Do you want to know the best way to keep customers happy and achieve business success? Connect and communicate with them! Ask for their feedback and use it as a strategy to improve and scale. It gives customers a positive experience and also makes your job easier.
Today we have Abby Warner, the Co-Founder & COO of Launch Codes, an e-commerce technology and discovery platform that makes product drops and launches easy, predictable, and secure. Prior to Launch Codes, Abby also worked in different leadership roles in the startup tech space.
Her naturally curious and creative problem-solver personality enables her to quickly move from being an individual contributor to having a leadership role in startup companies and co-founding her own startup business.
Throughout the conversation, Abby shares her quest in the startup and tech industry, the progress of her leadership career, and the challenges along the journey. Abby highlights the importance of understanding the product and considering customer feedback in creating business success.
01:21 Abby’s background and her experience living a big city life
07:29 The joy of being a creative problem solver
16:06 The implementation of the agile development cycle
19:34 How to train and convert teams and customers to transition
24:19 The power of daily team standup to promote good communication
29:07 What it takes to become a startup executive from being a contributor
32:53 Abby, Megan, and the startups
46:13 Focusing on what matters to scale a startup
50:52 Building another startup, “Launch Codes.”
57:37 Abby’s book recommendation and how to connect with her
Grayson Faircloth: 23:36
That's interesting. And we've been at a very high level so far. I'm interested, like, if you looked back tactically, and I know you kind of pick up things along the way, what did you think and this can be Compendium Rick's anything could be the restaurant, were there things that you picked up on in terms of, you know, I really like this particular meeting cadence that we do, or I like this particular, like metric to tell if a product team is actually doing a good job, or if our customers are actually happy. What are some of the more tactical things that you picked up along the way, in terms of I want to keep track of this going forward? Or maybe it worked back then maybe you haven't looked at it?
Abby Warner: 24:19
I'm a big fan of the daily standup, I think it helps. It really helps to promote communication, we have a natural tendency to like, type out an email, and expect people are going to read it, but a quick 15 minutes where the entire team can get in sync with what the priorities are for the day, you get a quick kind of understanding of like, where things stand, are we going to fall short on the timelines that we've set for ourselves and the goals that we've set or, you know, are we on track? And also that real time like quick feedback gives you the opportunity to pivot quickly, if you see that something's not working, and so from a meeting cadence, endpoint. That's one of my favorites. I'm big, big fan of a daily stand up touch point, whatever you want to call it. I think it really helps us to, you know, like I said, make decisions quickly. And pivot if you need to pivot.
Grayson Faircloth: 25:13
Cool. Yeah. And that kind of leads us well into this more COO, you know, frame of mind. So you went from client services. And then I believe your very next role was chief operating officer for the Brookfield group, correct?
Abby Warner: 25:29
Yeah. So I actually started as the VP of Operations, but when I was changing, and on LinkedIn, I never liked that I didn't show a progression there. I just changed it, from VP to COO. But yeah, I think I started off by saying, I've always sort of been a creative problem solver. And I like to instill process, but not overbearing process, like I do believe it's important to understand how things work to have regular check points for status updates, and, you know, making sure that you're still on track.
And then also, like, Adam, you know, really being willing to change if you need to change. And so, you know, I joined the Brookfield group as our Vice President of Operations, my role and responsibility was really about, you know, managing the team, the business operations as they existed here in Indianapolis. But we're also embarking on, we had set some goals, some lofty goals for acquisitions. And so it would be about onboarding and integrating other companies as we were, as we were acquiring them. And so my time there required seven companies. So I would help with the diligence.
And then bringing them sort of into our technology stack, onboarding them, and integrating them, and I say, our technology stack, but it's also about, you know, bringing them into the team and the culture and all of those pieces. But when you're running a services organization, right, it's really important to be able to understand, like where your resources are going, because it's really easy to get quickly. overstaffed, right, and your most expensive resources, your human capital. And so my first year there was focused on really building up the infrastructure for us to be able to manage and understand things like, where our human capital was going, and so on. And then we started, you know, really engaging, and onboarding other companies that we acquired was interesting, because most of them were in different geographical markets. And so sort of how we spread our footprint as well.
But all along the way, you know, really trying to get everyone to march to the same beat, making sure that, you know, our checkpoints were standard moving into a single technology stack, because it is obviously most efficient to do that. And then, you know, always being willing, willing to, you know, like I said earlier, change or modify the way you were doing things, because each company we brought on, you learned a little something new, and there were things that they were doing that may have been a little bit better than what we were doing. And so we would always take a hard look at, here's our current process, and here's what they're doing, and how can we bring the two together in the most effective and efficient way?
Grayson Faircloth: 28:10
yeah, and I think like that role of chief operating officer or VP of Operations, you get a very different view of the business and of like running a business that you probably didn't get, when you're very focused on the client services, where you get to see a lot more, one of the that's actually been like a common theme in terms of people who have been successful in terms of going from, you know, individual, contributor type role building up tomorrow that I started up executive. I know, you switched around a lot of roles and stuff like that. But how did you go about learning all the different things that startup executives might need to know? But maybe, you know, it wasn't your day to day? Responsibilities? If that makes sense? I think from the perspective of that, yeah,
Abby Warner: 28:56
I think again, one of my strengths, like my creativity, and problem solving, and also my curiosity. And so, you know, along the way, I connected with people who were in different roles, things that, you know, who was the CFO at Compendium just honestly, like staying connected to him. And then, you know, off work time, picking his brain about why do these metrics matter over these, you know, from a financial standpoint, why are we looking at this versus that, really building out a strong network of connections of leaders of friends, who have all helped. I have another great connection who's chief operating officer of a large insurance company here in town, to you know, Chris and Ali and, you know, Megan, from a marketing standpoint, you know, really surrounding myself with people who have have experiences that are slightly different than mine, and engaging in conversation and, being willing to ask questions and kind of dig in on things that I don't know. Because it's really about learning and seeking to understand, I guess,
Grayson Faircloth: 30:18
Yeah, it's really cool. Seeing the side of you. I know, you're obviously a curious person. But it's funny seeing, like, the progression of AbbVie in terms of curiosity, leading the way for a lot of things. And that's definitely something I've seen for people who go on to do just very cool things if they're very curious. So that's cool to hear that from you as well.
