Agents of Change

Season 1

Episode transcript

Jason Gabbard: As an anthropologist, you might imagine a career uncovering ancient secrets related to our species or gaining deeper understanding as to how we got to where we are today. And you might think you’d uncover these insights through deep study, research, and exploration. And that could all very well be true. But you could also find that gaining these deeper insights into how we as humans function could be uncovered in a local government office in Utah. 

An agent of change often finds that they uncover opportunities by taking a similar approach. Who would have thought that a career in government contracts would carry so much similarity? 

Now we’re all familiar with the cliches about government work. Things move painfully slow if they even move at all. And there is some truth to that. The speed with which business moves today — requires even local government offices to move with a stronger sense of urgency. 

It’s interesting, isn’t it? We don’t often think of our government as operating like a business — with projects that need to be managed, deadlines that need to be met, and processes that need to be streamlined. But it is certainly the case. 

I learned this recently when speaking with Kristen Jensen, Senior Systems Strategist with the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Okay, so that’s a mouthful. So we’ll call them GO-ED for short.

And at GO-ED they have a huge responsibility, which entails overseeing the state’s economic growth and continued health. This includes managing a number of grant and tax credit programs that help develop the economy. In short, there is a lot of money on the line.

The problem is, each of these grants and tax credits results in a contract for the participating company. And there is a lot of them, which means the state department has a lot of paperwork to keep track of. And this is where those old government adages come into play because when I say paperwork, I mean literal paper. And the time spent tracking all of this paper was enormous.

Enter Kristen, who was at the center of this issue when she moved into the department. She has been working with the state of Utah for 20 years, but interestingly enough, her background isn’t related to this type of work at all. No she was on the quest to be an anthropologist and instead of uncovering scientific understandings around humans — she uncovered ways that technology can increase government efficiencies. 

Kristen Jensen: I have a degree in anthropology and it has nothing to do with what I do right now. I think I got into technology and information technology because I saw opportunities for solving problems and I am passionate about solving problems.

Jason Gabbard: The good news for Kristen and surprising news to me is that GO-ED has been a user of SalesForce for a decade. So in a sense, even though there was a big problem to solve, they were already set up for a solution that would make their paper trail problem disappear. They just needed someone to roll up their sleeves and dig in.

Kristen Jensen: The governor's Office of Economic Development had been using Salesforce for nearly 10 years, which is a long, long time for state government. And when I moved, I have worked for the state for 20 years. And so I was really excited to move into a mature org and help them take it to the next level.

Jason Gabbard: If you are like me, you might be wondering why the state of Utah is using SalesForce. The answer is fairly simple. Just like every business, GO-ED has contacts to keep track of. Keeping track of each of the involved parties in these numerous grants and tax credits requires the need of a robust CRM. Furthermore, because of the high turnover rate in government employees, Salesforce was vital in simply keeping track of who was who.

Kristen Jensen: We talk a lot about how to define a customer when you're in the public sector. 
It's really anybody who is the recipient of the work that you do.

So that ranges from citizens to investors, companies, state and local or other local governments that work with US partners. And our uses of the CRM is, I think, really critical to surviving that constant change that I mentioned earlier, because we have a lot of we have high turnover here at the governor's office of Economic Development. And every time somebody leaves, they take all of their knowledge with them.

And where that most of that knowledge is their network.
The people that they know and the relationships that they formed. And so that's where the CRM really becomes critical to an agency like ours moving forward instead of just having to go back to zero every time somebody leaves. 

Salesforce is the foundation underneath our entire agency, and it helps us to survive that turnover and the constant change that we see in government.

Jason Gabbard: So with a solid CRM in place, Kristen and her team set out to solve the big outlying problem. What to do about all of these paper contracts? And how to re-think a model in which everyone seemed to have their own way of handling.

And it quickly became apparent that automation was key to success. Instead of simply digitizing the existing process, Jensen and her team took the time to reevaluate where it was flawed and reinvent their entire workflow, with automation as the centerpiece. 

Because not only would automating their contract process help simplify their internal communications and organize their documentation, but it would speed up the overall time it took to get grants approved and get money into people’s hands.

Kristen Jensen: Because our programs are focused on tax credits or grants, being able to execute these contracts in a timely manner and automate the pre-processes before the contract happens and the compliance and execution after the contractors is signed, that really just gets money into people's hands a lot faster. And that helps us to. Perform our mission.

Jason Gabbard: With Contracts for Salesforce solution implemented, the time spent from contract generation to signature decreased drastically. Now, after the office reviews each application and makes an award, it is now just one simple step.

Additionally, the development of a clause library made it easy to select the correct language for the contracts every time — cutting risk and shortening the negotiation timeline considerably, since an attorney doesn’t have to review every single contract. 

Kristen found a way to not only simplify GO-ED’s complicated contract process but to increase time efficiency and create transparency throughout the office. She and her team now know where every contract is, which ones need follow-up, and what their status is in the process. 

An added benefit uncovered was that of flexibility as they continue to iterate on and automate other aspects of their internal processes.

Kristen Jensen: I'm responding to requests for enhancements in the platform. I've spent the last two weeks working on new templates for Conga templates for contracts. I'm one of the things that I thought was thinking about when we when I was preparing for this. Podcast was that we get new programs at least once a year. We'll have some pretty radical changes in the programs and every single one of those new programs is going to require a new contract. And I've got new contracts coming at me all the time. And so I'm opening up my Conga and I'm using templates and I'm trying to standardize how those are so that we can how those templates look so that we can scale quickly and respond quickly to the programs that come out.

Jason Gabbard: Contracts are a crucial component of every business. That’s something everyone can agree on. But just as we’ve heard today, they can also slow you down because they’re often complicated, time-consuming, hard to finalize, and even harder to track.

With our intelligent Conga contracts solution, it’s easier than ever to draft, negotiate, approve, store, and analyze every agreement. Since implementing these changes, the time spent on the process of generating, negotiating, and signing a contract has decreased by 75 percent. And as Kristen likes to put it, transparency has increased 100 percent from their confusing email-and-paper-based process.

Yet for all of the progress Kristen and her team have made, they still have problems to solve, which is something that drives her. Because you can’t simplify every government process overnight.

Kristen Jensen: I do think that having even though we digitize our processes and we go and automate, we still very much think in an 8.5" x 11" world. And so Conga and its document generation is really critical to adoption and making users feel comfortable with this new environment so that you can take it beyond that simple substitution and actually transform to new ways of doing things because they have that familiar format.

Jason Gabbard: Even though GO-ED is now operating at a higher efficiency than ever before, Kristen still has to work to gain buy-in from other government employees and departments. 
We have all been there. Change can be scary. But as Kristen is finding, when people actually put the new methods and tools to work, the experience speaks far louder than anything she could articulate about the success her own team has seen.

