Tim Hayden of Brain+Trust Partners joined me to talk about business transformation through the use of data and digital innovation.

We talked about how most organizations underutilize their existing data and could be developing meaningful insights from what they already have at hand. In addition, we explored the role that data can play in improving the customer experience and business outcomes.

Tim discussed why he objects to the term “digital transformation” and the role that the human nature to avoid change plays in to the work of Brain+Trust Partners.

Automated Transcript

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CHIP:                Hello and welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip podcast. My guest today is Tim Hayden. Tim is the president and Co managing partner of Brain Trust partners. Welcome Tim.

TIM:                 Thanks chip. Glad to be here.

CHIP:                It is a tremendous to have you here. I’m looking forward to our conversation. Uh, you know, I, I guess where I would start his brain trust partners. What is it and how did you come to, um, to create it?

TIM:                 Sure. Uh, you know, about two years ago, a little more than two years ago, Scott Monty and I were working together on a different project when I was at Zignal labs in California and now love it, Austin, back in Austin. Um, but we basically saw that there was a gap in the market between consultancies, maybe a white space, if you’ll call it that between consultancies and agencies, an underserved area where executives within brands were grappling with a how to manage the massive stack of technology that they have to engage customers and better yet what to replace and how to deal with this new wave of artificial intelligence and virtual reality. You know, all those, all those silver shiny bullets that we’re headed that way, shiny objects that is, and basically, um, you know, that’s what we’re doing and succinctly we think we are doing is enabling brands to operate and serve their customers at the speed of the customer.

CHIP:                Uh, that, uh, that makes sense. And the speed of the customer is changing, right? I mean, this is, we’re, we’re, we’re in a different environment now.

TIM:                 We’re in a very different environment. In fact, uh, you know, at the hands of a handful of brands that have leveraged what I think people are conveniently labeling direct to customer operating models. You know, the fact that you can hit a button on that most personable of devices that goes everywhere with you, your smart phone and have something show up at your front door within four hours, at worst, 48 hours. Um, that right there, the customer expectation, the consumer experience has changed drastically and abruptly over the last two or three years. And it’s only going to become more so as there is more a technology enablement that changes consumer behavior and expectations.

CHIP:                And so. So how does brain trust help its clients address that challenge?

TIM:                 So we really go in and try to do everything we can from an evaluation standpoint to understand the three facets of customer experience operations, the people who do you have on the bus, where do they sit? What are their skills? What are the needed skills that you should have, you know, in a metaphorical way are people sitting in the right seats on the bus, do you have open seats on that bus? But looking at the technology that is installed and the processes that we’ve, those people and the technology together in terms of operating on a daily basis to a market, the business to provide customer care, uh, to enable fulfillment, which gets us into supply chain, looking at how all those things are connected. And uh, once we’ve, we’ve done that and some people call it an audit, once we’ve completed that, it puts us in a perfect position to deliver to them a strategic roadmap.

TIM:                 Uh, what should they do over the next four to six quarters? Because we don’t think anyone has any business trying to forecast what happens beyond that time period, uh, what should they do to rearrange perhaps the people and the and their processes, the systems they have in place, but certainly the technology that they have, whether it is integrated and connected or not in and be replaced or augmented by outside technology. So it’s really a roadmap for a business transformation. I’m not digital transformation the way other people are looking at it because it’s not just entirely a digital remit. So as you look at, if you look at the three legs of the stool is being people, technology and processes, you know, what a new finding is the weakest link right now, which, which one is the area where most businesses, uh, that you’ve looked at need the most work?

TIM:                 Uh, I would say it, it sometimes starts, but it never ends with technology. Um, uh, and it’s, it’s just a natural human thing. Most, most executives and the lieutenants that support them today have had a, a technology vendor have had a software company sell to them. Uh, some functionality and a, at the end of the day there is the very human reality that we have too many dashboards, right? So, uh, there are too many different tools that are at the hand to be used by customer experience professionals today. Marketing professionals and communications professionals. There are too many tools at their disposal or that they have already licensed, uh, and, or had license to them. And um, you know, the bottom line is we think there’s just been a horrible bill of goods sold to brands today and that is you have to have tools that don’t talk to each other so you never have a holistic picture of who your customers are.

