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Inclusive Marketing and Creative Team Building with James Bake, COO of BestSelf Co.

Joshua Chin 9:18

And that’s such a scary thing to do, I think, because you’re forced to, you know, were forced to confront the fact that, alright, do I stick with what’s working and that’s comfortable? And do I go out and out on the limb to take a risk on seeing if an alternative would work better? How do you overcome that?

James Bake 9:38

It’s a big risk.

Joshua Chin 9:39

Yeah. And how do you overcome that mindset or do you not see that as a risk, per se?

James Bake 9:49

So I think one of the things that I like to do is kind of my other point is I really like to give people creative freedom to try things out and to kind of see where it leads. Like, you know, this might not work, like they might not this, this organizational piece might not work. But I put safety nets in, or I’m kind of monitoring it from afar to say, Okay, if something goes wrong, I kind of have a plan B in the back pocket, or I know enough where I can jump in temporarily, and help coach them. So it’s usually kind of that concept. And I think you mentioned earlier that, you know, I’m trained as a yoga teacher. And it’s not something I don’t actually teach. I did a little bit here and there. But what I did was, I started yoga, and I really enjoyed it. And when the opportunity to take this 200 hour training class came about, I was fascinated about how the concepts of yoga and yoga teaching actually apply to business and life. And as the yoga teacher, we have this concept of holding space, and holding spaces, allowing students to explore their practice and being present with others and themselves. It’s witnessing what it’s being without distractions or desires or judgment. And it’s really, the focus of holding space is ideally on the process, not the outcome. So for example, you know, if you’re trying to get into a hit head standard, telling people to get into headstand, you don’t want to be overly prescriptive when you’re cueing the pose, where you want to let them figure it out themselves, but you want to give that guardrails and some light structure of support and encouragement. That all applies to business, right, like so as I’m talking about, like having people develop professionally and even personally at work and giving them new responsibilities, I want to hold space for that I want to, you know, create that like structure and give them the guardrails, where they know, if something happens, and they fail, or they fall or they make mistake, it’s okay, like, we’re here to support you, we’re here to figure it out with you, you’re not gonna get in trouble for it, we want you to learn from it. Now, we don’t want you to like, make mistakes, that are just stupid mistakes, but make mistakes that you’re because you’re trying to figure things out. And I think that’s where the magic happens.

Joshua Chin 11:58

I love that concept hold space. And I want to dig a little deeper into this. So the idea of holding space, and allowing for kind of a comfortable zone where failure is, is okay. But to allow that to happen, obviously, you need good guide rails of kind of precautions of what’s Okay, and what, what’s already this over the line? How do you find those, those guidelines?

James Bake 12:32

Ah, it depends. It’s all depends on the situation. So I, you know, I think, you know, I think my one of my favorite things to say is like constraint sometimes creates creativity. So it’s, it’s kind of giving, stumped, it’s like, it’s like constraint based problem solving, I think it’s a good way to look at that. And using it as an opportunity to like, give yourself a little bit of deadlines or timelines on what you’re going to do. But also know, okay, where are the breaking points, like, so, you know, we’ll, we’ll give this like for the change in the organization, we’ll give it three months. And that’s kind of the runway, we’ll give it three months, you know. We should know by that if it’s gonna work or not, or, you know, does it make sense to bring on like extra training or some courses that they can do as well, and then see how it goes. I think even with hiring new people, like you have that onboarding program, and you know, pretty quickly within the first 30 days if they’re a good fit or not, so usually, it’s it’s pretty a time constraint things. But that’s, I think it’s like, kind of a constraint with, with new ideas, too. I think that’s one of my favorite things in the organization is to find a point of friction, and intentionally get involved with it or bring it to light. So it’s kind of like what’s the elephant in the room and then go after and kind of like, hey, let’s talk about this. You know, from friction, I think comes that those solutions, one of my favorite quotes is from Brene Brown, and she says, “the middle is messy, but that’s where the magic happens.” And I love that I love that I try to find that middle messy area and then not necessarily exploit it, but dig into it. Like what can we do to be vulnerable to kind of test our limits a little bit get out of our comfort zone?

Joshua Chin 14:18

I love that. The challenge with that is and I love that quote. The middle is messy, but that’s where the magic happens. But the middle is also where there’s a lot of unclarity, chaos, a lot of uncertainty. And where the end is often very hard to see where things are so far you were you kind of don’t know when you’re near the end. Especially when you’re dealing with a problem with without a defined time constraint, a timeframe. Yeah. How do you wrap your head around an issue like that?