Kristen Jensen: There are people who don't understand what the changes are going to do to them. One of the products that we built on the Salesforce platform was a way for us to manage our travel requests and reimbursements internally. And we had one agency within our one program within our agency that said, well, we'll do it for those that we have to. But we're not. We're going to do it a different way for the ones that you don't force us to use it for. Well, six months into it, they're like, oh, that doesn't suck. We'll use this system for all of them. Even though we don't have to. So I think being patient with people and allowing them to learn for themselves the value of all of the tools that you're delivering is really important.

Jason Gabbard: So there is still work left to do. But in the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, change is already making a big impact. So what’s the takeaway here? Who was responsible for impact? How this specific role was key in solving this issue and the challenges they had to overcome. What’s the impact of this story for you? What kind of impact can you make?

So that’s the story. On our next episode, we’ll hear from another agent of change who is making an impact on their business. If you are feeling inspired to make your own impact, you can learn more at

In the meantime, you can stay up to date on each of our episodes by subscribing on your favorite podcast app. We’d also love if you would be willing to leave a review on Apple Podcasts.

Until next time, stay driven.

Episode transcript

Eboni Blake: So my first thing is, instead of trying to say, “Well, I've done this before with different organizations, these are what you need to do: X, Y and Z,” you really need to take the time to listen to all parties.

Jason Gabbard: If you have heard it once, you have heard it a thousand times: Change is scary. For established companies, change can mean overhauling years of processes and proven methods, impacting hundreds if not thousands of employees. These changes have to be given a lot of time, thought and discussion to inspect every angle. And even with internal buy-in and a collective agreement that the change is for the best, there is still the actual process of making the change.

Because of all of this, you might think change is easier in a younger or smaller company. When you have to move quickly, though, you may not be able to take the time to consider every effect a change — no matter how necessary — might have. 

It is truly a tall task. And that is why I admire the Eboni Blakes of the world. Eboni is a business systems analyst at Ibotta, an app that helps you earn cash back every time you shop. 

Eboni Blake: So Ibotta is a cashback app where you can get earnings on everyday purchases, so our mission is to make every purchase rewarding. So think about buying groceries and getting cash back off of alcohol. The holidays are approaching. So your festive needs even for, you know, traveling. So we really look at how we can help savers across the nation in the US earn cash back, but also work with clients and brands and agencies to really understand who their customers are, as well as gain new customers and really enhance their performance of their brand. 

As our system's business analyst working on our Salesforce platform, I really need to understand how we can be more efficient in sharing information all the way from sales and sales support to building all the internal processes that happen along the way and really making sure that we are thinking of how we can scale both our processes as well as our roles.


Jason GabbardAs you can tell, Eboni values listening. When she came into her role, she was tasked with analyzing processes and implementing changes to help the business scale. Before jumping in to make changes, she took time to listen and understand where the greatest opportunities existed.


Eboni Blake: It's a struggle too, because as a new employee, you want to be able to show that I'm able to affect this change. I'm able to implement and see the results of that. But I think that in taking their approach, you're really listening first.


You can find, instead of implementing one either. I was able to simultaneously say, “OK, here's a quick win that we can execute this report.” And I could turn that around. And in a day while still building out the larger project or processes that we were going to change.

Jason Gabbard: More opportunities to win. That is a characteristic of an agent of change. So let’s dive into the conversation and hear how Eboni found opportunity by listening and acting with purpose, driving Ibotta forward in the process.

I want to pause here for a moment and focus on that idea shared by Eboni. Giving the sales team more time back in their day. When you are moving at the speed of a fast-growing scale-up company, which has just been valued at a billion dollars, finding ways to save time is vital. 

When you think of what change looks like at your company, I think there is a lot to learn from Eboni’s approach. Willing to listen, eager to act but only when it adds value to the lives of those around her easier and more productive.

Let’s jump back into the conversation as Eboni talks about the power of automation.

Empowering. Sharing. Learning. Listening. These are the values of an agent of change, Eboni has them all and demonstrates the power of those values in action. 

So what’s our takeaway from Eboni’s story?

If you’re an agent of change — someone looking to make a difference through the work they do  — then it’s important to note that the changes you seek to implement impact multiple people, no matter your role. My hope is you feel empowered by this knowing you can create lasting change or those you work with.

Eboni showcases how important it is to listen before acting. She took the time, which can be hard to do, by listening, observing, and then making recommendations for change.

So let me ask you, what’s the impact of this story for you? As you head into your day, what kind of impact can you make?

Well, that’s it for today. We hope you’ll continue with us on this journey as we hear from more agents of change who are making an impact on their businesses. 

In the meantime, you can stay up to date on each of our episodes by subscribing on your favorite podcast app. We’d also love if you would be willing to leave a review on Apple Podcasts.

Episode transcript

Steve StessmanAnd so to me, you make an impact as doing something meaningful even if you don't get credit for it. It's about doing the right thing when people are looking and working on something that's worthwhile. 

Jason Gabbard: When we talk about Agents of Change, we talk about people who are driven to solve problems within their organizations. People who find inefficiencies and work diligently to correct them. Sometimes it impacts the bottom line. Sometimes it streamlines complicated processes. And sometimes it changes everything about the way business gets done, trickling all the way down to customer experience. That’s the kind of change we’re talking about today.

I want you to meet Steve Stessman, Vice President of National Retail Sales at Tuff Shed, a ubiquitous American-based company, one that’s been providing building solutions like sheds and garages since 1981. While Steve leads sales at Tuff Shed, you’ll find that his title doesn’t really give the full picture. At one point in our conversation, you’ll hear him refer to himself as a solutions architect. Because at his core, he is driven to solve problems.

Steve Stessman: my background is in primarily in retail and homebuilding. I've worked in privately held companies up to a Fortune 50. I've held almost every position from a part-time employee all the way up to, I guess maybe my highest title now is V.P. of Sales. I've been with Tuff Shed for six years and throughout the time as we've tried to modernize our sales approach, I've become many times the point person to help understand new technology and tie it into what our business needs are. Or I've definitely been always been a sponsor of any technology project.

Jason GabbardToday, we are going to hear a story of how Steve has led a digital transformation at Tuff Shed — one that has not only directly led to more sales and higher revenue, but has truly changed the way business is done for the better, while improving the experience of every Tuff Shed customer. And these were big changes for an organization that has been around for nearly four decades with a very specific way of doing business.

Steve Stessman: Over the course of the 38 years we've grown from one location to 165 company-owned locations. We have 56 factories across the lower 48. And we've sold and installed 1.2 million buildings over the course of our time. We will do everything from the smallest of sheds to about as big a wooden building as you can possibly imagine. If you can dream it, we build it.

