Discover more from Future Commerce
Episode 331
December 1, 2023

The Rise of Workflow Automation: The ServiceNow Agency Opportunity in the Enterprise

The shift towards low-code platforms like ServiceNow has changed the landscape for service agencies, requiring them to adapt their approach and focus on specific solutions. Phillip and Brian sit down with friend and mentor Jon Klonsky to discuss his new venture, which will specialize in implementing and rescuing failed implementations of the ServiceNow platform.

<iframe height="52px" width="100%" frameborder="no" scrolling="no" seamless src="https://player.simplecast.com/216e5d17-b9b0-497a-a246-132f776fb494?dark=false"></iframe>

this episode sponsored by

The shift towards low-code platforms like ServiceNow has changed the landscape for service agencies, requiring them to adapt their approach and focus on specific solutions. Phillip and Brian sit down with friend and mentor Jon Klonsky to discuss his new venture, which will specialize in implementing and rescuing failed implementations of the ServiceNow platform.

“Measure twice, cut once, and test often”

  • {00:12:55} “Only organic growth, as opposed to purchased growth, can be a better line to run so that you don't get ahead of your skis.” - Brian
  • {00:13:59} - “So many people, especially if you talk to the investor community, are like, "eCommerce is done. Let's move on to the next thing. AI," which is also important. I don't wanna take away from that, but I think eCommerce is still growing and probably gonna continue to grow and change and do incredible things, and we're just at the tip of the iceberg now with some of the new technologies that are coming into the space.” - Jon
  • {00:19:47} - “You have to have a strategy that you can stick to and sustain because, you know you're going to build a team in a culture that has to be simplified for them. I think you have to be really smart and definitive about what you're gonna be doing.” - Jon
  • {00:37:25} - “A strength is knowing when to spend your first few dollars. We know to be patient and not get ahead of {our} skis. ” - Jon
  • {00:48:55} “It is about focus, but my focus to start is gonna be on the solution and the technology. I'm casting a wider net across some verticals because, frankly, I don't know where all the business is gonna come from yet. So cast a wider net and then I will start to narrow or we will start to narrow as we evolve as a company.” - Jon
  • {00:50:36} - “I've learned mostly through my failures, but I now think that that's a strength of mine. Being able to hire and retain great teams.” - Jon

Associated Links:

Have any questions or comments about the show? Let us know on futurecommerce.com, or reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. We love hearing from our listeners!

Jon: [00:00:00] Halokinetic LLC... We're very excited about it. I'm gonna be the CEO. Kenny Heitner will be the CRO. We're also selling ourselves as two experienced business leaders who really know how to work the channel. And I feel like we can have a lot of appeal among the way we built Something Digital, the channel folks at ServiceNow, the sales teams at ServiceNow, and even the engineering teams at ServiceNow because we want to be that company that they can rely on to do solid implementations or even rescue failed implementations.

Phillip: [00:01:52] Hello, and welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast at the intersection of culture and commerce. I'm Phillip.

Brian: [00:01:57] And I'm Brian.

Phillip: [00:01:58] And before we get started here today, it's like my honor. I feel like the tables have finally turned, Brian, because I sat 11, 12 years ago, I sat in the hot seat while this guy grilled me and asked me why I should come work for him, and now it's finally my moment. This is my moment. I get to turn the tables and ask him a bunch of questions.

Brian: [00:02:16] {laughter} Me too. I got grilled too.

Phillip: [00:02:19] You got grilled. I feel like you got the pass though because you kinda came in with a little bit of a reputation. I was unknown at the time, so, I had to...

Brian: [00:02:26] Oh, no. I mean, I still got grilled. It was at a grill, actually. It was at, well, it was at Quality Italian.

Phillip: [00:02:35] Does that qualify as a grill? I don't think that's a grill.

Brian: [00:02:38] I guess you're right.

Phillip: [00:02:39] Quality Italian has a great chicken parm pizza.

Brian: [00:02:42] Chicken parm pizza. With honey.

Phillip: [00:02:43] We'll have to ask Jon about the chicken parm pizza. But yeah. Today on the podcast, though, we are gonna be joined by a very special guest. And I think one of the things that we have a unique advantage, in eCommerce is that we spent 10 years working at a services agency, and I think one of the best of the best in the business that was at the forefront of a lot of cutting edge work that was happening in the highly technical field of building eCommerce and managing that for some of the world's most recognizable brands. Also, what was great about that time was that we got a jump, Brian, a year and a half or two year jump on everything.

Brian: [00:03:22] We did.

Phillip: [00:03:22] All these companies that you've never heard of before that were acquiring new investment and making new investments in eCommerce. All the world's biggest brands that you know now, we got the first look at.

Brian: [00:03:32] We got early access to what was happening.

