How Testimonial Tree is Scaling Their Business With a Virtual Team
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In this episode, special guest and founder of Testimonial Tree, Jason Dolle, shares with us how he is scaling his business with the help of a virtual team.
Jason, who has an engineering background, started the Testimonial Tree to convert customer feedback and experiences into powerful tools that can help business owners grow their business, and in the process has grown a successful business of his own.
Some of the areas covered include:
- More about Testimonial Tree
- How Jason has grown his company by bringing the right people onboard at the right time
- The ways in which Jason communicates with his virtual team to keep everyone on a path for success
- The importance of planning now, for the future
Let us know in the comments below what your key take out has been from this episode or why not join the continuing conversation over in the Virtual Success Facebook Group.
Resources mentioned in this show:
In this episode:
01:49 – What is Testimonial Tree?
03:26 – The power of stories
04:34 – How Testimonial Tree started out
06:55 – Funding helped grow the business
09:00 – Finding the right people…
11:49 – How do you run the company today?
13:12 – What is your communications plan?
18:54 – Have you had offshore staff?
20:25 – Tips for building a SaaS company
22:29 – Plan now for the future
25:35 – How long does it take to integrate a new recruit?
27:48 – Invest in your people
30:43 – How do I use VAs?
31:48 – Learn more about Testimonial Tree
36:04 – Wrapping things up
Barbara: Hey everyone and welcome to another episode of the Virtual Success Show, where I’m flying solo today without my co-host Matt, but I’ve got an absolutely fantastic guest that I’m interviewing. Jason Dolle, who’s the founder of Testimonial Tree. The beauty about this particular interview today is that Jason’s background, he was actually an engineer, who started selling luxury real estate on the side. One of his clients flew in on a private jet and bought a $4.4 million home, and then flew out the same day. And Jason thought to himself, “How on earth do I get this guy to give me a testimonial?” Because testimonials are so strong. To cut a long story short, basically, Testimonial Tree was born out of that. From an engineer, it’s now doing million dollar annual recurring revenue and has 95,000 customers with a 95% retention rate. And Jason’s running a team of 10 people and is here to talk to us today about the challenges of growing a SaaS company and growing a team at the same time. Welcome to the show, Jason.
Jason Dolle: Yeah, thank you for having me.
Barbara: Cool. So, listen, Jason, give us a little bit of background first on Testimonial Tree. What is it? It’s obviously a SaaS product out there in the market for people to get testimonials. But give us a kind of a feel of what it is.
What is Testimonial Tree?
Jason: Yeah, it’s sort of evolved over the years. It started about 2013. I built it for myself just to mainly get my, like you said that one customer for example, to get him to share a testimonial on social media, because at least in US here, your licenced to sell real estate in a certain state, and you can’t really do a lot of stuff outside the places you’re licenced. So I was trying to get him to share his experience in a place where I normally couldn’t get. So social media was the easiest way to do it. And that’s how it started. And it’s evolved since then, but what happened after that experience you just mentioned, some real estate broker here got wind of it, and said, “Hey, we can use this thing if you pay us.” And it’s grown exponentially since.
Barbara: Oh, so you had a business. Actually, it’s a bit like Virtual Hope.
Barbara: I call it my accidental business. I didn’t mean to launch it. It sounds a bit like what you’ve done.
Jason: It’s been awesome. I mean, the more we get into this and the deeper we get in testimonials and the feedback, the more opportunity there is for us. It’s just this huge, cool space. But what we do normally is, let’s take real estate for example, and there are all kinds of articles, but we mainly focus on customer feedback. So whether survey requests or testimonial requests, we try to automate it through different systems, and then we take that customer feedback and we can use it for marketing, get in on social media, maybe their power and testimonials on their website. There’s also other branches of our tree too. It’s more about learning and HR and things like that, improving companies. So long story short, we’re just trying to take this feedback and customer experience and help companies grow. Basically.
