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“There’s really two tracks within revenue operations: you can really deep dive and become a very strong IC, or you can grow and become a strong leader.”
She shares what strategies to implement when you are the lone wolf and what she thinks makes a good RevOps leader with RevOps Therapist and CEO and founder of Greaser Consulting, Jordan Greaser.
For a deep dive into what it takes to support and run a RevOps motion, listen in.
Hi everyone, this is Jordan, the owner and CEO of Greaser Consulting. On this episode of RevOps Therapy, we have Hannah Duncan showing up. She has been on multiple teams in RevOps; she’s spearheaded new RevOps teams, is the first hire and then goes out and hires. We’re going to be talking about just a thought process with lean teams, hiring, like when do you know it’s time to stop being an individual contributor and bring that next person on. Just a lot of really good tidbits here. Just thinking about RevOps in general, and how that whole motion works, really at the beginning stages, so lean in, enjoy. And here we go.
Say you want some clarity in sales and marketing and SEP? Well, we have just the remedy: Our podcast, RevOps Therapy. Yeah.
Hi, everyone, we’ve got Hannah with us today. Introduce yourself.
Hi, I’m Hannah Duncan. And I’m currently the head of Revenue Operations at Logixboard.
Well, Hannah, you’re… I always like to do an origin story with, like, here’s the guests, here’s how we kind of met, and I have to say this. And I’m not saying this… I don’t say this to everyone. Your story is one of like, my favorite stories of all time. In the early days of Greaser Consulting, a guy named Theron and I were working together; we were prospecting into some different companies. And I can’t even remember what company you were at, at the time. But you were on the list; we had pinged you and said, “Hey, Hannah, you know, let’s look at your Outreach, let’s do this, whatever.” And we got one of the most baller responses that we’ve ever got, like, and I mean this in, like, all of sales reps. Like, do you, do you remember what you said? Because I do.
I don’t remember verbatim, but we’ve talked about it.
Yeah, yeah. So listen, this is who this guest is that is on the line today. She responds back and says, you know, “I don’t think I need help. In fact, I think I could do consulting for you. Because I blah, blah, blah.” And she kind of gives this like resume of like, here’s why I could show you what to do. And it was like, oh my gosh, so like, we just couldn’t, we couldn’t help ourselves. We’re like, yeah, let’s hop on a call together, let’s talk. So we actually hopped on a call, spoke with Hannah, got to know her a little bit and then sure enough, we hired her. She ended up doing some consulting work for us, what was that for like, half a year or something? It was during like a job transition? Yeah, eight months. Yeah. And, and to this day, she was like, one of our best consultants, still a little salty she doesn’t work with us today. But I thought, hey, if somebody could email back and say “no, in fact, I’ll give you, I’ll bill you for my service.” Okay, we got to talk to this person. So with that in mind…
That’s my background in sales before I got into RevOps, right?
Yeah, exactly. Listen, I mean, I loved it. I thought, this is amazing. And, and it was no surprise at all, when you started working with salespeople from this operational background, that you just dominated every consulting contract you had. So anyway, too many accolades here, we’re gonna move on. But, that’s how we met. I think it’s one of the funnest things in the world. And I know that today’s topic is really just this idea of, of going from being on a team, to then being an individual contributor, and now you’re building out a team again, and sort of the path there. And that’s something I actually see. I see quite a few folks do this, that maybe they’re managers, or they’re directors or whatever else, and then they’ll be tasked with starting a new division at a company. But like at first, you still have to be the practitioner. And so could you give a little bit of your background first on, like your experience in managing teams and kind of how you got to the role you’re in today? Because that’s going to set the stage for the rest of the conversation.
Yeah, of course, my, I kind of went back and forth between team and team of one. So when I started in RevOps, I was on a team, which I think was really helpful. I was able to get mentorship and learn about Salesforce, sales operations, revenue operations. Then I went on and was a team of one for a while. And then in my previous role, I led a team, and now I’m back to being a team and team of one and so it’s been a transition back and forth. I think, for me, kind of the, the reason I ended up transitioning back is I really love building, I mean, I love getting my hands dirty and rolling up my sleeves and doing the work and building out the team. So that’s kind of what I’m in today in my current role back to a team of one.
Out of curiosity, these companies that you kind of teeter-totter, teeter-totter back and forth with, was there like a size component that there was like a specific size that you sort of joined, did not join? This is why it kind of justified a team of one, or like in today’s sort of… everybody needs to run lean, it’s a bigger company and you’re still a team of one?