Abby Warner: 30:38
Yeah, curious and creative problem solving, like, you know, it's like, Oh, I feel like I can make this better. Yeah. I would also say though, like, in full, like, transparency, it's the Creative Problem Solving thing. And the curiosity thing can also be my biggest weakness, because sometimes I try and poke holes, like, I'm like, Oh, I know, that can be better. And rather than just letting it ride for a little while, I sometimes like to get in the rain and like making it just a little bit better.
And so one of my biggest lessons, and I think, for most people, what is your biggest strength is also your biggest weakness. And one of my biggest lessons is like, the patience to give, you know, learning to find the patience to give whatever change, you're making a little bit of time to work itself out, you know, making sure that you're continuing to, you know, make sure that everyone that it affects is like bought in and they're keeping down the same path and that you're listening to their feedback.
But don't always be so quick to change. Let things kind of work themselves out a little bit. And so finding that like, balance, staying in tune with what's happening to know when the right time is to dig in.
Grayson Faircloth: 31:54
Yeah, no, I like that. I experience a lot of similar stuff. You don't want to get caught on an edge case, when getting it 85% of the way is good enough for now, especially in startups.
Abby Warner: 32:06
Yeah, definitely. And it's, I think, Grayson, you've probably heard me say this multiple times when I was at 120. As we were working together, guys, we gotta make progress over perfection. Like, we've got to make, you know, make some progress, and we're never gonna be perfect. But make progress, experience that for a little bit. Come back reflect. And if it's time for a change, then let's change but if not, like, let it continue to go. So don't worry about the edge cases.
Grayson Faircloth: 32:35
Yeah. And that is a great transition. You moved on from Brookfield group, you got involved into 120. It sounds like you had some Compendium connections there. I'd love to hear about how you actually got involved in that. And some background on 120 water as well for context.
Abby Warner: 32:51
Yeah, definitely. So Megan Glover is co-founder and CEO of 120. Water, Megan, and I actually went to DePaul together, we worked at Compendium together, we worked at software together. And we actually started companies two days apart. Megan started 120 water. I started a software company called Digi notes. Megan took funding and had a marketing sort of go to market focus. I partnered up with some developers I knew and said, I can solve this problem and didn't have the same go to market focus. And I didn't have the funding for the marketing efforts that needed to go into it.
So about a year and a half later, I ended up dissolving my startup. But it was a great learning lesson. And Megan and I used to get together on Thursday evenings, and we would typically find a, you know, we go to a restaurant or a coffee shop or something. And we would sit there and we would pick each other's brains about like, oh, how are you doing this? And how are you addressing that? You know, I remember at one point in time, she said, how do you think I'm gonna go into school?
And did you notice it was an ed tech software? And I'm like, oh, Megan, like, schools are so hard. Like, it is like you, you get one person on board. And then, you know, you've got to train everybody else. And she's like, No, she's like, maybe we would like to be partners together. And I'm like, but you're working with the janitors and the principals and I'm working with the, like, technology people and such. And so anyway, it was really great. But I mean, it was little things like that, where we were just kind of picking each other's brains trying to figure it out in the early days. And she said, Someday you're gonna come like either you're gonna work, we're gonna partner and we're gonna do this together.
You're gonna come work with me, but we've got to, you know, we're gonna make our way back together. And so, you know, even when I was at Brookfield, like we're going through after I dissolved. Did you know it's, you know, we would still catch up on a regular basis, just like hey, how's it going? And I was there rooting her on the day she won rights to the rest. And so she closed her Series A, and we like caught up for a celebratory, like, catch up. Big deal. I think it was the largest series A by A woman led organization, you know, here in Indianapolis at the time and, and so we caught up and she's like, well, I now have funding, I have a little bit of stability, I'd really, really, really like for you to come join the team, we need someone to truly focus on the customer experience.
And that's what you're passionate about. And like, oh, Megan, I'm going to a really good gig right now like, but there was a part of me that, like, missed that startup space. You know, like, it's fun to be a service as an organization, you're helping people and such, but you're not creating anything that's your own, right, you're not creating a product you're not bought in rallying around that same single product vision that you're taking to market and that you're, you know, building and growing and, and everything that goes with the startup. And so that kind of went back and forth for a little while and decided that it was time for me to join 120 water and I dip my toes back into the software startup space.
And so I'm 120Water is really an application, that platform that helps water utilities and government agencies and schools really automate their water testing process. And so I like to refer to it as a compliance management solution. But that's kind of boring and such, but it really makes a big difference. And, you know, here in the United States, there are 10s of 1000s of water utilities that are running data that are still managing data in spreadsheets. And it is time for the water industry to really turn the cusp. And thankfully, over the past really year, year and a half, legislation has turned our way. And now it is a requirement that water utilities keep digital assets of their pipes and their meters and everything else.