The power of stories
Barbara: Yeah, and they’re so powerful. I mean, everyone’s talking about the power of stories these days, and how stories are actually what sell, and social proof. But as we all know, we all spend a fortune on our marketing and our lead magnets and our funnels and stuff like that, but actually going out and getting testimonials, there’s a lot of work involved in doing that. I think we… Like, I know for outside The Virtual Hub, it’s something that we do, but I don’t think we do it very well. And I think we miss out on a lot of great testimonials, because we haven’t really nailed a bit of a process around it, or even a product that helps us to do it, like Testimonial Tree. So obviously we’re trying out this product at the moment.
Barbara: Great. So I’m interested, I know our listeners… and we’re obviously here to talk about virtual teams, virtual success, and what I love about your company is that your team, the team is actually not virtual. They are in an office, mainly working together. But you’re virtual from them, which makes you a virtual team as the owner. So talk to me about the beginnings of this. Did you start out just you? Who was your first hire, and just talk to me about some of the challenges in that first…
How Testimonial Tree started out
Jason: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. So at first, it was just me. And honestly, that first year was sort of part-time. I was getting things going, sort of lean methodology. I built everything myself in the beginning, and then it just got to a certain point where I was like, “You know, I could probably use some help with this.” And so I actually had a contractor, a guy that I knew, a friend basically, and I said, “Hey man, you want to help us out with some stuff?” He helped me out with some stuff. So I did sort of have a virtual team at first. And it was still local, as in the same town, but he helped out, built a lot of the core stuff we have today, even still. It was really helpful.
Barbara: Did you say, “Hey mate, here’s what I want,” and you just let him at it? Or was there… How much direction did you have to give him? Or was it an easy…
Jason: Yeah. Well, at first it was like, you don’t know exactly how to delegate that stuff. So I think naturally, it was small things. Just thinking back, I think like one thing, for example, I had a query that I was trying to do that was taking me some time to get optimised and fast. And I was like, “Man, I can get this done, but this is like taking me longer than I should spend on it. If I have someone else work on it, I could probably do something else.” And so, that sort of how the idea came. Like, “I need some help here.” And so I gave him that, and then it kind of kept growing from there. You build trust, you know? You just give little tasks and then they do well, or if he does well, just keep giving them more.
Barbara: So talk to… Is that person still working with you?
Jason: No, no. So what happened was… No. I mean, I probably could still use him. But what happened was he had a pretty cool full-time job, so it was kind of a moonlight gig, and then it kept growing, and he couldn’t leave. He was making too much money in his other gig, so I couldn’t steal him away. But…
Barbara: Obviously you came up against it. That’s a big roadblock actually. ‘Cause you go, “Oh my God, I’ve got this great person, but I can’t afford to hire that person.”
Jason: Yeah, it was like… It was interesting because we started growing, and we were doing some decent revenue for what we were, and I was like… I thought this guy would be a no-brainer. He’d come aboard and jump ship and leave what he was doing. But I sort of found out not everyone has the same risk tolerance as me or other entrepreneurs. He decided not to take that leap of faith.
Funding helped grow the business
And not too long after… I mean, in 2016 is when we got funded. We raised a $1.25m from a sales channel up in Chicago. By that time, we had other folks involved or whatever, so it wasn’t as dependent on one person at that point.
Barbara: With the money that you raised, did people come with that money? Was there a bit of team that arrived with the money? Or was it just the money you were able to hire them?
Jason: I had a minimal sort of team. Like it was very lead. I mean, it was like, nobody really full time, even. It was like me and some other helpers. And when we got the funding, then it really sort of started to grow. And the main idea behind the funding was, we had been doing really well in real estate, and people were happy, and it was just awesome. But now we saw opportunities in other verticals in healthcare, insurance and mortgage and whatever else. And then, in our market, in our space, speed is sort of key, probably just like other SaaS companies. But if you’re not moving fast in those verticals, others are going to beat you. So we decided to take some capital on and move faster, get a bigger team, and… Again, that was in another challenge, but it was good.
Barbara: So talk to me then, because obviously you’ve got an engineering background. So I’m really keen to know. Like, you get a bunch of money. Now you can hire people. So now it’s really critical that you hire the right people, and that you step into that leader role of being able to lead those people and lead that team. How did you find that transition? Did you have a background at all in leading teams?
