Leadership + People: Episode 22 - Jill Krishnamurthy- Part 2 of 2

In this episode we hear from CEO and President of DUOVenues, Jill Krishnamurthy. Jill talks about staying grounded in both her interactions and day-to-day processes.

Show Notes

  • Innovation for the sake of the customer, not for the sake of innovation alone. [5:50]
  • Tracking and understanding metrics is critical in understanding the customer. [8:00]
  • Processes will become best practices when you trust suggestions from your team. [10:32]
  • Surround yourself with people that will keep you humble and make you feel confident. [14:31]
  • The importance of keeping yourself grounded. [16:46]
  • Money cannot be the only motivation. [19:22]

Show Audio

Show References

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This episode of Leadership and People was originally released on: February 20, 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: This is part 2 of our episode with Jill Krishnamurthy .

GUEST – JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: “What’s actually going on in this industry right now is, taking learnings from other industries and recognizing that we can take those and apply them to this industry, that hasn’t evolved really in decades”.

Surround Yourself with Real People

00:43 JL: So on the last episode we were talking a lot about people focus and how that shows up with your clients and running the business. Let’s talk about as a cofounder, let’s talk about as an entrepreneur, your approach to the people that you rely on for – I mean…  

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Mmmhm

01:02 JL: Being in charge can be a lonely position. Talk to me about that from your experience.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Well, I think that the relationships of- that I have with my chairman, with my CRO, who’s my number 2 and also, you know, cofounder in this, means so much to me. And we look at each other as peers. And support each other. And I think our really good collaborative team, which I haven’t always had in businesses that I’ve been on management teams in before. So it’s something I’m really grateful for and have just recognized the value of that. Of that dynamic and having a really productive mixture of personalities where we can get a lot done and have a good time doing so.

01:50 JL: So my question, I think follow up to that is; thinking about, like, how to not end up just sitting around the boardroom table drinking your own Kool Aid, of how smart we are.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yeah. Hmmhm.

02:01 JL: When you think about knowledge acquisition, and you guys, you know, figuring out what the other leaders are doing out there, and what you can learn from it and stuff.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Hmmhm.

02:10 JL: What’s kind of your go to sources? Where do you like to start, you know, how do..

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yeah.

02:17 JL: Who are your peers? How do you get out there? What do you like to do?

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yeah. What I like to do. I have so many great friends who either I went to school with or-and  have been great friends since. Or I’ve met along the path who are in similar or even different roles.

02:37 JL: Do you have any example of one? One that comes to mind?

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Well yeah. So like one that comes to mind, My closest friend is Susan Peterson. She runs Freshly Picked; baby moccasin company. We were both introduced because all of our, you know, guy friends in the business world looked at each other and said – you’re two women- in business. You two should meet. We kind of rolled our eyes and laughed. Ok, fine. We’ll go to lunch. You know, but in that I have really appreciated the relationship. And that I call her sort of my personal board of advisory. That someone who’s in a similar space. Who’s a women in the business world here and helps me keep my head on straight.

03:18 JL: You know I was just on a panel with her recently.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Uh huh.

03:21 JL: And you know for just hockey stick type success, she doesn’t take herself too seriously huh?

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Uh huh. She has a good time. Yep. And I appreciate that. And the people that I try to surround myself with are people that don’t take themselves too seriously are humble in nature and have a good time. Because isn’t that why we’re doing this, you know?

03:42 JL: Yeah. And well and let’s think about that. I mean every business is a people business. I’ve never…

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Hmmhm. Should be.

03:53 JL: I’ve never gotten, you know, at the higher levels of an industry and heard somebody say that this is not a tight networking of people who know each other.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: [laughs] Yeah.

03:57 JL: [laughs] Right.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yeah.

04:01 JL: So specifically in the event business…

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Mmhmm

04:02 JL: I’m guessing so and so with some multi million dollar ranch, who had a good experience with you, makes it more likely their friends willing sign up.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yep. That’s true.

04:09 JL: Anything that- Any insights of having played that game of, you know, building relationships or closing a client, it’s all kind of the same but its always a little bit of a different recipe when you’re in a different industry too.  

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yeah.

04:20 JL: Anything that people from outside your space wouldn’t understand about or wouldn’t naturally know.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Gosh. This space is so fractionalized which is why we are doing what we’re doing here. Is really working to build that market place. So that our customers have options. And so I think what’s actually going on in this industry right now is taking learnings from other industries and recognizing that we can take those and apply them to this industry that hasn’t evolved really in decades. And it’s very fractionalized. Things are kind of done as they’ve been done for a long time. But yet other industries have evolved pretty significantly. So that’s one of my areas of focus; is taking not just innovation for the sake of innovation, but innovation of best practices out there for evolved market places and industries and bringing that into DUO and the event venue business.

