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Kim Gorsuch

Episode 9: Business Process Reengineering Tools, with Kim Gorsuch

Kim Gorsuch, the CEO and founder of Weeva, Inc., is a growth oriented executive, comfortable with starting things from scratch and growing them to scale using business process reengineering tools — which she will share later on. Her professional experience includes helping LendingTree grow from approximately $200,000 in revenue to $750M at its peak. She was also the GM of LendingTree’s Real Estate businesses, managing a $60M P&L. Her diverse experience has included launching start-ups within larger companies (e.g. Strategy Consulting Services within IBM) as well as working with established brands on growth strategies (SVP of Strategy at IACI.)

Currently, she is founder and CEO of Weeva. Weeva is disrupting the ways in which people capture and preserve collective experience.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Kim’s background
  • Business process reengineering: how this changed from taking 3-6 months when Kim was at IMB to 1 week at LendingTree
  • What Weeva does and how Kim came to found it
  • Weeva’s process (collecting content, designing the books, etc.)
  • Why Weeva’s technology is very intuitive and how they work with customers of varying skill sets
  • Intercom: the third party chat/email tool that Weeva has integrated into their system
  • The part of the process that Kim loves the most
  • The parts of the process that needed to be revised
  • How Weeva decides what to build into their product next
  • What’s next for Weeva

Ways to contact Kim:

Transcript:

Welcome to System Execution. The strategy and system behind today’s successful companies. Systems can make or break your company. But here, we’ll solve your physical, technological, and psychological systems issues by connecting you with experts that have succeeded in overcoming those challenges in their own business. And providing you the guidelines and tools you need to implement those same strategies for immediate results.

Now, here’s your host, Vera Fischer.

Vera: Welcome to System Execution, a podcast devoted to using processes and systems to drive to a better outcome for your business. I’m Vera Fischer, your host.

All businesses, no matter the size, relies on systems. Some of these are physical systems, such as a factory. Some are technological, like project management software. While others are psychological systems, such as checklists, organizational charts, and many others.

A lot of these systems will overlap in your business. Today’s guest, who I’m very excited to introduce, is Kim Gorsuch. Well, she will be discussing a system that has contributed to her success. Now let me tell you about Kim, because she has an amazing, diverse background. She is the CEO and founder of Weeva. First, Kim is really a growth oriented executive. She’s very comfortable with starting things from scratch and growing them to scale. Her professional experience includes helping LendingTree grow from approximately 200,000 in revenue to 750 million in revenue at its peak.

She was also the general manager of LendingTree’s real estate businesses, managing a 60 million dollar P&L. Her diverse experience has included launching start ups, including her own, within larger companies, in other words, strategy consulting services with IBM as well as working with established brands on gross strategies at larger companies.

Welcome to System Execution, Kim.

Kim Gorsuch: Thank you. It’s so awesome to be here.

Vera: Kim, I’ve given System Execution listeners a brief glimpse into your background. So let’s just take a minute or two and tell us more about you and your experience. And then we’ll dive into your particular system and the business process reengineering tools behind it that you’d want to share with us.

Kim Gorsuch: Fantastic. So, I have had a very diverse career, as you mentioned. I did a wide range of jobs at IBM. They range from technical to marketing to consulting. And one of the consulting jobs was business process reengineering back in the day when that was quite the catchword. And one of the things I learned back then was the importance of really understanding the processes, the important ones, from start to finish.

And back in the day, it used to to take, three to six months to look at a complex process. When I went to LendingTree, which by the way was similarly complex. I learned that you could also do process re-engineering in the space of about a week. And that was incredible, obviously because it really accelerated your ability to create results for the companies that you were working with. And at LendingTree, our goal was to help make sure that we got a customer a really good loan officer when banks compete, you win. And the goal always was to get four different, distinct offers for the customer and then we also made sure that the lenders that we partnered with could also deliver a really great customer experience.

So, what I learned is A, the importance of knowing what your processes are, making sure that all the right people are involved in designing and tuning them and then also, that speed is everything. You don’t need to spend forever on this but you do need to spend enough time to get it right.

