Kevin Beales, da Refract.ai

Episódio 017 do Founder Coffee

kevin-beales-entrevista-retrato-ai

Sou Jeroen, da Salesflare, e este é o Founder Coffee.

A cada duas semanas, tomo caf√© com um fundador diferente. Conversamos sobre a vida, as paix√Ķes, os aprendizados... em uma conversa √≠ntima, conhecendo a pessoa por tr√°s da empresa.

Para este décimo sétimo episódio, conversei com Kevin Beales, cofundador da Refract.ai, uma plataforma de treinamento para representantes de desenvolvimento de vendas baseada em inteligência de conversação.

Kevin fundou a Refract.ai depois de sair de sua empresa anterior, porque sentiu o desafio de poder treinar, desenvolver e dimensionar suas equipes de vendas. Assim, ele passou de quase zero para 5 milh√Ķes de d√≥lares em 18 meses.

This episode is all about learning. We talk about Kevin’s backstory, how he learns from other founders, the importance of good sales coaching, why he reads sales books and how he teaches his children to become great entrepreneurs.

Bem-vindo ao Founder Coffee.


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Jeroen: Oi, Kevin. √Č √≥timo t√™-lo no Founder Coffee.

Kevin: Jeroen, é absolutamente fantástico estar aqui. Muito obrigado por me convidar.

Jeroen: You’re welcome. You’re the founder of Refract. Refract.ai, do I have to say, or just refract?

Kevin: I’m not fussy. You can call it either, but yeah, Refract.ai. Yes, I am.

Jeroen: Refract.ai. For those who don’t know Refract.ai, what does your company exactly do?

Kevin: Certo. Analisamos as conversas de vendas e ajudamos as organiza√ß√Ķes a tra√ßar o perfil dos momentos de treinamento que ocorrem em chamadas, demonstra√ß√Ķes e reuni√Ķes. Isso √© para fazer o trabalho pesado de treinamento de vendas, de modo que voc√™ possa compartilhar o que os vendedores de melhor desempenho fazem e destacar o que eles fazem de diferente em suas conversas. Esses momentos de treinamento t√™m um impacto direto sobre a receita e o desempenho.

Jeroen: It’s kind of like when your sales manager would go with you on the road and try to coach you. Now you can kind of record it, digitize it, share it with others, make it a more effective and collaborative experience, I would say.

Kevin: Exatamente, e sim, poder fazer isso sem ter que acompanhar ou estar presente ao mesmo tempo. Isso não só lhe dá insights sobre o que está acontecendo em uma conversa individual, mas também sobre o que costuma ser centenas, milhares de conversas em sua organização todos os dias, semanas ou meses.

Jeroen: Isso √© para conversas telef√īnicas neste momento, ou n√£o?

Kevin: Ambos. Conversas telef√īnicas e demonstra√ß√Ķes na Web. Tamb√©m pode ser para reuni√Ķes presenciais.

Jeroen: Est√° bem.

Kevin: Definitely used more for phone calls, conference calls and web demos. But technically, it makes no difference where that’s being captured or recorded.

Jeroen: How does it work when it’s a face-to-face conversation? Do you put your cell phone on the table?

Kevin: As long as you’re capturing either the audio or the video from the conversation. Some of our clients would capture that through their screens or through their mobiles, but I think it is definitely fair to say there’s a shift to more inside sales teams and distance selling in any case. So I think it’s fair to say that we see it used more in those areas and environments.

Jeroen: Sim. Foi algo que você começou com a experiência em um histórico de vendas? Como isso aconteceu exatamente? Onde você estava quando começou a Refract.ai? Quando aconteceu a faísca?

Kevin: I had a previous business that we had an exit from, and just reflecting on some of the experiences there, and thinking about what we were going to do next. There was a team that came with me at that time. The challenge of being able to coach, develop, scale our sales teams was very real. In its absolute worst form, and I’m embarrassed to admit this now, sometimes, for me, that will be going along with someone on a meeting. You’re sitting in the back of a taxi on the way back to the airport, and you can’t help start talking about the meeting, and what went well, and what ideas could have been reflected on. Yeah, it’s a horrible way of getting your sales coaching. There’s no shared reflection on what actually happened, and obviously, in truth, it is not necessarily the effective way of doing that.

