Anthony Kennada Welcome to Heart of Business.
Anthony Kennada This is our first podcast of 2021, which is really, really exciting. But perhaps on a less exciting note, 2021. Is it off to the year that I think all of us hoped that it would be it started off with slack crashing or at least going down on the first day of work. Not a great start, but perhaps an omen for the events to come from the week.
LB Harvey I think they didn’t want to give up the holidays.
Anthony Kennada And obviously the events that happened at the US Capitol this past week were absolutely horrifying for all of us. As Americans who are listening to this, you’re listening from other countries. You know, I think the attention of the whole world was on the horrific events that we all experienced. We know this is not the country that we want to be. We know that we need to be much, much better. So I’m hoping that as we look forward from here, we can all come together and find a way to build moving forward.
LB Harvey Absolutely. Yeah. I think 2021 was not off to the magical, transformative start that I certainly was hoping for. And I think many joined me in that. I still do fall into the optimist category here, though I probably pushed out my timeline for when some semblance of normalcy and routine will will resume from spring to summer or even early fall. But I am still bullish and optimistic that sometime in 2021 things will start really looking up and very realistic that we’ve got some hurdles to still cross for the next quarter or so.
Anthony Kennada Really, really well said, LB. On that note, New Year new segments. I’m super excited to kick off 2021 with a segment that will bring back pretty often called Deep Dive. This is a moment to focus in on the bigger picture of the business world, a place that we can discuss best practices. You talk about business and leadership theory and really try to apply those principles practically. So without further ado, this is Deep Dive. So I want to talk about New Year’s resolutions, and I got to ask you, LB, are you a New Year’s resolution person?
LB Harvey I am actually a big New Year’s resolution person. And the reason I laugh is my husband is not. And so around December 30th, it becomes like a thing in our household. And I antagonize him by leading up to New Year’s Eve, talking about him, thinking about his New Year’s resolutions.
LB Harvey I tried to rebrand it this year to commitments we should consider for the New Year. But, yeah, I’m a big fan.
Anthony Kennada That’s awesome. Well, I am, too. I think in general, it’s a good way to kind of set back and reflect on the past year and then kind of figure out how can we intentionally move forward. But the data shows that when folks actually are partaking in these New Year’s resolutions, oftentimes, most often they end up failing, which is very sad. But we wanted to break down some of the reasons why people fail ultimately at their news resolutions. First is that they’re typically super high energy, high effort types of resolutions, big lifestyle changes, whether it’s in terms of fitness or financial goals or career goals. Sometimes folks kind of bite off more than they can chew, which leads to some kind of intimidation, I think, as the kind of working towards those goals. A lot of times they don’t have small, achievable goals built into the broader resolution. Oftentimes, there’s no plan to accomplish this. Gradually, we want to set a, let’s say, a weight loss goal and achieve it in the first month of the year versus thinking about taking smaller bites at the apple. Sometimes it’s the resolution itself is not the right resolution. It’s not what you actually want. So imagine a world where you resolve to get a new job and really what you want is to be more fulfilled in your current job or actually when you want to work out every day, what you really want to do is be healthier. And yet we’re setting these big traps for ourselves. There’s also the risk of not tracking progress, which is something that is meant to be kind of a leading indicator. Right, of being excited about making progress towards that bigger goal. But we don’t take the time to do that. And sometimes we don’t take time to reflect on the last year. So we don’t bring a lot of the learnings from the previous year into the new one. So these are some of the reasons that these resolutions fail. But I know LB as we were talking offline, you were talking about some core principles that you have for New Year’s resolutions as well. Do you want to touch a little bit on that?
LB Harvey Yeah. So I think there are three keys to how I think about New Year’s resolutions and I do happen to think that there’s a lot of application to just general goal setting in life and and goal setting in business, regardless of the concept of New Year’s resolutions. One is I always prioritize my goals. So the times I failed within my resolutions, it’s because I’ve taken on like five to seven things and inevitably I actually end up achieving the two that I care most about. And so I’ve started to prioritize and really only take on one, two, max three resolutions. And I found that to be helpful. The second piece is I only take on things that I actually have the heart and will and discipline to accomplish. So, for instance, I would never take on a resolution around like giving up wine, because at the end of the day, I don’t have the fortitude to actually do that.