Vera: Well that’s really cool. I want a little bit of clarification, Kim, if you don’t mind on back in the day at IBM, when it took three to six months to do process reengineering and then fast forward to your time at LendingTree, it taking a week. So can you just dive into that little bit, just a bit, so we can understand what changed?

Kim Gorsuch: Well, one of the things that changed is, at LendingTree … was a smaller company. But still at the time, we had about 100 people who still had to be coordinated against the services that we were delivering. And I think the big thing that changed is when we used to do the consulting at IBM, we would look at all of the different components, like HR, the process flow, technology, etc. All the different parts that needed to be optimized. And what I learned at LendingTree is to a very large extent, you could look at the part that was most significant. So sometimes, it’s the way that work flows through the system from person to person. Sometimes the most important thing is the technology. Other times it’s the HR practices being it, etc.

But they don’t all deserve complete comprehensive treatments. You actually can cherry pick the parts that are most important.

Vera: Okay, that’s fascinating. So let’s keep going. Is this … what system would you like to focus on today and educate our listeners about or we can continue on in the vein that we’re talking at this time?

Kim Gorsuch: Well, I would like to talk about Weeva. And …

Vera: Great!

Kim Gorsuch: First, little bit of introductions. So, what Weeva does is help people create crowd sourced books. And what I mean by that is that somebody begins a project and invites other people to collaborate directly in collecting favorite stories, favorite photos around that person, place or an event.

So sometimes for consumers that’s like a birthday, for companies, it might be an anniversary, and other cases it can be a thought leadership piece around something like entrepreneurship. So what we do is we facilitate the collection using our online platform. And then, when people are done collecting, we, the Weeva team, edit and design these beautiful coffee table books.

And the process I’d like to focus on today is really the production end. Because as you can imagine, we’ve got all this fantastic content that the customer has collected and then we go through a very streamlined process of editing all that content. So we edit for grammar and punctuation and spelling and sense making. so you know how sometimes you might be writing and maybe you get a little distracted, phone call comes in, etc. You lose your place. We will clean all of that up and make sure that everybody has a really good story that’s going to find its way into the book.

Vera: So Kim, how did you come up with this idea for Weeva? What was the inspiration?

Kim Gorsuch: So my father became seriously ill and it was one of those times where …you know, he’s the rock of the family. He’s always healthy and suddenly, he’s down for the count. He had something called Myocarditis, which is a disease of the heart and within the space of about 3 days, almost all of his organs failed. So, it was this incredibly scary experience where three things happened all at once.

One is you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh. We do need to write these stories down,” and I would particularly like to have them in my dad’s voice because he’s the storyteller of the family.

The second thing is that people came out of the woodwork wanting to know what they could do to help. And the truth is, that unless they were a heart surgeon, there really wasn’t much they could do. And so, my thought was just write him a letter and tell him what he’s meant to you. Tell him how important he is in your life. And my thought was that we would be showing him that impact that he’s had on other people and really showing him his life’s work, his life’s legacy.

And then the third thing is I observed that, over the course of three hospitals, that many people are, when they become seriously ill, sometimes the family can’t be there, right? They got work commitments. They might live in another country or in another state. And by creating this online platform, everybody could participate regardless of where they were. And so Weeva really started with this idea of let’s celebrate people and the impact that they have on others. Let’s deepen the connection and meaning between them. And what we’ve learned since then, is that that is like the most amazing thing ever. When somebody gets a book of fifty love letters, they’re stunned. And we change lives. People reconsider the relationships. They suddenly see that ‘Oh my gosh. Other people know me. They love me. The see me. And I matter.’

And so, that’s what Weeva does for our consumers. But we also have the same effect for celebrities. Vera, as you know, we’ve done books for Leonard Cohen, who’s a singer/song writer. We’ve done a book recently for David Bowie. And their families and even the celebrities will have the same impact. People know me. They love me. It matters.

Vera: So I love that story, Kim. I mean it’s just phenomenal. So, you know, let’s fast forward a little bit and you’ve had the inspiration. You’ve decided to start Weeva. And you’ve got to have some systems to gather the information, figure it all out and produce it. And I’m really glossing over a lot of the nuts and bolts. So, I think you really wanted to focus on the actual production of how you get this done. So, let’s start with step one. And talk to us about how you do that and then any insider or do overs that you had to do, would be great hear.