Grayson Faircloth: 37:13
and I'm interested, what was the state? You mentioned? Megan, you know what to do to come on? On the client's success or things? What was the state of the client success side of the business? And what were kind of like the initial things that you identified as, okay, we got to, we got to focus on this or we got to start here. I'm interested in what your mindset is like. And like, what have you experienced?
Abby Warner: 37:37
Yeah, so we had Megan, I think it was employee number two, an individual who was leading our client success team at 120 did a phenomenal job of getting it from, I think startup to okay, now it's time we've got to be able to scale that and create some replicable processes, and such. And so at 122, there's another twist in what client successes, right? You're working with the utilities, government agencies, the schools, but you're also working in supporting and like, and residents. We have inventory that gets distributed, you know that the utility we buy on behalf of the customers and gets distributed is sent directly to a consumer.
And so you know, there's a b2b or b2c, whatever you want to call it component, but also there's a b2c component. And so, you know, our customers weren't just the 200 water utilities that we were serving, it was the millions of residents that they were serving. And so when you think about, you know, series A is all about taking money to scale a company to make it as replicable as possible and just grow it.
And you know, that meant going from I think, at the time, there were about 50 or 70 cuts like utilities that we were working with and government agencies, to when I left, we were just over 200. And so, you know, that's about how do we ensure that our team we're getting the most out of our team without burning them out? How do we ensure that we're giving both the utilities and the government agencies the right amount of or the right experience as well as the end consumer? It's doing everything, you know, we took our fulfillment operation from, you know, two people managing it on the side so we fully outsourced it to a third party logistics firm, where we could be prepared to scale up and scale down. You know, when I first started, our fulfillment team was both based.
Neither two individuals were both based in Zionsville. And so we always joked that like, Oh, no water testing can happen. When it's spring break or Fall Break, because they were traveling with their families. And so, you know, as you think about growing an operation like that, yes, we still did water testing during those times, and we were prepared for it and such. But, you know, it's being able to handle everything that needs to happen.
You know, when you talk about really tripling quadrupling, the number of customers and customers and consumers that you're serving. And so that was like, I think, when I joined every single customer, not to say that when I left, every single customer didn't mean something. But they still had, you know, Megan's email, and Megan's phone number. And when you're at 50 customers, that's okay. But when you grow to 250 customers, that's a whole, you know, it's hard to touch every single customer that's out there. So, yeah,
Grayson Faircloth: 40:50
No, that's awesome. And I'm interested in coming into a new organization, how do you identify, what are the things I need to start with? And then how do you prioritize your time from there.
Abby Warner: 41:03
So coming into an organization, there are certain things that your leadership peers have picked up on, right. And I'm speaking at this from like, leadership level, but if it's an individual contributor level, right, there's a reason that you're being hired, listen to what, what the gaps are, that they see, whether it's a manager or your peers, there are gaps that need to be acknowledged opportunities, right, that could be filled.
And so understand what those are. And also like, you know, as you're talking to, I mean, as I was talking to Megan, I think one of the things I said, what's going to make this successful, right, in your eyes, what do you want to see happen, that should be every single employees, like, first question to their manager, in my opinion, is like, what's going to make me successful in my first 120 days here, 90 days here, whatever the time frame is, and so you know, really just trying to understand from her and my peers, like, where the gaps were, where opportunities where I take that. And then as a leader, right, I now have direct reports, right, who sometimes their opinions and observations might vary from a leadership's opinion and such, sometimes they're exactly the same.
And so when I started a new company, I'm doing one on one with every employee, all of the leaders throughout the organization at all levels, because it's important to really just listen to their observations. And what you start to see quickly, that's like, normally how I spend my first two weeks at a company is just meeting after meeting after meeting, listening, observing as much as I possibly can, and you start to hear similarities.
And from there, I knew what Megan wanted me to accomplish. I also heard what my direct reports needed, from you know, feeling, you know, some of them were starting to feel a little bit overwhelmed and a little bit burnout. And so trying to figure out how to help them find balance and, and such, and ensure that operations still keep moving, right, we're still not able to support our customers and put on a happy face when we meet with them.
And so, you know, really then about, you know, week two and a half, week three, I like to kind of reflect on my notes, and pull out sort of the top 10 similarities that I found the themes or whatever you want to call them. And from there, I prioritize, and I put together my 9120, and one year sort of roadmap of what I'm trying to accomplish. And so once I get there, then I share that. I'm gonna share it with Meghan, and I said, Alright, do any of this off, you know, it's not set in stone. Because in 90 days, things change. And you have to be willing to change too. And so that's kind of where it all started.
Grayson Faircloth: 44:10
And so one of the things you mentioned, or you mentioned a couple of things that I think we're interesting, one of those being, like the scaling of the actual internal operations of the customer team. So one of the things you did was outsourcing some of the responsibilities to the third party logistics, and what what were some of the other things that you think are important in terms of, you know, when you have a couple of customers, it's pretty easy to just do as much as you can for the customer, make sure they're happy. What were some of the other things that you know, almost like variables in the equation of scaling a customer team, if that makes sense to you?
Abby Warner: 44:51
So, reflecting back to Compendium, right, I always said that there were two different types of people But it was also about being more efficient with your time. And so, you know, people have natural skill sets. So try to play as much as you can. Because most of the time what people excel at naturally, it brings them an energy, right, and they're excited to do what they're doing. And so, you know, making sure that you're getting the most from your entire team, from yourself and from your peers. That's really important.
