Episode 015

St Pete X features business and civic leaders in St. Petersburg Florida who share their insight, expertise and love of our special city. An initiative of the St. Petersburg Group, St Pete X strives to connect and elevate the city by sharing the voices of its citizens, and to bring awareness to the opportunities offered by the great St. Petersburg renaissance.


Proudly Sponsored By:

10/03/2017 | Episode 015 | 1:00:08

InsideOut Sales Innovation Lab: Christina Cherry & Chad Nuss

InsideOut Co-Founders talk revolutionizing sales, doing business & living life in St. Pete, and how they're spreading the word about our great city.

On this episode of SPx, we discuss doing business in St. Pete with former Silicon Valley executives Christina Cherry & Chad Nuss. Co-founders of InsideOut Sales Innovation Lab, this pair shares a passion for innovative business solutions and foresight in an oft-neglected area - sales. Gone are the days of trite sales calls and emails - they'll get into the metaphorical mud with host Joe Hamilton, giving us a picture of how the sales process has changed in our current world. They'll also outline the ways they plug in in their sales acumen with companies across the country, including ADP and IBM. Treating their clients to all of the best things Gulf Coast living can offer, a shockingly short commute, tiki bars, and occasional bull-riding contests, these new-found evangelists of St. Pete are spreading the good word about our city across the country, one company at a time.

Key Insights

  • What is InsideOut doing in St. Pete? They're creating and expanding their Sales Innovation Lab. "A lot of people have a preconceived notion of what a ‘lab’ is... We found that there’s not much innovation happening in the sales department, and there’s not a company or groups of people inside of their own company focused on innovation and what innovation means for sales."
  • What does the Sales Innovation Lab do? It "empowers sales people to be creative, find innovative ways to go after their customer base, let new customers test and measure their approach to how they sell."
  • Where does sales go wrong? "Buyers out there are much more educated than the sellers these days. They know how to research. They know how to do their own prospecting for the kinds of products they want, and sellers are using the phone to call them, and leaving voicemails, and sending bad emails hoping that that’s the right approach. We feel that sellers are falling behind the buyers and kind of losing the race."
  • Sales processes have changed drastically over the last few years. "On average, a typical sales team is using 7 different technologies now. The phone was one, an email was intrinsic on the computer, but now there are a variety of different technologies being used for data, research, list development, cadence, optimization, reporting, telephony – all the different parts and pieces."
  • Often, employees hired to examine the sales process become more "historians of what’s happened, not future visionaries about what needs to happen." and that's where InsideOut comes in - to "create, test, measure, hypothesize, validate, and then coach/train people on what’s working and what’s not."
  • InsideOut is not a training service or an outsourcing company. They're looking for true partnership, "we’re not seen as a threat to anybody because we’re an innovation lab. We’re not here to replace you. We’re not here to outsource your jobs anywhere. We’re trying to help the team."
  • They're shaking up the status quo - becoming answer lenders and answer enablers. "I’m not really sure off the top of my head whose ideas actually win and whose ideas actually lose, which is what’s great about the business model is that if you take half of one idea, that’s theirs, a quarter of it’s ours, and a quarter of it might be coming from a marketing department. That’s the kind of collaboration and innovation that doesn’t happen in sales today."
  • Inside Out's clients and trainees come to St. Pete for their lab experience. "We like to have a good time with all these people too so there’s something to do every night in St. Petersburg. These people come from San Francisco, and New York, and Boston, and Australia, the UK – from all over the world to our town."
  • Their approach seeks to build relationships and maintain them, "The very fact that we’re still engaged in their life like that shows me that’s not a one-to-one relationship. That’s all of us. We’re true partnership. We’re truly integrated. And that’s the ongoing success is everybody has to win."
  • Their customer base is broad: "We’ve had every customer here – from IBM to ADP; multibillion-dollar companies to young startups who are looking for locations."
  • InsideOut is putting St. Pete on the map. "We come from Silicon Valley and San Francisco, and nobody’s really heard of our town, we’re putting it on the map one visit at a time, one company leader at a time... We spend time every day of our lives bringing people to St. Pete whether it’s their sales leaders or their salespeople."
  • St. Pete is the perfect home for work life balance. "Everything we wanted, we found here, and that didn’t stop with the economics because that’s Florida. It started with that work-life balance. The affordable accommodation in a fun place to be. A feel of a little town with all the benefits like a big town and a seaside."
  • Chad gave his shout out to the University of South Florida - St. Pete - "to all the people over there that have been really kind of pushing forward initiatives and bringing businesses together to ask questions about what’s best for the curriculum and also what’s best for how we participate together."
  • Christina's shout out goes to the Hollander Hotel, who has been integral in giving their clients the best St. Pete experience possible. "They have taken a risk on us, this new business, that we will continue to give them that kind of work. I think we’ve really benefitted from that. It’s just a small thing done really well that’s made it really easy."

"There’s something about St. Pete... I can’t describe. Maybe you can call it momentum. Maybe you can call it passion, creativity, art. They see it. The employees you see—there’s something intrinsic about the place that they go back and they want to come back. They want to bring their business here, and they actually want to bring their families here which reinforces our reason for being here."

"We know what their lives are like. We know what their jobs are like. We know what their people’s needs are as well as they know them. So being able to then show them these are the types of people that you would want in this environment right now. We know you want a work-life balance for your family. We’re here living. Let me show you about what that work-life balance looks like."

Full Transcript:

JOE HAMILTON: Hey, this is Joe Hamilton. Today I’m here with Christina Cherry and Chad Nuss from InsideOut Sales Innovation Lab.

CHAD NUSS: Hey, good to be here.

CHRISTINA CHERRY: Delighted. Thank you.

JOE: So I’m excited just saying the words ‘Sales Innovation Lab’. That sounds very sexy and very cutting edge, what are you doing in St. Pete with something so forward-thinking?

CHAD: Yes, it’s different. We get to go around and tell people what an innovation lab is. A lot of people have a preconceived notion of what is a ‘lab’. Google has Google X, and Apple’s got Blue Sky, and Amazon’s got their own lab environments, and those are for products, and engineers, and forward-thinkers but focused so much on new products and new inventions. I mean, Gmail was created in a lab environment for Google so that’s kind of a big idea, right?

But we found that there’s not much innovation happening in the sales department, and there’s not a company or groups of people inside of their own company focused on innovation and what innovation means for sales, so we created InsideOut to build the world’s first sales innovation lab to essentially help and empower sales people to be creative, find innovative ways to go after their customer base, let new customers test and measure their approach to how they sell, and to do it in a way that doesn’t kind of offset their current quota or offset their current pathway to success. But it’s essentially a mirrored environment that they can test things.

JOE: Why do you think there hasn’t been sales innovation labs or why are there labs in so many other areas of the average corporation? Why is that mindset not trickled into sales?

CHAD: My personal opinion on it is that salespeople, from a psychological standpoint, believe that they know how to do it. I, myself, as a salesperson, also believe that as well. You give me a product, you give me a price, and you give me a buyer, and it’s my job as a salesperson to go get it, and I’m good enough to go find a way.

What we’re learning with the buyers out there is they’re much more educated than the sellers these days. They know how to research. They know how to do their own prospecting for the kinds of products they want, and sellers are using the phone to call them, and leaving voicemails, and sending bad emails hoping that that’s the right approach. We feel that sellers are falling behind the buyers and kind of losing the race.

