Leadership + People: Episode 21 - Jill Krishnamurthy- Part 1 of 2

In this episode we here from CEO and President of DUOVenues, Jill Krishnamurthy. Jill guides us to success through growing a business catered to clients and how relationship building has been and can be an essential part of client experience.  

Show Notes

  • How DUO evolved from Noah’s Event Venue to what it is now [00:44]
  • Jill’s concept of acquiring [1:42]
  • The importance of office community [6:44]
  • How to stay connected to an individual when your skill set puts your circumstantial knowledge above theirs [10:15]
  • Having a relationship and an enriching client experience simultaneously [12:24]

Show Audio

Show References

  • None of Note
Podcast artwork_21-02

This episode of Leadership and People was originally released on: February 13, 2018

Show Transcript

[BEGINS] 00:00

Welcome to Leadership and People. This is a series that pulls back the curtain on leadership by interviewing CEOs, Senior Executives and Entrepreneurs who had large exits. We ask these experts about how they built trusted networks to rapidly grow their companies.  And what advice they wish they knew if they could do it all again.

HOST – JESS LARSEN: Today on the show we’ve got Jill Krishnamurthy.

GUEST – JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: “But the customer doesn’t even feel that way, right? So you might come in, and your planning your wedding. And you’re so excited for the layout that you want to have. It doesn’t matter that we may have put on an event the day before that has the same lay out. To you its unique and it’s your event. And we want to support that.”

00:44 JL: Tell people about DUO.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: DUO Ok. So DUO, we’re; some people say we’re the Airbnb of event venues. We were born out of the Noah’s Event Venue brand and business that’s been around for 10 years. They have 42 buildings across the country, and looked around, And this was a year ago and said, “gosh there has got to be a faster more scale-able way to grow this business”. And out of those discussions DUO was born. Where we said why don’t we do what we do at a Noah’s, but do that in your backyard. And your second home on the coast in Malibu. And offer unique properties to wedding customers and businesses and special events on unique properties for their unique events.

01:34 JL: Thats awesome.


01:36 JL: So let’s talk about this- we were talking about this before the show started about both coming out of private equity backgrounds.


01:40 JL: After a decade of private equity. Tell me about this philosophy, this idea of acquisition. Acquisition of relationships, acquisition of assets, acquisition of knowledge.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yeah. So when I think about what I’ve been most interested in and investing sort of time and experience into, has been this concept of acquiring. And I, as was mentioned, I spent a decade acquiring businesses and looking at businesses and learning from what works and doesn’t. And other experiences that leaders have had in the business world. I also joke around that I acquired my husband from Southern India. Not through a catalog perse. I met him on a cruise ship. And there was- I’ve always been so fascinated with different cultures and even… so I think in my personal life I’ve also been really interested in just like acquiring experience. And whether it’s, you know, when the market crashed in 2008 time frame. I went and I took three months off of work. And I said we’re not going to do a deal in these three months when we don’t know what is up. You know? So I went and back packed around India for 3 months and really just acquired in that period of time such experience and memories and relationships. I actually came back with a husband almost. And so I just think in my personal side of life and also professional that I just really enjoy the abundance of experiences that are out there to be had.  

03:13 JL: So, you know there’s certainly more than one way to acquire.


03:17 JL: There’s hostile takeover.


03:18 JL: K, right?


03:19 JL: So, I can tell you are into efficiency.


03:23 JL: K. So… Thinking about this like acquiring a husband…


03:28 JL: You know a lot of people compare acquiring clients to romance…


03:34 JL: … in certain ways right?


03:35 JL: When you think about it, it’s so easy for us, especially in such a “me” driven society…


03:42 JL: And you know how many followers do you have in social media, or how big is your house…


03:45 JL: …or bank account, or whatever.


03:47 JL: There’s all these obvious things of what’s in it for me to go acquire this or to acquire a new friend, right?


03:54 JL: I’m guessing that you have a little more sophisticated approach in it being that there’s something in it for them.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: I would hope so.

