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As Chief Marketing Officer at Points, Danielle is at the helm of the Marketing team, which includes partner marketing, product marketing, brand & content, performance marketing and analytics & data science. She also leads the Business Operations functions, including customer and partner support, and product and promotions delivery.
In her 20+ year career, she has been responsible for building and growing a number of successful marketing teams at national and global organizations. She builds deep, broad teams with wide brand/ performance/ revenue scopes. An expert in change management, she is also a trained negotiator and facilitator, who is skilled at building consensus and driving businesses forward. Her experience stretches across the worlds of entertainment, wireless, loyalty, retail and tech.
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00:00 — Daniel Brown, CMO of Points
11:02 — Improv class to marketing leader.
14:42 — Managing the Covid disruption to office life.
22:47 — Teamwork and trust.
26:24 — Getting team buy-in.
32:17 — Using process for scaling & growth.
Read The Transcript (Machine Generated)
Scott: All right. Well, thanks again for joining me today. I am sitting down with Danielle Brown, who is the CMO of points. Danielle is at the helm of the global loyalty commerce providers. She is heading up their entire marketing strategy. She’s responsible for driving growth. Through data science and analytics.
She also leads business operations functions, including product delivery, support services, while ensuring overall customer and partner satisfaction and making sure that that remains a top priority. She has 20 years of experience on loyalty platforms. Entertainment wireless, retail and tech at the huge range of industries.
She’s navigated and built marketing team built marketing teams from growth stage startups to international markets with incredible, incredible growth, incredible revenue. Now that’s obviously the, the formal, that’s the formal description of your career. But I want to hear it from you. Talk to me about your career, how you came to become CML, just looking at your LinkedIn.
A lot of really, really impressive wins. So. So, yeah, let’s break it
Danielle: down. Thank you, God, I’m really happy to be here. Yeah. It is kind of funny when I, when I hear that back a, the 20 years kind of made me breathe a little bit heavy because I’m like, shit, that’s a really long time. And that made me feel old.
But yeah, it, it was a, it was. I guess a circuitous route. Right? I think I’ve always been a bit of a, I dunno, I guess a bit of a hustler I’ve always been working. I like babysitting. I think I had my first real job at McDonald’s at like 11 or 12, and I lied about my age to get my job. I was always one of those like super busy kids and I managed like my friends rock bands when I was 15.
And at like 19, I left Montreal. I moved to Toronto. I’m like, I’m going to go to. Theater school. I lasted a year. I felt like it was a waste of time and then I continued acting, but then I was like, I’m going to get a degree in criminology. And then I got bored of that and I actually didn’t finish that degree.
I’ve actually never finished school. I do not have a degree. And. One of the, one of the ways that I kind of managed to, to get to where I am is that I worked a whole bunch of jobs and one of those jobs was working at HMV while I was at school. For those of you who aren’t familiar record store And when I had the opportunity to go full time is when I quit school.
And I was like, no, no, I think I can weirdly turn this into something. And so I learnt how to cash office work. I was the shipper receiver. And then I, that’s where I got my first marketing job. And I remember just, that was my first salary job. And I was marketing for like the flagship store. And it was like, I made no money, but it was like a salary.
And I was. So proud. Right. And that was the beginning of marketing. And I kind of worked at HMV for awhile. And then I had this like, Opportunity someone at universal music, Canada called and said, Hey, there’s a sick leave. And you, we can bring you on. You might be here for two weeks. You might be here for two months.
And I was like, I will quit my job. I will take it. And I will make sure that they do not get rid of me. And I stayed there for six years. Right. And so what I did there was I started off in sales and then I moved to artists’ marketing and I was the artist marketer for Interscope records for Canada for the last three years there.
But like at a certain point, I was just like, Okay. I don’t know if I can do this forever. Like this is, I’m not going to be cool forever. I’m going to get old and I’m going to age out like high praise. I really thought I was good. Well at the time. But then I was like, okay, let me start exploring my options.
And it was the time of Napster and the business was changing. I was just like, okay, I need to start seeing what else is up there. Every recruiter that I went to was like, you don’t know how to do anything, but music, I can’t hire you. I can’t place you. No one will hire you. And I was like, shit, I am stuck.
Right. What do I do? What is my next move? And so I thought, okay, the next move has got to be, I know music, people will trust me with that. And I found a job running music content for a telco startup called AMT mobile. And we lasted for about eight to nine months in Canada. And then we went under and it was an awesome first startup experience.
