On this episode of Operations, Sean chats with Kyle Morris about his unique path into ops. Kyle was an Army Ranger for four years before making his way to Silicon Valley, where he started his career in sales and eventually found his way into operations. Now Kyle is the founder of SifData and Kicksaw. Together Sean and Kyle cover everything from how Kyle fell into ops, why operations people should learn how to code, and why SDRs might actually be the best funnel for future ops talent.
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Sean Lane: Hey, everyone. Welcome back for another episode of Operations, the show where we look under the hood of companies in hypergrowth. If you’re new to our show, welcome. My name’s Sean Lane and on this podcast we know that for every big splashy marketing campaign or every rip of the sales gong, there’s a whole bunch of work that’s going on behind the scenes, under the hood, behind the curtain, whatever metaphor you want to use.
So we’ve been on a mission to talk to ops pros who have been there, done that, building fast-growing companies, so that those of us like myself and some of our listeners who are desperately trying to navigate through hypergrowth, we can pick up some role models and learn some lessons along the way.
Today, we’re going to go on that journey with our guest who started his career in sales and eventually found his way into operations. Kyle Morris, now the founder of SifData and Kicksaw, was an army ranger for four years before making his way to Silicon Valley. We’re going to cover everything from his unique path to ops, why operations people should learn how to code, and why SDRs might actually be your best funnel for future ops talent. Also, for any of you who are Jocko Willink fans out there, stick around. You’re going to get some Jocko love towards the end.
Now, before we go too deep into Kyle’s story, I wanted to start by focusing on his first experience in hypergrowth, which came during the nearly six years he spent at Gigya from 2010 to 2016. Now, his early time there was spent building and running their SDR team, so first and foremost, I wanted to learn how he found himself in that gig.
Kyle Morris: Yeah. So I moved from an SDR to an SDR manager. I hadn’t been an SDR elsewhere, so it’s not like I came in with some experience, but what ended up happening was I was always competing with our marketing team, trying to figure out if I could get my email open rates higher than their email open rates.
And so this guy, his name was Kevin, he was running marketing for us. He and I would compete on a weekly basis to see how we would perform. And then we happened to sit next to the CEO because there were 30 people in the company. He’s like, “Hey, Kyle, why don’t you take a stab at helping craft the next set of emails because it’s something you’re interested in.” I just happen to take that interest. And then from there when like, “Hey, would you mind representing the team at this meeting here?” And then it just grew from there.
Kyle: So I just got moved into the position because some of the senior folks who’ve been promoted and I was one of the most senior folks. And so that’s where it was death by a thousand cuts. I didn’t just one day I was like, “Hey, you’re the manager of the team,” it was very slowly moved into that and we ended up growing the team just out of desperation. They didn’t have anyone to manage it because we had a VP of sales managing a bunch of directors and that was going on. And no one was really managing the SDR team.
So I moved into that and they moved me up into a director role pretty quickly because we had to scale from I think it’s seven to 75 in two years. So it was pretty hypergrowth and we just didn’t have anyone else that could do it. So, unfortunately, I was the last guy holding the bag, and so I ended up in that position. But it ended up being hugely formative in how I learned to manage, how I learned to work within a tech company, and how I interact with folks. It was a great, great career step for me.
Sean: Seven to 75 and two years is insane. Just if you took everything else out and only had to worry about the talent part of that, it would be really hard. Nevermind everything else. You can’t build a team like that on a wobbly foundation. And so you were learning this thing on the fly, I’m assuming. So were there early building blocks, or how did you set that up early to try and hopefully scale to from seven to 75?
Kyle: Yeah, I probably didn’t do it very well. The hardest thing by far was how do we attract talent? Because we are in the bay area, every other tech company in the bay area is trying to do the same thing. How do you stand out as a company that you want to work for when you’ve got Airbnbs, and Drift, and stuff like that coming up? It’s like how do you stand out as a good company to go after?
So what we started to do is we actually, we posted on every college job board, mostly on the east coast. We put the job on every Ivy League school, a bunch like in the south. We did some obviously in the west coast, all the UC schools, University of Oregon, University of Washington, like all the big ones. And we essentially positioned it as the company Gigya, we sold a tool that was tied into social media. We were basically an API for all the social platforms.
