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

Jay Haynes 11:08

Yeah. So I had always been curious about this question of innovation, which underlies the growth of everything. And I started my career almost by accident in getting into the finance world, buying companies. And when you buy company, that’s

John Corcoran 11:29

a really funny statement. By the way, I accidentally started buying companies.

Jay Haynes 11:35

The story is kind of crazy. Yeah, it’s it’s, uh, but I had a mentor, he wanted me to work for him. We had this project we worked on together, they kind of went sideways. And he asked me to come just because he liked me. He was my mentor. And I guess I was a good mentee, I was good enough that he was like, come join me, I will teach you how to do this stuff. And I literally could not operate a spreadsheet when I started that job, which is incredible to get a job. Yeah, I mean, today that’s inconceivable, in 1992, or whatever it was. So he mentored me, which was like literally mentored, like also like making sure I understood accounting. Some basic stuff. So. But what I always found fascinating was, we were building these financial models, and this is the early 90s, when people were buying companies with debt, and you know about them kind of five times cash flow, and you use a bunch of debt, you put a little bit of equity. And if you could just pay down the debt and keep the growth rate stable, maybe cut some costs, maybe you get a market uptick with a multiple expansion. I mean, this is financial stuff. But you know, it wasn’t rocket science. And but the key number in this was the growth rate, which is how many customers are going to buy your product, which is that that’s the definition of innovation, like, are you creating something that people will pay for? Or use? And no one had an answer on how to figure that out. I mean, it’s amazing. These companies had products, they were just selling the same thing over and over again, I give you an example. One of the companies we bought with Steinway and sons, the piano company, yeah, very, very well known piano company, great company. They are literally the least innovative company on planet Earth. They could have done it this way for a long time, or 50 years. And the brand means you’re buying that quality from yours, right? Yeah, you don’t want to like the new version of a Steinway piano. So we made a lot of money because we used a lot of debt and, you know, created equity, then bought some more companies like Selmer, combined them and took a public buy. So it was a good equity return, but it had nothing to do with growth, or having a shift activity was the exact opposite of innovation. And I was always interested in computers. And, you know, the signal processing and music and music and computers were changing incredibly fast. So I just always had this question of, you know, how do you innovate on the really kind of in my business mind?

John Corcoran 14:03

Yeah. And you know, on the topic of mentorship in general, before you started, I think this was before you went to get your MBA, you co-founded an aviation focused consultancy with your father, who was a decorated Navy pilot. Talk a little bit about that experience and, and what that was like working with your father.

Jay Haynes 14:25

Yeah, he’s, he’s an amazing guy. And of course, my number one mentor, and I hope for everybody out there that they get to have a father like mine, because not everybody gets to have a father who is really a mentor. And he was my hero since I was, you know, obviously a little kid. And he was an entrepreneur. And he gave me one of my first jobs which was, you know, mowing the fields at an airport. And he really, but just through you know, throughout my life, he is my inspiration and he was a Navy pilot. It’s funny, my wife and I talk about this a lot. But, you know, the image of Navy pilots is Maverick from Top Gun. totally crazy, you know, insane risk taker. You know, my dad’s not like that. And yeah,

John Corcoran 15:14

My grandfather was a pilot, be 17 pilot and in the woods became the Air Force but the Army Air Corps at the time and my dad’s big aviation company, not in a lot of pilots, are not risk takers. They’re by the book checklist followers. Yeah, they’re very risk averse. Yeah,

Jay Haynes 15:32

I guess, you know, by definition doors would kick in for the risk taking often out of the gene pool pretty quickly. Yeah. And, and but just an actually, you know, that’s a great metaphor for entrepreneurs, too, I think that it’s a myth, of course, that entrepreneurs are these big risk takers. The idea behind any entrepreneur or any innovation is to mitigate as much risk as possible, like a pilot, but is not going into combat saying, oh, I’ve got a ton of risk, something in my plane is not working, or the enemy’s just going to shoot me down. You know, there’s, they’re trying to avoid risk at all costs. And that’s what entrepreneurs should do as well. And that’s why I think this myth, that’s why you know, I love my dad now as the great entrepreneur, amazing pilot, you know, decorated Navy officer, but he, you know, just also an incredible guy. He’s it’s wonderful, wonderful

John Corcoran 16:28

guy. No, it’s interesting, though, that he came from the military and then became an entrepreneur, because at least in my field, my grandfather had a career in the military. And then after that, when civilians worked in the Pentagon, merely afterwards, so was pretty far afield from anything involving entrepreneurship or risk invested in savings bonds, like super conservative type of stuff. So what do you think it was about your father that drew him to entrepreneurship?

