Episodes > Season 3 Episode 2

Growing an agency relationship with The Stable

Doug Hollinger, VP of Strategy @ The Stable

What's in this episode?

On this episode we’re chatting with Doug Hollinger, VP of Strategy at The Stable, which has since been acquired by The Stable.

For our first agency episode in 2022, we completely tear down the value prop of working with an agency and how and why finding the right agency partner is crucial to growth.

We also chat about why subscriptions are so valuable in today’s ecommerce, as well as how to scale your subscriptions program, ending with a look forward and a few predictions for ecommerce trends in 2022.

So let’s get started!

Connect with Doug on LinkedIn. Check out BVA.

Episode transcript

Chase Alderton: Welcome to Hit Subscribe, a podcast by Recharge created to educate, inspire, and connect the subscription commerce space. I'm your host Chase Alderton. On this episode, we're chatting with Doug Hollinger, VP of Strategy at BVA, a leading Shopify and DTC agency that has since been acquired by The Stable, a commerce agency known for bringing some of the world’s most exciting brands into major retailers.

For our first agency episode in 2022, we completely tear down the value prop of working with an agency and discover how and why finding the right agency partner is crucial to growth. We also chat about why subscriptions are so valuable in today's ecommerce as well as how to scale your subscriptions program ending with a look forward and a few predictions for e-commerce trends in 2022.

So let's get started, Doug. Thank you so much for joining us,

Doug Hollinger: Pleased to be here, chase. Thanks for Inviting me.

Chase Alderton: So give us a little bit of information about yourself and about BVA.

Doug Hollinger: I'm the VP of strategy at BVA. I've been here, it'll be two years in February, so right before COVID and all that. So that was, that was fun. Um, I basically at BVA owned two groups, the strategists who clients on retainer a lot basically to grow their businesses online. And then of course that's backed up and, and driven a lot by the data and analytics. So they're, they're go nicely together. Um, BVA, you know, is a full service Shopify oriented agency. So we do everything from performance marketing, you know, helping customers with customer acquisition all the way through, through building their solutions and, and UX UI design work, um, and again, all the way through to helping them grow their business going forward. So a lot of our work is I would say 70% of our work is on retainer and then the rest of it's, you know, kind of build projects, launching new websites and that kind of stuff.

Chase Alderton: Perfect. Appreciate the intro. And then I think that there's one other thing we gotta tackle right before we hop in. There was a press release that went out recently, but I'll let you take the announcement. So go ahead.

Doug Hollinger: Yes. So, BVA was just recently acquired along with Zehner who competes with us in that space in a, in a friendly way, um, by the stable. So, we're real excited about that. We are kind of it's, it's new to all of us, but we're kind of working on the integration planning so that we can jump into Q1 and, and hit the ground running, but we're real excited about what Zehner, offers and, and melding in with us.

There's actually not a horrible amount of overlap and, and, you know, everybody's keeping their jobs and all that good stuff, married in with what the stable already does working with, um, large marketplaces like Amazon and, and target as well as kind of helping people with omnichannel commerce. We're really excited about kind of this unique, um, entity that they're building. So I'm, I'm excited. My team's excited and, and we're gonna see what the new year brings.

Chase Alderton: So huge congrats to you and everyone BVA and Zehner, two of my favorite agencies to work with. You hit that on the head though, Omnichannel is one of those kind of buzzword that it's hard to really define, but a lot of people are talking about this. And I think as, as you move into this acquisition, BVA, Zehner and The Stable, all kind of having different, different specializations really brings you the best of, of all of the worlds that are out there. And that's kind of what the point of omnichannel is.

Doug Hollinger: Yeah, absolutely. Because sometimes, you know, you're working a lot on, on online and people say, Hey, I want help going into a target. I need another strategy. You kind of have to hand 'em off all the time. So again, you got the expertise across all of those things now. And I think it's exciting even for us internally just to expand our own knowledge and, and sort of get really creative about helping customers regardless of where their, where their customers shop and, and how they shop.

Chase Alderton: So we're leading right into the, into the topic today, which we're gonna start with kind of this idea of how to find the right agency partner um, and so you just, again, kind of nail in it right before you, I can even get into it, which is that a lot of times agencies are really specialized, which is a good thing because they they're really, really deep in a certain field. But as you kind of look at, you know, how do we do CPG? How do we do DTC? Do we want to get into like a Target or Walmart, something like that. Those are all different specializations. So I guess I'll just ask the broad question. How do you find the right agency partner? Is that a mix of let's find someone giant? Is it a mix of let's find a specialization? How do you think about that?