And because we had social media in our company description, everyone wanted to work for that type of a company. They knew it was tech, they knew it was Silicon Valley. So we sold it a bit, pretty hard. Like, this is going to be cool place, you’ll get to develop, you’ll get to move out to San Francisco.
And once we got that core group of like 10 or 15 people, we started pushing on them to reach out to their network, because most of them were fresh out of school, and they drove new people to apply. So they were pulling in their friends, because we created this environment where it should be a team you want to work with. It shouldn’t be a bunch of really competitive people. It should be extremely collaborative. We’re all learning together every day, and that helps set the foundation for the culture of the team.
And then we hit this upper limit of what I was able to do individually because I can only do so many phone screens in a day in addition to planning and scoping out where the team should go.
Kyle: So as soon as I could, I immediately started to slough that stuff off to people who wanted to develop. So, if you’ve only been on the I’m being interviewed side of things, it’s really exciting to be on the I’m interviewing somebody side of things, and so I would have three people on the team do phone screens with every single candidate, and that immediately got it off my plate and it helped develop them.
And then from there I could identify person one and person two are consistently picking good people. Person three’s not so good. I need to either move them off of this, or I need to train them or … and one thing we did for interviews is I would oftentimes let the team … we do panel interviews, so we’d have four people in the room, one senior person and three junior people.
So the junior person could see how the senior person was interacting with the candidate and asking good questions, and then that helped develop them. And then at the end they would all step out. They all had exactly the same experiences, and they could talk about the candidate from the exact same perspective rather than if I let person one interview, they’ve never interviewed before, they’re going to be like, what do you like to do, what TV shows do you like? And they’re like, oh, they seemed like a great person. And then person two is like-
Sean: Yeah, I love that person, they seem really nice.
Kyle: They seem great. But then when everyone gets the same question asked, it really helped develop them. And that was a way I could push stuff off my plate so I could focus on other things. And then that moved into the two week training process. I couldn’t do all of it, so I had other people do it and I’d have a new person and a senior person shadow each other and that helped build out our training program. So as soon as possible, I tried to outsource as much of it as I could. And you can only do so much as one person.
Sean: Two major takeaways from Kyle’s early years building in an SDR team at Gigya. One, all of us, regardless of which role we’re in, we’re only one person. You have to prioritize the most impactful projects. For him at that moment in time, what was most impactful was talent, which brings me to take away number two.
Using delegation as a means of talent development. For him, he was developing SDRs, but you’ll see this in this episode and in previous episodes of the show, ops talent grows from a whole bunch of different places inside of your organizations. So my question and challenge to everyone is, are you in the lookout for opportunities to nurture future ops talent inside of your companies?
Anyways, back to Kyle. As he was growing his team from seven to 75 SDRs, he explained to me that Gigya was riding this wave of social media popularity. Remember we’re talking like 2011, and they were filling AE’s calendars with up to eight demos a day. Now, he recognized, and he admitted that not all of it was the highest quality, and sometimes this team found themselves targeting the wrong type of prospect. So I was curious how Kyle and his team, in the midst of their growth, started to move the team towards higher quality and closer to the center of the target of his ideal customer.
Kyle: Yeah, so initially it was a free for all. You could literally create any account you wanted in Salesforce. So when I would go to work, when I was a new SDR, I’d listen to NPR. I’d look at the advertisement on a bus and I’d write down those names and I’d go put them into Salesforce and start reaching out to them. That was our process early on, which isn’t fantastic, but we didn’t know who was right, so we were grabbing from anywhere.
As I moved into running the SDR team, then moving into an operations role, we tried to be more consistent about how we were identifying target accounts. And initially we didn’t even have accounts assigned. You could reach out to anybody. So we’d have four people reaching out to Target at once, or four people reaching out to Best Buy.
Once we assigned accounts, we started to buy tools. So we were early adopters of tool BuiltWith and then ultimately we were one of the early customers of Datanyze, and what we did is we identified complimentary technologies to the ones that we offered.
So Omniture is a $50,000, or it was a $50,000 a year analytics tool that any company using it is clearly customer prospect for us. So, we took every company using Omniture, put that into our database. Then obviously competitors and other complimentary tools that we integrated with. Those were target accounts, and over time we started to add other ones, but that was the starting point, was identify in a broad stroke the 100,000 accounts we can reach out to, divvy those out, and just grow as fast as we can and touch them as quickly as possible.