Jason GabbardThat’s a great line, isn’t it? And when Steve joined Tuff Shed six years ago, the idea of changing from a pen-and-paper approach to a streamlined digital experience across the entire sales process truly did seem like a dream.

Steve Stessman: So when I first started with the company, we would do quotes for a customer with a pen and paper to, fast forward six years later, we have literally some of the absolute latest and greatest technology to quote and to sell to our customers.

Jason Gabbard: So how does a change that big happen that quickly? Spoiler alert: It wasn’t easy. Let’s hear the full story.

Steve Stessman: The way I view my role as V.P. of sales is to grow the company. And that's all my direct reports. That's their mission: Grow the company. We're the market leader, but that doesn't mean that we don't want more. And frankly, we're just trying to protect everybody else from buying a bad building. So we definitely want to sell them a Tuff Shed. But with that being said, we’re a privately held company. We’re not a small company, but we're not a big company, so on the sales front and under the mantle of a growing company, we deal with everything. It doesn't matter, selecting new real estate, coordinating remodels, sourcing and training new salespeople, creating training materials — you name it, we do it. If it's an obstacle, we overcome it, because our mantra isgrow the business. The coolest thing, Jason, about my job, is that not only do we sell a product that's completely manufactured in the United States, but also as we increase our sales, we create jobs in our manufacturing facilities, number one. And for number two, for about every 220 sheds or buildings that we sell, we create a new small business in the United States via our subcontractor network. So when you think about a sales cycle like that, we are literally a job-creating machine. And to be honest with you, that's awfully rewarding. 

Jason Gabbard: That’s awesome. I love to hear that. I love businesses like this. Congratulations. I really mean that — that’s incredible. You mentioned that you've been there around six years. And when you first started, a lot of the paper processes were very much analog, very paper-and-pen intensive. And given what you're saying about sales and training employees, and I assume you probably have some resellers involved, it sounds like a very contracts-intensive, document-intensive business.

Steve Stessman: Yeah, it can be. Or, you know, a lot of our case prior to our digital transformation,  was a very manual process. So when I first started, we tried a CRM and tried to keep track of customers’ information. And that was a really good running start for us. So when we changed our CRM actually to Salesforce, then things really got moving where we were actually able to track what kind of customers came in and where did they come from? How much activity did it take to actually close a sale? What were the best salespeople doing? And then how can I replicate those results across the United States? And the technology helped out immensely. Which sort of led me into our big problem: that our sales outstripped our ability to manufacture efficiently and so even though the customer may communicate, we would have to draw pictures and then head over to manufacturing. We would have to enter things into our ERP and then we would make mistakes and then we would have problems that go with that. Obviously, if somebody wants a blue shed and a red shed shows up in their backyard. That's a big problem. So we had lots and lots of issues, and then when the customers would come back to us and say things like, “Well, I didn't sign off on that.” Sometimes we could produce the documents, sometimes we couldn’t. Sometimes we could produce a picture of what they wanted, sometimes and we couldn't. And so that's really where Salesforce CPQ and then Conga came in. Conga helps us create state-specific contracts and really helps us aggregate data so that the customer knows exactly what they're getting. Our manufacturing teams knows exactly what to build. So it's been an amazing transformation for the organization.

Jason GabbardFascinating. Having more demand than you have supply is a good problem to have, so I don’t feel so sorry for you. But that’s incredible. So it sounds like the opportunity you first uncovered was around just getting a CRM in place. So Salesforce to the rescue. You implement Salesforce and it sounds like right away you realize some pretty significant gains from doing that. When you were implementing Salesforce, can you just talk me through the internal process around making that decision? You know, getting folks on board and what you actually had to do in order to get the team moving in that direction. 

Steve Stessman: Well, we had tried another CRM that failed. So I was appointed to go find another CRM. So I evaluated the top four at the time and then I evaluated partners that completed the implementation at the same time. And we ended up at Salesforce, and it was an uphill battle because it was certainly a more expensive solution than what we had in the past. But once we selected them, we went from signing the contract to live in 64 days. With over 300 users, so it was a definite crash course in not only understanding what we needed, but then having it, finding the right partner to help us implement them. And then along the way, you have to pull everybody else in and say, “OK, what do I need from IT? I created all the training materials between my team and our Salesforce administrator. So it was a pretty amazing effort. And it actually turned out to be very great because seven days later we had a record sales day, which is pretty amazing considering that we just changed our entire CRM out. But that's just how flexible the platform was for me to be able to create something that worked for our sales people.

Jason GabbardGot it. So could you take me back to the period of time when you decided that you needed a — obviously you had the key infrastructure in place with your CRM and then you realized that there was an opportunity to add additional value through the use of Conga products. 

Steve Stessman: Essentially what was happening to us was we were selling more, we were manufacturing more, but we were making less money. And then we did that a couple of years in a row, and our production team said, “Look, we just we need better data.” We need a better way to transfer what the salespeople talk with the customer about and the information that we get. So we embarked on a project to basically digitally transform our company. So we started with a 3D configurator, which is an AppExchange product just like Conga, called KBMax. And then we use a 3D configurator that creates all the plans. We drop them into CPQ, which is a Salesforce product, and then we use our CRM to manage the order process. We use Conga to create all the documents, and we use several other AppExchange tools to help us transact, to do taxes and take payments and all those kinds of things. We use several Salesforce products, Marketing Cloud and then the CRM ability to send out automated communication as well. So, that was really the big problem: We sell more, we build more, we make less money and we believe we’ve solved it with our digital transformation that we just completed.

Jason Gabbard: So in particular, during that time when you were moving to digital documents and digital document creation and management, sometimes that's a difficult or a tricky conversation to have internally. People are often resistant to change, especially when it comes to contracts and proposals and so forth. Did you did you have to overcome any objections internally? Were there dissenters or --?

Steve StessmanYeah, there was definitely some pushback. So I would say that the digital transformation is changing every process we've ever done. So when you talk about something that sweeping, it was a very challenging project. But the good thing is, we had all of the department head support to start out the project. We had C-level support for it, obviously. And I got involved with the project and I was one of the executive sponsors. Through some turnover we had in our I.T. department, I ended up being the project manager and I would loosely call myself the solution architect for Tuff Shed for this particular project. Because that seems to be the title that offends I.T. people the least. So I'm the V.P. of sales and I led this. But the advantage I had by leading it was that I knew what the field needed and I could rally the resources behind it. So there were many times throughout the project where what I learned in this is that the closer you can get to someone who serves the customer when you're trying to create a solution like this, the better the result will be. The person that serves the customer knows way more than any V.P.. And that was that was a big learning for us. But was there a lot of pushback? Absolutely. There were questions about almost everything. But essentially when we did our due diligence, we thought out what the major milestones were. And then everybody agreed upon it at the outset. So, when I would say things like, “Well, we have to calculate taxes differently,” and, finance pushed back at us, you guys agreed that we had to have a solution that we could transact with right away with the customer. You know, some of those kinds of things. We settled a very lofty goal around the milestones and then we were able to refer back to them throughout the process.