05:27 JL: Yeah. So you referenced Airbnb before.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yes.

5:29 JL: Right. And so a lot of us can think about the technology that is required for that and kind of stuff.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yeah.

05:34 JL: What human aspects are involved in learning from something like that and applying it to yours?

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: The human aspects of learning from these other industries?

05:43 JL: Like AirBnb.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yeah yeah.

05:44 JL: We can think about having the technology and having the website and those kind of things.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Mmmhm.

Keeping Innovation About Customer

5:50 JL: What are the human or leadership aspects of either getting your staff used to it or getting your clients used to it. Or what does it take on the human or leadership aspects on something like that.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yeah. Well. I think that I mentioned in not just innovation for the sake of innovation. The human element; doesn’t it weave throughout all that we are doing? Or should. So I think that human element of why- what is needed in evolving an industry. And that should really be rooted in the human element of that industry. So for us that human element comes from understanding, well what would benefit our customers. Not just bringing something in because it’s cool in another industry. But what would be helpful here. And so, you know, for us it’s actually not necessarily automated reservation system. Because guess what? Customers don’t want to spend $10,000 dollars and book that online. They want to talk to us. They want to  get comfortable and share their ideas and make sure they are booking the right thing. And so technology or evolution might not come from automated reservation system. But it might come from other areas we’re focused on like this system for communication so that it’s enabling that human interaction but in a systematized way. So that’s one thing we’re working on just throughout our sales experience. And another…

07:19 JL: You mean less friction so that…

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yes.

07:20 JL: Communication is more efficient. People feel like…

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Exactly.

07:23 JL: they are getting their answers in a more timely way.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: And we can communicate through different modes of communication based on what the customer wants. So some customers want to email. Some customers want to talk on the phone. Others want to text. Others want to do instant chat on our website.

07:39 JL: Instead of shoehorning them into the way you do things.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Exactly.

07:43 JL: Being responsive.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: So that’s what we’ve been working on is… Being able to capture leads and learn from them what their desired method of communication is and responding in that way.

07:53 JL: So you know that comment, I don’t think is going to be earth shattering to people who read business media, right?

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Right. [laughs]

08:00 JL: So how do you separate the difference between what we think our customer will like versus which of our hypotheses, which of our prototypes actually work?

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Well. I’m a numbers person so my answer is this. It’s determine the metrics that matter in your business. And as you’re bringing on new processes, like we talked about, or evolving things, do your metrics change? Do they improve? Because if what matters to you is- let’s say lead generation. And you put processes together that don’t impact lead generation, they impact something else. Well, why do that? Right? So my answer is; track- understand what matters. and track what matters because that should be the driver for what you introduce or evolve or change.

08:52 JL: Yeah. When you think about folks, maybe let’s take somebody from a more bureaucratic background.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Uh huh.

08:58 JL: Less of a you know, been around more than a year right?

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: [laughs] Right?

09:01 JL: It’s not fast moving and maybe there’s a lot going on because it’s always been going on that way.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Mhmmm.

09:10 JL: Any advice for leaders who- they want to help, you know, they want to lead the team to say we’re not going to keep doing this because we’ve always done it that way…

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yeah.

09:17 JL: We’re going to start tracking what actually helps the people we’re serving

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yeah.

09:21 JL: But the old ruts are so deep.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Sure.

09:25 JL: And especially like maybe some of the those organizations where you don’t just fire people on the spot.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yeah.

09:29 JL: There are unions or there’s government or there’s whatever, right?

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Right.

09:32 JL: Any thoughts about how to help those leaders with the, maybe the resistance…

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yeah.

09:38 JL: …to that kind of metrics and getting- and having the metrics be how we are connecting with our customer instead of just a number for a numbers sake?

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yeah and how we make those decisions. I would go back to our discussion about relationships and that human or team dynamic. That it maybe even taking it on a one on one perspective where you talk to the team members and you recognize that having others take ownership for that is going to help you get there verses you just holding a flag by yourself and waving it. But really working almost to campaign individually- and bring people on ‘go with me on this’. Almost that approach of getting people to not just feel like they need to change because you want to.

