This week I was honoured to have Claudia Batten (www.squigglylife.com) join me on a call with some of our clients to share her knowledge and advice. Claudia has been based in America for over 15 years (currently with her family in Los Angeles) and has had huge entrepreneurial success around tech and digital in the US. I’ve shared her full background and career bio at the bottom of this blog, but let’s get stuck into the gems she had to share with the group straight away:
“Covid-19 has really reinforced the importance of communication when we’re a leader – whether you agree with Jacinda and her politics or not, she’s done an outstanding job of communicating and leading as a result of that. And then you compare that to the US…
To me, poor communication is poor leadership.”
On what business owners should focus on in the next 12 months:
“Immediately I’d say zero revenue modelling – this is a hangover from being in a startup and having to operate without income but it makes you very disciplined about your cash in the bank, cash burn, expenses, and days to zero. I definitely encourage that. And up your game around ecommerce.”
On being entrepreneurial:
“I’m ok with mistakes because they teach you so many lessons. A lot of the entrepreneurial experience can be brutal but I love that – it actually fuels me.
Always be hunting, always be seeking, never take status quo as the reality. Being curious has taken me a long way. Then have personal resilience to…
Back yourself to do the work, then figure it out and be willing to step up to the plate, knowing you can get through it. I have a high level of personal resilience, which I think is really important.”
On “deliberate discomfort”:
“For me deliberate discomfort is critical to creating something that hasn’t existed before. Doing something extraordinary requires us to put ourselves on our edge. Philosopher Rollo May talked about how true creativity required us to break out of social molds and that this is inherently anxiety-inducing. This helped me to understand the almost-constant feeling of a low level of nausea that seems to follow me around! I’m paraphrasing here but he said you can be small and ordinary and do all the normal things comfortably OR you can aim for big and extraordinary and you need to let go of your need for comfort to do that!
“I really like the OODA Loop from Colonel John Boyd, a military strategist: “Observe, orient, decide, act” — its a process that draws experience and observance into strategy. And it’s designed for moving at real pace.”
On common mistakes businesses make:
“Their treatments of websites as digital catalogues — this is poor use of a website. ‘Yell and tell’ advertising — those ads that are designed to interrupt you. I think it’s low level, ineffective, and unsophisticated.
Instead, look at how you can connect and how you can create a relationship with a consumer. For me, loyalty is a big driver — I think that’s brand equity for the future. Post Covid-19, people will be choosier about where they spend their money so use this time to develop connection and loyalty with your customers.”
On handling stress:
“I do meditation, yoga and journaling — just a single page each night, recording a few wins, what was going on today, one word describing how I’m feeling, and a rating out of 10. The refection that gives me is really helping me up my game. Of course, a glass of wine and a good chat with a friend help! But if there’s one thing that’s a must, it’s exercise.”
“Be interested, ask questions, listen. They’re also the keys to being a great parent, right? The frustration comes when you are TOLD, or talked at, so don’t do that!
Pre working remotely, I’d have closed days — days with no meetings where I can sit and think and work on strategic stuff — and then open days where I’m there and available for my team. I found that by constraining it I could make it work for me, instead of being tired from interaction all the time (introvert problems!).
Also I loved the book ‘Multipliers’ — a good one to read on leaders. And ‘Measure What Matters’ by John Doerr with his OKRs (objective and key results).”
On defining core values for YOU AS A LEADER:
“Look for the behaviours that piss you off. For me, loyalty and trust are huge and if someone missteps on those it really pisses me off. If it highly pisses you off, it’s a bit of a sign that this is an important value for you ie sloppy work = accuracy.
You can also write a list of who you admire and then list their traits and see if there’s any value there for you.
My values list is really, really big so I have to filter — which is where that pissed off filter comes in!”
ON CHANGES IN DIGITAL ADVERTISING AND MARKETING IN COMING YEARS:
“I love machine learning in this area — utilising tech that will help you get smarter and smarter about your consumer so you can make some predictions about them.
Automation — anything that can help me as a consumer to navigate that purchase process more easily. Automation makes it more efficient for the business and for the consumer. Used correctly, it can elevate the consumer to VIP level with a better customer journey, helping them get from desire to purchase faster. All of this will drive loyalty.
At the moment, social ads aren’t doing any better than TV ads or billboards so there needs to be an evolution here. We’ve become too reliant on the tricks of advertising and we’re getting smarter as a consumer so we need to get better at marketing again — advertising is just one piece of this and we’ve become over-reliant on it. You need strategy.