Phillip: [00:03:35] Yeah. So that's a very long lead up to say very excited to welcome to the show here today, our friend and mentor, Jon Klonsky. Welcome to the podcast, and you're gonna tell us a little bit about your outlook. But before we do, I just wanna say thank you so much for coming on Future Commerce. Welcome, Jon.

Jon: [00:03:53] Thanks, guys. The honor is mine, by the way.

Phillip: [00:03:57] Is it?

Jon: [00:03:58] You guys are killing it, and I've been irrelevant for what feels like a couple of years. So thank you for bringing me into your relevant world. And I did wanna comment on one thing. Brian, grilling you in your interview, I feel like I knew you for 3 years before we were even interviewed.

Brian: [00:04:16] You did.

Jon: [00:04:16] So if I was grilling, it was probably in fun at that point.

Brian: [00:04:19] It was. No. It was a good time. We had a good time. Mike didn't know me yet. I still got Mike's eye-raising questions. It was a good time, though. We had fun.

Phillip: [00:04:29] I feel like we still get Mike's eye-raising questions. I think, one thing just having Jon, just to do the real honors here, one of the Co-Founders of Something Digital, which I think is, like we said, the premier agency in the eCommerce space. And then had that amazing story in the exit to Genpact, and you've kind of been on your own here for the last year. We've been co-building with you, with Future Commerce Learning. But for those who don't know you, give us the CV in a nutshell.

Jon: [00:04:59] Yeah. CV in a nutshell, and I'll skip whatever I was doing pre-Something Digital, but Something Digital was an idea that started in 1999, and I'll credit my Co-Founder, Greg Steinberg. He wanted to have a side gig that eventually could become his and do his own software development thing. And I was his first client. It started to get a little bit of momentum, and then we decided we would start dedicating our time full to this, and that was at the end of 2000, and then between 2010 and 2014, we started to change the course of what Something Digital was and what it was going to become. And the pivot from this multi-faceted, multi-service-oriented technology firm became really an eCommerce agency, and what we knew we had was not an eCommerce product company that many of our competitors thought they had. We had a professional services firm, and while our focus was eCommerce and certainly our clients and our partners and so forth, we had a business model that was more like a law firm or an accounting firm or a consulting firm, more so than what other people compare to a SaaS company or a consumer product company. So the metrics are different, and we knew what we were doing because Greg and I hired our dad at some point and Mike Savino, who then became our third partner, the third leg of the stool, and we hired some brilliant folks like the two of you, and we were off to the races. And I will credit the growth and ultimate exit to the incredible leadership team that we had, that you were both a part of, that allowed us to do things that probably most of us never dreamed of. And the one piece of credit I'll take is I knew what not to worry about or what not to focus on because we had really great people doing it, and that was a great time.

Phillip: [00:07:18] Oh, incredible. Oh my gosh.

Jon: [00:07:19] It was. Yeah.

Phillip: [00:07:20] What a ride.

Jon: [00:07:21] We got acquired, and it was great. And Genpact acquired us with the intent to fold us under another subsidiary company that they had acquired about 18 months before us called RightPoint, and RightPoint still exists. It's this great agency in Chicago, based in Chicago, but it's got offices around the world. And for a while, I was leading their eCommerce group, which I believe is now part of just more of their customer experience group, because in their mind and their thesis, eCommerce is part of customer experience and that could be argued back and forth, but that's what they're doing now. And they're still great, and a lot of our former colleagues are still there and doing great work.

Brian: [00:08:03] Yeah.

Jon: [00:08:04] Do you wanna know what I've done since?

Brian: [00:08:07] Hit us with what came next after?

Jon: [00:08:11] I joined a golf club. {laughter}.

Phillip: [00:08:15] I wasn't sure where he was going. {laughter}

Jon: [00:08:15] My wife put me in charge of the shopping list. She works full time. She's president and publisher of three Imprints at Penguin Random House, so she's a heavy hitter and has a lot of work to do every day, and I was waking up as a man of leisure. I have this little consulting thing that I put together called Triklon and I have some clients that don't pay me because I haven't asked them to pay me. But I enjoy some of the coaching and consulting that I've been doing, but, it was time, and I'm about to start something new.

Brian: [00:08:54] You've sold yourself short, at so many points along this this journey here.

Phillip: [00:08:59] {laughter} I think he did a good job.

Brian: [00:09:01] No. No. No. No. But I mean, coaching is something that I think you were incredible at at Something Digital. I learned so much from you, and I think that's absolutely one of your strengths. I believe that this is a really good fit for you because you are such a good coach. You helped me and Phillip become who we are today, and be able to operate the way that we do. And so to me, it's such a natural outflow of the person who you are and so good at being. So, yeah, definitely more than just handing stuff off to the right people. That's part of good coaching. I think you developed people and put a lot of emphasis on people at Something Digital. And so this makes all the sense to me.