Trusting Your Team Proves Leadership

10:32 JL: Yeah. Do you have any examples of in your own team of you like, you wanted it this way but you realized so and so maybe needed some more ownership over it. Any thing comes to mind of like… Originally you were going to do it this way but because of the people on your team you decided to let them take more ownership or something.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yeah I think that our sales team has ten years of experience. You know, many of the managers on that team. And I came in thinking and expecting a sales process that looked one way. And having “best practices” sort of proving to me- hey we should do it this way. And I didn’t have some of those- I didn’t have the knowledge of some of those finer details and nuances of this industry, or the customer base we work with. And one of those examples is the human interaction we talked about. That I would have… When I first came into this space, I thought, I would think people would want an automated reservation system and not have to talk to a sales rep. But thank goodness the sales team and managers recognize that and sort of put their foot down and said hey this is going to be a best practice for this industry.  And i just think that leadership quality is one that I aim, or I strive to have. Which is that me being a leader in this business doesn’t mean that I have the answers. It means that I want to facilitate the team dynamic, you know, working together. And coming up with those answers themselves.

12:10 JL: Ok but what about a task oriented guy like me.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Uh huh.

12:13 JL: Who likes to be right. Likes to be in charge.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yeah.

12:16 JL: Likes to get stuff done.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Mmmhm.

12:17 JL: Any advice for, you know, that type of personality of- just things you tell yourself to like slow down and maybe be humble and listen more?  

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yeah.

12:32 JL: Or any tricks that you use?

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: I don’t know that I have a trick per se. But I think being open about it and recognizing that, with my management team. Our COO, great guy doing great things. And he has that approach, right. And as he should as he is running operations. And I think that’s great and we can be conscience of where that sure comes in handy, right? And then I think that- but the communication of here’s as a business. Here are our goals and being goal focused versus approach focused.

13:10 JL: Here’s my question though. In leadership, especially when you’re winning…

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yeah.

13:13 JL: …there’s all these things that tell you you’re special.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Mmmhm.

13:17 JL: And you’re the big cheese. And it’s easy for staff to treat you like your special and stuff like that.  

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Okay.

13:22 JL: Any- So I appreciate what you’re saying.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yeah.

13:24 JL: But I want to go a next level deeper.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Okay.

13:27 JL: For any of us that have the temptation to want to just do it our way.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yeah.

13:20 JL: And we recognize maybe we’re bulldozing people or railroading or you know.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Mmmhm.

13:35 JL: Any like- oh yeah, thats my canary in the coal mine. I know I need to bite my tongue and ask a question instead. Or anything like that for you?

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: You know what? Maybe not. I think I have the opposite challenge. Which is- you’ve heard of imposter syndrome. Which is almost the opposite of that. Sometimes I feel like; gosh do I really know what I’m doing here. I don’t know what I’m doing. I just don’t want to mess this thing up. So I think I have the opposite challenge.

14:10 JL: And I would actually suggest having, you know we’ve done hundreds of these episodes.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yeah.

14:14 JL: Our consulting firm has been doing this kind of stuff for years right.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Huh uh.

14:19 JL: I would suggest that most leaders have a little bit of both at different times

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Fair. Okay. That’s a good point.

14:22 JL: And maybe we have a different higher ratio at different times. So let’s talk about this one instead though.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Okay.

14:27 JL: At those times when it feels like- but I didn’t get my CEO certification. I don’t know if I’m allowed.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yeah.

How To Keep It Real With Yourself

14:31 JL: Do you have any go to things, or is there somebody you call or is there an audio book you pull out. Is there any routine that helps you like, get back on the horse?

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Thats a great question. I think it’s that community of people around me. That I might call up Susan and say “Do I know what the hell I’m doing?” Or, you know, the advisors around me. So I think that’s one. I think when I’m suffering more so from that imposter syndrome, it’s me almost like touching base with my comfort zone. And my comfort zone might be- okay I’m just going to pull out some metrics here. I’m just going to build a little financial model here because I’m going to get in my comfort zone and like take a break real quick and then get back in. And so I guess maybe it’s just that comfort zone where I naturally go to in business management.

15:23 JL: Yeah.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: But I like what you said about leaders, generally, likely have both of that. And the ratio of that changes over time. You try to be in the middle but yeah.

15:36 JL: You try to be in the middle but you’re pulled in both directions.

The Happy Place

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: And fair enough. There’s definitely times where I might be where I’m in my comfort zone where I’m like- I get like I know what’s going on here and I’m going to be the leader here. And how do you not become cocky in that. That I think is just maybe a day to day thing of starting each day off with okday, what do I need to accomplish here. And what should my attitude be in doing it. You know.