TIM:                 And um, there’s, there’s, what the reality is, is most people have been relegated into a position to where they think marketing is all about acquiring new business instead of focusing on what they can do to delight and retain those who’ve already opened their wallet retention. So most technology wasn’t built for that. It was mainly built to attract new customers and to be able to convert them or close them not to be able to better serve the customers. You already have one that’s. And that’s likely because that’s where people are most willing to invest money at the corporate level, right? It’s always the, you know, the, the, the place where you can get people to crack open their wallets is if you can promise them that it’s going to bring new revenue in the door, but as you point out, that means that they’re not thinking through everything that they should be doing and the vendors are not thinking through all of the capabilities their products should have.

TIM:                 Well, that’s right. And, and, and, and to your point, I mean, it’s, that’s a very natural human thing is to say if we invest x, Y and x, Y and Z, it will net a certain percentage or a certain volume of new business. And I think that, um, I think that makes sense. It’s always been very natural, but it’s the, it’s the jam. And chip, I think maybe you and I’ve talked about this in the past. Um, it’s, it’s relegated ascend to this very transactional way of managing our business. We’re worried about email open rates and we’re worried about clicks and impressions, which we’ve been worried about since the earth cooled, but digital media has had us focus more on numbers and more on what we’re doing from a transactional standpoint rather than understanding the full life cycle of a customer’s engagement or experience with a brand or what the products represented by a brand. You know, one of the things that you said a few minutes ago that I really like and you pointed out that it’s really about business transformation, that digital transformation and digital transformation is one of those buzzwords that we keep hearing about. But it’s, it’s really, it’s really weird digital fits into the overall picture of it. It makes a difference as part of the overall tool set as part of the overall strategy, but it’s not an end in itself, right?

TIM:                 Correct. That’s absolutely right. I mean, um, and so, so as you think about that with your clients, then how does that, how does that shape and inform the advice that you’re giving? If you, if you’re thinking about it from a, from a holistic business perspective, and not just in, in, in that digital silo.

TIM:                 Sure. What I’m going to give you a partial digital answer. I mean, it’s that if we’re using certain tools to manage content or to analyze the performance of the media we’ve invested in, um, it’s just like the human brain, you know, it’s, it is said that humans only use 10 percent of their, of their own brains. We’ve got so much that goes unused. The same thing can be said for so much of the technology that’s on the market today is that it usually comes down to a few tweaks, a different way to build reports and different way to generate certain insights within a specific platform. I don’t want to really name names here. I don’t want to. I don’t want to, uh, I don’t want to criticize any technology. I don’t want to put praise on, on any anyone right now. But, uh, but I’ll just say that sometimes it’s just the simple thing that a customer success manager didn’t know to a director of guide the customer to do.

TIM:                 And, and even worse, the customer didn’t know to ask for it, so finding those gaps in terms of what’s already installed and what they’re already using because the last thing we want to do is get in there and be the rip and replace guys and say, Hey, there’s a better solution. There’s a, there’s a tool over here that does two things that you now have three systems doing. You know, it’s, it’s not about that. It’s about understanding where the incumbent and sometimes legacy, uh, processes and ways of managing the business can be leveraged or slightly tweaked to, to eke out incremental, better performance in whatever the job function may be.

CHIP:                Right? And I think the reality is that there’s a large amount of the established software that’s being used in many organizations, whether it’s a sas platform like salesforce or a desktop platform like Microsoft word, excel, et cetera. Most users only or are the tip of the iceberg as far as the full capabilities. So of those products. And oftentimes you can find ways to leverage what’s already there that maybe you just don’t even know about. I mean, I, I, most of the people who I know who are salesforce consultants still learn things every day as far as what that platform can do because it’s grown so much over the years and so much capability has been added so that, you know, finding ways to make sure that you’re taking advantage of what you already have, I think is a, is a great first step for most organizations rather than necessarily finding something new to invest in.

TIM:                 Oh, that’s right. I mean, let’s, let’s be honest. Humans, a resistance to change. Really. No, come on. I mean, most people I work with or oh yeah, let’s just try a different system. Why not? Yeah, no, I’m very comfortable because that’s the same button I pushed everyday for the last three years. You know, it’s uh, I don’t, I don’t kid myself to think that I’m telling you anything you don’t know. But it is, it is, it is the best plausible way to move the needle is just defined those incremental tweaks in what’s already under the hood. Right? It’s, um, it is, it is not about a, which unfortunately is how most software is sold is that I have something that you don’t have. I’m going to, I’m going to enable you to do things you’ve never been able to do before and um, most people still aren’t doing all the things that they can do that

CHIP:                today. I’d like to pivot for a little bit because, you know, as, as a fellow entrepreneur myself, I’m, I’m always curious folks who have, who have decided to create, build a business, you know, what or what have you found in the time that you’ve had brain trust that have been sort of the biggest rewards and the biggest challenges? Obviously it’s a, it’s always a journey as they say when you are an entrepreneur, a ad, it’s, I think there are lots of lessons probably that you’ve learned from running your own business that maybe you can even apply in your consulting as well.