James Bake 14:54

That’s a good one. So I think what I probably say is If you can’t find some kind of constraint or like, or like some kind of boundaries that you can put in these guardrails, you can put things I think one of the, I was gonna say, I said an idea, and I can’t remember what it was. But I think one of the things that we do a lot is just communication. It’s, it’s making sure we’re all on the same page, communicating, we’re checking in with each other. And we’re all on the same page, there’s, I am a big fan of managing by commitment. It’s a concept that’s been a management for years, we do it across the board in our organization, we also do with our vendors. And so it’s it’s setting those expectations of like, okay, here’s what we’re striving for. And usually, you can put a due date to almost anything or a date that you want to do it by, and then you’re doing check ins to say, Okay, how are we progressing towards this? And do we need to course correct, and I get it that it’s messy, and like maybe the outcome doesn’t get there, I’m a huge believer is that when you’re looking at a road trip, there’s a point A and point B. And there’s 50 different ways to get there. You don’t know what the best way is, until you explore it right? Or you don’t know you’re going to find a long lane to explore and sometimes having an open mind and be like, okay, we’re going to try different things. It might not work the way we thought it was, but maybe there’s something we can learn out of it along the way. So you have it’s a good question like, how do you get uncomfortable with the uncomfortable? Or how do you get comfortable with uncomfortable? Yeah, challenging includes practice, I think.

Joshua Chin 16:26

Repetition is very interesting. Now, I’m going to share a personal example of what we are facing as an agency. I think that’s going to spark some some conversation. And I guess, selfishly, I’d like to some ideas from you, as well. So as an agency, we’ve been around for about four years now. And throughout this four years, we have been blessed with really amazing clients and people and partners, that we have grown organically through inbound leads, referrals, word of mouth, exclusively. So for that reason, we never really had to go out our way for business. But we’ve come to a point of kind of, I guess, number one saturation of the marketplace where that’s everyone’s an agency today. Yeah, super competitive. And number two, it’s it’s also a point where now our systems are working incredibly well. retention is is amazing. We have NPS scores and satisfaction scores above nine on all, most of all, most levels. Now we’re kind of ready to kind of switch up the dial and scale. But we don’t have a dial. And that’s kind of the problem that we’re facing now. How would you begin unraveling a challenge like this?

James Bake 17:50

So I think, you know, we talked about this beforehand. And I think this is a problem that lots of people face, especially in the agency world. But even in the direct to consumer world is, you know, I look at your competition is especially with COVID, I think it’s kind of put gasoline on the fire of competition. Now everybody’s agency, or everybody has agency and no one wants to work internally, like we’ve been looking for in house media manager. And it’s been extremely hard to find someone because everybody works for agency or wants to be an agency model or freelance, because they can take on a lot of clients. And they can make a lot of money. Fantastic. Love that. But I also need someone dedicated to our business. And that, like we were not fighting for someone else’s time, and we’re paying premiums for it. So I think that’s like, it’s a challenge in both ends. And I think what, you know, in my mind, right away we’re looking at is like, Okay, how can we start being adaptive in the marketplace? So maybe it’s evolving our services. So for example, as an agency, like maybe it’s adapting your services so that you’re more competitive than others? Or you’re adding something that’s not as done for you, right? Maybe it’s systemising in the sense or, you know, kind of changing things up a little bit in it, and this is on the fly. But it’s it’s thinking about, okay, what’s the evolution of the agency space? And the services that are offered? And how can we adapt to that, and then kind of do something that no one else is doing yet? I think that’s where my mind would go. As I look at it in kind of the DTC space or vessel space, is something we do constantly is like, you know, when I go look on Amazon, I see a bunch of different people popping up decks. Conversation decks are there, there’s, it’s not too late, to be honest. It’s not too difficult to come come up with them. I think like if I had to sit down before best stuff, I probably could say I could do that. But when you really think about the work that goes into the thought processes go into it, the intention of the questions that we’re putting together, there, there is a magic there’s a secret sauce. And I think what we do is we add in additional content with that So not only are we creating a deck about relationships or conversation starters are ways to get your comfort zone, but we’re also creating content around it. So like, with courage over comfort, we have a challenge that you can do, it’s a 30 day challenge to help you get out of your comfort zone. So it’s with Katherine, she’s guiding people through everyday challenges or challenges every day to healthcare. So that’s something we did, it’ll be a little more competitive. And then we build upon that, like, we’re coming up new products in that aren’t necessarily decks to help kind of go deeper into it. So maybe that’s the intro. And then we get something a little bit deeper, take it to the next level without giving too much away, because we have some new products in the pipeline that I’m really excited about. But it’s like the deck might be the introduction to it. And then the, you know, that’s the basically deeper or more thought provoking. Intense is what’s next for us next products, we’re waiting for that? I think they were the agency kind of the same way. It’s like, what can you do differently because I go online, and like, I’m on Facebook all the time, and I see like agencies, and then like, done for me email templates, constantly. I go spend $80 and get 150 done for me emails, whoo. Like, that’s, you know, where’s the secret sauce in that, like, working take a training course, and everybody can teach me how to do you know, you know, and that’s probably my path of least resistance as the market early marketers, I’m gonna go buy this, you know, $100 course $200 course. But I think I could do it myself. But the mistake potentially is like, what else? Am I giving up? Like, what am I not focusing on? And that kind of goes back to my my philosophy, like, focus on what matters is like, Sure, I have to remind myself this every day, it’s sure I can figure that out. But does it make sense for me to figure it out? Does it make is that the best use of my time? Or should I hire experts like an agency? So I think, you know, this is a long winded way of saying, like, you know, evolve and kind of figure that that piece out is maybe it’s training people on how to be better email marketers, so that they can do themselves because there is a desire for people to want to learn how to do it. So maybe your training program, and then you actually get some leads, because they go try to do another guy, that’s too much work for me. Why don’t I have you do it? Like?