Doug Hollinger: Yeah, and I think with a lot of things — I consulted a long time. I think the answer depends. I think it is built on relationship. Um, and so if you're somebody that likes to, like you said, get the, the best from each thing, like you go to a restaurant, I only eat this thing here and this thing here, um, then you know, that's fine, but that puts a lot of pressure on you as the business to integrate all of that. And if there are handoffs or places where these things rub together, you've gotta figure out, you know, where the problem is or, or where the opportunities or the gaps are. So that puts a lot of onus on you as the business. I think one advantage to, to going with somebody's a little more broad base and, and offers a range of services.

Assuming those services fit your needs is, is you have the ability to sort of tie things together and, and work with sort of one person or one, one group, right. That can, that can really get to know your business and, and supply things across. So again, assuming they've got talent across all those areas and all of that, but I think, um, you know, this all boils down to just like any business. It's about relationships. It's about, um, being able to adapt over time. So I think the answer you have this year, you know, if you're a $2 million business, DTC business and you start scaling and you get to be 50 or a hundred million, your needs are gonna shift as well. So, um, you may need to change your partnerships to scale with you if they can't handle it or you may need to have different expectations.

Doug Hollinger: So part of it is just looking at yourself honestly and saying, how much handholding do I need? Where are my strengths? What do I want to own? What are you gonna do? It's just like at home, are you gonna divvy up the, the, the chores or the tasks or what have you, and that needs to be a good fit. And then, um, we do this with our own clients, sometimes implicitly, sometimes explicitly, you know, where are you in your life cycle of growth? Where are you, um, in terms of your needs. And in some cases, it makes sense to hand back things to them a as they scale and they wanna start driving the engine themselves. And so you have to be adaptable as well and not just, um, you know, try to tie people to you where they can't get out of things or, or give them proprietary solutions. They can't get help with, from anybody else. I think you, you wanna find a partner that's got your best interest in mind and then is very, um, willing to talk with you about those things on a regular basis and, and make sure it's working for everybody

Chase Alderton: The best answers to any question always start with “it depends”, which is frustrating, but also great because that means that you're actually caring about individual businesses, because someone who sells socks on subscription is a lot different than someone who does a meal delivery kit. It's totally different verticals, totally different sales, totally different target audience. So, um, you're right in that it is totally different in that every unique piece changes. And it depends on, on a lot of different features. When we talk about onboarding, what are some of these pros and cons to where, you know, a merchant may actually find a dev partner that they like find an agency partner. That's great. Fantastic. If you're looking for a bigger agency that maybe has five or so six different offerings versus a, a single offering, is it just time based? Like where, where is the value here in, in onboarding? How long does that process take?

Doug Hollinger: Yeah, for us, in most cases in onboarding, I would say formally, or the way we'd say is probably three to four weeks, because we're gonna come in and we're gonna across all, all these, um, parts of your business. We're gonna want to peel back the covers or look, look underneath and see what's there. Right? So we'll do some audits. We'll do some questions with you. We'll sit down and ask you strategic questions. What are you trying to drive toward? Because everything we do should be based on an outcome that could be measured, an outcome that we all agree on. So we have to set the sign post out there, or, or the end, right. It's just like a GPS. If I don't know where I'm going, then yeah. I have a hundred different routes, but I don't know if it's working.

So a lot of that is just setting the groundwork. So we have a baseline of understanding about the business. We get to know you and acclimate, you get to know the team. And then we basically, um, you know, go from there and build an initial set of plans and, and a roadmap and, and then execute against it. I think that onboarding though, like I said before, it never really stops. So I think it, it often takes maybe six months for people to get really acclimated to a partner. Um, and, and the partner really understand your business because, um, especially if it a newer subscription client, for example, they, they may not have enough data for us to sort of see patterns or see where there's an obvious gap. And so I think, again, that it does depend on kind of the history of your business.

Doug Hollinger: If this is something new to you, is this something that's core to your offering, um, versus something that you're, you're kind of dipping your toe in? So, um, you know, we try to get it all up front though, and, and set the expectation. It maybe takes up to a month for the, for us to really get under there, understand everything, talk amongst ourselves about how this fits together and then come back with, with you know, kind of an action plan. But then again, I think you want to, you wanna revisit this at least on a quarterly basis, um, because the business itself is gonna shift opportunities, come up and then kind of do a little mini discovery or a little mini re-intro, um, all the time and not, not pretend you know, everything.