JOE: So maybe it’s because there is such a gap in knowledge previously that you could be mediocre and still hold that advantage over the buyer, and now you have to actually deliver value. The bar delivering value beyond what they can get themselves is raised.

CHAD: Yes, it’s true.

CHRISTINA: I think also, potentially, there is a lot more tools/technologies that are now supporting the sales process and the buyer process whereas perhaps before you would have looked at an inside sales environment, as an example, and just thought about people making calls, so they just need a phone, and as long as they’ve got a phone and the yellow pages. It’s not like that anymore.

It’s about understanding the buyer. It’s about understanding the journey. But it’s also about knowing which tools to use, when to use them, and how to use them. Those days of just employing anyone from the street and sticking them in the center have gone. That does not work.

So now when you’re utilizing all these new tools and technologies, you need to know how to do it and how to do it better, and I think that makes a big difference to perhaps where we were to where we are.

I think the other thing is when you think about where there is innovation at the moment, it’s often around the product. It’s very easy to think, hey, we need to develop this product. It’s quite hard to sit back and think ‘We need to develop this methodology or this way of doing something’ because it’s not so tangible. Even a process is tangible. It’s not so tangible when you start adding all these pieces to it. So I think there’s a little bit of fear factor too.

CHAD: Yes, I was just going to say one of the things—so, just to add to what Christina’s saying on the tech stack and the processes, just a couple of numbers—on average, a typical sales team is using 7 different technologies now. The phone was one, an email was intrinsic on the computer, but now there are a variety of different technologies being used for data, research, list development, cadence, optimization, reporting, telephony – all the different parts and pieces now that you watch a salesperson walk into a room and sit at their computer, and immediately you say “Go find me 100 prospects.” and they’re clicking on like 3 different apps, 2 monitors, and that’s a different world for a salesperson.

And the old school salesperson will just be like “What’s the phone number?” The new school salesperson has to learn a variety of new skill sets to attack a buyer who’s outpacing them. I think they’re at a disadvantage.

And then understanding the process, to Christina’s point, you ask a salesperson “How many touches does it take to close a deal? And what’s the distance between each touch? And what kind of touch and method will you use?” Literally, an old school salesperson will stare at you with “I’ll call them, and make sure I get them on the phone.” A new school salesperson would have a much longer answer, but potentially not know the answer which they need to know.

JOE: So in the corporate sense then, it looks like products, sort of by definition, have to be developed. They didn’t exist and then they exist, they become. And good companies use salespeople in that process, simply going to the customer, going to the customer and things like that, but they always interact typically at when the product is delivered. Innovation is not built-in to what they do.

I think you had mentioned also with quotas that there’s a time pressure built into the players whereas in product development you say, “We have a year to develop a product.” and kind of what you do in that year can be anything and that’s where innovation comes in to that process. But with sales, you can’t take a break to innovate lest you miss your quota.

Do you think that there needs to be roles in companies that are specifically geared towards that that are on salary and not tied to quotas?

CHAD: Yes, they have them now. They’re just the wrong type. I’ll just kind of pontificate for a second.

I’d say that there’s a title called Sales Enablement – Vice President of Sales Enablement, Director of Sales Enablement, and they’re tasked with—when they get their job, and they sign their offer letter, and they sit down with the sales team—they’re tasked with ‘Help us find the productivity on the sales team, and help us articulate back to the sales team what could work and what should be done.’

The reality is that they get lost in the data. They get lost in the CRM like Salesforce.com. They get lost in the data tables. They get lost in the process, and they become what I’ll call historians of what’s happened, not future visionaries about what needs to happen.

I think that they have those people, Sales Enablement, but they’re more documenting what has happened, and they’re not thinking forward from an innovation standpoint to be able to create, test, measure, hypothesize, validate, and then coach/train people on what’s working, what’s not.

I’d say there is a department there, but they’re falling behind.

JOE: And is that a problem with the job description or problem with the types of people that tend to get those jobs?

Because I think history—it’s probably 3 parts: one part history, one part vision, one part psychology and understanding sales people. Are they hiring people who don’t have the vision or is this position not set up to allow for vision?

CHRISTINA: I’m going to jump in on that one.

I think when you employ someone for sales innovation, you’re employing someone who’s thinking not just about hindsight and the insights, but foresight. When you employ for enablement, you’re employing someone who focuses on more of the hindsight and the operations.

They very quickly become an operations person. They very quickly become ‘What sort of training should we give? What tech stacks shall we use?’ not ‘How are we using it? How is it changing? How is it evolving?’

I think enablement, you pull from operations and they think about hindsight and how to change that for tomorrow. If you pull from innovation, you’re talking about people who are thinking about foresight and they get that from insight. So, you’re kind of pulling in totally separate ways.

JOE: So, it’s almost like really it should be called sales efficiency because…

CHRISTINA: Pretty much

JOE: …you’re trying to build in the sales efficiency

CHAD: Yes

CHRISTINA: Working with a lot of people who work in sales enablement in some of the huge organizations that we work with and a lot of their time is spent really looking at data, and looking at technology and the cost of technology, and trying to find the cost saving for the future or the efficiency, and not looking at actually what is it we will be doing in the future and how are we going to get there?

So I think that’s the real challenge of drawing an operations person and asking them to suddenly become an innovator in a field that they’re not necessarily experienced.

JOE: So understanding that about that position, how are you able to come in as an outside entity? That’s a pretty big sort of change to make especially as you get into the bigger companies. What do you have to do to get them to understand that and to make a place for that in their company?

CHAD: On the sales floor, it’s not as apparent. People don’t sit there and raise their hands saying “I’m failing. Help me.” Some do, but let’s put it this way: salespeople don’t want to admit failure even if they are failing.

The executives of these large organizations that we work with like the IBMs or the ADP or Microsoft or the Googles, at an executive level, they recognize that if I can find a 1% incremental conversion rate, that’s $100 million in net new revenue. For the smaller companies, when they’re starting to go to market for the first time, they recognize that ‘I don’t have the capital to fail. I only have enough capital to get it right the first time.’

So on both of those spectrums, whether you’re a young high-tech startup with a new product and you’re trying to bring something to market, all the way up to IBM who has $7 billion of revenue and they’re trying to find an extra incremental conversion point, the recognition happens at that executive level knowing that the numbers, if they can make a change, it matters a lot.

So then once that recognition happens that there’s something different that needs to happen, it now becomes an environment where people become open, we’re not seen as a threat to anybody because we’re an innovation lab. We’re not here to replace you. We’re not here to outsource your jobs anywhere. We’re trying to help the team.

And literally, right when that happens, it’s like gushing river of ideas, issues, total transparency in the organization. When we walk in to these data gathering, workshops and sit down with these professionals, essentially, they’re giving us everything that they hoped or wished that they can do but they can’t and the limitations of their own organization to do so.

JOE: And along those lines—in doing research for the show—I noticed that you give answers and you enable answers.

I’m going to assume that the ideal business model for you is to be an answer enabler. Essentially, you’re not the ones writing their content for them, which I think tends to be smaller companies and companies with less acumen, and the bigger companies are the ones who value the process to let them plug into, right?

So, is that a battle? What percentage of your business now are you having to provide the answers, and how are you pushing towards being the enabler?

