CRO Spotlight

Making CRO Without Sales Experience, With Serkan Honeine

August 2, 2022

CRO Spotlight

A B2B podcast for current and aspiring CROs, CEOs and other leaders. In each episode revenue experts Warren Zenna and Lupe Feld are joined by a guest as they set out to explore every last area of a business that you can leverage to generate revenue and drive meaningful change. Warren and Lupe speak your language - join their revenue crew.

Although it's hotly debated, sales leadership seems to be emerging as a staple position in the career path to CRO. But at what cost?

In this episode, Warren and Lupe are joined by Serkan Honeine, Chief Revenue Officer @ Certn. They chat about how deeply roles other than sales leadership can uniquely qualify you to lead revenue, how leading an international team from the other side of the world can be simple, the biggest challenge CROs face (and the cause), why you need to find metrics that matter, and the power of saying thank you in the remote-first world.


Connect with Serkan on LinkedIn, or at the Certn website.

You'll find Warren and Lupe on LinkedIn too.

Empower your sales team to transform their sales. Find out more about the Create Pipeline course from Sales IQ here.

Warren Zenna
Co-Host @ CRO Spotlight Podcast + CEO @ CRO Collective
Lupe Feld
Co-Host, CRO Spotlight Podcast
Serkan Honeine
CRO @ Certn.

[00:00:00] Warren Zenna: Hi and welcome to the CRO Spotlight podcast. I'm Warren Zenna from the CRO collective and I'm here with my co-host Lupe Feld. Hey Lupe.

[00:00:15] Lupe Feld: Hey Warren. This is Lupe Feld, and I'm glad to be here with you.

[00:00:19] Warren Zenna: So this podcast is really for aspiring CROs and CEOs and current CROs whom are interested in learning from not only us, but the great guests that we're going to have.

[00:00:28] Lupe Feld: We're here to tell you that there is other areas of the business that can drive revenue and we're going to look and inspect and come up with some great ideas for us to bring in as much revenue as we can, and drive some meaningful change for the business.

[00:00:41] Warren Zenna: So tune in, we have some exciting opportunities coming up for a really amazing conversations and any B2B leaders I think you're really going to enjoy it. So thanks for tuning in and we look forward to seeing you.

All right. Hello and welcome to the next episode of the CRO Spotlight Podcast. Hi, Lupe. How you doing?

[00:01:03] Lupe Feld: Hi Warren. Doing really well today. Thank you.

[00:01:06] Warren Zenna: Great, great. Again, it's Warren Zena and Lupe Feld. Together we discuss all things, chief revenue officer, and we have a great guest today. Really, really happy to have this gentleman on with us. Serkan Honeine from Australia.

[00:01:21] Serkan Honeine: From Australia

[00:01:21] Warren Zenna: Revenue operations.

[00:01:22] Serkan Honeine: Yes, exactly.

[00:01:23] Warren Zenna: A, a, a superstar revenue, operations professional. And we're gonna have a really good conversation. So thank you for being here today. I'm just gonna read off your your bio quickly. Okay. And you can expound on it a bit.

[00:01:34] Serkan Honeine: Yeah, absolutely.

[00:01:35] Warren Zenna: So. Sure. Sure. So having spent over a decade, leading product marketing and sales teams and media technology and telecommunications Serkan now leads the revenue team at Certn that C E R T N recognized as a growth expert. He is an award-winning marketer and researcher, a serial entrepreneur in 2017. He co-founded catch consultants, which has transformed the lives of over 400 youth.

Its Sub-Saharan Africa through democratized access to training and paid jobs. Beyond this, he's also a dedicated father to rainbow twin boys. And like many people is just trying to be the most present parent and partner. He can be welcome. Great. Great bio. I'm really interested to hearing more about this stuff.

[00:02:19] Serkan Honeine: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here.

[00:02:21] Lupe Feld: Why don't you tell us a little bit about Certn first and what your revenue role within Certn kind of entails? What, what do you focus on?

[00:02:30] Serkan Honeine: Yeah, absolutely. So. Certn Certn is a background screening company. So we, we do background checks Ky KYC, know your customer, know your employee.

And we like to think of ourselves as the tech forward operator within the background screening industry. We've all probably gone through background checks a couple of times. And amongst friends, I could say that background checks are not pleasant. I mean, they suck. The experience is not pleasant at all.

It's, it's full of so much friction. And if you, if you think about, you know, the recruitment process today, you might go through a culture interview, then a technical interview, then you might meet an executive within the organization. You'll get an offer letter. You know, the employer will say, we love you.

The employee will say, we love you too. and then we'll say, well, we don't trust you. You've gotta do this background check. And, and that process today is, is full of so much friction you can round it's True's so true. It's great. D it's great, different, different contact centers, pushing paper based forms around. And, and we do, we do, Certn does in minutes. What, what what others take weeks to, to, to deliver.

So we've got. Smart workflows, which mean background checks are delivered almost instantly. So take the frictional out of that, outta that recruitment process. And we've, we've got plans to almost eliminate that process altogether in the new future, which is, which is really exciting.

