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027: Building Connections with Remote Teams During COVID-19 – Darrin Murriner from Cloverleaf
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In this episode I talk with Darrin Murriner about the company he co-founded, Cloverleaf. We discuss how their software helps strengthen and create high-performance teams. This is a critical component for companies to thrive during a challenging time of teams working remotely.

Sam Schutte 0:00
In today’s show, we have Darrin Murriner. He is the CEO and co founder of Cloverleaf based in Cincinnati, and we’re going to talk about using high tech software to build better teams. Darrin, welcome to the show.

Darrin Murriner 0:10
Thanks, Sam. Look forward to the conversation today.

Sam Schutte 0:13
Absolutely. So, Darren, how did you get started in your career? And where are you from? What’s your background?

Darrin Murriner 0:19
Yeah, gosh, I’ll go all the way back in I grew up in Berea, Kentucky. So South Central Kentucky. It’s kind of known for Berea College, which is a free tuition school focused on Appalachia. And great little town I grew up in but small and I needed to I needed to get to a bigger territory. So graduated from University of Kentucky but the business degree and a computer science minor and came to Cincinnati actually had two job offers one with Procter and Gamble and the other with Arthur Andersen and actually remember, you know, part of my decision making process. So like, I don’t know, consumer products, pretty fickle consumers, right? I mean, consumer tastes move and change. And I know they’ve been around for 130 years or however long it had been at that point. But, you know, everyone needs their, their, their taxes done and everyone needs audits and you know, it’s not gonna go anywhere. And so I went with Arthur Andersen and then a year and a half later they crumbled under the weight of the Enron disaster. And so funny little anecdote for the start of my career, which was, nothing is ever safe. Yeah, exactly. A friend of mine. Started Arthur Andersen right out of college and had the exact same thing happened to her. Yeah, it was an interesting time. And I mean, we could probably spend an entire podcast just on that time period. Yeah. And then how did you as you go through your career, what made you want to get into writing a software business? How do you get on that path? And how did you start? Yeah, the interesting thing is, if Anderson hadn’t collapsed, I’d probably still be there. I mean, I loved it. I loved the team, I loved the opportunity to get to work with some of the clients we got to work with.

The work was just incredibly engaging. And they had a great culture, despite the fact that, you know, the office in Houston did what they did. And I always say, I went from there and I had two more kind of corporate stops in my career before I kind of officially embraced the label of entrepreneur. And in that 15 year career while I was in corporate, I would consistently have side projects. So my wife and I started a business and in 2003, that turned into another business. She sold the original business, but that kept me kind of kind of occupied. I did real estate, I started a news site. I just always had side projects and it was interesting because I would tell people I’d be like, Man, I’m I can be a rock star in the corporate world and only be engaged about 50%. Right. And there was something about that, that always just kind of was disappointing. You know, like, where I could be as successful as I was and only get 50% of myself and I needed these other things outside of my corporate, you know, the day job to really keep me excited and energized to show up to work every day. And that was really kind of one of the first things that kind of got me thinking along a different path.

That but ultimately, the entrepreneur inside of me, you know, I just kind of came to embrace that label and said, You know, I’m just ready to go and you know, why live two lives? You know, obviously, the paychecks were nice on the corporate side, but I’d rather not be you know, so duplicative in terms of you know, my my persona and really just embrace the fact that was an entrepreneur and kind of kind of went into it full time. Gotcha. Cool. And then when was Cloverleaf started what you want here? Gosh, that? That is a funny question because theoretically we started working on it in 2015, just with the general concept. And I’ll step back a little bit because Cloverleaf is in the HR technology space. But I don’t have an HR background. I’m not a PhD in IO psychology. But what I did do is I was always fascinated, I just mentioned the fact that like, and Gosh, why was I 50% engaged but could still be a rock star in the corporate world.

And that, that was some of the early Inklings. But I also just was always fascinated by good management, bad management, and you know, how organizations, the cultures that are created and the impact of the culture on performance, I just had always been fascinated in that process. And the last job that I had, I met my co worker, and we had We would do, I don’t know, anywhere from 100 to 150 concurrent video projects. So these were like digital videos short, you know, one and a half to three minutes. And then we ran those projects, basically the same, you know, every single project had kind of a similar flow to it. And what we what we became to kind of really notice was the fact that like the outcome to those projects, were really dependent on the combinations of people that we put together in those teams. So we could put a designer with a creative director, and it would just fall flat on its face, but we’d take that same designer, but I’m with a different creative director, and it would be a Grand Slam home run. And it really just kind of started us thinking about man, there’s got to be a way to bring some transparency to this process. And that’s that was really kind of the Inklings in 2015. Now, we didn’t officially start our business. So my co founder, Kirsten and I went full time and kind of sit down We’re going to do this in early 2017. So that’s when I would say it got started. And we went through the ocean accelerator in Cincinnati. And that is, that’s what I would consider our start date. We did get funding and hire three people. And we were all kind of officially we had we had five employees, March 5 2018. So that that would be another date that you could point to, to say that was that was when we started Cloverleaf.