Kim Gorsuch: Well, we have really two phases that we think about when we’re working with customers.

One is the collection period. Where the task there is to help the customer structure the project and make sure that we’re collecting information that is going to be highly valued. In the case of the company, it might be ‘Here are the four or five objectives that we want to achieve’ and then we will work with them to set up the collection to make sure that we accomplish that. Really, the thought process is exactly the same with a consumer book. If we’re celebrating someone, we will help them set up the project on Weeva. We’ll give them suggestions and advice on how to get the best possible results from people. Because, some people are shy about their writing. Some people might not know what to write about. So we’ll give people guidance on how to collect the best possible content.

And then the customer does that pretty much on their own. And at the end, we’ll start to work with them around, ‘Okay. We’re about to convert this book of letters into an actual book.’ And we have to get things like introductions and contributors lists, cover photo, the final title. All those brook details. So we guide the customer through a process to make sure that we get something that they’re going to be really happy with.

And at the same time, we’re looking over their content, we have already worked with them on how it’s going to be sequenced, which the Weeva team mostly does that. We then move the content into the editing process which I think I described earlier. And then once editing is done, we move it into design and in that case, we’ve got professional designers on staff. So they’re taking the content and then making creative decision on what is the best way to showcase this amazingly personal content.

And so we worry about the quality of the pictures. We worry about how to put them into collage. Our concern really is to create the best possible, most beautiful, most compelling result.

And then once we’re done with that design process, then we’ll send it to the customer for final review. So they’ll go through it. We ask them to do things like check spelling of names, make sure that we’ve attributed all the right pictures to the right people. Because they know those things that we only have the incoming input, so we want to make sure that all of that stuff is near perfect as we can make it.

And once the customer says ‘Yep, it’s approved,’ then we send it to print and then it goes to them.

Vera: So how much of this is on the platform that you talked about or you mentioned earlier?

Kim Gorsuch: So, a lot of it is on the platform. We are obviously using technology every step of the way. So, we have a workflow process because you know, on the back end, we have a deadline for the customer. We have to hit those deadlines. And we want to make sure that the quality is excellent and the customer knows what to expect every step of the way.

We have technology in the background that is assisting with that.

Vera: So do you have a guideline that you provide the customer that gives them an outline of what’s going to be happening throughout the whole process or how much time do you spend educating the client on that process?

Kim Gorsuch: Our technology is very intuitive, especially for collection, so many people get it right away. Once they get into Weeva, we’ve got three steps to get you started. But at the same time, because we often have an older clientele that are in need of our business process reengineering tools, we might have people in their sixties or seventies who are running a project and sometimes, we have people … I think our oldest contributor was around 85 and so when they’re a little frightened by the technology, we have a e-book that we send to them that … We send it by email. They print it out. And it gives them step by step instructions on how to succeed. We’ll have screen prints for example and it will say ‘Press this button.’ What we try to do is give the customer the level of support that really suits them.

That would probably drive some of our … very tech savvy customers would not want that e-book. It would drive them mad if they had to deal with that. But we try to meet customers where they are.

Vera: I love that. And I love that you are educating them on your process externally and internally as well. So your team has to understand how to use it, of course. But varying levels of tech savvy-ness from the customer is so important, I think, to making sure the whole experience with Weeva is something that’s wonderful and positive and they’re going to talk about it to other people.

Kim Gorsuch: Yes. So what we’re trying to do is combine a high touch experience that for us is super efficient. So, we can’t spend hours and hours with every customer. We have to make sure that we give them just what they need as efficiently as we can and help them succeed. So the other tool that we use a lot is Intercom. And Intercom is integrated into our entire website and people are invited to chat with us and we do, I think, a very good … well, our customers tell us we do a very good job. If they ask us a question, we respond almost immediately.

Vera: So, tell our listeners what Intercom is.

