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Remote Collaboration Could be Your Company's Key to Survival w/Matt Compton, CEO Ep#139

By Anthony Taylor - January 04, 2022

SME Strategy is a strategy consulting company that specializes in aligning teams around their vision, mission, values, goals and action plans. Learn more about how we can help align your team with our strategic planning and implementation services.


Untitled design - 2021-12-27T131748.040  Anthony: Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, folks and people. My name is Anthony Taylor. And today you are listening to the Strategy & Leadership Podcast. Maybe you're watching it on YouTube, and you're listening to it in your car. And today, I am joined by Matt Compton, who is the CEO and co founder of Filo.co. Matt, what's happening today?

Untitled design - 2021-12-27T132819.493  Matt: You know, same today as been was two years ago. Nothing going on. Thanks so much for having me, Anthony. I'm really excited for this conversation.

A: I'm stoked, you know, as we were talking about in the kind of pre roll, you know, your company operates in the well, collaboration online space, and being a mixed media, audio video, you know, being part of that is so important. So, obviously, we'll talk about that. Well, why don't you tell people a little bit about your company about your journey and how you got to where you are right now?

M: Yeah, absolutely, happy to. My background, IBM, a company called ExactTarget acquired by Salesforce, worked Salesforce for a few years, Experian, and then divested a business called Cheetah Digital. And a two time founder. This is my second startup I've run - we started beginning of last year, right at the very beginning of the pandemic. And what we do is we help people, groups of any kind, really, companies, but companies are made up of people, come together to collaborate and get real collaborative work done remotely. So that can be everything from groups of 15 to 20, who are just running a workshop for a day in order to learn something together and work through a complex problem together, all the way up to groups of 5000, who want to come together, experience something learn and then drive into smaller groups where they can collaborate.

A: Cool, I love that. So it looks by your background, I mean, you're pretty much like a full stack guy, like you've done it all. You touch everything, you're dangerous in that way. But tell me like, product, right? You're building a product company, you're CEO, co founder building a product? What are some of the considerations that you think about when you're saying, hey, I need to build a great product, not just for now, but for the future?

M: Well, the first one is not starting with, I need to build a great product now, it's more of what exact problem are we trying to solve? So we actually started my company slightly by accident. But I was working with a venture studio based out of Indianapolis where I live called High Alpha, one of the former co founders of ExactTarget and three founders came together. And they do traditional venture investing, but the lifeblood of what they do is a studio or they start software companies for a living focused on b2b SaaS. So you're right back to March of last year, they do all start all their companies through a process called Sprint week, which is a super intense week where 80 people come together and start companies from scratch over four days. And it has always been in person, they end up being 15 hour days, highly collaborative, semi structured, you don't even know who your team is or idea you're working on until you show up and day one. And you thought of how in the hell do we do this when we're all in our bedrooms? And our kitchens? And our hopefully some people have offices? How are we going to do that virtually. And we kicked off a project we said we don't think we can do it using just the technology that's out there. What can we build? We had four weeks to build it. So that was really it starting with that problem? What is the problem how you help 80 people come together? And what ended up happening was force start four companies from scratch over four days. And don't focus on the product yet just focus on what problem are you solving, we identified the key friction points for that, solved them, launched for companies that exist today that would not have existed should we have not built the original product of Filo - they are driving millions in revenue and employing hundreds of people. And we were kind of off and running since then.

A: That's super fun. Like that sounds sounds like a blast. And I really appreciate how you share it. It's like that's like just like life for you. You like the process you like the building, you like going through that. And it's of course it's work. But you know, it's it's work that you're engaged in.


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M: That's right. Yeah. You know, looking back and rose colored glasses, you're like, oh, yeah, that was a whole lot of fun going through it, you're thinking I have no idea if this is gonna work. I don't know if we can pull this thing off and you're working insane hours. But that's what gets me fired up is how do we solve problems? And the cool part about it? Is that how do you help 80 people come together and collaborate, that can be translated now into so many different use cases that solve so many different people's problems. And then that's what we've been focused the last year and a half on is how do we take this nucleus of capabilities that we have? And how do we keep building on it so that we can really help people get meaningful stuff done, remotely?