CHAD: It’s a tough one because it’s collaboration.

And I’m not really sure off the top of my head whose ideas actually win and whose ideas actually lose, which is what’s great about the business model is that if you take half of one idea, that’s theirs, a quarter of it’s ours, and a quarter of it might be coming from a marketing department. That’s the kind of collaboration and innovation that doesn’t happen in sales today where people are collaborating in an environment.

We do a really good job, as a company, to put them in a workshop setting to gather that information. I mean, you put executives, salespeople, marketing people, sales enablement, HR, finance all in a room and you throw up an idea called ‘social selling’ – how are we supposed to use social media to engage our enterprise customers to buy from us more often? And everybody usually stares at each other little bit, and then a couple people start raising their hands, and then it kind of snowballs into a collaborative idea.

I wouldn’t say that there’s a percentage of what we’re doing and a percentage of what they’re doing. I’d say that it’s more of every idea has a pie chart of who contributed to that idea itself.

JOE: But in general, or in all instances, then you are actually contributing ideas?

CHAD: Yes

JOE: So we had, for example, Nate Schwagler came in and he runs the innovation lab at the Dali Museum, right? I won’t say he doesn’t provide ideas, but a random company coming down—and you’re an expert in sales, your team is, but he’s not an expert in credit cards, right? He’s an expert in creativity and idea generation. And so when he has his people in, he has all the techniques and it becomes 100% “I’m here to facilitate you guys finding your own answers.” Whereas because you have this expertise, the expectation is you are participating on that process as well.

CHAD: I see what you’re saying, yes.

CHRISTINA: And there are some organizations—and certainly we do when we work with companies like ADP—they have a strong level of compliance. There are certain things you can do and cannot do. Even if you came up with an absolutely genius way of doing something, there may be some constraints towards doing that. So I think it also depends on what sort of organization they are, the subject matter expertise required for that industry, and allowing us to lay it over our subject matter expertise.

I think there is, to your point, some organizations may have more data or more messaging or more process that needs to be followed just because of those reasons. It doesn’t mean you can’t innovate.

CHAD: I’ll add to that on the Dali example, right? It’s like Idea Factory style. It’s like look at this, and let’s get everybody’s ideas out in the open.

It’s part that, but we run Sales Innovation Lab for a reason, meaning, that we have innovation blocks, and innovation tests, and measurements that have already occurred against your buyer segment, against your territory, against the type of product you’re selling. Part of it is repeatable in our business because you’re saying, “I’m going to target enterprise customers that are IT buyers, that are $500 million or more in revenue that fit this buyer persona.” You don’t need to do that many tests. You kind of know what the game plan is. You know it’s a relationship game. You know that you need to build trust. You know that you have to come in with good value to that conversation, and surprisingly enough, most sales people don’t. They make the phone call, they leave a voicemail that says “Hi, this is Chad. I just want to get 15 minutes on your calendar.” Or they’ll send an email that says “I’m with IBM. We provide bullet point, bullet point, bullet point. I’d love to get 15 minutes on your calendar.” And that’s not building relationships. That’s not innovation in selling. That’s not finding the markers in your prospecting efforts that allow you to have a business relationship with somebody.

That alone is like an innovation block that we can repeat and put into our playbooks, in our academy training models that can be repeatable for us and for our client base. It’s not always test, test, test. Sometimes it’s kind of like we already know.

JOE: So then it just becomes sort of, like you said, a palatable way to get in there because nobody’s threatened by Sales Innovation Lab. It’s a way to have it be absorbed. And to some extent at least some piece of it is just traditional consulting on how to be better.   

CHAD: The way we execute the lab is actually we’re not necessarily just consultants and we’re not necessarily like just an outsourcer where the traditional’s like, “No, we’ll do it for you.” is what an outsourcer would say. A consultant would say something like what I just said which is “We have innovation blocks. We already know how to do it.” But there’s also something in between that I think that’s really important and it’s mirroring the environment of a salesperson, mirroring their tech stack that they’re using, representing their brand to their customers, and actually doing the executable work of making the calls, and sending the LinkedIn messages, and making the right kinds of emails, and testing the approaches because when you talk to a salesperson and they say “I’ve got a way of doing this.”, you can say something like “Well, we’ve also done it.” whereas a consultant can’t say that. We didn’t represent your brand go to market, we’re just telling you what to do. And we’re not an outsourcer blackboxing our efforts saying “No, it’s all good. Everything’s going well. We’re not going to tell you how.”

So we’re kind of this in-between thing, and Sales Innovation Lab is this hybrid between a consulting organization who has some block ideas about how to work things, and not necessarily an outsource organization because we don’t blackbox anything, but something kind of in-between because you really have to go through that journey as that salesperson to really understand where innovation could happen.

CHRISTINA: It’s really evidence-based. That’s the bottom line. It’s evidence-based.

Your point was really good earlier about fear, potentially. Well, fear can be overcome through evidence-based, and the concern that an individual has about their earnings or how they’re actually going to do it can be overcome by evidence-based.

So, what you’re really doing is mixing all the insights, mixing all the knowledge, mixing the hypothesis, and trying the experiments in this lovely safe environment, and then evidence-based, this is how you can do it forward, and then let us show you how to do it. I think that’s the big difference.

JOE: Which a big part of your job as I think we discussed before we started was to get them to absorb it. Evidence is a piece of it, and I think that’s where the lab part becomes really powerful because you are in what they are doing, you’re studying it, you’re testing it, and like you said, a traditional consultant comes in with ideas, and frameworks, and things to kind of squeeze you through whereas you’ve lived in it, tested it, says “Here’s this. Here’s that.” and you can speak to the nuances of the product.

And I think another big piece of that is the fact that you put that time in makes it culturally more absorbable because you’ve got leadership investing and paying for this, and putting the time in to it, and you’re hopefully coming to them after some testing has been done in the lab, and all that goes a long way to setting you up for success in a way that other types of outside influences couldn’t buy in.

CHAD: You know what’s really cool when we know it works? The company starts sending their people to St. Petersburg, and they start sending their employees to our offices and stay here with us for 2 weeks, and get immersed. They send them out, say, we got 11 here from Digital River, one of the top e-commerce companies on the planet, $6 billion company—there is 11 sales people here this week, and next week there’s another 5 coming from Mavenlink from Orange County.

And so every week, there’s more salespeople coming in from great places like Irvine or Silicon Valley, San Francisco – all over the country.

What they found was that as we run the mirrored environment and we’re doing some of that work, we’re learning things, we’re putting into a playbook, and we’re bringing it to them, and then what’s happening now is, over time, those people are wanting to come here and sit in the lab environment to also participate in experiments, to also participate in their best idea, to sit in an environment next to somebody who’s doing their job every day and also working with them on new ideas, and brainstorm, and testing, and it’s a really cool thing to see.

And they go back with the passion that ‘I contributed to this play in the playbook’, and they tell the people they sit with, the other 300 people in their office, “That’s my play. That was my idea.” And then each of the people keep coming, and then they keep coming and coming. You know it works when that happens. It’s kind of that ‘We found the right thing, and there’s some secret sauce happening here.’ And so they start flying their people here and start enjoying our little town.

CHRISTINA: And there’s no point in having innovation if you’re not sharing it. Otherwise, you’re not really innovating are you? You’re just keeping…

JOE: You’re outsourcing.