Jason: Not really. I feel like an engineer, I was on a team a lot, even in college. You’re always on teams in engineering school. But I never lead a team in the way that I needed to for this company or this role. I’m still learning now, I feel like. So it’s not like I have it figured out, for sure, but…
Barbara: I don’t think you ever figure it out. I think you’re always learning. But talk to me about the… Were there any kind of early mistakes, or what have your learnings been, I guess, from those?
Barbara: From your first team to now. What would you do differently, if you had known everything.
Finding the right people…
Jason: Well, honestly… So one of my first hires was a… Well, I had a choice, actually, between two different people. And one was sort of an expensive CTO guy, like maybe a 125 or something thousand a year, which seemed to me like a lot of money for the state we were in. And I had another guy that was sort of senior that was less money. And I thought, if I get this less expensive guy, I can probably afford to hire another person too, so I’ll get almost two for the price of one. I ended up going for the two for one whatever, and that was my first… I had to let that guy go. So after about…
Barbara: First mistake.
Jason: …Four or five months, I figured out, “This is not working.” And that was the first time I had to let someone go, and I cried.
Barbara: Yes. It’s very hard. It’s very difficult, yeah. So what was it, in those first four months, what went wrong? Was it just obviously that that person didn’t have any skills, or was it a wrong… Talk to me about how you discovered the wrong move there.
Jason: In hindsight, I think I probably didn’t have the best interview process in place. I sort of was really trusting. They sort of knew a lot of technical stuff, but until… I probably should’ve tested him a little more than I did.
Jason: But not that they didn’t have skills. Just that the nature of our product, it seems really simple on the surface, but it can get pretty complex underneath, and I just… Things were happening really slow, and it just wasn’t working out. I mean, it was pretty obvious. We’re trying to hit deadlines and figure out issues, and they just weren’t getting fixed. And it’s like, “Hey man, we going to…”
And then I think he didn’t show up for work a few days, and then it was pretty obvious this is not working out. You know?
Barbara: Yeah, At work, that whole character piece in work ethic… I talk about it in the Philippines a lot. But having to get that right, I think that’s something people have to get right, regardless of where you are.
Jason: Yeah, exactly. And I’ve learned I think a lot since then. And overall, honestly that was an experience that I think I needed to have to get where we’re at now. So I mean, you learn from everything.
Jason: So, it wasn’t like a devastating mistake or anything like that obviously. But I learned that my intuition on some of this stuff wasn’t as good as I had thought probably. So I need to have a little bit more processes in place and things moving forward to make sure whoever we hire was a good culture fit and a good technical fit to where we’re going.
Barbara: Yeah, the culture fit piece is something that’s really hard to get right. But it’s so pivotal to actually having a successful team. It’s worth investing time in that.
How do you run the company today?
So talk, again about… So when you were on the road, your team are all in the office and you’re pretty virtual. How do you run it these days to make sure… How do you get to a point where… You’ve got all your processes running. How do you keep in control without doing everything, or doing anything, as such? How do you lead them?
Jason: I’m not totally sure I’m in that position just yet. I’m trying to get there. So what we have, we’re mainly in the same office most of the time. But the nature of what I’m trying to do is get out and get bigger accounts and deals maybe our normal sales guys might not be able to do as easy. So I’m on the road doing shows and doing different things. So I guess, in a way, my team is virtual when I’m out there.
So one, we have different tools in place, like Slack and things that really help us a lot. We have different teams and different channels set up there. That’s been really, really helpful for us. But the key is, I think, to get the right leadership in place so that I know when I’m on the road, I know there’s like one or two calls that I’ll always make. One, in particular, just to know the pulse of the company. So make sure there’s no fires to put out or whatever. So that one person I always call. Say, “Hey, man. How’s it going man?” And I always say if he’s smiling, then we’re good. You know?
Jason: That’s like, the main thing.
What is your communications plan?
Barbara: And what about a communication plan? Do you guys do daily huddles, or do you have a project management tool? Do you use Asana or Basecamp or any of these more project management style tools to run things? Or is it just Slack?