We added an unlimited Jigsaw account, so we import 10,000 leads a week and just blast the same email. Not so targeted, but early on, you can get away with that because no one knows who you are.
Sean: So you ran this team for about three years, grew it from seven to 75, which is incredible. And then you start to make this transition into an operations role. And so I’m curious, as you look back, when I look back and I’m talking to anybody who is either about to start managing an SDR team for the first time or is thinking about making a transition. I look back at SDR as probably my favorite job I’ve ever had, but definitely the hardest job I’ve ever had.
Kyle: It’s hard.
Sean: But I also think it really set me up well to then move into ops. I’m curious, did you find that as well?
Kyle: Yeah. You know, our SDR team was the [farm lead 00:09:48] for the entire organization, independent of me. So I’ll talk about me in a minute, but one thing that was good is that because our SDR team was like a third of the company, if we needed people to move into a marketing role or finance or customer success, they could immediately, if they want a junior person, immediately poach them from our team, because those people understood the culture, they understood the product, they’d sold a bit before being in an SDR role.
So it was easy to gauge their performance and in addition to people leaving for other roles, they’re getting poached within the company like crazy. So it was like a sieve, we’d bring people in and they’d be out in three or four months because we needed them somewhere else. But that helped develop the culture of the company as so many people have this shared experience of having been an SDR that it helped keep the company very cohesive, because even if I’m pissed off that the marketing team’s doing this, I actually know that person because we were on the team together and we collaborate on some accounts.
Kyle: So it really helped the culture out. In terms of moving into an operations role, when you’re running or doing business or sales operations, your goal in mind or your customer is really the sales rep, right?
Kyle: You want to make life as efficient and easy for them as possible. And if you’ve never been in that role, it’s hard to understand what needs to be made more efficient. And I know as an SDR you’re doing a ton of data entry, you’re logging a bunch of crap in Salesforce, reps don’t always log notes. It gets really frustrating.
So when you have that lens to look through, it makes it easy to start prioritizing things like, you know what, I’m tired of reps never logging notes after their call. Guess what? They can’t move the op to stage two until they log those notes. We would build those types of things in, and because I understood implicitly what it’s like to be an SDR and a sales rep and how they’re using the systems, it made it easy to build them to solve their problem rather than just solving the operational problem.
Sean: Yeah. There’s a side effect there, too, of yes, you know what they are going through, and you can have a little bit of empathy for the processes that you’re putting in place, but I also think with that in mind, when you do put those processes in place, you I think have a little bit more credibility with those teams having done the role yourself, right? When you put that in place like, hey, I actually sat here. I know exactly what you’re going through when we’re putting these processes in place and I’m considering that when I’m making these decisions.
Kyle: I would agree completely, but it’s a double-edged sword because sometimes you do something people don’t like and they’re like, “Why did you do this? You know we don’t like that.” And it’s like, well, you get to look under the kimono or open the kimono because you get to see all of the things going on in the business outside of just being an SDR, like, well, we got to think about how does it work for customer success and finance and integrating into NetSuite.
You as an SDR are focused on one thing that’s extremely important as an operations person. I have to see the forest, I have to understand at an architectural level how we should build this so we can scale as a company from 50 SDRs to 500 SDRs, and just because it’s harder for you now, long term it’s the right move. So it’s a double edged sword, because people don’t understand why you’re making the call if it goes against them, but they love when you make the call when it goes for them.
Sean: Yeah. And I think it’s that kind of long term thinking and that perspective, too, that I think makes it helpful. I honestly think that it would be really helpful for anybody inside of some … an operational role to have spent some time somewhere in the customer journey before that, right? Whether it’s presale or post-sale, that, I think, gives you a totally different perspective once you’re in a go-to-market or planning type situation.
Kyle: Yeah, I was business operation, so I was in just thinking of operations for the whole company. We had two people doing sales operations and they had moved up from the SDR function as well. So had I brought someone in from the outside that had just graduated college and was like, hey, you’re a junior analyst doing operations, they wouldn’t understand the context for how does a lead become an opportunity, become a customer, become a renewal, become a case study. If you’d never been indoctrinated as to how that all works, it’s going to be hard to pick up.