Jon: [00:09:49] Well, thank you. And I do appreciate all the nice things you guys are saying about me. I'm not dead yet, though, so we'll save some for the eulogy. No, I feel the same about you guys. I learned as much from you as I learned from I'm sure as whatever you've learned from me, it was surpassed by what you taught me.

Phillip: [00:10:09] Let's shift gears a little bit. I think, kinda open it up talking about having this unfair advantage in the services industry where you see brands before they become the household name that we all know. So you're at the tip of the spear. I'm curious having had that outlook of you had this 10 year incredible run, being really focused on eCommerce when it was in its growth phase. What's your outlook today versus the way that it was maybe 10 years ago? And what might have changed? Was the inflection point really the pandemic there in your mind? Is that sort of a dividing line?

Jon: [00:10:41] It certainly was, but I think my interpretation of what happened might vary a little bit. So I do think that we saw this rapid spike during the pandemic that then returned to some level of normalcy, but has shown that commerce has continued to grow. Certainly, digital commerce has continued to grow. I think what hurt people in the eCommerce space is we all got ahead of our skis, not only as a result of the spike but in anticipation of what we thought was going to be a continued spike. We didn't know how long this was going to last and whether you were a product company, like a SaaS company, or an agency, or a merchant, I think we all got ahead of ourselves, myself included, and we were at Rightpoint when this happened, so I won't take all the blame, but it's very difficult to put the brakes on something when things are going so well and it's like fish in a barrel and you can't hire people fast enough and you have salespeople, Brian Lange, who are bringing you these incredible opportunities and you're seeing them, you can taste them, you get ahead of yourself. And I think everybody is guilty of that. Probably, I only know the eCommerce ecosystem from my experience then, but I have to assume that was happening to every business that was responding to the pandemic.

Brian: [00:12:14] Yeah. I think you made a really good point there. For agencies, of course, it was growth because everyone, a lot of businesses needed to accelerate eCommerce strategies. But retail also kind of took off during the period of the pandemic due to COVID credits and so on. And there was a lot of spending that happened during that period, and you do look at some of the brands that saw that bump from that, and they chased success. They leaned in and took whatever was available to them to take. And sometimes there's danger in that. Measured growth and organic growth, [00:12:55] only organic growth, as opposed to purchased growth, can be a better line to run so that you don't get ahead of your skis. [00:13:03]

Jon: [00:13:03] Well, yeah. So that's a great point. When you talk about, and I can't define your term for you, but I'm going to infer organic growth implies kind of slow incremental spending it yourself, you're not taking out loans, you're not getting ahead of, you're not pulling from other budget lines to manufacture quicker or get merchandise into your stores quicker. You're being smart about it. Who was? Like you said, we're all chasing success. Most of us didn't have the risk aversion at that moment that we probably should have had to temper what was happening. And the unfortunate thing is I think a lot of companies are still suffering from this today. We haven't yet recovered, but that's not to say that eCommerce stopped growing, and I think [00:13:59] so many people, especially if you talk to the investor community, are like, "eCommerce is done. Let's move on to the next thing. AI," which is also important. I don't wanna take away from that, but I think eCommerce is still growing, and probably gonna continue to grow and change and do incredible things, and we're just at the tip of the iceberg now with some of the new technologies that are coming into the space. [00:14:23] But we have our short-term memory talking to us about what just happened with the pandemic, and that's going to have a lasting impression for a lot of people for a while.

Phillip: [00:14:33] There's a change, though, I think that's happened and I don't know if you could center it on the pandemic. It certainly was happening beforehand. I think Shopify changed the calculus for a lot of service agencies where dev-heavy agencies that relied on customized portions of platforms and deployed software had these large revenue expectations, and now we're seeing brands with much smaller budgets having lower expectations for time to build and cost to build. And I think that that combined with this acceleration eCommerce changed the calculus entirely for running a professional services firm in the eCommerce space. What's your take on that, Jon? Is that right, or is that a little too cynical?

Jon: [00:15:18] I don't think it's cynical at all. I think it's reality. And I do think, and we were having these conversations together at Something Digital. There was when you are purpose-built for these complex implementations that were heavy lifts that required a lot of back-end engineering, a lot of integration, a lot of data migration, all of those things, it's very hard to shift to a lower code option that you can iterate on easily with fewer resources. That's a tough pill for an agency to swallow. That's a change that ultimately impacts your revenue and your structure. You have to have different team structures. You have to have different types of people working for you suddenly, and those revenue numbers that you were chasing, were chasing success suddenly aren't as high, so what is an agency to do in that circumstance? I don't think there are a lot of good answers. Some people got creative, but that's very hard, and I'm grateful that I don't have to live through that right now as an agency that's been around because I think agencies still struggling with that right now, and they probably will for the next couple of years until they make appropriate adjustments.