Jay Haynes 16:54

Yeah, that’s a great question. And it was aviation. After he got out of the Navy, he went into finance. And he had a pretty successful finance career. And then, you know, like you and your, it’s in your genes too, and I’m, I’m a pilot, not like he was, um, you know, private pilot. Well, I used to be in the night kids and my wife grounded me. So now I fly, you know, real control airplanes. But you know, you get the aviation bug, it’s a hard bug to get out. And so he had this really interesting idea of converting an airport, a private airport outside of DC by Dulles into a commercial jet operation, and really successfully expanded the airport, they brought the FAA to base there were other flight centers out there. So he just it was the aviation bug, you know, it’s hard to get away from

John Corcoran 17:48

Yeah, it makes sense. So, you know, I’m flashing forward in your career here. Strategyn. Tell me a little bit about that experience because you were teaching for a little while? And then how did the CEO opportunity come along with Strategyn? And then is that the point of jobs to be done? came into your professional career?

Jay Haynes 18:11

Yeah, so I had been with Clay, obviously, with his work. You know, I’ve seen how the Innovator’s Dilemma had become the innovator solution, which was a key moment in John, and I’m thinking, and then I was teaching at the Presidio School of Management, they had a sustainable MBA program. And I thought it’d be interesting to take their Capstone venture class and turn it into a jobs done class for entrepreneurs, so help the entrepreneurs there, who are doing these incredible projects, refine them, and you know, essentially, de risk them as well. Using Jaci, and it went very successfully, at least, you know, the students seem to think so. And I thought it went pretty well. And then that’s when I found Tony’s work. And he’s contributed a lot to jobs to be done thinking. And so I said, Well, this would be a great way to work with them. So we partnered up, and then I eventually became CEO. And then from there, that’s when I really realized the head there. We should do software for this stuff, too. And that was how thrv came about.

John Corcoran 19:13

Yeah. And I wanted to ask about that. Because, you know, a lot of my listeners come from a professional services background. But there’s always the constant struggle of how do you create something that’s more scalable, that’s, that’s bigger. That’s a saleable asset. So were you thinking strategy one, this needs to be software and you had to go off and do it on your own? How did thrv come about?

Jay Haynes 19:38

Yeah, well, I would say broadly, it’s interesting for your listeners who are out there thinking of how to, you know, essentially productize their services, in software, Jaci on helps you with that too, as a framework. Because if you think about it, if you’re if you’re providing services to a company or a client, they’re trying to get a job done, and If there are ways to help get that job done faster and more accurately, and certainly also at lower costs, that help more customers in the market, then that’s an opportunity for innovation. And it is the way, especially if you’re developing software, in a b2b market, that’s one of the markets where jobs are not as incredibly useful, it’s really, really helpful to use this kind of method. It doesn’t work in every market, it’s not gonna help you write a better screenplay or compose a better Symphony, or write a better song. Or make a better video game. I don’t know how to do that, but it’s very, very good in these types of, you know, complex functional markets. So that transition, the way to think about it is your services are also trying to help your customers achieve a goal. So what is that goal? Are they trying to acquire customers? Are they trying to generate leads? Are they trying to optimize cash flow? Are they trying to, you know, reduce costs? Are they trying to manage vendors? Are they trying to comply with regulations? You know, there’s so many jobs. And in those jobs, a statement like that, like it, whether or not you’re trying to acquire customers, okay, that seems pretty straightforward. That’s why companies are hiring, you know, Salesforce, right as a CRM, but the domain of acquiring customers is incredibly complex. So if you’re trying to take your services, and someone who’s in a service business probably already knows this already, like what type of what part of acquiring customers are they actually helping with, right? And the job, and the domain of acquiring customers is incredibly complicated. And that’s what jawzjan helps you do is break down that complexity, and then identify where their market opportunities are. So I’ll give you an example that everybody knows. And then we use this example all the time. But Apple and Google Maps are products, and they’re being hired to get to destination on time. Well, getting to destination on time, like acquiring customers is a goal, of course, and you can break that down into steps and customer needs, basically things people need to do to get to a destination on time. And that job has 16 steps, and 106 needs. So it’s incredibly complex. And yet, it seems relatively simple. Like I just type in my address, and Apple Maps tells me where to go. Well, it didn’t always tell me where to go, if you mess that up when they launched it. But now it seems to work. So, but that’s what you need for innovation. So if you’re trying to switch from a service to a product, that’s okay, just figure out first, where people are struggling to achieve the goal that you’re helping them with. And then can software help them do that faster and more accurately, that is the foundation of innovation. And there was an interesting example that Clay gave about a milkshake. He advised McDonald’s.

