783: What Marketers Need to Know to Become a CEO w/ Mike Volpe

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

In this episode we hear from Mike Volpe, CEO of Lola.com.

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A relationship with the right referral partner could be a game changer for any BEDB company. So what if you could reverse engineer these relationships at a moment's notice, start a podcast, invite potential referral partners to be guests on your show and grow your referral network faster than ever? Learn more. At Sweet Fish Mediacom you're listening to be tob growth, a daily podcast for BTB leaders. We've interviewed names you've probably heard before, like Gary Vannerd truck and Simon Senek, but you've probably never heard from the majority of our guests. That's because the bulk of our interviews aren't with professional speakers and authors. Most of our guests are in the trenches leading sales and marketing teams. They're implementing strategy, they're experimenting with tactics, they're building the fastest growing BEDB companies in the world. My name is James Carberry. I'm the founder of sweet fish media, a podcast agency for BB brands, and I'm also one of the CO hosts of this show. When we're not interviewing sales and marketing leaders, you'll hear stories from behind the scenes of our own business, will share the ups and downs of our journey as we attempt to take over the world. Just getting well? Maybe let's get into the show. Welcome back to the BEDB growth show. We are here today with Mike Volpi. He is currently the CEO at Lola, but he was formerly the CMO of cyber reason and before that he was the CMO of hub spot. We've had mike on the show before, so if his name sounds familiar and you don't know him because of you know hub spot and cyber reason, you may have heard his episode before. But Mike, how you doing it a man, I'm doing fantastic. It's a great to be back on the shop. I've loved our first conversation Mike, and I actually heard you do an interview on the seeking wisdom podcast. I think it was a couple weeks ago with with Dave Gearhart and all the content was phenomenal and and so as soon as I listened to it, I hitch up on twitter. It was like men, we we got to have...

...you back on the show. Now that you're at Lola, can you explain to listeners what is Lola and for those that aren't familiar with it, and then I want to dive into the topic that we're recovering today. Great, yeah, so lolacom we are maybe a business travel buttery smooth is how I best like to describe it. And I think everyone has had the experience that business travel can be a complete mess, whether it's you're the finance person and trying to set a reasonable policy for your company so the employees don't go crazy and have a good visibility into what they're spending money on when it comes to travel, or is the individual traveler, when you know there's all sorts of problems that pop up in terms of changing book gings and things like that, and we make both sides of that just a ton easier for an extremely affrrible price for your business. So think all those all those travel management systems that you probably hate. Where the answer when we make all that stuff much better? Incredible. And Lola was founded by the same guy that started Kayak, right. Yeah, so we have a ton of experience within the travel industry and a lot of experience of making the consumer side of it better, and I always like to tell people that, you know, a lot of your listeners are probably, you know, familiar with hub spot so of hub spot and Kayak had a baby, it would be Voltcom, because we're sort of the where, the BDB version of Kayak or the travel version of hub spot, however you want to think about it, I love it so so, Mike, one of the things that you talked with Dave gearhart about on seeking wisdom that I thought would be incredibly helpful for our listeners to hear you talk about as well. You, you guys started talking about what marketers need to know if they want to become a CEO. You obviously you know, being CMO of Spotsmo Cyberre's and like marketing background. Now you're the CEO of Lola and and so we were jamming on just a few different ideas, but can you talk at a high level just to give people a picture of key things...

...that folks need to understand if that is their desire to go from the marketing side of the fence to actually leading an entire company? Yeah, sure, I mean, I think the big thing to know is that merely becoming the best marker in the world is not enough to actually become CEO in many cases. Right. So I think it's true for actually any discipline within a company like best CFO in the world or best sales leader in the world or best product leader. None of those alone are enough. I think it's an important, great thing that you can do that will help you become a CEO, but merely doing that is not actually going to get to the the CEO job having an understanding of the the entire business, not just really specific unit. Yeah, you, I mean you got to remember that a CEO you're not you're doing in some ways zero jobs, like you're not doing sales, you're not doing marketing and a doing product, you're not doing finance, not doing, you know, ops or customer success or service. You're responsible for all of them, but theoretically you're doing none of those jobs. So you're right. It comes it was on to a lot of having this more of a cross company understanding of the whole business. Got It and and so to do that as a you know, we're talking to a the BB marketer who's maybe at a SASS start up right now and they have their eyes on becoming a CEO one day. Does that mean, you know, maybe their next role isn't in marketing. Maybe they look at, you know, doing something in sales or doing something in product. You know, what do you think that that career path can look like to get the kind of experience that they need to be able to sit in that CEO see, I think that's a great suggestion. I think that you need to play the long game when it comes to your career and while you may be able to get the promotion a little faster by staying in marketing, if you want to build your skills over the long term, you might be better served taking your you know, to your point of job in sales or job and product or something like that, and broadening that still set out. I mean I still rely way back my first job and my career, first whole time job was an investment banking and I learned a turn about finance, how companies are valued, fund raising, accounting,...