Brian: [00:16:44] It's true. Yeah. The average deal size has dropped significantly for a lot of agencies. The ones that pursued that, I think there's another angle that some of the agencies took, which was to just push further into complexity and just shift their whole business to sort of the anti-Shopify movement. Move into headless and bigger projects and more complex projects, things like that.

Jon: [00:17:09] Correct.

Brian: [00:17:09] What do you think about that?

Jon: [00:17:12] Well, we experienced it. You guys did too. There were some companies that sort of embraced more of a product life cycle approach to their eCommerce implementations. You know, whether they were introducing more headless or composable elements or whether they wanted to do just things that were more custom, to differentiate themselves, I think, that's an opportunity for agencies to get more embedded in the strategy and in some cases, provide larger teams. So it's kind of antithetical to what I just said because I don't think that's happening industry-wide. But I do think that as companies embrace being more product-oriented in their development strategy, in their internal stack strategy, I think there's an opportunity for agencies to align more deeply with these organizations and have more people allocated and find many higher revenue engagements.

Phillip: [00:18:17] That's, I guess then, if you had to sort of call it like you see it, Jon, and I'm actually really interested because I don't know what your answer is gonna be here. What then today would you say is the primary role for a service provider specifically in the eCommerce space? Is it a lot of diverse services, and having and managing a large capable one hand to shake sort of a team, is that a sustainable model? Or is this explosion we've seen over, point solution client, client management that's specific and surgical around something like performance marketing only on meta? Is that the model that the world just has to learn to live with, or is there something in between?

Jon: [00:19:47] Look, [00:19:47] you have to have a strategy that you can stick to and sustain because, you know, you're going to build a team in a culture that has to be simplified for them, right? You can't keep changing your mind, so I think any one of the scenarios you just described can work. I think you have to be really smart and definitive about what you're gonna be doing. [00:20:12] You can be a diverse agency and offer all of these services and pick out which services you're gonna deliver to clients A through Z, but I think that's a very tough business to sustain. I like more focused expertise, have a lot of clients that you're providing very similar repeatable type of work for. To me personally, that would be the better choice. I'm not saying the other way is wrong. The other way also probably allows you to scale quicker, but to maintain profitability and deal with the variability of that business, that's not something that's appealing to me personally.

Phillip: [00:21:04] I love that you go right to culture around sort of managing people's expectations, casting vision, and where you're trying to get to as a business. I think that, you know, is indicative of your leadership style. So I guess the question would be what would you do differently? And maybe what are you going to do differently now that you have this new opportunity and this new idea kind of churning within you? What's on the horizon, and what are you gonna do differently this time around?

Jon: [00:21:34] So I feel like I'm gonna create something that is in a similar vein to what Something Digital became. Focus on a very specific set of solutions, create repeatable types of engagements, focus on the right metrics, get the entire team to be focused on the same stuff. And for everybody to kind of know their role, I think that's what I love about creating a systems integrator. It's like a team sport, and I love sports analogies, and I loved playing sports. So for me, getting everybody excited about their role and how they impact the growth of the company, is the exciting part of leading a team for me. So in my new business, should I introduce this now?

Phillip: [00:22:22] Yeah. Go for it. It's a big announcement. Yeah.

Jon: [00:22:24] So, I've identified a guy that I was in business with for many years. His name is Kenny Heitner. He ran a company called Consolidated Technologies that became one of the leading Avaya and then Cisco resellers in North America. He focused a lot on telephony, and then he got into managed services. So he's not a software development guy, but he understands how to sell through the channel and become a premier partner in a channel form of engagement. So my background is mostly Adobe, a little bit of Shopify. Previous life, there was some Cisco, some Microsoft, but really building software on these platforms and understanding the channel space, we're gonna focus on ServiceNow. And ServiceNow is one of the leading SaaS platforms. I know maybe we don't say SaaS anymore. I don't know. But it's one of the leading low-code platforms. It's in I believe the number is actually 90% of the Fortune 500, and it's workflow automation. So you can think about a whole range of solutions and workflow automation, and that's what ServiceNow offers. And it has grown so fast that it's like what Magento was like at one point. Everybody has it and everybody's trying to get it implemented and implemented correctly. So we're seizing this opportunity. We're launching a new business next week. I don't know when this podcast is going to air, but we're anticipating an announcement on or around December 1st, and the company is called Halokinetic LLC. It's a New York state business. We're very excited about it. We have employees number 1 and 2 already, they're informally offered and have informally accepted, but we have to get the offer letters out. We're starting to work with some finance folks on just getting us positioned the right way and maybe taking a little bit of seed funding. And this should be something that, you know, certainly for the next 5 years or so, could be a very exciting ecosystem, and I'm gonna be the CEO. Kenny Heitner will be the CRO. We're also selling ourselves as two experienced business leaders who really know how to work the channel. And I feel like we can have a lot of appeal among the way we built Something Digital, the channel folks at ServiceNow, the sales teams at ServiceNow, and even the engineering teams at ServiceNow because we wanna be that company that they can rely on to do solid implementations or even rescue failed implementations.