John Corcoran 22:50

You recall that one or Yeah, that’s very

Jay Haynes 22:53

famous. Yeah. Yeah, that’s an example. It’s great on so many levels. And it’s a little crazy on some other levels. So the great levels are, if people don’t know this, you can search milkshake marketing, it’ll come up, you know, instantaneously. But basically, he was doing research. And they were the team. And they discovered that 40% of milkshakes were bought before 10am. Yeah, that’s mine. Which seems insane. It seems like people are just eating dessert for breakfast Like what? What’s going on? That seems odd. So when they explored it? Well, this is where jealousy can be really useful. And where is this? Why this became so popular is well, the job? Are you hiring a milkshake to do it? That’s, that’s where you would ask the jobs. You don’t question about any products like what am I trying to do with this milkshake? Well, it turns out people in the morning, they want something that has calories, of course, but they want it to be something that they can consume quickly. So if you just grab a soda, or even a cup of coffee, you know, you might be done pretty quickly. But they’ve got a long commute. So they want to have this thing. A long hallway. It’s hard to, you know, sucked out a milkshake very quickly. Yeah. And they wanted to have energy for the morning. So it’s got no sugar, that obviously gives you sugar high. So that was really interesting, in that it revealed that sometimes your customers are using your products for things that you don’t even know, right, you have no idea like what the actual job was.

John Corcoran 24:19

Anyone would have guessed that. Yeah. Or you also I think probably someone could have called coming along and said, You know what, we should just give them a fatter straw. They like this milkshake. Give them fatter straw, they can consume it faster, but that’s not what they want.

Jay Haynes 24:32

Yeah, yeah, that’s right. And that’s, that’s classic to like, if you looked at the records or CDs, the logical innovation for those, we’d make them bigger to have more songs, right. Same thing with a straw makes it bigger. But that’s not the way you should think about innovation. Because it almost never works that way.

John Corcoran 24:49

Yeah. Or the quote, I think from Henry Ford. If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.

Jay Haynes 24:55

Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, that’s right. And so people sometimes miss interpret that quote. So let me talk about that quote just for a second back to what he was not saying was people don’t know what they want. That gets misconstrued all the time. And I find that really, really incorrect and just misguided people. There’s a trade. There’s also the Steve Jobs quote with people quote all the time that people don’t know what you want until you tell them or something. Yeah, and yeah, and in both those cases, what Henry Ford and Steve Jobs are talking about is, customers don’t know what products they want. So if you’re in the era of the horse, it’s hard to conceive of an assembly line that can produce cards for everybody, right? And if you’re in the era of CDs, it’s hard to imagine a hard drive small enough that you can fit 1000 songs in your pocket. And if you’re in the era of one GE Wi Fi connections, it’s hard to imagine streaming any song from anywhere on the planet instantaneously, right? Like, yeah, so customers are not in the role of creating products for you, or even creating product ideas or technologies. But customers absolutely know what goals are trying to achieve and where they struggle. That’s the difference. So when you look at the market through the joshy, done lens, you don’t ask customers what product they want. But you ask how do they struggle to get to a destination on time, or to get a baby to sleep tonight, or to restore artery blood flow or whatever job acquired customers? And they will absolutely tell you everything that they have struggles with related to the job. So yeah, those quotes are always like, interestingly,

John Corcoran 26:25

Another present day example, I had the opportunity to meet Ilan musk once this was many years ago before he’s kind of a household name. And was when they were unveiling the Model S. And I asked him a stupid question. But I asked him who would have a backup camera because at the time that was kind of innovative, and thinking safety, right. And what I love about the way that he approached that is, you know, the car makers at the time, were thinking, how many ways can we fit more airbags in here? And he was thinking autonomous vehicles, like many layers of innovation beyond, you know, in creating something much, much safer than what we’d known before.