Sam Schutte 6:27
How did you get connected with Ocean and why was that sort of the best fit for you? What was that sort of that point of the company?

Darrin Murriner 6:34
Yeah, most of the most of the entrepreneurial activity I’d done prior to Cloverleaf was, you know, really just bootstrapped. It was things that, you know, my wife and I invested in or, you know, we just, you know, we kind of just just funded herself. And I just always been fascinated at the idea of scale, and, you know, leveraging venture capital and Angel funding to really accelerate growth to kind of be kind of get to that first mover advantage, right? And so I’ve always been fascinated with that model, but I knew we needed the right business to come along, kind of go down that path. And, you know, it’s if you’re in Cincinnati and I think if you’re in in most markets, there’s just a lot of conversation around the new venture creation, especially new new tech venture creation. And I think there’s just a lot there’s a bit of a mystique I think about fundraising and venture capital, because you hear kind of like the massive success stories of like, Oh, this person put in two and a half million dollars and they exited with, you know, 400 million or whatever the number is. And those stories, I think, kind of captivate people. And, you know, very few actually turned out to be that successful, but that was Cloverleaf was the first one that first idea or first opportunity, we had to really kind of take advantage of that venture capital space. And you know, Cincinnati, they had a really strong kind of network and in organizations that were resourcing venture backed startup creation. And so I just kind of stayed in touch with with that space. I was, you know, and still am a member of Crossroads, which is kind of what birthed ocean, and so knew about it through there and said, Hey, I think we should apply here and I think that could be a really great source of some initial startup and where are you located.

Sam Schutte 8:34
Now? Where do you work out of, do you have an office?

Darrin Murriner 8:35
Yeah, our office is in. Well, right now we’re all working out of our homes because we’re, you know, coronavirus quarantined, but prior to that, we we worked mostly on the Ohio side, but we’re in the process of kind of moving to Kentucky and, and working out of Covington, so over over pike street or near Braxton brewing.

Sam Schutte 8:57
Okay, so you got the initial funding you mentioned You hired a team or you know, and we’re building the product and all that. I don’t know if it was before then or after that point. But you know, what was? What was your kind of your first big break getting a new customer? And how did that happen? That really kind of set you on a path?

Darrin Murriner 9:16
Yeah, I think especially when you’re building tech products, you know, you’re kind of you’re selling the vision. And oftentimes, the product itself may not necessarily be at that point, but you need some, you need some poor functionality, that that delivers some value to clients, but while also kind of casting vision for what could be with the product, that was kind of a tricky place to be in 2017. You know, we’re working with an MVP product. You know, we knew we knew that it wasn’t going to be kind of the product that we eventually wanted, you know, the vision that we had for what the product was, but, you know, it’s a really great way to operate in a lean way. You know, invest small, small amounts to get customer feedback and understand how they’re going to use the product and be part of as you said, to go out and hustle and So I think one of the first paying clients we have is a company called illumination works. It was a smaller, you know, kind of software development company, but great for really just kind of going to school for like, Hey, what are some of the problems we can help you solve? You know, what are some of the challenges that you’re experiencing with teams, and you know, when you’re in that client service delivery model, you know, teams are even more tricky, because, you know, it’s not just inside your own four walls, you’re working with clients, and you might have one or two of your people in with, you know, a larger group of their people. And so that’s that dynamic is always an interesting place for team building, which is, which is ultimately what Cloverleaf became. And maybe maybe that’s a that’s a good next step is to talk about exactly what is Cloverleaf.

Sam Schutte 10:47
Yeah, absolutely. So I was gonna ask you to tell us about the product and the system and a little bit about the tech stack for it too, because I’m curious, but but mainly just, you know, how do users use it and what does it help them do?