But if you’re an SDR, you’re living and breathing in it day to day. So I think it’s a really easy transition for folks to move into. But the challenge that tends to come up is that if you’ve been an SDR or a sales rep, you’re likely not very technical. That’s a broad assumption, but I don’t know a ton of SDRs or sales folks who know a lick about coding. And having that type of understanding of architecture is really critical to being an effective operator. It’s like, you need to know how to build a system, like I said, that can scale from 50 SCRs to 500, not from 50 to 51.
You got to make sure you don’t paint yourself into a corner with some bad decisions early on. And if you just don’t understand how objects are structured and when do you use a Boolean field versus a Picklist. If you just don’t understand the concepts behind those from a computer science perspective, you’re going to be limited in what you can impact, or you’re going to make mistakes.
Sean: Kyle’s right. It’s a tough profile to find where someone has both a customer facing skill set and is technical enough to thrive in an operational role. That’s a tough balance to strike. But like he said, oftentimes as an ops person, your real customers are your internal customers. So even if you’re a Salesforce developer or a hardcore business analyst, you most likely can’t just be technical inside of a fast growing company. You’re going to have to have those customer facing internally as well. You have to be both.
Now let’s go back to Kyle’s point about understanding architecture. After leaving Gigya in 2016 he went on to found his own company, SifData, and then later on he also started his own Salesforce consultancy called Kicksaw. And in the midst of all of this, he decided he was going to teach himself how to code.
Kyle: Yeah, it was actually when I was at Gigya. I was doing a lot of Salesforce stuff. I didn’t know how to do any type of Apex development, and we’re having a lot of challenges because we have a lot of Apex code that I’d inherited. So I was managing a couple of outsource contractors in India and I just didn’t know how to communicate technically how things worked.
So I came home one day and I went on Code Academy and I started doing some lessons and I started learning Python. I had an idea for what would eventually become SifData. So I was noodling around with that. But every day I’d probably spend an hour in the evenings. On the weekends, I probably spent a couple hours, and over the next six to eight months I actually became moderately proficient with coding. I wasn’t able to build an awesome application, but I was able to communicate with developers really well.
And then over time I was able to build code and write applications and I could handle things on my own. And I found that it was one of the biggest advantages I felt in my career is understanding how to code pretty well. And the thing is that one, the concepts won’t ever go away, but two, there’s always something new to learn. There’s more that I pick up every single day I do it, and it’s really fulfilling.
Sean: Yeah, and I really liked your point from before about looking at it from almost the position of an architect. And so can you give us an example of a situation where knowing how to speak that more technical language was beneficial to you?
Kyle: Yeah, I mean this happens all the time. So for Kicksaw, we’ll do integration. Like, our customers have integrations that they want done. They want to integrate their backend app, like let’s say Drift. You guys use your own product to capture leads.
Kyle: Well, you want those obviously synced to a Salesforce, but if they update it in Salesforce, you want it updated in your app too. That’s a very common thing we see our customers do. And so we’ll oftentimes jump on a call with the customer’s developer. We’d talk to a developer at Drift and say, talk me through how your database is structured. And if they start getting into it and I go, I don’t know what that means.
They have no credibility in me as a Salesforce developer or being able to say, look, you need to make a post request here. This is what the body needs to look like. We’re going to respond with this type of information so you know what to do here. Being able to have that type of a conversation with a developer and that street credit makes it very easy to collaborate because one, they trust me, but two, I actually know what I’m talking about. So I can guide them on how to best interface with the database.
But most folks, especially if you’re coming from a sales function, you don’t know how to write a line of code. So how are you going to talk to an engineer about how should we structure this function, or what’s the callback going to look like? You just can’t really do it well. And Salesforce is really a front end to a SQL database. If you don’t know SQL as you try to go look it up. But it’s just a front end to a database, and you need to know how to architect that.
A good example is you see companies with tons of custom objects that no one really knows how to use, or they don’t use a custom object when they should. Everyone’s looked at an account and seen when there’s 500 fields on the page layout. That should probably be broken out into something separate. You just store too much data in a non-scalable way. Building a couple apps and screwing it up yourself will really teach you quickly how to fix that.