CHRISTINA: Exactly. So I think one of the most important things is to continually share it because if you don’t share it, it doesn’t continuously improve and it doesn’t continue to change. You just end up keeping it all in a little box to yourself.

That’s why it’s a laboratory and not a center. That’s why it’s innovation and not enablement. Because we’re sharing it with everybody and getting everybody onboard with it.

CHAD: Is it innovative or innovative?

CHRISTINA: Do you really want the answer?

CHAD: Yes, because I hear it all the time.

JOE: I think the innovative is across the pond. I prefer that.

CHAD: Yes, that’s what Reid says. Reid Hoffman calls it innovative.

JOE: Is it finance or finance?

CHRISTINA: It is. But then you innovate for…

CHAD: …well, I started a company, Sales Innovation Lab, and I’ve been saying it wrong the whole time, so…

CHRISTINA: But that’s okay. I still call the back of the car “Can you get me a bag out the boot?” and everybody looks at me like I’m a freak.

JOE: What’s a day in the life in the lab?

The company flies in. You said you have 11 of them here. Assuming Day 1 is whatever. Let’s go to Day 3. What’s Day 3 in the lab? What are they doing?

CHAD: They are sitting in a classroom environment with the full expectation that they’re going to come out of the classroom and try it out.

It’s a bit of learn, go do, fail, learn, go do, fail, and then succeed along the way because as you fail, you succeed more.

The environment that they’re learning in is one where when they go out to try it, the technique, there are another 12 to 15 people who are doing their job as well that they can shadow, that they can plug into and listen, they can see their LinkedIn messages. They could see how they approach prospecting. They can see how they approach making a cold call. God forbid, but we still make cold calls because it happens. And trying out all those different elements in a live environment, but it’s a soft go live environment, meaning that nobody goes back thinking “Okay, I just learned a bunch of stuff and now I have to just figure out how to do it.” which happens a lot.

Sales enablement people, sales coaches, they put them in a classroom environment, set them off and say “Good luck! I’m done with my job, and now you got to go sell.” whereas we’re doing the handholding of learn, adopt, try, fail, succeed, check, move on.

Besides that, we like to have a good time with all these people too so there’s something to do every night in St. Petersburg. These people come from San Francisco, and New York, and Boston, and Australia, the UK – from all over the world to our town. On the flipside, a day in the life is working hard, but enjoying our play hard environment as well in St. Pete.

I know you’ve got some things to say about the training, but I had to throw in the fun side of the equation because we are prototypical salesperson.

CHRISTINA: Hey, I’m that one that’s out every night with them. Can you not tell?

CHAD: Good point

JOE: That’s a whole ‘nother podcast, I think.

CHRISTINA: Yes, it is.

CHAD: Yes. They enjoy it. It’s fun.

And I think if you ask them in the beginning, there’s trepidation. There’s uncertainty. There’s “What am I doing here?” and they talk to all the people at their company that had been through, and they’re like “You’re going to love it! It’s an awesome environment. I came back reinvigorated and focused. I know how to plan my day. I know what I need to do. I know what metrics I’m looking. I set my own metrics now.”

CHRISTINA: I know what these buttons are at last that I’ve got in front of me that I was wondering what that did, and now I know it actually does something for me.

But I think also there’s a whole element of not just the academy and those people from our clients that come in to learn what we’re hypothesizing and evidence in every day, but then there’s the team that we have who are constantly scrumming all day. I call it sprinting and scrumming.

So they’ll come in, and they know what they need to do in that day, and then they’ll find something that works or have an idea, and it’s literally like everybody to the foosball machine. I think that’s what you call it in America. I still call it table football. But “Everybody to the table football. I’ve got an idea. This worked really well. I just tried something.” And they’ll scrum it up really quickly. They’ll get an idea as to “Yes, I think that would work too.” Everybody go try within their lab environment, and off they go and go try it, and we’ll measure it, we’ll track it, we’ll say “Yes. Add it. Keep doing it.” then it goes back into the playbook, back into the academy, and back out to the wide audience.

JOE: I love what you’re saying. I love to start a business like that. That’s really cool.

CHAD: The mirrored environment where we’re playing their life feeds into a playbook, to your point, and so then we document what works. It could be our play, their play, doesn’t matter whose play it is, but it works. It goes into an academy which is a learning environment for curriculum either onsite here in Florida or at their site – wherever location they have.

And what we find is that when we document the playbook and we run the curriculum, there are inevitably 3 to 5 to 10 more ideas that are coming out which go right back into the mirrored environment to be tested.

And so as a business model, selfishly, it feeds itself because the mirrored environment is succeeding because everybody’s contributing to it whether it’s in the playbook itself or the academy in the learning environment, and it goes around in the circle like Christina mentioned.

JOE: And then a next big piece of that would be integration of the playbook, right?

So you have these select few that come in. I don’t know what percentage of the total sales force usually represents. Bigger companies, I’m assuming a smaller percentage. And you have these things that you’ve empirically proven to work. How much a role do you guys then play in going back to the 600 other sales people and making them do that?

CHAD: It has to be activated. You have to activate the playbook.

And we spend most of our lives at InsideOut attempting to gain adoption and making sure that that’s utilized and testing the outcomes of what we’ve implemented. It’s an ongoing thing.

So we have academy models for net new starters, but we also have academy models for existing players who have been through the model. We run reports every week, every day on their success metrics versus the mean, so we could see that the academy model’s generating 25% higher yield with the people that have been through academy. The people that haven’t been through academy are generating less than because they haven’t adopted the model. We have coaches and trainers inside of our environment that check up on their 30-day plan, their 60-day plan, their 90-day plan to reinforce what they learned.

I know you’ll probably going to say this, Christina, but I’ll say it as well in advance is that when they make their number, we don’t really need much more after that, after we stick with them for 90 days. When they make their number, and they’re making money, and everybody sees you went through academy and you did 120% of goal, and before you went to academy you were at 60% of goal. There’s a clear indicator of, again, one of those success metrics that we look at that makes us really motivated about our business is when people start seeing that happen.

CHRISTINA: From a client point of view, you have to provide the ROI, and you have to continue to show them that has a continuity to it. Otherwise, it’s kind of irrelevant. That’s really important.

But also from those team member’s point of view, I’m regularly getting calls from them going “You’ll never guess what.” This is an employee that doesn’t physically work for IO, isn’t InsideOut, isn’t physically with us, yet they’re constantly on Slack to me and other things, and telling me what is going on in their environment, explaining what they did at the weekend.

In fact, one lady who came to us as a net new person from a client pinged me and said “Oh my god! I haven’t even been here 6 months and I just won Top Performer.” I’ve got a car for the weekend. It was a Maserati or something. And we spent that half an hour talking about the fact that she would never let me drive it because I can’t drive on the right side of the road.

But the very fact that we’re still engaged in their life like that shows me that’s not a one-to-one relationship. That’s all of us. We’re true partnership. We’re truly integrated. And that’s the ongoing success is everybody has to win.

And I think that’s the bit I love best about it. Yes, measure it. Yes, demonstrate that it’s valuable and it’s ROI. But it’s the human factor. We get human beings actually getting something out of it is what I take home at night.

CHAD: Consultants can’t do that and outsources won’t do it.

And when we feel like we are part of their environment and they feel like they can call Christina from the Maserati and say “I won the promotion this week. I’m doing great.” makes us feel better as a company.