As far as my role, I, the chief revenue officer, so I lead, I lead the revenue revenue function within that function. We've got sales, marketing, customer success, and, and And revenue operations. We're about five years old as a, as an, as an organization gone through all the kind of three X year on year venture venture growth.

Just closed our series B, which is exciting. What I'm most proud about though at Certn is. We just had the industry NPS results or at net promoter score results released by G2 and whilst our competitors are all kind of low to single digits, Certn had a, an industry NPS, a plus 86. So by far and away kind of category breaking when it comes to.

The onboarding experience surrounding, surrounding background screening for, for employees. So that's, that's something I'm kind of really, really excited about. The other kind of nuance is I'm in Australia, so I'm in Australia and I lead the revenue function of an organization that doesn't have customs or revenue in Australia, which is probably unique.

But We're changing that soon, which is, which is part of why I was brought in. So yeah, I'll pause there and see if you have any questions.

[00:04:43] Lupe Feld: That's great. And so being that you're in Australia and leading an organization that's based in Canada has operations in the us and the UK. And maybe soon to have some in Australia, how, how do you manage the time zones in, in, you know, the different territories?

I think that's just an interesting, kind of. Juggling act to begin with, right?

[00:05:08] Serkan Honeine: Yeah, I think anyone who's who's had a global leadership role will tell you that probably they're do it as well as they, they could. And the other thing I'd say is balance is, is always gonna be inherent inherently relative.

Like I start my days at 5:00 AM every day, 5:00 AM. And I finished my days at one, one or 2:00 PM, but I have young twin boys they're two years old and that means the time that's most valuable to me, the afternoons and the evenings I get with them. And it's uninterrupted and everyone in Canada in the us is sleeping.

And it's perfect for me cuz it's, it's, it's just family time. And so, so that, so that works well for me. It's. 8:18 AM here. I've already had a board call I've reset investor expectations in terms of H two revenue forecast. I've reviewed marketing collateral. I've reviewed an acquisition we're making in Australia and I've taken my kids to, to daycare.

And it's 20 past eight in the morning. So that sort of routine works, works well for, for me. And as far as the UK stuff, and like, you know, often we say internally, Canada, Australia, The UK pick two. So you're never gonna align all time zones, but for me, I, you know, I make a habit of, of putting all of my kind of UK meetings on Monday evenings.

So I'm only working one evening and not every, every evening and, and try to be quite disciplined about that and that, and that works quite well. So I think, I think routines are, are, are, are important and also knowing what, what you are prepared to. Compromise on and what your colleagues aren't prepared to compromise on is, is important as well.

[00:06:32] Lupe Feld: That's that's that's great advice. Good takeaways. Yeah. I too have had many international roles and in ju juggling the time zones is, is always fun, but I like the discipline of one day. So I'm gonna steal that one and take that away for for the future. So let's talk about your journey to becoming a CRO, you know, it's I, I think it'll be interesting to hear kind of your past responsibilities and your background and, and how you arrived to be kind of the owner of revenue.

[00:07:00] Serkan Honeine: Yeah, absolutely. I And, and it is a little bit different cuz I, I, I listen to a few of your episodes and, and a number of, of number of my industry peers look like they've come through from sales, leadership roles. So, and I've got quite a different, different background. So, you know, commerce, undergrad so finance and accounting and in Australia, if you're a commerce undergrad, you go through the loops of different internships around accounting or investment banking or consulting.

I chose consulting as, as my eventual career path. I wasn't a very good consultant. I still don't think I'm a good consultant. And, and I say that because I, I, I tend to quit. I, I tend to prefer owning the outcomes as opposed to advising on the outcomes. And I get quite frustrated when. When, when, when I, I, I don't see action taken on those outcomes.

So I've resigned to the fact that I'll never make a good consultant and every time I try and do it, I end up unhappy. So , so I won't do that again. But from consulting, I jumped across to, to one of my clients, which was Telstra. Telstra's probably the at and T equivalent or Verizon equivalent in, in, in Australia.

I was fortunate enough to have the chief marketing officer at Telstra, take me under his wing and, and put me in a couple of senior marketing positions, quite, quite early, one of which was B2B marketing, which involved a whole bunch of demand generation and, and thought leadership. And this was you know, almost a decade.

Where the, the relative contribution of say digital paper click was, was limited. So you had to work a lot harder as a marketer to get key decision makers to, to the table. I'm talking about, you know, thought leadership events with, you know, your former president, bill Clinton, or former UN secretary general.

COFI name, where you're bringing, creating kind of money. Can't buy experiences to get decision makers from government to the government, to the table. So you're working a lot harder to. Top line, top of funnel awareness and consideration for, for your brand. From, from a couple of different marketing roles, I moved into product management and there's a lot of nuances into, in, in what product management is product management and a lot of tech companies feels like product development, where you own a.