Jason GabbardLet’s take a minute to reflect on what Steve is sharing here. Remember, this is a company that has been doing business and growing for decades. Four of them. You see, when Steve arrived at Tuff Shed to make some big changes, it was never going to be simple. Because change can be difficult and it often impacts more people than we realize. When Steve says he experienced a lot of pushback, that’s probably putting it lightly.

Sound familiar? A common thread that seems to run through these conversations is an acknowledgement of how hard those moments can be. But there always seems to be a story on the other side, when those moments are met with purpose. For Steve, that meant casting the vision and setting clear goals so that everyone knew that the changes were making an impact.

Let’s dive back in as Steve shares the challenges he faced in growing the business during this period of change to hit those lofty goals.

Steve Stessman: You know, one of the thingsthat I learned when I came to this business, Jason, is I didn't know very much about sheds. But my job was obviously to grow the business. So we had people out there that were in our president’s club there, our best sellers, we had seven of them. So I went and I listened to them. And what I was able to do was capture what they do with their customers. And it was, you know, four or five primary things that they were all great at. And so what I did was I went back and I learned from the best. I used the technology that I had, which was CRM. And I built my CRM around being able to measure those behaviors. So fast-forward five years, I'm very proud to say that I ended 2018 with 55 folks in the president’s circle. Fifty-five people who would have never earned the kind of money they can earn just because they listened. But it all started with me being humble enough to say, “Hey, I'm the V.P. of Sales, but I don't know everything. Let me go find the best people. But then I put in processes to teach and train and coach so that people could do their very best.” I'm on track this year to add another dozen to that. So I'm expecting to end up somewhere around 67 folks in the president circle that all make a really, really good living selling buildings. 

Jason Gabbard: That's great. And you know that it's uncanny that you say that because week after week on this show, that's the one thing we're hearing, is that in order to effect change, the most important thing you can do is listen and observe. And it sounds like you went out into the field, which is absolutely the right place to be. And you listened and you observed and you got feedback from the sales leaders, got feedback from the customers. And then you basically engineered your digital transformation strategy around that. That’s brilliant.

Steve Stessman: The challenge is that I always think when there's a digital transformation, you sort of have two groups: You have what your customer needs, but then you also have what your internal customer needs. And if you don't listen to both of those, you're going to fail or you're not going to fail completely, but you're going to fail. Twenty five percent of the way or something like that. It's better to take the time and spend the money to find the people that do the work and ask them what they need and then obviously bump it up and say, “Hey, is it rational what they do? Can we replicate that?” But that was my biggest learning over the last year for sure, as it especially in regards to our digital transformation. 

Jason Gabbard: That's great advice, Steve. Now, I want to ask you to look into your short term crystal ball and tell us what's the one big bet you and your team are going to make to move your business forward in 2020? 

Steve Stessman: Yeah, that's a good question. So, my primary focus and my team's primary focus is I have all this amazing technology and you name it: It's Salesforce, its Conga. Its KBMax, it's all these things. But the technology can get in the way of the relationship with the customer. So our big bet is that instead of focusing on how many times do we call the customer, it's more of how do we measure, did we have a consultative sales approach? And how does that tie into how we tie in a consultative sales approach to the technology? My big thing for the organization is, did we do a great enough job with the customer where they're gonna give us a great social media review? Did we do a great enough job for them to recommend us to someone else? So I'm going away from, “Hey, make 30 calls a day,” to “Whatever you did with a customer, was it great? Do you really understand what the customer needs?” And that's a pretty radical shift for traditional sales management. 

Jason Gabbard: That's terrific advice. You know, and it's something that echoes what some of the most valuable companies in the world are saying. Right. If you if you listen to what Amazon, for example says it's that unwavering focus on the customer. I was about to ask you what the hurdles were for, for effecting that change in 2020. But it's not so much of a hurdle as it is just maintaining that focus on the customer.

Steve Stessman: Yeah, it's a hurdle because it's very easy to go back and try because a lot of times us focused on the customer feels very fluffy or it's very soft or there's no actuals behind it. The thing that I'm focused on is for example, our CRM to make sure that the associates or the salespeople are recording what did they do with each customer. What's the customer's story instead of just putting in to follow up with them in a week? That's the biggest hurdle is getting people to really, really think about one of the best questions for me, to understand really what the customers need. Because once I figure out what your needs are, I'm not selling anymore. I'm just solving your problem. And that's a shift for an organization, in general. 

Jason Gabbard: Great advice. I'm going to paraphrase here: you're putting the meat on the bones of the focus on customer.

Steve Stessman: Absolutely. If it's not measurable, it didn't happen. 

Jason GabbardFor Steve, change is about more than the bottom line. It’s about knowing that change is worthwhile for all of the people it impacts. That is meaningful change.  So what can we take away from Steve’s story? When Tuff Shed succeeds, it creates jobs. Not only that, it is creating small businesses just by the nature of what his company does. When you think about change, how far down the line can you see the impact? While Steve is driven to increase sales for Tuff Shed and grow the business, he doesn’t view this as mutually exclusive from the impact he can make on peoples’ lives. It is not an either/or thing, which is why he makes a point of talking about meaningful change. What kind of impact can you make when you think big? Does the problem you are seeking to solve have a greater reach than you realize?

That’s it for today. I hope you’ll continue with us on this journey as we hear from more agents of change.

In the meantime, you can stay up to date on each of our episodes by subscribing on your favorite podcast app. We’d also love if you would be willing to leave a review on Apple Podcasts.


Episode transcript

Steve Aitken: I think the biggest change is that we’re now in a position to hire people within a two-week window and that means we’re able to attract the top talent, we’re able to compete with competitors that have got possibly a bigger and better name in the industry, and that's a huge impact for a consulting company like ours, where we’re probably punching above our weight in some respects.

Jason Gabbard: I’m Jason Gabbard, host of Agents of Change. The people who are in the headlines are often not the people in the trenches. So who is behind the scenes, solving problems and uncovering issues? Today, I want to ask you to think big. On our show, we hone in on the individuals who identify areas of opportunity in their organizations and seek out a solution. One person can have a huge impact, but what if you could form an entire team of Agents of Change? I recently spoke with Steve Aitken, CEO at Sapient i7, a platinum Salesforce partner focused on achieving business value outcomes. Steve is a CRM expert who has built a track record of success through the years, leading to his current leadership role as a CEO.