Joshua Chin 22:16

That makes sense. That makes sense. And it’s advice for the day. Thank you. Appreciate that. Let’s, let’s go back to you. And the so as you’re explaining that, what’s what’s going on, in my mind is that you have a way of of zoning in on, and it was an intro that I get that I wrote for you. Your superpower is in creating calm from chaos and clarity from from mess, and understanding what to focus on and what to work on. And what to prioritize on. How do you come to a point where you were so good at at this? And how do you identify something like that out of like all the skill sets that you’ve, you’ve done? You’ve been in very different fields, from SEO to affiliate marketing as well, to all kinds of stuff, how do you end up with knowing what you’re best at?

James Bake 23:21

Ah, that’s a good one. So I think, you know, I like being scrappy, like I said, I like finding and creating the meaning out of chaos. And, you know, I like having a lot on my plate. And I don’t actually love juggling things, but it’s also having those problems to solve. Because I think it makes life a little more interesting. I’ve been told, and I kind of think that I have a great eye for connecting the dots, and looking for the root of a problem to be solved. And so typically, and what I’ve done over the years, is I’ve learned or trained myself to like, not try to solve the surface level problem, but like, Okay, is there something deeper that we should be working on here? That’s going to solve it systematically. So we don’t have to just put a bandaid on it or, you know, lipstick on a pig. It’s working. We went when it makes sense, where can we take a step back and try to fix it systematically so that this problem doesn’t keep coming up? I think what we talked about earlier on the show, early on the show is about the you know, you’re disappointed like an agency or even in our business, we we took a little bit of time and said okay, hey, we are doing great, where things are doing well, that could be better. Like we don’t necessarily have this we have our systems were great for where we’re at now. But they don’t work if we want to grow. So what can we do to improve our systems and to improve our processes or even our partners like we have been with a sim logistics company, a 3PL really three, four years. They’re fine, they’re great. They for what they can do, but we hit capacities at them. We became too big for them. So we had to take a step back and start looking like okay, what can we do differently or who can we go to that’s better. And, you know, we explored all kinds of options. And, you know, at one point we had like a 10 minute conversation about should we build our warehouse? Good idea, don’t do that I’m not gonna do that. Someone else might do that. But I’m not, that’s not our expertise. So I’m not going to do that. But we actually looked at other 3PLs. And we actually found a 3PL that actually works great for our products, like the deck that I built. like a whole different things. But like we talked about, hey, like this is getting expensive to ship. It’s under almost like 14 pounds, or 14 ounces. And there’s a threshold that like 15, or 16 ounces to get done for USPS priority mail. And that’s like $3.50 less per package. So we’re like, well, what can we do there? So as we started exploring new 3PLs, that question came up is like, hey, if you can make this two ounces less, you can save $3.50 on your shipping. And so then we put our brains together? Yeah, it’s huge. Like, if you think about selling 10s of 1000s of units a month, that’s a lot of money that goes right to your bottom line.

Joshua Chin 26:00

That’s like 15% of the revenue.

James Bake 26:05

Yeah, shipping is expensive. So we started, we started thinking that through a little bit like, Okay, that was just like the start of pay our 3PL, we’re starting to see our SLA’s are delayed. Our costs are kind of high, like those kind of things. And just having those conversations, again, it’s finding those points of friction and start intentionally getting involved with them. Like we started asking questions. And then when we met a partner, they’re like, yeah, you can get your product weight down to this, you can save a ton of money. We’re like, oh, and then we went back to the product team. And we said, okay, what can we do to like, re engineer this. So we don’t lose quality, we make it a better product. And it’s fun. That was a fun exercise. Because not only did we find a new 3PL, who was a partner our business where we also improve the product and reduce the weight, and are now saving a ton of money. So focusing on that profit. So that, again, that’s where it was messy, there’s a little bit of chaos, and we kind of listen to like where the conversation led. And then we try to see what we could do to help. But ultimately, at the end of the day, the goal was to improve profits and to have a better experience for the organization. And to help it scale. So that we could we could be ready.

Joshua Chin 27:17

What what changed? That that was that was really good. So I guess that was a big, that’s a big change. Right? What else changed in the course of 2020 and leading into the fourth month of 2021? For the brand?

