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2022 was a year of growth for Vendasta. For our last episode of season 5, we invite Vendasta’s CEO and Co-Founder, Brendan King, to join George Leith for our annual Year in Review to discuss Artificial Intelligence Automation, Vendasta’s 15 years, Yesware’s acquisition, and many more.
Brendan has been named a winner of Canada’s Most Admired CEO™ Award by Waterstone Human Capital. Tune in as Brendan looks to his crystal ball to highlight how new businesses could expand, the implementation and use of technology, and the growth of Vendasta’s ecosystem using 3-steps.
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2022 Year in Review
George: This is the Conquer Local Podcast, a show about billion-dollar sales leaders, marketers leading local economic growth, and entrepreneurs that have created their dream organizations. They wanna share their secrets, giving you the distilled version of their extraordinary feats. Our hope is, with the tangible takeaways from each episode, you can rewire, rework and reimagine your business. I’m George Leith and on this special episode, we are very pleased to welcome Vendasta CEO and Co-Founder, Mr. Brendan King. Conquerors, if you’ve been tuning in for a while, you might be familiar with our annual tradition. We bring Mr. King, the CEO of Vendasta, into the final episode every year of the Conquer Local Podcast. Brendan will be bringing us his look into the crystal ball to see what’s coming in the new year. And we’ll also take a look at what might have happened in the last 12 months to get Brendan’s take on where the Vendasta ecosystem and platform sits as we move into 2023. Brendan King, CEO of Vendasta coming up next on the Conquer Local Podcast.
George: 250 episodes of the Conquer Local Podcast, we just did video. So Brendan, your first time on video on one of these shows. It is our annual year in review with the CEO.
Brendan: My face is not made for video.
George: My mom told me I had a face made for radio, a long time ago. Exciting to have you on the show. We’ll talk about some of your predictions that you made on last year’s year-ending episode in a few moments, but I’d like to hear a couple of things from you on talk trends.
Top Trends of 2023
Brendan: Okay, well, it’s great to be here. Let me tell you what there’s many trends out here to shape 2023, but the top 10 that come to mind are one, AI machine learning will continue to drive automation and efficiency, two, digital transformation will be even more important as businesses look to leverage technology to gain a competitive edge, three, cloud computing will become more commonplace and widely accepted, four, data will become the new currency as businesses look to leverage customer data to gain insights and make decisions, five, cybersecurity will become a bigger priority as businesses look to protect their data from malicious actors, six, omnichannel customer experience will be key as businesses look to provide a consistent experience across all channels, seven, augmented reality and virtual reality become more prevalent as businesses look to create immersive experiences for their customers, eight, block chain will become more mainstream and more widely adopted, nine, digital payments will become more popular as businesses look to offer customers more payment options and 10, the sharing economy will continue to grow as businesses look to capitalize on the gig economy.
George: Well, that’s a great list, Brendan. Are there any other trends you think will be important in 2023?
Brendan: Well, yeah, absolutely. To stay ahead of the curve in 2023, businesses should focus on digital transformation, leveraging customer data and leveraging new technologies to create a better customer experience. They should also focus on staying up-to-date with the latest trends and investing in new technology as it becomes available. But look, all of that, every single word that we just did was written by AI. So that’s why I normally wouldn’t talk that many times in a row with that many points, but all of that was written with AI. I didn’t have time for this podcast, so I…
George: Well, I was shocked that you came with a script and research.
Brendan: All I said was write a script for a podcast with Brendan King and George Leith from Vendasta talking about the top 10 trends for 2023 and all of that, every word was auto-generated. You went off-script a little bit, George. But had you stayed on script, it’s pretty darn good.
The Impact of AI and Automation
George: It’s amazing and so let’s back up a few weeks ago. You and I were at a conference and pretty much every presentation was about AI and the impact it was gonna have on what’s going on. So we’ve been hearing about AI for years, what’s different now?