Steve: I’ve always spent my career in CRM across a range of different technologies: Onyx, which was quite a big technology around the turn of the millennium before the bubble burst and then Microsoft Dynamics and since 2011, a joint partner of the Salesforce ecosystem. So I joined a company which was about six people at the time, called Tquila, and I rose through the ranks there to be COO and we grew that to be about 150 people before we sold that to a large GSA in 2015, and I worked there for the best part of three years before leaving to start this business, Sapient i7.

Jason: Early on in our conversation, it became clear what drives Steve. In fact, the name of his company is derived from a principle that has become core to what he and Sapient i7 are all about. Because of past experience, he is motivated to act on ideas and take them to completion. From his perspective, the lack of action leaves the door open for someone else to turn your opportunity into their reality. 

Steve: So the “i7” comes from a phrase called “imperative seven.” And imperative seven comes from a book by a guy called Seth Godin, called “Poke the Box.” And in that book he talks about seven things that you need in order to start a company and the first few are fairly straightforward. So you need to understand your customer, and you need to have a product that services that customer’s needs and you need to understand the market. All of these are fairly straightforward imperatives, but the seventh imperative that he talks about is something you can’t learn at school, you can’t learn at university, you can’t buy a book on. It’s that you have to have the guts and the courage to ship, which can be interpreted as the guts and the courage to turn that business idea into a reality. I've had various points in my life where I’ve had great ideas, technology start-up ideas. I've gone so far down the track registering the domains for these ideas and then never really doing anything with them. In the time that I've had those ideas, someone else has had that idea and then gone on to become massive, in the likes of Dropbox or a Zoopla or a Rightmove — they are very similar to ideas that I had maybe 10 to 15 years ago. So when I left the GSA that we had been sold to, I wanted to have the guts and the courage to start my own business, and that’s where the i7 came from.

Jason: It comes as no surprise that Steve has instituted days of creative thinking at his company. These are opportunities for his staff to think big. Bring their best ideas forward and then bring them to life. For a world like this to exist, Steve had to figure out how to fill his company with the right kinds of people — people who are driven to make big changes and act on big ideas. And that is a story we're going to focus on today. Hiring top talent is a challenge at most companies. The process can be long and arduous, causing talented candidates to drop off or find work elsewhere. Steve was dedicated to solving that problem at Sapient i7. How do you streamline the hiring process and get agents of change in the door quickly and efficiently, empowering them to begin making impact? Well, let's find out.

Jason: You are obviously a seasoned and die-hard entrepreneur and great innovator. So I wanted to see if you could tell me a bit about how you’ve created a culture of innovation and how tools like Salesforce and Conga have helped you and have inspired innovation amongst the rest of your team. 

Steve: So you might have picked up on the theme of this. I've read quite a lot of self-help books and there are two that stand out in my mind. One is a book called “Drive” by Dan Pink and the other is a book called “Delivering Happiness” by Tony Hsieh. But Dan points the most prevalently on creating culture, and in that book he talks around three things that create intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is the desire for someone to actually do something without having to be whipped with a stick, or to do it off their own back, essentially. He talks about purpose, autonomy, and mastery. Purpose being having a clear vision of what you want to achieve and why you exist. Autonomy being not necessarily task-led and being told how to do that or achieve that purpose, and then mastery being essentially learning. If you can combine those three things into somebody's life, then you can create intrinsic motivation. He talks about the likes of Linux, for example, where people credit that as an open-source platform. They typically have a day job, who then get home in the evening and write code to write this open-source platform. And he was interested in why someone would do that — they’re not being paid. It’s all on their own time, and he put this down as intrinsic motivation. So, as we built Sapient i7, I tried to bring in those concepts into our employees’ objectives and learnings and into the culture. We try to align everyone’s role to have a clear purpose, both as a role, but also understand where that purpose and that role sits within the organization to make sure everyone’s fully aligned. We’ve created an environment where everyone has a budget set aside for learning that they can use as they like, provided it’s in the purpose of the business, and then we try to give people objectives and not lead them by the nose to actually achieve them. We will leave it up to them to be autonomous. I think when you do that, you create an employee that can be innovative, so they have the space and the room to move, and that innovation can be released, essentially. Other things that we’ve done to create innovation and innovative business was that we’ve had days or half days where we’ve given employees the time off to just do what they want to do. That was the goal of advancing the business and that’s been really successful for us, some really good ideas have come out. That was an idea I stole from a company called Atlassian, an Australian company. So we’ve given the team time off on a Friday, but sometimes they get so intrinsically motivated that they work over the weekend to develop their ideas and on a Monday come in and share them with the rest of the business. We’ve had some great bit of things come out of that. So we've had one of our employees credit a virtual reality application that enabled you to navigate Salesforce, and another one created the candidate engagement platform which we now take to clients as a platform for addressing recruitment leads.

Jason: That’s terrific, Steve. So, oftentimes, an agent of change is someone in the organization typically with an advanced degree that would typically be an early adopter of technology and rally the rest of the team around them to embrace that change, embrace that technology to push it ahead for the organization. Typically, that’s not the CEO. The CEO would be someone that would be supporting that agent of change. I don’t know if that's the case at your company, whether it's you that has been driving the technology adoption and kind of pulling the team along, or whether it’s someone else in your organization, but I know you guys have opportunities in recent history to adopt technology and to make changes in the business that have really driven ROI. I was hoping you could look back over the last couple of years and tell me about one instance when you or someone else that the organization identified a challenge and affected change through the use of technology.

Steve: A really good example is that candidate engagement platform. We had one person join our organization, and we were out in the pub, of course the pub’s where a lot of great ideas get circulated, and she was saying how the reasons for joining the organization in comparing us against some of the other organizations that she was applying for jobs at and she was saying how some of these organizations would take six months to to go to the hiring process, and then she never really knew where she was in the hiring process. She had done the first interview, didn't get any feedback. Then she was wondering and applied for other jobs elsewhere, thinking she had been dropped out of the process, and then came back and had a second interview. She thought she had the job, but then found out there was a third or maybe fourth interview. So the idea is that one of the guys picked up on and incorporated it into creating a really slick hiring process. So, using one of these afternoons, we started this candidate engagement platform where we use Salesforce communities to expose information that we wanted to message around our hiring: How many stages there were in hiring and who would be interviewing the candidates, and our values as well as the core industries. And some of the stuff was in the public domain, that was sort of the nucleus of this candidate engagement platform and then as we’ve evolved as a company, we’ve extended that and created a gated area where when somebody applies for a job, they get access to the gated area and they can see other information, which maybe we don't want to be in the public domain. It's been extended further that sometimes you don't get the job but doesn't necessarily mean that we wouldn't want want to hire you in the future so we’ve extended it to stay engaged with candidates that maybe were unsuccessful in the first application and essentially engage that candidate across their career because they might have applied for a VA role but but we were hiring a senior VA, but a couple years down the track, maybe we can hire them as a senior VA for a different role. 