Chase Alderton: So let's double tap on that. So then, so what are success look like? Is it, is it duration of projects? Is it how long a merchant will stay signed within agency is a retainer? What, what does success look like? Not, not from like a merchant KPI, but how does, how does maybe a merchant determine like this relationship is successful?

Doug Hollinger: Yeah, I think it goes back to, again, is this a fit for what I need and does this, does this vendor understand what I'm trying to do and bring some value where I don't have to drive everything if all we're doing is like a short order, cook taking orders for fries over and over again. That's not really a lot of value, right?

So I think part of it is, um, culture fit. Part of it is, um, again, those range of services that, that fit your needs. It's at a price point you can afford it's in the right, you know, geolocation, for example, people are available, but again, um, it's also your ability to scale with that business. And so it shouldn't be something we have to sort of swap out an agency every six to 12 months.

That's really, again, then you got new people learning all the time. You're gonna lose things in translation agencies. Don't always hand off to each other smoothly and let's just call it what it is. Yep. So I think, um, or you have people that build in stuff to try to make themselves indispensable, and now you gotta untie those knots. So again, I think you want to find a partner that can scale with you. It doesn't mean you have to know what's coming and then, you know, nobody right now can look past 12, 18 months with any accuracy, if even 12, 18 or 12 months is that's, that's aggressive, right? You have a plan and then you, and you write it in pencil or sticky notes. Right. Um, and, and that's one thing we look for and try to talk to clients about too, is resiliency and, and adapt adaptiveness. So you wanna an agency, they can do that as, as well, but also be honest about where their, where they kind of run out their own rope. What are things that we're not as good at, or maybe we need to evolve with you? What are some things that you need to go find another partner and the, and maybe we all work together. So I think finding somebody that also has an ability to, to talk honestly, and forthrightly about what they do well, what they, don't, where you can learn stuff together. And if it's something that, that you trust them on, and again, I think you can help grow together in a way that that's beneficial to everybody.

Chase Alderton: I like to break things down into really simple terms. Is, is it fair to say then that an agency, assuming you find the right one is a literal extension of your, your, in your internal team?

Doug Hollinger: Yeah, I think so. Just like your channels are an extension of your business, right? Like they're dependent. And so I think the, in the best scenario, the, the agency partner or your vendor is an extension. They, they enable your business just like anything else. It helps that you don't have to go hire some people, maybe you don't need all the time or that you're getting specific expertise. It's nplugging gaps. It's also somebody that can, as they get to know your business, again, share their ideas, just like good employees, do they, they get invested in your success. and, and therefore are an extension of kind your, your overarching story and your, and as you grow and, and scale,

Chase Alderton: And like you said, you kind of do these audits quarterly or, or semi-annually, and that kind of keeps your at a gut check in the same way you do, maybe like an employee review as you kind of do this kind of look back and you say, what's working. What's not, what do we wanna take? In-house what do we want to impact or them to do more of? And it's kind of a similar

Doug Hollinger: Relationship. Yeah. And in some ways, you know, in, in a ideal scenario, um, we're learning from each other. And we have a lot of times where you see the client, the light bulb goes on, especially if they're a newer brand, maybe they're very focused on their product and D to C or subscriptions are new to them, whatever the case is. Um, and so you want them to get better. You're doing a good job, I think, as a consulting partner, when, when you make other people smarter and eventually that may feel like you're, you know, teaching somebody out of your own work. But I think, you know, this is a, this is a, um, kind of small world and overtime clients come back to you again, or you'll, they'll go somewhere else and you, and you meet them. So again, it's very relational. And, um, I think in the, in the best scenarios, that's the kind of situation you want and, and making other people better is always a good idea. I think just in general,

Chase Alderton: Totally agree for everything that you can teach someone else they'll teach you something, and that ends up growing your business any away. So while you said, like you said, you know, you may be teaching someone out of your own skills, they're equally teaching you something to learn and grow and somewhere you can help someone else. So they get, there's always a push and pull there.

Doug Hollinger: Yeah. And, and, you know, you see a lot of times where a client, the client is a itself, a collection of people. And sometimes those people go other places and we get business from those new places because they had a good experience. And so again, you, you, the more you can do that and just be a good citizen, be a good neighbor, so to speak, I think the better in general. And, um, you are an extension of the team because I think you're also, um, no client has a unique product where nobody else sells anything like it typically totally is.