04:02 JL: Tell me about your approach cause It wasn’t just you liking him, obviously he liked you back.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: [laughs] Yeah. He still does. Well gosh. What do I say to that? I think that what I treasure most in life, and I love this alignment with DUO, is I treasure experience and I treasure relationships. And that’s what we do at DUO, right? We’re all about putting on experiences. We put on over 80 weddings a weekend across our venues. And in my life I love those relationships and forming and creating those experiences that I always you know joke around with my husband and my son with the ‘would you rather’ game. And we always talk about the tangible things of life versus experiences. And my answer is always would you rather- it’s always on the experience side of things. You know, we’ll joke around about, would you rather go on a trip to France for the weekend or buy a really nice door for your kitchen? Well my answer of course is going to be France. And so I think for me it’s been not the hostile takeovers of life but saying, I can acquire all of this and be better for it and hopefully help others along the way.

05:22 JL: Yeah. Well you and I are both in Corporate Alliance.


05:23 JL: .You know, this show obviously, Leadership and People, is with them. Talk about, you know, you said you originally, it was like 2006…

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: When I started in private equity?

05:38 JL: When did you first connect with Corporate Alliance?

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Oh yeah. I feel like when Jeff started, was it 2004 or 2005. I was part of those initial meetings. Yeah. Hmm hm.

05:49 JL: Just thinking about that community. I like conference. I like CEO clubs. I’ve gone on different folks trips and stuff.


05:57 JL: What is it that you like about the way that Corporate Alliance does it?

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: I really like that its relationship driven and not from a “me to” way that I think every other networking type organization I feel like does it. Where its- what can I get from others? Just like you were talking about. And I don’t feel that sense in Corporate Alliance. It feels much more genuine and much more people and experience focused than ‘what am I getting out of this’. So I think I would say its the genuine feeling of networking and community building.

06:35 JL: So how does that show up at work, with your staff? Of the like… make sure they don’t feel like number or…


06:44 JL: You know. Having it be the kind of place that they want to be.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Well, on Friday we had DUO and donuts. Which is very on brand for us in terms of the community that we have in our office. There’s a lot of humor. A lot of focus on not on the, ‘are you in your desk at this time and leaving at this time?’. But the focus on what are we accomplishing and how do we accomplish that together. So that’s a culture that we’re really working on building. And it’s hard to not have that- that culture when what we do is put on the best day of someones life. Right? Every weekend, as I mentioned, we’re putting on hundreds of events that have guests of 200-300 people in those having a great time. And that’s what this business facilitates and supports. So we really work to have a similar culture at our corporate office that is happening in our buildings.

07:41 JL: So thinking about you know the kind of logistics and things to be involved in that.


07:48 JL: I’m just going to put it out there, that it might be a high emotion event for certain folks.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Oh yeah. We’ve all seen TLC.

07:54 JL: K. Right. So. Rumors about Bridezilla


07:57 JL: Or mother-in-law-zilla, or whatever you want to call it, right?


08:01 JL: When you think about you know, especially being a deal driven acquisitions minded…


08:07 JL: …efficiency individual


08:11 JL: When it comes to the leadership to have a potentially, highly emotional, catastrophe…


08:18 JL: …go as planned. What kind of things do you feel like you have learned, that maybe you hadn’t expected coming into this? Or that maybe aren’t obvious to people who don’t do it 80 times a weekend.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yeah. One thing we have here in Utah. There’s a lot of events put on, right. And there’s the whole religious culture where a lot of people grow up putting events on. Not maybe recognizing that, you know, from a very young age a lot of people put on these events and it’s a part of their life. And that’s not the case necessarily across the country. And so one thing that I’ve learned, and you know, appreciate is that it can be a daunting task and emotional for our customers. Not because of bridezilla and what can be sort of glorified on tv but because they don’t put events on everyday. It’s an important thing for them. And they don’t know where to start and what to do. And so for us, our focus is really being able to say- let’s put on your event for you and this is going to be a fun experience. And enjoyable versus stressful. So we have event layouts. And those event layouts where they can bring, you know the bride can come in and bring in her girlfriends, and see example layouts and have wine tasting, and enjoy it. Versus it being a stressful thing.

09:46 JL: Yeah. You know you think about that, especially if you’re team is doing this so much.


09:50 JL: You know it’s just muscle memory right? They’re achieving levels of mastery and getting it done. Any tips for professionals or people who are highly skilled at something that their client might be brand new to? Of how to stay humble of like- connected to the individual instead of like ‘hey listen just do it my way’.


10:09 JL: Or even those thoughts of like being alive with them, in the like…

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: In that moment too.