Jason: No, we have a couple different tools, but Slack’s the main communication tool. But culturally what we do is every Monday at like 9:30, we do a little stand up in the office, and generally, the department heads will just give a report of what happened last week, what their plans for this week are. And sometimes we’ll do little demos or whatever. If some new feature came out or whatever, we’ll show the team. Usually, there’s about half an hour meeting there, maybe, max. And then normally what I’ll do too is read testimonial to the team, and kind of make sure they know we have hundreds of these coming in every day, and just kind of get more tangible part of what we’re actually collecting. So that’s kind of cool.
But so also we do is we bookend the whole week. So at four, four-thirty on Friday… I mean, generally about four o’clock we’ll come out from our computers, come in the main room here, we’re kind of an open office space here, and grab a beer, coffee, whatever you want. And we kind of talk through what happened this week, how can we improve, what went wrong, whatever. If we did a really good job, we have these little sheets of things we’re trying to cap, accomplish for the week. In theory, if we get all these things accomplished, we have a little karaoke thing going on. So it’s… We have a really cool culture.
But things like… We use Get Hub for a lot of the tickets for the technical side. We use Zen Desk for a lot of the internal, like the other stuff we have with different ticketing for different issues with customer facing. So we have different systems in place for different things. Project management side, we have some Base Camp going on, we have some Atlassian tools we use. There’s a couple different tools we use that we put together.
Barbara: Yeah, ’cause what I love about what you just said there, is the Monday… I love that sort of huddle meeting on a Monday, to sort of set the stage for the week. And then I love that you do that Friday meeting that talks about what went wrong for the week, what went right, so what we’re going to do about it. So do you find… Like that sort of bookending meeting in the week, it keeps everyone, I would imagine, on track. It keeps projects moving, and it stops the roadblocks from toppling everyone, or people just forgetting to do stuff, or not reporting back to the team properly. Do you fund that sort of clears up those issues?
Jason: Yeah, definitely. ‘Cause it’s a natural conversation you have too when you’re in the same room and you’ve gone over some different things. It’s more conversational. It’s a little more relaxed. The other side of it too is it’s more creative. So like, you might have some issue that came up, and there’s maybe a more creative solution. Or now you have time to sit there and kind of talk about it, whereas if you’re in a regular week, people are doing stuff and you feel like you’re interrupting them. So…
End of the week’s actually a little bit more productive. That’d be more productive than the one at the beginning of the week, really.
Barbara: Yeah. Exactly. I just think… So have you ever been virtual for that meeting yourself? Have you ever been on the road for that?
Jason: I don’t think I’ve… Not yet, I don’t think. I mean, I think I’ve been gone before, but they have it without me. So I haven’t really called in for it.
Jason: I also have people that run it. I have not… I don’t think I’ve ever done one where I called in and kind of virtually did it.
Barbara: ‘Cause I know a lot of people who say to me you can’t do that virtually, whereas, like I actually do the same sort of thing. I actually have a daily huddle that we do, as you’ve got a massive pipeline happening every day. But we actually do it virtually, and I always hammer home to people that it’s almost more important to do it when you are virtual. So we all get out on video and everything. And there’s like 12 people on the whole thing. And we all have a laugh, and you just connect everyone virtually. You can really do it that way as well.
Jason: You sold me. I’m going to do it. Next time I’m gone, I’m going to call in.
Barbara: You should do it. Yeah. You should dial in from your phone. And see how it goes. ‘Cause then it shows the team, that as you do grow, you’re going to get… You may have virtual team members. ‘Cause I know that, obviously, you guys are thinking now about maybe putting on some off-shore people with us. How are you going to integrate those people in those team meetings? It is a good idea to bring them into the vision, and part of the whole thing. So it’s a good exercise in running virtual teams.
Jason: That is a very good point. So yeah, I’m looking forward to that actually. It’ll be kind of fun to figure that out a little bit, and I totally agree. I mean, as we scale, you sort of have to have that mentality, ’cause even salespeople or whatever it is, they’re not going to all be here. I mean, so we’ve got…
Barbara: Yeah. You’ve got salespeople all over the country eventually. Depending on how big you go globally with the platform, you’re going to have to think about this virtual thing, I think more as you get bigger.