Darrin Murriner 10:58
So with with kind of the experience we had in that digital video agency, we’re like, Hey, we need to, we want to create a technology product that kind of gives some transparency into that process. And a big part of that is, you know, comes back to psychology and how that’s been done to, you know, up, at least the date is you would use psychometric tools like Myers Briggs, or DISC or enneagram, or Strengths Finder, right? These tools that everybody has taken over the course of their careers, but oftentimes just don’t have doesn’t really have a way to engage people towards behavior change over time, right. So everyone wants growth and personal development. There’s always self awareness. I think that comes from those tools, but there’s no way to sustain it, you know, a 40 page report. That’s all about you. That’s point in time. Yeah, I might get a couple of hogs out of that. But then, like, I go back to my job the next day or the following Monday, and it’s kinda like a fall right back into the same habits and routines. And so we’re like, There’s there’s good research there. And there’s data that we can use from a technology standpoint to build something compelling. But ultimately, what we wanted to do with the platform is, is create sustained behavior change, positive behavior change, of course. And one of the ways that we discovered early on that would be a fantastic way to reach people is through the tools that they use every day, right? So email calendars, Slack, Microsoft Teams, and the average employee interacts with 115. They have 115 interactions on on a daily basis, right? It could be, you know, 20, to the same person, but it’s 115 different opportunities to coach or train or develop that individual on the other end. And so we built integrations to Microsoft 365, Google for business Slack, and really leverage the data that existed in those tools to inform The kind of coaching and content that we could serve up to people to really help drive that sustained behavior change. And a big part of that, too, is having a clear understanding of who you’re working with, right? So it’s one thing that know your own, you know, have self awareness, but it’s another to really understand what drives and motivates and, you know, how, why someone’s communicating the way they’re communicating on your team. And that was the other really big component to our product is really not just self discovery, right, but also having a clear understanding of the people that I’m working with and how to adapt my style to be most effective with those people. So that’s, that’s a little bit about our product.

Sam Schutte 13:42
And so how does it look you know, when you’re talking about integrating and or you know, with like your email client for instance or a calendar. So, it is a matter of, you know, it knows some of the various like you said psychometric profiles, you know, say like the disc profile of some of the guests to the meeting, or the person you’re emailing with and tries to to advise you on how you might best communicate with them.

Darrin Murriner 14:03
Yes, that’s exactly right. So I mean, in each each part integrations are a little bit different. So that’s the calendar integration, and you nailed it. The other the other kind of use case, in that scenario for slack and Microsoft Teams is, you know, we’ll push content out to a specific channel based on the people that are in that channel. And then we offer prompts, really, for people to engage around that content with each other in in the Slack channel. So a good example was, you know, we have an intern on our team named Elena. And, you know, we got this is just a it’s a very recent example. I got something pushed into our channel about Alina that talked about how, you know, she really values causes that are that are important to her. And then the prompt is, you know, hey, talk about a cause or an organization that you’re interested in, and you’re committed to And and why you’re why you’re interested in it right. So like it’s a small prompt to engage people in a conversation, the deepen understanding and a sense of connection in the course of the team to really kind of build trust and get people to a new a new place in the context of the team. So each of our integrations are a little bit different, but really, the focus is on building relationships, improving collaboration and communication towards better outcomes.

Sam Schutte 15:28
interested in doing that, you know, and you see some I’ve seen other tools like that in the sales space, right, where they try to help you predict the type of you know, messaging you should use to a given prospect based on what that what you know, it knows about their profile and such. And it’s interesting though, because I’ve had, you know, I’ve gotten cold emails, for instance, from salespeople where they open up with some comment about the Reds or the Bengals or something, right. I’m not a sports person. And so they have turned me off even more because they started with talking about the Reds or something or I mean, not that I despise the reds, but I’m less of a Bengals fan. Yeah,

Darrin Murriner 16:04
you’re just like, Don’t waste my time.

Sam Schutte 16:05
Yeah. Yeah. Now it’s like, why are you asking me something? I specifically am interested? Yeah. Right. And it’s also interesting to talk about, you know, I’m most familiar with the disc profile system. Yeah, what I’ve dealt with the most. And I remember having gone through some training around that they’ll talk about how you know, your profile can change over time, right. But you’re right, that most people sort of are assigned one. And it’s self awareness, like, Oh, I’m a D, I’m an I. Great, okay. And you do start to notice, but, you know, if you can change over time, that would that would tend to indicate that there is some way you could start to you could improve yourself if you weren’t, you know, if you were too much one or the other. Right. And that’s not something that I think any of those standard profiling tools help you do. They just tell you, hey, FYI, your an S So what kind of what kind of content Do you share? It sounds like that’s part of it, to help people sort of improve

Darrin Murriner 16:59
Yeah, no, it’s a Exactly right. And I think a big, big element for us is, you know, it needs to be positive, it needs to be action oriented. And it needs to be contextually relevant, right? And when we say contextually relevant, it needs to be appropriate for the, the channel that you’re receiving that message, right? So if it’s, if it’s about if it’s from the calendar than it needs to be about your meeting, right. And then the other the other really important thing is, you know, the other thing that I’ve seen with these assessments is, you know, 40-50, page report. I don’t know about you, but if somebody sends me a PDF document, first thing I do is look at how many pages are in the document. And, you know, if it’s more than a couple, I’m like, I’ll get to it later. Right? And it just gets shuffled to the back of the inbox. And a big portion for us is like, it’s two sentences, right? Like, you can read this on the fly. And you know, some of the things you might just blow right past it because you’re not in the right mindset for it. But inevitably, you know, once a week couple times a month, you know, people are getting tremendous insight that is actionable. And that actually changes how they’re thinking about or how they’re approaching certain situations or certain people. And that’s really what we want. And you know, we get unsolicited posts on LinkedIn, and Instagram, have, you know, people getting these coaching tips and these insights at just the right time, right, I wish I could take credit for that. But, you know, timing isn’t necessarily something that we can, you know, we can we can account for. And you know, that the timing of when they’ve gotten some of these messages have just been spot on for helping them get past, you know, a hurdle that they’ve struggled with in their career or in the role that they’re in for months, or maybe even years. And those are the things that really kind of drive us getting that kind of positive reinforcement about the product, and how it’s impacted their ability to be successful and the roles that they’re in Is is what really gets us excited to get up every day and do this.