LB Harvey And so I make sure going in to kind of gut check like, do I care enough and do I have the discipline to actually get this resolution over the line? And then the third thing is I make sure that the tactics to actually achieve the goal are doable and manageable. So, for instance, one of two goals this year is I want to improve my flexibility. I’m like, I’m realizing I’m getting stiff as I age. And so what I decided to do is stretch for five minutes, five days a week, which feels really manageable, like I can find five minutes to do that. And so that’s sort of my formula. It’s prioritization. Make sure your heart’s really in it and you really think it’s like it’s important and worthy enough to have the discipline to do and then make sure that the individual, little smaller tactics and goals are realistic.
Anthony Kennada That makes a lot of sense. And I think this is, you hit on this earlier, there’s a lot of application here from what we the goals that we set in our personal lives to how we do planning, whether it’s kind of planning for the entire 2021. Or as we think about kind of tackling Q1 here, companies often struggle with setting and achieving their goals in the same way that we often do in our personalized New Year’s resolutions. So what can companies learn from New Year’s resolutions? Using some of these principles that I think we’ve talked about here, first in general is: ask yourself, do you have the right goals? Have you looked at the data from historical context and really kind of arrived at the right conclusions? Have you done any internal benchmarking to understand how have we grown this one particular channel or in this one segment in prior years? What has the market said? Maybe asking some peer companies or folks in your network to get a sense of how they’ve developed the business and finally getting feedback from from the team itself and so obviously working cross-functionally with the other leaders, within the organization to figure out that you’re setting the right goals. Second, how will you measure success and progress? I think, you know, LB, this one rings close to us, how many metrics are we going to measure here against any one of these goals? Are we going to measure crazy long kind of dashboard with like several double clicks? Or can we really unite the business around three, five or a handful, maybe less metrics that can really help us know that we’re on the right track against achieving that goal. And then finally, what criteria are we going to use to really set them or at least pivot throughout the year knowing that with startup companies like Front a lot can change in a year? There’s a lot of different kind of curveballs 2020 through us, a big curveballs. How can we really make sure that whether it’s developing like a metaphor really helps us understand, like who within the team is responsible or is the approver or contributor to the project really finding ways to ensure that we can be flexible while still having a true north that we’re marching towards as a business? We just went through planning at Front. So a lot of this is getting close to home. Any of this sound right from your perspective?
LB Harvey And I would say this is so timely because I think a lot of companies are going through or finalizing planning right now and certainly probably doing some retros on what key learnings they want to take into even next year, ’21 to ’22 planning. I think that because so many, especially tech companies, are so collaborative and really want to hear, like all great ideas, there’s a lot of positives that come from that. The downfall can be that you end up with a list of company priorities that looks like a huge laundry list or huge grocery list of things to do. And I am a big, big believer of having those discussions, having that debate. But at the end of the day, planning on two to three big things that you want to move the needle on as a business and having the discipline to have focus, even if that means that some people’s babies don’t make the list.
LB Harvey And then very much also a fan of not having exhaustive lists of OKRs or key metrics, you’re you’re measuring. I think it’s just the biggest danger in company goals and really aligning on those is that everything just gets kind of washed out and not clear. I love having a very tight set of rocks or priorities with one to two key metrics you’re looking to move the needle on. No one wants to look at a 47 OKR spreadsheet with red, yellow, green and it gets hard to understand like so are we doing well or not doing well? Things should be clear and crisp and everyone at the company should be able to rattle off the two to three things you’re looking to do.
Anthony Kennada Totally agree with that.
LB Harvey All right. It’s time for our Heartbeats segment.
LB Harvey Welcome to Heartbeats. So for those of you who are tuning in for the first time, Heartbeats is our recurring segment that shines a spotlight on some of the good news coming out of the business world. As we discussed earlier in this episode, 2021 has already been a bit of a tough year off to a rocky start. We want to take the opportunity to shine a light on some of the good news stories, those businesses that are innovating, pivoting, and serving their customers in new and very cool and creative ways. So in each episode, we bring you a few of our favorite good news stories that we’ve heard about recently.