No entanto, a verdade √© que, na maioria das conversas de todas as nossas organiza√ß√Ķes, n√£o h√° oportunidade de saber o que aconteceu nessa conversa ou de destacar os momentos de treinamento que ocorrem. Portanto, foi 100% a partir das experi√™ncias pessoais de como treinar equipes de forma eficaz sem ter de sentar-se ao lado de algu√©m, mudar a din√Ęmica da conversa e, talvez, nem mesmo ter uma reflex√£o compartilhada sobre o que aconteceu.

Jeroen: Em que tipo de empresa você estava trabalhando naquele momento?

Kevin: O neg√≥cio anterior que fundei foi uma empresa chamada The Test Factory. A Test Factory era uma plataforma de avalia√ß√£o e testes on-line. Faz√≠amos de tudo, desde testes para crian√ßas de cinco anos na escola at√© m√©dicos se preparando para seus exames. √Čramos a plataforma para gerenciar o conte√ļdo, entregar os testes e trabalhar com alguns clientes incr√≠veis. Trabalhamos com pessoas como a Microsoft, as Na√ß√Ķes Unidas e muitos conselhos de exames e editoras. Sim, foi durante esse per√≠odo que surgiu o momento para a Refract.

Jeroen: Esse foi seu primeiro negócio ou você já tinha negócios antes?

Kevin: It was the first business that I’d founded. I’d been a part of two previous startups that had both been successful and scaled. I had gone through that journey as part of the management team. I headed up the sales team at a company called Communicator, which is in email marketing, and before that, a company called NPP, who provided subscription and payment solutions. For NPP, I was their very first employee. For Communicator, I think I was employee number five and went through that scaling journey. Then I was ready and excited to do something myself.

Jeroen: You’ve seen startups a few times. Have you also been in the corporate world, or at least, let’s say, normal companies?

Kevin: Yeah, so before those two startups, I had a couple of “corporate jobs”. I worked for Adidas, and I worked for a Premier League football team in the UK, both on the digital side, as digital was starting to become a thing – both commercially and technically. But I always wanted to do something for myself. That was always my plan from a very young age, and as I think is often the case for most of us, it’s something that burns away at you until the moment comes.

Jeroen: Yeah, many of us start, actually, in digital marketing. I noticed when doing these interviews, many of us start with building websites when we’re young. Is that something that is also the case for you?

Kevin: I have very little technical skills. I can maybe just hold my own in a technical conversation, but I’m definitely commercial rather than on the technical side.

Jeroen: It’s more the marketing side of digital marketing.

Kevin: Eu sei, depois de ouvir algumas de suas outras entrevistas. Acho que talvez s√≥ o fato de ter aquela pequena fatia de pizza de experi√™ncia de trabalho em uma organiza√ß√£o corporativa, que eu sei que muitas pessoas, inclusive eu, acharam muito dif√≠cil e encontraram todos os motivos para acabar se tornando um fundador. Mas entender realmente como funcionam as grandes organiza√ß√Ķes empresariais sem de fato trabalhar em uma √©, √†s vezes, bastante dif√≠cil.

Jeroen: Sim. Você perguntou antes qual foi minha entrevista favorita até agora, e ela não foi revelada. Qual é a sua?

Kevin: You did tell me, but I won’t shout it out loud.

Jeroen: Yeah. Tell me. What’s your favorite one?

Kevin: I’ve got to say, I work very closely with Hannah Chaplin. She introduced us. For those that haven’t heard that she’s the founder of Receptive, a company based out in Sheffield here in the UK.

Yeah, we spent a lot of time together, Hannah and I. All the things that Receptive are good at are the things that Refract aren’t quite as good at, and I think the same vice versa. So we’ve learned a lot from each other. It was really interesting hearing her interview with you.

Jeroen: That’s cool. Are there any other startups or founders that you really look up to in any way?

Kevin: Yeah. Obviously, I enjoy tours like the SaaStock and those kinds of events to hear the people that have been uber-successful. But I definitely take the most value, personally, from those that are perhaps at a more similar journey, a more aligned journey. I know for most of those uber-successful organizations, they’ve gone through a lot of the same path, and the same challenges and opportunities that we all face. But I think I’ve taken the most value from those that were well under the radar, but at a similar size scale, and moment to ourselves, really.