16:08 JL: You know I’m glad that you brought up that you know what your comfort zone is.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Mmmhm.

16:09 JL: Business models. Right, where’s my excel?

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Deal structuring, right?

16:12 JL: Because I think you know whether it’s the business media, or whatever it is,  there is a lot of ‘supposed to’s’.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Right.

16:23 JL: And there’s probably even ‘supposed to’s’ about how to get centered, or whatever. And it seems like really valuable to know yourself and know this is my trigger this way and here’s how I’m going to hack my own emotions.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Sure.

16:38 JL: And get back on so I can be the leaders. So I can leader from upfront.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yeah.

16:46 JL: It’s interesting to like to instead of listening to the ‘supposed to’s’, having your own I know here’s my Happy Gilmore happy place.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yeah. This is my happy place. And I’m okay being in that that I’m not going to feel like taking other peoples advice on what’s going to get them centered again. That over time you learn what centers you. And so what is that, right? And at times you’re like, one of the things that centers me is what I call a quarterly offsite. Where I go and, you know, might take a weekend trip somewhere and I’m not going to check emails in the weekend and I’m just going to center myself and have a good time. And I always come out of that with thoughts that I don’t think I otherwise would have had if I went to meeting to meeting for those few days. And so it gives me a really good, almost- you know just a higher level thinking. And I would describe it as preparation for quarterly board meetings when you’re running a business. I always loved that time because it – I carve out time and I think about what matters and higher level. and I’m preparing for a board meeting. So okay what did we do last quarter? What are we aiming to do this quarter? How are we doing? What are our strengths? What are our weaknesses. I think doing that on a personal level is super valuable and taking the time to do so has in our life for sure.

18:08 JL: Yeah. You know, I know we’re wrapping up here. I think about the other side of the ‘supposed to’s’. You know if you’re a leader you’re supposed know what to do. And you’re supposed to have things handled that you shouldn’t need to get centered.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Huh uh.

18:22 JL: And you shouldn’t, definitely shouldn’t admit to anybody that you ever needed time to get centered right?

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Keep that to yourself, right?

18:27 JL: My one lately has been audible.com, my addiction.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Oh. Your addiction. Okay.

18:34 JL: Ryan Holiday wrote this book called ‘The Obstacle is the Way’.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Okay.

18:36 JL: Like about applying stoic philosophy to today. And all these people who had terrible things happen to them and beat it anyways you know.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yeah.

18:46 JL: And I’ll just like flip that open on the phone and start listening and be like- oh yeah, thats right.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: That’s right. Grounded.

18:50 JL: People had way harder things then this and turned it into their advantage.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Yep.

18:53 JL: It’s interesting how that kind of like, honesty about it lets- it almost gives like the other people in your network that permission too. Or when somebody in your network will admit that…  

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Oh it’s normal that I kind of feel that too. I think that genuineness or the authenticity or whatever word you want to use, is so valuable. And it’s powerful to feel that from other people and almost gives you more permission.

19:22 JL: Lets close this off with something like- either the best advice you’ve ever received or one of the most helpful concepts that has worked for you or…

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Okay. Well. Here’s one thing that comes to mind. I’m not sure that I would give it the number one because I have had a lot of things that have been very valuable to me. But when I joined Dolphin Capital, it was before we had raised the fund but the concept was, let’s be a private equity fund. And I had another job lined up. And the partner who offered me the position at Dolphin Capital said “So what were you going to make at the other firm?” And I gave the number thinking in my head, oh he’s going to you know increase it by 20% or something. And he returned with a number- okay great. And he reduced by call it 30%. Almost kind of laughing but to say, ‘hey don’t do this because of money. Do this because you want to get this experience or in my words, you know, acquire this experience.’ And for me, my answer was, ‘Hey, I’m not going to say yes to this position because of the money.’ And I have really appreciated that lesson early on in my career. And it’s something that has had a really strong return for me. Meaning I have never felt like I should have taken this position over that one because I would have made more money. Because you know what? It seems to me that it all works out. That you know I took a pay-cut for the last three positions but it has more than paid for itself in the success we created and the exits we’ve had. And I’m glad I wasn’t short sighted in the decision for that.

21:14 JL: Love it. Okay let’s end there. Thanks so much.

JILL KRISHNAMURTHY: Thank you.

[ENDS] 21:15

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