I think it can be both. My experience has more been, the first RevOps hire for the company. Maybe they’re, you know, Series B, series, it’s usually like Series A, Series B, they’re just building out a RevOps function. And then kind of writing that as they grow to Series C, Series D; that’s been my experience. And I like it because you come in and when you are that first RevOps hire, there hasn’t been anyone in place yet. So you’re kind of doing a lot of cleanup, problem-solving, untangling things, and for someone who likes solving, solving the puzzle and likes doing that type of work, it’s a great role. Cause you get to then build it, once you do all of that, once you untangle any tech debt, you get to build it from the ground up with your vision.
What are the most common things that, when you get into an org for the first time, you’re like, well, we’re gonna have this problem, we’re gonna have that problem, we’re gonna like, you know, is it like a reoccurring theme? And usually, I hear something like, “well, they took an AE and moved them into ops or something with no background, and it doesn’t mean they’re not good. It just means they haven’t seen the scope before.” Like, what’s the common sort of one, two things that, that you unravel each time?
I mean, that’s exactly it; we see this a lot in consulting, too. But in my experience, you come in, and someone who is probably part of the go-to market team is, you know, the Salesforce admin on the account and adding fields but doesn’t have the technical expertise or certifications to really own the tech stack. And a lot of times I see they buy the tech stack before they hire the, the team to administer the tools. And so a lot of it is just that: it’s, you know, creating fields in the wrong format. But text fields instead of picklist, like common things that an ops person would know to untangle and rebuild. But these, most of the systems you work with are very customizable, which is a blessing and a curse. Because when well managed, they can become really complex, beautiful systems. But if you don’t have the right person in seat, it can also go the other way; they can get very tangled and messy and your data’s not correct, or you can’t take any insights out of that data.
So there’s an, there’s a really interesting, like with your story on how you went from on a team, to individual, to on a team, going to an individual. There’s, I don’t want to say… I don’t want to say there’s a ton of research, but there’s at least a lot of just patterns out there in the tech world where you see folks that, that are really technical, that really work on that individual contributor layer, that don’t necessarily want to become managers. Because it takes a fundamentally different skill in order to be a manager, and you’re less doing the work and you’re more doing the delegation and scoping and whatever. And so what I really want to drill in with you, you know, now that we’ve sort of set the stage is, is walk me through how you can sort of run between those two worlds constantly of you’ve been on the team and you’ve done the strategy, but then you get really tactical and technical and somehow you seem to enjoy doing both?
Yeah, it’s a great question. I think you’re right, there’s really two tracks within revenue operations, right, you can really deep dive and become a very strong IC, or you can grow and become a strong leader. And inevitably, you have to give up some of your IC work, the more direct reports you have, and the larger your team gets. For me, I always have loved projects and taking on the biggest problem for the company. And that, that does, you can still do that while leading a team. There’s a tipping point, though; I think when you have one or two direct reports, and depending on how senior they are, the level of autonomy they have. You can definitely still do that be a hands-on keyboard director or leader of the department. But there definitely is a tipping point. And for me, I know my sweet spot. I’m very passionate about still doing the work. And I want to be that hands-on keyboard director that’s still taking on large projects and still in the weeds and growing in my own technical expertise and, and still learning, if that makes sense.
So is there a, is there a specific size of company or maybe it’s a type of process okay, I mean, not to oversimplify, where the job has officially become beyond what you just call it the keyboard director, like when you get to this certain point, like, you have to make the call that you can’t be that anymore?
I think there definitely is a size of company, for sure. I think it’s also the size of team. I think, for me, and in my experience, you know, once I started managing four or five, six, ops analysts and managers underneath me, that’s where I felt I couldn’t do as much of individual contribute, contributor work, and was, you know, tied up in one-on-ones and mentoring the team, which I also really loved. But I think for me, that was kind of the tipping point of when I started to see it becoming more of me leading the team and mentoring, then me taking on large projects and being more predominantly an IC.
How do you let go? Like, this is the question with folks that are really technical, is like you have a way, you know the right way to do it. But when the team gets to that size, I mean, you can’t, you can’t be that person anymore. So how do you let go?
Yeah, it was my first time really doing that, that portion. It was definitely difficult for me at first. I think so much of it came down to trust, trusting the team and letting go one piece at a time, and realizing when I let it go, it didn’t. it didn’t fall apart. Nothing, nothing bad happened, right? And I think it’s a comfortability thing as you start to let go more, you become more comfortable doing so. So for me, it was a slow evolution of being, becoming more comfortable delegating and making sure I was still involved from a mentorship standpoint on certain pieces of the projects.
