The End-To-End Transparency Trend

Last Updated September 29th, 2020


 

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Deemed essential during the COVID-19 pandemic, cannabis dispensaries have had to pivot how they interact with customers. Immediately, of course, the in-person and in-store experience has changed.

More broadly, though, there’s another trend continuing to emerge.

From online delivery to seed-to-sale tracking, businesses in the cannabis, hemp, and CBD space care deeply about providing a customer experience that is, above all, transparent. Their customer base values not only what is consumed by the body but where and how it is sourced. And those customers buy all kinds of other products and services.

Supply chain transparency and end-to-end tracking from first touch to final delivery to customers is a trend – and not just in the obvious industries like food, health, and wellness.

And if you’re in a regulated industry, this visibility into every stage of product development is helpful to regulators, too.

Today’s guest on The Customer Experience Podcast, Nina Simosko, solves problems for dispensaries as a C-suite member of the first cannabis compliance company listed on NASDAQ (KERN). She also helps ensure the safety and happiness of employees across the country.

Nina, Chief Commercial Officer at Akerna, is helping to build one of the world’s most transparent and accountable global supply chains in consumer packaged goods (CPG).

She credits her mother’s homemade bread for setting her on the journey to understand the health and wellness movement that has shaped her career — as well as her experience on the advisory board of half a dozen tech companies.

You’ll hear Nina and I discuss…

Why the trend toward transparency is here to stay
What the role of a Chief Commercial Officer is
How to deliver customer feeling (hint: keep your employees happy)
How to stay consistent in CX and EX through acquisitions
What Nina learned in large companies like SAP, HP, Siebel, and Nike that serves her well today

 

 

The End-To-End Transparency Trend

Hear the entire conversation with Nina Simosko of Akerna right here:

 

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Full Transcript: The End-To-End Transparency Trend

Ethan Beute:
All right. Cannabis, connected data and contactless, but still consultative sales. We’ll connect all three today here on the Customer Experience Podcast. Our guest has spent eight years as senior vice president and global chief operating officer … Our guest spent eight years as senior vice president and global chief operating officer at SAP, and she held senior sales strategy and operations roles at companies like Nike, Siebel Systems and HP.

Ethan Beute:
She served on the advisory boards of more than a half dozen tech companies. She currently serves as chief commercial officer at Akerna Corp. The first cannabis compliance company listed on NASDAQ, ticker KERN, K-E-R-N, if you’re interested. Nina Simosko, welcome to The Customer Experience Podcast.

Nina Simosko:
Thank you so much, Ethan. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah. We were chatting before we hit record, is Akerna in Denver?

Nina Simosko:
It is. Yes. Headquartered in Denver, Colorado. Yes.

Ethan Beute:
Cool. You triangulate into … One of the things I love about living on the Front Range, I’m down the road from you in Colorado Springs, is that it’s pretty easy to get to either coast, but you typically head west.

Nina Simosko:
I do typically head west. Yes. I’ve spent the last 20 plus years of my career in Silicon Valley. Also, of course, you mentioned my stint at Nike. Love Portland, Oregon so I maintain a home up there as well. Yeah. It’s great.

Ethan Beute:
Awesome. Good for you. Just to get into it, when I say customer experience, Nina, what does that mean to you?

Nina Simosko:
Customer experience for me is how a company makes you feel. Things could be super-efficient and fabulous, but if you don’t feel a personal connection or you don’t feel anything, it doesn’t matter. Whereby another company might not have it all together, but if they make you feel good and you feel satisfied, then that’s a good customer experience. It’s really all about how a company makes you feel.

Ethan Beute:
I love it.

Nina Simosko:
That’s what it means to me.

Ethan Beute:
I’m with you on that a hundred percent. I did a solo episode, probably about 60 or 70 episodes into hosting this podcast and asking smart and accomplished people like you, how they would define this. I came to the same place after listening to all of that feedback and doing some of my own thought on it. Those feelings are the necessary precursors to good thoughts, and then ultimately good behaviors and then ultimately, ultimately positive online reviews, the stories that we tell other people, and all of that. What is it about feeling for you? Is it the intangible nature of it? Is it the emotional component?