Anthony Kennada All right. There’s a really interesting story about a company, believe out of Australia called Cooee. Cooee is a website that connects would be travelers with tour guides in some pretty awesome destinations like Cambodia, Croatia, Nepal, Peru. And it was effectively launched by a small tour company pretty early on in the pandemic. And what was really interesting is the founder felt it had a lot of deep empathy for these tour operators or tour guides in some of these markets who obviously have been impacted tremendously by the pandemic and the stop to travel, much of this being how they earn their living and then thinking about the opportunity with folks on the other side who are now stuck at home, aren’t able to travel and maybe haven’t had a chance, even in a world without a pandemic, to go visit the most remote places of the Earth and see some of these great kind of experiences. So thinking on their feet, the gentleman’s name is Steve Wilson. He came up with a platform that basically allows folks to employ these local tour operators over Zoom and go do a Zoom hike through the Inca trail, a Zoom climb in Nepal or in Cambodia. So pretty amazing because this is a chance, again, for us to see some awesome sights, but not just in like a YouTube video, but engage with a local person that lives there that knows the place very well, but also be able to help support them in their career, in their profession during a time when they need it the most.
LB Harvey Absolutely. That’s a really unique and creative idea, and I was just thinking about, like, what would I be interested in doing one of these tours? And I think I would, especially right now when none of us are really able to travel. That’s been such a big part of my life pre-pandemic that I think it sounds like a really cool thing to try for a couple of hours on a Saturday or Sunday, maybe get some friends together and and enjoy. And then certainly not everyone has the ability or desire to travel. And so this is kind of a cool way for folks who may not be excited about getting on planes all the time to be able to experience some beautiful scenery, unique cultures around the globe.
Anthony Kennada I think I’ll be checking Cooee out over the weekend. So pretty excited about it. But let’s get into our interview. We’re talking about travel here. We’ve talked actually a lot on the show about how excited we are to travel again when of course it’s safe to do so. But what we’ve been talking about, Inca Trail in Cambodia or these different places we want to travel to, we’re largely talking about vacations or kind of personal travel that we’ve sorely missed. But there’s a big part of the travel sector we haven’t really talked about. That’s business travel, corporate travel. And it’s been a space that obviously has been tremendously impacted as well by the pandemic. In today’s episode, we have a conversation with Meagen Eisenberg. She’s a good friend of mine, CMO of TripActions, who’s going to talk about the efforts that they took in 2020 to continue serving their customers when corporate travel grinded to an absolute halt. Their customers, of course, being both companies that are that have the employees that have been traveling often they have a bunch of travel credits or a lot of kind of fees that have already been booked and needing to kind of reconcile those as well as the folks on the other end of it, where their travel planning companies that represent these organizations. So really interested about it. I’m curious, LB before we dive in: what’s your take on the business travel world as we kind of get back to it, honestly in your role, especially, you know, getting out and seeing customers, I don’t know if we’re ever going to get back to a place where it’s completely like "always get on the flight." And yet I don’t know that we’ll be able to close six, seven figure deals completely over Zoom. So I’m curious how you think about it.
LB Harvey Yeah, it’s so interesting, it’s funny, I was talking to a friend over the weekend just around what will downtowns look like and what will be the pulse of in office versus full remote versus hybrid, et cetera. And I think this kind of falls into a similarly interesting category. I will admit personally, I found myself last month missing the Dublin area and I never thought I would see the day. I wouldn’t say that the Dublin airport is like the prominent feature of Dublin, Ireland. So it’s really saying something that I was like literally missing, standing in a customs line there.