Also, not just SaaS companies. Obviously, SaaS has its own business model, and economics, and challenges that are very unique to SaaS. But I’ve definitely taken a lot from founders in other industries, where the problems of recruiting the best talent, of managing, and rewarding, and incentivizing that talent, building a culture, all of those things are not SaaS-specific. I’m always amazed that they’ve seen so much similar in very different organizations from a founder/CEO perspective.

Jeroen: Sim, concordo com ambos os pontos. Especialmente o primeiro. Quando vamos a conferências, muitas vezes ouvimos essas empresas hiper-sucessivas que, em seguida, vêm e explicam como nós também seremos hiper-sucessivos.

But I notice with ourselves, I would have difficulties coaching a startup that is not in the phase we are in now to be successful in their phase, because you’re always so focused on your problems at this moment, and you evolve so much that when you get coaching from someone who is way further, there are some things they just cannot grasp at that moment anymore, I think.

Kevin: Yeah, 100%. And I think the stories of success, whilst hugely important, have been well-told. They’ve been told many times, and there’s a slice of the right business at the right time, there’s a slice of luck, there’s a slice of the networks that you have, and all of those things don’t necessarily apply to all of our businesses. I’ve taken a lot out of, as I’m sure a lot of people listening here, out of businesses that haven’t worked out. Why haven’t they worked out, and learning as much about not just the pitfalls and things to avoid, but I think, for all of us, it’s there but for the grace of God, you know, that we can rewrite the history of all of our organizations, and not much needs to change for it to go in a different direction.

Jeroen: Sim. Onde você lê sobre isso?

Kevin: I have sought out some of those people. I’ve tried to hook up for a drink with people who have gone down a journey and it hasn’t worked out. But I think it is definitely more difficult to find those stories. They’re obviously more difficult stories to tell, and you have to really admire those that particularly get up on stage and tell those stories.

Regionally, here in the northeast of England, one of the recent tech events that they had was all focused around businesses that didn’t work out. They had a series of speakers, and that was great.

Jeroen: Yeah, I’m just checking up now. I remembered there was a website, I think autopsy.io. You can find a list of different businesses that went bankrupt, and they wrote about it on their blog mentioning what they did wrong. But obviously, it’s always way more interesting to talk to the people themselves because there’s always so much more behind it than what they wrote up.

Kevin: Exactly, and I’m sure there is lots, in most of those stories, that can’t be said out loud, for obvious reasons. But yeah, I guess just having that measure of what does uber success look like, what can go wrong in a business, and those that are most aligned.

Jeroen: Sim. O que o sucesso significa para você com o Refract.ai?

Kevin: Great question. I think, and I reserve the right to change my mind as the business progresses, we’ve got a huge market opportunity. More than half our clients currently are based over in the US, and we’re talking about our market opportunity, that organizations want to improve the quality and outcome of their sales conversations.

That’s a big market. But at the same time, I’ve fallen down a few times with investors, potential investors, when asked the question, not necessarily quite as directly like this, but “do you think you’re a unicorn business in potential?” Not necessarily asked in those words, and I answer no, and that doesn’t always go down well.

That sometimes comes across as lacking ambition, which those that know me would probably never say that about me. But I think it is just grounded in what does success look like for me and my management team at Refract. I don’t think that we need to become a unicorn for us to have ticked the box for success, or anywhere perhaps. I think that success comes in various levels, obviously. It comes in both the financial level and comes in terms of what you’ve achieved.

I’m really lucky that most of them have come with me from my previous business. We’ve worked together for a long time, but they’re first-time senior managers in Refract, and the biggest part of success for me will be seeing what they achieve, and then what they go on to do next.

Obviously, there’s a financial element for everyone involved as well, but it’s certainly not unicorn aspirations that I think that we’re aiming at.

Jeroen: Not aiming at unicorn aspirations, but still the VC track, if I’m not mistaken?

Kevin: Yeah, so we have VC funding. And as I say, that’s not to say that there’s any lack of ambition or any lack of opportunity. We’re all UK-based at the moment but have a very global client base. Our plans are to geographically expand the business, and so we are on that VC track. But I think probably just in our current aspirations, and again I’ll say I reserve the right. Perhaps when I’ll be speaking in two years time, I’ll be telling you about our unicorn aspirations, and it’ll all be different, but yeah. Today, I would say just below that.