Nina Simosko:
It’s both-

Ethan Beute:
You’re very clear on feeling. What do you think about the feeling component in particular?

Nina Simosko:
No. I think it’s both. I think how customer experience really will be the next competitive differentiator in the end. People want to do business and you’re doing business with other people. You could have two things that are relatively the same. You’re going to go with that company that has the people that make you feel a certain way. That your interactions that you feel like you’re being heard. You’re having fun. It’s really all about the intangible, and the emotional aspects of it that define it. I think that will be the next competitive differentiator across any industry you could name. That’s where we’re going, I think.

Ethan Beute:
Absolutely. I agree with you. I think it’s going in two directions. One is this frictionless self-serve, everything is greased and easy and fast, and you’re never confused or frustrated. That is you’re moving to true commodity and the cheapest price and the most efficient supply chain. Then on the other side, you have the human-to-human component and the true emotional connection. Not with how easy and convenient it is, but instead with the trust rapport, relationship, confidence, all the positive human-to-human side. Is that how you see it?

Nina Simosko:
A million percent agree. I am with you.

Ethan Beute:
Cool.

Nina Simosko:
Yes. Yes.

Ethan Beute:
Good. We’re going to get a little bit into probably more of the human-to-human side, but before we go much further, help people who aren’t familiar understand more about Akerna. Who is your ideal customer? What do you solve for them? What are you all doing?

Nina Simosko:
Well, that’s becoming increasingly difficult to answer actually. Akerna, as you mentioned, is a software company. We are publicly traded on the NASDAQ. We’ve been doing a number of acquisitions lately, which really helps to broaden who our customers are. Leaf Data Systems, which is underneath the Akerna umbrella, sells to states and governments. We are in 14 countries and 31 states. Many states have chosen Leaf Data Systems to run the compliance and regulatory systems of the state.

Nina Simosko:
We have MJ Freeway, which is our software platform that actually does the seed-to-sale tracking. Folks running MJ Freeway could be anywhere from multi-state operators to individual dispensaries. If you are growing a cultivation, if you are doing infusion and extraction, runs the gamut. Obviously, there’s a lot of customers that we serve in there. We also own solo sciences, which is an amazing tagging technology. Relatively inexpensive compared to the competitors in that space.

Nina Simosko:
It’s phenomenal for anti-counterfeiting and for truly knowing where the cannabis came from and to ensure that it’s safe and reliable. Yeah. I mean, we bought Ample Organics. Just announced last week. They are the de facto go-to cannabis seed-to-sale tracking system in Canada, where it is federally legal. We are welcoming those team members and going to market together. It’s going to be fun. Trellis is another acquisition we recently did just a few weeks ago.

Nina Simosko:
That company is based in Los Angeles, California. They do a lot for the state of California and some of the particular nuances for CCA compliance that California State and counties require. As you can see with all of our different companies underneath the umbrella, there is quite a wide variety of customers that we serve.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah. It’s great. It’s easily and by far, one of the more interesting and definitely one of the more complicated responses to that question I’ve got.

Nina Simosko:
Yeah. I’m sorry.

Ethan Beute:
No, no, no. It’s good. It’s really interesting what you’re doing. You’re really bringing a lot together. One of the lines I read in studying up on this one was that you’re building one of the world’s most transparent and accountable global supply chains in CPG or consumer packaged goods. I’d love for you to tighten all of that up a little bit for people. When I think about it in an overly simplified way, I think about, again, transparent and accountable. I think that obviously provides benefits to the regulators, fed, state, whatever.

Ethan Beute:
It obviously provides benefits to the people involved in that supply chain, no matter where they are from, a wholesale to retail and everything in between. Then I think about the customer as well. I’d love for you to give a pass on the benefit of roping together all this transparency and accountability for any or all of those stakeholders. The most interesting thing to me is that obviously in a regulated industry, it’s super helpful. Then I also think about the softer side.