Jason: It hits home. It’s been awhile since I’ve been in the marketplace for a job, but I do recall when I was coming out of law school that I was interviewing with a handful of law firms. And there was very little transparency in the process and very little insight into factors and decision-making and all that’s really important to candidates, right? You can take that information and you can use it to make yourself a better candidate the next time. It potentially influences the decisions you’re making during the interview process, so it’s obviously a great tool.

Steve: The feedback is really key. So you might not be successful and as a candidate, you become less confident because you interviewed, you gave it your best effort and you never heard back and you don’t know why. It might be that they stopped hiring for that role, but you take a bit of a knock. I think that by keeping engaged with that candidate, even if they were unsuccessful, it protects your brand, as well. People would say, “Oh, I was unsuccessful, but I had a really good experience with that brand.” There’s too much focus sometimes on the successful candidate with disregard to everyone else who’s been playing part in the hiring process.

Jason: That’s an interesting point made by Steve. One of the biggest challenges in streamlining the hiring process was placing so much emphasis on the “right now” without thinking about those who aren't the right fit right now. Not only is Sapient i7 interested in maintaining a relationship with candidates, they don't hire today, they want to leave those individuals feeling confident about themselves and the company. They want transparency. It is a holistic approach to hiring talent. As you’re hear in a moment, transforming the hiring process at Sapient i7 meant placing an emphasis on digital document transformation, getting offers into the hands of candidates quickly and making the process of signing a contract as simple as one click, cutting down on the back and forth. 

Did you know that 85% of experts agree that reassessing digital document transformation is key to achieving organization-wide goals? So why do so many companies drag their feet? We asked 2,400 companies to give us an inside look into their digital document transformation progress. The benefits they’ve seen. The barriers they've overcome in the path to reach their full potential. Our podcast listeners can access that full report today at no charge. Simply go to to download it today and see how companies like yours are taking action. 

Now, let's get back to Steve.

Steve: We use Conga Sign and the contract lifecycle management components of Conga as well. As part of the hiring process, one of the key things is when you’ve made your decision, is to get that offer into the hands of the candidate quickly. We use Conga Sign and Composer to create that employment contract and send it to the candidate. It gives us insights into whether they've seen that contract or whether they’ve opened it and then we can assess whether there’s something else we need to talk to them about, and they can close the contract really, really quickly.

When you’re competing — as we are in our industry — for talent, having that slick one-click process for signing your contract is an advantage for us over our competitors. Obviously, the contract lifecycle management means that when there’s some red-lining of that document needed and maybe wants to negotiate the holidays or negotiate a hiring bonus or whatever that might be, we’re in a position to negotiate that in essentially real time.

Jason: I love that, Steve. You know,  people oftentimes think of contract lifecycle management as governing and managing some of the more mundane managing business documents. Some might say boring like, you know master services agreements and statements of work, but it's really great to see companies expanding their vision of CLM and using it to manage other types of documents and contracts, so that’s really music to my ears.

Steve, from a tactical standpoint, you as the CEO have the luxury of being able to single-handedly sort of overcome objections inside the organization and you’ve worked very hard to put yourself in that position, so I don't want to talk about objections for you, but I want to talk about challenges. When you were rallying behind this new technology and this new process, can you tell me a little bit about some of the challenges, what you had to do to kind of get your ducks in a row, so to speak?

Steve:  When we started this idea of a candidate engagement platform, we were a really young company. I think there were probably only about 10 people in the company. And so we were going through everything that a startup does: Where were we going to be based and what's a logo look like and we didn’t even have a website. So there were a lot of competing priorities, but we did know that talent acquisition was critical to our success. So when we created this portal, we really had to go back and rethink what it was we were trying to achieve. So as you put together that content for that candidate engagement portal of what your values are and where your focus is, some of those questions we hadn’t really gotten nailed on our own yet. So it’s kind of the tail wagging the dog. The technology forced us to readdress and to focus our effort on understanding who we were as a company and what direction we were taking. So that became our priority. I think the biggest challenge was sitting down and understanding who we were. Once we had that, and when we had the initial portal, we then had to think about how important this technology was to us, what the impact could have on our business and we recognize that it was going to have quite a big impact, but then of course, we’ve got competing priorities with, we’re a small company, we don’t have lots of accessories. So we had to ensure that there was somebody who owned this concept and can bring it to life. The next challenge we had was prioritizing this against client work and against other priorities as well.

Jason: We absolutely hear that a lot on this podcast. Some of these quickly growing businesses struggle to find resources to put behind the technology and the process, so it's nice to hear that despite limited resources, you were successful in impacting change.

No conversation about change is complete without a note on the impact. Can you tell me a little bit about how things have changed?

Steve: The biggest change is that we’re now in a position to hire people within a two-week window. So basically from the application through to the signature of the employment contract. That means that we’re able to attract the top talent and we’re able to compete with competitors that have got possibly a bigger and better name in the industry. That, to me, is the biggest impact it’s had and that’s a huge impact for a consulting company like ours, where we’re probably punching above our weight in some respects, but I truly believe we’re attracting some of the top talent to talk and we’ve got really happy employees. 

Jason: That's that's great to hear. So see you before we wrap up today, I just want to ask you to look into your crystal ball and tell me what's in store for 2020. What initiatives do you have planned for the business side from more? 

Steve: We'll probably pick up three new industries, and as a result of that, we hope to see about 50 percent additional growth.

Jason: At the start today, I asked you to think big. Steve plans to add 20 to 30 Agents of Change to his company next year. That’s thinking big. What can we take away from this kind of approach? Steve identified areas of opportunity he had left on the table in the past and use those experiences to fuel his approach going forward. We all have those missed opportunities in our careers. What have you learned from those moments that can ultimately lead you to success today? Steve has chosen to use his role in leadership to enable and empower others in his organization to bring opportunities for change and innovation to the forefront. If you hold a role as a leader, how can you lift up others in your organization and help elevate their ideas? How can you start thinking big today when it comes to empowering those around you to make an impact?

That’s all for now. We hope you’re enjoying this journey of exploring how agents of change are making an impact on their business. 


You can stay up to date on each of our episodes by subscribing on your favorite podcast app. We’d also love if you would be willing to leave a review on Apple Podcasts.


Episode transcript

Carl Harkness: There was so much data and information to hand over to Gilead and the process around that was 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, for close to a year. When I showed up, the people that were involved with that work were looking for something new and different to help them manage all of it. 

Jason Gabbard: I’m Jason Gabbard,  host of Agents of Change. The people who are in the headlines are often not the people in the trenches. So, who is behind the scenes solving problems and uncovering issues?