A roadmap and you coordinate engineers, product management in telco, you're the CEO of your product. And this is, this is where I think there's a lot of alignment between a product manager in that sense and what a CRO would do, because you are really coordinating ownership of the P and L you've got the technical side, which is the experience you're delivering to the customers, the roadmap attached to it.

You've got your sales channels direct and indirect that your, you kind of own, you've got your marketing contribution. And it's almost like you are accountable for everything. But actually responsible for nothing, which is in many instances, similar to a CRO. So you've gotta create alignment and you've gotta create influence.

So ran a few different products at Telstra. It, my first product was actually a $700 million PNL and I was 23 years old. I had no idea what I was doing. And it was it was a cable TV product. It was a pay TV product, lowest margin, product priority, 15 or 15 that Telstra. And I was able to turn that around and eventually.

Ended up running all of, all of Telstra's media products like at and T and Verizon at the time Telstra had sports rights, music, rights, streaming products, IP TV products, a few different things. And then after, you know, almost a decade at Telstra, I jumped into what wasn't actually called a CRO role. It was called chief customer officer, but effectively the, the remit was, was the same, the sales marketing, you know, customer experience, customer success.

And that was for a PTV operator based in the middle east. And that was, you know a lot of fun. It was 50 markets across Sub-Saharan Africa and the middle east, and did that for, for just under two years. After that took on another CRO role selling software to the media industry and to the cable TV industry then and then after you know, that company iPod, I found myself at Certn.

And yeah, so. I've been in this role a couple times along the way of, you know, I've started and sold my own businesses, which has been a lot of fun. And yeah, I, I guess, I guess the key nuance I would, I would make is I I've, I've never had a sales leadership role for se I I've led sales teams, but I've never had a sales leadership role.

I've I've never been the one unit kind of day to day, week to week reviewing pipeline, shape, size funnel, et cetera, or optimizing sales processes. From an early stage in my career, been the one coordinating marketing sales customer experience, customer success to deliver revenue objectives for, for an organizational, for a product.

[00:11:17] Lupe Feld: I, I feel like that's almost a, a better journey to be successful, like your career path. So often, you know, the CRO position tends to be kind of a glorified sales leader. And at the end of the day, that's not gonna really. fill and check off all the boxes under the CRO position. And so understanding the components and the pieces and facilitating and coordinating is really I think one of our guests called it, you know, you are the orchestra leader and making sure that everybody sounds, you know, and creates beautiful music.

And, and I think that that's something that your career path has enabled you to do. I also sense that there's, there's a little bit of risk taking that you've done in your career as well as. Good sponsorship. And, you know, you mentioned somebody gave you the opportunity, how you know, if you were to give somebody advice, how do you get someone?

How do you build that trust that it kind of inspires them to give you that opportunity? Cause I think sometimes a lot of people are looking for, you know, Overcoming that obstacle of reaching that kind of aspired to position, but you don't have the experience and you don't, you know, necessarily haven't done the job.

So how do you do that? Any, any tips?

[00:12:42] Serkan Honeine: Yeah, I, I think, I think there's almost two, two stories that I would share. The, the, the first one is I. Kind of, as I went through the various kind of consulting, accounting banking, internships as an undergrad, you know, I, I resigned myself to the fact that I really wanted a career in consulting.

This is before I knew what consulting was without disrespect to consultants. And, and I had the opportunity to, I, I made, I made a lot of effort to actually reach out to various consultants and try to have conversations with them. And, and I, I remember there was one in, in, in particular that, that I connected with.

I got his contact details. Roger, Roger, at some point, maybe I'll send the link to him and he can, he can listen to this and I, I, I kind of wrote to Roger and I said, Roger, I really wanna catch up with you. I wanna talk about a career in consulting. Roger came back and said, listen, mate, I'm, I'm busy.

I can't, I can't really connect at this point maybe again in the future. So I remember reaching out to Roger again, same day, Monday, next week, and saying, Roger. We're in the future. Now I'd really love to talk to you about a career in consulting. And he came back a couple days later and said, listen, mate, you know, I'm got a new client Telstra where I ended up working.

I'm here at 6:00 AM every morning. I just it's. I really don't have the time to meet with you at this point. And then I went into the Telshire building and I found out the name of the cafe downstairs, and I found out the, I found out what Roger's coffee order. And I don't remember what it was now, but I remember writing Roger a third email.

I said, Roger, I'll meet you at the lobby cafe five to six on Monday morning with your coffee order. Ready? I just want five minutes of your time. And surprisingly, he came back and said, all right, let's do it. And that five minutes turned into three hours and that three hours turned into my first kind of.

Job offering in, in, in, in consulting. So, so I guess that if you want something enough, you've gotta be persistent. You've gotta invest in the networks that, that, that, that you want to succeed. It's not, it's not the similar to, to, to sales, I guess. And, and I think the second thing I'd say to people who are within the organization, if they're looking for sponsorship, they then they're already in an organization.

And you you've, you've been on. No doubt, you've been on the other side of these conversations. It is quite humbling when someone comes to you and says, Hey, I'd really like your, your time and your experience. I'd really like for you to invest in me. So, so I'd encourage people to, to, to reach out. I'd also encourage people.