Jason: No question. So yeah. We have plans to go international. Well, we already have international customers, but we haven’t really had that as a main focus. But we will, moving forward, so it will be more and more important. And it’ll be interesting in how to fit those stand-ups in there. Even the virtual beers, I guess, on Friday. I don’t know how that’s going to work, but…
Jason: We’ll virtual karaoke, I guess. Or something. Overseas, it’ll be kind of interesting.
Barbara: Yeah. We have some clients that’ve been doing some really interesting virtual stand up meetings and stuff with their teams offshore. ‘Cause obviously when you start thinking about bringing on contractors or VA’s or whatever, it’s good to bring them into the culture as well. And not just have them as a kind of a separate thing.
Have you had offshore staff?
Barbara: So talk to me now about have you had any offshore staff in this thing before, even as contractors or plug-ins to the business?
Jason: Yeah. We had one project where they wanted us to design some mobile feature, or whatever, and one of the guys in the team, one of the tech guys, had a connection to somebody actually in Pakistan or somewhere over in that vicinity. And so we used him for some design things that we did, and…
Barbara: And how did that go? ‘Cause that would’ve been your first foray.
Jason: It went pretty well. It was hard to pay him but other than that it was pretty good. I tried to wire money, and it was really interesting when you try to do that. But we did it once, it worked. And then next time it was taking so long, we ended up doing some other way, some other app or something to pay him.
Barbara: How about communication? How did you manage the communication with him?
Jason: Slack was the main way. He was a… I don’t think we ever actually talked to him. It was all just typing via Slack, and there was some mockups and things. So it was mainly visual stuff that he was doing, so it was pretty easy. But you can just draw stuff. Like, he had some chains or whatever. It’s easy to draw some arrows and circles or whatever. But it was pretty seamless, and it was actually pretty good.
Jason: It was good for us to have that specific kind of project where, like, “Hey, we need help with this one thing,” and this person had expertise in this one thing we were doing, so…
Tips for building a SaaS company
Barbara: And what would you say… So like, SaaS companies, they grow fast, right? So you know, you’re in a fast growth path, you’ve got this technology platform. What would you say to people sort of listening to this who are trying to build teams, or feeling frustrated that they can’t grow their business. Either they can’t grow it fast enough because the team is a roadblock, or their company is growing too fast for their team to keep up. What sort of tips would you give people, who are listening?
Jason: I’m sort of right in the middle of all this right now, so I’m sort of learning.
Barbara: I don’t think it ever ends, ’cause I am as well. I’m just listening to myself going, “What tip would I give?” Yeah.
Jason: Exactly. So I think, and I’m not sure this is the answer to the question, but I’d say, if it’s my business, getting to the first million dollars in revenue was hard. Obviously to get there is hard, but I could get there with sort of some brute force and sort of some less processes and things in place. But I think going… Now we’re trying to double, and we’re in the middle of that, and we’re ahead of schedule, which is great. But you’re forced to think about things in ways that everything’s going to scale.
So what I tell the team is, “Look. You’re doing this job, but you going to think of it in terms of having five people underneath you. You can’t do… You going to make it really efficient.” And so the whole goal right now is to make everything scale, whether it’s onboarding or the customer service piece or whatever. It’s all the processes have to be scalable.
Even the sales side. Sales seems like it’s easy to scale to an extent, maybe easier than the other ones, but in reality, that’s, for us anyway, that’s been interesting because every vertical’s a little bit different for us. And trying to learn the differences and getting the salespeople to understand those differences. And then trying to… Instead of doing things that are like one-offs, like answering some question on a Zen Desk ticket or whatever it is, making articles that answer those questions and just little, all kinds of things that you can do that just are repeatable. And so there’s hopefully less one-off things you’re doing.
