sleep, helps you then eat the right amount or try to. You know, so, yeah, I think my roots are the thing I use. And I look even though we're B2B, I look to B2C for a lot of inspiration. I think you have to work a lot harder on the product because you're biggest thing, get a consumer to part with their own cash. No, it's different with a business, you know. But then again, you know, it's a whole different ballgame. So I think you had this for me right now. No, I mean, yeah, it's also my favorite. I was, yeah, pretty sad. I would work and did they replace it for free? They put a lifetime warranty, so they replace it for free. But what was frustrating there was I was going through support and the sponsor would take a day. So each day was a day, you know, on the wood. Yeah, they need to work on that. Yeah, they made me do some tests first before. I did. Shame this chimney club, but we do it in like 43 seconds. And that's like a KPI that we have in under one minute. And I just think, you know, our users are under stress pressure. They're generally revenue customer facing roles. So if they want to find the answer to something or they want to help, help them quickly, doesn't take much extra cost on money as a business to be responsive and just goes a long way. Yeah. I mean, I think especially when in, I mean, for us at Urban State, it's kind of a massive both is much centralism. But yeah, I need to retain and grow your customer. It's always, yeah, always baffles me really, because you just think, you know, people put a barrier up against speaking to the individual user, which probably find out so much from, you know, to get to interact and spend time with them rather than maybe the buyer. So yeah, any barriers you can do to make sure you're interacting as much as possible with the users of the product, I think is super important. Yeah. Great advice. And thank you very much, Trong, for being on the show. Absolute pleasure. Great. And Tito. Cool.

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