LB Harvey I’m of two minds of the current state. I am really enjoying the fact that I feel like I’m able to, like, work out more, spend more time with my friends and family. I’m not on the road going out and visiting customers or internal teams. And yet I also really miss that connection. And I miss that energy that you get from going and spending time live with your teams in other locations. So I do think that business travel won’t ever quite look the same. I think that with really the transformation of the ability to do video conference, so where you no longer just had the option of a phone call or a live meeting, but you can actually do great product demos and have that like face to face connection with video technology. I think that already started the trend of a lot of sales teams doing more inside and certainly visiting customers less frequently, if at all. And I think that this will be yet another nudge in that direction because, hey, if someone can successfully form a great relationship with a customer via video and doesn’t need to fly to Atlanta from San Francisco, that obviously saves the company a lot of money, saves the rep a lot of time. And frankly, some customers have said that they prefer that it’s faster for them as well. But I don’t think we’ll ever stop going out and meeting people live. I just don’t believe that that’s ever going to be the reality. And certainly, I think as leaders, it’s going to be important for us to get back on the road and go and experience our teams and the cultures and visit local customers again. And I’m personally already planning my first trip to Paris, hopefully this summer to go visit our team out there. So I think it’ll come back online, but at maybe call it somewhere between 60 to 80 percent rate.
Anthony Kennada I’m like you. I have two thoughts in my head that are sometimes like diametrically opposed on this one. It’s like I love being at home and I do think the video is giving us the ability to really connect with folks in a much more acceptable way than I think video had delivered in the past. So we’ve culturally moved on to something about that, like SPG hotel rooms. Sometimes there’s something about, I don’t know, the feel of landing in a new city and go into the customer site. So I don’t know where I stand on it yet, but I’m excited to see where the how we all kind of evolve and move forward. So let’s get into it. Here’s my interview with Meagan Eisenberg, CMO of TripActions.
Anthony Kennada All right, Meagan, thank you so much for joining the show and for sharing the TripActions story. Appreciate being a part of it.
Meagen Eisenberg Thank you for having me.
Anthony Kennada All right, it’s time for our first segment that we want to kick off called Weird Question of the Week.
Anthony Kennada The question is this, when the world opens up again, we’re traveling, we’re back unencumbered. What’s the first place that you’re going to travel to, whether that’s for personal reasons or for work?
Meagen Eisenberg Yeah. So I have to admit, I’ve been traveling. I took the kids to the East Coast to Cape Cod for a week. But if it’s work related, probably the first place I’ll end up going is New York to to visit our New York office.
Anthony Kennada I miss New York quite a bit. I miss the energy. I miss being a part of it. Awesome. Well, obviously, it makes sense. You’re traveling you work at an incredible travel-oriented company. And so I’m curious for folks that may not have heard about TripActions, tell us a little bit about the business and kind of specifically your role and how you see the future for the company.
Meagen Eisenberg Yeah, so we’re a full travel and expense management platform, so we help corporations around the world like Zoom and Twilio and others travel. And definitely then I joined as their CMO a year and a half ago. Certainly it was pretty Covid and lots of just business travel going on. We’ve since expanded our portfolio of products into payments and expense management because most of T&E is on the travel side. But there’s 30 percent of your spend that’s non-travel related. So we’ve been building product for our customers in that area is a very interesting space to be in. We were on the forefront of watching what was happening with Covid as it spread around the world and the impact to our customers and businesses.
Anthony Kennada And I’m so excited to get your perspective on this, because I think you had a probably unique vantage point to what was coming. But going back to when you joined last June, the company raised $250 million of funding and it was rumored, I think it was around $4B valuation (I won’t ask for comment) but it’s quickly become one of the standout startups in Silicon Valley. And you had been at the company now for about four or five months, then going back to February. What was it like coming into the new role, leaving Mongo before this? Right. And then coming over to TripActions, the wind behind the back with funding and everything. How did you kind of think about the opportunity to move forward?
Meagen Eisenberg Yeah, I mean, we were scaling really fast. We added a thousand people last year. I had ten people on the marketing team and grew it to sixty, just shy of sixty by the end of the fiscal year. And so I hired about twenty people in six weeks. I needed to go very fast. Sales needed air cover and support. We needed to do a lot of work just with the product team with from a product marketing standpoint and demand gen, and just, you know, I had to quickly hire the leaders, then hire the teams while hiring the leaders. And we put a lot of technology in place.