So you're also bringing that perspective. You're getting from other people without necessarily, you know, sharing proprietary information, but they're getting smarter and we're getting smarter every time we talk to each other. So the advantage of being a consultant, if you like, variety is you get to talk to like eight or 10 clients a month and you get all this experience, but you don't always get to see things through, um, all the way or own it completely. And then the flip side on the client, you know, they get to borrow some of that life experience that if they hired one employee, they would get that employee's view. But here, they're kind of getting that by osmosis, I guess, all, all this other experience. Um, and so I think it's, it's very beneficial when you have the right mix of personalities, when it's a good relationship and you can trust each other. You can do really good things.

Chase Alderton: I wanna move into that client side and, and dig into that a lot more. But I have one more question for you here. I think it's always important to talk through failures as much as it is wins. Right. Um, what happens when these were relationships don't work out? What happens when, you know, you may do a little bit of flushing out and kind of figure out this relationship is gonna work and then dig in and turns out it actually doesn't, what are, what are some of those negative consequences and then kind of by association? How, how does that again, make you really enforce that finding the right partner is a huge deal.

Doug Hollinger: Yeah, well, you know, it's, it's a all about people. And so I think sometimes even as a, a, a partner, you might have the wrong person assigned whatever the case is, right. It's just a, a misalignment and expectations. Um, so I think speaking as a vendor, a lot of times we're learning who we work better with what we can offer, and it kind of helps train you in the, in the right way. You shouldn't just take any business that comes in the door, cause it may not be a fit and you're probably not gonna be successful. And you're gonna leave people unhappy. So I think the more we can, we can learn from that as vendors and, and support staff to, to go in with our eyes open and kind of realize when it's gonna work. I think on the, on, on the merchant side, um, again, take that if it doesn't work or you're struggling, look at yourself and say, you know, is there a reason I'm going through vendors at a record pace here.

Doug Hollinger: If I have to keep swapping people out every six months, something's off either my ability to assess talent, my ability to understand what I'm asking for, or maybe I'm just looking into the wrong kind of scale. So, um, and again, they're often right clients, they, they themselves, they might have staff turnover and things like that. That's impacting this. So part of this is just being real with yourself and saying, how am I contributing to this? How can I avoid this in the future? Um, and taking feedback, even if it's not given in the best emotional state, sometimes let it calm down and sort of think through it and say, what can I learn from this? And what can I, what can I, how can I avoid this in the future? I think you, you just try to, um, in the end, not have not assume bad intentions are ill intent. I think a lot of it is just a mismatch or maybe poor communication. A lot of times

Chase Alderton: There's a story there about taking feedback in a not great emotional state, but maybe we'll, we'll save that for another day.

Doug Hollinger: Yes, that's a whole probably dissertation.

Chase Alderton: So let's move a little bit more to the client side, um, and dig into to your role a bit more. So when merchants do come to you saying you either want to launch subscription program or scale a, your role as VP of strategy, how, what are some of the first steps you take? How do you kind of dig into this and figure out what, what your initial steps are?

Doug Hollinger: Yeah, I think so. I and my team, well, when we're talking to clients, you know, you, you have this first impression of what they're trying to do and whatever the client's able to articulate. Um, and then, like we talked about, we're gonna still go do our own assessment. So you're telling us some things we're gonna go, want to do some observation, look at your data, et cetera. And then, um, and then part of our job is to talk as we've sort of alluded you before is, um, the there's different kinds of subscription. There's different kinds of ways to be successful and different business go to market models, et cetera. So we try to work through that and just make sure that we're aligned on, um, the approach. It's also important to help people understand that this is also evolutionary. So what makes sense right now, we may have to lay a foundation and then build upon it.

Doug Hollinger: So sometimes it's also just that mix of forward thinking longer term view. Again, we can't look too far out right now, but here's where we're heading. And then being able to break that down into those chunks you talked about and sort of build it step by step. Because a lot of times when people, I think kind of get over their ski tips or they have trouble is there's a missing foundational part of their business or the model, and that kind of messes everything else up. So the more we can kind of help them avoid that mistake and make sure that we're got all the basis covered the better, right? Whether that's a inventory issue might be a product issue itself might be the way we're setting up the subscription program. But, um, you wanna make sure that we've kind of lined up all those ducks and that there's not something you know, the big gaps are accounted for.

Doug Hollinger: And then I think it's just helping people understand options, because we're not the ultimate decision maker. And so the client needs to feel enabled that they know enough to make decisions, but not there and get overwhelmed by choice. And so what I see is people tend to go one of two paths. They'll either say I wanna do it, just like all these other people that look like me in the industry and they get a little bit co copycat.