Also, I mean, I think, Grayson, you worked really closely with me on it, but getting your you know, communication processes and your systems set up, you know, so you're not sending 50 individual emails, but it gets auto triggered because of a workflow in HubSpot, or you know, Salesforce or whatever it is that you use. Little things like that, make a big difference. Take the minutia, you know, kind of away and automate it if you can, and let people focus on what matters. And then that's like, the biggest responsibility of going from startup to scale up, is really figuring out how to clean up, place the focus and energy on what matters.
Grayson Faircloth: 46:12
And I'm interested that there's a couple of things that everything you'd say almost sparks a new conversation path in my mind. But one of those things being having people focus on the things that bring them in there, gee, I'm interested if you guys ever, you know, maybe you did, or maybe thought about it, but didn't do it. But something I've seen quite a bit from a sales perspective. And then a little bit on the customer.
I've seen some customer teams do this. But in terms of like, what are the characteristics of someone who will be successful in this particular role? And then testing for those almost during the interview process? Did you guys do anything like that? Or how did you think about getting the correct people in the door, so that when it came time to actually do the work, it was something that brought them energy, and not something that was kind of like a drag?
Abby Warner: 47:03
So we kind of think along the way, I've looked at different, like, assessments that you can do to try and like, you know, try and understand, you know, what, what someone's natural preferences are? Use PII. In almost every organization, I've been in the predictive index. And I've dabbled in a couple of others, but I don't know. I mean, I don't have an answer for that. I think I've not figured out how to crack the code. They're so cool.
Grayson Faircloth: 47:34
Yeah, I know, I know, Anthony is a big fan of predictive index and stuff like that. And I've seen it sort of new, I think there's some companies that are leaning in a little bit more to like the assessment side of things for the workplace, at least. So I thought I'd ask, there was…
Abby Warner: 47:47
One, I can't remember the name of it right now because it takes predictive indexing to a whole new level, and it tests cognitive abilities and drivers in like types of work. I don't recall what the name of it is. But yeah, there are some out there that work really well.
Grayson Faircloth: 48:06
I'm always interested in it. I'm personally a big fan of that type of stuff. Just I don't know, I think there's a lot to it. But going off into similar but a little bit different is the idea of managing people and helping them grow.
I want to talk a little bit about like, you know, the career progression, type of conversation, like when you're managing people, and you're bringing on people helping them grow from maybe individual contributors to a more management type role themselves? Like, what are the types of things that you're talking about with them? Or what were you talking about at 120?
Abby Warner: 48:42
One of the things that we're talking about, one, I'm encouraging them to get an outside mentor, someone else who is in a role that's similar to yours, but maybe has a little bit more advanced in their career. I also encourage people to get connections, and I don't think you need necessarily a full mentor per se. But find your circle of people who you can, you know, go talk with them about maybe finances or maybe HR, whatever it may be, to help sort of fill your just general business understanding because it's important to know how the things connect, right? Like, you can't make a good decision and client success without knowing the financial ramifications of that decision and, and what you can expect to see.
So there's a bit of that, like, make sure you're filling out your circle, as I like to call it, and then you know, from individual contributor to, you know, to manager and then you know, Senior Manager and so on. I think it's okay to say I think when I'm talking with team members, helping them a lot of times as they're thinking about career progression is like, oh, the only type of career progression that I can take or do is to go into a management role. That's not always the case.
And so, you know, as a leader, as I think about my team members, it's really getting to know them, getting to helping to understand kind of what gives them energy, and finding ways for them to do more of that. And so, you know, for some people, it's that they really liked to get in and code, right. And they don't want to manage people. That's okay. Creating the right types of progression for them to experience what they like, and what they need.
Grayson Faircloth: 50:42
Yeah, no, I love that. And I want to do pivot away from 120Water into your most recent journey, how call it so recently, you've co founded a company actually in the E-commerce tech space, I'd love to just hear a little bit about launch codes, what you're doing over there, a little bit of background. Yeah, definitely.
Abby Warner: 51:01
So launch codes, right is, as you mentioned, really a way for brands to drop and launch new products. And so we work closely with the E commerce teams, brands of all sizes from small companies like kashflow, to homefield, to many others, also, getting into the musician space, and helping them understand their customers and create a memorable experience. And so I think the way that we shop online is changing.
When I was back at Compendium, the early 2000s. And ecommerce started to become a thing, it was like, oh, my gosh, we got to put all of our products online, and then people are gonna, like, go through them, and they're gonna buy a bunch of stuff from us. And as everything's gone online, people's attention spans have gotten shorter and shorter, and their capacity to like, filter through hundreds of product pages is less and less. And so what you see is what people purchase what's promoted to them and, and then on top of that, as you think about drops, Nike supreme and others, like they've created this culture around the exclusive experience of getting that piece of merchandise.
And so, you know, the Wall Street Journal recently published an article about, you know, companies used to announce new products, but now they're dropping them. And so it's becoming more and more mainstream, it's like, what you can put in front of someone and highlight to them becomes a thing that they want and an experience that they want to be involved in.
And so, you know, I was, I was happy in my role at 120, I was excited about the difference that we were making and the water industry and one of the partners, so we're studio company with high alpha, and one of the partners reached out to me and said, Hey, I'd really like for you to meet one of our entrepreneurs. And I said, “Oh, yeah”, I'd love to, I'm always happy to meet with people in town and build my connections, and so on and so forth. I'd love to. And it just happened that my daughter was graduating from high school. And when the email or the texts came across, and I said, this is really random. But the next two days, I've got a fair amount of flexibility. We want to meet for coffee. And I actually didn't go into it thinking that this was like anything except for like a meet and greet, kind of catching up with someone, talking a little bit about my experience at Rick's and seeing how I could help him. Is one of my co-founders. And he started a brand called cardigan, and they started doing t-shirt drops every Tuesday and online sales increased 10x.