Brian: [00:25:06] Smart. Congrats, Jon.

Phillip: [00:25:08] Yeah. Yeah. Congratulations.

Jon: [00:25:10] Thank you.

Phillip: [00:25:11] Actually, I don't know enough about ServiceNow, so maybe you can give us a little bit of a primer.

Brian: [00:25:15] Yeah. Same.

Phillip: [00:25:15] Besides its footprint. The most I know, and I'll just be honest here is recently the CEO was taking a victory lap, I think, on Squawk Box or something. Someone was ringing the bell somewhere. Interesting looking character. He seems to be doing really well because the business seems to be printing money, at the moment. But, it sort of became a meme on the Internet. It's like, this is the largest company you've never heard of delivering it's critical infrastructure and service and software to every business that you admire. But other than that, I'm not really sure. So what is your new co going to do as a provider and implementer?

Jon: [00:26:01] The thing to know about ServiceNow, it's differentiated from some of the stuff we worked with. There's no real back-end coding required. It's a low-code technology. It requires some knowledge of JavaScript to work with it, but that doesn't take away from the fact that it's a complex piece of technology that generally has to integrate with other systems within your organization. So I think some people have taken it very lightly, and "Oh, it's plug and play." I feel we're gonna bring a certain kind of software development rigor to the process to have appropriate measure twice, cut once, and test often, and be in a position to do the things required to make sure the implementations go well. So it's very low code. I went off on that tangent. Sorry. It mostly had utility with call centers and IT services management for many years, but it has evolved. They've done some acquisition, and they've done some iteration on the platform to be able to do lots of things; compliance, contracting, product life cycle, project life cycle. So think of anything that is task-driven that ultimately has to follow specific workflows, and there's probably some use case for ServiceNow. So we're gonna challenge ourselves. We're gonna try and be, we're gonna start off doing kind of tried and true stuff, but I do believe some of the background and some of the people we're gonna bring on, there might be some familiar faces to you guys, we're gonna challenge the ecosystem a little bit and do some cool stuff. Like every technology, artificial intelligence is gonna be critical to the growth of ServiceNow, but you can just think of large organizations that have to do similar things multiple times. Why start with a blank canvas every time when you can have AI-driven initiation of some of these workflows? Remember how we used to think about how every project needed to start, and we'd almost start with a new spreadsheet or a new project plan? I think those days are over. We're gonna be able to apply a certain amount of known data, and hopefully, we're automating a lot of these processes now. ServiceNow has a lot of updates, so I also feel there is a need for ongoing services with it, and these are things that clients can either do themselves or as we've learned, many clients have a difficult time building and retaining teams that have depth of expertise on a platform, so I'm gonna try and be that type of partner to a client base.

Phillip: [00:30:07] It's funny. I feel like you said to me a few months ago... I said, "Doesn't AI sort of displace the role of an agency to some degree? Aren't they coming in and backfilling for something that you otherwise would perform, rather than chat in Slack to your account manager," or what did we call them? Brian, do you remember what we called them at Something Digital?

Jon: [00:30:37] Strategic EEngagement Managers? Yeah.

Phillip: [00:30:38] Yeah. Right. Your Strategic Engagement Manager. Yeah. It's like before you ask them, Shopify has got a chatbot now, and you could just tell it to do the thing. And you said to me something that sort of, I was shooketh a bit. You said, "Never discount the fact that somebody will pay anyone to push the button for them." It's like basically, there's always gonna be a need for someone else to do the work even if it's as little as, "Well, I'm describing something to a machine," or "I'm describing something to a human." This automation thing does feel really interesting because so much of the world is fragmented into so many of these automation-type solutions that this seems like an obvious, consolidator to some degree.

Jon: [00:31:24] Absolutely.

Phillip: [00:31:25] So I guess then the opportunity here is that there's a new market opportunity to take you're growing up out of Zapier, for instance. You're growing up out of something that's homegrown, and you're bringing business solutions together from discrete solutions to one provider.

Jon: [00:31:41] Yes. And once you do your first rollout and your it achieves something that you've consolidated all your call center operations on ServiceNow, then suddenly, okay, what can we do with our IT help desk? Or what can we do with our procurement process? These are all things that companies are wrestling with because ServiceNow, once it's licensed and implemented, it becomes a pretty decent utility. The fascinating thing about ServiceNow, which I believe is why it's performing so well as a company and there's interest in the stock and so forth, they made a strategic decision to quickly integrate all of their acquisitions. So whereas some software companies that we've worked with, you know, they acquire something and they say, "Oh, now look what we're gonna be able to do." And you know that that's a heavy lift to be able to incorporate that thing that they bought, it's just a license. It has no true integration. With ServiceNow, everything is actually truly integrated into the platform. They do that right away. So they were conveying to us when we first started looking at it, yes, every technology that they've acquired is now part of the platform. Now I don't know how long it'll take for the next acquisition, but that is a strategic imperative for them, which I find really comforting, especially as an integrator. You know that if you follow the right recipe, generally, you're gonna have a good outcome in that circumstance. There shouldn't be too many gotchas when that happens.