Ethan Beute:
Then I think about the younger consumers that really care a lot more about some of the values behind or the trust behind, or the supply chain components to anything that they’re buying. Any thoughts you have on that, I welcome.

Nina Simosko:
Well, that is precisely the reason why I joined the Akerna team almost one year ago. Age aside, for most of us who are over 35 years of age, when we were growing up you might’ve known someone who was a vegetarian, but there’s just been an explosion now of farm-to-table with the restaurants, veganism. People go on these paleo things. People are caring much, much more about what they’re putting in their body and on their bodies. I grew up, my mother, I jokingly say she was a little crazy in that we would not buy store-bought bread.

Nina Simosko:
She would bake her own bread. We would not have the artificial sugar cookies in the house. They’d have to be the ones with the real sugar. The reason I joined this company is because I’m super passionate about that and I think that the generations below us coming up are going to care more and more. The calorie counts now, even in fast food in California are all posted. This software, although we are laser-focused on being a leader in the cannabis hemp CBD space, is really applicable across the board to leafy greens, vegetables.

Nina Simosko:
We have gotten phone calls and inquiries for folks that are cultivating and exporting garbanzo beans. This is a movement that I think is just going to continue to grow. This software, again, although we get labeled and as a cannabis company, we don’t touch the plant. Our software, seed-to-sale tracking, and it’d be amazing if one day if there was E. coli, God forbid, or salmonella outbreak in a leafy green industry, those farmers would be able to very quickly identify the farm, the field, and the plants where that lettuce outbreak occurred.

Nina Simosko:
We would no longer not wonder, “Oh, we have to do these big recalls. We don’t know which farm it came from.” Hopefully, those soon will be a day in the past.

Ethan Beute:
I love it. I love some of the other inquiries that you’re getting in it. They lend themselves obviously to the seed-to-sale transparency, seed-to-sale tracking. You said you joined a year ago and you are chief commercial officer. You’re definitely the first chief commercial officer on this podcast and so I’d love for you to give a go just to that role, to that title. Is it akin to a chief revenue officer? How do you all think about that?

Nina Simosko:
It is akin to a chief revenue officer, for sure. I also think chief commercial officer, anything that is commercially viable. We have open APIs and we’re very partner-friendly. I think we all believe on the executive team that we are stronger with our partners. We have 95 different ancillary and complementary offerings that integrate directly into our software. We publish those open APIs. We allow people to go and connect and integrate, and we are certainly stronger together.

Nina Simosko:
There’s things that we never want to be our core competency, the financials on the ERP side, right? We’ve done beautiful integrations that are seamless, and we have customers live on Sage, on NetSuite, on SAP and so we’re stronger with those clients in our core. Things like payments, right? AeroPay is a great example of a partnership that we just formed. Happy Cabbage, online delivery. Anything that’s touchless is hot right now and much safer. We have a robust partner ecosystem.

Nina Simosko:
The chief commercial officer is anything that’s going to help drive revenue, expand the ecosystem, and commercially make our product more viable.

Ethan Beute:
Awesome. From an org standpoint, I want to get like … I don’t need you to visually draw out an org chart, but what are some of the key functions that report into you?

Nina Simosko:
Sales, marketing, partnerships.

Ethan Beute:
Cool.

Nina Simosko:
Customer success.

Ethan Beute:
Good.

Nina Simosko:
There’s four.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah.

Nina Simosko:
Yeah.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah. Well, I guess, yeah. That brings us all the way back around where you acknowledged it was CRO when I think marketing, sales, CS, but then also that partnership component that you spoke very, very clearly and well on, and it makes so much sense. You mentioned touchless in that pass, so let’s go there. We’re recording this summer 2020, late July. We’re obviously still in the middle of the pandemic somehow, a resurgence. The cannabis business in particular, especially at the sale part of seed-to-sale has historically been in-person, in-store.

Ethan Beute:
Often a consultative sale. Like some of us that are selling software, it’s relatively new for some folks. I mean, cannabis isn’t a new category, but retail is new in a lot of the markets that they’re in and so it’s consultative. What have you seen or heard with regard to the pandemic, with regard to that touchless experience? What are some strategies or some tech that’s being implemented to connect customers in a safe product?