And it was a necessary step for me to get further away from music. But then I was like, what on earth am I going to do now? And then one of my colleagues at the time was running a conversion for XM Canada. So before the Sirius XM merger, and he was one of the smartest people one of the smartest people I knew he was one of my colleagues at, at ant mobile.
And he had, he had gotten there and I was just like, if I could learn everything that is in this guy’s head. I’ve got the art of marketing, he’s got the science, I, then I will be in a great spot. And so I took this job as an account manager for general motors and was just like, I will learn everything that you can teach me.
And I learned about analytics. I learnt about forecasting. I learned the whole financial aspect of the business, and that was really foundational to me, was to have someone who believed in me and believed I was. Smart and be able to like, and could adapt and learn new things so that when my time at Sirius XM was up six years later, I was recruited as a VP of marketing at points.
And it was my job to build their analytics team and to look at their marketing team that was a cost center and say, I think I can turn this into a profit center. And we did some awesome work for three years. And then I was like, Okay. You know what? I need to start up experience again. And then I went and I left there.
I thought at this point I was like, I need to get to the C level table, and I’m not stuck at VP at points and I need to get out. And, and try to find that next opportunity for myself. And so I went to a B2B retail marketplace called Hubba where I was their first CMO and then left there and went to a director consumer business called nix where I was their CMO.
And then got recruited back to points and I’ve been there as CFO, and I’ve been there for for about a year and a bit. So it’s been this really long meandering journey. But purposeful in the way that I knew what skills I needed to go acquire to get to the next level. And that was what was guided my decision making.
Scott: that’s a very interesting story and there’s a lot of different points that I’d actually want to touch on. But I think the one that I just, the one thing that stood out to me was you were you almost accidentally got into marketing, but then you were purposefully successful at it. I don’t know if you agree with that statement or not, but it seems like that’s sort of like the career progression from HMV, and then you saw the opportunity to just sort of like tackle them, tackle them, tackle them.
At what point did you know that you wanted to double down on marketing? And the reason why I ask that is because a lot of people listening to this are also in sales. And I think that actually funny enough, your career progression, where you accidentally get into something and then you’re purposefully successful at it is actually very.
Very much in line with what a lot of sales individuals do because a lot, I think there’s more, there probably was more infrastructure to support a marketer than sales on anchor still is. So for people that sort of are trying to figure out what they’re doing and they’re at that point. And like, my background is very similar to yours, but I was done the sales route where I just got into sales and sort of just kept going, kept going, kept going.
How did you know at the point when you, this is something that you wanted to do for your career and that you started to double down on it? And this is something that you wanted to sort of continue to learn and find mentors and continue to advance in your career. What was that point?
Danielle: I, I think it was while I was working at HMV, not in marketing previously.
And then, and to be honest, the thing that attracted me to it was I was like, well, this sounds cool. Right? These people do cool things. Let me just try, I’m going to try to write a marketing plan and see what happens. And that first job I, I, I was like, look, I’m gonna, I’m going to be really open about what I know and what I don’t know and what I know how to do.
And I just discovered that I was good at it. I think I was. Fearless in the opportunities that I brought forward and I’ve always approached my career, knowing that it would be okay to fail because I could pick myself up again and try something new or try the same thing differently. And I think operating with that mindset of saying, I’m going to say yes to every opportunity and just see where it gets me, allowed me to find the thing that I was good at, because I didn’t have that traditional schooling where I could explore and figure that out.
And so it really was a recognition of, I have the aptitude for this. So now I’m going to double down and I’m going to try to chart a path. That’s just going to meet, make me smarter at this thing that I think I can be good
Scott: at. Do you think, do you think not having the formal education that actually gave you an advantage?
Danielle: I do. I do. And I don’t know if it’s just personal because of the way I learned It’s funny that you ask it that way, because at the time, while I was trying to build my career after a few jobs in like at some point at universal, I was like, Idiot. Why didn’t you finish school? Right? Like why did you not finish school?
Because every time you go for a job, someone is asking you if you had your degree. But the thing that it freed me to do is to not take a textbook approach. And it allowed me to say, I don’t know if I’m supposed to do it this way, but let me explore and let me innovate and let me see if it works this way.
I filled in a lot of the knowledge after, but yeah, I think. For, for the way I operate. It was a hugely freeing experience to not have a map.
Scott: So I’m, I’m, I’m starting to, as you tell your story I’m starting to understand why you’re successful and why you’ve been successful in so many different industries.