Brian: [00:33:16] Jon, I feel like there's a lot here that reminds me of the industry we were in before, but it seems like there's a few things that have been maybe addressed that weren't addressed in the ecosystem that we lived in initially back in the day in the commerce ecosystem. And some of those things, the opportunity for a project to go off the rails... You mentioned an ongoing or sort of rescue scenario. Do you feel like there's a lot of that opportunity in this ecosystem where there's gonna be, that might be your entry point to some of the initial contracts you take on? How do you see yourself sort of breaking in? Is it just gonna be through the sales channel that ServiceNow provides, or are you going to go after business on your own separate and build your own sales channels?

Jon: [00:34:08] I think it's a two pronged approach. I do believe strongly that in every ecosystem there are failed implementations. So I think building a company that can take on rescues and build credibility early on, be a hero, automatically convert to a recurring series of contracts, to me, that's the better route. Having to respond to RFPs somewhat anonymously, early on and selling the first project isn't always the easiest way. Obviously, we're gonna have to do both. But you know me, I believe strongly in the rescue and you guys, I think, believed in that as well.

Brian: [00:34:56] Mhmm.

Jon: [00:34:56] That's how we got some of our best clients at Something Digital. So I would anticipate the same thing for Halokinetic.

Phillip: [00:35:03] We have a lot of brands that pay attention, especially brand leaders that pay attention to Future Commerce, and we talk specifically about the tools of commerce a lot. We don't talk about the connective tissue that makes the everyday work actually happen. It's often overlooked. And those folks who have influence on buying decisions, not just in the software that powers commerce, but also the work that powers the other parts of the business that make commerce happen on the fringes. So in B2B, in particular, there's a a very different workflow to managing, the style of contracting, procurement, and requisition of products and just managing service tickets and etcetera. So much of that differs so greatly, especially in the enterprise. It seems like having a partner that has an eCommerce-centric experience that can speak to that particular pain point in that style of a business also seems like a really key differentiator here. Talk me through a little bit about the SWOT. Give me a little bit about how you came to make this decision, and can you take what you know from commerce or leverage your commerce contacts to kinda get a head start here?

Jon: [00:36:17] Yeah. Well so if we're looking at the SWOT, our strength obviously is in our experience and all of the failures that we can freely acknowledge and learn from. We'll bring all of that to this new entity. Halokinetic will hopefully also get a a kick start from some prior relationships that I've developed over the years, and Kenny has developed. We both have noncompetes, so we're not gonna go after the current client list or people that we've introduced to our former companies, but we have lots of relationships. Each of us ran companies for over two decades. So the people that we didn't call on that we were doing work with or some of the partners that we came to know or people we just met through the ecosystem, those will be our first calls. And we've already had a few of them. And we're hoping that the source of our first opportunities will be out of that grouping. So that's a strength. I I'd also say [00:37:25] a strength is knowing when to spend your first few dollars. We know to be patient and you used the term get ahead of your skis, I think, Brian, before, and that's one of my favorite terms. Do not get ahead of your skis. [00:37:39] We want some assurance. The problem in this ecosystem is we have to move quickly. So purely organic growth is probably not ideal. We could do it, but then it's 8 to 10 years to reach our goal. I'd like to get there in 5 years or less. And to do that, I think it does require a little bit of seed funding. We have to show up at the conferences and do some initial thought leadership and probably hire a few key team members to be able to close deals. So to do that, that requires a little bit of money, but not too much.

Brian: [00:38:18] Mhmm.

Jon: [00:38:18] Those are our strengths. Our weaknesses, and I'm just gonna say it flat out, Kenny and I have not worked in the ServiceNow ecosystem before. We've taking a crash course, and we've been focusing on it since the spring. And we're getting to know a lot of people and learn a lot about the platform. So that's an advantage, but we ourselves cannot close a deal or offer up specificity around any solution. We're gonna need to lean on the people that we're bringing on. I'm very excited about some of these prospective team members, but it can't be me doing it. I think it's Something Digital, you know, that was a similar weakness for me personally. I was not an engineer or a creative person, but years of working with great people at least helped me have real legitimate conversations with clients and prospects. That's certainly a weakness.