10:15 JL: Yeah.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: What we … I think that’s a really good questions. We can, if we’re putting on our hat of ‘I’m in event putting on mode’. And I’m just going to go through and do these things on my list and get through it. You might lose some of that emotion. And one thing that we could run into if we are not conscious of it, is that really 90% of events are the same. But the customer doesn’t need to feel that way. Right? So you might come in and you’re planning your wedding. And you’re so excited for the layout that you want to have. It doesn’t matter that we may have put on an event the day before that has the same layout. To you it’s unique and it’s your event. And we want to support that. And so, I think whether its us being so experienced in putting on events, and you and your professional life maybe being so experienced in you know- insert what that is- Is recognizing that maybe your customer is coming to you for a reason, cause they are not as experienced in that. And making each transaction as unique as their event is, is important. And maybe you know just for us the- you use the word humble. And I think that’s right. Where responding with a humble attitude. Being as excited as your customer is for what they may be purchasing or putting on. And I think another thing is remembering to respond to your leads in like kind. We sometimes get an email response that’s 10 words and probably shouldn’t respond with a 500 word essay on why we’re the best place. Right? Maybe let’s respond and start building that relationship in like kind. Sometimes we get emails that are 500 words and have a Pinterest board already built for the event they want to put on. And great, we’re going to respond to that and be as excited as you are to, you know, put on that event.

12:18 JL: That’s an interesting subject to me. And specifically thinking about how it applies to other industries or businesses.


12:24 JL: Okay. Of, you know- I’ve got a good friend, She… her clients are fortune 500 clients who are spending maybe a million bucks a year with her.


12:24 JL: Okay, right? And in an effort to grow a business and have something dublicateable that you can do over and over for many clients.  Any advice for folks in other industries of walking this balance beam of connecting with them as a human, helping them feel personally taken care of. Plus balancing the needs of a business of….


12:58 JL: duplication helps growth. Any advice on walking the balance beam in the middle there.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Maybe that you can have a curtain somewhat between your relationship and experience with your customer, and your execution of what you deliver. That they don’t- the customers that we work with, we’re going to talk to them. We’re going to have great conversations. And we have mapped out our sales experiences. What does that look like from the eyes of the customer? And that doesn’t mean that they need to know necessarily how we’re executing on that. And that certain things are very standard across events. For us something that’s really important for our customers is uniqueness. Well, great. We’re going to have that sales dialogue and appreciate the uniqueness of their event with them. But so I guess my answer in short is mapping out that sales experience. Not just process, but sales experience that you want your customers to have.

14:00 JL: What’s an example for you guys?

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: For us is recognizing the different touch points we have with customers. And delivering our brand at each of those touch points.

14:15 JL: And will you guys review that in advance? Like is it on a sheet that;s?…

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yes. It’s in a process. I mean, you know, we’re kind of nerds when it comes to that. We’ve got the lucid chart going on. And build out our process flow that  may not have the DNA of our customer in it, but it shows and highlights, for our sales team, where in the process how they layer in that relationship, and customer nuance and uniqueness in a similar sales experience. Does that make sense? And so the touch points ensure our process and our experience might say; you email at this point, or you text at this point. But we talk about how do you layer in that personality into those touch points. You know when are you incorporating an emoji in the text message because you are developing a relationship with them. Or whatever the example is.

15:10 JL: Yeah. That’s great. I think this is a good spot to end for part one of the interview. If you were going to invent a sticker to kind of sum that up. Like if..


15:20 JL: If you were going to wrap that up, what’s a phrase or what’s something that you think could encapsulate that. As kind of a mantra or some kind of a…

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Well here’s my mantra that I didn’t end up… I didn’t know I said this all the time. And so my team kind of makes fun of me, but they’ve been starting to use it. And that is “go with me on this”.  So I’ll- I end up having these conversations, and I’ll say; “Ok guys. Go with me on this”.  Then I work on painting a picture of, you know, what I’m envisioning. And I am just going to own up to the fact that’s ok, that’s my mantra and I’m just going to keep saying it. I’m just going to own that phrase. Because ‘go with me on this’, to me what that means is, have vision, paint that picture, and also be collaborative in what you’re doing, which really gets back to that point at the beginning of part one which is all about experience. ‘Go with me on this’ is a community and almost like a peer based phrase. So yeah. Go with me on this.

16:19 JL: Love it. Ok, let’s end there.

[ENDS] 16:19