A: Yeah. So I have a question about that. And it relates to teaming. So you know, a lot of teams and you've seen like, you know, if you're working with Salesforce, big companies, small companies, you're always just putting teams of people together to be able to work and solve on a product. In this case, everybody kind of shows up and says, Okay, great. I'm totally cool with having a very clear modus operandi. And I'm going to be partnered with whoever. So you kind of talked about that, hey, meeting for people then like collaborating with 80. So what would you say are the keys to being able to gather a team together to work on one common problem? And if you can have like two or three specific things that you look for? That would be awesome.

M: Yeah, I mean, I'll answer it with a slight tangent to it. And that is because we're focused on really how do you do this remotely, because I think it actually becomes fairly natural. If you take a bunch of people, throw them in a room together, give them a problem. And human nature kind of takes over if you have that focus of everybody when they're sitting there. But the very first thing - we find hanging most people up to start is just not believing that level of collaboration can happen remotely. So thinking, you know, we can't collaborate the way we did before. So therefore, we're just going to do just a Zoom meeting, and then we're just going to make do with it. And what that does is kill any collaboration from the very beginning, you don't even allow yourself to get started. Once you do get over that hurdle. And you say, Alright, how do we get there, then it becomes, there's a few different things, one, visibility. So if you have a team that comes together, that needs to collaborate on something, they may all be together in one meeting, but you're only going to get certain stuff done when only one person can be talking at a time. So that happens through coming together, and then breaking apart and coming together and breaking apart and going into isolation and having small teams. How do you have visibility of everything that's happening across your team at any point in time, so that I know, hey, I just rolled out of a really interesting conversation, and I need to be able to share that with Anthony. How do I find Anthony, what are you doing? How do I get in contact with you? And so the first of all, is just having the visibility of are you doing something? And how do I jump in? Second is how do I start a conversation? Watch: How to Design Conversations that Matter

So these are all things that our software tries to solve, say, How do I start a conversation? So I see you, I need to share something with you. If it takes 20 seconds for me to say, Anthony, you available? Great, I'm going to spin up a Zoom meeting, I'm going to grab that link, I'm going to send you that link, I'm going to wait to see if you join or not. That is enough friction that the conversations don't happen. So how do we make that as easy as possible? So it's the visibility, it is being able to easily start conversations. And then the third is having some structure to engage with each other. Because we could go and say, All right, we've got a team of 15 people, and it's a mix of all different types of people from different organizations that we're going to come together to get something done. Great. No, everybody's going to sit and look at each other. Like how do we get started? Like what do I do. So what the physical space gives a team is a way to start conversing. There's a whiteboard over there, there's a table over here, there's a couch in this direction, there's breakout rooms over there. And that just tells us as humans how to interact with one another. Virtually, those things go away. So we provide a structure that a team can come in. And it's completely customized. And it can be rooms to jump into. It can be meetings, it can be live streams, it can be any of those capabilities, and you can piece them together exactly how you want. That just tells me, hey, there's a room over here called a product and design room. Hey, I know what that's for. Right? And I can jump in. So you give those three things together. And then a team with a clear goal, obviously, you need to give a clear goal of what to accomplish. And amazing stuff's possible. It's really not that hard. But you got to get over the mindset and have those capabilities.

A: But it's interesting. And so I say this as a facilitator, by the way for everybody listening, like, pause it, go back, like three minutes, listen to it again, because like there was so much gold in that. And so I'm going to try to unpack all of it. So one of the things he said is, is solve a problem. And I think your brain is wired like that. I don't think everybody's brain is wired like that. And so it's really critical from what I heard, that you need to be really clear about what you're solving, whether that's in a new product design, whether that's in a marketing brief, whether that's like doing - you need to have a clear problem. So and that's akin to the clear goal, the how do you begin that visibility? How do I start? And what I heard is like speeding up that collaboration, and then structure, sidebar, you know, we facilitate strategic planning meetings, we help teams do that. And because that's the structure, we take people through a structure, and otherwise, they're kind of left to their own devices. And so what I think is really cool is there's the in person meetings that we've been used to forever in a day. There's the virtual meetings that people got, like thrown into the deep end really quickly. And then there's maybe like a slight regression back to in person, but people are starting to see the benefits of like, Whoa, there's like a real ROI - it's maybe not perfect. Granted, it may not be perfect, but there is a real ROI to meeting virtually as long as you can kind of borrow those best parts. And so however your team collaborates, make sure that you are setting the people up to be successful. And again, Matt, visibility getting everybody clear on you know, where it's going, how do I start reducing the friction icebreaker as an example? And then structure saying, Hey, what are we trying to accomplish? Any additional thoughts on that? Matt, from your experience?