...all those things, and that's been, you know, it's useful to be even through to this day today, and so I wouldn't I wouldn't be afraid to kind of maybe theoretically slow your career down by, you know, a promotion, by taking a job somewhere else in the company. You'll at a minimum make you a better marketer, but I think it'll also even want to make you a much better Canada for a CEO job. Interesting. I also think I don't know just my kind of feel about how much I see, and maybe it's because I know we work with a lot of SASS companies and I don't know if it's exclusive to that, to the SASS space, but I'm seeing a lot of people care about culture and they and they're caring deeply about retaining talent and doing, you know, a lot of oftentimes it's crazy stuff, to like be able to retain talent. Do you think that there's like if somebody's on the marketing team and they and they went to their boss and said, Hey, I'm I want to learn a little bit more about finance, I wonder if there's a way to even get and at some of that experience by just putting in a little exture hustle and not necessarily having to like change companies or change their entire job. Like would that be a path as well, or do you need to be fully immersed, you think, in like your first job? But yeah, I you know, I think I think that's a really good, really good idea too. I think there's a lot of side projects. You can do things that are at the intersection of different departments. That can definitely get you a bunch of other experience. You know, the marketing team usually is somebody that works with the finance team on managing the budget and making sure all the expenses are being tracked and allocated properly. That's probably a good place to get involved with a little bit. You know. The other thing is if you're fortunate enough to be doing, you know, some fundraising or even, you know, hopefully going through an IPO or things like that, there's a role that a marketing person can play and some of those things as well, if they're willing to, you know, to put in some extra time and help with that kind of a process. I think there's things they could do there too. So I think that's a really good idea, the sort of the side job, the nights,...

...a weekend's job, to get yourself some more experience, I think. I think that stuff can work really well, I know. I think the other thing too, is that the traditional advice would have been to go and get an MBA, and I still think that's valid, but there's a lot of other ways today to take you know, an online course or online mini course on, you know, clients, accounting, you know, the sales products, those types of things, to give yourself some grounding and that skill set as well. Yeah, and I think even like there's there's so many different pieces of content online as well. So beyond just like paid courses like finding, finding you to channels, podcasts, reading books about certain like functions of the business, I think can give you. I think just gives you more well rounded like business acumen in as a whole, which I think is better for anybody that's trying to like really grow and get to that CEO seat. But yeah, I love that. Like there's a lot of different ways to do it. There's not one. There's not even even just reading the Wall Street Journal, Right. And then I would also encourage people, you know, there's for publicly traded companies that are in your industry, they have to do all these filings with the SEC, whether it's like an annual or port, like a K or there's a bunch of other things they have. Can do even downloading one of those, and parts of it are quite dry, but actually reading through those to really understand, okay, well, this is, you know, this is what the public market sees. As far as the disclosure of this company, all the financial statements, but there's a whole section at k around business strategy and you know, management as a whole, commentary and what the financial results have been. That whole section, the management discussion, analysis section, things like that, and you should. You should read those for two or three companies that are sort of in your industry. So if you're in the marketing text base, you should read, you know, sales force and hub spot. You know. If you're in a different industry than you should read you know, a different couple from a different company. But there's a ton of stuff out there. You're absolutely right. That is, you know, unpaid and just knowledge. It's out they're waiting to be tapped. The other thing I want to talk to you about,...

