Joseph Fung is a serial entrepreneur who already had a passion for CSR and DEI when he co-founded his fifth company, Uvaro. As an organization offering tech sales training to individuals looking to break into the space, conversations around equitable hiring practices are inherent to its business model.
When asked to define DEI, though, Joseph offers a definition that goes beyond thinking about hiring practices. He looks at it from the perspective of globalization. Today, all organizations are inherently global. Customers aren’t just neighbors; they can be people from anywhere in the world. If you want to build a business that supports this diverse community of customers, DEI must be central to your work.
At Uvaro, Joseph identifies two secrets to success with respect to DEI initiatives: measuring early and being deliberate about hiring.
Joseph says it’s never too early to start tracking your DEI metrics. When an organization is thousands-strong, it’s difficult to correct any imbalances on the team. But when you begin measuring your DEI metrics from day one, you never reach a gross asymmetry in the first place.
Building a diverse team begins with removing biases from your hiring process. At Uvaro, the team has replaced the phrase “culture fit” with “culture add.” Rather than looking for someone to fit into the mold of what you envision as the right person for your culture, looking for a culture add asks, “What are we missing?”
This simple shift in mindset drives managers to create lists of the characteristics they’re looking for in a candidate, rather than trying to filter individuals out using the vague “culture fit” metric. Similarly, candidates feel as if they’re being invited in, rather than weeded out.
With respect to CSR, Joseph says it’s about making a positive impact on the world today. Some founders think of philanthropy as a “someday” activity—once they’ve reached success, then they can start giving back.
Joseph views it differently. He has incorporated that generosity into Uvaro’s day-to-day operation. The organization has joined the 1% pledge and is in the process of becoming a certified B Corp.
Uvaro also encourages its employees to think philanthropically. There is a payroll deduction plan, where employees can contribute to an endowment fund that is distributed to worthy charities each year. And the organization encourages the team to use at least two of their unlimited vacation days each year to volunteer. Finally, c-suite leaders are asked to sit on charity boards.
The benefits of embracing DEI and CSR are many. There are dozens of studies that extol the virtues of having a diverse workforce. But beyond that, investing in socially-minded work attracts the best employees and generates goodwill for your organization. And it’s about more than creating a warm and fuzzy feeling; positive word of mouth and a happy, motivated team have the power to drive real business growth.
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Rob Ristagno: Welcome to the CEO Campfire Chat, recorded live in front of a studio audience of leading executives. I’m your host, Rob Ristagno, and today I have the privilege of introducing you to Joseph Fung. He’s the founder of Uvaro and he’s a serial entrepreneur–has lots of great stuff to share with us. Welcome, Joseph.
Joseph Fung: Rob. Thanks for having me.
Rob Ristagno: Yeah, I’m really looking forward to our discussion today, talking to you I know that you’re going to have a lot of value to add to our audience. But before we jump into the matter at hand, let’s start this episode like we start all our episodes with a game of five questions.
Rob Ristagno: Why five instead of 20? Because CEOs do not have time for 20 questions. All right, here we go. Rapid-fire. Let’s see how quickly we can get through these.
Rob Ristagno: Questions number one, what is the 20 or 30-second elevator pitch for your company Uvaro?
Joseph Fung: Uvaro helps people launch more successful careers in tech, and we help companies build remarkably successful sales teams.
Rob Ristagno: Excellent. Number two, who are your ideal customers?
Joseph Fung: My ideal customers are professionals who maybe want a little bit more out of their career and would love to know how to get into the tech industry because we can help them do that.
Rob Ristagno: Excellent. And number three, what is your value proposition to them?
Joseph Fung: So we offer training, career coaching, and long-term success. And the part that’s remarkable is we align it to their goals because we don’t require tuition until they land their new role.
Rob Ristagno: Excellent. And number four, what’s the best part of being the CEO?
Joseph Fung: I get to hear all the amazing success stories. Every day I hear somebody saying that we’ve changed their lives, and I never realized how fulfilling that can be. That’s my personal joy.
Rob Ristagno: Nice, nice. And number five, what is the one thing that is going to make or break the next year for your company?
Joseph Fung: Our people. We raised a big round, we got to hire a lot of people. I got to make sure we don’t screw that up.
Rob Ristagno: Congrats.
Joseph Fung: Yeah, thank you. Thank you.
Rob Ristagno: I will say that. I can tell you’re good at what you do because you, just so the audience knows, Joseph does not get the questions in advance, so it’s impromptu and those are so precise answers. I’m really impressed. You clearly practice what you preach in terms of being very clear about what you do and who you serve and how you help them. So nicely done.