M: No. I mean, so you talked about kind of where we are right now and companies and being able to figure this out. I think we talked a little bit about this right before we started this conversation. But I think we're at an absolute inflection point, right, because we had our normal way of operating back in February of 2020, before the world completely got up ended. And then things got up ended. And this big thing, it's called COVID hits us in the face. And then people didn't have a choice, they have to try to figure out how to make do and some people phoned it in and some people dove in headfirst. But everybody was going to be virtual, because we could not be back in person. Well, now we're hopefully very quickly getting into a world where we have a choice again, and there's benefits of absolutely being in person - there will always be benefits of being face to face. I just had my team in Indianapolis this past week. And we had a really great time, his first time meeting most of my company, which was actually kind of fun. But there's huge benefits of that. But the companies who say, Look, I don't have to be back in person, we don't have to be in person and in order to get real meaningful work done, are going to have such a huge competitive advantage over the next 2, 5, 10 years. They're going to be able to build and retain better teams, more diverse teams with different skill sets with different opinions with different cultures, they're going to be able to solve complex problems faster, because they won't have to say, You know what, we need to be able to get together to do this. So when can we get together? Well, not for another month, great, let's pause that problem for another month, you'll be able to jump in and solve them in the next day, we'll be able to innovate at a fraction of the cost of others. And I mean, a side benefit is a greatly reduced impact to the environment, which I care a whole lot about and drives me. I don't say that drives everybody, but it absolutely drives me. But if a company can do that, well, having better teams solve problems faster and do it at a fraction of the cost. I don't see how companies who can't are going to survive.

A: Yeah, I get that. Well, it's funny. My next question where before you had said that was like, hey, what would you say to a CEO that was like reluctantly doing that? But what I took away from that is, kind of the idea of like, speed kills. If your team's ability to problem solve faster, collaborate faster, you know, work on stuff faster one, innovation two, because you're kind of removing artificial constraints of like, oh, we can do asynchronous stuff and asynchronous. You don't have to be in a room and solve it in a day. You can solve it in a week when people have their best time. I think that's really cool. And thirdly, by the way, I agree with the green stuff. Diversity, inclusion and equity. You know, everybody's talking about it, and it's super effing important. But the ability to include more people into those collaboration sessions, it's not diversity, and it's not inclusion for the sake of it. It's because you're going to get diversity of thought, diversity of experience, and you can have a global workforce, like working on something like that. I think it kicks like offshoring, that was like 10 years ago, like in the ass, and companies that are going to do it are going to move real fast.

M: Exactly. I mean, I live in Indianapolis, Indiana, I love Indianapolis, I love the Midwest. I think the Midwest is very interestingly positioned to do great things in tech over the next year. But if I take just people in Indianapolis, we're not the best when it comes to diversity and inclusion, we're getting a heck of a lot better. But if I said we got to start four companies, I'm only going to take people who have the experiences in Indianapolis or who can take the time to fly here, then I'm going to get a certain level of companies and ideas and innovation. If I say look, I can have a team, from different cultures from different countries who have experienced problems in a unique way and approach them in a very unique way and put that melting pot together. The new ideas and innovation that come out of that are orders of magnitude better than if you have a homogenous group of people all trying to solve the same thing.

A: Yeah, so speaking of homogenous groups of people, I'm curious as to how you as a CEO/founder, how do you duplicate your way of thinking within the company? Does everybody on your team like share the same approach to problem solving collaborative communication? Is it done through your values screening? How do you basically, you know the stuff in your brain, how have you cascaded it so that everybody has the same design methodology or what have you?