Meagen Eisenberg We have 40 different mar-tech in place now that we didn’t have at the beginning of that year and then put a lot of different processes in place to help the business scale.
Anthony Kennada I imagine as obviously you’re hiring all these people, building the processes, a global pandemic is nowhere near your radar. But take me through. So then what was it? Probably December, January, at least for the rest of us? You know, we’re starting to see that, look, this this may not be your average kind of public health emergency that’s happening. Do you remember where you were when the team started realizing, gosh, there might be something bigger here around the corner?
Meagen Eisenberg Yeah. So we have two very strong memories. When I was visiting our Sydney office, it was in January and I was getting ready to fly back and my dad started texting me. What are you doing in Sydney? You need to get out of there. There’s this really horrible flu disease. I’m nervous. Come home. And I was like, what are you talking about? I just had it hadn’t crossed my radar yet, really. And then he’s like, it’s in China. And I was like, OK, do you know how far away I am? Like, I think I’m OK. I’m flying back that day. I think everything will be fine. So that was sort of my first. And my dad like sounding the alarm and I just thought he was being an alarmist. And then maybe a month later it was a Friday and the CEO called the head of product, head of operations, myself, head of sales, all of us into a meeting and just said things are shutting down. We need to get people home. This is serious. We need to build a lot of product. This is what we’re hearing from customers. We’re building it over the weekend. I need you to enable our customer success reps Monday and the field to talk to it, to support our customers and what that was as we’ve given them visibility where all their travelers were. So they had a traveler map and they had the ability to know who was there and communicate to them, and they could see who was about to travel. But what they didn’t have was the way to restrict people from booking future travel or restricting certain countries. And at the time it was mostly Asia. Then it moved to certain countries in Europe and then most of Europe and then the whole world. So we were building out functionality that they could restrict bookings. It started out by continents. Then it became by countries and then states and then routes. And so that was being built out. And then we hooked into the CDC, an API to direct feed from John Hopkins, the reproduction numbers of the virus, because the other thing was you have some travelers that need to travel essential travels. But all the rules were changing. Country rules were different. Quarantines were different. So how did we give that information in real time in our booking tool to the travel managers as well as the travelers. So they built that out over the weekend as well. And we needed to take it to market and educate everyone on it. So it was definitely it was a world I mean, it was just crazy, 15 hours nonstop, day after day, taking getting everything ready. And then our customers just kept bringing us back feedback. If you think about it, all these flights got cancelled, tens of millions of dollars and flight credits. And we had the ability to track flights, but they wanted certain reports. CFOs need to know the financial impact. And so because we’re one platform, we were able to pull all the reporting for CFOs and then they wanted to know what we need to automatically apply it. We don’t we don’t want to lose all these credit. So we built it in the tool. Next time someone books that automatically applies the credit so they can start using them as they slowly get back to traveling. But just a lot of work around figuring out what was needed.
Anthony Kennada That’s incredible.
LB Harvey But the fact that all that was built basically over the weekend, the waiver and the credits were later as problems arise for our customers, we were like, oh, we need to build this. And so it would be within a week of hearing what they needed. The engineering team was just working all nighters, building it out for them.
Anthony Kennada That’s amazing. And I want to come back to the community here in a second, because obviously it’s awesome that a lot of that inspiration, a lot of the ideas, ideation and requirements kind of came from them. But obviously, beyond that weekend, there was a moment where right now, you know, we need to keep this intensity going and figure out how we’re going to move forward.
Anthony Kennada And fast forward a little bit. I just watched the keynote from your virtual conference. As I understood it, there were kind of three big focus areas kind of moving forward, at least as as it came across in the keynote employee productivity as one of those angles, budget and spend control, which you talked about, I think, a little bit here. And then safety in general, employee safety for employees. How did you guys land on those as the key priorities to focus on?
Meagen Eisenberg Yeah, I mean, it became very clear. We have a customer advisory board that we meet with virtually every month, once a month. And we were meeting with them daily and it was amazing every day.