How do you navigate the, and this is like, this is kind of less of an ops question. But I mean, I guess it still sort of fits; this is kind of like a human career progression question. How do you navigate in your own mind the, “okay, we’re at six people, I need to hand off, and now I’m going into this director thing, and now my whole role has changed, so I need to either develop, or like, this is, this is a natural development process that we need to jump into that next layer of my career” versus, “hey, I know I’m a Series A, Series B RevOps director, like, that’s not a world that I want to touch. I’m going to just; I’m going to start a team, I’m going to grow it to six; once it gets there, and it’s happy, I’m gonna move”? Like, like, how do you actually go through that decision-making process of, ooh, because it’s not really next level, but just to frame it that way, like, I need to transition into this next phase, or I know my sweet spot, and I don’t want to touch that?
I, for me, I think I can still have that same level of career growth in my way, if that makes sense. So it’s the ability to always be learning and taking on bigger projects. So for example, now I report up into our CFO, and I’m getting more exposure to finance. And I think there’s a lot of bigger projects that you’re able to work on for, you know, annual planning and getting involved with really building the business that you get exposure to even if you are taking on more of an IC role. I don’t think you necessarily have to choose. I think for me, it’ll inevitably kind of come down to… am I still learning and growing? Because I think you can, I don’t want to just grow in my role by hiring and hiring more people and people underneath me; I think a lot… That is, I think, how some people experience career growth: they build the largest teams and inherently keeps moving them up. I want to grow in the type of problems I get to solve and the impact I’m able to have on the business. And if that’s with a team of six, or with a team of two, that portion to me is, matters less if that makes sense.
So what’s an example of like a brand-new business process? And I’m just curious, like, even in your new role. Like, you’re an individual contributor right now, you’re in a brand new business product, like why is that fascinating to you versus the like, let’s actually manage six people would empower them?
I think the thing that I’m really enjoying right now is getting to build things out my way with more experience, right? So the last time I was a team of one, I was, you know, a manager level; it was my second RevOps job. I hadn’t seen or done as much. And getting to experience that, go through that but with a different level of experience and vision has been really fun because I’m building things differently and building things, honestly, more simply, in some ways and thinking about the scalability of them. And I’ve really enjoyed that portion.
So, I know today you’re a lean RevOps, you’ve been on teams, you’ve been by yourself. When you’re trying to specifically run lean, are there, like, rules of the road that you just don’t say yes to certain things because you’re a lean team? I mean, what, what’s the decision-making process there? And how does that work out?
Yeah, 100%, I think coming in knowing I was a team of one, I did things right from day one. I blocked my calendar really heavily and I kind of thought to myself, like this portion of the day and my morning, I’m going to be doing IC work; I’m not going to take meetings. I’m going to be in the systems building. And then later, half of my day, I’d be open to meetings and meeting with stakeholders. So I think that was a big portion, I’m probably in about half as many meetings in this role than I was in my previous role and that was a decision knowing that I have to operate lean. I think another, another piece is knowing that this company got to this size without RevOps in place means that the current team knows how to do reporting and has been able to operate this far without me, right? And so I have continued to enable my managers and stakeholders to build some of their own reporting and take, you know, update dashboard filters, or enabling them to do smaller items within systems has helped me a lot. Versus you know, on a larger team, basically, every report built in Salesforce was probably built by the RevOps team. And as a team of one that can’t be the case. So enabling SDR manager, sales managers, the go-to-market team.
You talked about drawing that boundary right out of the gate. I’m curious. And you don’t have to, you don’t have to, I guess, sell out your current team. But as you’ve built boundaries in ops, which department do you see is the one that’s like, sort of pushing the list of most in saying, “hey, I need it now, I need it now. Like, I know, there’s a queue, but I need it now.”
You know, I bypass some of that, because I think putting a roadmap in place has helped me a ton. There’s a visual representation of what the team’s working on. And I, I think in previous roles, I’ve made the mistake of meeting with each go-to-market function individually and taking action items. So I would meet with marketing, sales, customer experience, finance, each individually and take a list of action items. I’ve now kind of flipped that and being a lean team and I meet with the department heads for all of those departments bi-weekly, and together, we decide what the roadmap will be and together, we prioritize it. And so that’s helped me because when everyone’s in the room, and they’re hearing how many things need to be done, it helps everyone understand what is on the RevOps team’s plate. And so those two pieces have helped me a ton.