Another great example would be when we activated on the floor in a sales environment, one of our clients, Mavenlink, has 70 people sitting at desks every day selling. We activated a playbook inside of their environment. Another reason you know that the Innovation Lab’s working for them is the people that have been through the academy and helped with the playbook, there’s probably 30 to 40 of them, about half of them had been through that.

We activated a blitz day playbook where it’s like, okay everybody, prizes, awards, everybody’s going to make 100 calls, you’re going to do all of your research prior to you doing it. They set a record for the number of demos booked in one day. It was like 56 demos booked in one day. It was like almost a demo a person roughly that day. And a normal day, their quota’s 10 for across the entire team, and they were able to do 56 on that day.

That’s not the best part. The best part was that the people that had been through academy were the leaders. The people that had been through academy were like “This is what we’re going to do. And now we’re going to take a break. We’re going to take zen time.” Because we teach them about taking a break and getting away from your desk when you’re doing a blitz, and take some zen time, and go do something different. So they were telling their people “Okay, zen time now. Let’s go relax.” And I’m like “Oh, it’s so cute.”

CHRISTINA: And they’re pinging me on the Slack going “Have you looked at the leaderboard? Have you looked at the leaderboard?”

It’s very integrated. I think that’s really important. We’re absolutely integrated in their success. And it’s no longer therefore fear because you don’t fear something that works for you and don’t fear something that is a part of you if it’s something that’s alien to you.

CHAD: And you know what? We’re not a training organization.

CHRISTINA: No

CHAD: We don’t want to be a training organization. We want to be a Sales Innovation Lab. We want to empower the people that have been through the Sales Innovation Lab to go be the trainers and leaders, and influence other salespeople.

I’d say this year we’ve influenced maybe 5000 salespeople. Next year, I want 50,000. No, I’m just kidding. That’s a lot.

CHRISTINA: You probably mean it.

CHAD: Yes, I probably will try. But that influence in getting people to say, “Look, this kind of a lab environment was one of the best experiences of my career.” makes it all worth it.

JOE: Have you ever explored—and we do this at Big Sea when we can. I enjoy doing it—looking at things like revenue sharing and partnership. Obviously, if people say “Show me” or “Let me reward you” because the sales mentality is you get paid for what you kill and bring back, and the idea being that if you have a set rate that you charge and you’re willing to come back off of that, if you’re successful, you would get rewarded with more than that, right? So it’s risk-reward.   

CHRISTINA: Yes

JOE: Have you guys talked about doing something like that or do you do something like that?

CHAD: Done it. Yes, and will continue to do it.

We always say is unless they can prove it to us, we’re not getting into it until we can prove it to you. And once we can prove it to you, meaning that there’s a playbook, there’s academy and we’re showing success, to scale the model, works really well to go in that kind of a performance model. Plus, we get typically better margins, hopefully, no customer’s listening right now.

JOE: No, it’s fair. You’re taking a bigger risk.

CHAD: Yes, we’re taking a bigger risk. It’s a risk-reward game.

But on the flipside of that, I will say that we did get out of that game. Our last company we had 3,200 people. We’re a public company. Everything was pay for performance. It was the wrong business model because we got into a business model where we were generating the deliverable and that’s an outsource model, typically, where we generate the deliverable and the deliverable’s a sale, let’s call it, or a lead, and you think you treat an employee bad when they miss their number, think about how you treat a vendor when you miss your number. You’re a rat.

That model’s a stressful model on our employees. It’s a stressful model for owners. There’s some things that are outside of our control, typically, in that environment where in a pay for performance model their product, their price, their position, there’s a lot of things that influence the decision to do that.

So we’ve made a conscious decision to get away from the pay for performance model unless we can absolutely prove it…

JOE: Measurement’s a challenge, yes

CHAD: …with the product, the pricing, all of the different parameters and we validate, as you said earlier, we validate the play. If it’s validated, we’ll go for it.

CHRISTINA: Absolutely. I personally really like the model. We have to have the time to ramp it, to prove it, to understand what is in our control, what is not in our control, and what impact that may have.

So let’s say you’re on a risk-reward model and you’re passing very highly qualified new business opportunities to a field sales team that is not managed by you, not visible to you, and they just decided they’re going to cut half the team. What happens to them?

So you have to be really mindful of that and you have to get it right. But when you get it right and you have a fixed element which is lower than perhaps the normal, and then you have an uplift element, that’s perfect because that drives the right behaviors from everyone. It drives the client to want to work with you, not against you. It drives the behavior of the salespeople across the whole team to work together, and most importantly, those really high, top performers can earn huge amounts of money and be terribly successful.

CHAD: I think as we’ve progressed through the model, more and more with our current model, we want to focus less on that kind of a deliverable and more on the success of their people rather than the success of our people.

Our people could be compensated differently and are compensated differently, typically, than their people are, and I’d rather leave that to them. I honestly would like to leave that kind of deliverable to them. All I really care about is making sure that they are now making more money after us than they were before us.

JOE: Absolutely

CHRISTINA: There’s nothing wrong with having some of that.

JOE: We’re obviously a different business, but we insulate. Our employees have no idea when we do it. It’s just how we structure the deal, and they still bill what they bill and market what they market. They have no idea that we’re getting paid per sale or not. It’s just, like you said, if we’re in there and we’re ingrained enough in what they’re doing, and we can measure it properly.

We’re working with a company down south that has a wedding business, and it’s a new business. They sort of lightly done it and they’re sort of thinking about investing in it. They did, say, $1 million last year, and we want X amount per month. We say we’ll take half that and then we’ll take 10% of what we get you above what you did last year.

So we figure with no marketing then with some marketing, we could probable double their business and make an extra $1 million, take 10% of that and make $100,000. That’s more than we would have made on half the month that we charge them or whatever.

CHAD: I think I’ve run most every pay for performance scenario over the past 20 years, unfortunately.

CHRISTINA: And there’s been some doozies.

CHAD: I like fixed determinable income right now anyway.

JOE: So going back to Christina taking the people out, taking the town.

CHRISTINA: You haven’t seen the photos?

JOE: I’m wondering if that’s the real secret to the success of the team that they’re…

CHAD: Riding bulls, karaoke

CHRISTINA: I would just like to say I do currently hold the bull riding championship. Chad likes to think it’s him, but I do it more often. And I’ve learned how to wrap it around my wrist so that even if I fall off, my body’s still attached.

CHAD: It’s sad because you could see her paying off the operator of the bull rider. I was on there for 2 minutes of pure hell, and hers was like one of those coin-operated machines outside of Publix. That’s fine. You won…

JOE: And it wasn’t a bull. It’s a little train.

CHRISTINA: I like to think of it as a demonstration of my relationship-building skills. I just build them with the right people.

CHAD: Well, clients always win. So when we take clients out—I always forget that she’s paid somebody off, so I’m up there—and I’ve ridden horse my whole life and I’m like “I got this. I’m going to be on there for 2 minutes. That’s my goal.” And my neck’s killing me, my back’s hurting, and then they go on, it’s 2 minutes of just nothing, and then they win. Nobody seems to notice that mine moves faster, but that’s fine.

JOE: I mean, when you’re there every night, they probably expect a higher level of performance from you. I don’t know.