James Bake 27:37

Oh, wow. Okay, so a lot has changed. So we’ve, we’ve launched new products. So I think we’ve launched four new products this year, or in the last like six months. That was a big thing we did. We have systemized our manufacturing process better. So now we’re forecasting out, because one of the biggest things we saw is like our manufacturing lead time was taking longer than expected, it sits at ports a lot longer than expected, you know, even when it’s not imported, takes longer to go in transit or be received for a 3PL because everybody’s online. So we’ve had it, we’ve had to sit back and like systemize that a little better, and also update our forecasting processes. So I think that’s been a big win for us is to like, take a few moments and like, okay, we now we constantly look at, like when we make it a place of order, we track how long it takes. And then we we use that now just say okay, now it’s taking 170 days to receive to us like that’s one not acceptable. We’re working on fixing that process. But now as we start, think about q4, we have to start planning that out. Now we have to start adjusting our timelines so that we can react in the marketplace, right with reactive, the space brand. So that’s one thing, new products, and new processes are manufacturing. I think marketing as well has been a big shift. And I know it’s a very relevant topic with iOS 14 right now is tracking is completely changing. And I think the world’s marketing was freaking out a little bit about it, because there’s just so much unknown with what’s going on. But it’s making us think about how we market and it’s thinking about what channels are we in and where are our eggs when I first started, one of our biggest challenges was Facebook was 50% of our revenue. And that’s a huge risk for any company and one of my goals in the first 30 days, as soon as identified was like okay, we have to diversify. We have to not be so reliant on Facebook and you know, Facebook hiccups for today. You’re like, Oh my God, my business is failing. Now, you can’t have that like that happened. So now we’ve we’ve really invested into other channels and we were getting into more of a testing mentalities. We test to try and I’m happy to stay like Facebook now is less than 25% of our overall revenue. And we’re ramping up other channels that are working really well. So that that was another big change that we did. And then people wise, I think we’ve, we’ve always been focused on people development. And I think more of this with COVID and not be able to do retreats and you know, understanding that mental health is as important as physical health, we put a lot more emphasis on our people and trying to make sure that we are getting time off when needed, or, you know, having those online team activities or working on personal growth plans, we’ve implemented hours a little more structured, and part of the okrs that we have internally is, you also will have to have a personal goal, we recommend you have a personal goal. And it’s kind of fun to watch people share their personal goals with everybody and the progress they’re making on them as well.

Joshua Chin 30:44

Now, there was a lot, I love that and let’s unpack that.

James Bake 30:48

It’s been, it’s been, it’s been a busy year, I’ll say it’s been a very busy year.

Joshua Chin 30:52

No doubt, man, James. So Facebook now accounts for less than 25% of BestSelf’s revenue. Is there any one single channel that accounts for more than 25% today?

James Bake 31:07

I’ll probably say email, we put a lot of emphasis on email and growing our email list, and maybe email as best as possible. And I think that’s really helped us a lot. And the other thing is, it’s a lot of like, organic is, is climbing up higher, more and more every everyday, we put a lot of emphasis on creative. But what we did is we try to make sure that we’re not standing on one leg anymore. So now with a lot of a lot of different channels. I’m really excited about YouTube, I think YouTube has a lot of opportunity. And we just launched our first major YouTube campaign, we’ve dabbled in a little bit, but we actually shot a video in house and we have an awesome video producer who came up with this great concept. And it came with a really great video. And we’re testing that out now. And I think there’s legs there. I’ve heard lots of people say that it’s like, equal to Facebook ads. So we’re trying that a little bit more. But yeah, I think like my goal has always been is focused on profitability, and focus on making sure that we’re not reliant on one one thing, it just hurts the business.

Joshua Chin 32:17

Gotcha. I love that. I love that music to my ears when when people say email is more than 25% of revenue. So that’s always a good thing. That’s, you know, profits. And just predictability overall is just so much more stable. When you have a-

James Bake 32:34

I was saying with email, like I’m getting really excited about SMS like I don’t like this is probably have a, I have a different opinion. Now a lot of people out SMS, I don’t like SMS in the current state, I think it’s a horrible customer experience. And I think it’s horrible marketing. It’s just like you’re blasting out to people. And I think that’s just like, the worst way to be marketing. And we’re guilty of it. And it’s just how it is. I’m so excited. We were in Klaviyo was talking about more conversation piece. I cannot wait until it’s all the way rolled out. And we can actually have conversation with our members like that. And our customers that is going to that’s going to change the game. Like I hate getting text messages from brands, like buy this buy this, like, it just it turns me off. And I’m like, No, I don’t want to buy like I want to text you and like, have like a little bit of a relationship and have someone on the other end, that’s gonna respond to I think like, you know, bots are great. The bots have been useless. In some cases. I think even we’re like, Facebook Messenger in my mind. Left was earned and it didn’t work out was like everybody try to make it not when I think you need to have that human element. I think there’s some automation placed in there. But I think that conversation is gonna be a game changer for brands. And if they can figure out how to scale that in a sense, perfect. I think that’s where it’s gonna be a win.

Joshua Chin 33:56

Let us peek behind the curtain a little bit on what your plans are with conversational SMS. I think that’s super interesting. I was just about to bring that up. Actually. I do think that that is the next, the next most important step that I think brands or anyone who cares about their brands should be doing is that yeah, that is, um, the relationship that you can build out of that experience is something that cannot be replaced with any other channel, I feel.