Brendan: Well, really, it’s just the models have gotten to a point where they’re becoming useful. And so the content that’s being created is an index to drive that. It’s really about data. So one of the predictions here is that data will become the new currency as businesses look to leverage technology. So that technology of AI has always been there. What it needs is the data underneath to train and understand how to react. And so it’s really just hit the forefront. So it’s in the news everywhere, but it’s really a… This type of AI is just a part of the automation trend we talked about last year. People need to automate responses and this AI’s really taken it to the next level. I mean, look what was written on our behalf.
George: Well, and it’s amazing. I was using an AI assistant last year at this time called Writer and it was nowhere near this good. So you can just see how fast. So let’s talk about what you said last year. You’ve been doing these episodes for five years now. We’re gonna get into some of the growth of Vendasta in a moment, but you did highlight that automations everywhere was going to be the trend in 2022.
Brendan: Yeah, like always with Amara’s Law, technology is often underestimated in the short-term, or sorry, overestimated in the short-term and underestimated long-term. So everyone’s like, oh, automation, it’s gonna change everything and you don’t really see that change right away, but over the longer period of time, it really starts to make a change. And so you can see with the evolution of some of these things like this is GGP3Chat, it’s amazing. And so we are going to see a stepped-up increase this year in automations actually making people’s lives easier and better.
George: So that’s exciting. What future thoughts are you gonna share with our listeners? You always come with your crystal ball and Brendan, I gotta tell you, you’re usually right, by the way. What do you see happening in 2023 and beyond besides automations being easier and really being a part of our day-to-day life?
Brendan: Well, if we come back down to earth, nobody predicted COVID. I mean, it was a black swan event. And really when COVID happened, there was a lot of shifts and changes, especially in the technology industry where folks… There was a massive increase in the use of technology for a bunch of things. And now that people are coming back to normal, we’re seeing what I would say is a revision of the meme. So if you take almost every trend, the massive decrease at the very start of COVID back into the massive uptick in technology and spend all through 2020 and into 2021, and then now you’ve seen in 2022 that revision to the mean and everything’s just along the same trajectory as it always was. So you have to take that into context of what’s happening. So it might get easy for people to say, oh, automation, you know, technology, these things are not, they’re gonna slow down. They’re not slowing down, they’re just back to the mean and they’re gonna continue to grow and there’s many things that we’re gonna see.
Growth of Startups
George: I saw some data this week from Gordon Borrell and Corey Elliott at Burrell and Associates that there has been this massive growth of small businesses in the last six months. So coming out of COVID in North America, the phenomenon we’re seeing is lots of startups, new businesses that are starting. How is automation gonna play into that with this whole growth of new businesses and a lot of them have less than 10 employees?
Brendan: Yeah, let me tell you what I know. I don’t know for sure, but I’ll tell you what I do know for sure is that right now, we’re in a time with inflation. Everyone sees the inflation and increasing interest rates. That makes it harder on small businesses, there’s no doubt about it. What even makes it harder yet again is supply chain disruption, so you might not be able to get everything you need. And then on top of that, there’s the what people sometimes call the great resignation. There’s a lot of folks who don’t wanna do some of the jobs that need to be done. So even with high inflation and a looming recession, we still have jobless rates that are approaching. The unemployment rate is very, very low. And the reason it’s low is a lot of people have stepped outside of the workforce. And I’m trying to understand have they stepped outside of the workforce into some of these jobs, like Uber where they’re in the on-demand economy and we just don’t know, but they’re still working, or have they stepped out and are doing their own thing, like starting their own business, which is what I think has happened a lot. But those businesses in a tight labor market need to automate. And so this is what I’m saying is there’s going to be automation and efficiency needed for these guys to survive. And you know when someone’s faced with that challenge, they’ll find a way. And so that’s what I say, these small businesses will find a way, they’ll find a way to operate without the labor that they’ve traditionally had.