Well, I think that’s a really good thing to point out because, and I hate to say this, you can… all the ops people listening to… they get mad at me. Is, I’ve told people that are like new into this world and they’re trying to understand how do the different departments work? And what do you, you know, when you work with sales, they tend to be a little more like this, marketing tends… I tend to tell folks when you work with ops folks, they tend to be pretty analytical and pretty grumpy all the time. And everyone’s like, what are you talking about? Like, well, hold on a second. I’m not saying necessarily that ops people are just like, inherently grumpy. What I’m saying is, they tend to have way more on their plate than what everybody recognizes. And they get things that they get, well, you just do that in two hours. It takes two weeks or, and the list is huge. And we need it now. And where is it? And I said so they tend to be underpaid, overworked, and underappreciated for what they do. So like, it’s not like they’re, they’re grouchy at life or whatever, and whatever. It’s just like, “I got a lot to do, get to the point,” right? So I know that there’s, yeah, yeah. There’s that tension, for sure. And anyway, as you, as you think about that, and you’re running lean, and you’re doing this altogether, I had a company that they really taught me I think what you’re saying about here, they call it the three gears, and they would have product marketing and sales meet together all the time. And that’s where all their operations work came out of in those, that three gears meeting. And it sounds like operationally, you have a like a pretty similar motion, right?
Yeah, and it’s the first time I feel like I’ve gotten it right, if that makes sense. Like it, for now it’s feeling really scalable because I have alignment and then when asks come in from you know, managers or other stakeholders that aren’t in that meeting, I’m able to point to the roadmap and point to what, you know, their department heads kind of decided was the priority. And it helps me say “no” more to smaller asks, so I can focus on my bigger priorities that, okay, are level projects I need to be focusing on.
How often do you play mediator, though? When you put yourself in this position, like, are you now the like the great mediator between sales and marketing now in its true sense?
Oh, I’ve been mediator, mediator in countless roles and countless times. I am very fortunate with this team that the leadership team is very aligned. So I haven’t had to step in, in that place. But I think, commonly, RevOps gets put in that position of aligning two departments. And that adds to not only the complexity of the problems you’re, you’re going to take but until there’s alignment, you aren’t really able to take action and execute on whatever strategic decision was decided.
So you’re the first hire, you’re doing all this work. And you’ve let me know even before this podcast that you’re like, starting to think about hiring somebody. At what point do you now come before the team and you say, “listen, it’s time.” How do you know it’s time? And who’s the number two hire? You’ll read on LinkedIn about or, you know, different consulting companies will say your first RevOps hires should be… Who’s your second hire?
See, I think it is very dependent on who your first hire is. So for me, my experience has been in, you know, as an SDR, I started in sales operations and then I grew into revenue operations and I’ve had most experience with sales and CS teams. Marketing Ops is not my expertise. And so I knew, pretty much from the start, that we brought in a lot of new marketing leadership; we have a new VP and a new director on that side. It was very clear to me that my first hire and role would be a marketing ops manager. But that could vary. If I had a lot of marketing ops experience, that probably wouldn’t be my first hire. Right? So I’m filling in an area that is a weakness for me. So our overall team is more well-rounded.
And how do you know it’s time to make that, make that hire?
For… I think there were a few reasons specifically. We do have new leadership coming in, and there hasn’t been a dedicated marketing ops person in place. So you kind of you overall, look at the data and systems on that side, as well as the visibility our VP of Marketing has today. It’s, it is clear that we need, you know, a marketing ops manager to help support that role. So sometimes it’s very clear; in that case, it was. Other times it’s more due based on bandwidth constraints. So if I come in, I’m a team of one and I’m at capacity but there’s a lot of important things that the business still needs done fast, then, the RevOps leader needs to firmly advocate for headcount. I do this and in ways by saying “no” to certain tools, unless we also add on the headcount to support that system. An example of that would be like, we want to bring on, you know, maybe Zendesk, or Gainsight, or invest in our customer experience software. And at this time, I would have to say no to those tools, until we had someone in CS ops that’s able to support those fully.
Well, you bring up an interesting point on that, because, and you said this right at the beginning of the podcast, that most often folks buy the tool, and then they find somebody to administer it. And you’re turning that upside down. And you’re saying, we need to get the person who can administer it, and then go out and get the tool.
100%, it should be more concurrent. And you should think about the ops investment when you’re making the tool investment. And it should scale, right, like you can’t have a Series B company with a Series D tech stack, and a Series B ops team; it will result in a lot of tech debt, and you won’t actually get your full value out of those systems without the team in them. And I think you’d be surprised with how much you can get out of this core tech stack. If you have strong system admins and RevOps in place. You might not need all of these additional tools. A lot of times you’re buying tools to solve a problem that maybe could be fixed if you’re just re-using the systems correctly.