CHRISTINA: The thing he’s missing there is because you’re so competitive like that “I’ve ridden horses all my life.”, that’s why I make you lose. And the clients know it well enough to know that’s exactly what I’m doing.

CHAD: I know.

CHRISTINA: And they play along.

JOE: Are you staring down the operator too, bring it, bring it?

CHAD: Yes. Well, I just have to pay more, I guess.

CHRISTINA: I would say a lot of our clients are also our friends. If you didn’t know, they asked me to do it to him probably funded just the sheer hell of it. But yes, we do do a lot of outside activity.

CHAD: This is being recorded. That’s fantastic.

JOE: This has been recorded. This was a poor transition into your feelings for St. Pete. We know where your feelings are for…

CHAD: For paying…

JOE: Where’s the bull in St. Pete now? I didn’t even know. There used to be one on…

CHRISTINA: One Night Stand

CHAD: Yes, One Night Stand.

JOE: That’s down by Starbucks?

CHRISTINA: Yes

JOE: On the First Ave

CHRISTINA: Last one, left-hand side

Don’t get there before 10:00. He’s not operating by then. Get there before 11:00 or you won’t go on the list.

CHAD: There you go. Unless we know you.

CHRISTINA: Unless you know me and you go to the front.

CHAD: That’s right. Don’t make any bets.

JOE: So along the lines of hosting, I read that you’ve had some people down here and hosted them for the express purpose of enticing them to move some operational people down here, open up here. Tell me about that process. Is it like your own rogue EDC going on here?

CHAD: Yes. JP (Dubuque) loves when we do it. We’ve had every customer here – from IBM to ADP; multibillion-dollar companies to young startups who are looking for locations.

One of the things that is important to us outside of the necessarily the company portion of thinking about it as a corporate environment is to think about the community and the community environment.

I moved from California a year ago. I did not move here to just come in and get out. I came here, I brought my family here and recognized really quickly that to grow the community—when we talked about a little bit earlier before we got on—but really to activate the potential of the town. I really believe in the activation of the potential. The potential’s definitely here.

One of the key things to do is to invite the Division Vice Presidents. There were 13: the Worldwide Vice President of ADP Sales to St. Petersburg so they can see the environment. Invite IBM’s $7 billion owner of the number $7 billion in the Hybrid Car Division here. Literally they come in, they have no idea where St. Pete is. They say “Is that near Tampa?” “Yes, it’s near Tampa. Come to St. Petersburg. We have villas here where we host our visitors over between the Avalon and Hollander.” And they stay here, and they get to live the St. Pete life.

What I’ll say is that as those people enjoy the things—and Christina can talk a little bit more about what kinds of things we do with them outside of the bull riding—but we do good corporate events for those people, it inspires us more to be community leaders because they leave wanting to open up an office space here asking for satellite location to put people, looking for ways to move their family here.

We have quotes from all of these people who were saying things like “Can you look into houses? Can you look into 4,000 square feet of office space? Can we rent office space from you to put a satellite office?” And we really need those things here. We need a few big wins. And I will get a few big wins for St. Pete. We will get a big logo with 3 letters in it whether it’s IBM or ADP or whatever it ends up being. And we’ve been building that. We’ll hand them to JP, and he’ll do his job to kind of show them all the stats and things that they need to make a proper business decision.

But because we come from Silicon Valley and San Francisco, and nobody’s really heard of our town, and we’re putting it on the map one visit at a time, one company leader at a time, we feel that there’s something going on when they leave that makes us inspired to continue that voyage. So we spend time every day of our lives bringing people to St. Pete whether it’s their sales leaders or their salespeople to go back and tell people about it.

We’ve got some movers. We’ve got some people interested. We’ve got some work to do with the infrastructure and contiguous office space, and there’s things to work on, but I think the interest is there and we’re going to keep pushing it.

CHRISTINA: I think the big thing now I think everybody can see very clearly once communicated that the economics work. There’s no question about that. Once you can get somebody’s interest and you can show them the economics, you can put them in front of the great support structure that’s here to help them, it’s a bit of a no-brainer in a way.

So I think one of the things that we’re able to do that maybe some of these bodies can’t do is we know what their lives are like. We know what their jobs are like. We know what their people’s needs are as well as they know them. So being able to then show them these are the types of people that you would want in this environment right now, check. We know you want a work-life balance for your family. We’re here living. Let me show you about what that work-life balance looks like. Check.

You want education or jobs for other family members you may have—who, God forbid don’t know why they don’t want to work with InsideOut or ADP or IBM—perhaps they’re in other walks of life, check.

Because we’re living it every day, we’re able to provide them more on the ground awareness of all the other things that are super, super important.

And then you add in it a bit of fun, definitely head towards the beach, get on a boat, do something that they are not necessarily able to do in their own environment and show them the extra on top of that, I think that’s what we’re able to do to make a big difference rather than just bringing them in from an economic point of view or showing them the pretty pictures or whatever.

Actually, hey, do you want to talk to, let’s say, 10 people of this age group, 10 of this age group and 10 of this? Because that’s how your family and your employees’ age group. Would that be a good idea? Let’s all go have a drink at the Tiki bar and talk about it. Let’s get a boat and a few beers and go talk about it in a non-formal sales-y pushy way. Let’s just share out what does my life look like. And I think that that’s what really works and why they go away saying ‘Wow! I can sell this into my company because I want to do it. Not – My company wants to do it and they’ve got to sell it to me.’

CHAD: There’s something about St. Pete that drives them to go do that. It’s something that is probably I can’t describe. Maybe you can call it momentum. Maybe you can call it passion, creativity, art. They see it. The employees you see—there’s something intrinsic about the place that they go back and they want to come back. They want to bring their business here, and they actually want to bring their families here which reinforces our reason for being here.

We have a philosophy of ‘Live more, make more’ in St. Petersburg, and so we use that with our employees: Live more, make more. We use that to recruit other businesses to come to St. Petersburg – Live more, make more.

And we do live more, right? We get to go out. We get to have a good time. We got the Gulf of Mexico here. We’ve got a thriving young community growing very quickly and you can make more.

The same person that has the same job in San Francisco puts less in their wallet after tax in actual pay than somebody that lives here. You actually make more while you’re here.

So I think those are really important things for us to keep telling people outside of that spectrum. Get out of your overvalue, highly-inflated San Francisco market and get your butt over here.   

CHRISTINA: But I think that’s it. Everything we wanted, we found here, and that didn’t stop with the economics because that’s Florida. It started with that work-life balance. The affordable accommodation in a fun place to be. A feel of a little town with all the benefits like a big town and a seaside. That kind of thing is really important because our business is not a transient business. Our business is where you’re learning, and you’re growing, and you’re developing, and you’re building intellectual property constantly in your whole team. It’s not a hierarchical business where someone makes all the decisions and somebody else just pushes buttons. Everybody’s doing it. So maintaining and sustaining that team is incredibly important.

You have to have an environment where people want to come, are coming, and want to stay. And to do that, you have to do a lot more than just think about salaries or education. You have to think about what are they going to do with their life outside of the hours they’re in the office, and can they have a really good quality of life that makes them want to just do more and be more? And I think that’s essential.

CHAD: Having Park & Rec downstairs helps, I’ll tell you that much.

JOE: Yes

CHRISTINA: I’ve learned beer pong.