Like, you know, when, when we first introduced you, it was like loyalty, entertainment, wireless, retail, tech, like. You’re right. That’s a lot of different industries and just to be able to be successful at all of those, it sort of speaks to your, you as a professional, as a person. I’m just wondering if that’s, you know, you, I think you had the benefit of not having the formal education, which forced you as like a high performing individual to take those things on and be successful.
I’m just wondering if that’s something that can be I guess learned if somebody was in a formal education setting and they were spoonfed stuff and it did come easy to start. How do you become that adaptable and how do you, how do you shift your, your thinking? So that failure is okay, because it’s going to go to another point, you know, how did you, how did you deal with and navigate the pandemic environment with points and, and travel, but I’m sure all of your success and the way that you’ve had to navigate has led to.
You being extremely effective at navigating just another significantly large event, but still something that, you know, a lot of people that have done things a certain way for so long, maybe a little bit less capable of figuring out.
Danielle: Look, I think the first part of your question is interesting and I think it all has to do with approach.
Right. I am going to go back to my my early acting days. Right. And one of the most valuable lessons that I ever ever learned was in improv class. I don’t know if you’ve ever taken an improv class.
Scott: I took grade 12 drama. I wasn’t that good at it, but yeah. I was
Danielle: nervous because the principal, you learn this thing in improv.
Right. And the thing you learn is the phrase. Yes. And so I’ll give you an example. I’m doing a little improv scene and nine pro I’m like cooking dinner in the kitchen, and you’re always going to have the next person comes into the improv scene who decides they’re going to be clever and just throw a wrench in everything and say, Hey, I’m an alien from outer space or whatever.
And you’re like, How could you be doing in my kitchen then? But whatever, what you can’t do in improv is say to them, what the hell are you doing in my kitchen? What you have to do with improv is accept the suggestion and go, how am I going to build on it? And bizarrely, that’s been foundational in how I’ve built my career, that whole rule of the yes.
And is I can always build on anything. So if I don’t know something, I can figure it out. If something comes in to change my direction or shift my focus, that’s great. I’ll accept it and figure out how to adapt it and integrate it into the path that I have to take. So I think that that part is.
Foundational. Right. And I think if you do have a more formal education, I think that’s great. I think that’s, I think having a, really, a team with diverse backgrounds and different diverse ways of learning builds a really great team and. If you, if you’re looking to be adaptable, the, the main thing though, is, is adding that adaptability.
So if you can, with that formal training, then say, and I also know that things are gonna happen that are unexpected, and I can, I can apply that rule of the yes. And it allows you to be flexible as well. So I think it’s an attitude and an approach thing.
Scott: I love that. I think that the very valuable tool that people can if they can just keep it top of mind, I think that would be very useful.
And I think especially, you know, we’re talking about career, but like I’ll bring it again back to COVID like your, your circumstance and how you’ve sort of, and we were speaking about this before. Like if you’re healthy, if you know, if you are in a, in a relatively okay. Financial position You’re not having the worst goal of it compared to some people that don’t have those luxuries, unfortunately.
So, you know, if you can say yes and, and you know, we’re right now, we’re, we’re both in Toronto, we’re stuck inside, but there’s a lot of things that are still progressing in our careers. You know, people are still, you know, advancing, so there’s ways to grow. There’s always ways to grow and there’s always, you know, roll with the punches, so to speak.
I really, really liked that attitude. That’s a really, really, really smart attitude to, to sort of internalize. I want to, I want to understand more about, you know, now this is sort of your career progression, two points. You really summed it up very nicely and succinctly. I want to understand, I guess, with points in particular.
Some leadership lessons that you’re you’re working with now. So some, some things that you, you bring to the team bring to the company. And I’m really just curious, because you’re working in a, in a points is, is loyalty, loyalty for travel and fun. I’m not, if I’m not mistaken. So obviously it has been some disruption in the company.
Do you want to, do you want to walk through? Cause I, you know, how, how have you navigated COVID so far and how, how has that impacted your role as COO.
Danielle: Yeah. So it’s a few different ways. It has obviously been a challenge to be in a travel related business. And what we particularly do is we work with 60 of the world’s largest travel loyalty rewards programs.
So we don’t run the loyalty programs themselves. But what we do is we build and power and network of ways that loyalty program members can get and use their favorite loyalty currency. Right. So basically, and we’ve been around since the year 2000 and we’re headquartered in Toronto and we operate around the globe.
And so what we’ve been dealt with is what we’ve been dealing with is our partners who are going, who airlines and hotels who are going through. The most significant downturn in travel history. And we’ve kind of seen it as our jobs to be able to say, okay, people can’t fly. They are not staying at hotels and hotels as much obviously.