Joseph Fung: Thanks, Rob. We got CEOs on the line, right? We got to keep it short.
Rob Ristagno: That’s right. All right. So today’s topic, I think this will segue nicely into your point about it’s all about the people. Today we’re going to talk about the business case for DEI and CSR, and these are two related but different topics and they’re very hot right now. And I’ve seen a spectrum, CEOs that I talk with, or even have been on the show in the past. I see a spectrum.
Rob Ristagno: I think on one end you have the CEOs who are like, “Yeah, I kind of get it. This is checking the box. So I need to do this so if I’m not something’s wrong with me.” Then you kind of have some people who are like, “Hey, I’m so passionate about these topics. They’re the right things to do. I’m just going to do them because they’re the right thing to do. And we should have been doing these things forever.”
Rob Ristagno: And then you have a third flavor that I’ve seen is the, “Yes, we’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do. And this is actually a way for us to generate a competitive advantage for our company.” And I know Joseph, some of the stories you’ve told me before the call, I would say, you’re on that third bucket doing it because it’s the right thing to do and there’s a business benefit.
Rob Ristagno: So I hope that we can all learn more from you and be more inspired and help those box-checkers out there realize that this is not just a going through the motions thing, but something that makes a lot of business sense in addition to being a good thing to do. Before we dive in, just tell us how you define DEI and CSR?
Joseph Fung: For sure. So like you mentioned two different but related topics so I’ll tackle them a little separately. On the CSR side of things, I like to think about this especially when I’m talking to CEOs, in some pretty simple terms. How do we make sure we leave the world better than we found it?
Joseph Fung: And it’s so easy when we focus on building a great company to say, “Hey, we’ll take care of that later.” Like, “Hey great. When I’ve made a lot of money and I’ve exited, I’ll take care of my CSR. Hey, we’re larger and I can hire someone to do it. We’ll take care of it later.”
Joseph Fung: But how do we make sure that while we do our day-to-day work, we just leave things better than we found them is really for me, the core of CSR. Like, how do we be a good citizen in the community? And so a lot of what we do is anchored around that concept. Just how do we be a really good set of people, a good company, all that. The DEI side of things I say is actually much more salient to that question about ROI, competitive advantage.
Joseph Fung: The last year has really hammered that home. I’m not going to throw you a bunch of stats because the research is out and the conversations start like companies are more profitable, they’re more successful, make better decisions, juries are better. All of these things when you have a diverse set of opinions, if someone’s listening in and they don’t yet believe that there’s a ton of studies you can read. So let me put that to the side.
Joseph Fung: Really simply though, everyone talks about the world being global. And whether you talk about globalization or nationalization, the reality is we are now selling, supporting, interacting with people all over the world. Like we’re here on this amazing Zoom call. We’re not just sitting in the same room.
Rob Ristagno: Yeah.
Joseph Fung: And DEI is really about making this type of scalable conversation a sustainable thing. And if you don’t do this right, you’re setting up your culture, your processes, your systems for failure because this is not a one time temporary thing. This is a new norm. So we really have to take it to heart or else we can’t have people in Florida and Minneapolis and Europe and Asia, all on the same call building a great company. That’s really why we prioritize it. Otherwise, we can’t scale. We can’t succeed.
Rob Ristagno: Right, so this is not just a fad or something that’s passing. This is the future.
Joseph Fung: It is. It absolutely is. You’re no longer selling to your neighbors or the people in your church or the people in your kid’s little league team. You’re selling and supporting to people all over. And if you don’t have an inclusive perspective or an inclusive team, you just can’t do that as well as your competition.
Rob Ristagno: Makes sense. All right, let’s go deep. Let’s take one of these at a time, start with DEI and tell us a little bit about how you’ve addressed diversity and inclusion at Uvaro, your own company, and maybe some success stories that you’ve had there.
Joseph Fung: For sure. I think there’s really two things that we’ve done that have really worked and I should share, this has always been a strength for us through all of my companies. This is my sixth company. And we started very much from the perspective of, “Let’s do it because it’s the right thing.” And are now solidly in that, “We’ll do it because it’s the right thing. And it’s a big advantage.”
Joseph Fung: So a lot of bumps and bruises along the way. But if there’s two things that I told to us that we’ve done really well is measuring early. A lot of people, they get to the point where they say, “We’re a hundred people, we’re 200 people. We’re 2,000 people. 14% of our team are women or 20% are visible minorities. How do we move this?” And it’s so hard when you start from that point.
Joseph Fung: If you start measuring early, when you’re three people, when you’re five people, way easier. So no matter where you are, start measuring now. That will set you up for better success. What’s measured gets done. If you step on the scale in the morning, hey, measure your stats in the morning.