So we’re going to round out in this vein: you, you had said how you came up through sales and your next hire here at this company needs to be marketing. I had a podcast. I can’t remember which one it was. But the guy’s name was Tony. He’s a European-based guy; he does this all the time. And he had some strong opinions about, you know who should be… there’s no one way to RevOps leadership. But there’s probably a couple paths that may be better than others. So I’m, I’m curious in your mind, if somebody is going to take over that big umbrella of RevOps? Is it, is it best if you’ve come from sales, best if you’ve come from marketing, best if you come from finance, best if you come from like a straight operations mindset period? Like what, is there a right path in your mind? Or is it just kind of like, oh, you know, all roads lead to heaven?
I don’t think there’s necessarily a right or wrong path. I think it’s dependent on the company. I think there are businesses that need a more financially savvy RevOps leader, if it’s a more complex business, if there’s that, there’s demand in that way, I think you would be more suited having someone come from finance. But then in other cases, if, you know, I don’t know quite exactly how to answer this. But basically, what I’m trying to get at, to get at is if your business, the needs of the business are more strategic and more complex, then you probably would benefit from having someone with a finance background, in your major RevOps department, but I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer. I think it’s all these.
Do you have an obligation as a RevOps leader to then round yourself out in all these departments? Or do you have the obligation to just surround yourself with the right team?
I think it’s knowing your strengths and weaknesses. I still think you should round out… like the goal would be to be a direct generalist across. I need to know enough about marketing operations that I can mentor and meet a marketing ops manager. And I need to know enough about finance that I can help inform our bottoms-up model. And I need to know enough about sales, right? I think it’s, you need to be a generalist in each way. And I think there are multiple ways you can rise into leadership roles within RevOps. It can be by being, you know, phenomenal at systems and rounding out. That’s your specialty and, and rounding out your skill set in other ways. I do think eventually, that what is asked of RevOps leaders that might not be asked at different levels is the financial portion and being able to provide insight and do the analytics piece of the role, I think is what comes up more often.
The strictly BI finance dollars and cents side of the job.
It all I think, really every department, the closer you get to VP and C-level, the more finance, financial acumen is needed. So I think, inherently knowing how all of the systems and all of the departments tie into the financial model is very important.
Well, the other podcast guest, Tony, is gonna like that answer, because he came from finance. So you got to score two points there. But it’s just, it’s a fascinating thing.
I don’t know if I worded it correctly, but I, we got there.
Yeah, well, I think it’s a fascinating thing, though. The, this whole move of RevOps, where all the sudden, there’s this like umbrella that understands all the different worlds. But even as I’ve thought about that, with myself, it’s like I come from sales. So I have a heavy bias on the ops on that side. Right? And it’s, it’s hard to kind of work through that; it isn’t to say that I don’t know that the other areas aren’t valuable. But the place that you sort of cut your teeth in, right, like, of course, you’re just kind of the expert in that arena. But you, I mean, you really have to push yourself for your, in your example here to like, I got to really know the financials; I got to really understand the marketing. It doesn’t mean I have to do all of it. But I got to continue to stretch into a place that, that, you know, is a little bit more foreign, because it didn’t start there. Right?
Yeah and I think it’s tied back to the if we go back to the size of company, I think, if your first RevOps hire has a finance background that might, might not serve you if you need to build out and implement Salesforce and Outreach and systems, right? There’s, I kind of think of the responsibilities of RevOps in kind of a pyramid, and at the foundation, you need the systems and the data structured correctly, so that you can do the analysis and draw insights. And so having, you know, a strong systems person, if you’re only going to have one is, is pretty important to building the foundation so that your data is accurate. So when you do draw insights to inform the financial model, they’re based on accurate data.
Well, there’s a podcast for the next time you know: what series is what part of the pyramid and everything else? But I’m looking at, I’m looking at the clock here. And I think we’re right at time. So Hannah, I wanted to say thanks for coming on and for everybody listening today. Thanks for tuning in. Hannah, any final words for folks?
I don’t think so. If you have any questions about RevOps or are interested in marketing operations, I’m hiring for that role.
Ahwhoo! Here we go. Reach out, find you on LinkedIn, is that the best place? Okay. All right. See you later crew, bye Hannah.
Okay. All right. See you later crew, bye Hannah.
Hot dog. That was a great episode. Thanks for listening. If you want to learn more about Greaser Consulting or any information you heard on today’s episode, visit us online at www.greaserconsulting.com. Be sure to click the Follow button and the bell icon to be notified on the latest here at RevOps Therapy. Thanks and see you real soon.