And so what can we do to help you generate ancillary revenue? So it’s been It’s been a humbling experience to see how much their, their business has suffered and how much we can help our partners say, okay, we can still bring in revenue for you by retailing, that loyalty currency. And we’re seeing some encouraging things, right.
We’re seeing that. That loyalty program members are still purchasing currency, which to me is this hopeful view of travel returning because they are going to want to spend their loyalty currency. And they’re saving up for trips right now that they can take when things reopen. So our approach has had to be very different because.
We all are needs based. Buyers are all gone. It’s people are really buying just for future travel and that. So, so we we’ve been dealing on one side with our partners who have staff getting furloughed and have to do so much more with less. And we’re trying to support them through that. But then you think about our team internally and you know, I’m looking at my team or we’re about at 275 people and points in total.
And my team is about 90 per 90 of those people. And, you know, in, in thinking through. How everyone was dealing with the pandemic at the beginning, it just, everyone has different living circumstances, right? People have a whole bunch of different salaries. What I might be dealing with is very different than what my customer service representative might be dealing with and the space that they’re dealing with.
And, and, and as leaders, we have to be really, really cognizant of the stress that this time and this period is putting on our teams. So one of the early decisions that I made Is looking at my team’s happiness. And, and I know that that sounds squishy, but I’m a very firm believer in saying if my team is happy, they will work.
Harder for me is that sounds really cold and calculated. But if I take care of them, they will take care of them business. And so early on what I decided to do was say, Hey, as a team, let’s build a happiness model because if I can keep you happy, I’m going to hold onto you. I’m going to make sure that you are I’m dribble and cared for.
And I know I’m going to get good work for you from you. So. I surveyed the team and I said, look in point form and pros. However you want to do it. Describe your perfect day to me. Just tell me what that looks like. I took all of that data and then said, where are the common themes that I’m, that I’m seeing?
And basically everything fell into six common buckets. And so I use that to, as a team kind of crowdsource what we’re calling the ABC’s of happiness. And what we said is. If you could feel a sense of accomplishment, if you could feel balanced so that you have work time and you have think time and you have home time and work time, if you could feel a sense of challenge.
So you’ve had these realistic goals, but you, but they were goals. I’m a little bit hard to achieve. If you had clarity in what was expected of you, if you had a connection with your peers, but went beyond work, and if you felt like you were contributing to the greater good of the company, Then you would be a happy employee and you would be a happy team member.
And so all of my people managers have this and are armed with this information and when they do their one-on-ones with their, with people on their team, They check the happiness index and they’re like, how’s your happiness score going? Where are we falling short? And how can I help you with that? And the powerful thing about that is that it’s a model that was built by the team.
They told us what was important. And now we have this language and this conversation to be able to follow up on people who might be worried because we’re in travel and what’s happening to my job and who are seeing the people that they work with day to day, getting furloughed or laid off. And so. Gave them a sense of security and power to be able to say my leaders care about me.
My company cares about me and I have a language to be able to talk to them with, if I am not happy in a certain way,
Scott: that’s a very good framework. And, you know, we were prepping for this. I didn’t even know you’re going to bring that up. I’m happy you did though, because like, regardless of pandemic, I think that’s actually extremely important.
And I think that, I think that that’s actually something that I think. The happiness of a team. You’re right. It does sound like, like, like, like, I don’t know, it’s a squishy and whatever, whatever, it’s a good word for it, but it’s, it’s so true. It’s very true. And I think that if you just assume like, Oh, you know, my team’s a full of they’re they’re, they’re grownups, they’re adults.
Like they can, they can manage and they can take care of themselves. Like they’re going to, it’s not going to be a good situation.
Danielle: Right. So. Yeah. I don’t know about you, but I’m struggling. I’m,
Scott: I’m having a hell of a time. Like I’m having a hell of a time, like a seriously, like half. The reason why I like doing these podcasts now is because this is the only time I can talk to somebody else besides like, I, like, I love the people that I’m living with.
Don’t get me wrong, but you know, you, you don’t, you don’t have, you don’t have the coffee, you don’t have the conferences. You don’t have that anymore. You really don’t and you know, people can put on this face and they can say like, you know, I’m okay. Like I’m, I’m doing fine. And for some people, like, it’s tough to let that, let that guard down and be human, especially if they’re professionals and they’re, you know, maybe they’re executives and they’re, and they think they’re supposed to be perceived a certain way or whatever, or that people that report to them that are, are not doing okay.