Sean: And I can see people listening to this saying, look, I get it. I would love to learn how to code Apex. I would love to learn how to write SQL, but I’m an ops, I’m crazy busy. I’m buried with requests all day, every day. How do you encourage people to set aside the time, or do you have any advice for people to set aside the time to actually do that and what that has meant for you and your career since deciding to do that?
Kyle: Yeah, I mean, I would say that sales reps are no less strapped for time, or engineers are no less strapped for time. Everybody’s busy. The best sales reps are reading books. They’re trying to make themselves better. Every day they go home, they listen to podcasts. There are ways that you can get better without necessarily sitting down in front of a computer doing things, right?
It’s just an investment in yourself and your career. It’s another skill, an arrow you put in your quiver that you can’t ever take away. And so, you know what, it might take an hour a day and two hours on the weekends for six months, but once you’ve made that commitment, that investment, you will be infinitely more valuable than if you never did it.
And so I get that it’s painful, but some people don’t like to floss their teeth. You don’t see the benefit from doing it today, but you’re going to see it in 40 years when your teeth aren’t falling out and all your buddies’ are. So it’s an investment.
Sean: It’s worth repeating that Kyle called this investment one of the biggest advantages he felt in his entire career, and it’s an advantage he created for himself. Look, I’m human. I can’t tell you how many articles are sitting unread in my Pocket account or how many tutorials I’ve saved that I always told myself I was going to go back and watch later. It’s easy to let those things go stale.
So before we move forward with more from Kyle, I want everyone listening to take a second and think about a skill you’ve been meaning to sharpen or develop, but you keep putting it off. Set that goal for yourself and actually do it. And if you’re worried, like me, that you might let that goal slip, send me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or send me a note on LinkedIn, whatever you prefer. Include your goal and I’ll send you back one of mine and we can hold each other accountable. It’s not a one way street. So we can hold each other accountable and make this thing happen. All right, side rant over. Back to Kyle.
Now with his experience at Gigya and now running SifData and being a consultant on top of that, Kyle has amassed a ton of data points from different companies. Now, you and I might only get the data points that we have from inside our companies. So he’s got the advantage here. So with all of this experience, I wanted to know what does he see people screwing up the most?
Kyle: Yeah, yeah. A big one, data hygiene. Every company has … I could probably count on one hand the number of companies I’ve interacted with where I go, wow, this looks … data’s pretty good, don’t see any issues. It’s pretty rare.
Sean: What are your criteria for that? I’m curious.
Kyle: No duplicates, accurate, up-to-date data. It’s simple but it’s not easy. It’s a very, very simple concept. Executing on that as hard because there’s so many edge cases. An example was at Gigya, I was email@example.com, but I also had firstname.lastname@example.org. That could theoretically be two separate leads. I also had email@example.com and -inc.com. That’s four people in your CRM, but I’m only one real person, and so that is something that a lot of companies don’t have a very robust infrastructure around how to prevent the creation of duplicates and how to handle them once they’re in.
There’s a lot of … we’d spend hours just talking about that, but what I tend to recommend to people is figure out what the critical data you can leverage to identify duplicates is and just perfect is the enemy of good. I think email address is a pretty darn proxy for determining whether someone’s a duplicate or not. You should never have two leads, two contacts, or a lead and a contact with the same email. It’s one person.
If you want to take it further, you could base it off of their LinkedIn URL assuming that they exist, because two leads or two contacts with the same LinkedIn URL are actually one person. So I really recommend you find a way to identify those things and start to merge those and prevent the creation. Most people they’ll say, my database is dirty, I got to start cleaning it up. I’m going to hire a team, I’m going to hire this service. They’re going to clean everything up.
But really the critical thing to do is imagine your CRM is a polluted lake and you want to start filtering the water to remove the mercury or lead or whatever you want to call it. You can do that. It’s fantastic move. But the problem is if you’ve got a stream that’s dumping more lead into the water, it’s not doing you any good, you’re filtering water, but it’s just being muddied again.
So the first thing you need to do is stop the influx of bad data. That’s one. Before you start to clean anything, you have to stop the problem. Then from there you go fix it. And that’s where I think people get things backwards is they try to clean things up, and then it’s like they literally will run a giant script to remove all duplicates, and two hours later they got three more duplicates in the system and they’ve got to run through the whole process again, and that we see day in and day out.