Joseph Fung: But the flip side is actually, this is the harder part, is being really deliberate and intentional about the way you hire and you train the way you hire. The biggest flaw that I see in organizations and I saw on my own is that we hire people, we hire managers who say, “I’m great at hiring.” There’s probably people on the call right now who are like, “I’m great at hiring. I bring on good people,” but how do you know? What do you measure? What do you look at?
Joseph Fung: And so often we don’t and one of the things that we’ve done–that’s hard, it’s a lot of work, but has moved the needle the most–is we make every hiring manager redesign their hiring processes for each new goal. A simple thing, but saying deliberately each step, what am I actually trying to evaluate for? Like, hey, if they’ve got to be really process-oriented, what’s my interview that measures that? If they need to be really analytical, what’s my interview process that measures that? It forces you to focus on the things that are actually most important.
Joseph Fung: And as a side effect, all of the other baggage falls away. You no longer start saying, “Oh, they’re going to be a better fit. I don’t know quite why, but they’re going to be better at this.” And it gets rid of all of that bias. One single thing, being super hyper focused on what you measure in the interview process makes everything else so much easier.
Rob Ristagno: Got it. And any tips for how people get started going down that journey?
Joseph Fung: Yeah. The framework that we use that we get started on that is we get all of our managers, all of our leaders to get rid of the phrase, “culture fit” and focus on the phrase “culture add.” So the first step of that is documenting what you have that you cherish, what are the shared values that we value, like this is what our culture is. And I mean, you probably have your values, you got your documented processes, but make sure you’ve got them and then it forces you to ask, “What are we missing?”
Joseph Fung: And the interesting thing is, as soon as you have a list of the things you’re missing, it forces you to start looking at candidates who you might not have looked at because you’re now keeping an eye out for the things that you haven’t had. And as soon as you have that idea of like, “Hey, what is this person going to bring to our culture? How are they going to add to our culture?” Your interview questions become way better because you say, “Hey, here’s the things I’m testing for. And now I’m looking for new characteristics.”
Joseph Fung: It sounds glib when I say it, but in many ways it takes care of itself, because people reciprocate. They can tell they’re no longer being filtered, they’re being invited in and it’s just so empowering.
Rob Ristagno: It sounds simple. So I like how you boiled that down. Great. Tell us a little bit more about anything else you’ve done at Uvaro to help on the DEI side before we shift over to CSR?
Joseph Fung: Sure. The things that I’m going to give, kind of like plus one/upvotes to, a lot of the best practices that people talk about. So it’s things like there’s a lot of free tools online where you can scan your job descriptions for gender biased language. Simple things like that and I mean, evidence are things like the cliche are the software development roles that say “we’re looking for a ninja, rockstar, high-intensity,” there’s a lot of research that these words attract more male candidates than female candidates.
Rob Ristagno: Yeah.
Joseph Fung: So I mean, yes. Review your language if you haven’t already.
Rob Ristagno: Yeah. I’ve heard “work hard, play hard” is code word for fraternity environment or something.
Joseph Fung: Totally. It is. It really is, so testing that. The second thing is actually being explicit. It’s really silly. Even just those simple things. Like we value a diverse workforce, just put it in the footer of your job descriptions. We highlight that in the bottom of all of our job descriptions and two thirds of the time a candidate will bring it up unsolicited, “Hey, I value the fact that you said you value diversity,” but so just saying it can bring that reality into existence.
Joseph Fung: So the second thing is like to actually talk about it. The third thing that’s really valuable is just bringing it into your dialogue. Literally, if your leaders talk about DEI, even if it’s saying, “Hey, we can do better at this,” and make that conversation a normal open conversation. It normalizes the topic. And if you’ve done all of those things that are hard lifting about being deliberate on your interviews, it becomes much easier.
Rob Ristagno: Those are three specific and actionable and practical things. So thanks for that. And just anything else you want to say on the ROI side, you mentioned there’s a much more direct connection between DEI and ROI, kind of what are some things that you’re seeing or some ways to measure it? If you’re needing to prove the case to someone.
Joseph Fung: The big thing I’d use for that, I mean, again, there’s all that, I’m going to apply to authority. There’s all the third party research that’s absolutely there. Let me now share anecdotes. So number one, I look at my own company, our top sales performers, our top developers don’t fit that stereotypical mold. Our top sales rep, super compassionate, introverted, soft spoken newcomer to the country, came out of hospitality. You know in all those cliches, it doesn’t look like the top sales rep is absolutely crushing it.