And so basically, he went through the vision and I was like, wow, what you're talking about is creating an individualized experience for a consumer. And you're grabbing data about that individual consumer to share it back with the brand so they can make better decisions. This is sort of the same theme as what we were trying to accomplish with Expedia and Gymboree and others at Compendium to them, which then translated into Rick's. And I started googling a little bit, privacy laws have come into play and getting data about your consumers is harder and harder.
I started doing just a little bit of Googling, and I'm like, no one solves this problem. Instead, it's just gotten more and more complicated. And, you know, seeing sort of the vision for the product, understanding the roadmap and where we're going. I went to a coffee meeting, said hey, I've got to get back over for a go to market session. I was like, Oh, he's like, do you wanna join me? And I was like, Yeah, sure, why not? I got time. Just got to decorate my house for my daughter's graduation party. And so when I attended the market meeting, I was incredibly impressed with how it was run.
I was a little Like, early startup shy, I would say, like coming out of my experience with my own startup. But there was something to the fact that like, okay, you know, this isn't just someone's idea that I'm going to jump into here. It's been vetted, like, the sprint week process that high alpha takes companies through is pretty impressive. You know, and like I said, I did just a little bit of googling to see that there's no other solution like ours out there. And so, like I said, we help brands drop products. So we allow a consumer to grab their digital spot in line, all leading into a product drop.
Grayson Faircloth: 55:36
I'm interested, we talked about this a little bit, as well, but brand new startup, there's a million things that you could be potentially doing, how are you? Like, deciding and you and obviously the rest of the team deciding on? What should you be focusing on? Like, what are the core levers? And then how do you come to those?
Abby Warner: 55:56
Yeah, great question. Because there are days when it feels like you have to do everything. Because literally, there's so much to be done, right? When you're starting a company, you're trying to gain traction, you're trying to get feedback from customers that just like, get them signed on and on like an onboarded.
But then, oh, you got to get them using the product. And then, you know, making sure your employees are still having a good experience and everything else that goes with it. And so I'm dipping our toes into our seed round, fundraise. So it's like, there's a lot that happens. But each week, we have our weekly leadership team meeting. We started out the quarter with, you know, setting forth sort of what our objectives for the quarter are.
Each week, we understand where we are progressing towards those objectives. We share in that meeting, you know, the feedback that we've heard from the previous week, whether it be from sales conversations, investor conversations, or even customer conversations, and sort of just really prioritize around those items. You know, where do we focus our time, we know that we have three big objectives right now.
And that's all about gaining new customers, earning their trust and making sure that they're seeing value in our platform, so that they stay on. And then third is like, you know, running the business, specifically. And so, you know, everything that we do has to and I have those priorities, and the way that we think about them right now, everything that we do has to feed back to one of those objectives in some way or another.
Grayson Faircloth: 57:35
Yeah, no, I love that. Well, I want to end it off with two fun questions, I suppose. First one being Is there a favorite? I like a book or resource or something like that, that has really influenced you? Maybe recently, or just like an all time favorite more from the business perspective, rather than like a Harry Potter.
Abby Warner: 57:56
Right? Not Harry Potter? No. Recently, I actually had a sales conversation with a company that is called Osseo. Box, which is kind of funny that you brought up Harry Potter because it is a subscription box for magic stuff. Yeah, it was just an interesting conversation. And the founder of it, um, had an English accent. So I just sort of felt like I was becoming part of Harry Potter through that conversation. But anyway, that's a side story.
There's so many great books out there. From one of my all time favorites, though, and I think it has to do, really, with how I have evolved sort of how to give and receive feedback, The Four Agreements. And it is not really a business book. It is actually, but it's a quick read. But it talks about, like, you know, being present, and, you know, taking the feedback for what it is. And yeah, I mean, so that's one. There are so many. I mean, it's silly, but like The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is another good one. It's like figuring out how to communicate with your team and making sure that you're, you know, most recently I've been reading sort of the startup CEO and startup board, just trying to get my head in the right space for where I'm at.
You know, I've been a part of fundraisers but they've been later. I've not really done a seed fundraise before and so making sure that things that I'm tapping into and I'm speaking to investors and, and board members and and even peers and employees about our stage are appropriate. I think that's one of the other big lessons that I've learned over time is that every stage within a startup is good. is different. And the things that you need to be considering and thinking about are different. And so macro trends are the same, but like the micro trends of like, where you put your energy is slightly different. And so just trying to get back to that headspace of true startup rather than scale up where it was with 120.
Grayson Faircloth: 1:00:17
Yeah, awesome. Well, I want to give you an opportunity to find out where people should find you: LinkedIn, Twitter, your new website, you'd like to promote any book coming soon? Anything like that?
Abby Warner: 1:00:27
You can find me on LinkedIn. It is Abby41231 or Abby Warner:.. You can find me there. I am on Twitter as well, but I'm not super active. I'm trying to get myself to be more active. Again, I handle Abby41231. Awesome. Not all social media.
Grayson Faircloth: 1:00:45
Your LinkedIn in the show notes so anyone can connect with you there. But I want to say thank you again for joining. And yeah, I'm excited to get this published. This is good.
Abby Warner: 1:00:55
Thank you so much. Appreciate you having me on.