JOE: Take it back to England…

CHRISTINA: Could make a fortune

JOE: That was a challenge when we worked on the positioning for the EDC. Sort of the gospel was don’t just be another EDC website.

And so in doing that, we had to dive into how can we articulate what is this thing that we feel. The words we kind of came up with were inclusive. We’re a very inclusive place. To some extent, we’re a nicely vulnerable place which is a word you don’t often hear associated with cities especially in our polarized political world where that led to purple – red and blue mixed in together. It’s a place here where ideas do win over—not 100%, no place is 100%, but more so than most city’s ideas here trump—maybe the wrong word—ideas are more important than an ideology to some extent.

And then a lot of this is timing, too, that you can build here. There’s room to play, and room to grow, and room to matter. And if the place is sort of standing up and ideas are competing right now for which ones will get the most followers and the most legs, but because of that sort of almost meritocracy in the way we’re doing that where it’s not these established entities are saying “This is how we’re going to build. This is how we’re going to grow.” Right now it’s everybody’s ideas competing for support of the people. That’s a big part of why St. Pete is beautiful in the way that it grew is that there wasn’t a giant urban planner who said “We’ll plan this.” It just popped up, right? And so it grew organically and sort of neighborhoods took their form, and you still have the weird little shops here and there.

And I think that our success is growing in the same way, and hopefully we keep along at that path and the best ideas as chosen by the citizens win versus being—it would be bottom-up versus top-down.

CHAD: Yes, I love that. Again, I told you earlier I was in San Francisco in 1995 when the internet started. That was already an established town because it’s 49ers came through there (not the football team).

What was interesting about that was that it was almost like a blank slate for high-tech. It was a finance district. There was no what they called multimedia, but it had its quirkiness. It’s San Francisco. It kept growing in ’96. People were building websites in ’97. Software companies were being formed or application companies started happening in the year 2000. All those things started kind of snowballing, and it all started with kind of the things that you were just saying with the local trippy small little shops that are super cool. It gives it that vibe, that artist community or that openness that you discussed.

Another town that we had a business in was in Austin, Texas. Another great example of literally a blank slate cow town with capital, and a college town, and had the right kind of the college atmosphere with a music city, and then all of a sudden, high-tech started moving in. It started growing, but it also had that ‘keep Austin weird’ theme going.

And I think we have a lot of both those baseline elements that you discussed from things that I’ve seen like San Francisco and Austin, Texas, and I see it every day. It reminds me of it every day. It feels like the early stages of this right here. It’s really fun.

JOE: Yes. Exactly.

And the inspiring thing is there’s definitely a timing element to it. San Francisco probably started opening in the 60s, right? It brought open-mindedness as a mindset there, which is then more often grown and transformed into what it is now. There’s certainly a certain amount of gentrification.

CHAD: Absolutely

JOE: I guess the people who drive that get older and they get richer, so that will inevitably happen to St. Pete. And having what we call real estate money in here to sort of push us in that direction for a little bit of more rapid gentrification than maybe other places. But it’s still nice, I think, even just geographically, to have that sort of an opening which may be has happened in a few cities, maybe San Francisco, maybe Portland, maybe Austin, maybe Minneapolis, a lot of those are west of the Mississippi, and to have that St. Pete potentially be in that one beacon of opening in that same way to be that kind of special city east of the Mississippi, I like the prospects of that.

CHAD: I like it as well. I mean, it’s following the same trajectory that I’ve seen. It motivates us every day to see our employees having fun here, working hard, learning, growing. Their families’ doing the same. But also the businesses that we’re bringing by validating our belief because sometimes you can live in your city and be like “We’re the best city ever.”, but when somebody who’s living in a great city like Boston or San Francisco or Southern California or London or Sydney – worldwide great cities can come here and say “Well, it’s got a cool cultural vibe. It feels like an international city. I heard 6 languages when I was walking around today.” and those kinds of things are really important.

CHRISTINA: I think the language one, I was going to touch on that a little bit, actually, because it’s not just about all of the things. It’s about that attracting of an eclectic mix. It’s not all necessarily about IT tech with people of that experience or sales companies with people of that experience to truly create the kind of environment where teams of people are happy, but also where you can get a diverse mix. You don’t want everyone coming in with the same background, same experience, same thought process. And you see that every day here because of the different types of geographic areas within a fairly small area, the languages, the age, the social, it is very, very, very diverse.

And I think that’s what will drive it to grow so rapidly because there is so many different types of people thinking in different ways, but with a pretty much the same goal that you get the best of kind of everything.

And I’ve noticed that a lot, and maybe because I’m obviously with the English accent, I probably pick up a lot more the European accents here.

Just this week I’ve met 2 Turkish, 3 European, and 1 guy from Australia just walking the streets and doing stuff. We tend to gravitate towards each other, obviously. And that’s not something you necessarily have. And you couple that with the fact that people feel like they’re in a little village within a big city, people actually talk to you, and acknowledge you, and smile at you. You don’t get that in the bigger more established cities, and you don’t get that in the same-y environments that have been, I don’t know, built for purpose of a Google or built for purpose of a whatever it may be. You’re actually growing it yourself, which I think is cool.

JOE: I agree. And I think that’s in play socially for sure. I would challenge us to – I don’t know if the success is as spread as if I think of 10 startups. If you said “Name 10 startups in St. Pete.” and I name them off, only probably 1 of them would be non-white, and maybe 3 of them would be non-male.

CHRISTINA: I think that’s where there’s more work to be done then, obviously. And that’s getting the message outside of the local and the slightly wider audience, and getting it across the borders and into other areas. I think that’s a hell of a big task and perhaps going to take a little bit longer than just making sure we can pull in what we’ve got now.

JOE: And along those lines of getting the word out, I know that you’ve got another initiative going with some tech leaders to think about how you can get some team work going. Talk a little bit about that.

CHAD: We started Tech Initiatives Committee. Unfortunately, it stands for TIC. We might want to come up with a different one.

But regardless of the name, it’s really about engaging technology companies in St. Pete to start working together to drive forward what it was like in San Francisco in 1995-1996 and what it was like in Austin in the early stages.

What worked really well for me in my wanting to create something like that was that that’s exactly what we did in San Francisco. There’s probably 20 high-tech companies in San Francisco in 1995. We all worked together to activate our community to do things for us that we needed. The Mayor Willie Brown would come by. Even though it was a big city, it still had that small city vibe that Christina was talking about.

And so the goal of the Tech Initiatives Committee is really for us to be able to talk openly about what is needed to draw other high-tech leaders like an IBM or down market, let’s call it, young startup into St. Petersburg, and what are the things that we need to have as a team to do that.

And so working with those business leaders, we can now have an open discussion to then go work with city officials, to go work with the EDC and JP, and go work with Chris over at the Chamber, and have very specific goals that drive what we need as business leaders in high-tech.

There’s a lot of things happening here, right? We’ve got the Innovation District. We’ve got Grow Smarter Initiative. There’s a lot of sub-initiatives happening all over the place.

What I recognized right away is that the top 5 industries that were here, not one of them said software, not one of them said high-tech. I think the thing they got closest to it was data analytics, which is not high-tech in my opinion. It’s an ancillary thing.

JOE: Sure

CHAD: And you learn immediately that there are 100 high-tech companies here in St. Petersburg, and they’re hidden. They’re doing things in small offices. They’re not all collaborating together.