Um, but again, that's a reason you go to some solutions like a Shopify, like a Recharge. Cetera is you guys already done this. You've kind of taken the learnings from things and distilled it down. So we want a little bit of that, right? To how do I take the best learnings from other people who've already worked through and leverage it. And then what, to what extent do I need to make this custom, make this fit be unique a little bit. And I think walking that through is another thing we really try to work on with clients, where are you right now in your own growth cycle, in your own life cycle, as a business, in your own ability to be successful. And it, and it's not just the technology you're picking, right? It, it's also all these other things that have to go together to, to make a successful with subscription. Cause the technology

Chase Alderton: Doesn't do the work, the technology just empowers merchants and the agencies to do the work. So the just simply choosing the platform, isn't really gonna do anything. You actually have to make it, make

Doug Hollinger: Sure it works. Yeah. And I try to, I mean, I've been around a long time, I'm an old dog in this space, right? Like the technology now is so amazing compared to what it used to be. You have to kind of, you used to have like find parts and put it together. And now you guys are making these incredible things that are really available to make a business act bigger than it is probably all right. Act more sophisticated than it is. And, and they don't have to worry about all that and come up with that each time. But at the same time, um, again, you gotta be realistic about who you are, where you are and kind of go at your, at your pace and, um, be, be flexible enough to, to adapt as, as you need to.

Chase Alderton: So I won't be the judge of saying we make things easier or better than anyone else, but hopefully there's a public opinion court that'll support.

Doug Hollinger: Absolutely there's a reason people come in.

Chase Alderton: And exactly, exactly. So that's actually where, where I wanna go next is, um, how, how, how frequently, when you have these conversations, do, do merchants come and say, here's what I want and you do your audit and you say, perfect, let's do it versus having someone saying, here's what I want. You know, my competitor's doing this and you have to take a step back and go, you know, there's XYZ thing that's missing before we can get to that. Do merchants usually have an idea of where they're at or do they come to you thinking like, I wanna do this thing now when realistically it should be an eight month project.

Doug Hollinger: Yeah. That's a good, cool question. I think it's very rare that somebody says, I want to come in and do this exactly like this, and everything's already perfectly lined out because otherwise, why would they, they wouldn't need to come to us, you know, in a sense, just I would say, right. So it might be that they're saying, you know, I'm gonna move off this proprietary thing I've got or evolved weird, and now I'm gonna go and move to reach charge or, or what have you. Right.

And I want to go forward from, and from my infancy to new my, my teen years or however you want, whatever analogy you want. Um, oftentimes though those clients, if, if they, if subscription is core to their business model and the way they go to market, um, then I think they, they usually have some really good instincts surround their customers and segmentation and things like that.

We're often supplementing that, inform that knowledge with, again, knowledge from other businesses or even other verticals and sort of trying to take those learnings. And so that's a little less of a lift and it's usually more, um, you can focus on sort of incremental improvements and optimization. I think a lot of times though we have a client that, um, they're not sure they know subscription kind of works, but maybe it's not their core. They're not that comfortable yet. So again, we have to kind of assess their own ability to, um, again, should we start them off with kind of the starter kit version or, or the basics and kind of ramp up the business, because again, you need, even if they're relying on somebody like us, who has a lot of expertise, you have to plug into the client's business and they have to really understand some of the decisions that they're being called to make it's their money, it's their investment, their platform.

Um, and so I'd say a 50, you know, at least 50% of the time we're doing a lot of that, even, even down to the model itself, like what a kind of subscription program, um, how does this tie to things like loyalty? Um, and then again, some clients, if they're newer, um, companies they're maybe growing rapidly, but they're kind of scrambling around. They haven't really thought through in a sophisticated way, um, how to measure success in a subscription business.

They know it from like maybe a high level e-com KPIs, but even that I'm surprised sometimes people just don't really grasp what, what levers impact other levers? What, what things in the business rely on each other, right. If you just look at the funnel. So I think, um, and the subscription business has its own subtleties and its own KPIs and its own way to measure and use data that sometimes we're doing a lot of that again, educational work, and then sort of, they're relying on us to go into the weeds a little bit and look around and say, here's some learnings we can glean.
Let's, let's feed that back into who, the way you're developing products, the way you're presenting your offerings and all of that stuff, because it subscription also, um, these are things people interact with all the time. So it's the whole customer experience. It's not just that getting them to sign up or, you know, looking at how long people typically stick around. Cause I think you, you need to have a real good understanding of why things are happening and maybe there's a difference between different types of customers, different segments in, in your, um, customer base. And so it can get pretty complicated. And I think that's part of it is just what should we focus on right now and not have to focus on everything and get confused.