James Bake 34:24

Yeah, yeah, I think I think that’s true. So like, one of the things that he Okay, let’s go back to Facebook a little bit. And I’ll use that as kind of an example. So if you’re familiar Facebook advertising, you can dark post ads, right, or you can think it’s considered our posting still, but you can dark post the same ad across multiple ad sets, and you can use that social proof and share it across. It’s great to have social proof on ads. So what we do is we actually read our post and we share or use the same ad on multiple ad sets. We use them for months now. And what we do is we actually have people on our team that are responding back to people In the conversation in the conversation section, look at the comments section. And the goal is to try to have a conversation with them so that people respond back, you know, so that you’re getting that that dialogue in the add comments. And guess what? That’s social proof. Facebook loves that. So we’ve actually started that, you know, that conversation marketing in our Facebook comments as a way to help boost our, our social proof our rankings in our Facebook ads. But now we can take that same concept a little bit into our SMS marketing. And so what we can do and says, hey, there’s a 20% off sale, we can actually potentially post like, a card and say, like, a question and get them to respond back a little bit, or Oh, you know, engage a little bit differently. Yeah, I think that’s, that’s an opportunity. Where I think we’re, I’m really excited about is, how do we do it, where it’s not like weird, like, it might be weird to get a text message from best seller that says, What’s the last random thing that made you smile? And then you respond back? It might be a little weird, but it might create a dialogue with people where you can ask people, hey, what, hey, it’s the first of the month, What’s your goal for this month? And then we’d like dialogue and say, Hey, great job. Let me give me words of encouragement. That’s, I think that’s what we’re kind of excited about is getting that engaged with people and being that like, support that cheerleader for people so that they’re thinking bigger, and they’re achieving more, and they’re connecting, when we’re deeper.

Joshua Chin 36:26

I love that so much. And the the challenge I think most listeners would have in your mind, and I do as well is how you do that at scale, especially, you know, you just can’t replace that that human touch with bots, like we just established, what would you do to overcome that challenge, we build a whole team around that.

James Bake 36:48

I think like to start with, it’s going to be something where we’re going to we’re going to test it, like we see that it’s accessible in like Facebook ads on the comments. So I think like, once the technology is more available and ready, I think like it’s pretty close, we might be in beta, we haven’t launched yet, or this kind of concept, but I think it would be it’s gonna be an investment, we’re gonna invest in a percent or two. And then what we’re going to do is we’ll test it in segments. So it won’t be like sending your 10s of 1000 messages at once, but maybe sending a couple 100 and seeing how it does and then evolving it from there. So it’s, it’s, you know, I like I’m a personal believer of like, let’s dabble a little bit, let’s get some learnings, and then automate where it makes sense. But let’s let’s get some human interaction and see what what works best. And that I think that’s where we’ll start and then go from there. But I think it’s gonna be like my, my prediction is that we’ll see a good ROI from that, because we’ll get the LTV, and it will make sense to hire, like customer service or, you know, meet our cheerleaders, your customer engagement specialist, that’ll be able to manage those channels.

Joshua Chin 37:56

I love that. And people, let’s talk about people. So retreats, how often did you have them pre COVID, once a year, twice a year?

James Bake 38:04

Once, twice a year.

Joshua Chin 38:06

Once or twice a year? Same. Our team is fully remote, we used to have what’s called a workcation twice a year. We were moving into a twice a year kind of thing where we brought people from all around the world to a single location. And talk about goals and yes, pivotal stuff. And now that that’s not available we have and we grew pretty quickly in the middle of COVID. So we have I think more than half the team have not met one another in person. Like ever. Only through Zoom.

James Bake 38:42

We might have the same situation actually is I think most people like half the team has not met each other. So we’ve met each other through Zoom. That’s fascinating. Did you go like I know you’re based in Singapore? Is everybody in your team in Singapore? Are they distributed?

Joshua Chin 39:00

We’re pretty distributed. So I’m based in Singapore have my co founder, we got people in Malaysia, the Philippines, the US, UK as well. South Africa, a couple of other games. So they’re

James Bake 39:15

Everybody’s all over the place. This is a challenge we have with people in the Philippines and UK and Belgium and yeah, all over. So yeah, I think it’s it’s challenging, but like we, you know, we have fun, like so we do a speaker. I just did one of these a little bit ago, but we do icebreakers on calls we do. We share a lot of personal things, which is kind of fun. And so we have that that kind of bond where we you know, people get familiar like we like to show dog pictures. And if you can hear my dog snoring right now but he’s snoring and everybody knows that Thai sitting next to me 24/7 snoring and it’s not nice story. So my camera’s off. They’re like is James sleeping? But we yeah, Thai’s about he’s back there one of our guests. Yeah, he snores all day long. It’s cute. But to answer your question, I think like, it is a challenge. It is a challenge, like when you’re remote distributed team, and you want to have that in person behind, I think like, you know that I’ve seen it numerous places like, well, I missed that, that, you know, just that coffee room kind of answer where we can just chit chat and talk and see how things go and or get a pulse on things. And that eye contact is a little different in person than it is in zoom. The other thing is, I think, is like the collaboration is, you know, great. I think we do every single job. But there’s sometimes I miss being in a room with people and they’d write on a whiteboard. And you can’t duplicate that as much. Yeah, I think we’ve been a remote company since the beginning. And then we found good ways to do that. But we like the retreats to something I missed. Because there’s things that you want to just get a couple people in the same room, and just kind of work through something and then not be so on with like the camera. What I will say one of the things that I found, like really kind of helpful is some meetings will just not have camera on. And I like that I think that’s actually like, hey, I’ve been like, I’ll tell my team like, hey, I’ve been on zoom all day long, like, you might have I just turn my camera off when? Or can we talk on the phone? And I’m like, why don’t we talk. And I think that’s been really helpful, like, so well, like, a couple people in the team. And I will go for walks for our one on ones together. But we’re, we’re not together. So but it’s a change in scenery. And you kind of have a little bit closer bond because of that, like, and it’s kind of fun, like, you know, there was like a dog bark in the background or, like, birds chirping and like, be like, no, I can hear the birds chirping. Like, now we’re connected in a different way. So little things that I think bring people together.