Grayson Faircloth: 0:00
Today we're joined by Abby Warner. Abby is someone I've known for a little over a year. Now she's the co-founder and CEO of Studio Company Launch Codes. And native and has had a, you know, pretty impressive career. She's bounced around to a lot of different companies, but has been there long enough to make her mark, and has grown into roles that, you know, she probably was not expecting when she first started.
And so that has led her to lead teams across product, client services, operations. In that mix, it comes together in a really interesting way. And it provides a great perspective on a couple of things. One thing in particular that we talked about is product and customer feedback loops. And we dive into that a little bit. What's worked well for her there and get to hear a little bit about her background, and what she's working on now with lunch codes, and how she got to this point and things learned along the way. So stay tuned. A lot of good stuff is here. Give it a listen. Thanks. Welcome, Abby. Glad to have you on.
Abby Warner: 1:03
Thank you. Thank you very much. Glad to be here.
Grayson Faircloth: 1:05
Yeah, looking forward to diving into this. I know you and I have talked a lot in the past but want to dive into a little background before you and I met. And so I'd love to just start off there. I'd love to hear just the general background, you know what brought you to and what kept you here?
Abby Warner: 1:21
Awesome. Yeah, so I grew up in Southern Indiana, a small town, Jasper went to DePaul University. I think it was my sophomore year of college that summer, I decided I didn't want to go back to the small town and I wanted to experience big city life. And so I actually got a job in Indianapolis and lived with my aunt for the summer.
And as I was progressing through school, and kind of trying to figure out what was next for me, I realized that I didn't want to go too far from family, but also wasn't really looking for the small town life. And so Indianapolis gave me that great mix of, you know, being close to family, big city life. But also, I just like to say it's a big small town. So you know, there's a lot of people here. But we all have our humble sort of Midwest roots. And there's a great sense of connection.
Grayson Faircloth: 2:14
And I'm interested in that connection and that move into Indy. Where did that put you professionally? Did you go straight into the tech startup space? Or did you kind of have a little bit of a windy path to get into, you know, your current tech startup role?
Abby Warner: 2:29
Yeah, I actually had a bit of a windy path. And so the job that I took here in Indianapolis was actually in the restaurant industry. I learned a lot from it, though, you know, it's getting your feet wet, you really earn as much effort as you put into your work. And so started there, after college didn't find a job right away and actually grew within the restaurant that I was working at into management, and headed up our training programs. And so across the restaurants that were sort of in the central Indiana region, I led all the new employee onboarding, and so started there, and then met just a general connection, who kind of came in him and his wife would come in on a regular basis into the restaurant and sit down and we'd chat and he said, Hey, I have an opportunity.
I run a consulting company, and I am looking for someone to really come in and help lead and coordinate manage all of our contract trainers that we use. And so they were a consultancy, that was in sort of learning and development and kind of sales, coaching and training and such. And so what I didn't realize right away was we're talking about 150 ish, contract trainers who would go out and facilitate like custom developed programs, we worked heavy and pharma and manufacturing some more traditional industries.
And so it was there for almost five, six years, something along those lines, but in my time there, this was a while ago, when the internet was just getting big. You know, one of the big pieces of feedback we heard from a large customer was that, you know, this is really great. We were delivering 240 Something training over a seven day period of time. And they were happening all over the world. And the feedback that we got from a customer came back and they were just like, This is really great. Like, we love what you're doing our, our leadership, it was a leadership development program.
You know, all of these candidates are loving what they're learning, but we'd really like for, you know, what's happening in New York City, and the stories that are being told to be able to be heard in LA or Hong Kong, or wherever that next training was. And so, you know, coming out of school where, you know, we were instant messaging, and we were, you know, communicating with people all over in school, as well as all over the world. Email was just getting big. I'm like, there has to be a way for us to manage this. And so, my first dip into technology like to say was I created an intranet for our trainers. And so it was just a simple weekend project, I'm like, oh, there has to be a better way, let me figure out how to use this technology and this technology and pull it all together.
And then through that, kind of put the process together. So the next time we went out and did a similar type training, part of our procedure was that, you know, every night people checked in their notes, they were responsible for, you know, capturing some of the top stories of the day, the real life activities that were happening on the ground, and share those. And so we had, you know, did a morning, stand up with all the trainers who are out in the field, you know, where we went through. And we would just sort of iterate each day, as we were out, developing and out doing these training sessions.
So I was there. And then, you know, through that, I realized I had a love and passion for technology and helping people get better be better communicators get better, at really, you know, being efficient and what they were doing and how they were doing it, and ended up stumbling sort of into Compendium, and started there as an implementation manager. So training our customers on how to write good content, getting their webpages, their blog set up, and all sorts of things just took off from there. Yeah,
Grayson Faircloth: 6:23
and I'm glad that you mentioned that. So background. So the purpose of this podcast, or one of the purposes of this podcast, is to highlight that for an individual contributor to like the startup executive journey, it's a little bit different for everybody. But you essentially, so you went into companionship, and you went in very much as an individual contributor, but by the time you had left and moved on to your next company, you were very much in that leadership, executive type role.
So I'm interested in walking through that you're starting out, you know, day one implementation manager very quickly, actually, like looking through your progression, at least job title wise, you took on more and more responsibilities. So I'd love to hear a little bit more about that here. If there are any, like key resources, mentors, anyone that sort of helped guide you? And like, how did you know you wanted to move up to that next step? I'm interested in just hearing a little background there.