Joseph Fung: I look at our members. So these are folks who are going out and landing careers. A lot of the cliches for what makes successful salesperson is, I mean, these stereotypes are often they’re male, they’re tall, they’re extroverted. Maybe they did team sports while they were at college.
Joseph Fung: Two stats that jump out to me that I’m super proud of. When I look at our membership the average sales compensation of the women who graduate from our program is on average 6% higher than the men who are graduating from our program.
Rob Ristagno: Mm.
Joseph Fung: Flies in the face of convention. I mean, that tells me they are either dramatically performing better or they are better negotiators. Secondly, though, the people of color who are graduating from a program and on average are earning 4% more than our white graduates. Again, flies in the face of a lot of the conventions and all those things tell me that we can’t use the stereotypes as a proxy.
Joseph Fung: We really do need to find the right person and the right fit. And I think the reason we’re seeing that success is we talk a lot about find the right fit between the company, the selling motion, the person not just do they look like my other sales reps.
Rob Ristagno: Yeah and I think it was very helpful back to a few questions ago, but just, it sounded like two things. One is just, what are we missing? What’s that culture add. And then how are we very disciplined and rigorous and objective during the interview process to make sure that we’re testing for those exact things.
Rob Ristagno: To me it feels like that’s bigger than, I’ll say, traditional definition of diversity. It’s also diversity of skills and attitudes and other things which can only help.
Joseph Fung: It is, and it often distills to things like skin color and gender, because we can measure them, measuring things like diversity of thought and experience is super hard. So yeah, don’t beat yourself up if you can’t measure those things because there’s no easy way to do it.
Rob Ristagno: Good point. And what about you? I think you gave us the antidote, but one other thing I hear is in big companies, there’s so much time spent managing this and it sounds like the antidote to that was just start early. Any other thoughts on big companies who feel like, “Oh, it’s such a uphill battle, we’re overwhelmed.”
Joseph Fung: Start early is a big thing. In all honesty, I mean, I flip it a little bit. We spoke during our pre-interview call. You talk about that war on talent. And people talk about that right now. And I think one of the challenges that organizations tend to not distribute the responsibility like, “Hey talent, we have a recruiting department. Diversity, we have an HR department, or we have a diversity team.”
Joseph Fung: And what that does is that kind of acts like a get out of jail free card for frontline management. So starting early, but really highlighting that these things are a shared responsibility. So the way you hire, the way you engage your people, that’s what your management team really needs to be accountable for. And not just punting it off to being some other groups responsibility. And that comes from the top.
Joseph Fung: It’s like the CEO has to say, “Hey, frontline manager, director, VP, your bonus, your performance review, the dashboard you share, these things are important.” And that tends to be the harder process getting that top level buy-in that every manager is accountable.
Rob Ristagno: All right. Excellent. Let’s shift gears to CSR, tell us a little bit about what you’re doing there at Uvaro?
Joseph Fung: Oh, I love this question. So I mean, straight up cut me off at any point, because I personally, I love this stuff. I’ll share a bit about what we’re doing, but also why we’re doing it. Brass tacks, number one, we have a payroll deduction donation program. So every employee’s invited, on average, we are actually withholding 1.4% of our total payroll. It gets donated to an endowment fund. So we actually have a foundation that we’re building to ensure that even if we had a down year, if someone bought our company, there’s still an endowment that’s making a donation every single year.
Rob Ristagno: Wow.
Joseph Fung: I was like, how do we pay it forward? Second of all, we subscribe to the pledge 1%, we donated 1% of our company’s equity to a foundation. So yes, if we eventually have a liquidity event or exit or go public, they’ll get a big windfall. And we’ve earmarked that for diversity and inclusion organizations. So we also pledge our money.
Joseph Fung: We give of our time. So we have an unlimited PTO policy. So folks can take off as much as they want, but we usually offer guidance to take off at least two full days a year for volunteer time, more than that’s great, but that’s the guidance that we’re providing. On top of that we’re also giving of our product. So we deliver training, we run a $50,000 a year scholarship program. Right now we have two $25,000 programs, one for women getting into tech and one for women of color getting into tech. But that’s the full gamut.
Joseph Fung: And on top of that, the last thing is that we ask all of our executives to sit as volunteers on boards for charities. So the expectation is to be an executive, you also need to be a general contributor. Those are all the things that we’re doing, but there’s a lot and a lot to unpack. And I saw Jack, you have a question?
Audience Member: I have a question. It sounds great, especially I’m interested in the payroll deduction donation program to the endowment, but let’s say I’m an employee and I want to do that, so I sign up. To what extent do I know where the money’s going? Or what kind of communication is there about that or decision making about who or which organizations are benefiting?