Mike, and some that you've mentioned offline, is thinking through kind of team communication and leadership. Obviously, when you know if the person listening to this that kind of has our eye on the CEO, if they've led a large marketing team. He said, there's going to be a lot of similarities if you've led a big marketing team to leading an entire company Caunique, but can you speak to some of the differences, even in just I mean in you might not have too much. You know, you've only been in the seat at Lola for a few weeks now, but what's been the difference in in your leadership and being a CMO versus being the CEO in terms of communication and leadership? Yeah, I think there's. I think there's two major things. I think the first thing is that many marketers have not led a team as large of the whole company. would be right. I was fortunate enough that hub spot, because of the rapid growth and because of the strategic importance of marketing there, I was able to lead a hundred hundred twenty person marketing team, and so I went through that experience of leading and managing a team where I didn't know everyone on the team. I mean I knew all their names, but by the end, you know, I'll be honest, I didn't have a detailed understanding of what all one hundred plus people exactly were doing. And so you end up at this leadership of being much more of a communicator based on, you know, sort of this visionary leadership that it is about actually being, you know, rubbing elbows with every single person knowing intimately who they were, what they were working on and things like that. So that is number one, is sort of a higher scale of leadership, because even if you know a small company as CEO, you're going to have a much larger team than just with the marketing team. And so that's one and one dimension of it. The second dimension, which is also true for me, because I went from leading at cyber reason the team responsible for for marketing but also an inside sales team and also a BDR team, so some other responsibilities, but now, a Lola theorectally, I have the whole company. So it's, you know, sales, marketing, product like all these different things. Learning how to communicate with all those folks is also a little different.

Like I was getting an email or a slack message from an engineer last week asking me some questions about customer acquisition that were if you were an engineer, they were very good questions. If you were a marketer, you it would in get you lack of basic understanding of some marketing related things. And so as a cmo you never would have had to have answered that question or think about communicating that basic level of information. But what it reminded be that was that not every one of the company has the information of the background that I have in sales and marketing and things like that, and so when I have a company wide meeting, don't be afraid to go back to the basics around like what is customer acquisition cost and how do you measure that? What are the tools that you use to make it lower, and where should we feel like that should be at our stage of business and things like that. You know, just like if if I had been an engineer previously, I would probably think that people knew a lot about, you know, different frameworks and how to build products and structures or things like that, and you know, somebody in marketing might not. So I think the second thing you need to remember assist that you're talking of the whole company and don't be afraid to get down to the basic level of being clear about what you're talking about and don't be afraid to like explain things in a really basic level, because a lot of people come from very different areas of the business. Yeah, another another piece that you mentioned, Mike offline. You talked about kind of the external facing elements of being a CEO, with managing the board and speaking publicly on behalf of the company. Can you speak to what are some things that you did when you were still in marketing roles that set you up to be able to do those types of kind of external facing aspects of your hossibilities now, and this is one where I think as a marketer head of marketing, you actually can do a fair amount of this and prepare yourself for the sort of that CEO role. So I was especially at hub spot. I've always been sort of willing to take on part of the public face of the company.

I mean I spoke at tons of conferences and events. I lots of PODCASTS, you know, I was a host of a podcast that we launched it up spot. I spoke at, you know, I don't know, a hundred of two hundred plus events over my time there. You are, did tons of different webinars and was just willing to sort of be one of the people that was the outward facing spokesperson for the company and a CEO, that's definitely ends up being, you know, for better or worse, a big portion of your job. I'm already doing a lot of like pr related of things, being asked to speak at events, all sorts of things like that. Now and then a CEO. I think that's one of the things you can do that's like part of your job to help market and grow the company is just sort of be public and visible. But I do think that as a somebody grows up to the marketing ranks, you have an opportunity to do that at many companies as the marketer, because you should be the master of the customer, the value prop and the story of the company, and there's no reason why you can't, you know, be more public and get some good training in that whole area. But because that's an important part of the role. I mean you even see that in what in what drift is doing and in really Dave Gearhart's role, you know, being vp of marketing there. But when I think of drift, I think of David cancel and Dave Gerhart, and so I think companies are starting to embrace that. Folks what they want that, you know, they understand that the brand of their company is really the sum total of the personal brands of the people working there and so taking some initiative, if you're on the marketing team, and saying hey, I want to start, you know, developing my personal brand and putting myself out there and being a face that people associate with the company. I think of another company in addition to drift is coming. They called lucid out of Salt Lake City, and I know when I think of Lucid, I there are three specific people in my head their CEO, their creative director and one of the one of the guys in there on their marketing team. Those are the people I think of when I think of lucid, because they care about their personal brand. They're putting out content on a regular basis personally,...