The other issue with data that we tend to find is that there’s not consistency with which where the data comes from. So let’s use an example of accounts. Let’s say you stratify accounts based off of industry and employee size. That’s a really common thing to do. A company will get their industry from LinkedIn, they’ll also get it from Hoovers, they’ll also get it from ZoomInfo, and they’ll also get it from DiscoverOrg. I know ZoomInfo and DiscoverOrg are the same company, but the point is you’ll have these disparate data sources with different industry fields and it’s unclear which one is right.
And so my recommendation in that case is just pick one. It doesn’t matter that it’s perfect. A lot of times people will fight over it, well, DiscoverOrg isn’t perfect or LinkedIn is missing this. It’s like, we get it, but it’s better to just pick one and be consistently wrong versus inconsistently wrong all the time.
And like an example we had was at Gigya we were starting to divvy out accounts and we had a stratification for if they made 100 million or more, they’re enterprise. Below a hundred they’re mid market, or corporate, or whatever we want to call them. And so we had a guy who, one of the prospects was Yum! Brands. They’re restaurants, right? Like KFC.
He literally went through and tried to figure out how many restaurants they had. Then he found a news article that showed the average income per restaurant and we were trying to determine if it was enterprise or not. It might’ve been Panera Bread or something, and it was like, this is insane that we’re spending so much time when we could just go to LinkedIn and base it off of the number of employees or their 10K or whatever resource you want. Just pick it and stick with it and move on rather than having people waste time trying to find loopholes so that they can count something as theirs.
Sean: Yeah. I mean, you’re preaching to the choir. We run into that every day, right? In fact that if you don’t, I think pick a lane to your point and have a standard that you’re going to follow. I think the other part of it, too, is that it’s very easy to insert some sort of subjectivity into this scenario, right? Where like, oh well, sometimes we use Clearbit, sometimes we use ZoomInfo. If those aren’t there then we’ll use LinkedIn.
Sean: But if I know the guy then we’re going to go right to LinkedIn and then that rep can have it, right? And so once you get that clarification, I think you can cut out all the stuff that happens further downstream. Similar to what you were saying about, I really like the pond analogy. Like, if you don’t know what the root because of the whole thing is, you might as well not even bother cleaning up the lake.
Kyle: Yeah, absolutely. It’s not worth your time to start looking at a solution until you even know what the problem is. I would totally agree with that premise that you outlined. It’s hard though. I don’t want to imply it’s not, and when you’ve got people breathing down your neck saying I need to transfer 10,000 accounts between three reps I need done tomorrow. And you’re like, we don’t even have data to determine how many employees or how should I structure these, the VP sales breathing down your neck. It’s hard. It’s a hard move. I hope folks have empathy for the operations role because it’s not an easy one.
Sean: Yeah. And it’s never something that you want to let the process slow down the progress of the company either. But similar to your point about taking time to make an investment in your own skills, data quality is the exact same thing. It’s not sexy. It’s not going to be fun to talk about. No one’s going to cheer for it at the company all hands meeting, but if you don’t have it then it can lead to some significant impacts on the way the business runs.
Kyle: Yeah, and to your original question of what do we see that is the problem. The third rail on this that we see is that the data changes, right? Companies add more employees, their revenue changes, they add new technologies, whatever your way of stratifying companies will change over time or people’s positions at companies change. You need a process for figuring out how to keep that stuff up to date and communicating and moving things around.
And I know that can be painful as well, because if you don’t even have a consistent way of deciding where companies should fall based on your data source, and that’s changing too, it just makes it infinitely harder. So yeah, pick a lane like you mentioned, and stick with it, and just be consistent.
Sean: Do you have recommendations that you give to your clients for how to deal with data that’s shifting like that and is dynamic, like employee count and revenue?
Kyle: Yeah, so the source that I always recommend is LinkedIn. The reason I recommend it is it’s first party, it’s opt in data. It’s not inferred the number of Twitter followers or something like that. It’s like, this is what the company says that their industry is, I’m going to go with it. This is what the number of employees is based on people who work there.
There are downsides, which are you go to Uber, they’ve got like 50,000 employees because they got a bunch of drivers. You may not consider Uber a 50,000 person company because they’re not employees, but that’s one consideration is you’re going to be wrong sometimes there.