Meagen Eisenberg 21 of them would show up and give us 30 minutes to an hour of their time and provide feedback. So certainly it started with our CAB and then our customer success managers were aggregating feedback and bringing that back to the product team and to our CEO. Our CEO is heavily involved in collecting feedback and we started to proactively reach out to CFOs to understand what they needed. We set up office hours and invited our CFO and other CFOs of our customers, and prospects started coming in and bringing up questions and things that we needed to answer. The other thing is the tone in the market changed overall. If you think about it, we were the best experience in business. Travel was sort of our tagline.
Meagen Eisenberg Right? And we were all about the user in this amazing experience, but no one was having a good experience. The tone was somber. They certainly didn’t want to hear about the best of anything. And so it became clear what they cared about was cost control because we were entering a recession and a depression. They cared about safety. They need to get their travelers home. They want to protect them and not send them out on the road without having the right information. And then, you know, as you you secure the fort with your security around your employees, you need to control costs because your business needs to last through what’s going on. But then to last year, what’s going on, you need to have employees that can sell and be productive and carry on with their work. And so these are certainly themes across all businesses. How do we recover, do a business recovery in this environment? You know, studies by Oxford for every dollar spent on travel, it’s about $12 in revenue. And so now these revenue channels, you used to meet people at events, you would have dinners, you build relationships. How do you replicate that? Online and deal cycles across businesses started to slow down. Pipeline slowed down as people adjusted to working from home home schooling and all those other things. So we realized people needed to find a way to be they cared about the productivity of their employees, which I also think is rewarded. And in the market right now, with tech enabling people to be remote and have the information and be online totally.
Anthony Kennada We’ve spoken about this. You were very generous with your time, actually, right at the heart of a lot of this crisis and joined a CMO office hours call that we did.
Anthony Kennada Thank you for for being a part of that. And you were talking then about the community of business travel professionals. You mentioned them. Now, how have you continue to serve and support your customers when their businesses are traveling? You’ve hit on some of it from the from the feature functionality perspective, I think, is super interesting, but overall, just from the marketing perspective, how has the brand kind of shown up as one that wants to help them get through this, even in a case where maybe their own job security, in some cases at least might be threatened?
Meagen Eisenberg Yeah, I mean, it became very important to become a trusted resource and to build a lot of content that mattered for them right now. So we built a community.
Meagen Eisenberg We found technology that we could get enabled and started asking questions, releasing content. We invited our customers to ask questions, things about travel restrictions, waivers. We invited our partners and suppliers of hotels and airlines to put information on there. And quickly, anyone could come and ask us about Covid, about business recovery and different topics. So that was one thing that we we quickly set up, and that was my CEO’s idea, like we need to get a community app. There’s all these questions. And so we acted on that really quickly. And then the second thing that we did is we built out an academy like a university TripAction’s Academy. What we know is in recessions and depressions. And if people are getting laid off and that they need to go redefine themselves, they need to learn, they need to grow, they need to come out and be a lot more competitive in the marketplace. And they go back to school. They go back to community colleges. And we thought it was really important, especially now that people are working from home. A lot of people are reading materials, but could we provide very good content that educated them in the space, gave them certifications, gave them a competitive edge. And so we built it for our customers and for prospects for travel managers and finance executives. And we released that took us about a month to get the first two courses released. And then we did two courses a week and we’re twenty five, twenty six courses right now and over. I think we’ve had ten thousand courses taken or something. There’s a pretty good milestone that’s coming up. But yeah, I think in these times the best thing you can do is become a trusted resource, create content that people need and they will associate that to your brand. And important part of brand is do they trust you and do they trust your brand? So at this time we felt that was the appropriate thing to put in the market. That was the tone appropriate thing.
Anthony Kennada That’s awesome. And super inspiring, too.
Anthony Kennada I think the idea of thinking about the people and the humanity behind the our customers, I mean, we so often get lost, I suppose, as marketers and think about logos and logo retention, these types of things. You forget that there’s people whose jobs are on the line to deliver for the company. So on that same tone, what was the response like? What was the response from customers themselves, personally, perhaps, as they were engaging with the certification of platforms or engaging the community and maybe for also the businesses professionally, like how were they able to kind of get value and then hopefully write out the unknown or at least be able to come out stronger on the other side?
