Jay Haynes | How to Connect with an Influential Mentor and Get More Customers by Understanding Their Needs
Smart Business Revolution

Jay Haynes is the Founder and CEO of thrv, an enterprise product management software company focused on helping teams with jobs-to-be-done innovation methods. He is an award-winning entrepreneur and executive with 30 years of software and investing experience. His customers include Microsoft, Dropbox, Twitter, eBay, Target, American Express, and Oracle.

Prior to thrv, Jay worked as an Investment Associate at private equity firm GTCR, Product Manager at Microsoft, and CEO of Strategyn, which is a product strategy and innovation consulting firm. He graduated from Brown University and received his MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School. 

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran is joined by Jay Haynes, the Founder and CEO of thrv, to talk about how the jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) framework helps businesses provide better services to their customers. They discuss the value of focusing on meeting customers’ needs, the importance of being innovative, and how having a group of peer mentors can be very impactful to entrepreneurs.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • Jay Haynes talks about meeting Clayton Christensen, what he learned from him, and their informal mentorship relationship
  • How Jay integrated Clay’s jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) framework into his professional work
  • Jay’s experience co-founding an aviation-focused consultancy firm with his father
  • How Jay got to work as CEO of Strategyn and how that led to the founding of thrv
  • How the JTBD framework helps businesses acquire more customers and provide better services to them
  • Jay and John talk about Clayton’s milkshake marketing approach, Tesla’s car innovations, and meeting customers’ expectations
  • The challenges Jay faced transitioning from consulting to starting a software company
  • How Jay’s group of friends have impacted his life
  • Where to learn more about Jay Haynes

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:14

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:40

All right. Welcome, everyone. John Corcoran here. I’m the host of this show. Every week I get to talk to smart CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs of all kinds of companies. Check out my archives because we got some great interviews with folks from Netflix, YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, LendingTree, OpenTable, Ace Software, and many more. I’m also the Co-founder of Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects. And my guest today is Jay Haynes. He’s the Founder and CEO of thrv, an enterprise product management software company focused on helping teams with the jobs to be done innovation methods, we’re gonna talk about that if you’ve never heard of it before, we’re gonna explain what it is. He’s an award winning entrepreneur and executive, 30 years of experience in software and investing. His customers, you’ve probably heard of a few of them: Microsoft, Dropbox, Twitter, eBay, Target, American Express, Oracle. 

Prior to thrv, Jay worked in private equity at GTCR. And as a product manager at Microsoft, and also served as the CEO of Strategyn, which is a product strategy and innovation consulting firm. And he also graduated from Brown University and received his MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School. And fun fact, we’ve got two kids who went to school together. That’s not how we connected for this podcast. But we do have kids that go to school together. And we knew each other through that. This episode, of course, is brought to you by Rise25 Media where we help b2b businesses to get clients, referrals and strategic partnerships, through done for you podcasts and content marketing. If you’re listening to this, and you’ve ever thought, hey, should I do a podcast? I tell every single person I meet they should, because it is such a wonderful way to build great relationships with great people and talk to smart people like yourself here today, Jay. And so if you have any questions about it, email us at [email protected]

Alright, Jay, I’m so excited to talk to you about this here. And I want to ask you, I want to start by asking you about a pivotal relationship in your life. Okay, young Jay Haynes goes off to get his MBA at Harvard, and you meet Clay Christensen, you know, he’s a scholar, a professor at Harvard, very well regarded. And my listeners are always curious about these sorts of pivotal relationships in someone’s career, you know, how you go from maybe your kid and in 100 kids in the audience, and how you develop a relationship that becomes so pivotal, and such an influence on your life. So take me back to how you did develop a relationship with Clay, first of all, and who he was.

Jay Haynes 3:07

Yeah. That’s great. It’s a great question. And John, first of all, thanks for having me here. It’s great to be here today. And so I met Clay in 1996. If people know his work, I believe it was 9697, right around there, where he came out with a book called the Innovator’s Dilemma. And that’s really what put him on the map. He had been a successful entrepreneur and executive. And he was teaching at the business school. And he was a great professor, he was an amazing teacher. And I think that’s the core of any great mentor is a really good teacher, and you can learn from them, you know, whatever way that you learn, you know, hopefully, you’ve learned something really valuable, that sticks with you. And he, at the time, was a really well respected professor, but he wasn’t yet Christensen, the international business rockstar, and he really did become International Business Rockstar, the Innovator’s Dilemma was a super important book. And for those who don’t remember, disruption, which is a term that’s often misused, but what he discovered was this phenomenon where companies started over-serving the market. And they just continue to add features and function and complexity to their products. And a new entrant comes into the market with a much much simpler low cost product and starts to take market share and then works up and takes over the market. And the classic example that he uses is the steel industry where the big steel producers were weren’t initially threatened by mini Mills that were just making rebar which is literally the cheapest you know, you know, everybody’s seen that steel like in a foundation of a house or building and, but once they got good at that, they just kept working up and took over the whole market. And now there are no non mini steel mills in the United States. And in either example, people might see as like my First off the Word or Excel, which are these big, big complicated, you know, products that can do anything from your grocery list to statistical computations and financial modeling or writing a book or a, you know, extensive legal doc. And of course, Google Docs is much simpler, and it’s free. And it started to take over share. 