Mastering an instrument requires an unparalleled level of time dedication and precision and today's guest knows that well. You might be wondering what a studied musician has to tell us about the overhaul of Contract Management in a company that employs a computational approach to pharmaceuticals in Biotechnology. As it turns out, those same principles from the study of music, those principles of time, dedication, and precision, have come in pretty handy for Carl Harkness in his role as Contract Administrator at Nimbus Therapeutics. But how did he go from a professional performance degree from the Berklee College of Music to impacting change at Nimbus? Well, I'll let him explain that. 

Carl Harkness: So, I graduated from Berklee College of Music where I got my degree in Professional Performance, and I'm a drummer by trade and still play pretty frequently. Although,  I'm getting older and trying to focus more on starting a family-playing all the time is less of a priority then being an adult. I think most people understand how that goes. I made the move into a standard 9-to-5 working for a pharmaceutical biotech company after a bunch of different odd moves in my life. While I was in school, I did data entry for a couple of departments at the school which got me into working in intellectual property for a trademark firm, doing data entry for them and then just getting a wealth of experience doing various administrative and paralegal tasks and eventually coming to realize that I really enjoy contract management and contract writing and negotiation and making that my daytime career. 

Jason Gabbard: Quite the career path, isn't it? But as you'll hear today, Carl is the perfect person for his role and he speaks as someone who has been doing it for decades. Nimbus uses advanced technologies to design breakthrough medicines and in the process transforms drug development. And as you might imagine, a meticulous level of detail is required to manage their contracts, their statements of work, core agreements, and so much more. When you factor in the global scale of their organization and the number of contractors Nimbus employs and managers as they continue to grow, that meticulous level of detail and the time involved can hit critical mass. 

Carl Harkness: So instead of having a lab space where we run experiments here in the building, we do our drug discovery through computer modeling and then I try to prove the efficacy of the certain models and compounds that we discover and develop in the labs. Since we don't have a lot of space here at our facility, we outsource all of those services to various contract research organizations and academic institutions across the world. 

Which means that we have to have a massive array of contracts in place to be able to manage all of the services as well as protect our financing and intellectual property that goes along with that. 


Episode transcript

Heidi Modrusan: We really value our employees. We’re considered a tribe because we have a shared purpose and common goals. We rely on each other to get our work done.


Jason Gabbard: I’m Jason Gabbard,  host of Agents of Change. The people who are in the headlines are often not the people in the trenches. So, who is behind the scenes solving problems and uncovering issues?

Any discussion of change must include a discussion of every change project-based impediment: people. So what can an agent of change do to smooth things over with the people that must execute the change they seek? Allow me to introduce Heidi Modrusan, the critically important Contract Administration Program Manager at the WD-40 company. Yes, that's right, the same WD-40 you used to silence those squeaky doors in the pantry, or grease the gears on your daughter's bike. It's really hard to believe, the company started as a 3-person team in San Diego, California under the name Rocket Chemical in the early 1950s. But, today, the WD-40 brand is a household name and it's grown to include dozens of products sold in 144 countries around the globe. While Heidi's title may be a mouthful, she certainly does not see it is a blank check to coerce her colleagues into compliance. As you'll hear in our conversation, she's all about taking her colleagues along for the journey.


Heidi Modrusan: I started out my career as a modern dancer, so it seems like a logical path to get to paralegal, right? So, I worked in legal over the years as a way to support my dancing career. And then, when I moved out here, to San Diego, with my husband, I decided I probably needed a real job. So I got my paralegal certificate and I I worked for 13 years at Qualcomm before I came to WD-40. My primary role is Contract Administration Program Manager and I do some other corporate legal functions as well. 


Jason Gabbard: Today, we’ll hear how one innocent question started Heidi's journey to implement a system to manage risk across a myriad of contracts that drive WD-40 business. While it's no surprise that such an ambitious endeavor would experience obstacles along the way, what is rather shocking is how such a ubiquitous, publicly-held company could remain relatively small for so many years.


Heidi Modrusan: We’re a small company with a big name. We have three main trading blocs and each one operates in a different region of the world. So, we have Asia-Pacific, Americas, and EMEA. We have both direct and indirect markets and we are sold in 144 countries. 


Jason Gabbard: Incredible, isn't it? You would certainly expect such a globally known brand to have tens of thousands of employees. So, I was definitely surprised to find that's not the case. As it turns out, their global web of their employees presented its own set of challenges for Heidi, despite, their relatively small numbers. Part of the problem is that our first languages are different. In France, their first language is not English. I met with someone fromGermany, someone from France, someone from Spain, and Italy and we were all speaking English. So that, to me, was just incredible. And you really have to think about what you're saying because a lot of our analogies or our expressions just won't cross over.


Jason Gabbard: So how did she manage to overcome these challenges? And how did she approach the Monumental task in the first place? Let's dive into her the whole story.


So you have been at the company eight or nine years? Is that right? 


Heidi Modrusan: Yeah, it’ll be ten years in March. 


Jason Gabbard: Okay. So when did you first understand that you had an opportunity to make a difference in terms of digitization or document transformation? 


Heidi Modrusan: Yeah, I was hired to do this. I think it came out of a board meeting or somebody asking the question: What are you doing to manage risk in your contracts?


And my boss at the time went, “Oh, what are we doing?” So, she sent all these contracts. Anybody who had a contract, she sent it.  So the first steps she took was just to gather everything. She hired me to implement this whole system. So I actually had to do a presentation in my interview about how I would implement a contract program for the company. So, that was interesting. Then, I had to choose the software. So I did that. Then, the rest of the time, you know, we've done all these procedures. We carved out which contracts are the most risky and how to identify them. What we did was we identified which specific contracts were the ones that must be reviewed at headquarters. That way we weren't overburdening everybody with all the contracts,  but just the ones that we deemed to be the most important to the company. 


Jason Gabbard: So, I'm just curious, when you were going into this problem, you obviously had a mandate to solve the problem. But, were you going in knowing that you wanted to end up in a certain place or did you go in knowing that there was a problem and it needed solving and you didn't necessarily know how it would come out?


Heidi Modrusan: Well, I guess it's not really rocket science. I mean if you want to be able to keep all your contracts together in one place, I knew that we were going to have to be selecting a contract software. But as far as my selection criteria, I kind of learned from the past. We had  some other softwares, not for contracts, that required specialized programming by the vendor. I knew I didn’t want that because I was trying to do it on a reasonable budget. I made sure that I found a system that was configurable by me. That was one problem that was part of my requirements. I guess, I didn't know exactly how I would get everybody on board. Maybe that's the part that I thought might be easier than it was. Because, we had to kind of put people in place. There were still times when we were playing telephone. Things like, “Oh, I didn't know you meant that kind of contract. Or, I didn't know you meant renewals.” Or, whatever the question was. We found that we weren't quite getting through and just sending emails is not always the best way to communicate things.