Joshua Chin 41:51

And OKRs is this your first cycle?

James Bake 41:56

We’ve done something similar to OKRs in the past. And we so this is the second quarter that we kind of officially done my team basic OKRs. And we’ve done like company OKRs. And then this this year, we kind of broke it out into individuals. It’s the second one, it’s going pretty well. I I go back and forth. Like is it beneficial for the pass fail list for some people versus like okrs worth actually, there’s numbers driven, because not every position can have like a metric title, or it’s a little more challenging path. Actually kind of fun to figure out the metric. But sometimes it turns into like a pass fail list. So like, did you complete it or not? And that’s, that’s been kind of like the fun evolution of is adapting to different people’s positions.

Joshua Chin 42:48

It’s It’s such a challenging thing to implement. We’re actually in their second year of OKRs now, and oh, yeah, they were finally feeling like, yeah, we’re getting the hang of it. And it’s hard when when your team of our team is almost 80 people from all around the world. So it’s, it’s hard to keep everyone on track with what OKRs are meant to be and what they’re meant not to be. And then you did something really interesting. You mentioned, you recommend that people have as per individual OKRs, a personal goal. Um, how does that work? And how do you fit that into the whole organization?

James Bake 43:31

Are your OKRs like, do you quarterly or do you do monthly? How do you structure yours?

Joshua Chin 43:36

We do quarterly OKRs.

James Bake 43:38

Yeah, that’s what we do, too. So I’m kind of part of it is that we I tried the first quarter we did that, like our I think our eyeballs were bigger than our mouth. And we had everybody had like a 20. Which, you know, yeah, and so we got excited, ambitious, and we did knock off a lot of them. And I am a big fan of like stretch goals. But you know, quarter two, we decided to go like three to five, like we got a lot done in q1, we’re good. Like, we there’s more we can do. But let’s get into like not low hanging fruit stuff and getting to deeper. And so part of that was like, you know, what’s, here’s the three to five things that you’re going to do. Company wise, you Okay, so the company wise, but what’s one thing you want to accomplish, and it was kind of fun, because then again, that goes back to that culture and learning about people is, you know, I said, I wanted to do a 14 day course that I wanted to get done or a 14 day challenge that I wanted to do. And so that was my one of my OKRs this quarter, and I got it done and super excited about that. It was a little bit stressful. Finding the time to get it done, but I did it. But other people talked about like, is like someone our product development team is like, you know, they don’t work in coding, like I want to learn, you know, coding, like a little bit more about database management is what he was thinking about. And I was like that, that’s really neat. That’s something that you know, I wouldn’t never thought about as your personal things. You want to learn more about like how to join tables and you know how to do sequel statements and things like that. That’s, that’s really cool. And it’s interesting that that’s something you do outside of work, or a part of work, but outside of your normal day to day job. So I think that’s, that’s what it is. It’s like, you know, do you wanna read a book? Do you want to read a challenge? Do you want to learn something? Like, you know, get into the habit, and then we support each other? And we kind of check it on a monthly basis, saying, oh, how are you doing with your OKRs and your personal goal. And, you know, I think the interesting thing, like any kind of goals, because we love, like the Self Journal, and, and how it goes do is like they evolve and change over time. And I think we were getting ready to finish up April. And so I already know, like, one person is decided to change his personal goals. So we’re going to talk through that a little bit. And like, what does your personal like we do instead, like, I think he tried something, didn’t really like it, and is like, you know, why I’m not gonna stick through this, but I’ll do something else instead. And so we’re gonna adapt and change with that. Like, I think that’s kind of a beautiful thing. And then having that open, vulnerable discussion as a team, like, Hey, you know, I plan this, it didn’t work as I thought it was gonna work. But here’s what I’m gonna do to kind of evolve it instead. Versus like, giving up a complete, like, a lot of people to do with their goals is like, it is not what they really thought they give up. And sometimes it’s just needs to, you need to and of course, books, a bad word, but recalibrate, right? Like, alright, maybe there’s a better way to do this, or different than I could be doing. It’s not giving up necessarily, but it’s like, learning from the assumptions you made, applying to something else.

Joshua Chin 46:33

And I think that it’s so powerful to have personal goals as part of something you do at work and as a team, because then you have, like natural accountability partners, versus saying that I’m going to work out every single day, and I only know one about it, so it’s never gonna happen. I love that.