Nina Simosko:
Hey, I have been extremely impressed with everyone in the cannabis industry about how quickly everyone had to adapt and pivot. As you know, cannabis was deemed an essential business, especially during their shelter-in-place and the lockdowns. Well, what do you do? If you’re a dispensary, how do you continue to run your business? Our clients with our help and some of our partners just quickly adapted. How do you do an online budtender consult? What does that look like? Who can offer that?

Nina Simosko:
We’ve collaborated and quickly formed partnerships with Happy Cabbage, really to cultivate insights and drive unique business analytics through customer-centric experiences that are not in-person. I don’t know if anything’s ever going to replace that in-person budtender consult that people are used to, and hopefully, we’ll get back to having a vaccine and getting back to normal, but I think that could be for a while off. Curbside delivery, online menu ordering, all of those things we’ve had to quickly figure out how to adapt.

Nina Simosko:
I have been really impressed with the whole industry. It got itself together very quickly. People, especially medically, who need their prescriptions. Yeah. I’ve been proud of what we’ve seen. Of course, you’ve probably also read, it’s been an amazing uptick, right? I mean, when available we’ve seen online orders increase by over 300% in some areas, right? Delivery has increased more than 150% where allowable. It’s been a quick pivot and it’s been exciting and a little crazy.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah. Totally. The most interesting thing about essential businesses that are so in-person and consultative is that there was no gap. I can think of a lot of businesses. For example, I went to the dentist last week, which was an interesting experience for a different podcast conversation, but they were closed for … I can’t remember. I think she said 90 days or something. That gave them this window to theorize in the trade magazines and trade publications online, figure out the best way forward and do some planning, beat it up hypothetically, and then start rolling it out.

Ethan Beute:
Whereas in a business like this one where it was deemed essential it was a seamless transition, which makes it really that much more challenging. What was the middle of that window, like in the, “Oh my gosh, we’re shutting everything down, but oh my gosh, we’re staying open.” Just speak to that window…

Nina Simosko:
That’s exactly what it was like. It was, “Oh my gosh.” You quickly saw people pivoting to those video consults, right? I mean, look at what happened with Zoom. There was people who didn’t know who Zoom was and now we live our lives now on these video calls to enable social distancing. Yes. It was, “Oh my gosh, how can we figure out this? How can we figure out that?” Again, the individual dispensaries and the individual cities, no matter where they were in the country, they really worked hard to quickly figure out a safe way to continue doing business as normal.

Nina Simosko:
It was a heavy lift and a lot of 20-hour days versus your normal nine or 10-hour business day but I think it worked out great. We’re going to see what happens in the future.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah. What do you-

Nina Simosko:
…slow down, I don’t think.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah. Go ahead and speculate for me if you’re willing or able to, or anything that you … Yeah. I guess it is speculation because no one knows what’s going to happen. Of some of the changes that you’ve seen over the past several months, which ones do you think will stick and which ones do you think will fade away as temporary stop-gap solutions?

Nina Simosko:
I think all of them are here to stay actually. I think the online delivery, I think the online ordering, I don’t think any of that’s going to go away, even if we find a vaccine and get back to normal. The one thing that’s going to be real interesting to watch is the federal and state legalization of cannabis. I mean, I feel like COVID has caused so many businesses, unfortunately, to go under. The states are going to be looking for some tax revenue. This is a real nice way to get some tax revenue back in the system.

Nina Simosko:
It’s going to be real interesting as we go into this election cycle and we look and see what the states do. I know it is on the ballot, in the state, my home state of New Jersey, and others. It’ll be interesting to see what passes, what doesn’t, but I think that’s going to be fascinating to watch. Obviously, I’m hopeful that we get to federal legalization sooner rather than later. I think it’s really important.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah. I think that a software company like yours and probably the community around it, is going to play a vital role in that, again, particularly for, again, transparency, accountability. I think obviously there’s some level of, generically speaking, stigma around it that will, in my hope, probably fade in the face of this can be done safely and well these are … What do you feel like you’re up against? What do you feel like your role is as a group consolidating some of this tech and really making it more obvious what’s going on when, where, why, how, who in a way that you can easily display for people? Talk about what you think your role is in continuing to advance this movement.