And so really, this brings together 100 people who have a common goal which is to make sure that our community’s ready, our schools are ready, our local business leaders and local universities are ready to be able to go get an Amazon and to get the HQ2 thing, and to start thinking about how we can do that really early stages of that, which is again, why I love it is because it feels like the San Francisco days, really early stages, but we’ve got the group form to be able to go and activate local CEOs with a common passion towards high-tech to go help our government make good decisions about what’s to come for high-tech in our town.

JOE: I mean, I almost feel like the nature of high-tech, sort of the definition of it has sort of expanded. When tech was new, 70s-80s and things like smartphones came out, and the internet came out, now, we haven’t had major new technology like that in 10-15 years.

And I would even say – point to what you’re doing at Sales Innovation Lab, there’s a tech element to it, but essentially, it’s sort of an intellectual edge pusher, right?

And so that’s where I feel like high-tech now, the psychology behind behavioral economics it’s as much process now built into the actual circuit boards and thinking that goes with the technology now that defines high-tech.

CHAD: I agree. High-tech is a cultural thing, really, just kind of cool the way it’s kind of advanced over time. But the key is that high-tech has traditionally been hardware, software, devices, and that’s about it.

What’s high-tech to me, what it means is a culture of people building kind of the next infrastructure, the next way of life, the next generation of something, and coming up with innovative ways to do that.

We’re all inclusive in St. Pete, just to your point earlier about inclusiveness. Just because somebody’s running an innovation lab, or somebody’s got an outsource lead gen company in town, they have the same common passion to bring tech to town for various reasons. That’s all-inclusive bringing those people together and getting the work together, but more importantly than working together, to activate their passion for our town to go tell the message and do that through a Grow Smarter Initiative is just the right way to do it.

CHRISTINA: But if you think about it, the biggest change is really, to your point, 90 technologies isn’t necessarily a new product. There’s a mixture of it’s more accessibility. That’s changed dramatically in the last X amount of years. More people are using more things. It’s about the way we go about buying and selling it. You don’t walk in an office anymore and say “Hey, this is going to cost you $10 million upfront.” It’s also about how it’s cost it.

Those are the big differences. It’s now about subscription-based. It’s about not signing long-term contracts and buying big kit. That’s a huge change in the last 10 years. It’s about who’s using it. My granny is using it kind of every day. That certainly wouldn’t have been the case X amount of years ago.

And I think that’s the real big change that’s happened over more recent years. It’s become more inclusive because it isn’t any more about big ticket items, and big boxes, and big brains. It’s about what we do at home and in business every single day, and how to get quicker access, how to get better usage, and frankly, how to sell more and adopt and keep those customers. I think that’s really the big change, so everyone can be involved in it in some way.

JOE: Leveraging technology to add value to people’s lives.

CHRISTINA: Yes. Absolutely.

CHAD: Especially ours

CHRISTINA: So cheeky

CHAD: I know

JOE: I appreciate your time. Enjoyed the conversation. Normally, I let people know I do this in advance, I didn’t. You have a couple of seconds think about it, but it’s easy.

At the end of each episode, we do a shout out. And since you’ve listened to almost all the episodes, you know that, right?

CHAD: Yes. All the way to the end.

JOE: So, the idea behind the shout out is someone who’s doing something cool that not enough people know about. I will take the bull off the table. You cannot give a shout out to the mechanical bull.

I’d like one from each of you. Doesn’t have to be just one. If you can’t decide between two, two is fine too.

CHAD: I want to give a shout out to our local university, University of South Florida St. Pete. I was inspired today in a roundtable discussion with them. The dean as well as the Mathematics Department, the Journalism Department, the things that they’re doing there were inspiring to me and helping me validate what I’m doing as well. It was kind of too back-and-forth.

They’ve invited us to participate in things that they’re doing in an innovation environment for data analytics and storytelling of how to tell a story about what you learned about data, which is essentially our business model. But we’ve also invited them to have their people come and participate in the storytelling of a playbook from the beginning to the end. I just met them for the first time today.

So maybe it’s just fresh on my mind, but I want to give a shout out to all the people over there that have been really kind of pushing forward initiatives and bringing businesses together to ask questions about what’s best for the curriculum and also what’s best for how we participate together. I thought that was really cool, and it’s right there just down the street, and it was the first time I went in the building. I was good to be back on campus. But I just felt really inspired by them today.

CHRISTINA: You’re probably never going to use this one.

Mine’s a bit more simplistic. Actually, my shout out goes out to a local business, Hollander Hotel.

When we first started working here and bringing the offices up, we didn’t really know where to stay or what to do particularly. And you’ve got these really super expensive places that are local, and we found The Hollander.

But the shout out really is I went to them and said “I got a problem. Our clients want to send lots of their people very regularly. The cost of booking in a hotel room constantly is just so expensive for that whole process. What can you do?” So they built those apartments. The apartments they have, they were renting out for people who are living here. They said “We will create you some corporate apartments, and we will also fit them out and build them to a corporate level, and rent them to you for corporate usage so you don’t need to fill in all the forms all the time. You don’t need to do all of that kind of stuff.”

That’s been huge for me in terms of finding somewhere for them to stay to stay together where they can be a little family away from home where we’ve got fixed cost, not paying hotel-style costs and all the facilities. And they’ve just finished building another 2 units for us fitting them out.

They have taken a risk on us, this new business, that we will continue to give them that kind of work. I think we’ve really benefitted from that. It’s just a small thing done really well that’s made it really easy.

JOE: That’s brilliant.

CHAD: Great for the employees too to be able to live in St. Pete if they’re in Sarasota, and it’s great for…

CHRISTINA: We use it all the time. And I’ll be honest, I treat it like a second home a lot of the time. You will often find me creeping around earliest hours of the morning going to where I know they keep the free water bottles to help myself sort of thing, but they’ve enabled that behavior. They’ve enabled those people that stay very regularly to be at home.

CHAD: I think you’re giving everybody the wrong impression.

CHRISTINA: No

CHAD: Bull riding

JOE: I know you’re self-funded, but come here, we’ll give you all the water you want.

CHRISTINA: Funny – stealing

JOE: It’s not going to help St. Pete if you get arrested. Okay?

CHAD: I also just really appreciate getting to hang out with you, and just meeting you and your business, and getting to know you for the first time as well.

JOE: Likewise

CHAD: Looking forward to continue the relationship there

JOE: Me too. Me too. It’s been a pleasure.

CHRISTINA: If you want a cheap boat, cheap hotel or the bull riding, let me know.

CHAD: We have all the component.

JOE: All right, you heard it here, BOGO bull rides. See Christina.

All right, guys, thanks so much. It’s been…

CHRISTINA: Super cool

CHAD: Yes. Awesome. Thank you.

CHRISTINA: Thank you.

Write Review
Share this article

0 Reviews on this article

About the host

Joe Hamilton is the CEO of Big Sea and a founding Insight Board member at the St. Petersburg Group.  Joe brings a strong acumen for strategy and positioning businesses. He serves on several local boards, including TEDx Tampa Bay, which grew his desire to build a platform where the area’s thought leaders could share their valuable insight with the community at large.


About the St.Petersburg Group

The St. Petersburg Group brings together some of the finest thinkers in the area. Our team is civic minded, with strong business acumen. We seek to solve big problems for big benefit to the city, its businesses and its citizens.