TIM:                 Right? I think you’re absolutely correct. Um, you know, I’ve, um, this will be the, the fourth company that I have either been the CEO or have sat right next to the CEO and cofounder and, um, you know, I’ve, I have learned, um, you know, that, that it takes a certain stomach to, to bootstrap and organization to go out and try to do something different or to prove that you can, uh, that you have that better mouse trap. And uh, you know, I, I would just say that it’s more of the why we do it, right. Um, I, there’s nothing I like better than waking up on Monday morning and knowing that the success of the day rests on my shoulders. Um, it, it rests really with me whether we do or die and, um, or I have that type of, of impact or influence over the, over over the venture itself, um, to, to equate to that. So I think, um, uh, there’s a certain liberty, there’s a certain amount of stress to, um, you know, hats off. And, uh, I’ve got a hug my wife and tell her I love her, um, as I do every day, but there’s a little bit more behind those gestures because of the leash that she gives me to go out and improve that, um, I can, I can make our family solvent without, without having to go and get a paycheck from someone else.

CHIP:                Right. As someone who has started a number of businesses over the years, I, you know, I feel the same way. Um, uh, and, uh, and I’m appreciative for, for the leash that I’ve been given as well on the home front because I think it’s you, you can’t be an entrepreneur if you, if you don’t have that, you just, you simply can’t take the proper risks, um, in order to succeed because it is fundamentally risky to, uh, to, to grow small business and, and hopefully turn it into a medium or even large business. Um, you know, you mentioned that this was the fourth time that you’ve been sort of in a similar position, you know, what, what lessons do you have from the first three that, that maybe, you know, listeners would be, um, would benefit from as well. I know, I know I’ve created companies, some have been successful, some less so, but each one of them has, has taught me lessons that I’ve applied hopefully for the better and in future businesses. So I’m curious, you know, perhaps, uh, a couple that you might share.

TIM:                 Sure. I mean, I think something that I’ve always respected, uh, I learned it the hard way and agency I owned several years ago, we had one client that was responsible for about 70 percent of our revenue and of course as, as physics happens that client didn’t last forever. Um, so, you know, there’s the, uh, don’t, don’t put all your eggs in one basket, which is another way of just saying don’t, don’t ever be complacent. Right. You know

CHIP:                hard though, right? Because you get, you get excited about all that. That client is able to do that. You become beholden to them, right, because you’ll do almost anything to retain that revenue. Um, so it, it becomes this real tug on your, on your time, and maybe distracts you from your ability to grow in other areas.

TIM:                 Oh, absolutely. And there’s a dotted line connection between that and, um, you know, always having 90 days worth of run capital in the bank. You know, I’m always, always being there because not all your clients are going to pay you on time. I’m not all your clients, as I already stated, are going to be there forever. Uh, you just never know what’s gonna happen. But, um, I, I think the complacency thing, you know, is to understand that no matter how fast or how long it takes for you to be able to convert business, how whatever you’re close cycle may be a. for us, it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 to 120 days, which means that we’re constantly trying to put new leads at the top of the funnel. And, um, and I think, uh, uh, for every entrepreneur today, and it goes right with what we’ve were we talked about at the outset of this call or this, this, uh, this recording and that is that what’s happening in terms of noise in the marketplace today and the lack of attention that your audience has.

TIM:                 Um, it, it really is on your shoulders every single day to think about reaching out and maintaining some semblance of constant communication with your customer. Because if you don’t, if you, if you get complacent, again with just not the volume of business you have, but just the business that you have, just the fact that you have it. Um, uh, I, I think that’s, that’s where somebody else is going to show up and do what you do for a much quicker, for a smaller fee and it won’t be there forever. I think it’s, it’s about having a constant connection and being so customer focused that miss, that so many entrepreneurs, right?