Kim Gorsuch: So, Intercom is a third party business process tool that is integrated into our overall web app. So we’ve built our own technology but we use Intercom to facilitate the communication. It’s a chat tool but it’s also an email tool. So we can, for example, set up email campaigns within Intercom. We can and we do. And we send … We’ve got a cadence … So for example, if we have a birthday book. And the book is due in the customer’s hand by December first. Then we have to back that up to when does the customer need to be done with content. Right? Cause we need time to edit and design the book. So, we figure out the date and then we back up a last call campaign so that … The initial email goes out and says ‘Hey Everybody. Come join this project.’ And then as we get closer and closer to the date, we let them know, ‘Hey. You’ve got 3 days left to contribute.’ Hey Vera, we need your content. You got 2 more days. Today’s the last day.

And so we use Intercom to help us manage those communications.

Vera: Okay. That’s super cool. I had not heard of them. So, that is duly noted in my book of tricks when it comes to systems. So, give that your background is in process re-engineering, which is so cool, tell me how difficult or how easy it was for you to come up with this actual system from collection to production. How easy or hard was that for you?

Kim Gorsuch: Well, we deliberately took a lean, design approach when we started. So at the very beginning, we really focused on what are the essential things that we need to have …a system that is viable to do the basic things that we need to accomplish in order to deliver our products and service. If we roll the clock all the way back to the start, we had this really basic, functional yes. Functional but it didn’t really guide the customer through. We deliberately made it as streamlined and as bare bones as we could make it.

And then we started to work with customers to see, well, where do they get stuck? Where do they have questions? What are they constantly asking us to clarify? What business process reengineering tools can we give them to make this process easier? That sort of thing. And then we let that drive our product development strategy. Because we want to be able to serve a wide range of customers with really different technical ability, we needed to make sure that it was as simple as it could be, while still being highly functional.

So we did go through a very iterative process and then we have added clarity. It’s still really simple. We are still intentionally very simple, from the customer’s point of view. So we just want them to focus on ‘I’m going to write the best story I can. I’m going to collect from as many people as I can. I’m going to add my favorite photos and I’m going to let Weeva worry about the rest.

Vera: That is awesome. Because the whole idea around simplicity, I think, is really a critical component. Because it can be overwhelming just collecting all of that content and getting people to contribute and to do so on time. If it’s too difficult to do it, then they just abandon the whole thing.

Kim Gorsuch: Yes.

Vera: So which part of this whole process are you most proud of?

Kim Gorsuch: Well, we love the delivery of our books. Because, we are very successful at getting people to contribute wonderful letters. And that, all by itself, is super gratifying. But when it also comes as a finished coffee table book, that is beautiful and tangible and conveys the sense of connection and meaning, that moment is amazing. We’ve had almost a hundred percent of our customers tell us that people were extremely surprised and then they were overwhelmed and then they cry.

What’s interesting about that, to me, is it can be a sixteen year old, it can be a seventy year old, it can be a hundred year old person and it can be a CEO or it can be Leonard Cohen. And everybody has that reaction because being loved is everything. Right?

Vera: Yes. Yes.

Kim Gorsuch: And so I am extremely proud … Because we started with this idea of let’s surround people with love and meaning and connection. And the fact that our product does that so incredibly well is extremely gratifying.

Vera: So was there any part of this whole process that was just really needed to be reengineered because it just wasn’t right?

Kim Gorsuch: Well, I would say that our out of the gate product was about 80 percent and we rewrote it because we wanted it to have a stronger technology infrastructure when it was easier to maintain and to iterate over time. So, we did introduce what was essentially a prototype to be used as one of our business process reengineering tools. We worked with that for a while and then we rewrote it the first time. Worked with that for a while and then rewrote it a second time. And now, now we have something that we think is just really great.

So our collection process will be quite stable and now we’re turning our attention to other parts of the process.

Vera: So that’s really interesting because what I’m hearing and correct me if I’m wrong, is that the ease of use is just as important internally as it is externally?

Kim Gorsuch: Yes. Yes because we want to be a very lean team and we are. And we don’t want to carry long term technical debt but at the same time, we don’t want over build it before we actually know what customer’s value.