Nina Simosko:
Well, I feel like this is what it must have been like back in the day of prohibition. I also think it’s interesting. It still sometimes does have that stigma of, “Ooh marijuana must be illegal and it’s the gateway drug.” I think that is quickly diminishing. The delivery mechanisms for cannabis are becoming so much more sophisticated with patches, with the CBD salves, with the … if you put this patch on, it will help you just sleep. I think as we go through time, the negative stigmas on cannabis are quickly diminishing. Hemp and CBD, it’s really interesting.

Nina Simosko:
I think some of the real big software and water bottlers and manufacturers are looking like, “Okay. Maybe we can infuse CBD into this.” We’re making clothes out of hemp now. It’s fascinating to see what’s happening. I think it’s becoming much more mainstream. I mean, every single pharmaceutical at one point came from plants and herbs. People swear by their herbal teas, their Echinacea, their Goldens, right? This is similar. I think what we can do as an industry is, first of all, press for safe banking, because it’s really difficult still to start a business when we have banks not willing play or participate in a legal way around cannabis.

Nina Simosko:
That makes things difficult for our clients for sure. That SAFE Banking Act is number one. I think as an industry, anyone who can call their senator or government folks to try to press that, that would be for sure number one. Number two is I think like I was saying earlier on the seed-sale-tracking, it’s really important to know what you’re putting in your body and where it’s coming from. You’re seeing people get into all kinds of specialty this and that, just like you do with artisan breads or…

Ethan Beute:
Exactly what I was thinking about. I was thinking about your mom’s bread in particular.

Nina Simosko:
Yeah. Exactly. That’s becoming a thing. People want that transparency. They want to know what they’re putting in their bodies and I think it’s not necessarily something that we, even as an industry, have to push. It’s happening. It’s so normal now. People their kids are 10 or 11 are deciding they want to go vegan. It’s like that was not heard of 20 years ago. I think the younger generations and the transparency that they want that’s just going to happen.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah. Let’s speak to one of your customer segments. You can choose which one. I want to button down between your role because you really do have purview over the entire customer life cycle for whichever segment we want to talk about. You’re so clear about how important it is to leave customers with a feeling. It could be a feeling of trust or confidence or relationship or rapport. What do you do as a leader culturally to infuse that? Is it in the way you hire? Is it in the way you onboard?

Ethan Beute:
Are there particular communication cadences or tools that you’re using internally to really make sure that your team is paying attention to how your customers feel?

Nina Simosko:
Ethan, it all comes back to our team members obviously. If our employees are not happy and they don’t trust, and they’re not having a good time, that’s just going to follow onto our customers in not a good way. It definitely starts with the way we hire, the caliber of people, the way we train, the way we have fun at work, the tools that we provide them to have confidence that they can serve the clients well. It’s cultural and it starts at the top. Our CEO, Jessica Billingsley, has very strong core tenets and core values that get repeated.

Nina Simosko:
We have a Mission Monday for company-wide, it’s a 15-minute quick brief getting you pumped for the week. She has been doing that since before I started. It’s again, the reiteration of the core values, make sure everybody stays focused and on the same page. We have a lot of fun. There’s so much passion about what we’re doing and how we’re really helping. We help so many people. We want people to have better lives, healthier lives.

Nina Simosko:
We want people to know what they’re putting in and on their bodies and so to the extent that we stay true to that, it comes down to the employees and ensuring our customers that that translates down and our customers feel the same way.

Ethan Beute:
I love it. I’m with you on that. It’s funny over the past, probably two or three months or so, it’s always been a background conversation. I mean, you can’t have a customer experience conversation without an employee experience conversation, but I feel like, over the past couple of months, in particular, the show is in part becoming the Employee Experience Podcast. I love that Monday message. How does she distribute that? Is that an email? Is it a podcast? Is it a video? How is she distributing that?