Sam Schutte 19:04
Have you been able to measure that? Or have you been? Have you figured out a way to maybe measure some of that performance increase for customers? And sort of show that?

Darrin Murriner 19:12
Yeah, so a big part of what we do is, is, you know, ask questions, I mean, our product is very engaging. So we’re not just pushing content out and letting it in there. We ask people to rate the content, you know, how relevant is the content to them, or in the context that they’re in. And so that feeds, you know, a machine learning algorithm that allows us to kind of serve up the next best content. But the The other thing that we can do is, is ask questions, you know, over a time period, that gauges their sense of, you know, belonging on the team, their sense of well being the sense of collaboration, you know, how well are you collaborating with your teammates or how well do you feel your your teammates are collaborating with you? And then we can collect that data over a period of time. What we see is you generally, and I’ll just average it out about 35% improvement in things like collaboration, things like communication and engagement. And, you know, if you look at the marketplace and HR technology, if you think about an engagement tool, generally, it’s just pulse surveys. And that’s it. And what you’re getting is a sense of where are the problems in my organization, but there’s not they’re not really actually helping you solve that problem. We’re actually moving the needle on those things, and, and increasing all of those different elements, these soft skills that are typically really hard to measure and track, which is, which is why, you know, ROI on HR technologies are so difficult, but we’re actually demonstrating we can move the needle, you know, as few as you know, three months. Interesting.

Sam Schutte 20:51
What makes a high performing team you think, how do you define that?

Darrin Murriner 20:54
There’s obviously been a lot of research on that and one of the things and you know, Patrick lencioni his work is largely about trust. And I think that’s the thing that we find most often as a starting point is the level of trust that exists in a team. And that’s part of the reason why we focus so much on relationships. And belonging because you know, where trust starts to erode is, is oftentimes when there’s misconceptions or misperceptions of why someone is doing the thing that they’re doing, right? What why are they doing that behavior that they are, and it’s easy for us to project underlying assumptions about why they’re doing that. And oftentimes, they are negative negative assumptions. And that’s the stuff that erodes trust. So the more that we can bring those things forward, and we can build relational equity among team members, the higher we’re able to kind of increase the levels of trust that exist on the team. And that’s the reason why we’ve taken the approach that we have with our product is trust as a starting point. Now, there’s a lot of other components that come into play. Right? So communication, and I’ve mentioned that as well. You know, even just getting access to the tools that we need or the having the skill sets that you need to be successful having capacity and the availability to do those things, are all things that we, you know, typically consider. But, you know, if you really want to take a team from you know, okay to good, or, you know, good degrade, if you will, it usually comes back to some element of trust.

Sam Schutte 22:29
Interesting, I think you’re right, that any team I’ve ever been on, it’s been incredibly high output. It’s because you never worried that anybody on the team was, you know, trying to sabotage you or anything, you know, yeah, that trust.

Darrin Murriner 22:42
that’s a big part of that, too, is you know, how committed are they to the team or the the objective that you’re trying to accomplish? You know, how clear is the mission, you know, that there’s a lot of those other elements that come into play even with trust, right, because trust is a really tricky thing. But you know, how we’ve how we’ve decided to focus it Really more on the relational elements and and how can we help improve that component of it.

Sam Schutte 23:06
Interesting. And you wrote a book recently, in and around sort of this space called corporate bravery, yeah, you talk to talk about a little bit about what that term means how you came up with it.

Darrin Murriner 23:17
Yeah, at the end of my kind of corporate career, I, you know, spent some time just kind of reflecting one just because of the situation that I was in with, with kind of that last employer, and the experiences that I had there, but also with just kind of the totality of the experience that I had in the corporate space. And one commonality that I noticed was a lot of decision making made out of fear. And, you know, fear can can come in a lot of ways, right? I mean, economic uncertainty, that’s obviously a big one that we’re currently faced with. But you know, how people respond to competitive pressures. how people respond to the regulatory environment, even that interpersonal component, right? So like my relationship with my manager and the level of trust that I have there, there’s there’s so many opportunities for fear or mistrust to kind of creep into that into those those places. And so as, as I thought about that, as a general component, I’m like, what’s the opposite of fear? Right? And it really is bravery. And so my focus was how do you transform cultures from a fear based decision making process to one that is, understands who they are not just as an individual, but like, organizationally, they understand who they are and where that you know what they’re strong at how they can compete effectively in the marketplace. And then just go hard after that, you know, not be distracted by some of the other things that are easy to, you know, keep us from making the right decisions or the best decisions for our organization. And really, just kind of lean into those things, and be confident And you know who you are as a professional in that organization, but also just being confident in, in in the organization, the culture that organization is and how they can most effectively compete.