Brian: [00:39:11] Just think about another strength that you have, Jon, which is you're such a great leader and coach and so on. And what are some of the things that you're gonna bring to table with that? What's essential for being a leader in a technology company, right now and effective leadership in the industry you're gonna be in? And because I feel like that is one of your strengths, so I did wanna drill down on that a little bit too.

Jon: [00:39:35] So I always give this answer because people say, "Oh, what's it take to be a leader?" And I don't think it's necessarily unique to technology, but I would always say authenticity and courage are the two most important elements in leadership. Courage to make decisions that sometimes aren't popular or sometimes require some rigor to come to. You have to have that courage. You have to know when to make the decision and what it needs to be, and so that's one thing. And then I always say authenticity is so important. You have to be consistent, and people have to trust that consistency, and you can pull the wool over someone's eyes once. But leadership is about showing up every day and the people having confidence that they know what behavior to expect from you, and if you BS them on one day, that means,  because you weren't authentic, it means they're gonna trip you up when they realize you were a hypocrite or you came with too little preparation the time you offered up that decision, and suddenly you're turning your back on what you said you were gonna do. So to me, those are the two most important elements. That's what I would bring, but I also feel that there is a skill, a very specific skill to operating in an ecosystem, and I know you two know that intimately. That's what you do. And some of that I learned from you guys, How to operate in an ecosystem well. I always had a sense, but I've watched you guys do it optimally, and so I'm gonna take some of that, understanding how to truly convey expertise, we all know, we all say this. People don't want to buy their services from salespeople.

Phillip: [00:41:40] Right.

Jon: [00:41:40] They wanna buy their services from practitioners. So bringing a practitioner's... Like, they don't say that specifically to themselves, but that's what's going on internally for most people. They want depth of understanding. They want solutions. We talked about that. So I'm hopeful that I'm coaching people to behave that way and to really prioritize thought leadership and depth of knowledge on the ecosystem and the stuff that we're selling, that should give us an advantage. This is not just give you three bodies for a price, negotiate it, and move on. That's not what we're trying to do. We're selling solutions.

Phillip: [00:42:26] I do have some questions, on the other side of that too. Specifically, who the buying center is and whether that's an opportunity or a threat because it seems to me like this might be such a vast service offering to so many different types of buyers that you kinda have to drill into one area potentially, but maybe correct me if I'm wrong.

Jon: [00:42:46] No. That's an astute question. It's very true, and it's probably, it's one of the threats, right? You get in, you're brought in because somebody wants a call center solution, and it's the VP of call center operations or whatever, and you've bypassed the CIO, and the CIO already has another vision for how they wanna operate their ServiceNow licenses, and we've missed that opportunity. I think because of its vast application, it's not always essential buyer like a CIO or CTO. It could be, you know, VP. It could be the VP of people potential or HR. It could be the VP of manufacturing, you know, because they want to do product lifecycle. It's a whole range of potential buyers and learning about where the focus needs to be at each prospect is gonna be a bit of a struggle for us. And I'm gonna acknowledge that upfront.

Phillip: [00:43:50] It seems like it's a struggle for any of the implementers in that ecosystem. I would guess, because the applications are so vast, and the industry knowledge has to be so fragmented.

Jon: [00:44:02] Correct. Which is why we lose out sometimes to the really large players. The players that rhyme with Kinphosis or Beloit and Touche or Daccenture. They always have an advantage because they're in there delivering other services. And then the buyer says, "Oh, do you do service now?" And they say, "Sure." And they do, and they have a whole team that they'll put there, but they're not solutioning, they're just they're the de facto vendor, and that's what I'm competing against. But we competed against that in the eCommerce ecosystem as well. Yeah.

Phillip: [00:44:46] At least in our experience, people are hiring or they're partnering with people, not necessarily a dollar amount. Maybe that's how some procurement happens. But generally, if you get through to talking to the buyer, and you know who the decision maker is, and you can form a bit of a relationship with them that's built on trust and trust being that we have the at the right price to get this done on the terms that are agreeable, if you can get the right people in front of the right buyer, you can win. And I think that's where maybe coming back to opportunity. The opportunity here is that, practically, any business may need this. Specifically in the eCommerce space or in the retail vertical, what kinds of businesses are looking at ServiceNow as an opportunity, and where are they using them? Are there retailer or commerce-centric applications where ServiceNow is already employed?

Jon: [00:45:42] So like I said, 90% of the Fortune 500. So the answer is yes.

Phillip: [00:45:49] Right.