M: It's a great question. The first, I'll answer the first, which is a bit of a cop out. So I'm kind of a transparent person. So everything laying on the table. The first is I can cheat a little bit, because I'm a startup, and I'm a small company, and I can literally meet and interview every single person who works for us, and I can just start to understand what's their value system, what's their history, I can do that when you're this small, right? We're gonna have to, God willing, if we make it, and we end up becoming teams of 50, and 100, and 1000, and 2000, and 10000, then things are gonna have to change there. But the first is, it's just a matter of spending time with every single person before they start. And then the second thing that's so important to us, and it relates back to what you said, of understanding what problem you're solving. It's just like the way we started the company, it wasn't how do we build a product that we think a million people are going to pay $5,000 for? It was how do we solve a problem? So you take everybody in on day one, day two, day ten, however early, you can get them focused on a real customer problem. Who is this customer? What are they trying to solve? What problems do they have. And if we do that, and can focus on that, it's kind of going to take care of itself, the purpose piece, that's the reason why we exist. So we talked about High Alpha and sprint week, another customer tech point, when they came, they said, We need to be able to facilitate 600 interviews, and a six hour period between 200 internship candidates from 25 different universities, and 50 organizations. We need to do a matching process with those organizations at the end of the day, so that in one day, we have matching and placement for all of these, we need to do it in a total of eight hours, six hours for the interviews. Well, that's a pretty clear problem. And if I do that, think about the impact, like the experience, you're getting these 200 candidates, the future leaders that are going into these companies. 500 Global is a great customer of ours. So it used to be 500 startups now 500, global, the early seed company seed accelerator program, when they came, they said, Hey, we have these Demo Day events. And what gets publicized is what happens on stage and people pitching. The real reason those are important are the conversations between the companies, investors and mentors that happen that start relationships that lead to funding events that lead to board seats that lead to customer introductions down the road, which grows scales these companies over time. How do we do that? How do we get 300 plus conversations happening virtually between people who don't know each other before the day starts? So as we bring people on, it's it's screening for that. But then as early as possible, pointing them towards the real problems our customers are having and the impact those can have. And then I don't know, I find it kind of takes care of itself after that.

A: No, I get that. Well, again, what I'm left with out of sharing that is we talked about internally as a company, your ability to if you're collaborating, you're working remotely, you're doing it effectively, you can solve problems internally, you can collaborate quickly. What I got out of the last thing you shared is customers have their problems come up faster. And when their constraints get removed, then it's like, okay, we're solving problems. They're having problems. And that's when innovation happens. Because everybody's able to meet the need and meet the demands. It's like with COVID, when you know, financial services, they're like, Oh dang, we've been doing this way for 100 years paper pen, you couldn't have an appointment. And in three months, they figured it out because they needed to. So being able to do that, I think is really cool. And I think it just opens up the door for a lot, a lot more. So I'm gonna switch gears a little bit, because I think we could talk about this forever. What's it been like, in your journey as either an employee or as a founder going through companies that have been acquired, merged? Like going through that kind of process, what is your past experience in your work before this company? And what were some good leadership lessons you took from it either challenging ones or positive ones?

M: Oh, man, that's such a good question. That's another one we could probably talk for the next 45 minutes on. There's a couple lessons. The first one for me is the lesson of the diversity of thought and a group of people coming together and working together and having better outcomes that come from that. Sounds obvious when you say it. That was definitely not always obvious, because it's a lot harder, right? You jump in and somebody says something, and you come from a completely different mindset and have a completely different set of experiences and you think this person doesn't understand anything they're doing when you realize like they're right and you're wrong later on. So you talk about being acquired and bringing companies together. I'll say - so I was with a company called ExactTarget. And we were, I don't know how many people were there when we were acquired.. 1500.. Apologies to the people who know the number, I'm probably off by hundreds and that. But we were acquired by Salesforce in 2013. ExactTarget was an incredible, incredible, incredible company who had an amazing set of leaders and an incredibly strong culture associated with it. Salesforce that everybody knows, amazing leaders, one of the most innovative companies in the world, every single year, with an incredibly strong culture and group of people Those cultures were completely, they were pretty opposite of each other when they came together. And look, I've been part of others where that comes together. And that doesn't go well. One thing that was common across both of them was the ability to work with other people and diversity of thought, and to be able to bring those two groups together and smash them together. And I mean, Salesforce acquired ExactTarget. So our culture eventually became like, into the Salesforce culture. But the magic that came when those two things came together, and then turned into this marketing cloud - a billion dollar business, was amazing. So that's one thing I've seen is just throughout the course of my career coming together, and ideas. Another one is a lesson that actually led me to say, Yeah, I want to start this company after we had the original problem. I've lived in Indianapolis for a long time, and work in tech and work on global teams, which means that I've spent three weeks probably out of every month for the last 10 years on a plane, in hotels away from my family and kids, eating what seems glamorous, but most the time pretty crappy food as you're traveling, and then the sardine cans of airplanes And I don't want to do that anymore. And now that, that learning of Gosh, that's really painful, as a human being to live like that, if we can solve that man, things are going to get really good. And we have an opportunity now. So I don't know, that's what kind of led me to this - want to devote myself to this anyway.