And what, what worked for me is, you know, in any role I, I had early in my career, I would always spend, you know, two days a week for a couple of hours after work thinking. What I can do on my role and not in my role. How, how can I do this differently? How could I do this more efficiently? How could I challenge the processes that have been given to me and really rethink doing things differently.

And even if, if your recommendations are wrong, you are, you're signaling to, to your leadership that you've got that capacity to, to learn and, and be agile and do things differently. So, so that's a good, good Good trick or good hack in terms of getting noticed as well. I don't know if that answered your question, but that's, that's inherently what worked for me.

[00:15:43] Warren Zenna: It's a great, it's a great, great story. I love that idea. And by the way, I apologize for my camera issues, but I've been listening very intently here, and I have a lot to add or question about some things that you mentioned, which is fascinating. At the main, the main thing that strikes me is, you know, not having come from a sales background and being a chief revenue officer.

Yeah. Cause what, what, you know, Lupe and I discuss here ongoing is the pipeline to the chief revenue officer role as a sales manager. It's not because it's supposed to be that way. It sort of ended up that way. And I think the industry sort of has now defaulted to that. And I'm having conversations five times a day with people who just come out of the box, thinking that that's the way that they should be looking at the role.

They're not necessarily. But and we are of the belief that, that actually creates some of the issues pertaining to how the role is pointed and, and managed. So what in your view are the benefits that you have of not having come from the sales background and being a chief revenue officer? And I guess inside of that answer is maybe even a bit of your perspective about what the CRO role actually is. I'd be curious to know how you feel about that.

[00:16:52] Serkan Honeine: Yeah. I mean, I, I see the CRO as the owner of all the commercial functions of the business, like the CRO needs to orchestrate and lead the business and align the business to deliver for customers and ultimately deliver for, for the top line. And in some instances, the gross margin of, of, of, of the business.

And, and I think that the key operating word there is alignment and. I say this without disrespect to anyone who's, who's coming to a CRO role through, through that kind of sales pathway. But my own pathway is one, you know, from kind of big telco to, to other CRO to marketing product roles. It requires a heck of a lot of alignment.

And I, I, I see countless times I have conversations with friends who, who are in sales, leadership roles. And, and there's just so much misalignment between say the sales org organization and the marketing organization and the product organization that creates friction, that friction manifest as a lack of trust.

And, and, and, and growth inertia. If you are, if your key responsibility or if your key focus as a, as a CRO is sales and, and not alignment. It's almost like that, that expression. If you want to go, go fast, go alone. If you want to go, ah, go together. If you're not going together, you are gonna trip over yourself.

At some point you might get some initial quick wins, but you are gonna trip over yourself.

[00:18:06] Warren Zenna: I'm gonna repeat that. I wanna repeat that, cuz that's so great. I'm gonna use this as a quote for this entire episode. If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go to the distance, go together that. so true.

It's such a great statement and it sums up the entire role. So I wanna thank you for saying that. It is absolutely true and here's the problem. Every CEO wants to go fast and that's why they hire sales based C CROs because C sales based CROs, their perception is that they're gonna get us there fast.

They'll get you somewhere fast. But they may not get you there fast. And I think that's something that we're really trying to emphasize. So appreciate that really great and succinct statement. So I'm sorry to interrupt that just to make sure we don't lose that moment, cuz it's a really important thing for our, the audience here is that if you're, if you're gonna go for a chief revenue officer role and you come from sales and it looks like the role seems to be very sales focused, it's likely cuz they want to get somewhere.

[00:19:09] Serkan Honeine: Yeah, absolutely. Which means you're gonna be, you're gonna, you're gonna be alone. I, and I, I would, I would add to that. I, I look at my, I look at my current CEO's role and I, I think about the amount of time he spends on vision, the amount of time he spends on technology leadership, the amount of time he spends on regulatory, the amount of time he spends on in all technology CEOs are spending now on kind of existential fundraising and, and , and like the realities of burn rates and, and, and runways and, and.

If he was to be the lowest common denominator for alignment in the organization, he would not devote the sufficient amount of time required to get us there. And, and if, if If, if a CEO is listening to this and, and wondering whether they would need a COO, I would really ask them to question whether they can devote as much time as they need to create that alignment in the organization to deliver, you know, revenue and, and, and, and customer objectives.

And, and I think about, I, I, I actually think the biggest challenge that C CROs face and, and, and why CROs probably experienced so much turnover is, is, is, is one where they're unable to create alignment within the organiz. I, I, I I've, I've come into organizations before and I've had product managers say we don't care about revenue.

And I've had engineering managers say we don't care about deadlines. And, and, you know, as, as, as a commercial executive, that's in inherently, your, your first instinct is well there's, there's mal in what you're saying, but actually it's, it's, it's not, it's not, no one in the organization is wants, wants to do wrong.