Joseph Fung: Totally. So kind of two pieces to it. And number one, I’ll share what we’re doing, but in complete candor, I think that’s one of the things we can improve on. So I’ll share what we’re doing and where I think we can improve.
Joseph Fung: So in terms of the actual donation, first off, I never see who’s actually participated. So as people are onboarding, we deliberately designed how we tell people about it and we leave it to their choice. I’m really happy with where we are. I don’t actually know which people in my organization are participating. We did that specifically so that the executive team cannot offer any benefits, explicit or implicit, because of that. We really wanted to leave it up to people’s choice. So I don’t actually know. I only know the summary information.
Joseph Fung: The donation is going to a community foundation who takes a look at where do we want to impact the world? And every year they bring recommendations to us on where the proceeds from that endowment get donated. We have an internal committee that’s staffed by our employees. They make the final call, but we didn’t want to put them in the hot seat of making the choice on their own. The foundation acts as an advisory body. And sometimes we just take their recommendations. Sometimes we adjust the course action.
Joseph Fung: And every year, this is where I want to improve. Currently it’s part of our annual process to share where the selection, where the outcome was. We haven’t done as good a job at reporting monthly or quarterly. And our aspiration is to get this on the same dashboards as our other business metrics, we’ll get there.
Audience Member: Sounds good. So you’re in Toronto, is that like a Toronto community foundation or…
Joseph Fung: The organization we picked, we’re just outside of Toronto. So it’s specifically the Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation is the one who set it up for us. The reason we set it up the way we did though, is that it’s not a Kitchener and Waterloo focus, that endowment, yeah they’re running the administration of it. So I suppose in paperwork it’s underneath that entity, but it’s a charitable foundation, which means any charitable entity can be a recipient out of that.
Audience Member: Yeah, Okay.
Joseph Fung: So we had a partner do all the logistics and if anybody’s run a foundation it’s expensive, this lets us keep the cost low and ensure every dollar possible ends up doing good.
Audience Member: Great. I think community foundations are the way to go.
Joseph Fung: They are, they’re an underappreciated asset across Canada and the U.S.
Rob Ristagno: Let’s talk then a little bit more about CSR. Is it a recruiting tool, a retention tool? How is this driving–besides societal good–what’s in it for the company, for those box-checkers out there?
Joseph Fung: Yeah. So there’s a little bit, the first one I’ll say is it is very much about just doing the right thing. I said this is personal, so this is my soapbox. One of the things I always get really stressed about is the fact that we have a huge shift in the way philanthropy is running in our countries. We’ve got a lot of baby boomers, a lot of people aging, if you look at where donations are coming from, it’s by and large coming out of the pockets of people who are retiring.
Joseph Fung: And especially with rapidly growing tech companies, there’s this whole cohort of tech founders who don’t see philanthropy as an obligation. And I think that’s setting up a lot of sectors of our society up for failure. So I think we do have an obligation to help fix that. So for any CEOs who are on the fence, there’s my soapbox piece.
Joseph Fung: On the ROI side of things though, unequivocally it impacts retention and attraction. You know, I’ll give you some benchmarks for example, we just did this. These numbers are fresh, like 24 hours old. We’re looking at our quarterly results. In our industry, the average time to fill a role is 42 days. Our average has been 35.
Rob Ristagno: All right.
Joseph Fung: Leave it right there.
Rob Ristagno: Wow.
Joseph Fung: Time to effort, cost a year. Yeah, we’re really happy with that. Our average spend in our industry, the average recruitment advertising spend is over four grand a role. Our average has been about $800.
Rob Ristagno: Wow.
Joseph Fung: So I mean some great ROI stats in there. The second thing that we’ve seen though, is from a PR perspective, how people talk about our company, it’s that goodwill bucket, the more you deposit, the more you can weather a negative storm. And the reality is every business is one bad issue away from a PR disaster. And in many ways we see this as making deposits into the bucket. That’s why in our latest round, we didn’t just give everybody their pro ratas, we got our elbows out and carved out some room for an impact fund to invest.
Joseph Fung: We’re kicking off the process of our B Corp certification. These aren’t huge endeavors, but each little piece kind of buys us goodwill, not just with our market, but with our employees. And we see that not just in recruiting, but in our performance reviews, our retention, our comp plans as we look at how our salary bands are changing. Employees don’t lie when they say, “Hey, I look at the total compensation package.”
Joseph Fung: The impact of a company is part of the total compensation. It’s like, how are they making a difference? And so there’s so many ways to measure the positive ROI.