And they want to be there for those people. But if you normalize it. Across the organization. All of a sudden you realize the people that everybody thought was okay, may have not been okay. And then you’re starting to, to really help people in ways that yeah, you’re going to keep them with the company, but in terms of like mental health and wellbeing, you’re probably doing a lot more for them than just keeping them with the company, especially if they’re on their
Right. I think that’s it. I’m I think it’s, I think that’s so important, right? That’s squishy stuff. As squishy as it is, is so important. These are people. These are human beings. If I’m having a tough time, they are having a tough time and it really does translate into if someone is happy, they will stay.
If someone is happy, they will be freer. They will feel more safe. They will experiment more. They will innovate more. It builds a more productive team member.
Scott: Now there’s a component of that that I wanted to, I wanted to ask you about, so. There’s also a component of trust that I think is, is sort of layered on when somebody is working from home.
Because there has to be an extra layer or level of trust. So you’re a leader you’re dealing with a relatively large marketing team. You said 98 90 individuals. How do you, how do you them to get their work done? What, what’s your process for feeling comfortable and making sure that they know that you trust them?
Danielle: To me. I love that question because I do think the job of a leader is to leave space for people to do their work, to do their best work. Right. And you’re only going to do that if you trust them. What’s interesting is we, here’s the second squishy topic we’re talking about, right. Which is trust, right.
Happiness and their trust. And, and we actually built a trust on our team as well. And that was, again, another crowdsource model. I’m really big on, if I’m going to ask the team to do something they need to. Right. Exactly. Yeah. And so, and so we did build a trust model right. Where we said, okay and this was, this goes back sometime.
This goes back to my first stint at points and it’s actually, it’s actually survived and survived while I was gone. Where, where. It was actually a recipe for solving a problem where the team was a bit broken. And when I went in to try to figure it out, it was because they didn’t trust each other. And you had people double checking, other people’s work, people like going into areas that weren’t their own because they weren’t trusting the people on their team.
And when we finally got down to it and said, okay, what would it take for you to to trust the people that you worked with? Again, crowdsource, we got four things. We got, if you could create transparent pin, sorry, create transparency practice, accountability, deliver results. And have honest talks with people.
So if you’re pissed off at me, don’t go tell your buddy come and tell me if we could all exhibit those four behaviors, then we would all be able to trust each other. And what we actually did in order to reinforce that is, Oh my God. God, my team hated me when we put this together, but it’s actually survived was we would actually on a monthly basis, the team was a lot smaller.
So it was easier to do is we would give each other awards. So we would have our update meetings and then I would say, Hey. This month, I’m going to give Scott the award for for honest talk because I screwed up and he actually confronted me on it and I totally didn’t see it from his perspective and not talk balls.
And so here you go. I’m giving you the award for honest talk and. And I also forced the team to give themselves an award. So then I could say, and I created transparency because something broke here and I let everybody know, and this that’s what I did. And so it was this, it was this. Exhibiting that trusting behavior to where you could have an open, honest forum and people could have those conversations to say, Hey, this is broken.
I didn’t get this from you. Building that trust. I think having that foundational language again, made it easier for us to be working from home and say, okay, I’m not, I don’t actually understand what’s going on over here. I don’t feel like I’m having transparency in your part of the business. We need to figure out how to communicate better or.
I’m you’re late on this for two days and I don’t know where it is. So let’s just talk about the accountability here. Right?
Scott: I like it a lot. I have a question, cause I’m sure you dealt with this. What do you do when you bring in these models and you’re, you are getting team buy-in, you’re getting like everybody’s buy-in because they’re literally building the things that they think will work best for them.
And then you’re, you’re, you know, that’s what you’re going to go with for both happiness and trust, but there’s going to be people that are going to say, this is stupid. This is retarded. I don’t understand why I have to give somebody an award. Like, this is like, this doesn’t make any sense to me. I don’t, why am I giving myself an award?
How do you get those people to buy in? Or is that something that every organization struggles with you can’t, you can’t do anything about that? No,
Danielle: look, I think I think, I think people are wired differently. Right? And I am I do realize that I default to this like, right. I’m a very, like, let’s start with our feelings.
Let’s figure out what’s going on, which makes people makes, makes certain people uncomfortable. Right. So. So I always say to my team, can you just try it? Can you, I know you hate it and I know how painful this is for you. I just need you to try it. And I think understanding that I, they, they have to do it.
Look, you don’t get to opt out of this thing. I’m actually going to make you do it. And then if it’s not working, I think it’s having check-ins right. Give me three months, then let’s talk again in three months and tell me why it’s not working for you. Don’t just get to say, Hey, I hate this. Tell me something that would work better, or if it’s not like you, you, I think there is we as leaders have to give people responsibility for their own careers and their own career development.