Jeroen: Today, you’re modest.

Kevin: Bem, algo parecido com isso, sim.

Jeroen: Sim, e al√©m do aspecto financeiro, que outras aspira√ß√Ķes voc√™ tem?

Kevin: I think there’s a massive problem that we’re solving here, and it doesn’t get talked about an awful lot. But the key challenge that we solve is probably best pictured by a couple of stats from published reports, which say that three-quarters of organizations site coaching as the most important role of a sales manager.

Typically, a sales manager spends less than 5% of their time coaching, and even in practice, that’s probably quite generous because a lot of what is classed as “coaching” is talking about your pipeline and what’s going to close next month. There are even other studies that show the discrepancy between how much coaching reps think they get and how much coaching managers think they give.

It’s broken. I mean, sales coaching is broken and yet it is universally accepted as the best way of influencing performance, universally accepted as the most important thing for a sales leader to do.

In terms of our aspirations, it feels like there’s a big problem to fix there, and there are not easy solutions to do that. I think when we talk about the use of AI and technology to do that, I would really like to think that both for us and our competitors, we’re at the start of a journey and an evolution there.

I think what really excites me is where is this going to take us and what impact can we have on this real problem of sales coaching. As we move more towards salespeople, towards the bottom of the rung having more automated, AI, chat bot-driven replacements, that it’s at the more sophisticated, complex, solution sale end, where actually the words that we choose, the conversations that you have, are the difference between success and failure.

Jeroen: Yeah. If I heard well, you’re in this for quite the long run.

Kevin: Yeah. It is an emerging market. It is a new market. I still feel, in truth, that we’re at a fairly early adopter stage in that market, and even a fairly early adopter stage in terms of where the technology can and will be, I’m sure, in the future. It definitely doesn’t feel like a short journey.

Jeroen: What is it that you actually do right now? To just come back from aspirations to what is it that you do as a startup founder at this moment. What are your responsibilities? What’re the most important things you do in a day? How does your day look like, basically?

Kevin: A typical day. I mean, again, I’m sure everyone would say there’s no such thing as typical, but it’s likely to include some hiring and some time with my team. Not just my management team, but time spent sitting down with the team here at Refract. Obviously, an amount of time talking with prospective investors, talking strategies, and the like.

I still do a lot of coaching of the sales team, and obviously, that’s important in terms of what we do and the technology that we provide. That’s not just our sales managers and sales leaders doing that, and then finally and probably most importantly, talking to both clients and prospects.

We’re still at a relatively early stage here, and the things that are going to form our journey and the path that we go on, are driven by clients, prospects and the clients that we don’t sign up. The aim is to be able to map our path through the evolution of this market and the evolution of this product.

Jeroen: Sim. Qual é o tamanho da sua equipe de vendas?

Kevin: Nossa equipe de vendas tem sete pessoas até o momento.

Jeroen: Sete pessoas.

Kevin: We’re a team of just over 20 people as a business. So we’re still fairly young, small, agile, and in the learning phase. But we are definitely trying to, as I’m sure, obviously, again, for a lot of your listeners, trying to punch above our weight and achieve a lot with a small team.

Jeroen: Para que tipo de empresas vocês estão vendendo?

Kevin: Nosso maior cliente tem tr√™s mil e quinhentos representantes de vendas em todo o mundo e √© uma das empresas de tecnologia da Fortune 500. Tamb√©m trabalhamos com organiza√ß√Ķes de recrutamento com seis ou sete funcion√°rios, onde o valor dessas conversas √© fundamental para os neg√≥cios e faz a diferen√ßa entre o sucesso que eles t√™m como empresa. Todos os tamanhos, ambos trabalhando com organiza√ß√Ķes.

We also work with a lot of sales trainers, coaches, published authors, who use Refract to create new revenue streams for themselves in providing coaching and distance coaching. But yeah, as I’m sure, again, with a lot of the people listening to this, you see that gradual swimming upstream, the organization is getting bigger. The kind of organizations that are interested in buying this technology are getting gradually bigger too.