They just don't understand. The overall direction. And, and sometimes the CRO needs to come into a business and needs to break glass and, and breaking glass could, could manifest in a couple of different ways. You, you know, there's a, there's a fear element or the existential element, you know, as a venture back startup, the reality is grow or die.

Cuz we've got a burn rate and a certain amount of runway. And if we don't deliver the growth objectives, we don't get another another cash injection or, or, and, or I would say even more importantly is the privileged. It's, we've got a mission. That's gonna fundamentally change the world. And, and we've got investors that trust us enough to invest in us to deliver that.

But the way they keep score is revenue. And that's why we need to deliver to that. So, so I would say as a CRO, if you can't create alignment across all those different parts of the business, you're gonna run into things like product managers saying they don't care care about revenue and engineering managers saying they don't want to commit to deadlines cuz they think deadline.

I was gonna swear, but I'm not gonna do that. Cause they, you can, cause I think deadlines are bullshit. And these aren't, this is this, this is verbatim. This is not, this is not paraphrasing. This is verbatim. Right? So I, I would say that if you are the first CRO in the organization, your first objective is probably gonna be to, to, to, to, to kind of address some of those misconceptions in, in, in, in, in the business.

Cause I don't think they're unique. I've been in more than one environment. where product managers have said they don't care about revenue and engineering managers don't feel like they should be held accountable to timeframes.

[00:22:00] Warren Zenna: Yeah, we could confirm that's not unique. This is endemic. This is a disease amongst companies.

What you're describing.

[00:22:07] Serkan Honeine: Yeah.

[00:22:07] Lupe Feld: As I listen to you explaining, you know, the, the pieces of it, I feel like the ability to understand the language that each department speak. And then be the interpreter for them to understand the revenue language is key and that's somehow often missed because people don't bother to use the two years that they have to listen and are more worried about using the mouthpiece that they have to speak.

And, and I think that's a, a really, really strong message to a prospective CRO. Or a CEO that's hiring is to really understand the value and the dysfunction of the organization and not just really cater to. let's deliver here at the expense of alignment. Yeah. So I, I really love that.

[00:23:06] Serkan Honeine: Yeah. And, and I, I would add, and it's, it's very important to add.

And, and again, I, I have to stress, if I say this without criticism 20 sales leaders, often the KPIs of sales leaders is, is shorter horizon. It's it's, it's quarterly. So. A sales leader may have the tendency. And I, and I saw it with, with, with sales leadership in, in my current organization, a sales leader may have the tendency, the focus product on, I just need to deliver for this customer as opposed to, I need to deliver repeatable experiences that customers are prepared to pay for so that it can go the other way as well.

It, it can go the other way where you're so focused on the short term that you, you, you forget about kind of predictable repeat. Experiences and, and, and, and, and, and subsequent revenue growth. So I wanted, I wanted to make that point because if anyone, from like a product and engineering back background is listening, it's not just about kind of sales, led growth and delivering for customers.

It is about that. Right, right.

[00:23:57] Warren Zenna: Right. Balance understood completely. And, and you're, you're spot on here. It's you know, it, I think that, and I had a conversation with a CEO today. who is right now looking for a chief revenue officer and we were talking about. Conundrum is, it were this prisoner's dilemma between accomplishing his short term goals and also managing long term outcomes.

And, you know, one has to come at the expense of the other, which I don't think is true. I think you can do both, but there is this feeling that you do have to give up one for the other. It's very difficult for someone to grasp. Not because they're not bright, they're by no means they're all smarter than I am.

But given when they look at their dashboard and what's up against they're up against from the board and, you know, like you said already, you know, very well circuit, you know, like looking for, to the. Round of funding and all the other pressures that come from the board short term outcomes are much more satisfactory to the people that matter most to this particular CEO at the moment.

And so they're gonna service those things like the squeaky wheel, so to speak, but this is a wheel that never stops squeaking. So unfortunately it's like, you're always gonna be delivering those short horizon results, getting a pad on the back, but it's gonna come at the expense of your culture. Of your customer outcomes, customer lifetime value, and also scaling the business effectively because now you have misaligned, not just misaligned people, but misaligned KPIs and misaligned, operational objectives and measurements.

So my question to you is what, what would you do? Let's say you were injected into a company as a chief revenue officer. That you know, like most have these issues and they said, sir, can we need you to come in and sort of help make more of a cohesive, aligned revenue engine here? What other kind of things and steps that you would take to address this so that you can figure out the way through that?

[00:25:39] Serkan Honeine: Yeah, the, the, the first thing I would do is before taking the role, I would test the organization. Organization's capacity for change. I would, I would test the CEO, the CFO. I would test the key executives, appetite and capacity for change. How do you do that? Cause, cause I wouldn't, yeah, I, I would present trade offs.

I would present trade offs. Like you just described, like, is it, is it short term revenue growth or is it, would you be prepared to, to take a 20, 30% cut in your next half? If it meant more sustainable repeatable revenue in the next year, would you be prepared to do that? So asking these kind of really, really.