Chase Alderton: There's a ton in there. And I think that it kind of adequately explains why you're frankly good at your job. But I think what, what you were just doing is kind of just explaining the customer process and you know, what people think about it from an agency perspective, what you're really making the, the case for why an agency partner's valuable is that a lot of times merchants come into the process and they say, you know, I wanna do subscriptions, but they don't understand is that is the curation model, is this an access model? Is this a subscribe and safe model? What kind of KPIs are we looking at? What's the, how's the acquisition plan? How are we doing retention? What's the full UI/UX process?

How do you make sure people go through the whole checkout flow, all of that stuff, it all works together. And then you layer on top of those integrations. Now you start talking about the Klaviyos of the world, the Gorgias of the world, the LoyaltyLions, all of those kind of things get so complicated that you then dump all those out opportunities in front of merchant lap. And they go, “I need some help here.” And that's where you can leverage other verticals and experiences and all those things from an agency perspective. So I think it's super, super valuable even just to kind of understand the whole process.

Doug Hollinger: Yeah. And, and even if you're doing this every day, right? You're and I, a lot of our clients, the merchants they get called all the times by different vendors. I got a new improved mouse trap. It's really hard to stay on top of all of that. Right? All the things you're mentioning, that's just a, a kind of cross section of all the things that are out there. And it changes all the time, not to mention there's new feature rollouts from the existing vendors you have, et cetera.

So I think that's another thing that you should look for going back, what you were saying in a vendor relationship, how plugged in are they to this ecosystem? Because at some point you may have stuff that's redundant. You don't need all of it, or maybe you're, you're outgrowing your solution. What do I do next?

Instead of going custom or just, um, dealing with the pain. So I think all of that together, um, it has to be looked at holistically just like your supply chain and your fulfillment and all of that has to be holistically looked at, um, because otherwise you could, you could have, you know, the best model in the world, but if you can't execute it properly and you don't know how to read your business in near real time, you're too far delayed in getting data about what's really happening. That's what we see people get sideways.

Chase Alderton: You're absolutely spot on. The piece that overlays, all of that is time. You turn the access, you have your Z access and over time, like you may nail all of that stuff, your supply chain, your logistic, all that kind of stuff. And six months later, it's totally different. And you have to refigure out all of these new things. So absolutely spot on it's. It's really interesting to hear you talk through all of these opportunities and possibilities and problems, but problems always present solutions. And it just depends how you wanna solve those issues.

Doug Hollinger: Yep. Cause if you're dealing with them, a lot of times, your competitor are as well. Right. And they could actually turn into advantages if you, if you think of it that way and you embrace the, the chance to, to tackle

Chase Alderton: Yeah, absolutely. So let's kind of flip it and look at the other side, let's, let's assume all of those pieces are, are in order and they're set up, um, when you start to look at scale, how does that kind of change your thought process? Is it still the, you know, make sure everything's working together, make sure everything's fluid or is there different thought process behind it?

Doug Hollinger: I think with scale, scale's interesting because it also, it, it does have a time element. Like how rapidly am I scaling? Because it, it is just like a road or something if you build it. Oh, you know, I'm two lane highway, I gotta go to four, but really you just built a bunch of houses out there and the burbs, and now you should have a 16 lane highway or trains or something else. Right. I that's about analogy, but, um, it's, it's how fast you're scaling. And then it's, again, I think people look to the solutions sometimes instead of thinking through their whole business, because it might be that we can, again, build all the stuff, but if you don't have the people to run it and think on their feet and kind of adjust to the day data that's coming in, um, it might be an organizational issue, not, not an infrastructure issue.

Doug Hollinger: And so with scale I think that's when I, as a consultant would look a lot more at your operations. Um, not just supply chain, not just fulfillment and all that. Cause those are things that are easier for us to say, here's a, here's your options. Here's what other people have done and kind of bill of that in. But I think that's where, um, you know, we, we see businesses go truly from again, 2 million to a hundred million to 200 million. And if they're doing that quickly, um, it can really get outta hand from an organizational perspective and an operations perspective that way. So, um, that's where I, I think that's where they're gonna fail. It's not so much that Recharge is gonna fail or Shopify is gonna fail or what have you. Um, it's it's that the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing anymore and you haven't really planned for those contingencies.

And so, um, that's one thing we talked a lot, but I would say I focus a lot more on clients at that point on org structure and the scale internally. Because again, if you have the right people there, you can decide, am I gonna hire a team? Am I gonna acquire somebody? Am I gonna go partner with more agencies? Am I gonna go partner with other businesses? But you need to be, you need to kind of understand what the trigger points on each of those decisions is, where, where is my break? Where are my single points of failure? You know, where am I really running into throughout capacity issues. So a lot of times, you know, again, there's plenty of data. There's plenty of stuff to look at. There's just nobody that knows what to do with it. Or they're so bogged down at other decisions that, that they can't succeed.