And it is not just let me give you the map. Right. It is. I’m going to teach you how to work through this. If the map isn’t working for you. So if you want more transparency, if you want more responsibility than you have to show me what you’re going to do about it, it’s not just up to me to build that much, to draw that map for you.
Scott: I like that a lot. I don’t see. So the people that do have an opinion about it, Okay, that’s fine. But you have to, you have to come up with something because there’s a, there’s a, there’s a clear gap here that that’s causing the business to suffer in this area or the other. So if, if you don’t think this way is going to solve that problem, you think it’s stupid.
Think of something that will solve this problem. And let’s talk about it. Yeah. Find
Danielle: me something that will work better. Get together with some of your colleagues, then build something else. I would love that. Right. Take a lot
Scott: of stress off.
That’s very okay. So this, you know, what, what I’m seeing here, what we’re getting is a master class in building a culture in probably one of the industries, you know, your travel adjacent. That is probably one of the hardest hit. And there’s one more point that I wanna, I wanna ask you about. I want to ask you about process and process, you know, especially in a work from home environment and how that’s important, but I want to also get some data points from you.
On, when you build out this, this squishy happiness model, this trust model, and then we can go into process as well. What does that, what does that look like in terms of actual results? How has your bow has points performed? How has, you know, it could be, I don’t know what metric you wanna, you wanna relay over if you have any off the top of your head and I’m sort of coming at you, you know, I didn’t ask you to prep for this, but.
I think it would be interesting to take this away and like actually see what it, what the, what the end result is like in, in some way or another.
Danielle: Yeah, look, it’s it. Results are interesting, right? I think, I think if I look at last year where we went into last year with a plan that obviously we didn’t achieve, right.
We thought people would be flying. We thought people would be, we said it in the November, the year before. But when we recast our plan We achieved our recasted plan. Right. Which to me is huge. But we’re what that, what that meant for us was things came from different places, right? So I’m talking.
So from my marketing team, not I won’t share the breakdown, but my marketing team was previously in the work that we had to do responsible for way less of a percentage of the overall revenue of the company. By the time the end of the year came, I would say the absolute lion’s share of the company’s revenue was directly related to marketing promotions.
And so what you have is a situation whereby you have a team that is now disproportionately responsible for the whole company’s revenue, and imagine the stress and the pressure on that to, to, to not be able to fail. Right in a culture that I’m building that says you can fail, you can try things. It’s okay.
And then you’re just like, Oh shit. But if we don’t hit this, we don’t hit the number like terrifying. Right. So then if I then go back to say, how did we handle the pressure? How do we not crack? How did we hit our reforecast? That’s how we did it because we were taking care of the squishy stuff and we were making sure that people understood their direction.
So that. They felt heard and they felt taken care of and they could power forward and get their jobs done.
Scott: That’s very impressive. Very impressive. What you’ve done. And just out of curiosity, was the, you know, sort of doubling down on the trust and, and building out this happiness model. Was that, was that done purposefully to combat like the, the, you know, shifting of percentage of total revenue targets towards a marketing team?
Or was that just. Something that was a happy coincidence.
Danielle: The trust, Oh, I would say if it was older, I think that was just, that’s just a way we work. The happiness model was something that we did develop during COVID and something that, something that that I knew I had to have in place as the result.
Sponsor abilities of the team would be shifting and we needed to have a way to have conversations about where things weren’t working. You know, it’s a difficult business to learn. And so I would say that the ramp up of someone being effective because it’s such an odd, odd business is six to eight months.
And so I could not afford to lose anybody. And we actually last year had the lowest turnover in our history. Well, that’s
Scott: it. That’s it. That’s the KPI right there. That’s pretty, pretty tan. Impressive. So good. Seriously. Very, very impressive. Okay. Last point process. So how does process fit in to all of this?
Danielle: So, you know, points, I think we, I think we do a pretty good job on process. I think we, we might err on overprocess in some cases, right? Because we’re at that like small to mid sized company size and sometimes I think the, the. The traps that you can fall in when you’re that size and, and you have people spread all over the world is that you, you can sometimes tend to over-complicate things, but previous experience tells me look having gone in and built marketing teams from scratch.
Is that the scariest thing that you can say to someone at a startup is okay, great. Now we’re going to put all this process in place and it’s going to make things better. I swear. And you get people looking at you going, you were going to slow me down. This is that, I don’t know why you’re doing this.