Rob Ristagno: Excellent. We’ve talked a little bit about how DEI and CSR are not trendy things that are an idea of the moment, they’re here forever. They’re changing business forever, but prognosticating a little bit. Where do you see these two trends going? What’s next? What’s the future have in store for us?
Joseph Fung: What I love on the CSR front is I think the journey’s a little bit more linear. We’re really lucky in that we do see a few companies putting more effort in right now on the tech front. My only concern is we’re seeing it at the founder level. Like you see the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Microsoft is actually very philanthropic as well. So I shouldn’t rag them.
Joseph Fung: We take a look at Facebook, we see the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation. We look take a look at Amazon. You know, we see the CEO and his ex-wife, we don’t see Amazon as much. Where I struggle is that historically the big corporate donors have been oil and gas and financial institutions. Like there’s a big opportunity for tech to step up. And we’re starting to see that whether people talk about the tech clash or big tech or whatever, I think there’s a lot of pressure on tech-enabled companies to be better corporate citizens.
Joseph Fung: And so I think like it’s that… what is it? A row well-hoed or hewn or whatever it is, like that journey is going to happen. The DEI side I find very interesting because it’s so tied up into today’s political and societal conversations. And I hear a lot of CEOs like in my peer groups and our company say, “I just don’t want to talk about these things.” There’s no good way to talk about them. I don’t want to put a black square on my Instagram profile. I don’t want to put out a word of support. I don’t want to change the color of our icons because there’s no way to win this. It’s just causing trouble.
Joseph Fung: And my answer to that is I think there’s a difference, a subtle but important difference, between addressing an issue your people care about, and that’s different, very different than lobbying and being an activist. A company doesn’t need to be an activist. And in many regards, those signaling activities, changing your logo, putting a black square up on your icon, all these things, those are activism. Those are, “I want to change the world. My company wants to change the world.” You don’t have to do that.
Joseph Fung: We choose to do that in some arenas, we don’t in others. But I think that’s a very different thing than addressing topics that are painful for your people. Like if you were in an area that was just hit by a tornado, and they’re worried for the safety of their loved ones, you would address that with your team. If your people are in an area that’s experiencing riots for a totally different topic, you should still address that with your team.
Joseph Fung: I think right now where we’re struggling is that the voices who are advocating for DEI initiatives in many regards are advocating for an advocacy position and losing, unfortunately, as a side effect, losing the whole address problems side of it. And I think CEOs need to separate those.
Rob Ristagno: Makes a lot of sense. It almost feels to me like the advocacy, if you’re doing advocacy stuff, but you don’t really believe in it, that’s where I think we’re getting this box-checker problem. So you can just focus on kind of solving problems. I think that’s the way to-
Joseph Fung: Totally do both.
Rob Ristagno: Yeah. Great.
Audience Member: I have another question. And that has to do with, you mentioned just raising a round. In your discussions with different firms, different VC firms or investors, what do you see in terms of their interest in these topics? Is it high on some people’s list? Not even on others, is it generally… and you’ve done this before. So compared to five companies ago, or three companies ago, what have you seen?
Joseph Fung: So the interesting one is I’ve seen way more impact funds. So funds who say this is part of our investment thesis. We’re looking for an additional piece of impact. There’s way, way more funds out there. The challenge is that there’s a lot of funds that are systemically slow. They’ll often say, “Hey, in order to do this, we have another investment committee that reviews impact,” and they meet monthly or they meet quarterly. So now they just can’t move quickly.
Joseph Fung: I think there’s still a little work there to happen, but there’s way more of them, which is really great. If you’re looking for impact-specific investors, there’s a lot of options. Everyone else, things haven’t changed too much. The one thing that has changed is like with our last company, when we were out raising, there was always a few investors around the table you could see in their eyes that skepticism, the eyebrow raises. Are they thinking about the right things?
Joseph Fung: And now that almost never comes up, there’s a tacit acknowledgement that, well, these are things we have to have an opinion on. Even if we don’t think it’s as important, we have to an opinion. And it’s okay that our founders do. And the part that’s been really interesting is there’s a lot of funds who say they want to invest in companies that have an impact, but they haven’t actually operationalized for themselves, how do they want to measure that? How do they know if it’s working or not.
Joseph Fung: So the one cautionary comment is there is a number of impact oriented funds who themselves are getting lambasted for virtue signaling. Like, “Hey, we’re a women in tech fund, but we don’t actually have as many women CEOs as we might want,” or we want to be an environmentally impact fund and we can’t quantify the actual carbon impact and I think there’s a challenge around the governance of impact investing that still hasn’t been solved yet.