Plan now for the future
Barbara: I love what you said there because you know what? I actually just had this conversation with my own team about a week ago. And for anyone listening, I think the problem I see, and I fell into this trap myself also, is that yes you build processes and systems and put teams in place. But it’s all based on what we’re doing today. Usually, this is what happens, and I sort of say to my team, “Every process you build, you need to present it to me and you need to show me how you think that’s going to work with five times the volume going through our pipes.” In every single thing. You know, of four team members under you, because you’re right. Because the only way to run a team or to run a business and scale it is to make sure that the systems and your people don’t break when you double. That resonated with me because I just realised that about a year ago. I thought, “Oh gosh, everything needs to be built now for five times the size, ’cause that’s where we’re going.” You know?
Barbara: So really important point there for anyone listening. I even think if you’ve just got you as a solopreneur and one VA, a lot of people get stuck in that trench because that’s quite a difficult place to get to, even with your first person. But you’re going to start working with that person based on what happens when I have five VA’s, or five team members, or a salesperson, a project manager and three offshore staff. And some people get very overwhelmed with that. But actually, it’s less overwhelming in the long run if you think about it in the first place, which I’m sure you’d echo what I’m saying there.
Jason: Oh, no question. Yeah. I mean, it’s all process driven. And I think the hard part, sort of for me anyway, was… And I’m still doing this. In my company, I pretty much have done… As any startup really, you do every job. So you know how you would do every job. Like, customer service…
Barbara: Yeah. You do everything first yourself, and then…
Jason: And whatever.
Barbara: And it works. Yeah.
Jason: And you achieve a certain level of success in taking the next step because you generally are pretty good at most of those jobs. And so you’ve got to figure out what made you good at those jobs, and figure out, “How do I train someone else or trust someone else to do it their way?” And it may be different than your way. Like, you going to decide how much autonomy to give them, or what things make you special. You know what I mean? So that’s the part that you’re going to be introspective about and say, “Okay. What part of customer service was valuable to my customers? I’ve got to make sure I keep that intact.” And other than that, you can do it the way you want. Know what I mean? So…
Barbara: And actually, just on that point of training, that’s a really interesting point that you brought up. Cause I’m keen to kind of just delve into this slightly. A lot of people think… Well, the feedback I sort of get sometimes is, “Oh, you know, I’ve got someone in the Philippines. It’s harder to train. It takes too long.” I’m of the view that like, I’ve brought on people in my own country and I still had to train, not because they weren’t skilled, but because they’re entering my company that I built. So they kind of need to get their feet under the desk of what we’re doing here.
How long does it take to integrate a new recruit?
Barbara: What would you say, even with somebody who has experience and you’ve hired someone whose an A-player, how long do you think it takes to kind of still train someone on your internal workings?
Jason: Yeah. I mean, honestly, people that’ve been here for even four or five months, we hired people at the end of last year, they’re still learning things.
Jason: So I mean, there’s certain core things that you need to know to be able to be successful. And I think that takes, for us anyway… On the outside looking in, our product it’s not that complicated. It’s like two or three months you’re pretty much up to speed. You can do a lot of stuff.
But the way we’re set up, and the way our company’s set up, it’s very customizable. There’s a lot of settings, lot of things you do that are dependent on what the customer needs. So teaching folks, especially on the sales and the onboarding side, to sort of listen and figure out what the actual customer’s saying and figure out what to turn on or off or on to make them successful. That takes a little bit more nuance training.
But other parts that we’re doing with the ticketing and stuff like that, I think there’s ways to make it really simple. Just having the boundaries or, “Hey, here’s what we want you to do, here’s the rules around this.” If it goes outside those rules, maybe escalate it to someone else in-house, or whatever. That’s sort of my vision for the way maybe… in my work for some of the stuff on our support.
Barbara: Yep. It’s just funny because often we have people… I see this, not as much anymore, but sometimes people will hire a VA and after a week they’re like, “Nah. Can’t do it.” I’m like, “Okay.” There is still an onboarding time with new people in your business and all that sort of thing that has to happen. So I always try and say to people that you have to be realistic, and think that you’re in the long game, really. And it’s sort of a two, three-month time frame to for people to really get their feet under your culture, and the way you do things, and how things are done. And they get their own style in there as well.
Barbara: I think that would be a fair enough assumption to make, regardless of where the person is actually stationed. Whether they’re virtual, offshore, whether they’re in your office in the US beside you, things like that. It’s good to be realistic.