Meagen Eisenberg Yeah, I mean, definitely one of the things businesses think about with their employees is duty of care, which is making sure, one, they know where employees are and they’re protecting them and giving them information. But the other thing in this environment is that they construct the right policies to protect travelers. And there are companies traveling. It depends on the space that you’re in, less so in tech.
Meagen Eisenberg But if you’re in retail, you’re traveling and visiting your stores, you’re making sure some of them went through riots and different things like that and they had to go visit the stores. If you’re in manufacturing or doing hardware, you’re out there servicing the field.
Meagen Eisenberg Enterprise sales CEOs, there’s definitely still travel and health care is still traveling. And so what we found is the ones that were still traveling, definitely their response was they were thankful to have the information, the insight, the ability to provide some security and information to their employees. So that was one on the finance side. They definitely love the ability that they could run all the reporting and they had better visibility, not only where their employees were, but on spend and credits with the airlines, different things like that. So, I mean, definitely the customers embraced it and the response is very positive and that they felt like we were still innovating through this time, that we were bringing them information that was relevant. Stay on top of mind in a time where most people were not really thinking about business travel as much as how do they move the business forward. So we definitely saw a good response. We saw a ton of people in our communities still do have a lot of people and then just still have a lot of people going through the courses and academies and still have momentum in the business.
Anthony Kennada I’m curious for for the team at TripActions to work so hard, have that intensity to deliver and ship this content and ship the value to customers and then to hear it back from them that, hey, like that really helped me through a hard time or that you really helped us solve a problem here.
Anthony Kennada It’s been a chaotic year for everyone, but how has the team seen the impact of their work on the customer outcome? And what is that done in terms of morale or just overall being able to to navigate the chaos that is 2020?
Meagen Eisenberg Yeah, you know, there’s a couple of things that we did that I would say were during the surprise and delight category and that "were humans" category, one that I loved as we decided to send our customers, our travel managers, a picnic basket project. We call it Project Sunshine Inside. And we put a little note in there that just said, whether it’s your balcony, your living room, the backyard or a park, get outside, get some vitamin D, get some sunshine. And we just wanted to do something that would remind them and get them outside and just put a little bit of happiness. And the emails we got back were amazing. And so we would we would share those with all of marketing because they came back to the customer success managers and they would share with us and we would share with marketing. One woman got engaged with her picnic basket. And so some fun stories that came out of that that I think were very uplifting. We did pass the plane that had over 12 million viewers and reached. So that was a lot of just virtually folding the airplane. And then not virtually like in person, I was filling in with my kids and throwing them in the backyard and sending it to family, to friends, to customers. We had flight attendants that got involved in people in Germany and Spain videoing these airplanes and throwing to each other. And that was something that was sort of it’s still sort of a sad time in many ways, but it was a way to reach out. And that, I think, brought a little happiness to the team. But, you know, knowing that you’re working on something that people need, I think is fulfilling. But you’re right. It’s been a tough seven, eight months. It’s a depressed industry. There’s a lot of furloughs and layoffs. And it you see news all the time on the trouble with airlines and hotels and, you know, people we reinvent, we figure out ways and new environments. But I think as leaders, we have to keep everyone’s spirits up. I definitely, you know, a lot of stand up meetings, a lot of checking in with everyone. A lot of Zoom walks just 15 minutes. Grab your phone, join the Zoom and walk with your kids, with your dog, whether it’s around your house, the backyard, around the block or to a park, keep socially distant. But we have a weekly Zoom walk and we don’t talk about work. It’s just like, what are you up to? Where you at? Oh, where you walking now? You know? And it’s another thing I think you need to get people outside they need. And it was it’s been pretty beautiful weather, at least here in California, like get out fresh air sunshine. So I think all of that helps.
Anthony Kennada That’s amazing. From the outside perspective, it did, as I think of back to the keynoted to reverse where you guys just announced passing a big milestone, think it was $3.1 billion dollars of travel budget now under management.
Anthony Kennada So congrats for sure on that. I think just that to close this out for for this section, what has changed, if anything, from your mission as a company, given what TripActions has experienced and what the industry has experienced in 2020?