Joseph Fung: So by and large the fundraising process hasn’t really changed. I think the one thing that I still get surprised at is how many founders think it’s going to be a big deal. When we set up our foundation, we started off with a donation from the company. We’re doing a payroll withdrawal process and we’re evaluating how much we want to match or not. And I have never, not once, ever had an investor say, “Hey, is that the right way we’re using our money?” Or like, “Hey, maybe you want to use less of that.”
Joseph Fung: Like, no, let’s do the ROI analysis, let’s assess it. Totally let’s do it. But I hear a lot of founders go, “Oh, it’s someone else’s money. Am I stewarding it right?” And I think a lot of early founders in particular make it a bigger deal than it actually is.
Audience Member: I have one question for you, kind of jumping back to the DEI conversation and how leaders address the issues. So I think it’s a great point, right? To address the problem versus trying to step into advocacy or fully step into advocacy, but people are nervous and they’re nervous to jump into the conversation and talk about it. So what advice do you have for those people who are just a little too scared that they might be criticized if they say the wrong thing?
Joseph Fung: Yes. It’s a really good comment. I mean, a large part of it, I say this knowing it’s not an easy thing for some people to hear. The folks who are the biggest advocates for DEI initiatives sometimes have the most work to do around empathizing. And I’ll share a really good example that my team experienced recently, we experiment with different facilitators and workshops and training sessions. We run quarterly DEI-focused sessions so we’re always bringing in different speakers.
Joseph Fung: One of our first ones was recommended to us as someone who provided really good framework for everyone. And they came in and I mean, the punchline is like, we were aghast as a founding team, like straight up. During the session, they effectively read through slides like what was verbatim on there. It effectively was an hour of reading definitions. Like the LGBTQ2 plus what all of this in here, here’s what the outline is, here’s what the… like all of these…
Joseph Fung: And as a founding team who really wanted to make sure we were leveling up our team and we had a number of people who cared a lot about it, we felt like we really let them down. Like behind the scenes, we’re chatting like, “Oh my goodness, this is terrible. We’re going to have to do damage control. We’ll have to set up a survey.”
Joseph Fung: And I’m really glad, I’m really happy that one of our founders said, well, “Let’s check that assumption and let’s just actually send out a survey and ask.” Say, “Hey, we’re going to get some feedback.” We’re going to learn and incorporate that into the next one. The really interesting thing that we picked up was on the range of feedback. Yes. We had some people who said, “I didn’t get anything at all. This wasn’t good use of time.” We had a surprising number of people who said, “I’ve got exceptional value out of it, I learned something new and I can apply it right away.”
Joseph Fung: And we realized even as a company who prioritizes this and talks about it all the time, we had a huge array of people who are at different points in their journey.
Audience Member: Yeah.
Joseph Fung: And remembering for ourselves, as opposed to just being cringe-worthy and apologetic and assuming it wasn’t going to be well received. We realized actually sometimes hitting some of those fundamentals, bringing everybody along the journey, they’re all at a different point in their journey. And how can we advocate for diversity and inclusion if we don’t actually do that with our own people’s journey?
Joseph Fung: And so that’s where I actually started being really open and okay with the fact that every individuals on their journey, and if you can offer that kind of empathy, as a leader in a company, it brings the threat level down a lot for the organization. And so now we try to do the same thing of lead by example, we try to share whenever a new piece is shared that we learn something new, we highlight it.
Joseph Fung: It’s super hard as a leader to eat that piece of humble pie in an open environment. We’ll talk about words that we learned had certain overtones so we shouldn’t use them, or concepts that we didn’t know were bad, or using a word that we shouldn’t have and acknowledging that openly. And if you can be vulnerable, your team can be as well.
Audience Member: Thank you.
Rob Ristagno: What about, let’s talk about Uvaro for a second here. Just thank you so much for sharing your insights on these two important topics, but we didn’t get to hear too much, except for in the intro, about your business. So just wanted to give you a chance to tell us a little bit, you just mentioned, you raised a bunch of money, you’re looking to grow. Tell us a little bit about what’s the future for your company.
Joseph Fung: For sure. I suppose the kind of info card stats are always important. We’re still fairly early. We’re 40 people. We just raised a 12 million dollar Series A. The company’s about two years old so having a real blast. We founded it right before COVID hit. I think we were a quarter in, and then we shut down and sent everybody home.
Rob Ristagno: Yeah.
Joseph Fung: And interestingly enough, it accelerated the business. So that’s where we’re sitting right now. Our team is very distributed. We do have about a third of our team that’s in our geographic area, but we have folks as far as Vietnam, Florida, India, Cameroon–all over.