So I guess I kind of knew what we needed to do. Just in terms of getting everything all in one place. We're still working on the next level, which is trying to formalize the language so we don't have to keep wasting time, you know, editing contracts all the time-having some standardized language. 


Jason Gabbard: Great. So can you tell me you know, what's changed? How has it impacted the company?


Heidi Modrusan:  Well, every quarter we are doing audits on our contracts and all of the reports can be run straight from the database, you can view and choose the test contracts from those lists. So it's helped. I'm not printing out contracts and giving them to people. So, I'd say it's really assisted in our auditing function. As a public company, we have a lot of accounting standards we’re responsible for adhering to and contracts play a big part in a lot of that. So I think it's been an easier way of getting an insight into our contracts. Our next step is to do more work to apply metrics and analytics.  


Jason Gabbard: At WD-40, I fully understand the business, I’ve been using the product for decades. But, you as an insider, what can you share with us that you would consider to be some of the biggest challenges facing the company today? You know, whether that’s a market thing or whether that’s an operational logistics thing. 


Heidi Modrusan: Yeah, I’ll speak to the operational part because I don't really want to speak for the company as a whole. But, in terms of the implementation for our contract management 

system, the challenge is trying to corale everybody. Right now, trying to get everybody on the same system and using the same software to manage their contracts.


Jason Gabbard: Tell me more about that. When you say corale everyone, is that because there are dissenters in the company that prefer to do things a more traditional way?


Heidi Modrusan: Okay, we refer to ourselves as a tribe because we work together for a common purpose. And, we have six values that tie us all together. The first one is, ‘do the right thing’ and the last one is ‘sustaining the WD-40 to economy.’ So, that is really ingrained in our culture. So we're not going to have people who are not willing to cooperate because it's just not in our culture.


More so it's just people are really stretched thin and they're already managing a million other software. So, there tends to be a lag just because people have other immediate needs they need to attend to. So when we asked them to implement a new HRMS or a new document management system-all of those things require training. They require them to change the way they're doing things. That I think is a challenge. Each trading block runs independently. Although we are the headquarters, we're not like sending edicts down to everybody all the time. Right now, everyone has their own unique challenges in their own unique region. So we try to do the best we can not to interfere with everybody's business, but we want to provide solutions that will hopefully bring the company together.


Jason Gabbard: Let’s hold right there for a second. As we see so often in these moments, change is hard. Especially when it's likely to require training or add to someone's workload. Heidi's mindset of trying to create solutions that bring the company together is so important because in so many cases change can very easily cause division in a company-division that eventually sours the culture and adversely affects the bottom line. Although change can be difficult, 85% of experts believe that reassessing digital document transformation is key to achieving organization-wide goals. With that in mind, we went out and asked 2400 companies to give us an inside look into their digital document transformation progress, the benefits they see, the barriers they face, and the path forward to reach their full potential. We compiled all those learning from that survey into a comprehensive report and we want to offer you free access to the full report. Simply go to: to download a copy today and see how companies like yours are taking action. 


Let's jump back in and learn some of the strategy and tactics Heidi used to effect the necessary changes.


What can you share with us that has helped you in your career to effect that change, to corral the troops and get everyone on the same page? Are there any tricks to the trade or is brute force?


Heidi Modrusan: Well, brute force is definitely not effective. I have learned that you can not make people do things. I mean, we work to motivate, you know, we hope that people will find the motivation to do things. So,  we spend a lot of time in our company explaining the ‘why.’ Then, people are more apt to be willing to take that journey with you. Also one thing that I found extremely helpful, well, first you explain the why, right?  So people understand that. Then, secondly, you and find out what their unique challenges are and you listen to them. You find out what process they're currently doing and how you can help them automate the process they're doing. If you find best practices that they could implement, you explain that. But what I found happened was we had this policy that we had implemented, and we had webinars once a year where we would explain to everybody what the policy means and how it works, but we weren't getting the best compliance. So, what found is I actually talked to the people who had been implementing the HR solution and they said, “You have to go out there. You have to actually physically go to them and train them in person. That's the only way you're going to get what you need.” 


So that's what me and my boss have been doing. We have been traveling through EMEA. We first went to Germany and then we just came back from France, and next we're going to go to the UK and get the UK office up and running. That has made such a difference, I can't even tell you. With all the technology we have, nothing beats face-to-face interactions. 


Jason Gabbard: It's funny you say that. I think with every guest I've had on the podcast, that consistent theme has been: get out there and meet people and listen to them. So it sounds like that. Honestly, it’s surprising. I'm not planting anything, you know, the question to get the answer I desire. But, every single time, it's: get out there in the field and you can't force it. You know, you can't impose your will on your organization. So get out there and listen to people, understand the problems, and then work collaboratively to effect change. It sounds like that's what you're saying as well.


Heidi Modrusan: Right. The first time we went to Germany and we met for about a day and a half. Everyone said, “Wow, we’ve accomplished more in this day and a half than I've accomplished over the last eight years.” It was a real “aha” moment. 


On top of that, this last time we went to France and they were so appreciative that we actually came to their office. I also had each of the offices do a presentation to show us what they were doing with their contracts now. I didn't want to assume that they didn’t have anything. They're just, you know, not organized and they're not complying. But, they actually had a very good process that they were following, they just weren't doing it in the database. And they were very willing, and kind of excited about using the database. When I explained it as an efficiency tool, then it took on a whole new life to them. It wasn't just a procedure in a process or policy. It was like, “No, no,  this really can help you and it will help you with the various features and functionality.” 


So, it was interesting. They made us this beautiful lunch and showed us their customs and their food and it was just a wonderful way of interacting.


Jason Gabbard: For Heidi, change is an opportunity. An opportunity to reach around the globe to different cultures and languages and bring every member of the WD-40 tribe closer together by creating solutions that align with their shared values.


So what did we learn from Heidi’s story? How do you make very clear that brute force is a feckless motivation tool? Rather, a skilled change agent must take the time to explain the why behind the change, if she wants folks to embrace it. When you approach change, and the people involved, do you see them as an object to be moved or as a collaborator to be persuaded? Nothing beats in-person, face-to-face interactions when you want to communicate a message, even if you have to travel the globe to do so. How often have you opted for the easy path and sent an email instead of walking down the hall or taking the elevator a few floors away to look a colleague in the eye? Another lesson: take the time to understand the cultures involved.

You don't have to be spanning oceans or even time zones to realize you're not always speaking the same language, even when you think you are. Well, we'd like to thank you for joining us today. We hope you'll continue with us on this incredible journey as we hear from more agents of change who are making profound impact at some of the world's greatest companies. 


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