Meagen Eisenberg Ariel and Ilon have always had this very big vision of taking on travel expense payments with the liquid carton in February and then overall expense management, which we recently launched. This accelerated that which is, I think, an interesting environment just by nature of expenses are still happening on the 30 percent. That’s not travel related and listening to what people need and customers need work from home. You still you may be expensing office equipment, software lunches, whatever that looks like in the world of remote. And so it definitely took that vision that we thought would be in the next two years and brought it in. And but it’s also been refreshing because we’ve had something we’re very focused on now. I think part of leading is good, strong objectives and getting people through it. And it also helps to just get through this environment. When you’re you’re working hard, you’ve got your eye on what you think the future of the vision should be for the company and everyone rallies around it. So, yeah, it’s definitely been one of my most challenging years as a leader, but there’s been some rewarding stuff in there to us.
Anthony Kennada And, well, just as a peer in the marketing community, at least, I’ve been so inspired by what you guys have done and it’s been such an amazing story.
Anthony Kennada So thank you for for sharing it. Before we break, I have one last segment I’d love for us to get to know you by. In our speed around. So here are the rules, you have five seconds or less to answer each of the questions, so whatever pops in your mind, OK, just hit us with it. All right. Ready?
Anthony Kennada The best book you’ve read recently?
Meagen Eisenberg A hard thing about hard things. Ben Horowitz.
Anthony Kennada Favorite podcast, other than this one, of course,.
Meagen Eisenberg TripActions podcast. Awesome.
Anthony Kennada Working from home or working from the office.
Meagen Eisenberg I’ve been in the office for the whole time almost.
Anthony Kennada Favorite purchase you made during quarantine.
Meagen Eisenberg I would have to say outdoor lights like lanterns and those lights that you string up that the big ball can get a bit like Costco or something that just make it, you know, fun to be outside. I don’t know. I’m into to like environment, peaceful, calm and totally, totally.
Anthony Kennada And finally, what’s one brand out there that you admire the most?
Meagen Eisenberg I’ve got to say DocuSign, you know, I work there two companies ago, but I’m just so impressed by what they’re doing. They’re definitely Covid stock. That’s something all of us need that make life business easier. And I think they’ve done a good job.
Anthony Kennada Amazing. Fascinating. Thank you so much for being a part of this. And best of luck as we kind of turned the corner here and hope for better days to come. Thank you.
Anthony Kennada You’re listening to Heart of Business. Don’t forget to review and subscribe. Now back to the show.
Anthony Kennada Awesome. I want to thank Meagen again for sharing the story with us. It’s obviously one that’s been super inspiring, but, lB, it’s time for your last word. What do you think?
LB Harvey I thought this was an incredible story, so just taking a step back before the pandemic TripActions promise was to deliver the best experience in business travel.
LB Harvey And obviously, with the pandemic hitting, all of that got ended and TripActions had to quickly refigure out their promise and the value they were going to deliver to customers. I could not believe that they got their customers to meet with them daily. That is so incredible and just speaks to the brand they must have built way before all of this happened. And it ended up being a real key to their success. Right. The fact that they were able to take cues from their customer advisory board seemed to be really at the heart of helping solve this problem. So from plugging in to the CDC and John Hopkins data sources to give customers real time and credible information on the risks associated with travel, with pivoting their product roadmap to focus on broader expense management, I thought this is just incredible story of being able to very quickly realign your brand promise and the value you are delivering to customers in lieu of the current situation. So huge props to TripActions.
Anthony Kennada Totally huge, huge props. And that’s all we have for this week’s episode. So please hit Subscribe on Apple podcast on Spotify, honestly, wherever you listen to your podcast. If you enjoyed the show and please leave us a rating and review as well, we’d really, really appreciate that.
LB Harvey You can follow the Heart of Business podcast, as well as other great stories of how teams and customers are working together to make missions possible by subscribing to Front Page, the editorial site that we’ve recently launched for founders, executives and customer facing teams. Follow us on Twitter at @frontapp or by going to frontapp.com/blog.