So, if we had built … you know, when we started, we of course had this very complete road map. And we still have a very complete road map. But we build it chunk by chunk and we observe what people do and then we take the next chunk. And so I think one of the other things I feel quite proud of is that we have not over built and we continue to iterate the things that are most important.

And our goal is to make sure that every customer has a fantastic experience with Weeva, as good as we can make it, and that’s partly technology but it’s partly people. Right? How we interact with them. How we guide them. How we support them when they get a little stuck. How we make sure that all our products get there on time, in time for the birthday party. So all of those things have to work just right.

Vera: And I am so happy that you said that you didn’t, you haven’t over built and I think that a lot of companies out there will tend to try to be a hundred percent out of the gate, only to find out that the customer really didn’t want that. Or they wanted a piece of it, but they really wish it could do X, Y and Z in addition to what is there. So I think that’s very smart. Our listeners will be happy to hear that because in essence, what you’re saying is it’s just chunk by chunk, is absolutely okay and you can still be very successful with that approach.

Kim Gorsuch: Yes. And at the same time, I feel like it’s very important to know where you’re headed so we do have a long term destination. We know the features that we ultimately want to build. But at the same time, we take it step by step. So we’re really trying to play two tapes at the same time. And then being …

One of the things that we do as a team is agree what are the next three or four things that we want to build. And I think that is just a very good discipline because one person is into … There are two of us who interact with customers all day long. All the time. Right? And then we have other people who are interacting with the content of the projects like all day long. And still another person who worries about technology. And so, when we have all of us, basically pooling what we know, we make better decisions.

And so, part of this is we want to place down clever bets and we want to be efficient and we want to optimize the experience and we’re like really clear. We’re trying to do those three things to the best of our ability.

Vera: So, Kim, tell me what your next challenge is for Weeva and I think you touched on that as far as the other parts of the business now that you’re, I think, becoming comfortable and satisfied with the collection process. So tell us what’s next.

Kim Gorsuch: So we are growing very fast and the investments we’re making now are more in our back end to make sure that we hit every single date for every single customer. So we need to have very good, very efficient ways of making sure that everybody is tracking forward on the project.

We also need to inform the customer seamlessly. So sometimes I think about as like the Dominoes pizza. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that app or not but if you order a pizza, you can actually watch the steps. Like where is your pizza? And Dominoes of course is doing that in 30 minutes. We’re doing it over a longer period of time. But we want to have the same kind of visibility for customers. So they can see, oh, it’s in editing. Vera edited my book and somebody else did the design. The more a customer can see how their project is progressing, the more comfortable and more confident they can be.

So again, we’re trying to optimize that experience to be excellent as well as the product to be excellent.

Vera: Kim, thank you so much. You have shown us so many different nuances within your process to get the work done and get it out with incredible results. Our listeners really need to hear the level of detail that you’ve provided so thank you so much. Before we go, I would really like to close out our discussion today with any final advice you want to share and then, tell us the best way we can connect with you.

Kim Gorsuch: Cool. So I think in today’s world, people … You do need to attend the process, especially if you are a smaller company that wants to grow quickly. And in that case, really zeroing in on which processes are most likely to fail next and really focusing attention on how can I optimize those within whatever resource constraints the company has. Is just really important. And really being clear on, okay, this one first and then the next, anticipating after you solve that, what’s the next bottleneck? Where’s the next process failure, etc. And so I feel like to the extent that you could have that road map clear, then you can resource it in a timely fashion so it doesn’t get in the way of your growth.

And in terms of the best way to reach me, I am Kim@Weeva.com. W-E-E-V-A dot com.

Vera: Awesome. Well System Execution fans, no matter how many notes you took or often you re-listened to this episode, the key is you must know that every successful business uses systems to drive to a better outcome.

Kim, thank you so much for sharing your expertise and insight to our listeners today.

Kim Gorsuch: Thank you. It was my pleasure.

We hope you found this episode of System Execution on business process reengineering tools enlightening. For free examples, case studies, e-books and more, be sure to visit systemexecution.com/resources. Contribute to the conversation by reaching out to Vera directly on email at Vera@systemexecution.com. Until our next episode, thank you for the privilege of your time.

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