Doug Hollinger: You know, a lot of these brands that we work with they're founder led and driven and just like any business at some point, the founder maybe needs to bring in other people and get help and they can't micromanage as much. And so I think, again, it's not, um, a, it's not a sexy answer in a study, all go buy a new thing or go headless or whatever, it's you yourself have to scale and grow as a company and have some adaptability and flexibility and make sure you have the right people on board in the right structure. So that again, you can, you can kind of fly the plane using the instruments versus, um, you know, used to be really close to that. Everything was pretty simple.

Chase Alderton: It's a bit of a cart before the horse issue sometimes is you wanna try to scale, but you gotta figure out if your organization can handle the scale at the first. And that's gotta kind of be built out in the first place. And, and oftentimes with CEOs, we, we see this over and over again, across all organizations that the guy who has the idea, the guy who has the idea is not necessarily the best person to be scaling the operation.

It's a totally different role. So you may be good at the startup, the zero to one phase, the one to 10 phase is totally different. And not to say that there's no, there's no credit, there's no valor in that, but a lot of people need help. And that's what the agencies can step in.

Doug Hollinger: Well, and, and at some scale, this, you run into problems that can break your business pretty fast, right? And you don't wanna learn on the job at that point. It's easy to learn on the job. If you're going from two to 3 million or two to 4 million, if you're going from 20 million to a hundred million, in a, in a year or something, you, you don't have time to do that. That's where again, same reason you would hire us is the same reason you'd build out your team.

You need to bring people that already know the questions to ask already know where to go look for, you know, rest in the pipes, what are of analogy you want to use. They know where these things are and what to avoid. And again, you're, you're buying, you're paying for expertise so that you don't have to relearn these issues and hit your head on the same thing over and over. And I think, um, the other thing with scale that's interesting is, um, a lot of times people scale as well by adding onto their kind of historical catalog are the historical offering.

Chase Alderton: You just add more products or just add more things,

Doug Hollinger: More products or different categories of products, or maybe they're gonna partner with some other people and do some interesting things in the CPG space. Um, and again, that's a whole nother problem to solve as well because you may not have you, you gotta really pay attention to that point. Are, are my customers gonna buy this product? Does this stuff go together? Does it make sense when I'm scaling in this manner?

And not to mention all the other supply chain issues and all that stuff, but just again, um, recognizing when you maybe have a fundamental shift in your own offering, or you're gonna have to do some stuff that takes some planning and it really takes some thoughtfulness and it may mean a slight shift over time in who's your most valuable customer or where you reach those customers. Right?

So again, that's why you want to have folks like us around folks like you around folks maybe in the organization that, that know where to look for the, these things have done this before, because each stage of growth, I think presents its own challenge. So each time you're scaling, there's sort of a, a life cycle again, where I can kind of be in my teen years, but at some point I gotta go adult now. And then there's things like that, that keep coming up where you're gonna need different skills. You need a different kind of an organization and you need a different, a, um, kind of planning cycle. I would say to, to really understand the, the stress it's gonna put in your organization.

Chase Alderton: We gotta do a wrap up at the end of this with all the analogies we used. It's I know

Doug Hollinger: I wish I was keeping track with a counter. It could be a drinking game.

Chase Alderton: Most are pretty good on the fly. Analogies are tough to do. Let's shift a little bit into what you think is coming in at 2022. Um, this is obviously the first episode we've released at 2022. So wanna kinda get your thoughts on customer behavior on agency behavior. Do you think buyers have shifted to online purchases permanently? Do you think we'll go back to a brick and mortar? Do you think there's some sort of balance in there? What do you think?

Doug Hollinger: Yeah, I don't think it'll be exactly what was before. Right. Um, I think the pandemic stuff and all the things that have been going on in the economy, et cetera, et cetera. Um, I think it's permanently opened some doors that we thought maybe five or 10 years out. It accelerated those timelines. I do think, um, again, assuming, you know, we get to some sense of normalcy or whatever that means these days. I do think you already saw it even in the, in the, um, holiday buying this year. There's a little bit of an urge to go back into brick and mortar. Oh yeah. Um, right. But at the same time, people are now used to pulling up at target and just letting you know, they're there and having you bring it to them. Right. I know in my own family where we're even in a non sort of e-com thing, but we're used to ordering having, you know, door dash com or what have you.