George: When I was doing the prep to get ready for the year-end episode, probably the episode I do the most prep on, I’m just saying that but I do remember four years ago when you talked about small businesses that have under five employees have more time than money, so they’re more prepared to do it themselves. Is that what we’re gonna see from this influx of people that have started new businesses where they’re gonna be… Plus, the technology’s there for them to be able to do it themselves.
Brendan: Right, and they’re digital natives. So in the past, the folks that owned businesses, they had not grown up with technology in their pocket. And so now we’ve got these folks that are starting businesses that are millennials, that are younger, that are familiar with technology. They’re doing things that most people in the industries that small businesses would never do. They’re shooting their own Instagram reels, they’re shooting their own TikToks, they’re doing podcasts. They’re able to run a cash register till. All of that said, though, when you are a small business and you’re really into, you’re a woodworker, say, you’re only practicing your craft a third of the time, if it doesn’t make sense, you’re gonna pay somebody else to do it. And if things are complicated and getting more complicated, you wanna make sure that it’s done well. So small businesses that are successful are always going to find outside service providers particularly in technology and services to do that work for them.
George: One thing we should talk about moving into 2023, congratulations,15 years for Vendasta. And I had the privilege of celebrating my tenth anniversary this past year. So I got nostalgic and was thinking back to the moment you and I went for lunch and we were discussing what your vision was. And you talked about building a long-live tech company right here in the Prairies. And now I hear you still using that as what your goal is, but I hear this slogan of democratizing technology for local businesses. Is that where you’re seeing things moving as far as Vendasta moves into the next 15 years?
Brendan: I think we’ve always, I’ve always had a soft spot for small businesses because ever since I know you know my degree’s in physics and I worked at a mining company, but for a short time, I always had a business while I was doing that. I left that company to run my own small business. I’ve seen the struggles of small businesses. And even though I’m a technology guy, I know how hard it is to implement and use technology as a small business and how difficult it can be. So the goal has always been to make technology and when I say democratize, to me that just means easy, accessible, and affordable. And that’s what we’re trying to do. So the big guys, they can afford to have that technology infrastructure if you’re a large chain or a franchise or a big brand, but a little guy can’t. And I think driving that technology down to them is a good thing if you believe that the lifeblood of the world’s economy is local business. And we really do and that’s why we get up every day to help small businesses succeed. But it’s also a lucrative thing, it’s where the market is. So it’s not just that it’s our core purpose, which it is to help those local businesses succeed, but it’s the right thing, not only is it the right thing to do, it’s the right economic thing to do for Vendasta.
George: When we met a year ago, there was a celebration. We even had a dual episode with Sandy Lohr. The MatchCraft acquisition had occurred right around the time we were recording. And now here we are in 2022 and we’re recording right around the time where you’ve done another acquisition, which is Yesware. And I’d like to understand how you see Yesware fitting into the Vendasta ecosystem.
Brendan: Yeah, so Yesware is a fantastic company that we’ve used since I think 2016 is when Vendasta, our sales team started to use Yesware as a sales enablement tool. And so as we’ve used that tool and as our platform has evolved, one of the main things that we wanna do is be a CRM to connect those vendors and products and services with the small business and with the technology expert. And building that CRM is no easy task. And we’ve taken some of the best-in-class tools that are out there, like Yesware and it’s going to help us to accelerate our technology road map a couple, three years and let us move faster. And there’s a lot of subject matter expertise there, a lot of talent there. We couldn’t be more excited that Yesware is part of Vendasta.
George: So one of the challenges that we’ve always had is what does Vendasta do? And Vendasta does a lot, that’s why it’s a challenge to explain that. Do you see that getting easier to explain as the company matures?