Jay Haynes 27:03

Yeah, it’s, it’s it. And Tesla is an amazing company. And obviously, he’s an incredible entrepreneur. And my favorite thing, when we analyze Tesla, through this job, see deadlines. And I always said that there are so many innovations on a Tesla that I called delightfully disconcerting, because we’re so used to doing something the old way, that when the new way comes along, you have a momentary pause. And one of the great examples, that is the auto lock, there, there is no key or there’s no lock onto any lock just automatically knows that you’re there, you walk away. So walking away from your new car, and not locking is very disconcerting, right? But once you get used to it, it’s entirely delightful having to like, you know, get the keys for our minivan is like incredibly annoying relative to this walking up, or the

John Corcoran 27:50

the latest version of not to get on a Tesla tangent here. But the latest version of the Model S Now you don’t have to press drive or reverse. It knows based on the location of the vehicle, if there’s a brick wall in front of you, you’re probably going to be going reverse. I haven’t experienced that, but it seems mind blowing.

Jay Haynes 28:08

Yeah, it’s incredible. Yeah. And you know, what’s interesting about that, for anybody who’s listening, you know, entrepreneurs, or executives or whoever, that that’s consistently true in every market, not just for Tesla, and what I mean by that, and when we work with companies, we spent a lot of time working with them to kind of bring this in as part of their DNA, your customers want you to get the job done for them. They don’t want to have to do anything. So and and that’s because we all have incredibly busy complex lives. So we see this in a lot of b2b software companies. So if your listeners are trying to go from service to software, do not just build a huge list of features. Because you should get and that’s what this hustle is doing. The Tesla is getting the job done for you. It’s deciding, hey, you need to go backwards or forwards or you need to park Okay, so we’ll just do the things you need to do on the way to being a fully autonomous vehicle, of course. But that’s because people want products to get the job done for them. Look what happened to the iPod, the iPod, and Apple missed the streaming market for decades. I mean, it was really behind. But Pandora changed the entire game by just clicking a button. You just entered, you know, Miles Davis or Indigo Girls wherever you’re listening to the light and it created a playlist for you. I mean, if you think about that, we’re kids you had to go to a store you had to look through records you had to find a record you had to pick one or two songs to add your player that was on like a cassette that you listened to 100 times it was disintegrating and and you probably didn’t you might not like most of the songs the record you bought anyway. So like that. If you measured speed and accuracy, it went from horrible and long and inaccurate to two incredibly quick to find songs and put them on your playlist automatically with Pandora right? Yeah, right. 

John Corcoran 29:58

Today, we’ve been talking mostly about the philosophy of these frameworks. But I want to ask you from a business perspective, what was it like for you? Eight years ago now, to go from a consulting firm to starting a software company? What were some of the challenges that you experienced?

Jay Haynes 30:15

Yeah, one of the things I would say is, we knew that we were going to have both software and services. So the way that we thought about it was, we are going to go help our customers, no matter what we’re even in our first version of our software, which wasn’t very good, you know, it takes a while to get software. That’s, that’s working well, especially, you know, enterprise class software. So, but we knew we were to help them. And we were going to use jobs we did so we had a method and a framework. And if we focused on that, we would be able to generate revenue and profitability early on. And I think this is actually a lesson for a lot of entrepreneurs. Because the system, in especially out here in Northern California is come up with an idea, first come up with an idea, and then put together some PowerPoint presentations, go pitch Sand Hill Road, and hopefully, you get some seed money, and then you get a series A and you’re off to the races. That’s okay, if you could do that, that’s fine. But even in parallel with that, you should always be focused on your customers, and having to start this business and just know we’re going to, we’re going to focus on revenue and profitability from day one. And that keeps you really honest, as an entrepreneur as well, because you succeed or fail by your customers. That’s it. I mean, business is not that complicated. You’re either creating value for people who want to pay you for creating that value, or not. And, you know, I know, there’s models like where you can get a ton of users and get them addicted and sell advertising, you know, but most businesses are not like that. Right? Right. So in that case, it’s a way and that’s what I knew when we started, I was gonna make sure that we were creating value for our customers. And along the way, we build a software that we can help add great value as well,

John Corcoran 32:10

it makes total sense that that would be the way you would approach it. We’re running a little short on time. I want to ask you about the time we were chatting beforehand, about you having a group of friends from as far back as fourth grade High School Business School that you said were really influential and kind of peer group mentors to you. So talk to me a little bit about what that has been like for you and what kind of an impact that’s had on your career and your businesses.