Jeroen: Yeah. I’m hearing that you like to do a lot of sales coaching at Refract. Refract is about sales coaching. I’m supposing that is probably one of the skills you bring to your business. What do you think, apart from that, are the skills that you as a founder bring to the business?

Kevin: I think if you were to analyze what do I think that we’re best at as a business, and I guess that …

Jeroen: Na verdade, eu estava perguntando sobre você, mas os negócios também estão bem.

Kevin: I’m probably saying it kind of hiding behind my business with a little modesty. What we’re definitely best at is sales, and we’ve built that model for sales that is designed with scalability in mind from the outset. We sell to sales leaders, so there’s really no hiding place. There is no place for shitty outreach, whether that’s phone, email, or social channels. We’d get found out very quickly. That’s a good and bad thing for us. The bar is really high, and we obviously have to get over that bar in every conversation. We have to impress a sales leader in our own sales skills by virtue of what we’re selling as much as anything else. That is definitely where we’re the strongest. That’s definitely where, I think, the biggest pool of skills lie, and I guess that’s true personally as well as from a business standpoint.

In other areas of the business, I’m complimented with people with a very different skill set in marketing, on the tech side and the customer success side. My background’s sales and that’s been in SaaS and building SaaS sales teams. So yeah, that’s definitely where my experience is, and hopefully, my best skills lie.

Jeroen: Yep. Now, building the company, you always face kind of different growth pains. What are the ones that you’re facing right now? What are the problems that you are fixing right now, let’s say.

Kevin: If we’d had this conversation six months ago, I’d have been filled with a lot more frustration. It felt like we were doing all of the right things, and yet things weren’t going quite as fast as we wanted, or quite as fast as we hoped.

The last six months have changed, from our perspective. It’s felt like my time at the business prior to finding my own business. We went in 18 months, from almost zero dollars to $5 million. We went from five people to 17 people, and frankly, when I look back, it all felt really easy. Comparatively to the rest of my career, it actually was really easy. It just all felt like it was the right thing, the right place, the right time, and we enjoyed a lot of success.

Probably for the first time in my career, I have felt like that time again, where everything feels like it is rolling downhill in a good way. The wheels are turning downhill, should I say, and so that’s maybe challenging us to think a little bit more about, well, what do we do with that? What does the future look like? We’re looking at plans at the moment and thinking, that maybe we can go a little bit faster. What hires do we need to bring forward a little bit more?

I guess the top of mind right now is hiring talent, and we’re in a position that has both pros and cons. We’re based in Newcastle in the northeast of the UK, and there’s a good tech scene here in the city and in the region. But compared to other, more well-known tech environments, it’s relatively small and there’s less experience. That has definitely been good and bad for us.

One of the great things for us is that there are not a lot of great SaaS businesses with genuine global aspirations. Maybe with some people that have been there and done it, and learned some lessons along the way previously. There aren’t that many of those organizations, but equally, the talent pool is smaller, and some of the conversations around how do we hire people outside the region? Are we pulling people to the region? Are we building more of a distance-based team, remote-based team as well? Those are some of the challenges and discussions now, about how do we grow and make sure we build the right talent for that.

Jeroen: Sim. H√° alguma outra startup conhecida em Newcastle?

Kevin: Yeah. But I would say a lot of them fly under the radar. There’s an amazing company based in the northeast called SaleCycle. So SaleCycle has, I’m guessing here, 300 plus employees in 12 countries around the world. They are one the fastest-growing tech companies here in the UK. Not necessarily as well-known or as well-profiled.

There’s another company called Performance Horizon. The founders of that previously sold a business to Google for some uber sums of money, and they’re tearing it up again. Completely unknown is that Newcastle has the only FTSE 100, it’s the equivalent of the Fortune 500 in the US, software company in the UK, in a company called Sage.

Jeroen: Sim.

Kevin: Mas a Sage talvez não seja vista como uma empresa que prioriza o SaaS, e não é vista com os mesmos olhos do ponto de vista tecnológico. Mas ela é notável, pois é a maior empresa com sede no Reino Unido, aqui em Newcastle.

Jeroen: As startups em que você trabalhou também estavam todas em Newcastle?