Abby Warner: 7:18
Yeah. Compendium, right, started as an implementation manager. As I said, it was really about training and onboarding, or new customers, making sure they were set up for success. And one of the things that I've always I think, sort of found joy in or prided myself on is being a creative problem solver. And what I quickly saw as I was training and onboarding customers, was that there was sort of this, there was a component of like, how to, that would grow with them as they continued to use the software, what someone learns on day one, and I think I learned a little bit of this and, you know, the consulting role that the consulting company that I was with, you know, the styles of learning and how, you know, the progression of learning and such. And so, what someone is learning in those first moments of using a new technology, to what they need to be learning six months out, a year out, you know, progresses. And naturally, as people start using things, the things that they need to continue to learn, they get a little bit more technical, the questions that they start to have are more technical.
And so, you know, I actually presented our two co-founders with an idea of taking clients' success and sort of splitting it. We had our implementation managers who were doing this technical work, as well as, you know, training and such. We had our client success team that was really responsible for upsells and renewals, but also, like continued maintenance with the customer technical support questions, and started to say like, I think we're at a point right where our success team needs to be more focused on improving the relationship with the customer, making sure that the renewals and upsells are happening, making sure the customer really stays happy and engaged.
The type of person who builds and fosters a relationship like that is different from someone who is typically going to be answering technical questions or digging into a bug that might exist in software and trying to figure out why it's happening. And so I presented the use case to the leaders of the company that was like, Hey, we're having trouble filling some of our clients' success seats, or we're looking for a unicorn person, you know, you've got two different sets of responsibilities that exist within client management.
And I'd like to propose that we divide the team sort of to manage those two different types of requests that are coming in. And so with that, we took support and implementation and really built it into a team that would take the requests that were coming in the new customers, the existing customers and who maybe had a redesign that was happening, or, you know, whatever the requests might be, but they really handled all of those technical questions, when and then our client success team could really focus on the outbound, proactive, making sure that they were staying engaged in the software, and so on, so forth.
And so, you know, we sort of started down this path then of our product support team, and our client success team, we were all, you know, part of one big giant, client focused, you know, organization and function. But we had two different sets of responsibilities, which helped, I think our customers be more successful in what they were doing and trying to accomplish. Man from there. I mean, it just grew. We had some great customers.
Grayson Faircloth: 10:49
Yeah, we'd love to pause what was like you came in? What was like the size of the team, that company? Yeah. How did that kind of progress as you progressed at the company as well?
Abby Warner: 11:00
So when I started a company, I think I was I was in the early teams of employees, we'd been around for about a year, we had, I want to say we had 30 ish customers, at the time, when I grew, you know, as we grew, and when I actually left companion companion, which was about five, six years later, you know, we were in 100, we had hundreds of customers at that point in time, 50 plus employees really had, you know, kind of we'd pivoted from business blogging to really a content management application, with dabbles of SEO in between. And it was really as if the
SEO market was just getting started.
And so it was a great run, especially for your first dip. And, you know, in technology and that startup space. I mean, it was one of the earlier, you know, real kind of tech companies here in Indianapolis, not the earliest, but definitely, you know, post ExactTarget, post Angie's List, but one of the, you know, great ones that just got
Grayson Faircloth: 12:06
How are you like thinking about it? Maybe you weren't thinking about it at the time, but how, like, looking back, like what was, you know, that progression, like, were you actively, you know, trying to take on more responsibility, and that led you to, you know, greater roles and just the things that you're doing at the company? Or did it kind of fall into your lap in terms of, you know, maybe a former leader left, and you kind of stepped up to the plate? How did that work?
Abby Warner: 12:31
No, I would say, really it Compendium, I did a lot of creating of roles, I saw that there was a gap in our process, or in the way that we communicated. You know, I found that there was a gap and how we service our customers. And I started to figure out, like, how can I build a team to fill that gap to make sure that we were delivering the most, you know, best customer experience we possibly could. It's funny, because I had, so the product support team, we also managed all of our services and integrations as well.
Eventually, over time, we started just as General Product Support, and then kind of grew and did services and, and integrations and had a leader one time who was a team of two, right, it was myself and one other individual. It was really exciting. When we added our third and fourth, they happened to be our fellows. We're helping them understand the technology and what they need to do and how they talk to customers and everything. And we sort of went between the product support team for a while and were reporting into the VP of client success.
For a while then we pivoted, and we reported into the VP of technology or CTO. And he great friend, mentor said to me one day, Abby, you are doomed for leadership. And I looked at him, I'm like, why is that a bad thing? I feel like that's a good thing. And he's like, Well, you know, you're always kind of ahead of what's coming, you're seeing what's next. And I said, more than I feel like I'm here, you know, making sure we're prepared for what's coming next as a business. And so, I don't know, I just, that was sort of my path.
Grayson Faircloth: 14:12
And that was particularly interested in moving into the product organization from relatively early on, was that pretty early on in the company's life?
Abby Warner: 14:21
Yeah, so product support. Like I said, we started under the VP of client success. And I think as we really started to dabble more, we had a really open API, which enabled us to do a lot of integrations, and myself and the other individual who was on the product support team with me. You know, really, we were naturally like curious people. And we were like, oh, okay, maybe we can do this.
And so we started like dabbling with the API's and figuring out like, what we could you know, how we could potentially create content without having to use our text editor and you Little things like that, or we could get content from a social feed or something along those lines to help be starters for our customers content starters for our customers. And so I think because we were naturally curious, there was some transition and leadership that was
happening from a client's success side.