Jay Haynes 32:37

Yeah, I again, got very lucky to have the group of friends I have. I’ve known some of them. Literally, my whole life, and then others I’ve met in college, and in Business School, and they, it’s just that I can’t tell you how much you can get from your peers as mentors. You know, we always think of mentors, like it’d be really great to have someone like Clay Christensen, you know, international business Rockstar as your mentor. And that’s true, he’s really great and wonderful. But it’s also the amount you can learn from your peers and your friends is really just incredible. You just have to have a willingness to listen and to learn. And the amount that I’ve learned from my close friends is just extraordinary, just in how to think, how to succeed, how to deal with problems. I mean, just in everything, but you know, you’re bringing your full self to anything, you’re entrepreneurial. So I think it’s really important to have those kinds of peer mentors. It’s been extraordinary.

John Corcoran 33:43

Give me Give me a story or an example of a time that you know, helped at a pivotal point in your career when he resonates?

Jay Haynes 33:52

Yeah. So I’ll give you one story where we were going to present to some senior executives, very big company, and one of my mentor friends who had worked with them very closely, so he knew them. And I obviously checked him and said, Hey, you know, we’ve got this really high stakes meeting. Here’s what we’re doing. Here’s, you know, the presentation, here’s how it’s gonna go to the agenda, blah, blah, then he, his first thought was, they’ve never seen anything like this. It was done in a very different way than traditional kinds of corporate meetings and agendas. And, and so one, knowing that was extremely valuable, but also just having the confidence of him, you know, saying yes, I think this is the right approach. It’s good, you know, he gave us some great feedback, some changes, edits and just being able to have that perspective as a dress rehearsal. And this is what I love about having mentors too, is like you really everything’s a performance. You know, when you’re at, you know, a point in your career where people are serious and serious. stressful and professional, you know, you’ve got to, you’ve got to be able to play the game at a professional level. And that means using those mentors for confidence building If nothing else, but also just as that rehearsal and feedback. And it’s, it’s invaluable, because they’ll take the time to because you’re close to them. And, you know, people are busy, they don’t want to spend time working on your stuff, they’ve got all their to do lists, you know, yeah. And then, sorry, I got a few of you. The other thing I would say is, broadly with my group, which is one thing I love about my group, is they they love the the, they just have this extraordinary group level of intellectual curiosity and intelligence to and that’s been extremely valuable to me, because we’re constantly trying to build on the jobs done innovation theory Foundation, there’s still lots of stuff to explore. And that’s what I think is really nice. It’s also an evolving thing, it’s not standing still and continues to improve. And having that kind of intellectual input from mentors at, you know, it’s it’s a, it’s an interesting type of questions we’re trying to answer about innovation theory innovation process, you know, why people want things, what are human needs? They’re almost philosophical questions. And having a group that you can engage with, whatever, whatever it is that you’re looking for, the mentors for, you know, might not be this kind of intellectual, you know, theory level stuff, but if that’s the type of thing it’s good to have those group of mentors because the group of mentors just as a group also helps you know, rather than just an individual mentor.

John Corcoran 36:35

Yeah, I totally agree. Jay. This has been great. thrv, thrv.com is the website. Where can people go to connect with you and learn more about the work that you do?

Jay Haynes 36:42 

Yeah, great directly through thrv, thrv.com. And on LinkedIn. I’m pretty findable on the internet. 

John Corcoran 36:48

Excellent. All right, Jay. Thanks so much. 

Jay Haynes 36:51

Great. Thanks, John.

Outro 36:58

Thank you for listening to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast with John Corcoran. Find out more at smartbusinessrevolution.com. And while you’re there, sign up for our email list and join the revolution. And be listening for the next episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast.