Talent Hub is proud to introduce the seventeenth episode of the Talent Hub TV series in podcast format. Here, Talent Hub Director, Ben Duncombe sits down for ‘on the sofa’ chats with inspirational Salesforce professionals to learn more about their fascinating stories and market insight.
This month’s guest, Salesforce solo Admin at Modern Star, Janet Cutler, joins Ben on the sofa to share her own Salesforce journey, from a non-technical background, to the point that she’s at today, sharing her knowledge and insight with other Salesforce professionals on the global stage that is Dreamforce! We take a trip down memory lane to look back at where it all started, and how the market has evolved since then.
Janet shares her thoughts on the future of the platform and what excites her about what comes next.
Listen here, or if you prefer to read, the entire transcript is below:
Ben: Welcome to Episode 17 of Talent Hub TV, we’re here with Janet Cutler from Modern Star today, so thank you for coming on the show. Thank you for having me. We’ve got a lot to discuss, you’ve got an interesting Salesforce journey and experience, and I’m really interested to hear more about how you use the platform in your current role. So I guess before we go into the Salesforce side of things, what’s your background before the Salesforce market and ecosystem?
Janet: It’s a pretty varied background I guess, I grew up in the UK and left school and went into the hotel and catering industry. I went to work on cruise ships for a little while, ended up coming to Australia with a friend from school to go travelling, and basically never went home, but at that stage, decided to give up the hotel and catering industry, because I didn’t want to work weekends and public holidays etc., and fell by default, into the I.T industry and stayed there for quite a few years where I worked at Symantec and did a few different things, mainly in a sales role and then I ended up at Modern Star about 14 years ago as a Sales Manager for one of the toy companies that they had, and then I did a few roles for them there, and when my kids went to school I actually left for a couple of years, and when I went back to the workplace, I couldn’t find my C.V so I went back to my old boss and said “you wouldn’t happen to have a copy?” And he said, “no but I’ve got a job if you want one?”
Ben: No way.
Janet: And he said he’d made the decision to go with Salesforce, and he was just looking for someone to run the project for nine months. That was nine years ago. And he just said, “would you like to do the job?” And I said that I didn’t know anything about Salesforce, so I was a little bit concerned about that, and he went “you really don’t need to know Salesforce, you need to know how the business works, and the rest will fall into place,” and to be honest, he was quite right.
Janet: Yes, it’s been a great journey over nine years with Salesforce.
Ben: So you said, you were in an I.T role, but more sales, so would you class yourself, you didn’t know anything about Salesforce, but would you class yourself as an I.T savvy person at that point?
Janet: Not really, I’d actually never heard of Salesforce when Neil first said that to me. But it was really much more about sales for me, the software side of things, so Symantec, anti-virus, that kind of thing, but we had a technical team that we used for any technical questions. No, I wouldn’t say I was technical, I still wouldn’t say that I’m technical.
Ben: So then, nine years ago, moved into Salesforce, managed the program of work, how’s that kind of role taken shape, what kind of roles have you performed over the last nine years?
Janet: So, I’ve been quite lucky in that Modern Star, Salesforce has been my main focus the whole way along, and now it’s my only focus, but along the way I did do a few other things in the early days when it was less busy, so I guess we started, we have two external Sales team on two different companies and we have the Customer Service team, so we kind of started with around 70 users, and so once they were up and running, and everything was going well, I found time to start generating our social media sites and things like that, but now we have 180 users, we’ve bought about five companies, in the last five years, so we’ve had to integrate those, we’ve had to integrate other Salesforce orgs into ours, we’ve had to create very secure, almost like it’s own org but within our org, for a company that we bought so now it really is a full-time role, for me, because we’ve got so many users, and our usage of the Salesforce platform has grown significantly.
Ben: Sure, and what does that look like now from a Salesforce landscape, angle, perspective what does that look like?
Janet: So, we pretty much have Salesforce in every department, we’ve got Sales Cloud and Service Cloud, we’ve got Pardot, we’ve got Quip, we’ve got Analytics, we’ve got GetFeedback, we’ve got MapAnything and I guess every department uses it quite differently, so Customer Service and the Accounts Receivable team, they do everything for the whole company, we’ve got about fourteen companies under our umbrella. So they need to have access for everything, and they do all of that stuff office-based, our two sales teams are quite separate, one is in the school, childcare space, the other in the retail space, so their needs are quite different, our Inventory team and our Marketing team run all the suppliers through Salesforce, so same as we do for the customer but it’s all different for the suppliers, obviously the Pardot Marketing team as far as the emailing and everything goes, they’ve got their own build, and then really I guess, we’re just tried to put any process that we have into Salesforce. I always say to my users “if you’ve got something on a spreadsheet, tell me, and let’s try and get it in Salesforce so that you’re not working on these independent spreadsheets and we can build an object around it”.
Janet: “We can build reports, we can build dashboards, and it’s just so much easier for everyone.”
Ben: Yes, so you’ve obviously got a big Salesforce platform, you know, a lot of people we speak to might have Sales and Service Cloud or a couple of AppExchange products and you’ve as you’ve said, you’ve managed to show the benefits of using different products in lots of different areas, so how do you manage such a big platform, as an individual?
Janet: So, it has become more tricky over the years as our usage has grown and the Salesforce platform is also growing at a very rapid rate as well, so one of the first things we did a few years back is signed up for the Premier Support to get the Admin Assist, which means that I can log cases and just get somebody to help me with the Fields and Workflows and in particular Formula Fields because they’re not my strong point.
Ben: Yes, nor mine.
Janet: And that sort of frees up a bit more of my time, so that I can actually think more strategically with the managers in the organisation so as they come to me with questions and things that they’d like to do if I think that there is a Salesforce product or an AppExchange product that will support that, we’ll definitely look at it and usually management are happy to go with my decisions if we think we need to purchase something else.
Ben: Sure, how do you stay on top of the products?
Janet: That’s becoming increasingly harder, in fact that’s one of things I talked about at Dreamforce last year, but I think it’s really just looking at each product release, taking the time before the release comes out to watch the videos, you know, the release notes have gone from this big to this big, and now there’s video for everything so typically it takes a day of my time to just work from home and just go through that Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Pardot, Quip, just to see what’s coming out and then literally have to just cherry pick, the best things for us, and see which ones we can implement and how long it’s going to take. And what I can do, I do, and if it’s something a little bit more complex, I then get Admin Assist involved or work with an external Partner.
Ben: Yes, and that leads me on nicely to the next question, because I know you have worked with Partners in the past, and companies do, some companies don’t, but how do you effectively work with a Partner in your experience?
Janet: So, for me, I think, because my knowledge has grown quite a bit over the years, I’ve done a few training courses, when I look for a Partner I’m either looking for them to specialise in one of the products that we’ve got, like the Pardot, or the Analytics, or something like that, but most importantly I want to be able to learn from them, for my own knowledge, so that going forward, that I can maintain things, so some companies don’t want to work with people that are that knowledgable, they want to do the whole shebang, but for me that doesn’t really work because I really need to stay on top of everything, so I just ask for recommendations, I’ve worked with several companies along the way, they’ve all been great, and it just depends for us now where we go, the Analytics is a pretty new area and we’ve worked with Mark Tossell who I know you’ve spoken to, but it’s just great to find that expertise because as the Salesforce platform grows, it’s really hard to be an expert in any one of the areas now.
Ben: Yes, for sure.
Janet: So you just kind of, I feel like I scratch the surface with it, and then I need to go and find the expertise.
Ben: So your, I guess aim is, to bring them in, do the initial work but then to upskill you enough so that you don’t need to continue to use them ongoing? Is that the way that you work?
Janet: Like that, or if it’s a big project that I simply don’t have time for, then I work with them ongoing, I still want to learn while doing that, rather than just let them do the project, and give me the finished thing, I’d rather want to be there and get an understanding all the way through.
Ben: Yes, I think that’s really important, just to continue running a platform like you have, just to have that foundation knowledge, that you know, if something does go wrong, you’re there to fix it, so yes that makes sense. You’ve presented a number of times at different events, but the big one, Dreamforce, how was that?
Janet: It was pretty scary but it was great. So, yes last year was my third Dreamforce and they asked if I would like to speak, so they offered me Rockstar Admin 20 minute Theatre session, and they were terrific about working with me, about working on content, and slides and everything like that, it was really good, it was great to be recognised as a Rockstar Admin and it was great to tell the story of what I do, we really focussed a lot on how to get the most out of your Salesforce platform, Modern Star is highly regarded by Salesforce as using the platform really well, and I am a solo Admin, so just how do you stay ahead of the curve, how do you keep your learnings, how do you deliver the right thing, do you your users in a timely fashion, I mean I work by this motto that I got from the first Dreamforce – “if my reps, in particular, can’t do something in 6 seconds on a mobile device, the chances are, that they’re not going to do it”. So whenever I’m looking to build something, that’s kind of where I start. The actual, the user is going to do it, how quickly can they do it, and then come back to the office because it’s actually a lot easier for people in the office with the desktops and the two screens and everything, but with my reps on a phone or an iPad it’s got to be quick, it’s got to be easy.
Ben: Yes. That makes sense.
Janet: And, I know for a lot of people presenting at Dreamforce would scare them, and I’m sure it scares everyone. It scared me. But it’s also probably a dream a lot of people would have, so what’s the best way to prepare for something like that? I think to just be confident about what you’re speaking about, I worked with Salesforce here and in the U.S before we actually went there, and they really, they’re very good at coaching you through, just use them for all the advice they’ve got, they’ve got great systems in place, I mean I think every Salesforce person always speaks so well at any public event and I think they get a lot of training. So I helped them guide me, they got me to give them the content but they helped me put it together, and we did three or four dry runs, timed to the second of how long it was going to take, I recorded it myself on my mobile phone and played it back which is the most uncomfortable thing you can do, but I think it just stands you in really good stead. Sure. And then when you’re actually there just to enjoy it. 20 minutes goes by really quickly. Maybe if you can speak at a local event before you went, that would be great.
Ben: Which you’ve also done?
Janet: I’ve done World Tour here, I’ve done Connections here, I’ve done a few Lunches for specific market shares, I did a Manufacturing and Distribution one, and I think the easiest way to ease yourself into talking about things, is to get on a panel so when they have a Breakfast or a Lunch and they’ve got 3 or 4 customers as a panel, that’s quick nice, because you might be up there for 10 minutes but you might only speak for 2 or 3. And then you can look at opportunities to speak at a Connections or a World Tour or something like that. And then go for the big one, which is Dreamforce.
Ben: And is it quite often that they come to you and ask about these? So Dreamforce for example?
Janet: Absolutely, they come to me. They know I’m open to speaking, but they generally come to me when they think there’s going to be a good fit. Yes. And I think if you’re passionate about what you do, I mean I love the Salesforce product, I’m thrilled with what we’ve been able to do with it at Modern Star, it makes it easier to talk about, because I really enjoy that whole environment with Salesforce.
Ben: Sure, and just on that topic as well, if there’s other companies out there that watch this and are interested in you know, some of the products that you’re using, what’s the best way for them to kind of reach out and say, “what’s your advice around this?”
Janet: I’m on LinkedIn, I’m happy for people to reach out to me through LinkedIn, or I’m pretty well known at Salesforce, so if they go through their Salesforce rep or come through you to get my contact details, I’m happy with that.
Ben: Okay, great, and looking forward, you’re a big fan of the Salesforce products, I’m sure you’re excited to see future acquisitions and things like that, but what it is about the next kind of twelve months that most excites you?
Janet: I think for us, an area that we underutilise Salesforce on the Service Cloud side now is, the, all of the omnichannel and the live chat and the bots. I’ve been involved with the Salesforce Service Cloud Council for Asia Pacific, and just watch these stories of these companies that are really going into that Service Cloud and have gone with the automation stuff, and I think for us, that’s where we should go next. We’re 16 years old, we have our customer service here in Sydney, we’ve got a lot of companies, but we still do a lot of stuff by phone, fax and email. And I think it’s time that we kind of step forward and gave people the ability to live chat on the phone, and you know, we work with a lot of school teachers – they have very limited time during the day, if they’re on lunch break they might be in the playground, they can’t make a phone call but they can maybe live chat.
Janet: So, I think we can really maximise our ROI there, by utilising that and then it’s exciting times for us, you know, our company has gone through huge growth, we’re going to continue to grow, so it kind of depends a bit on what direction that takes as well, as to where we will look, but I’d like to continue maximising.
Ben: Okay, great and I’m sure you will, and Dreamforce is just around the corner, you’ve been three times.
Ben: What’s your advice for anyone that’s going for the first time this year?
Janet: First time. It’s pretty overwhelming, so I think just making sure you’re organised, get onto that Agenda Builder as soon as it comes out, if you’re going with somebody else that’s fantastic because there’s not enough sessions for one person to see everything that you probably want to see. So I’ve been many times with two or three people, we never go to the same session, we go to different sessions, but be open to change as well, I find that I look at the Agenda Builder every night and change the next day because you might have seen something more useful, or you see something else that comes up which you think is going to be more appropriate, and it is pretty easy to change on the fly, so yes, it’s just kind of keeping on top of it. Don’t party too hard but have a good time.
Ben: Yes, and that’s actually really good advice, because everyone says “make sure that you get your Agenda sorted early” but I’ve never heard anyone say actually “just look every day again, and make sure that it’s all aligned”
Janet: Oh, absolutely, you need to sort it early because a lot of the good stuff gets booked out first and it’s always released in the U.S time so you want to know what you want to sign up for and especially when they have the great speakers, like Michelle Obama and stuff, that gets booked out.
Ben: Did you go to that one?
Janet: I couldn’t get into the main room but I did get into one of the other rooms and went and watched it on video. She’s amazing.
Ben: Yes, I hate to say it, but I managed to get in.
Janet: Oh did you.
Ben: Yes, it was incredible.
Janet: I did get into Ashton Kutcher and I thought he was amazing.
Janet: But yes, no I find that I need to look at it every night because I find that you might see something that you didn’t know was really going to tweak your interest and then you might find something else related to that to learn a bit more about that scenario.
Ben: Yes, it’s so true.
Janet: The first year I definitely put too many things into my agenda and didn’t leave any time for networking or anything like that. So, I also find that it’s great to spend a bit of time in the AsiaPac lounge that Salesforce have there, just connecting with people, connecting with Salesforce representatives, and then yes, just click through the agenda, take a battery charger so that your phone doesn’t run out of battery, and then you’re pretty good to go. And I try to keep like half a day in the same place, so if I’m going to be in one hotel in the morning, I’ll try and find sessions in that hotel so that I’m not running from one end of San Francisco to the other.
Ben: Getting your steps up.
Janet: You’re still doing your 20,000 steps a day regardless.
Ben: Well look, Modern Star and yourself definitely are Salesforce success stories so I’m sure people are going to be really interested in the story and also keen to reach out and hear more and get some advice around how they can utilise the platform in a similar way, so thank you very much for coming on, absolute pleasure.
Janet: Thank you for having me.
Ben: And all the best for Dreamforce this year and for the future.
Janet: See you there!
Ben: Yes, for sure. Thank you very much.
Janet: Thank you Ben.
Thank you for listening, and stay tuned for Episode 18, coming soon. Make sure you’re following Janet on LinkedIn and feel free to reach out to her with any questions regarding the topics covered in the podcast episode.
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