Direct questions early, early on, because the next thing I'd say is going into an organization where there's that kind of scale of misalignment and it, and it depends that, you know, it's the storming, forming norming thing. The storming element does, does involve an element of breaking glass. Like you, you do need to challenge kind of established, established norms.

I remember in one environment I had to bring a board member in and the board member had to articulate the realities of I invested in this company. Like this growth capital that I put into the business was for growth doesn't mean short term growth. Like I'm, I'm, I'm in it for the long term, but it does mean growth.

And, and by the way, the money that we invested in, in the business, this isn't, you know, all golf oil money. This is people's pension funds, it's it's moms and dads who are trusted me to invest in, in you. So, so, so creating a connection between kind of the source of, of in investment is, is really, really important.

But also articulating and, and, and really bringing it down to a, a vision and a mission that people can get behind and get excited behind as well. Because if we, if we deliver on that, then with the right kind of commercial alignment, we should deliver on revenue at the same time.

[00:27:21] Warren Zenna: So, so what if the objectives are, and I've heard this before, I actually had this job where the CEO. We want to be acquired in two years.

[00:27:31] Serkan Honeine: Yeah. Then, then it's a, you, you are optimizing for a short term objective and that's fine. I think the, the other thing I would say that kind of new CROs should really think about is there are different leadership styles for different. Business context and we all, and I'm, I'm very guilty of this.

We all inherently adopt the leadership style that we're most comfortable with. Like, are we, is it a startup or am I accelerating growth or am I setting us up for a sale? Or am I, you know, am I turning something around or am I, you know, sustaining performance. So, so we've gotta recognize the environment that we're going into as well.

If, if if the goal is to sell the business in two. Then I'd be very clear with the team on what that means. And, and everyone from kind of product leadership to engineering, leadership, to sales and marketing leadership needs to be aware of that. And I, I would suggest that probably off the back of a shorter term objective, like sell, sell the business in two years is probably gonna be a longer term incentive.

Some sort of earn out some sort of equity piece. So your, your goals are probably still gonna be somewhat aligned to, to, to, to longer term growth. The truth's always somewhere, somewhere in the middle, but, but it, it, I don't know if that answers that to your question, Warren, but it comes down to alignment.

[00:28:45] Warren Zenna: Well's start. So let, let, yeah, let, let's say I look I'm in agreement, so there's no question. You're speaking to the choir here. I wanna know though. Okay. So let's walk through this, you have this sort of, let's say tire kicking conversation, right? Where you test the leadership and you pose some questions and scenarios and trade offs and they, they agree.

They say, all right, You said you convinced me. You're a very Persuasives. You made a case here now. Now what?

[00:29:12] Serkan Honeine: Yeah. Now what is in.

[00:29:16] Warren Zenna: Now, what do you do? So they give you the green light. Yeah. Like what's the way that now you sort of build out something. So you look at the landscape and you see, you know, the normal silos and in fighting and, you know, misalignment and operational disjointed stuff that most companies have.

And your job is now you've been given sort of the green light to do something about it. Where do you begin? Like what's the way in which you start to construct a organizational alignment. The way that you're you're you're envisioning?

[00:29:42] Serkan Honeine: The first thing I do in every organization is to ask that for the metrics that matter.

I, I, I go to the product leadership, the sales leadership, the marketing leadership, and I say, show me the metrics that matter. And one of two things happen. They either don't have the metrics that matter, or they have different metrics. So, so, so the, the starting point is, and, and you know, what we don't measure, we don't manage.

So the starting point is aligning, aligning everyone behind the right set of kind of metrics. And if we're delivering for a shorter term outcome, then let's break down what that means at kind of like a, a quarterly and a monthly level over the next, over the next 24 months. Behind that I would then began begin to, to kind of challenge.

And as a CRO, you are invested quite significantly in kind of product product roadmap in, in market positioning as as well. So I I'd then begin to, to, to, to, to challenge those plans in, in more detail. But, but to, to answer your question, the first thing I do is always, always come back to, to, to, to those metrics and, and kind of mission and vision are we aligned there, or, and if we're not often.

There's some sort of kind of breaking moment where we get everyone together and, and, and we, we have the difficult conversations and we create that alignment up front. But I, I've never, I've never been in an organization where actually maybe with the exception of Telstra and, and a large corporate where the trading occasion are more mature, but in, in kind of startup or even kind of scale up, I've never seen, I've never seen that create like that complete alignment.

How we measure our success. So do we understand what success is and how do we measure it? So I, I, I always start there. The ne the next thing I do is I always focus on, on team and again, sales leader versus revenue leader. I think the biggest kind of objective after alignment that, that, that a CRO should be focusing on is, is creating a world class.

Creating creating a world cast team and that, that, that means different things to, to, to to to different people. If it's helpful, I can talk a little bit about what, what I look for. Yeah, please. Yeah. I, I, I would, I, for me, for me, I look at kind of five principles. When I, when I think about world class team, I think of attracting, onboarding developing, retaining, and I look at the alumni experience as.