So this true omnichannel where the digital channels and the physical channels are mingled and intermixed, I think is here forever. And, um, you're seeing the way that agencies like a us, or having to think about things too, and even driving like the acquisition we're part of is now we have to think about this more holistically. So if you look in the history, right, like when e-commerce was developing, um, it was often like stuck on the end, you know, like on the side of an existing business, a retail business. Totally. Yeah. And they did their own thing. And then it kind of became a little bit more integrated then like, Ooh, now we can buy online and pick up in store. Um, now you just have to run your business and all of this, like the customer, basically their expectations and their, and the way they're gonna, and things of you has changed completely.

And they, they expect you to know who they are to the extent that they can leverage that to their advantage. Um, and, and to be treated well at everyone. And it, and it should feel consistent. Um, and convenient, you know, a lot of people are still working at home. A lot of people are gonna have a blended, I think, live going forward at work and home. And I think you're gonna see this in the same way they're, they're buying behavior. It’'s kinda like whenever I think of it, whatever feels today, I might want to go out and go to the mall tomorrow. I might wanna be home and just have it come. And I think that's here forever. So for what that's worth, what the actual break down is, but I do feel like we took in about 18 months. It feels like five to seven years of acceleration forward and just expectations and, and behavior.

Chase Alderton: I agree. I definitely agree with a lot of that. Very, very insightful, very well said. A couple closing questions here for you do some rapid fire. What is a, maybe like a current popular trend either in e-commerce or the agency world that you're seeing. That's, that's interesting to you.

Doug Hollinger: I think, um, we're still dealing a lot of questions about headless and this kind of micro architecture stuff from a technical perspective. So I don't know that it's interesting but I think it's, it's reflective of the fact, um, we're kind of moving into a way where you need plug and play and the, again, the technology is almost less important than the business model itself. So I think that's interesting.

Chase Alderton: Your take on headless is, it’s beneficial. It's helpful, but it's not really gonna solve anything or do anything. You still have to obviously have the products and the systems to work.

Doug Hollinger: Yeah. I think in the past, you know, we would've said, oh, this is the new thing. Everybody needs to go do this. Now. I think headless is just one more arrow in the quiver to use another analogy. Oh my God, it's just another option. And you, it's another one of those depends. What are you solving for? And I, I do think businesses are getting better about this, not just writing the bandwagon all the time, not just jumping on the latest buzzwords, they're gonna ask questions about it, but, you know, there's implications to all of those things.

But, but at the same time, um, because things change rapidly, I think there's no longer feeling like I'm gonna have to go do this thing. It's gonna take me 10 years to build it up. And then whatever, it's more like, I know that I might have to change in two years and that's okay, so I'm not gonna spend ton of money and everything on stuff that's that feels permanent.

So I would say underneath all of this is just a feeling that people are getting better at looking at business as valuing flexibility, adaptability, and, and being able to pivot, to take advantage of things and try not to hard wire things to a way you're doing it right now. And I think that's a very, very good thing. Um, and so that also means you have to have a kind of lean organization. You have to have an organization that's based on data decision making. And it means, um, you know, and it's a good way for, for folks like us, because it means maybe you don't build out your org so much as leverage people when you need them. And then when you don't need them, you, you kind of pivot and do the next thing. Ot does help with those scale issues.

Chase Alderton: Interesting. I like that answer a lot. That's really good. Definitely interesting. Interesting. It's it's not a, not at all, and I'm gonna start using error in the quiver as a new analogy. That's a good one. Last one for you. What physical products do you subscribe to?

Doug Hollinger: Toiletries. So I like to, probably because I work in DTC, I like to buy direct from manufacturers when I can, for things like shaving cream and, and stuff like that. So grooming products. We do dog food as well, like, and we do, um, meal kits. So I think again, working households, everybody's kind of busy. I think those convenience things where I don't want to go to the store for the same things over and over, I might want to, when I'm trying out a new pair of shoes I've never done before or something like that. So we do a lot of that kind of, um, meal stuff and, and food and just grooming products and those kind of basics.

Chase Alderton: Awesome. Doug, thank you so much for joining us. Congratulations on the acquisition. T

Doug Hollinger: Thank you. Yeah, it's been a pleasure. Always good to chat.

Chase Alderton: We want to thank Doug once again for joining us. If you're interested in BVA, you can head over to BVAcommerce.com.

If you're looking for more of our episodes, check us out at getrecharge.com/hit-subscribe and to get the latest episodes remember to hit subscribe on whatever platform you're listening from.

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