Sam Schutte 25:13
What’s an example of like a fear based decision? You think in that framework? What’s the type of decision people make out of fear? Or a company makes?

Darrin Murriner 25:20
Oh, yeah. Well, I mean, I think we’re seeing a lot of that right now. Right, where it’s, you know, obviously, you’ve got to manage cash flow. You got to know what your runway is. But, you know, I’m seeing a lot of people who are making knee jerk reactions to current economic situations. And I think if you asked anyone about the current kind of COVID-19 situation, no one believes this is going to drag on for longer than than 12 to 18 months, you know, the most dire predictions would have this dragging out 18 months. And the reality is, like, fundamentally the economy hasn’t changed, right. The the The underlying demand and and those things will return. But some of the decision making that I see on a very short term basis will actually sabotage long term, you know, value creation for shareholders. And that’s just one example. You know, it’s the most current example and relevant example that sits in front of us. But, I mean, gosh, there are so many examples. You know, Amazon is one that I think about regularly, not not Amazon themselves, but how people react to Amazon when they enter a new market, right.

And I’ve seen people just completely abandon their their long term strategies that move in a completely different direction to try to compete against Amazon. And you’re like, you can’t out Amazon Amazon at this point. So you need to you need to be really clear about who you are, and lean into that. And and yeah, it could impact strategy, but Don’t, you know don’t throw the throw the baby out with the bathwater in those in those scenarios?

Sam Schutte 27:05
Well, I feel like you know, in this particular time, a company’s sense of purpose, I’m very much a big believer in the concept of having purpose, right. And there’s a author and speaker I really like named Paul Chapelle, who talks about it, he says, you know, no one ever commit suicide because of hunger. Yeah. Right. But they do because of a lack of purpose. Right. And I think you see that in some of these, you know, with some of these companies, when workers are, you know, I know workers who are going without pay, but just to keep things running. And, of course, you know, volunteering long hours to make extra masks and you hear about all this kind of stuff happening, right? That’s all very purpose driven. But if there’s a company that, you know, had a much weaker culture, where people were just sort of a cog in the machine, nobody’s doing that for those type of employers, right? I mean, those people’s resumes hit the street a week ago, right? if they haven’t already gotten, you know, some other job. Kroger, whatever. Right And so, you know, that’s interesting. It can really come to define a company.

Darrin Murriner 28:05
Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, one of the examples I gave too, is like, people’s reactions to social media. You know, I think it’s pretty easy for organizations to look at social media. And, you know, there’s been some really high profile kind of mistakes that brands have made on social media, you know, they get to snarky, they get to, you know, or your social media manager confuses their personal account with their with their corporate account, in our tweeting inappropriate things. And, you know, I’ve I’ve literally heard brands talk about how they, you know, are intentionally not engaging with social media, because of those, the fear that those things could happen to their organization. And, you know, the reality is like, you can engage your customers where they’re at, right and if they’re on Instagram, or they’re on tik tok, or whatever new social media platform that your customers are at, then you better be there. And you better have a voice that’s relevant to your to your consumer. So like that that’s just another example of places where it’s like, you know, just because one bad one bad episode happened doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. It could still be very relevant to your business.

Sam Schutte 29:16
But I think the you know, the the gameboard is always changing, right? the playing field is always changing. I have a friend who is in the live video business and you know, he has a customer he’s done a ton of work with recently that a year ago said, we won’t ever do a live video that’s ridiculous. Why would we do that? So I think it’s, you know, if he I guess I’m curious if you look at you know, those most pessimistic projections right now of our of our current coronavirus pandemic and such and even the most optimistic estimates, I think it’s fair to say that the playing field has changed. And you know, if you think about interaction with people and building relationships in teams, something that has always been sort of, you know, Bible truth is you need to meet someone face to face, shake their hand sit down and look them in. There’s that FaceTime concept, you know, that you need to have with people. So if we assume and say, Okay, let’s look at that pessimistic case that for a year and a half, you know, we will be shut in or something which I think nobody, nobody is really exactly saying it that way. But how much more important do you think it is to have to use technology, such as what you guys are building or just other tools to help guide and grow relationships?