Nina Simosko:
It is a live Zoom RingCentral video. She’ll rotate it. Sometimes she’ll do it. Sometimes members of the executive team will just want to share something. It’s not always business-related. Sometimes it’s about work-life balance. Sometimes it’s about a meditation technique, whatever. Sometimes it’s about, “Okay. We’re launching this or here’s our new marketing message.” Or … You know. Again, because it’s only 15 minutes, you don’t feel like it’s a meeting that’s drawn on.

Ethan Beute:
You’re in a meeting. No. Yeah.

Nina Simosko:
It’s pithy. It’s strong. It’s to the point. It’s in and out. Everyone gets a chance to interact and ask questions. There are times it goes 17 minutes, but there are times that it goes 13 minutes. It’s just a super nice way to energize everyone to start the week and it’s fun. I think people look forward to it. Yeah. She’s been doing it for a long time. It’s a good trick.

Ethan Beute:
That’s awesome. How big is the company in terms of employees and how are they distributed? Finally, what has that transition been like for the team as, I assume, if you were ever together in offices, you’re probably at home now? How big are you? How are you distributed? How was the transition for you all?

Nina Simosko:
Well, obviously Ethan if you asked me last week, it’d be a completely different answer, because the acquisition of Ample Organics, we now have amazing, fairly robust team up in Canada, which we did not have last week. How big are we? I’d say we’re fairly small. Even all in, we’re probably around 200 employees or less. Definitely, since I started have been advocating, pushing the salespeople out of the headquarters in Denver, out into the field. I feel really lucky now that we have a robust segmentation of people in Florida, in California, in Michigan, in Oklahoma, in Latin America, obviously in Canada.

Nina Simosko:
Yeah. We are distributed across the Americas and we are back in the office actually in Denver. We have a large office and people can social distance very, very easily, which has been nice to be able to be back in, with masks and a lot of sanitizer. But to actually be able to see one another and to interact has been super, but continue to grow. I’m sure there are more acquisitions on the horizon. It’s difficult. I mean, I think whenever you acquire a company, you’re acquiring a different culture and so we’ve spent a lot of time on, is it a good cultural fit?

Nina Simosko:
Even before we make the acquisition, which is one of the big things we feel so good about John Prentice, the CEO of Ample and now president of that company and that team up there. I feel like they’ve been part of us for day one, but cultural issues, it’s super important when you’re making acquisitions. Even when you’re bringing someone in, because you’re inheriting a whole new thing and it’s hard to adapt. It is. I think everyone has done a really nice job and it’s obviously compounded and making so much more difficult the fact that we can’t go to Toronto and welcome our new team members.

Nina Simosko:
It’s a pain, but you got to work through it. Thank you for Zoom and RingCentral and these virtual ways we can see each other. It makes a difference.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah. It’s really interesting. BombBomb, we make it easy to record and send video messages. You can send these little in-person moments out of time. Zoom, you have to be there at the exact same time. Similar, it’s face-to-face, but where I want to go here is that there’s just no substitute for in-person so I’m glad that you all get to see each other, at least in Denver, and build that. I can’t imagine how challenging it must be to incorporate, especially because the values and the experience are so important to you all at the core of Akerna to bring new teams and new people in and to manage that process.

Ethan Beute:
Is there someone in particular dedicated to that? I mean, obviously, you already alluded to the fact that you’re doing really good homework and making sure that you’re making a smart acquisition. But because of the intimate relationship between employee experience and customer experience and the number, I mean, I’m just going back to the who is your customer? You’re like, “Depends what we’re talking about?” You’re making a lot of acquisitions.

Ethan Beute:
Any tips around incorporating people in addition to bringing them all together at the beginning of the week and getting everyone on the same page that way, which is a cool practice. Anything else? How are you structurally managing it? Or any tips you have there.