John Corcoran 5:20

Yeah, I guess it’s relatively easy for another one of your clients to come to mind Dropbox, which has a similar type of thing, a very simple, elegant solution when it came along.

Jay Haynes 5:27

Yeah, yeah. extremely powerful, just like putting files into the cloud. I mean, I don’t think people remember FTP servers, but I made it.

John Corcoran 5:36

They made it so much easier than I mean, you could say the same about Twitter, making it possible to communicate with millions of people easily.

Jay Haynes 5:46

Yeah, yeah. And this is what’s interesting about Clay’s career and as a mentor to me, he was just clearly a great teacher and a great explainer of things, which is really what a mentor should be. And in my view, and, and what he then went on to talk about, okay, if disruption is happening to you in an industry, you’ve got new entrants, new competitors, what should you do about it? Because the Innovator’s Dilemma and disruption really described a phenomenon. But if you’re on a product team, or you’re a CEO, and executive, or even if you’re on a marketing or sales team, you know, you want to be on the team that’s innovating for customers and succeeding because you’re innovating. Well, if this phenomenon of disruption is about to happen, you know, what do you do? How do you figure out what you do with it? And so after, he got very, very famous, he was on the cover of Forbes with Andy Grove, because he helped Intel develop the Celeron chip, famously, which was a low cost version of trip, they’re kind of self disruption is what they wanted to do. And it was very successful. So he then started focusing on what’s known as jobs to be done innovation. And that’s like, and I, so I kept, you know, following everything that he was working on, and keeping in touch, and, you know, seeing him and following these incredible ideas that he was talking about. And the basic idea is actually relatively simple. It’s deceptively simple. It’s that customers actually aren’t buying products. So if you’re, you know, our product team, or your CEO, and you think you’re selling your products to your customers, that’s actually not what’s happening. What’s happening is they’re hiring your product to get a job done. And that seems very, very straightforward. But it has enormous implications. And it gets very, very quick, you know, very, very complex very, very quickly.

John Corcoran 7:37

And you had a video on YouTube that I watched where I guess the classic example is, no one wants to buy a drill, they want to buy a hole in the wall.

Jay Haynes 7:45

Yeah. And that’s the famous Theodore Levitt quote, which if no, if your listeners haven’t read it, I highly recommend reading Marketing Myopia by Theodore Levitt, it’s available at the Harvard Business Review site. And that’s where he says, He didn’t say it, and whether or not he actually said it is kind of under some dispute, but it captures the whole concept, which is, you know, no one wants a quarter inch drill, they want a quarter inch hole. Yeah. Right. And that’s essentially saying they don’t want the product there. They want the goal they’re trying to achieve, they’re trying to solve a problem or achieve a goal. And that’s the thing that isn’t going to change over time. So and this is true, you know, I’m old enough, I owned records, and I had eight tracks, like cassettes, and I switched to CDs. And then I had iPods. And now of course, we’re all streaming. So I’ve been through some huge things like you, John, some technology changes, and you just want good music to listen to, you just you’re trying to create movie music as fast as accurately as possible. And that’s really the key is that the customer’s job is this goal, like creating a mood with music or getting to destination on time, or whatever the job is, it’s true in business markets, consumer markets and medical markets. And so that concept, Clay really was just, he helped put it on the map as the key to innovation, the very, very front innovation because everything after that you’re developing your product strategy, developing your product roadmap, projecting your revenue, from your investment in your roadmap, understanding the risk to competitors, all that stuff. Now you can see through their customers’ eyes, and that’s what’s really amazing. And so, for as a mentor, you know, I can tell you about how I got to kind of doing jobs when I’m full time, but Clay was just the person his thinking was and his ability to explain stuff in very simple terms was just so helpful.

John Corcoran 9:37

And you graduated 1998 from Harvard Business School. Okay, so how, how did you have him be a mentor? I think a lot of people struggle with that idea. Especially when they meet someone influential, you know, someone who’s very successful in their career. Was it a formal thing or was it informal?

Jay Haynes 9:58

It was pretty informal. And that really depends on your mentor and who you’re targeting. Because, you know, he’s a business school professor, and then obviously, I was a student, and then I was an alum. So, I would also see him on a regular basis, just going back to reunions and things. And so it was, you know, it’s informal, I also had the advantage of he published a lot of stuff. So you get to be mentored by someone who’s publishing. And then when you’re thinking about the mentoring, you get to follow up by this, like, you know, comparison to what’s in the published work, combined with what, you know, you, you think about in the conversation with your mentor, and all that it’s really, it’s, it’s, it’s ideal to have a professor as a mentor, which is why a lot of people do because how you teach is, you know, the essence of mentoring. And it just started with me being a student in the back of the class, you know, just having to attend this class that was required. And he was the professor. So in that way, I got lucky. I was lucky that he was a professor right.

John Corcoran 10:59

Now, how did he come out with the jobs to be done framework, how did you integrate that into the professional work that you were doing?