When it comes to attracting talent, I have a very simple kind of philosophy and that is to build the smallest, most talent dense team possible. I'll say it again, build the smallest, most talent dense team possible. I've been in so many environments where, where we go in and we say, okay, are we aligned on success?

Are we aligned on metrics? Well, this metric isn't going as no one's focused on this metric. We need to bring in an. But the thing we need to recognize is organizational complexity is not linear. And sometimes bringing in more people actually slows you down. I, if, if we change this conversation from three people to four people, that's not adding one more point of engagement, that's adding three more points of engagement.

So, so the process of alignment is just gonna get slower and slower and slower. So, so the first thing I'd say when attracting talent is I always look at building the smallest, most talent team, talent dance team team possible. The, the, the second thing I look at when, when I'm kind of hiring is, is I'm hiring for learning agility and particularly in a, in a high growth environment, you know, you often hear conversations like, oh, the team, we, the team that took us from a, to B is not the team that took us from B to C, for me, that's, that's a function of, we haven't hired for learning agility.

So I'm really testing. People people's capacity to, to learn I'm testing examples of, of, of, of where they, where they demonstrate learning in the past often I'm recruiting leaders. So I'm testing how they're creating patterns, which, which accelerate the learning of their entire team. So if I'm hiring a sales team sales leader, how are you accelerating the learning of, of, of your team or a marketing leader?

The, the, the, the, the The the, the same thing. So I really look at kind of learning agility and, and I look at leadership agility as well, and, and, and, and leadership leadership style. And I, I have a couple of, kind of go-to questions, which, which always really kind of stump my audience when I'm, when I'm, when I'm recruiting and the first one is kind of who would follow you and who would follow you for me is not about like you know, you know, it it's, for me, it's more about.

Can you demonstrate that you have created kind of influence and, and followship that people would follow you, that they do desire to be to, to, to, to work for you in different or partner with you rather in different contexts. And the second question is, is, is the one that kind of stumps people again as why would people be led by you?

And it's, it's not something that leaders often kind of articulate or, or even write down, but, but, but it always creates a bit of silence in the room and I. And I, and I, and I want individuals to reflect on kind of their leadership style. And I want individuals that, that, that can bring in tenants of, I'm not just focused on the capability of individuals.

I'm focused on the environment and the climate I, I create and I'm focused on, on, on the clarity I bring to the team as well, and I'm focused on environment where people can come in and do their best work. And we create that, like being a little bit of vulnerable and, and all that kind of stuff. So, so yeah, I, I would say Align on what success looks like, align on what, what, how we measure it and then align on kind of creating a world class team and create a world class team.

That's where I would start. They're my, they're my first three. This is the third time I've had the CRO role and each time I follow the same process,

[00:34:59] Lupe Feld: I like it. I think I, I, I, I love the approach of being able to. come up with a, a pattern that works, but also have the flexibility to move within that pattern.

As, as I think about your current position, what I, and I know Certn enough to understand that culture is a big component of your culture. How what role do you think that plays in, in the alignment and success? Of a CRO.

[00:35:31] Serkan Honeine: Yeah, Certn Certns, quite a remarkable organization. And I, I made the observation.

In my first week that if Certn delivered a customer experience, as strong as we delivered an employee experience, we would realize every commercial objective we have add more. And I say that coming from the context of having a plus 86 NPS, whereas our key competitors are kind of. Single digits to negative.

So, so, so the employee experience at Certn is so well thought out and it's so well thought out because it's an ex employee experience manager and it's documented kind of what happens from, from signing to, to starting to kind of Certn camp in the first week to your first 30 days and all that kind of stuff.

So, so the experience at Certn is quite strong. I think, I think all of us come through this realiz. We come to the realization at different times in our lives. For me, it was kind of, for me when I had my kids is, is when I really kind of started to realize that I, I don't just have the right. I have the responsibility to be selective on how I spend my time and who I spend it with.

And, and, you know, some of us have reached that some of us will reach that, but, but increasingly a lot of us are gonna be able to be selective around the environments that we, that. That we work within. And I like, I, you know, we, we, we went through this kind of experience where we all stayed at home for a year and a half or two years, and it made us rethink kind of what was more valuable to us and what was less valuable to us.

And I had this beautiful moment with my wife where she turned to me and she said, you don't need to take that job. I'd live in a tent. If it meant we got to spend more time with you. And, and not everyone, you know, Can or has the capacity to, to, to, to, to be in that position. But for me, it comes down down to having the responsibilities that be selective around how I spend my time and who I spend it with.

One of Certn policies specifically is no asshole. And I, I think, or assholes as you say, I could think of, you know, so many times in my career and I'm sure you can, as well that you've, you've had the capacity of, of working in an organization where you've had really, really unpleasant colleagues. And for, for many reasons they could be malicious or, or when they, when they challenge, they play the, they play the man and not the ball, or they play the person and not the ball rather.

So they, so they make it quite personal or whatever it may be. But, but, but I would say, you know, I think, I think a great culture is so important and you know, before every employer, before every recruitment in in, in Certn, and we have a culture interview and that culture interview is two way, we close the video.