Nina Simosko:
It starts at the top. I mean, this is not something that we feel like we can delegate. Each executive, we own it. We own it as a team. This is not something you can delegate. It’s a heavy lift, but first and foremost is the wellbeing, the safety, and happiness of our employees. That’s number one, and so each leader has to lean in and just take the extra steps, over-communicate. There’s no other way to do it. It is not something that can be delegated. You got to own it because it’s … I wish we could say, “Oh, we just put somebody in charge of that then forget about it.”

Nina Simosko:
Yeah. That doesn’t work that way. It’s extra time. It’s extra time together. We were fortunate that we were able to spend a fair amount of time with the Ample executives prior to the acquisition being announced. That clearly makes things much easier that you spent that in-person time. We knew we were aligned culturally. We’ve had fun together. We’ve been in offsites together for a few days. This is before the pandemic. That was fortunate. I think it’s going to continue to be difficult. It’s a new day. We all have to be very comfortable with video, unfortunately, for now, so.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah. Yeah. It’s been really interesting. This one will be a little bit maybe reflective for you perhaps, but it’s really hard for me as someone just getting to know you, not to make the obvious observation that you’ve built a very successful career in some gigantic companies. I mentioned some of them off the top, SAP, HP Siebel Systems, Nike, and now even through acquisition, you’re only a couple few hundred people. What are some of the things that you’ve carried with you from working inside these much larger organizations?

Ethan Beute:
I would assume that they’re probably a bit slower, potentially a bit more political. What are some of the things that you’ve carried out of there? What do you think about the contrast? Am I overstating the contrast or is the contrast really there? What are some of its characteristics and maybe what have you carried into your experience here with Akerna?

Nina Simosko:
That’s a great question. Hey, I mean, I think as a leader, it doesn’t matter if you’re leading a team of five or a team of 1000. The core values that you have as a leader need to be well known and well communicated. I think the teams very well need to know in these changing times of multiple acquisitions, what’s going to change and then what’s not going to change. What’s not going to change is my core values as a leader, what’s important to me, those will not change. I think it’s important for the team to understand that.

Nina Simosko:
Then there’s some comfort like, “Okay. Well, Nina is still Nina and it doesn’t matter if we buy a million companies. I know what her core tenets are, I know what the values are. I know how she operates. I know what she expects.” I think every leader inside the Akerna executive team feels the same way. I think that gives employees some comfort and something to center on. It is difficult. Trust for sure needs to be earned and so it takes a minute.

Nina Simosko:
I just think continuation of reiterating and being very clear on what you stand for as a leader really, really helps as you’re acquiring new team members and new cultures into the mix.

Ethan Beute:
Awesome. In general, what are you in particular excited about as you … We’re already in third quarter, we’re looking at fourth quarter. We’re looking at 2021. What are a couple of things that you’re really excited about looking ahead?

Nina Simosko:
Well, I’m certainly, so … I just can’t wait to see what happens in the United States, in particular, with the states, especially we’re about to jump into an election cycle. Cannabis is always a controversial hot topic so of course, we will be watching very closely to see what happens. I’m most excited to see what’s going to happen in this industry going forward through this next election cycle and what the states are going to do. I think that’s got to be my number one.

Ethan Beute:
Cool. I will be watching that with you. Folks, if you are listening and enjoying this conversation, obviously you’re going to want to subscribe to the podcast. It’s called the Customer Experience Podcast. You can find it anywhere that you listen to podcasts. A couple of things that I was reminded of in our conversation, Nina. One of them was episode 92 with Alex Grace. He’s the director of sales at Fooda. We talked a little bit about the past, present, and future of restaurants and commercial properties.

Ethan Beute:
They have a really cool business model where they partner with commercial property owners and local restaurants and bring them together on a food truck or in the lobby type situations to improve the experience for the tenants in the building. Then also to create exposure and opportunities for the restaurants. A really neat business model. We had a conversation thereabout, obviously pandemic-informed, as some of ours was today. Then another one shortly thereafter, episode 97 with Bob Barry. He’s the principal UX researcher at a San Francisco-based software company called AnswerLab.