Invest in your people
Jason: Yeah. You have to invest in your people, so if you treat the VA or someone on your team like a normal employee, you going to invest time. Getting up to speed is not overnight. Even, I think in my mind, you could hire someone here that may not be as motivated or a cultural fit that could be… My point is, a VA, as long as their of the right mindset and they’re motivated and want to learn and their passionate and energetic, that’s what you really want.
Jason: Someone that’s…
Barbara: Yeah. That’s what we hire for. Yeah. We try and find that. It’s actually hard, but that’s what we… We don’t worry so much about the skills, ’cause we can teach that.
Barbara: The character that you want and the enthusiasm and that sort of thing that you’re looking for.
Jason: We’ve had people that I’ve hired, and this is in-house, that have that enthusiasm, they’re great, they want to learn. They make sort of catastrophic mistakes sometimes. I mean, I could tell you all these horror stories about things they’ve done, on accident. You know? But I’m like, “Hey, man. Don’t worry about it. We’ll get through that.” So people are going to make mistakes. Takes a little time. But as long as they have that right mentality, that’s what I look for. I want people that are hungry, that want to learn. And then if they have that, just keep feeding them the information and training, and they absorb it and it’ll be great.
Barbara: I think the key point I’ve really taken out of this chat with you today, Jason, is that, and I want the listeners to kind of focus in on this point, is that whole thing of, you know… You’ve got this business, you know it’s scalable, you’ve got the platform. You are scaling it, and you’ve basically, you’re focusing on what it looks like in two, three years time, and what the team is going to look like then, and what the processes are going to look like then. And then you’re sort of working towards that now. And invest time and energy in your systems, your processes and your team and your people, so that they can take it there with you, I think is the end goal.
Jason: That’s exactly right. And the way I want to do it, I mean, again, I’m not sure this is the right funnel or not, but as we started working with VA’s my thought is, “I want to have one or two VA’s.” I was hoping like, one at first, that might be cross-functional, doing more than one team thing. But the idea is to teach… Right now, for example, we have different teams that are one person. And so just giving them someone to delegate things to…
Barbara: Giving them an assistant would free up their time to more high-level stuff.
Jason: Well, and it helps them figure out how to scale. Because now they have to train that person in things. So I’m giving them responsibility to have a team now, and there’s a lot less risk with a VA as far as the financial outlay, and all the things that normally come with an in-house employee. But as long as they have the same sort of mentality and a decent skill set, my team’s getting as much out of it in the learning process as the VA, I’m sure.
How do I use VAs?
Barbara: Yeah. That’s a great point to make, that when you are scaling the company, even if you have a big team on shore, like in your own place and anyone listening to this thinking, “How do I use VAs?” Well, I always say to people, I mean, if you want a team to grow bigger, you’ve got a couple of choices. You can invest in more people in your own country, or you can take some of the grunt work off your people and offshore that to a company like ours or VAs or whatever. And it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s lower value work, it’s just more of the grunt work that can be done, and then allow those people to elevate into those kinds of higher value and more strategic kind of positions within your company who are onshore. And it’s a really cost-effective way to actually leverage your scale of business, to do it that way. Tooting my own trumpet here, of course, but between that and testimonials, get testimonials free, working for you and get your testimonials and your client surveys pumping. So Jason, if people want to find out more about Testimonial Tree and your journey, where do they go to get a demo of the product or have a look at what you’re doing.