Brendan: You know, it’s difficult because we’re a three-sided marketplace and those things don’t generally exist. And what that means is products and services that vendors have that they need to get to small businesses and they have a hard time to do that economically. And then you’ve got the small business who doesn’t even know what technology to use. And then you’ve got these channel partner experts or trusted experts that actually help the small business. All three of those things have never worked before. What we are is the way that software and services get delivered to local businesses. We’re that ecosystem and that’s not an easy thing to explain. From the point of view of any one participant, it’s easy. For a vendor, its products and services, it’s just massive distribution. For a channel partner, it’s a platform to scale and grow and sell any product they need to. And for the small businesses, it’s a way to buy all their technology from one trusted provider with one login and one password. So from each perspective, it’s easy, but to describe the ecosystem sometimes can be a little difficult.
3 Steps to Grow
George: If we look back 12 months to today, how is your role evolving as the CEO now of a 750-person company as opposed to where we were a year ago?
Brendan: Well, it’s different. When I think about what I can do, I can’t contribute as an individual contributor. It actually has been a long time since I’ve been able to be an individual contributor. Really, there’s only three things that I can do. One is I can provide the company with all the resources it needs to grow. So I can make sure we’ve got enough money, I can make sure we’ve got all the resources. The second thing I do is build the team. Now, I can’t really do anything myself, but I can build a fantastic team who’s been there, done that and is much better than I am at any individual thing. So I build a great team. And then the last thing and probably the most important thing is to provide organizational clarity and alignment. That means that everybody knows where they fit in the org and exactly what they’re doing, and everyone’s clear on our purpose, on our vision and our mission and can execute against that.
George: One thing that I hear from folks, we just had a bunch of our biggest customers and longest standing customers here at headquarters for a period of three days. And you made a statement to those customers and I’m gonna call it out. And you’ll know exactly where I’m going in a moment. And it is, “We ship our org structure.” And I’ve had those customers come back outside of that, going, “I need to pay more attention to the way that I’ve built the organization.” Why do you believe in that mantra so much?
Brendan: Conway’s Law? You know, it’s just that the way that you organize dictates what you’re optimizing for. So if you’re optimizing for efficiency, you organize one way and then you’re gonna get a very efficient organization. If you’re optimizing for customer service, you’re gonna organize around that and you’re gonna get a very customer-centric organization. So the way that you organize and whose ideas you follow, the way that the processes work, the way that the org delivers whatever it delivers is definitely based on the org structure. So I’m a big believer in Conway’s Law.
2022 Canada’s Most Admired CEO™ Award by Waterstone Human Capital
George: Most Admired CEO in Canada, an award that you were given here recently, plus the Find A Way Award earlier this year. I just bring it up ’cause I know that you don’t like talking about it. Congratulations on both those honors that you were given in this past year. It’s good to see you being recognized.
Brendan: Well, thank you and in both those cases, those aren’t things you apply for. So I take it and the folks who have won them before, I’m in good company there. So some of these awards are pay to play and we don’t participate in those. But these were good awards and I’m very appreciative and it’s really the team that’s helped me to achieve them.
George: Well, thanks for joining us for the annual year in review with Mr. Brendan King here on the Conquer Local Podcast.
Brendan: Good, thank you, George.
George: It was interesting to hear Brendan talk about automation and some of the things that we continue to see growing, that efficiency that organizations are looking for, using technology to augment the work that we’re doing. And it was interesting to hear from a CEO of a growing company the three things that Brendan could take care of, ensuring the organization has enough resources, ensuring that the team is in place and then aligning the organization around the goals that we’re trying to achieve. Always a pleasure having Brendan King, CEO and Co-Founder on the annual wrap-up edition of the Conquer Local Podcast. If you liked Brendan’s episode of the year in review, continue the conversation and check out our past episodes. 451, 2021 year in review or 400, new year, new season of the Conquer Local Podcast with Mr. Brendan King. My name is George Leith. Please leave us a review wherever you listen to your podcasts. And thanks for joining us this year and this past season on the Conquer Local Podcast. I’ll see you when I see you.