Kevin: The first one I worked with was in Manchester, which, for those outside of the UK, it’s two and a half, three hours drive away, and I worked remotely. As I said, I was the very first employee there, and probably, if you’d taken geography out, whether I’d still be there or not, I don’t know. But I definitely wouldn’t have left when I did.

I started having a family, and that became just a little bit too difficult, but it was an amazing company. They’ve just done their series B rounds now. They’ve got more people in the US than they have in the UK today, and that was an amazing experience, and I probably bailed too early on that experience. Just through personal circumstance rather than anything else.

Mas isso foi definitivamente um desafio para mim no início de minha carreira. Como encontrar algo baseado em meu local de trabalho, e eu estava pessoalmente ligado à região. Como encontrar as empresas certas, e acho que isso acelerou minha jornada de fazer algo por conta própria.

Jeroen: Yeah. You got a wife and kids, and then you started your own business to be able to manage that better. That’s contrary to what people normally would do. Normally, wife and kids, you get a well-paying consulting job in some kind of corporate company where you don’t have to do too much.

Kevin: The answer is definitely both. And I think there may be a little good story here. I was working for this company, Communicator, as I say. This is the job where it all just felt really easy, and we were doing great, and I left about 18 months before they were acquired, to start The Test Factory. At that point, I thought it was all really easy, and let’s do something myself, and I just felt ready to take that leap, and perhaps a little bit conscious as well aware of the opportunities in the region.

I came home, and I discussed this. I told my wife and she burst into tears. She then got her mum around, and her mum burst into tears, and her mum begged me, like, you need to have a proper job, you need to make sure you can provide for your family. I had a second child on the way, and again, I’m sure this resonates with a lot of the people listening. My wife is completely risk-averse. She’s completely opposite to me. The thought of starting a business, I think she actually called it one of my hair-brain ideas. The thought of starting was horrific, whilst having a young family and the responsibilities that you have, both financially and otherwise.

Yeah, she cried. She always thought it was a bad idea, and I have to say, she thought it was a bad idea until the day that it was acquired. And then it’s been quite interesting because now she encourages. I encourage my kids a lot too. They’re still quite young, but to think entrepreneurially, and think about what they want to do might include being entrepreneurial or doing something themselves.

Jeroen: Sim.

Kevin: We talk about it quite a lot, and we play what we call “Dragon’s Den” here – Shark Tank in the US. I play that with my kids. You know, they come up with their business ideas, and they think about pitching it, and then we have a negotiation. Now my wife’s really embracing that and thinks this would be a great idea for our kids, to go through that challenge.

But I will say, and again, I’m sure this is the same for a lot of people listening. It’s a rollercoaster, right? You know, for all of us, it’s a rollercoaster. One day, you’re really high, the next day, it’s really low, and it goes up and down, and you choose to ride that roller coaster. Definitely, for my wife, she not only not rides that rollercoaster, but she also doesn’t want to ride that roller coaster.

I don’t talk about work at all now at home. As in literally we’ll be going through a funding round or we’ll sign up a big client, and I’ll hardly say anything, because I know she doesn’t want to ride that roller coaster. If I only mention the good things, she knows that I’m not mentioning the bad things, so yeah. That’s the dynamics, I guess, that have worked for us, but I’m sure, again, for lots of people listening, those dynamics between your work life and personal life are hard to balance.

Jeroen: Talvez para alguns dos que estão nos estágios iniciais agora, começando, como você vendeu para sua esposa que começaria algo de qualquer maneira? Você tinha um plano reserva pronto?

Kevin: In truth, I didn’t. In truth, I probably became quite headstrong and decided this is what I’m going to do, and made that decision. I think if it had been a collective decision, it would have never happened. But I’d have had that itch, and I’d have never been happy just going through, working for someone else. Yeah, I probably used all of whatever sales skills I have to try and best present this as a favorable outcome for her. That wasn’t an easy sell. That was a hard audience.

Jeroen: Sim. Como você equilibra seu trabalho e sua vida no momento? Que tipo de horas você trabalha e como garante que as coisas permaneçam equilibradas?