...like through linkedin and and different channels, instagram, stuff like that. So I think being proactive and just doing that, I don't necessarily maybe, depending on your your organization, maybe you need some permission there, but I think a lot of that is is just you being proactive as a person and and owning that and and taking a step for and I think your company is going to appreciate it. Yeah, I think you're right about that and I think that that really hearkens to the point that it doesn't have to be even do as head of marketing doing it. I think that one of the things we did well at hub spot was, you know, Brian and or measured out there but I was out there. Mark robarts from grand sales for a long time was out there, and then even people from within the marketing team, Rebecca Corliss, Ellie Merman, clip podner, a bunch of other folks and Dave Gerhart when he was at hub spot to you know, did a lot of stuff that helped grow not only their brands but the brand of the company, and that I know some people knew hub spot through like Rebecca corliss. Other people knew it through somebody else right, and and that's okay. It doesn't have to be just one person. You're much better off of it's a lot of people. It just adds to the volume and the number of interactions that people can have. And I think traditionally companies it was only the CEO, but I think today in this world, people are starting to figure out that it could be lots of people. And even look a drift. You right give your heart is behind a lot of it, but you know there's a sales rip named Derek Keller. Her started some video stuff there and a much of other people as well. So you know, yeah, Maggie, Maggie Crowley on their product team host, you know, one of the cohost of seeking wisdom on the build show that they're doing for that. So you say, I totally I toldly agree exactly the the last thing I want to talk to you about, Mike. You spoke offline about the strategy component of this. You know, when you're sitting in the CEO role and needing to have an understanding of the short term, in the long term strategy, the direction of the business, can you speak to us about what what you did...

...earlier in your career to give yourself that kind of strategic thinking ability? Well, I'm not, you know, we have the weight three or four years to judge if I have the strategic because being for sure, but I think that, you know, I did get an Mba from from mt and there were a number of classes there where we would analyze the strategy of different companies and debates from different options there, and I do, I do think that that kind of training, I think, was helpful. The other thing it was really helpful for me, not only on the strategy point but even, you know, management leadership, was just having had the opportunity to see a few different top tier management teams work from, you know, from even back to the solid work stays. That was a great team back in the day, you know, really successful company that grew fast and had an awesome acquisitions and now come through to hub spots, to cyber reason and then been, I am, an advisor to a lot of other companies and sort of seeing that, and I even, you know, I've been an outside board member a few companies as well, and it's more just taking yourself out there, getting an opportunity to see it at as many companies as possible and really think about that. And then I really think it's so safe to things. I think it's a really hard thing to sort of like, you know, learn and necessarily be get at. The final thing I'll say, though, on that is like, I think, more important than picking at the world's perfect strategy is just being dedicated to it and clearly articulate to get to your team. So I found, at least here so far at Lacom, that more important than being like the exact great strategy is having every one of the same page going in the same direction. Either the direction is a hundred percent perfect. That's more valuable than sort of this lack of leadership. And sometimes making decisions is more important than making the right decision. I love that. That's that's incredible. Mike, Thank you so much for for your time today. If there's somebody listening to this they want to stay connected with you, learn more about Lolacom. What's the best way for them to go about saying connected?...

Yeah, so, you know, if you do any travel for business or whatever, check us out of lolacom there. We also have a great mobile APP in the APP store as well. And then me personally, probably the best place is twitter. I'm em will be on twitter and Um rerelatively active there, but, you know, linked in another places as well. Awesome, Michael. Thank you against so much for your time. I really appreciate it and I think this is going to be incredibly valuable to listener. So thanks a lot. Happy to be on the show we gun. Thanks for having me. Becoming a thought leader doesn't just happen. If you want to build a strong personal brand and extend your reach online and offline, you need a plan. Want help developing yours, check out impact summit. This one day event is bringing together best selling authors, professional athletes, influential CEOS and emerging entrepreneurs, all for one purpose, to equip you to lead influence and inspire. Whether you're looking to build a lasting legacy with your business or extend the reach of your brand, impact summit speakers will share inspiring stories and practical lessons to help you on your way. Did we mention a session on launching and growing a podcast? You guessed it. You'll hear from sweet fish media's own James carberry during that session. You won't want to miss all of these influencers and leaders coming together in Salt Lake City on October thirteen. Ready to learn more, check out influencer ink dot CEO. Impact summit be to be growth. Listeners can get fifteen percent off the price of their tickets for this event by using the Promo code sweet fish sweet fish. So use that code, get your tickets today and get ready to grow your brand and your influence at impact summit. Two Thousand and Eighteen.

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