A: I love that. I mean, I, I know what it's like, you know, I've been facilitating strategic planning for 10 years, and we do the virtual sessions. And it only came out of COVID. Because everybody was like, hey, we need to do this in person. And I honestly prefer them virtually. I think that there's a lot more that can be done with it. So I'm on, on Team Filo here, because I think it's really cool. I think it has to be done right. Because you can have it and be crappy, right? You know, you got to have the right - like you said, You got to have the right visibility, structure and speed. And I think if those ingredients are there, I think a team can be successful. So it doesn't happen easily. It can happen easily. It has to happen intentionally, for teams to be successful. I'm still here, just my camera turns off sometimes.

M: Yeah, that's right. We had a real quick to add on to that. Sorry, we, we had a company we were talking to last week who was working on what the problem they originally brought to us. It was this company's team who brought it to us. It was we have a kickoff coming up, and this kickoff is our opportunity to inspire hundreds of people around the globe, to roll out new messaging to enable them together, but also getting them forming relationships with one another. Because if everybody's going to be resigning and looking for new jobs, things that really hold people there, their bonds with their teammates, right? So now we can connect people, we start talking about great if that's a problem, we can help solve that. Expertise software, figuring it out, gets raised up to executive team, and the executive team's immediate response is I don't really understand why we need to put any additional investment in this because we did an all hands Zoom meeting in the last quarter. And that seemed to go okay. And it's those, it's those that it's just like, alright, you know what, this probably isn't the right fit. We're going to go find people who can, and people are gonna have that mindset of hey, it's possible. Let's go and figure this out. And there are going to be ones that don't and that's okay, too.

A: Yeah, I think when you said that, I felt it in my bones. And so here's my the little bit I actually consult on the podcast and I'll say, Hey, folks, that are think that it's going to be just fine the way it is. I can see the future. And it might not hurt now, but it's gonna hurt soon. And so if you don't do anything in like, a year or two or three years, you might not feel it in a year, but you'll feel it in three years. And you're gonna wish that you listen to Matt, you listened to me today. If you're not listening to the podcast, you should subscribe now, by the way, but really, it's gonna hurt in the future. So you might as well get on it, but man I love what your company is doing. I think it's super cool. I'm excited to see more of it. Where can our listeners connect with you learn more about Filo and just follow around what you and your team are doing?

M: Yeah, appreciate you asking. So we're at it's Filo.co. You can head to our website, see what we do, reach out. I'm also on the normal social channels so I'm probably most active on Twitter at @comptonmc, find me reach out to me we'd love to have a conversation if these are things that you're struggling with. We love these problems. Bring a problem and let's see if we can solve it together.

A: Awesome. I love that. I imagine Compton MC is a pretty like highly desirable Twitter handle for everybody in the rap game. But anyways, I digress on that one. I wish I had a cool twitter handle.

M: I'm a farm boy from Indiana, I don't know.

A: Yeah, trust me on that one. I'll tell you some other people like it. But thank you so much for joining us. It's been a blast. I just really appreciated chatting it, so I look forward to the next time.

M: Thanks so much for having me.

A: Ladies and gentlemen, folks and people. My guest today, Matt Compton, who is the CEO and co-founder at Filo.co. Check him out. The online space is where it's going. And I encourage you to look at possible ways to increase your collaboration. So if you are looking to collaborate with your team, be sure to reach out to us, we'd be happy to facilitate your strategic planning session and help you move forward with your organization. But really subscribe to the podcast if you haven't yet. Share it with somebody on your team help them make that decision. And once again, my name is Anthony Taylor, this has been the Strategy & Leadership Podcast. Thanks so much for joining us and until next time!

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