CHIP:                One of the things that I’m, a former client of mine said to me was that, that he appreciated my ability to, uh, to look around the corner, if you will, in the digital space and sort of see what was coming next. And I think for most of us who are in the consulting space who are particularly, you know, looking at technology and trends, that’s the capability we all have to have. Um, so as, as, as you look around the corner, you know, what do you see, what, what are the trends that you see that you think will be of significance to the clients that you’re working with or just in general?

TIM:                 Well, I think it’s, uh, it’s uh, three things that are very related. One of them is what I’ve already kind of mentioned about the direct to customer experiences. Um, you know, most brands have operated on rented land, um, whether that’s through distributors and retailers or it’s through a digital media. They’ve looked at ways they can reach their audience through a intermediary or third party. Um, I think we’re gonna see more and more brands start to establish a direct one to one or peer to peer relationship with their customers, um, in hand in hand. With that is here we are just about a week away from, uh, uh, two weeks away from, one will know the plight of ca CPA out of California, which will be the United States version of Gdpr, a customer data privacy regulations, the government getting involved and the government, uh, severely hindering our ability to leverage public data or to manage customer data as Loosey Goosey as we have.

TIM:                 So I think those two things are hand in hand if you, if you get your data in order, if you’re able to better govern the customer data you have, you’ll, you’ll be able to be more compliant with the regulatory world, but you’ll also be able to start to build some more of those direct to customer relationships. I think it, it all comes down to, at the end of the day, it’s, it’s about convenience and immediacy. Um, are, are those things that will probably, uh, I would say get right shoulder to shoulder with, with content because I think we’re going to see the, the dissipation of attention, uh, really give way to what some brands are able to do to deliver on an immediate basis and to be able to deliver what it is you want. And um, I’ve been talking about this for the better part of a decade with the proliferation of smartphones and that we have all the information in the world in our pocket, which means the next logical thing is that we can engage in commerce and get the goods and the services and the lifestyles that we want with the touch of a button. All of that is going to happen very fast.

CHIP:                So you mentioned data and, and how a lot of companies are sort of, you know, more loosey Goosey with it and it’s a sort of, there may be a day of reckoning coming sooner than, than later, not just because of Gdpr, but because of some of the domestic activity. If you were, if you were to, to, uh, to give a report card for corporate America on how they’re leveraging data for the benefit of both of themselves and the customer jointly, um, which I think to me is the, you know, that’s the optimal use of data, right? Where you were taking advantage of it to deliver a better customer experience as well as to improve the profitability of the entity itself. You know, what kind of grade would you give corporate America at this point?

TIM:                 At best? Probably a d, m, maybe a C minus. I just, I, um, I, I believe that the majority of western hemisphere organizations have a over the last 30 years have continued to bolt on technology solutions. Um, and I say both on and, and do so in a way that is not seamless and is not truly integrated, um, to where if you ask them if they knew who their customers are. And I think this is the simplest thing that we do at brain trust is when we go through those initial, uh, uh, evaluations or, or audit, uh, periods with are those initial engagements we have with our clients. You know, we, we find that hardly any of them have any idea who their customers really on, um, they, they know how their customers behave from a digital media standpoint, but they really don’t know much about the people on the other side of those facebook accounts and those email addresses and everything else that seemed to be the connective tissue between them and their audience.

TIM:                 So, um, I think that that comes down to a data problem. It comes down to a data management problem probably more than anything else. And, um, and probably another podcast for another time. But, uh, that’s, that’s the misnomer about the big data opportunity. It’s not the big data that you can go get or that awaits you. It’s the big data you’re already sitting on that requires your attention today, better governance. And, uh, through, through all of that, a better way to leverage the insights that you need to better serve the customers you have today. And I think you’re absolutely right. We could, we could go on for quite a bit of time, I think diving into the data issue, so maybe we’ll have to do another podcast in the future where we are able to explore that more in depth. Um, unfortunately that, that does bring us to the end of the time that we have available for this episode. I’m, so before we go though, can you tell our listeners where they can find you and find out more about brain trust?

TIM:                 Absolutely. A brain trust.partners is our website, just braintrust.partners and I am on the twitters at the Tim. Hey, those are the two best places to catch us. Um, and uh, you’ll probably see a new website going up here and the next 10 days or so, uh, with, uh, a different way. We’re going to provide resources such as white papers and blog content as well. What we will look forward to seeing that. And I’ll look forward to our next conversation, but for now, Tim, thanks for joining me here on chats with chip. My guest today has been Tim Hayden from brain trust partners. Thank you chip.