You’re just trying to turn me bureaucratic. And then I don’t have freedom. And that’s the reason that I went to a startup in the first place. And I wanted to play and experiment and build fun things. Right. And you’re going to make it impossible for me to do that. Am I remember one of the ways in kind of having to think through this is in my story and past one of the things I did as a, as a kid was I was a ballet dancer and and.
The interesting thing for those of you who might not know about ballet is basically the fundamentals that he’s got. You haven’t taken a few classes improv. Yes. Ballet now. And so is, there are basically. Five positions of your feet and five positions of your arms and all of the beautiful movement that you see are based on these five feet positions and these five armed positions.
And when you, if you’ve seen a beautiful ballet dancer, it is, it is beautiful. What they do, and they look free and they look like they can fly. But my process tie in here is their processes. There are five things their feet can do, and there were five things their arms can do. And it’s that? Having that form allows you to have freedom because you have this box and this framework that you can work in.
So if I take that back to process, if you look at an environment that is just like, Hey, I have this idea, why don’t we do this? If we built it this way for this, for this one thing, and then this way for this one thing, it turns into chaos and you actually get paranoid. You get paralyzed because you don’t know what you’re prioritizing, you don’t know what’s important.
And that, so, so when you think through process and, and process is actually a freeing thing. Right. And I think having process, but not over-processed becomes important. Now, when I build process, I would say build to overprocess and then peel back. But, but it is just so important or you get lost because you don’t understand the rules.
Scott: And I guess my question would be, so that makes a lot of sense. I like that analogy a lot. Now, when everybody shifts into a work from home environment, how do you in an agile way, when you already have a process in place, how do you update that? So that it accommodates for work from home environment. So you’re not people aren’t lost, confused but you’re not sort of halting the progress of the business while still migrating people to work from home.
Danielle: efficiently. Yeah. I think that’s a great question. Your process has to change. Right. And I think one of the, one of the biggest struggles that we have in business pandemic or not is we often have blind spots and well, this is the way we’ve been doing it before. Right. This is, this is the way we’ve always done it.
And the wonderful thing about this pandemic, if I can say anything wonderful about it from transfer, from looking at transformational opportunities for business has been, we have been forced to look at process and say, this isn’t going to work anymore. We can’t have the same meetings. We can’t all be in the same place.
Let’s just, let’s be freer about being able to change those things. And this is. Speaking to that transformation. It’s all, I’ll give you a little bit of an example. So pre pandemic on my delivery team, we had been we just got approved to add 15 bodies onto that team. And then the week later it was like locked down and we’re also freezing all hiring and but go ahead and do the work you were supposed to do anyway.
And we’re like, Shit, a few people short, like I’ll do this. This is not actually possible and would not make anyone happy. Right. So what we did, what it allowed, what it allowed me to do is there is no way in a normal circumstance that I would have looked at my marketing team and my operations team and said, okay, where do we need the work done?
Who is working on lower value work and how am I then going to reshuffle these people? I need 15 people on this team. I am, I was doing things like I had marketers who were like, yeah, maybe I could be a project manager. Okay. I’m going to move them over to the delivery team. I had I had customer support people who were like, eh, I can code a little bit.
Okay. Let’s get them a little bit of training. Let’s move them over and be webbed up. Like it was this kind of stuff that would, that would happen. Obviously it would just be like, let’s have an HR conversation. Are we allowed to talk to this person about this blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. What we were able to do is say, no, this is where the work needs to happen.
And it allowed us to prioritize that high value work in a way that if it wasn’t a pandemic, I never would have asked people to do this. I would’ve just gone in and asked for 15 more bodies. Right. So there’s something really freeing about the fact that everything is different. And so I was able to say, our approach can now be different.
Right. And, and, and how we prioritize can be different. And that’s one of those things that I’ve been talking to my leadership team about to say, how do we preserve that? As things get back to normal,
Scott: how was that, how was that received by the, by the people on your team when you started making shifts like that?
Danielle: know what it was, again, it’s not anything that I’m just going to be like, sorry, you’ve been traded pack your bags. Right. But, but but it was like there, we had I I’m so lucky I have such a great team. It was, here’s the need, here’s the need for the business. We think you’d be good at this.
Do you have any interest at the very least? It’s a learning opportunity and. Every single person was like, whatever I need to do. Just, just tell me what I need to strong culture. Some people have actually stuck in those jobs. Like they’re like, I don’t want to go back. I like this better. Okay. Awesome. Like it opened up this whole new opportunity for them.