Look at your business through a marketing lens: how you communicate with the consumer, drive loyalty, drive information, drive purchasing intent…”
On setting up a business for acquisition:
“It’s important to understand the shifts in society/business and see where you’re positioning yourself for the future. Sometimes you feel like Chicken Little, telling people you can see the sky falling, but you need to be brave about predicting the future and getting strategic about where you place your company and putting yourself in the best position.
Have an eye on the horizon and understand the shifts and then understand how to bring that back into your day-to-day.
Beyond that, love what you’re doing — that amount of passion and care will go a long way in the US, particularly if you can turn that to customer care. The Americans love the Kiwi accent and doing business with NZers so there’s a strong opportunity here.
Business leads to business — connections, word of mouth, credibility… Do the work.”
On the hardest things she had to overcome when building her businesses for acquisition:
“It’s all hard, right? This stuff is not simple. Networking now — and always — is critical. When we started Victors&Spoils we told certain companies we were building it for them. I like that approach but it’s cheeky and requires you to have the right contacts. Having the right investors who have great networks is also critical for communication. It also might surprise some but I think a great PR strategy (that’s accurate and not just hype) works wonders to make sure you are well known.
You really want to know who the decision makers are in the potential acquiring company, and you absolutely want an advocate in that company who understands your proposition. You need to know how what you are doing amplifies what that company is doing… but go about that carefully. No one likes being told what their company should be doing.”
On raising capital:
“I think there’s still a lot of money out there so it’s not an impossibility but I think it will be harder. There’s lots of uncertainty around certain industries so be really on your game when talking about where the growth opportunities are for your business and how you’ll use the funds. Be specific about how you’ll win hearts and minds.
I think there are natural opportunities that are interesting right now, areas such as childcare – there’s the opportunity there to say that as a result of Covid, this problem has arisen and this is how we’re going to solve it. Investors understand the best entrepreneurs solve problems.
A good adage to keep in mind: “Ask for money, get advice; ask for advice, get money”. Be interested in the investor before being interested in yourself.
Be really clear about what you can’t do and what you see as the obstacles; this will engender a lot of trust between you and the investor. I’ve always been a big fan of owning up to limitations and typically that goes over very well with sophisticated investors.
On the impact she thinks the pandemic will have on the way people research and book travel in the future:
“I think we are going to want more sophisticated technology to support us to book and manage bookings. Bringing all the stuff I talked about (automation and machine learning, customer service, loyalty etc) to make travel more about you rather than you being a “bum on a seat”. Duty of care is no doubt going to be critical for companies and countries wanting to know where its people are. Research through predictive capabilities will help us get travel options that are more in line with our preferences and also have in built notifications before you travel and while you travel about present risks. I’m really excited about this because this is what Serko does, which I am on the board of.
ABOUT CLAUDIA BATTEN:
In 2004, Claudia started Massive Incorporated (with 2 minority shareholders) which enabled advertising within electronic games. Massive was sold in 2006 to Microsoft for USD $400 million.
In 2009 (after working with Microsoft for 3 years as part of her previous buy-out) she co-founded Victors & Spoils, the first advertising agency built on the principles of crowdsourcing. After two years in market, V&S was acquired by French holding company Havas Worldwide.
In 2014 Claudia co-founded Broadli with Ale Lariu and Mary Abraham to redefine how we use digital connectivity to power networking.
Claudia most recently spent three years running North American operations for NZTE, with the goal of bringing disruption into government while supporting the growth of NZ exports in North America. She is a Director of NZX listed digital travel company Serko, and digital advisor to the board of Westpac New Zealand. She believes that New Zealand must be part of the digital world to close the geographic divide, remain relevant, and increase its prosperity.
In 2013, she was awarded a Distinguished Alumni Award from Victoria University in recognition of her commitment to New Zealand and her achievements in tech. In 2014 she was the youngest ever recipient of the prestigious “World Class New Zealand Supreme Award” by KEA, in recognition for her achievements and her work inspiring the entrepreneurial ecosystem in New Zealand. Claudia is also a recipient of the Sir Peter Blake Leadership award recognising her as a Kiwi Leader working to achieve the extraordinary for New Zealand and was awarded the Outstanding Contribution to Technology and Business in New Zealand award at the 2017 CIO Awards.