It was an easy, you know, sort of shift for us to move into the technology organization, because it also gave us some of the, you know, guidance and mentorship that I think we needed to be able to truly provide a level of like, technical support that our customers needed at times.
Grayson Faircloth: 15:36
Yeah. And something interesting there that I'm interested in, it's a little bit more commonplace, but I don't know that it was as common back then, was that feedback loop between, you know, the customer team, and the product team? What was that? Like? Was there like things that you sure, you know, sitting directly under the CTO or the technology leader, you just happen to naturally talk about these things, but were there set defined like, feedback loops or opportunities to incorporate customer feedback into the product?
Abby Warner: 16:06
Yeah. So we were one of, I would say, probably, too, one of the first companies in Indianapolis to implement, like an agile development cycle. And so pretty cutting edge, like, for the time, right. And so one of the things that we did, because we sat under technology, we constantly saw, like, a little bug or a use case where customers could, you know, improve, like we could improve the way that they were doing something by tweaking technology.
And so we implemented as a part of our agile development cycle, we had our strategic sprints that we would run. But we also had a weekly, basically tactical sprint, where we were allotted a bucket of hours that were focused towards customer requests. So that way, we could continue to iterate on what was there, what could help improve customers' experience, but still make sure that we were getting the big strategic items out the door that we needed to get out the door.
Grayson Faircloth: 17:06
Yeah, now, that's awesome. I think you guys are definitely having a good time. And I know, you're skipping ahead a little bit, that that definitely played a role into, you know, kind of what you can do at 120. But I want to take a step back. So we've heard a little bit now about the in terms of Client Services to into product, and actually directly after the Director of Product rule that you eventually were at committee, and you went into more of a Director of Client Services role.
And I'm interested, obviously, we've heard you kind of talk about the fact that they're pretty intertwined at Compendium, but I'm interested in terms of, you know, what you were going to be doing, or what, you know, your next company was going to be needing it from a client service perspective, how that differed from what you're doing at Compendium, and how did you decide on okay, I want to take a step, I want to leave the product organization go back into like a client services leadership role. Yeah, I just would love to hear a bit more about that.
Abby Warner: 18:06
Yeah. So you know, in full candor, and transparency, I was actually released from compendium, we were just at a point in time where the market was shifting sales were not where they needed to be. And the company had to make some changes. And so left on great terms. But still, you know, think the world of, you know, Chris and Ali, who really founded the company, and the entire team that was there. But I also felt a little bit like it was sort of like the bird being pushed out of the nest, like, there's more you can go to. And so through that was connected to a couple of different entrepreneurs in Indianapolis.
One of them was David Becker, who ran rec software. And, you know, David said, you know, we've got this interesting mix of customers, right. Rick acquired the software, it was an installed platform on a server, basically, at an independent retailers store. When he acquired it, he basically bought the codebase with a vision of moving it to the cloud. And so engineers went down that path of creating rec software in the Cloud. And it was great. But one of the problems that they were faced with were all these things, they had over 1000 installations of the installed version, some customers running like old DOS formats of the program instead of like current day technologies.
And so one of the challenges that they had was helping to convert that customer base combined with the sort of the change management around it, right. So you had to convert the customer base from the install version to the cloud version. Plus, then help them get on board and understand how to use it. And so, you know, I took on a Director of Client Services role there But it was very similar in many ways, I was able to use a lot of what I learned at Compendium, to help implement my teams there are implement our teams there at work software.
And so, you know, we had our, the individuals that were our support team are still located, kind of where the old headquarters was, they were very comfortable with the installed platforms, but hadn't really immersed themselves in the new technology, this aspect based application. And so, as I'm, we're going through and trying to figure out, like, how can we convert customers, if we can't even convert our team, right to seeing that SAS application is going to be better than, you know, the legacy platform that existed. And so it was really about engaging them and getting them to use the new software, we actually hired an employee who used to work at a customer of ours, who was like a super user, at that customer, to come help train the team, as well as then train our customers or new customers.
And so you really started to feel sort of that and create that transition plan, that first we had to bring our own employees over, we needed to help them see that we could do things more efficiently and better in the cloud. And with that excitement, then the customer started to come as well. And so, you know, it's funny, as, as I was talking to David, about the role and such I said, oh, this is like a really big challenge.
And there's a lot of dynamics that, change management and how we do this actually positioned to him that I could interview, the company said, can I come work for a week with you, and the company and the team, and get to know some people and see how they operate, I said, you can tell them that I'm starting and, you know, if I feel like it's not a fit, and I decided to leave, you can tell them that I just decided it wasn't right for me, or, you know, tell them I'm coming in to interview the company. And I'm going to spend a week here getting to know how they worked, and, and so on and so forth. But within that week, had some great experiences, you know, across the board, and saw that there was a great opportunity there, the data that they were managing, I think one of the things that I found interesting back in Compendium days was we worked with companies like Expedia and hotels.com and Jim Murray. And it was at the early onset of analytics. And I was incredibly intrigued by what you could gain about a user's behavior and the steps that they took along a research and buying process. And so, you know, just that data as a whole was incredibly interesting.
And I started to realize that, like, oh he has a lot of this. And what is most exciting, they had some great brand partnerships, as well with new balance and others. And what was really interesting is when you could get the connection between the brand, and the independent retailer, you were really filling a gap in knowledge. And so able to kind of pull full circle, from what's happening in a store to what's happening online, to ultimately impact what a brand is manufacturing, back to their consumer. So it was a, you know, it started with support and change management and sort of grew into a really big sort of data play and how you could engage your customer.