Ethan Beute:
Although he is here on the Front Range, where both of us are today, and where I am all the time, except when I’m traveling, which is very rare now. We had a very extensive conversation about touchless experiences and connected data and some emerging tech trends. I really think what you all are doing in terms of bringing together either through acquisition and/or through APIs and building partnerships with people who are already successful doing things that you may be … that classic builder by scenario, but it’s built by or plug in.

Ethan Beute:
I think what you’re doing is really, really smart and is on … I’d be mind blown if there wasn’t just a great deal of success here and that you didn’t continue to get more interest from people who are doing other similar seed-to-sale activities.

Nina Simosko:
Yeah. No. I would agree. It’s going to be fun to watch.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah. Before I let you go, Nina, relationships are our number one core value. Our five core values at BombBomb are relationships, humility, fun, flexibility, and service. Relationships is first and so I always like to give you the chance to thank or mention someone who’s had a positive impact on your life or your career. Then to give a nod or a mention or a shout-out to a company or a brand that you really respect for the way they deliver an experience for you as a customer.

Nina Simosko:
Yeah. Well, no surprise. I’m going to have to go with our current CEO, Jessica Billingsley, for having a much larger company software executive like myself come join her a year ago. Much, much smaller team. She knew my expertise was in huge enterprise software and so I thank her profusely for the opportunity in allowing me to be a part and grow Akerna with her and the other executives. A company that stands out to me for excellent customer service, I’m going to have to go with Nordstrom. Though the way that they have empowered their employees to help the customer without running around and getting tons of approvals.

Nina Simosko:
If you have an issue, they solve it. I’m going to go with Nordstrom. Seattle-based retailer. I know they’re struggling, as most retailers are, but they, for me, are one of the gold standards for customer experience.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah. I think for anyone who’s paid any level of attention or studied it academically or studied it out of curiosity, it would be very hard to go deep without running into Nordstrom multiple times. They’re a fantastic example. Again, I like that you pointed to the employee empowerment piece and employee empowerment to make things right. Period. What a liberating thing to know that you’re going to do right by the customer and you know that you’re going to be backed up when you do it. It’s all any of us could hope for when we show up to-

Nina Simosko:
A hundred percent.

Ethan Beute:
… to give our best every day. Nina, if someone wants to follow up on this conversation, if they want to connect with you, or they want to learn more about Akerna, obviously I mentioned ticker symbol KERN, K-E-R-N. Where are some other places you might send folks to, to follow up on this conversation?

Nina Simosko:
Well, certainly akerna.com. For me personally, I’m on LinkedIn. You can just Nina Simosko, and connect with me. I have a personal blog that some people read. It’s not hard with Google these days just to figure it out. I would love to connect with any of your listeners and continue the conversation.

Ethan Beute:
Awesome. Again, if you’re listening, this has been a great conversation. We do this every single week and I typically throw in a fifth episode every month. You can subscribe anywhere that you listen to podcasts and you can visit bombbomb.com/podcast. I pull clips from these episodes. I round up links. I’m going to find your personal blog there, Nina, and I’m going to link that up in the post that we do. We do a little short write-up. We embed the audio and put in some video highlights, and that’ll all be at bombbomb.com/podcast.

Ethan Beute:
Thank you so much for listening. Nina, thank you so much for sharing some time and insights with us.

Nina Simosko:
Thank you so much, Ethan. Pleasure to be here with you and your audience. Much appreciated.

 

Video Highlights: The End-To-End Transparency Trend

Check out the top five video highlights from the discussion with Nina Simosko of Akerna below…

 

1. The Movement Toward Transparency

 

 

2. Role of Chief Commercial Officer

 

 

3. How To Deliver Customer Feeling

 

 

4. How To Stay Consistent in CX and EX Through Acquisitions

 

 

5. Lessons from Big Companies to a Small Company

 

 

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Ethan Beute

Ethan Beute | About The Author

Chief Evangelist at BombBomb, co-author of Rehumanize Your Business, and host of The Customer Experience Podcast, Ethan collects and tells stories of clearer communication, human connection, and higher conversion with simple, personal videos. BA: University of Michigan. MBA: University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. Fresh air & clean water.