Joseph Fung: But the part that’s been really interesting is we started the company originally with a different company name, a different product, a different area. We built software to make sales teams productive. Half of our deals came from sales trainers. Companies would buy our software, but also sales trainers would deliver training and leave our software behind.
Joseph Fung: And the part that was so interesting was our customers, our best customers, the ones who bought the most software, they gave us the best reviews. They were buying more. They were also spending a lot on training and complaining a lot about the quality of their talent. And that’s when we really realized we can’t solve this with just software.
Joseph Fung: And so we launched an academy, we opened it up to the public, our very first class we had 800 applicants. Now we get about 4,000 applicants every month.
Rob Ristagno: Wow.
Joseph Fung: We deliver training, coaching, we introduce them to those same tech companies. And we charge tuition when people land a new role.
Rob Ristagno: Wow. Great business model too.
Audience Member: Do you still have the software product?
Joseph Fung: We do. We’ve actually pivoted to be a completely free platform. So companies use our tool to deliver sales playbooks to their team. And yes, we use that as lead gen for employers so that our students can land roles.
Audience Member: That’s great.
Joseph Fung: And it’s funny, I look back at it now and it looks like this amazing thing that hooks all together, but it really was just that natural entrepreneurial journey of follow the bright white light of delivering solutions and we ended up in a really good spot.
Rob Ristagno: I love hearing stories like that. All right. You ready for the big challenge, the Campfire Game?
Joseph Fung: Ooh, giddy up.
Rob Ristagno: We have five trivia questions for you. You’re all about tech sales training. So these are questions about sales. Are you ready?
Joseph Fung: Yeah, I’m so excited.
Rob Ristagno: Alright and our source for all of this by the way is HubSpot. So let’s see. First question.
Rob Ristagno: Only 17% of salespeople think that they’re pushy. Within 10 percentage points, what percentage of prospects think that salespeople are pushy?
Joseph Fung: Mm oh, the source is HubSpot. So think about their customers. I’m going to go with 70.
Rob Ristagno: Ooh, overshot a little bit. 50%. 50%.
Joseph Fung: Oh, there we go. Okay.
Rob Ristagno: What do salespeople think is the most challenging part of the sales process?
Joseph Fung: Oh, this one’s really tough. I know what our customers are saying. Think about HubSpot’s. I suppose it’s on the marketing side. I’m going to go with finding new leads.
Rob Ristagno: That’s right. Actually number one answer 40%, followed by closing at 36% and qualifying at 22%.
Joseph Fung: So from our audience, I would’ve pegged qualify as the top one.
Rob Ristagno: Ah hah, yeah.
Joseph Fung: Most of the companies that we see with that ends up being where they’ve got the most challenges. And if they solve that, the lead sourcing ends up taking care of itself.
Rob Ristagno: Yeah. You’re right. It’s all about being precise with who you’re going after. Right?
Joseph Fung: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Rob Ristagno: Okay. Question number three.
Rob Ristagno: What percentage of sales goes to the first vendor that responds? So if I’m in the market to buy something, what percentage of the time do I just buy from the first person who writes back to me?
Joseph Fung: 80%.
Rob Ristagno: 50%, yeah.
Joseph Fung: Oh, there we go.
Rob Ristagno: Okay. So there was this A/B test done here. Should you start a cold call with, “Did I catch you at a bad time?” Or, “How are you?”
Joseph Fung: How are you.
Rob Ristagno: That’s right. “How are you?” Is 3.4 times more likely to lead to an appointment. And last one, what is the average open rate for a cold sales email?
Joseph Fung: Ooh. With or without video?
Rob Ristagno: No video.
Joseph Fung: Oh, pretty low. I think it’s about 5%.
Rob Ristagno: HubSpot maybe they’re pushing their platform. They’re saying 24%.
Joseph Fung: Interesting. I think that might be with their video stats. I saw the CMO at HubSpot talk about how video lifted their open rates up over 20%. And that might be an interesting bit that they’re not highlighting there. That’s cool. Thank you.
Rob Ristagno: Anyways. All right, well thank you so much. If people want to learn more about you or Uvaro or anything, how can they get in touch or learn more?
Joseph Fung: You can always hit us up on our website, uvaro.com and I’m on most social networks, hit me up, josephfung, all one word, whether it’s Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, happy to connect.
Rob Ristagno: Thank you. Once again, Joseph Fung for an extremely stimulating conversation, very practical takeaways. And I think we all learned a lot. That will conclude things for this episode of the CEO Campfire Chat. This is Rob Ristagno. For prior episodes and bonus content, be sure to check out ceocampfirechat.com. See you next time around the fire.