Darrin Murriner 30:30
One of the ways I think about it right is clearly the market has shifted dramatically in the last few weeks. Right. So like a good example of that is Microsoft Teams. Their daily average user counts were about 30 million as of the beginning of March, and in one week, so from March 11 to march 18, they added 12 million daily active users. So you know, what is that? More than, you know, 40 45% increase in a week. Yeah, and obviously, that’s even in the midst of this, right? Because it’s like, what else? What other options do you have? But I think a lot of people look at this and they say, Man, some of that’s not gonna shift back. Right? Is it? 10%? Is it 20%? Is it 40%? And I experienced the same thing with my kids who are who are, you know, schooling from home, right? Non non traditional instruction, I think is what is the new buzzword. And, you know, when my kids finish their their work by 10am like it, it’s gonna make me stop and rethink, like the value of education, right? And is there a better way to educate my children? So I think the same thing is gonna happen in the workplace, where at the end of that, they’re like, wow, I actually was more productive. I have more flexibility. Yeah, I can choose to go into the office once or twice a week, and still get that kind of FaceTime interaction, but I think You’re gonna see a lot of that demand that shifted to remote is going to a portion of it’s going to stay remote. And, you know, it will, you know, cause decrease in demand of, you know, office space. And, you know, there’s there’s a whole cascading of impacts. And yeah, I think technology is a huge component of that. So if you know, 20 or 30%, of that, that shifted, stays shifted, then we’re in a really good spot, I think to help people make authentic connections in the workplace, build trust, build a sense of belonging, even when they’re not in the office and face to face. And the reality is like that that trend was happening significantly over the last five to 10 years again, with right like the availability of broadband access the tools like zoom and slack to help people will still stay connected and work asynchronously, you know, at different parts of the world, right? Because that’s the other piece that’s that’s been unique about our work. gets done is that it’s not just containing your four walls anymore. You’ve got freelancers and contractors, and you know, many protections are that the gig economy will represent 50% of the workforce in just a few short years. So that concept of like, Hey, we all need to be in the same physical location to get work done has has eroded significantly over the years. And I think this could just be the final, final big push to kind of move us even further in that direction.

Sam Schutte 33:27
Yeah, it’s funny, because I mean, you know, we’ve been in business for over 10 years, and we have always been sort of a remote team. And, you know, we used GoToMeeting for a long time. And now we’ve been using zoom pretty heavily for the last, you know, maybe two years, which of course zoom is has also exploded, I mean, it’s been used for so many like, everything from business meetings to stay at home moms to kids parties and everything else. You know, my daughter is going to have a birthday party over zoom in a couple days here, you know, and I have always had customers that don’t buy into that initially at least I said, Really you can, you can do what you do just remotely. I mean, really, you don’t have to come here and sit with me in Texas or you sit with me and, you know, Canada or whatever, right. But I think you’re right that people are going to realize like, Oh, this does work. This isn’t so bad. We should do this more often. Because that’s, is that’s what I’ve always said. But you need I think it does make sense that you need something else to support that missing interaction. And I think what you’re talking about some of what your software does, what Cloverleaf does, you know, if I think about my team, like as a manager, if I think about my team of developers, a lot of those folks are, they’re wired very differently than I am. And I was a software developer, and I guess I still am, but but was full time for a long time. So it’s probably worse with other managers who didn’t ever have that background. But I think you know, when I’m dealing with interacting with them, even over the phone, I could definitely see it being helpful to get a nudge like, Hey, don’t forget, this person thinks differently than you and they’re going to need they’re going to need to hear this information in a certain way because You know, when you’re busy and when you’re just whatever, you’re you’re running around like crazy. You forget that and you assume that everybody thinks like you do.

Darrin Murriner 35:07
Yep, that’s right. That’s right. Yeah, you just project certain sets of behaviors on on other people. And you know, the other. The other thing that I think is really unique about this situation, like everything that you said is absolutely true. And, and like getting those nudges, at the point in time where you need it, it can help you be effective. The thing that I think is really interesting about this, this current kind of quarantine environment, is the sense of isolation, and how do we how do we still help people have authentic human connections through you know, technology, and that that’s where I think our technology really excels, because creating those opportunities for people to engage and find connections, even even through a zoom chat or even through a slack. You know, Slack thread, or, you know, whatever the the context is, that’s the thing that’s missing, you know that the very first week of the hour us being remote, I was talking with a client who was in Europe. And you know, one of the things that she said is, you know, thank God I have a dog so I can just feel the breath of another living being on my skin. Right. And that’s the kind of level of like isolation and, and, and kind of, frankly, depression that I think some people are going to be gonna be working through over the over the next weeks a month.

Sam Schutte 36:33
No, absolutely. And so and I think it says on your website, your current sort of user count, you guys have I think, what’s the number of sort of, say, going into this whole thing? Are you all at in terms of number of users or?

Darrin Murriner 36:46
Yeah, so we we really have been on a rocket ship. From that standpoint, we ended 2018 with 3000 users. We ended 2019 with 165,000 users and we’re over 250,000 a day and Can we expect that that number to more than double over the course of the year? And I think part of it, you know, obviously that that those were projections pre Cova 19. So, you know, what does that look like? If more and more people are going remote, they’re they’re looking for technologies to exactly what we were just talking about find, you know, ways to connect with each other through technology,

Sam Schutte 37:22
What’s been your most effective marketing channel to achieve that growth to 250? And that you think is going to get you to 500?