The other thing is I recommend outsource that data collection wherever. So if you’re going to pick Clearbit, just use Clearbit, enrich it with their Salesforce plugin, and go hire some people on Upwork or or something like that to just be in charge of keeping the data up to date. I mean, folks are pretty cheap to do that and you can just completely outsource that process and have them go through every week they’re responsible for 1,000 account enrichments and they just go keep verifying the data’s good.
That’s a really cheap way to just remove it off of the plates of reps rather than try to do this yourself or a lot of companies will do is they’ll say every month we’re going to clear out all the employees. We need reps to go clean up. That’s not what you want your SDRs or AEs doing. You want them closing business and you want to hire someone for cheap in India or Pakistan or wherever to do that data enrichment for you because it’s not worth their time.
Sean: This is why I love the guests that we have on our show. Kyle doesn’t just say, oh, go clean up your pond or go clean up your data. He just gave us a complete walk through of all the specifics and a cheat sheet on how to actually get that done.
Before wrapping up with Kyle, there was a really important part of his life that we hadn’t covered yet and it has nothing to do with setting meetings as an SDR or maintaining high data quality inside of Salesforce. From 2003 to 2007, Kyle served as a United States Army Ranger and today at his consultancy Kicksaw, he’s still drawing on that experience and creating opportunity for fellow veterans in the process.
Kyle: Yeah, I’m a veteran. I was in 2nd Ranger Battalion for four years, from ’03 to ’07. Awesome. I mean, I was like 18 to 22 and I got to have the coolest job you can ever have. So I came out, went to school, and then started working in Silicon Valley, and when I started this consulting business doing Salesforce stuff, it was just me.
And then in got to the point where I couldn’t keep up with the customers on my own. And Salesforce is actually the one who deserves a lot of this credit because they have a group called Vetforce, and they’ll take any veteran or their spouse and give them all the free certifications for Salesforce that you would ever need.
Kyle: And so when I was looking to grow, I went on Vetforce and I was like, hey, I’m just looking to hire folks. I’m a veteran, would love to work with others, who wants a job? And I got flooded with people saying, like, I want to work for you, can we make something happen? So I essentially started bringing people on that they’re non traditional, they live in cities people don’t … like smaller towns, or they’re out of the way, or they’re not going to move to Austin or San Francisco or something like that.
So they were folks that wanted to get into Salesforce, they didn’t have an easy way to break into it, and they weren’t in a location that had a lot of Salesforce jobs. So they had all these certifications. I took a shot on a bunch of them and they’ve all been fantastic. So every single time I do it, it just completely pays off. So the veterans that I brought on have been great.
It’s a good to angle to lean on because people want to support veterans, but I mean selfishly, Salesforce is doing all the hard work for me. So I’m able to get this fantastic resource. So if you’re a company looking to support veterans, go to Vetforce and post on their chatter groups saying I’m looking for a remote person and you’ll be inundated with really high caliber folks with good backgrounds.
Sean: That’s amazing. Vetforce, that’s such a cool program. I have not heard of that before.
Kyle: I hadn’t either, and I’m a veteran. [crosstalk 00:30:05]
Sean: And on the values for Kicksaw is that you talk about the concept of extreme ownership. In doing my research and learning a little bit more about you, I saw that you were a fan of Jocko Willink who we are also huge fans of at Drift, and he spoke at our conference last year. I have a little sticky note on my desk that says OODA with observe, orient, decide, and-
Kyle: Yeah, yeah.
Sean: I’m sure people ask you all the time what are the transferable skills that you took from the military to the work you do today? But you’re just in a much better position to both act on and learn from those lessons then than any of us. And so I’m curious maybe not the skills that were transferable, but the lesson that you lean back on the most that the rest of us could learn from and use in our work and ops.
Kyle: Yeah. So things are pretty good. That’s the key takeaway if people stop listening to me. It’s like, things are good. So an example was I got out of the military at 22. I’d been on four deployments overseas, run hundreds of missions. I go into college and I’m the old guy, I’m 22 years old and I’m going through a math class, and it was hard transition for me because I got frustrated that people weren’t as hard working as me or whatever.