Kevin: In terms of hours in the office, it’s not too bad. I do try and balance life. I’ve got three young boys, and that’s obviously important. I’m lucky to have a great management team here as well, and yeah, we all share that philosophy. I think the thing that we all find, and again, my wife says this to me. She’s like, “You’re never there. I can always see you’re thinking about something else. You don’t feel like you’re in the room half the time,” and the truth is that that’s true. When you’re not working, you’re still working. You’re thinking about all those things, and playing through all those things, and yeah, I don’t think that stops.

I think I do a good job of a work-life balance, but yeah, I say this. I’m just about to go on holiday, on vacation, tomorrow, and you can’t turn off, you know? Obviously, it’s the same for all of us, and we don’t want to turn off.

You want to be involved. You want to still have an impact. But it’s a balance. I think probably one of the hardest things for any founder, is how do you get that personal balance – particularly with people that haven’t chosen to make the choices that you have. Whether that’s a partner, children, whatever. They’ve not made those choices that you have, and you’ve got to be respectful of that.

Jeroen: Yeah. Talking about going on vacation and turning off, don’t you feel like, after a certain amount of time, you can start turning off? When it’s too short, you never really switch it off, but when it’s long enough, then you can. Then it even becomes a bit harder to come back into the same flow, or you don’t have that at all?

Kevin: Honestly, I don’t. And it’s not that I feel that, that’s missing or lacking. That’s definitely a choice. Sitting by the side of the pool in the sun with my phone, chatting to people on Slack or seeing what’s happening on email is relaxing for me, and is a break for me. I appreciate that that’s not necessarily everyone’s choice, but I think, again, that’s more typical of founders who don’t necessarily want to turn off completely. But yeah, that’s definitely the case for me.

Jeroen: Sim. Que livro você planeja ler à beira da piscina?

Kevin: Every book that I’m taking with me is either a sales book or a business book, and the ones that I’ve got packed at the moment, actually, are the sales book one of the guys we work with, a guy called Jeb Blount, has just published. A book called “Objections”, and I’m reading that. A lady called Tamara Schenk has written a book on sales enablement. That’s probably quite specific to the area that we’re in, and I know obviously for yourself as well, Jeroen. She’s written some great stuff, so I’m excited to read that book.

Most of them are sales books. Some of them are business books, but yeah, I read a lot. Or no, I don’t read a lot. I probably listen to more podcasts and things like that. Going on holiday is probably the time I most prolifically read, but yeah, it’s normally sales books, much to my wife’s disgust.

Jeroen: Você acha que ainda aprende muito ao ler esses livros de vendas? Você os lê de capa a capa?

Kevin: Cover to cover, marking things in the book. Learning all the time, and we’re all just on a journey, and I think sometimes you learn things that you never thought of before. Sometimes you’re kind of reminded of things that you knew but you know you don’t do as much as you could. Sometimes it just puts a different complexion on a problem or a challenge that you’re having, or a particular situation or scenario.

Learning all the time, and genuinely, when I go on a sales conversation, I record it and I share it with my team. I ask them to coach me and give me feedback. Every conversation can be played out differently and better, and especially with the opportunity to reflect and think about that. Yeah, learning all the time, without any shadow of a doubt. You kind of wonder where you are on that learning journey. We’re all just right at the start.

Jeroen: Yeah. Finally, what’s the best piece of advice you ever got?

Kevin: The best piece of advice I ever got. That’s a good question. I think that was when I worked at Adidas. I’ve never actually told this person this, but when I worked at Adidas, I had a great boss. She was quite a scary woman. A lot of people in the organization were quite scared of her, but she was a great boss for me, and she was the first person to really recognize that there was a salesperson in me.

I was working in marketing at that point in time for Adidas, and then on the digital side. I kind of had a view of sales which was, I guess, very old-fashioned, and that it was about being very tough, and an awful lot of rejection. I wasn’t really sure if that was me, and she definitely coached me, even though that wasn’t her job to do, and it wasn’t part of her remit in her team. She really coached me that there was a salesperson inside of me, and really helped me see that. I’m always really grateful to that. I think that was the best advice. Not necessarily a single line or a single line of advice, but someone that helped me find myself and helped me find my path was that time at Adidas.

Jeroen: Legal. Obrigado, Kevin. Obrigado por participar do Founder Coffee.

Kevin: Fant√°stico. Obrigado, Jeroen. Muito obrigado.


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Jeroen Corthout