Darrin Murriner 37:29
Yeah, I mean, there’s a couple different couple different approaches that we’ve taken to the market. I mean, one is digital, and really kind of being where people are, when they’re looking for solutions. And so we use SEO, we use some paid, you know, paid search as well. targeting people who are looking for those kinds of solutions and, you know, the whole idea of inbound instead of instead of outbound write the contract. Hit marketing. And really focusing that content in a way that is going to be relevant to people who are searching for those solutions has just been really effective for us. And so that’s probably our primary. And the other thing is because we use psychometric tools, like disk and, and like Myers Briggs, there’s a, there’s a massive coaching and consulting market out there that are using those tools, but don’t have a way to sustain or scale the work that they’re doing inside of organizations. And so we’ve partnered with those people, we’ve created a product that, you know, that’s, that’s easy and approachable for those coaches and consultants to use. And effectively, what they are is our sales and service force. So that’s, that’s been a really effective market for us as well, but it lets them sort of stand out among the crowd, you know, if they have that in their in their period. That’s right. And it makes them look a bit more relevant from a digital standpoint, because I mean, traditionally, that model hasn’t been very digital, you know, 40 page reports. And they’re all printed out. You know, the time it takes for many of those coaches to even assemble that work and organize it in a way that’s going to be compelling for the teams that they’re working with can take a lot of time. So we just we automate that whole process and make it easy for them.

Sam Schutte 39:12
Is that really your ideal customer you think is coaches in that space? Is that where you’re, you know, that you mainly look to grow through? Or would you say, I mean, is there some other ideal customer?

Darrin Murriner 39:23
Yeah, we just consider them channel partners. And, and really, who we’re focused on, it’s just leaders, managers in an organization. And we love We love it when someone that is a new manager, first time manager or someone at lower levels in the organization can just swipe a credit card for 75 bucks a month to get started with our product because we know they’re the ones that are experiencing a lot of that pain, and oftentimes, they’re the ones that are the least resourced, right. You know, senior leaders, they have dedicated coaches and they get access to To the things that they need from a development standpoint, and that’s, that’s where a lot of the focus from learning and development tends to get applied. But you know, giving, giving a new manager tools and resources to be effective with their team, educating them for the first time on, you know, how different the people that they’re leading are, and how to navigate or how to adapt your style to fit the needs of those people on your team is, is really powerful. And we’re not just giving them those tools, we’re actually educating them on how to effectively use it in things like one on one conversations and performance reviews. So that’s that that ultimately is who we want to support our individual managers who are just trying to be better, right?

Sam Schutte 40:46
And so sounds like they can go on your website, watch a demo, sign up immediately swipe their credit card. Is that something is you…

Darrin Murriner 40:53
Yeah, there it is. And there’s individual personal plans that give them access to some additional features and capabilities. There is team, small team plans, and then if you’re a coach, you know, there’s there’s a page for you as well. And then, obviously for the enterprise and we do have, you know, we layer on a set of features and capabilities and data reporting layer for enterprise leaders as well. So if you’re leading HR, or you know, you’re a senior leader in the organization and want to look across and think about, you know, curating culture and and, you know, culture change, then our tools is very helpful from that standpoint, as well.

Sam Schutte 41:31
That’s cool. That’s smart that, you know, though you all are a relatively young company, I suppose that you’ve got that sort of signup, because it’s amazing to me how many companies that are quite a lot older software companies that still you have to call, you got to email, you know, you got to you can’t just do it.

Darrin Murriner 41:49
Yeah, I mean, what one of the best things and I don’t I honestly don’t know why more companies don’t do it is like give something away for free, right. I mean, it’s a great way to establish trust with a potential customer. Yeah, they may not upgrade Yeah, you just gave something for free away. But chances are you built a little bit of brand equity with that person. And when that opportunity for them to need your product comes back around. They’re going to they’re going to seek you out, they’re going to find you, they’re going to remember your brand. And so that’s what we do. I mean, new new free accounts, typically spend anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes on our site with us. And that’s a really powerful time frame to be able to kind of submit ourselves as a trusted advisor for them. And that’s we lean into that.

Sam Schutte 42:35
Yeah. Sounds like I need to at least go and get a free account.