Scott: That’s really good. And I think that’s a Testament to everything else you’ve been doing. Because when people are willing to do that for, you know, the circumstances or circumstances, stuff happens, you know, shit happens. And if somebody is willing to do that, that shows you like what kind of team you have and, and how bought in they are to the company, which is really what you want anyways.
You want everybody to win. And if they feel like they’re winning, they feel like they’re aligned. They feel like, you know, they understand where the company is going to want to back that in any way possible. I think that’s a win for them and for you and for the company for everybody, it’s very, very impressive.
So to close these these interviews out, I like to do like some rapid fire stuff just about you and your career for people to learn quickly, just some quick questions. But before I go into that, was there anything else on, on points on things that you’ve learned over the pandemic, things that you’re doing with your team now, or in the past that you wanted to touch on?
Danielle: No. I mean, I feel like I gave you an ear full right there
Scott: in a good way, in a really, really, really good way. There’s some really good lessons. This is seriously, some very good lessons on, on leadership, on pandemic leadership on, like I said, like this is a class in how to, how to best practices for managing a team for leading a team for navigating pandemic for just really just best practices and doing business.
And it’s from. You know, your COO at an organization, that’s again, travel adjacent. So if you can make this work, there’s literally no reason. Like I don’t mean to be rude or to be insensitive, but there’s no reason why other leaders, in other words, organizations that weren’t as heavily impacted as travel cannot do better and make their organization work as well.
Similar to what you’re doing. That’s really, that’s my takeaway. In all seriousness. That’s really my takeaway. I think that you’re doing an incredible job. Seriously. Thank
Danielle: you. It’s been fun. It’s been, it’s actually, it’s been, it’s been an awesome challenge. So yeah, I’ve been yeah, it’s been fun.
Yeah, no, for sure. For sure. Okay. A couple of rapid fire questions to close out. What was the biggest challenge that you’ve had in your career and how did you overcome it?
Danielle: We touched on it a little bit before it was It was a personal challenge. It was not having a degree and feeling stuck.
Right. And just feeling like how on earth am I we’re going to move forward. And did I paint myself into a corner because I just didn’t want to be in school. And that overcoming was just was just persevering. And it was really just about building relationships. And trying things. But yeah, I’ll never forget that crushing feeling of, Oh my God, I did this wrong.
Do I have, do I have to start over in some way?
Scott: What makes you feel inspired or makes you feel like your best self?
Danielle: Oh, you know I’m gonna go back to my team. It is It is such a, an honor and a pleasure to get to work with the people that I work with every day and just seeing them take chances and innovate and just try stuff and be fearless just makes me go like I am cheering and I am like, yeah, just do it.
And it is, it is just awesome to just look around and just be inspired by the people who I get to work with every day.
Scott: Very good. If you could tell your 20 year old self one thing, what would it be?
Danielle: Oh, God, stop worrying so much. If you’re on the right track, like there are a thousand different ways to get to where you’re going.
Be purposeful about your steps. And don’t feel like you have to fit a mold. Right. And Oh, and never think what’s my next move. Always think what’s the move after the next move and plan how you’re going to get there.
Scott: Okay. I like that. Say that one more time. Never, never think what’s my next move.
Always think what’s the move after that move and planet. So you’re two steps ahead. Yeah, that’s very good. What’s your favorite? It could be a person. It could be a book, a podcast, some resource that you love that you would recommend other people go and check out.
Danielle: Maybe unconventional. Yeah. I would say read as much fiction as humanly possible. I don’t read business books. I barely read non-fiction but there is something so powerful about fiction helping you understand the human condition and helping you understand how people process things. It puts you in a different world.
And I think don’t get me wrong. I’d binge TV and light. Like everybody else. But it’s just the immersive experience of fiction and having to process how someone else is processing a story is one of the most powerful things that you can do for yourself.
Scott: That’s a good answer. That’s a very good answer.
And then the most important question, where do people, first of all, go check out points. And then go connect with you and go, you know, if they want to reach out to you, how can they do
Danielle: that? They can just find me on LinkedIn. Danielle Brown is pretty is a pretty common name, but Danielle Brown points is easy to find.
SUCCESS STORY PODCAST
Stories worth telling.
On the Success Story podcast, Scott has candid interviews with execs, celebrities, notable figures and politicians. All who have achieved success through both wins and losses, to learn more about their life, their ideas and insights.
He sits down with leaders and mentors and unpacks their story to help pass those lessons onto others through both experiences and tactical strategy for business professionals, entrepreneurs and everyone in between.