But then I ultimately get into the tech world and I was surrounded by people who are younger than me because I had gone to college a little later and I was like, this job is awesome. They got snacks, they got ping pong, and it wasn’t from I’m 18 years old or I just graduated college. It’s more of like, I could be sitting in a helicopter about to land on someone’s roof in the middle of the night and maybe get shot.
Like, life’s pretty good. We’ve got a great setup here, we’ve got awesome opportunity. I’m doing really fun things with great people. Like, things are good, and so it’s easy to forget and get frustrated about traffic or get frustrated about I didn’t hit my quota or the company’s not doing great, it’s easy to do those types of things. But long short is we’ve got it pretty awesome, and I think being in the military and having had a job that was really hard and potentially dangerous, it helps give you perspective and I think it’s easy to lose that sometimes.
Sean: Yeah, duplicate contacts seem pretty insignificant when you have that perspective.
Kyle: That’s a fair point. That’s a great rebuttal, too, because you’re right, this is a major challenge for a business. This is a risk, we need to solve it, but I think it’s important that you’ll see people when things are going sideways, they start to flail. They freak out, they yell, they don’t know how to react and just the Jocko OODA or whatever you’re calling it.
Mine is stop, breathe, think, act. That’s been the one I use. You stop what you’re doing, you breathe, you think about what you want to do, and you move on it. You don’t freak out. You don’t yell at somebody, you don’t knee-jerk react. You go through this process and that’s the one I use. It’s totally aligned with what he says and like you’ve mentioned, I’m a big fan of Jocko’s. I think anything that he has to say, I haven’t not supported.
Sean: Before we go, at the end of each show, we’re going to ask each guest the same lightning round of questions. Ready? Here we go. Best book you’ve read in the last six months.
Kyle: Ooh, best book I’ve read in the last six months. I just read this book called the Three Body Problem and the Trilogy. I don’t normally read nonfiction, but I read that it’s kind of the concept of if Earth, we found out that there was an alien civilization that was coming to destroy us, but we had 400 years, and it’s a trilogy. It’s unreal, one of the best books I’ve ever read.
Sean: Cool. Your favorite part about working in ops?
Kyle: Favorite part about working at ops is that you’re consistently challenged with something new every day. Occasionally you’ll get the mundane, I got to deal with [dupe 00:33:34] stuff, but you theoretically can touch every part of the business. You’re the hub of everything, and it’s fun to have that type of responsibility and control. You get to impact a ton within an organization.
Sean: Least favorite part about working in ops?
Kyle: That everything is your fault. That’s what I found moving into consulting is you’re always a good guy. When you’re an ops guy internally, everything’s your fault. So if something doesn’t work it’s because of you. When you’re a consultant, you’re fixing every problem. So there’s a double edged sword of being in ops for sure.
Sean: Yeah, managing perception is super important. Someone who impacted you getting the job you have today?
Kyle: Oh, the first one would probably be Patrick Salyer. He is an investor at Mayfield. He was the CEO of Gigya. He hired me when he was a VP of business development. He took a chance on me. I was the only non-traditional kid coming out of college that he’d brought on and totally took a risk, gave me a ton of leeway, and set me up on my path for the rest of my life. So I’m super indebted.
Sean: One piece of advice for people who want to have your job someday.
Kyle: Oh, man. So if you want to become … start your own company, like a tech company like SifData, you need to learn to code immediately. If you want to do Salesforce consulting, try to move into a junior ops role and start to develop and also learn to code. Both of those things have been critical into … like, I could not have done either role had I not learned to code.
Sean: A big thank you to Kyle Morris for joining us on this episode. Thank you to Kyle for his service, and thank you for everything he’s doing to create opportunities for veterans today. Now I mentioned the middle of the show. If you have a goal or a skill or something you’ve been meaning to get better at but you’ve been putting it off, that you can send that to me directly, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Send me a LinkedIn message and I will send you back one of my own goals in return and we can hold each other accountable. So do that, shoot me a note and we’ll make sure that the both of us are continuing to get better the same way that Kyle mentioned.
That’s going to do it for today. If you enjoy the show, please, please, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts, six star reviews only.
Also, if you’re new to the show and just discovering it and you want to go back and listen to some of our episodes, I would highly recommend checking out episode three with Brett Queener, who is a VC and a former Salesforce exec. It’s one of our most popular episodes so far. Thanks so much for listening. That’s going to do it for me. We’ll see you next time.