James Bake 46:54

That is amazing. Like, I would love to do that. And my team’s listening, I would love to do some sort of, like, challenge together. We’ve talked about book clubs, and we’ve done some books. That’s been kind of fun. But I would love like, I know, friends that we’re gonna have the companies that don’t like a Spartan Race together when it wasn’t COVID. Or they do something where they’re like, working towards, like, they track the rings on their their watches. And I’m like, like, so much fun. Let’s do that as a team together, because you’re kind of building each other up. I think, in the in the fun thing this year, this year, what we’ve seen is, you know, ever, like with COVID, I think everybody had the opportunity to grow differently. And I think maybe a q3, q3 goal would be or maybe a personal maybe something as a team and like I do a team challenge. I love that idea. That that can be really, that can be really cool. Because, again, you’re getting that accountability, you’re getting the energy, and helps you push yourself farther.

Joshua Chin 47:47

Exactly. And what what other companies or brands that that you look up to in terms of their culture and the way that they’ve built their team?

James Bake 47:58

That’s, that’s a hard question to answer. I don’t it’s a hard question to answer.

Joshua Chin 48:06

What about just brands that you look up to?

James Bake 48:11

Yeah, brands that I look up to, I’m kind of eclectic, with the brands that I look up to, I think, like one being in the yoga space. And also, you know, kind of the world that that we’ve been living in the last couple couple years is, I love seeing brands that are being more inclusive and accessible with their marketing, I’ll pick Lululemon, and I think is has been a fantastic brand of that one. And they’ve been doing a much better job of updating their imagery across the site. So like, you have different models of different types. And I think that’s beautiful, I think they could probably still be better, but they’re stepping in the right direction where you go in and you see someone like I don’t, I don’t consider myself a thin man, I am a little chunky. And I’ll give that and when I see representation of that, like Target does a fantastic job of that, too. When I see that representation, it makes me happy as a human but also happy as a marketer. So there’s a number of brands I look up to that are doing a fantastic job of really diversifying their representation. And I think the great thing now is you’re starting to see a little more organically when people are using user generated content in their marketing efforts. And it’s not always like a model of some sort. It’s you know, real users who are using it, I think that’s I get it like Target and Lululemon the first two that I can think about that they do that. So I’m trying to get the name of the brand I use the day but there was like a men’s face care line that did the same thing. Just different men are different sizes or skin types that you didn’t expect. Or like that’s that that made me feel more comfortable with the brand and wanting to buy it.

Joshua Chin 50:00

And they want your business. So I think a lot of a lot of brands, and, I guess conversations I’ve had is, is that this is kind of just like social justice stuff, and then like, woo stuff. And it’s it’s not, it’s not profit driven. And so companies should pay attention to it. But I think that it has a good overlap with company performance and just doing the right thing. Like, like what you’ve just described, right? It’s, it’s good for society, it’s good for business as well. Because people resonate with that, and people are demanding the brands that they buy from to be more inclusive and more, more open minded. So I love that. What so what’s one advice that you have for brands that are looking to, to step in the right direction, in in the way that they position themselves as a brand and how we run marketing?

James Bake 51:01

Mmm hmm. You know, one of the things that I love about bestsellers and this has been going on for years is they listen to their their consumers. So we actually have a Slack channel that says, like, it’s called the voice of the customer. And customer success stories is another one. So we have like success stories and voices of customers. And we openly share pain points of our products with our customer, with our internal team. So everybody on the team sees it. Even they hire to get added to the channel. So you get to see if there’s ever a pain point has been a struggle, or there’s been something and what we do is we kind of embrace that. But we also embrace the success stories, and we learn what, what people how people are using it. So I think I mentioned earlier, it’s it brings us joy when we see people like someone reached out to us a couple months ago and asked if we could create them a card, so they could propose to their girlfriend, and I was like that was amazing. And then they sent pictures afterwards, or they tell us about how they’re using it. But one of the things I love about myself, we it’s ingrained in our culture, we have a Facebook group, and there’s almost 40,000 people in it. And we listen to those and we take screenshots, we put it in the team, we talked about it, and we see how we can do better. Or we also use it to see how we can solve their problems. So it might not be a problem with us or with our products, but it’s something that they’ve challenged in life and, you know, then we try to see if we can create a product around it or create content around it, or something that we can solve for those individuals. And that’s it’s part of our culture. And I think that’s a great thing for any brands to really get into is get to know your consumers a little bit more, get like create that voice of the customer channel, create that success story channel in your Slack, and share, get your customer service team to share kind of like the pain points in the success stories and make it part of your day to day reaction to see, like where people struggling and how can you help as a brand. And I think that that’s something big because it helps generally like your culture, you get to see who your customers are. And then you get to start adapting your marketing to, you know, people like what, like Seth Godin, I think says like, people buy, I buy things from people like me. And so that’s a very common thread. So like, look at your customers and try to find it. Because look alike campaigns like same. Google or Google Ads has similar to concepts like that we should be doing the same thing. All of our marketing is people like us by our people. I don’t remember the quote, but it’s, it’s something like I buy or people buy things for people like us. I think that’s where it goes left to look that up later and put in the show notes or something. But I think that’s my biggest thing is I say look like potential customers. Listen, your customer create this channels be open to their feedback. Sure, sometimes it might not seem very intuitive or like that they know what’s going on. But you never know where the collective conversation could could lead.