So we're not looking at each other, there's no bias. And it's, it's us understanding individuals, culture, and this individual understanding Certns culture at the same time. And, and it needs to be, you know, a degree of a. On both sides. Yeah, I don't know. Did I answer your question Lupe?

[00:38:20] Lupe Feld: You did. You did. No, you did a, a great job, but I think there's some nuggets there. We could steal away for a CEO and a CRO as they're both interviewing or being interviewed, I think culture plays a huge component. You you know, you hit the nail in the head with the fact. I think the last two years have really changed people's perspectives as to what they want and what they're willing to sacrifice in order to, you know, to do the job, to do the, the day to day.

And that's that's something that a lot of employers are, you know, becoming aware and it's, and it's challenging right now to find talent and it's challenging to retain talent and being a CRO. Depends on people and talent and deadlines and, and things being, being measured. So I think now more than ever, culture is important.

[00:39:18] Serkan Honeine: Yeah, absolutely. I spoke about world class team earlier and spoke about attracting talent and, and talent density and, and what I look for when I recruit leaders. But one of the important roles of any leader, not just any CRO is, is, is creating an engaged team. And Like Certn is a remote first business.

And increasingly businesses have a, a degree of remote work, be it kind of, or remote or, or hybrid or whatever. But, but there's a, there's a there's an index, which I, which I, which I follow the remote employee experience index and it surveys about 11,000 professionals in knowledge, capital and knowledge, capital.

Means like anyone with UN callous hands, like, like me. And it looks at professionals across, you know, the us Australia, the UK, Japan, Germany. And what they found is that employee employees who have kind of a hybrid remote office work environment have a better work life balance are more satisfied with their working great arrangement are less stressed, are more productive, but the negative.

They have a lower sense of belonging. They have a lower sense of belonging. So, so going back to kind of your, your point around attracting and, and retaining talent. I know personally as a leader, that's where I invest a lot of my time. And the reason I ask that question of kind of the remote when, when, when does this podcast kind of go to where, because I'm like, as an example in the next week, I'm sending the, the partners of all my leaders.

I'm seeing the partners of all my leaders, a gift, because I know as a remote worker, I don't have corridor conversations with my colleagues. So when I'm angry or when I'm sad or when I just wanna vent, I use my wife, marry him. I tell her what, what what's stressing me today. I also know that I'm kind of required to work on different time zones and I'm required to travel.

And, and I know that kind of a lot of partners be they like a spouse or, or a roommate or whatever it may be take on that burden. So, so one kind of Initiative I'm championing at the moment is just setting a gift to a partner just to say, thanks. Like, I know you, you play role of kind of counselor to, to, to, to whomever may be, you know, said leader at Certn.

I know that they're required to travel and that means compromising on certain things. I know that sometimes they'll take calls at inconvenient times of the day. So you're as much a part of the Certn community as they are. And we just want to say, thanks. So little things like that, you, you, you, you cannot lose sight of, because what you're never gonna probably, or very rarely see in a remote kind of work environment is a greater sense of belonging than, than what you see.

If everyone was in the office.

[00:41:48] Lupe Feld: That's brilliant. I, I, I like it. And you're right. You're absolutely right. You definitely have your go to people that you. Reach out to, to discuss frustration and celebrate and, and do all those things. So that's amazing. I think you've given us some great insight. I don't know if we still have Warren he's a little quiet. So I'm thinking we don't.

[00:42:10] Serkan Honeine: No, I, I mean, I, I would, I would encourage more product leaders to put their hand up for C I, I I'd encourage more product leaders to do that. And, and I'd, I'd encourage sales leaders to. To kind of really think about that T-shaped skillset and really think about investing in the relationships that they need to, to succeed sustainably.

Because if we're just thinking about a quarter or two quarters or three quarters of sales growth, well, eventually that's gonna translate to a 12 month tenure as a CRO cause you weren't able to align the organization behind growth. So focus on what success looks like as a business test, you know, the organization's capacity for.

focus on aligning around how you measure that success and then create a world class team everything else around tactics below that will follow. And, and you you'll probably have the capacity to execute on the tactics, cuz you are putting that role. But if you don't do those first three or four things, you, you're not setting yourself up for success.

You're not setting the organization up for success.

[00:43:05] Lupe Feld: I think that's a great note to close on. I thank you for being our guest today and I look forward to. Catching up with you again in the, in the future. So thanks so much.

[00:43:16] Serkan Honeine: Thank you for having me and Lupe on a personal level. It's so wonderful to connect again.

And, and Warren, I know we lost him, but thank you for the opportunity.

[00:43:23] Lupe Feld: Yeah, I've enjoyed it. It, I, it was such a pleasure to kind of get to know you a little bit better. I think that was probably my biggest regret is missing out on the opportunity and getting to know you and spending time with with Andy.

This episode was digitally transcribed.

apple podcast icongoogle podcast iconspotify iconrss feed icon

Ready to grow and scale your revenue?

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.