Learn more about Testimonial Tree
Jason: Yeah. Well, our site is TestimonialTree.com, so you can go there and there’s some forms and everything you fill out to get demos, or you can just contact us directly or on one of our phone numbers and whatnot. But yeah, we love… The fun part about our company is we get to work with all sorts of businesses, and so we really do get a lot of stories of how they can make their customers happy. We’ve learned a lot ourselves just from our own customers and the way they’ve shaped their own cultures and things, so…
Barbara: And I think you’re going to be sharing that. You’re launching a Podcast too that’s going to be sharing all of that. Those…
Jason: And you know, so our philosophy… Actually, what I’m learning is… So first our company was more about leveraging the happy customers in growing business for marketing. Like, it being people to share on social media, maybe getting different play platforms, whatever, getting testimonials on your site. Like, mostly marketing oriented. And now, we’re finding that the testimonial itself actually is, yes, you can use for marketing, sure. Extremely powerful tool, one of the most powerful tools, but what it really is is someone telling you how you’ve wowed them. So, they’re going to remember and write about things that made you different. And so, at scale, we have a lot of interesting data, and our goal is to help you or help companies get better baseline data. So let’s say you have a big real estate company or whatever, you might want to figure out, “Hey, what are my customers really wanting? How am I wowing them?” Is it communications or knowledge or whatever?” And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so many cool things you can do with that, but overall we’re finding opportunities to help companies use the data we collect to get better.
Barbara: Yeah. And I’m just thinking, you know, that’s a classic job the VA’s can help you with, ’cause they can dive into your platform and extract the data that you’re getting and maybe put it into some slides for you and just present… You know, put it into a format that you can have a quick look or whatever. So that’s the main thing that I’m working with some of my team, on looking at Testimonial Tree at the moment right now. How we’re going to be using it. ‘Cause although I’d love to be diving in there myself, I have way too much to be doing to be tinkering with the platform, so my team are going to be taking over that role for us as well.
Jason: Perfect. Yeah, I mean, that’s the kind of stuff. We’ve actually onboarded real estate agents, or teams, or mortgage teams that use VA’s that we’re actually talking to VA’s…
Jason: To get this implemented. And I remember one of my onboarding guys that were doing that came in, he was… Our office is kind of open, so some of the people walk in the hallways or whatever. He came in from outside, he’s like, “Hey, this is unbelievable. I just onboarded this company, but it was the VA.” And he was like, going nuts on how great this was.
Barbara: That’s like us… we’re going to train our teams of VA’s on this Testimonial Tree platform so they can actually do it for clients that are interested in having this platform work for them. It’s about having the mindset that yes, you can get people to do this stuff for you. You don’t need to be the one to be doing that. If you’re running the company, you can install these things and have VA’s do it for you.
Jason: Yeah. And that’s sort of our goal. One of our differentiators that we try to maintain is we’re not just a platform, whereas normally you sign up for a product and it’s something that’s just kind of totally virtual. We’ve grown, partially because we try to have a relationship with our customers. And it’s, at 95,000 or so users, it’s a little bit hard to do that in the same scale as we used to, but so we’re hoping to implement some things there with some VA’s and different things that keep that experience. And not only that, the way we were able to grow is because we listened to our customers and figured out the problems and issues…
Barbara: What they want. Yeah.
Jason: Yeah. They trust us at a certain point, so they’ll come to us with ideas on our own products. “Hey, I wish I could do this, or that.” That’s how we grew the whole platform. So for example, we had a broker say, “Hey, we love what you’re doing on this testimonial part, but can you do our survey?” And we’re like, “Hey, yeah.” We kind of looked into it, and we figured out we could definitely do this survey. And then there’s all kind of things that’ve been enhancements. So we need to maintain that same sort of mindset, but we hope that VA’s and things and the way we use them can help facilitate that in the future.
Wrapping things up
Barbara: Yeah. Listen, Jason, thank you so much for your time and sharing that story with us because I really do think, you know, at the end of the day we’re all about… This podcast is really becoming about these whole things of teams, systems, processes and how everyone is using this to scale businesses, whether it’s offshore or onshore or whatever way, it’s all important stuff. So thank you so much for sharing your insights, and everyone goes to TestimonialTree.com. Check it out. I’m currently checking out this platform as well, and I’m really impressed. It’s a fantastic product. And until next time, Jason, thanks so much. If you’re listening to this Podcast and you got value from it, please do leave us a rating and review on iTunes. It would be awesome to get the message out, and of course, share the show with anyone that you think would benefit. Alright, until next time. Bye.
Barbara Turley is the Founder & CEO of The Virtual Hub, a company that specializes in recruiting, training and managing superstar ‘Virtual Assistants’ in the social media, digital marketing and systems automation space.
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