Joshua Chin 54:02

What’s what’s, uh, what’s one advice that you would give that you’d give James 10 years ago, before the whole the whole world of marketing and and you can go even further back, like, but I think 10 years timeframe. What’s one advice you’d give?

James Bake 54:26

I think that’s a really good but I think, you know, I always struggled with vulnerability, being vulnerable in, in in life, and I think he especially at work. You know, I think there was younger, I always thought there was like this, this vision of what a leader or executive or a manager should be, and they’re a little more buttoned up, they didn’t ramble and conversations and maybe they didn’t bring up uncomfortable conversations, but I think if I was gonna tell myself something, I think like one be be okay with being vulnerable. And if you’re not, okay in that situation or if you’re not in that environment, then it’s time to leave. And it’s not the best place for you. But you should begin with the humility of someone who’s not sure and excitement of someone who knows that it’s possible. I think that’s something I would tell myself is be comfortable with the uncomfortable and be uncomfortable being vulnerable and surround yourself with people who embrace that vulnerability. And encourage it.

Joshua Chin 55:27

Beautiful. James, last question, is there anything else you’d like to share with the listeners that we haven’t talked about? That I haven’t asked you yet?

James Bake 55:38

I think we’ve covered a lot today. This is this has been a lot of fun. I, you know, I think like where I look at it as from an organization, or even from marketing, as I always think that there’s opportunities to improve, but there’s also areas to celebrate, right? So like, I think they go hand in hand, like, you know, when things get messy, very, very messy. I think when problems happen like it, well, that’s life, right. And that’s business, we should embrace it and celebrate the wins where we can. And even if it’s like a small wind of like, you know, fixing something that was broken, that wasn’t our fault. You know, hey, that’s something that like, maybe distract you from the day that we can, we can celebrate. So I think that’s a big thing. Always be willing to celebrate the wins. We do one of my favorite things here. Another thing that we do that’s really fun. From a cultural standpoint, we have success by Friday, and on Fridays, we go around the room and talk about three wins that we’ve done for the day. But we also do shout outs. So we if we go around the room and we are the Zoom, I guess and shout out someone who’s like helped you or someone you’re proud of or someone that you just want to like them in the back. And I think that’s beautiful. I think more brands should be doing that.

Joshua Chin 56:55

Oh, I love that. We do something similar called Chronos Highlights. Once a month. And we Yeah, yeah, we kind of celebrate like mini wins and big wins to the month. Kind of just Yeah, do a little bit of shout outs to people we appreciate. So that’s, that’s really cool. It’s pretty nice to see. Awesome. James, thank you so much for being here. And if people interested in connecting with you, how should they reach out? And how should they get in touch?

James Bake 57:24

Yeah, you can just email me. I’m pretty open my emails at James@bestself.co Bestself.co.

Joshua Chin 57:33

And go check out bestself.co they have some amazing products. We didn’t get to try the icebreaker deck today, but uh, I think that’s gonna be I’m gonna. Yeah, I’m definitely gonna get my hands on the Intimacy Deck that that sounds like a fun thing to do on the next day.

James Bake 57:53

To do with your podcast guests? That can’t actually go on the podcast.

Joshua Chin 58:00

That’s gonna be a little bit too intimate. No, no, no.

James Bake 58:02

No, you can make Well, yes, some of the questions we last party thought like, if you ever get a chance. We were on GMA. And it was actually like, I remember it was last year, it was like a kid section. But they were talking about the little talk deck. And then one of the the personalities like picked up the intimacy deck. And they picked up one of the first questions. And it was, it was a little embarrassing. I wouldn’t say racy. It was it was it was deep. It was like a very, like, you might want to ask this at home with our kids listening. And everybody on the screen was was bright red. And it was it was funny. It was funny. But again, there’s some there’s some questions out there that-

Joshua Chin 58:45

Can you share what the question was?

James Bake 58:47

I don’t remember, I’ll have to find it. But it was it was fun. It was funny. Like I think all of us were watching because we did like a live showing of it. You’re watching it and the guy pulled it out. And you could just see his face like turn bright red, and then he read it and we’re just all like, ah, but it was it was great. It was a great opportunity for us.

Joshua Chin 59:06

That’s some good PR for sure.

James Bake 59:09

Yeah, it was it was it was an enjoyable But yeah, I think get the intimacy deck and like try it out on the show and see what happens. Just pull random and see what you get.

Joshua Chin 59:18

It’s also good to have a girlfriend but but yeah, no, that’s a good idea to maybe try it out of the show. Who knows?

James Bake 59:24

It’d be better for your girlfriend, man.

Joshua Chin 59:27

James, thank you so much for being on the show.

James Bake 59:29

Josh, thanks so much. It’s been a pleasure.

Outro 59:35

Thanks for listening to the eCommerce Profits Podcast. We’ll see you again next time and be sure to click subscribe to get notified of future episodes.

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