Jon: [00:45:51] Now do I know all of these people? No. And I have to figure out, you know, I have to I have to rework whatever relationships I used to have and try and get to the right folks. But I do think that there are lots of people who bought eCommerce from Something Digital who would value having a workflow automation tool like ServiceNow. As you're suggesting in eCommerce, they have call centers. They have, you know, product life cycle and procurement needs, and they need to do project planning and all of the above. So the opportunities in eCommerce are vast. I would love to come back to this with you guys in, like, 6 months when I start identifying where all the opportunities are in, say, CPG, because we're gonna be in three verticals, we say. We're gonna be in banking, financial services, and insurance. We're gonna be in health life sciences, and we're gonna be in consumer packaged goods. So consumer packaged goods, maybe it starts with the manufacturing side, but they're all selling stuff and they're all working with retailers, and it will be interesting to see what application we can invent for a work force automation tool like ServiceNow. That could be an exciting opportunity, certainly for anybody who engages in eCommerce.

Brian: [00:47:25] Absolutely.

Phillip: [00:47:26] Let's maybe bring it home by coming back around to the way that we started at the beginning. You see this great opportunity. You're sort of starting over from scratch. What do you think that the sort of innovation led approach could be for you? And you saw this opportunity in eCommerce 10, 11 years ago. You pivoted the business, that you had been in and service business had this, I would say it didn't really have your target customer was in legal marketing before. Maybe that was a large...

Jon: [00:48:08] Yeah. We did health care. We did law firms. We did large consulting firms. We did just a lot of startups too. Anybody who wanted custom software. We did kiosks and enterprise mobile. We did all this crazy stuff.

Phillip: [00:48:22] An`d had great logos too. And a lot of success before. Brian and I ever darkened the doors of Something Digital. I think having focus on an industry was the thing that you've always reference to me is the unlock. Are you rethinking that playbook now as we're kinda coming to a close? Are you thinking that the pendulum's swinging the other way, and it's more about buying a particular service and having it, you know, proliferate through a number of industries? It's about the platform.

Jon: [00:48:53] Yeah. I mean, look,  [00:48:55]it is about focus, but my focus to start is gonna be on the solution and the technology. I'm casting a wider net across some verticals because, frankly, I don't know where all the business is gonna come from yet. So cast a wider net and then I will start to narrow or we will start to narrow as we evolve as a company. [00:49:19] So I named the three verticals. We're serious about that. If somebody came to us from outside, I'd either add a fourth or I'd eliminate one of the three. You draw your line to start, and then you move it a little bit as you evolve as a company. But I do think, Phillip, focus is what wins the day, and we will be very focused around the solutions and the technology.

Brian: [00:49:50] That's awesome.

Phillip: [00:49:51] I can't wait to hear. I can't wait to revisit in six months, and hopefully, we get a chance to cover it. I'm gunning for more of the Jon Klonsky partnership that we've had here. You've helped us so much already, with Future Commerce Learning. Maybe give a two, a little quick plug for Future Commerce Learning, and the session that we did together.

Jon: [00:50:16] Well, we talked about building an optimal team. I had some wonderful conversation with Orchid, and I thought we hit all the right notes. And I think we covered some stuff that could be generalized outside of eCommerce even, but there were some tried and true things that [00:50:36] I've learned mostly through my failures, but I now think that that's a strength of mine. Being able to hire and retain great teams, [00:50:45] and frankly, in the professional services space, that is among the most important stuff, but I also think for retailers, for people who are trying to sell stuff online, having institutional knowledge and continuous iteration on ideas, it's really important to be able to hire and retain the right team. So I'm hopeful that whatever we conveyed in the learning modules is something that will resonate with a lot of your audience.

Phillip: [00:51:21] Oh, well, it already is making a huge impact. Brian and I have been very moved by all of your partnership. Thank you so much. Is there a domain yet? Where do we point people to?

Jon: [00:51:31] Halokinetic.com. Halo as in the angels' halo. Kinetic as in energy. One word, and it's just a splash page. It says, like, it's a Kenny and Jon project. More content will start to appear over the next couple of weeks. We have our former creative director from Something Digital. She's working on some of the design elements, and I expect us to have a beautiful website pretty soon.

Phillip: [00:52:01] Exciting stuff.

Brian: [00:52:02] Congrats again, Jon. That's amazing.

Phillip: [00:52:04] Appreciate it. Can't wait for the LinkedIn announcement. Thank you so much, Jon. And thank you all for listening. It's been another amazing episode of Future Commerce. We have, I think by the time this comes out, let me just try to think a little bit... Post Black Friday. But one thing that you can sort of bank on is that come the first of the year at Future Commerce, we have our 10 day meditation on The Power of Commerce series that we're bringing back at the end of the year, you can go get that by subscribing to one place. It's FutureCommerce.com/Subscribe. And remember, we do have bonus episodes of this podcast and all Future Commerce properties that come out every single week and get ad free episodes. That's right. Ad free. You don't have to listen to me do ad reads anymore, and it's a low, low price every month. FutureCommerce.com/Plus. Join the membership today and join other leaders who are sitting around the next corner in their industry. That's FutureCommerce.com/Plus. Thank you for listening to this episode of Future Commerce.

Recent episodes

LATEST PODCASTS
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.