Darrin Murriner 42:38
Yeah, absolutely. Now, what are some new features you’re working on? Where do you think the product will be? Just, you know, areas trying to get into in the next day or two? Well, I mean, more immediately, Monday, which is, I think, March 30. We’re relaunching our Slack app. And we’re adding some new features and capabilities, we’re actually going to be on the Slack Market Place now, so visible for people who, you know, had never never heard of Cloverleaf before. And we think the timing on that it’s going to be, you know, really, really good for these new remote workers that, you know, have never worked remote before. So, that’s, that’s like, yeah, immediate term, longer term, we really want to want to support the entire professional development process. So we do some stuff with hard skills as well. And, you know, we’ve got, you know, approvals from Udemy and Coursera to integrate their course content to help people you know, Hey, I just need a 30 minute course on you know, financial analysis or whatever the case may be, they can they can get that access directly inside of our platform. 360’s performance reviews, you know, we want to we want to be thinking about that total kind of performance management, professional development and the needs that individual employees and managers have across their entire employee lifecycle, one of the cool things about our account is if you get an account, you know, you don’t, when you leave an organization, you actually get to take your account with you. Right? So it’s almost like a 401k for your development plan. And so, that’s a really unique feature. And, you know, so it can stay with you, you know, over multiple jobs, multiple, you know, if you’re a freelancer or a contractor, you know, you still get to take that with you and you can still use it to develop yourself in whatever context you’re in very cool.

Sam Schutte 44:32
You know, in and around the space of developing teams and such obviously, you’re, you know, you get to work with a lot of people and but what’s kind of the most personally rewarding project you’ve worked on recently? Is it professionally or personally?

Darrin Murriner 44:46
Yeah, I mean, honestly, just building this company has been really professionally rewarding and personally rewarding. Just because, you know, like, when we started this, we our our, kind of like, mission and vision is to really give give employees a powerful experience that’s in line with their strengths and who they are on a daily basis, because what we know is 60% of your awake life is spent at work, right. And if that’s not a great experience that that filters over into all aspects of your life, right, you can’t be a good spouse, you can’t be a good father or mother. You can’t be a good friend, if you’re totally exhausted, totally wiped out from the work that you’re doing on a daily basis and you know, emotionally not the place to really be able to care for the people in your life. And so for us, that really just kind of drives us you know, you mentioned earlier that sense of purpose. For us that sense of purpose is really giving people a powerful work experience, where their own personal skills and strengths are in line with the thing The organization needs them to deliver. And when that happens, there’s just something really powerful that that, that that happens in that individual that that transfers over to all areas of their life. So that’s really what we want. And we think, you know, that team environment is the way to reach that because, hey, on my own, I’m only able to accomplish so much. But if I put good people around me that complement my my skills and my strengths, then I know I can accomplish way more than I could ever envision on my own. And both of those things really drive us and, you know, getting feedback from our customers about, you know, how it’s changed some small aspect of the work that they do is is just really, really rewarding for us. Yeah, very cool.

Sam Schutte 46:45
Absolutely.

So I guess just to summarize, what are the three main challenges that if people are facing they should reach out to you for help with?

Darrin Murriner 46:55
Yeah, I think you know, that those team environments and there’s a lot a lot of challenges inside it. team environment that can that can be problematic, right conflict can derail a team quickly, I think the current remote people who are going remote for the first time, right like those, those are challenges that are front and center for people at a team level. And, and so that’s, that’s an easy one for us to tackle. The other thing is, you know, the the new manager, and you know, you don’t have to be 23 and managing people for the first time to be a new manager. Every time you take on a new team assignment, theoretically, you’re a dude, you’re a new manager, because you’ve got a new set of personalities, a new set of behaviors and you’ve set up expectations and, and you know, just just personalities that that you are responsible for, and the best way you can effectively lead and and help those people not only achieved the best for themselves, but also to the best for the organization. have is to really understand what what drives them and, and what their strengths are and how to deploy those things effectively on a daily basis. So those are the two biggest and that I think, you know, for coaches, you know, right now, they might actually be struggling to try to, you know, grow their business. And, you know, getting professional development might not necessarily be front of mind if you’re just worried about keeping the lights on. And so I think we can help coaches and consultants grow their business. So that would be probably the third challenge that I would say definitely reach out to us.

Sam Schutte 48:32
Yeah, I think now is the time to act right. If you’re if you’re a business that relies on any kind of like, say, coaching for businesses stuff, and now is not the time to shelter and, and let your business sort of fall off, maybe while people are sitting around not doing a whole lot at home is the time to call them up and have a conversation now probably more than ever is easier to get through to people.

Darrin Murriner 48:51
Absolutely. We You know, I think there’s kind of two mindsets that I see a lot right now. One is, Hey, I’m getting sucked into the new cycle. Right, and it feels like hopelessness and despair. And the other is, well, I can’t I don’t have any control over those things. But I do have control over the things that are right in front of me. And so for people that want to kind of pull themselves out of the hopelessness of the new cycle, you know, what are what are three or four things that you can do today, to put yourself in a position to be successful tomorrow, and I think the the ones that are going to be successful on the other end of this are the ones that take that approach, and they invest during this time period, you know, where we’re not face to face where we may not necessarily have some of the same pressures from clients in front of us, now’s the time to invest and set yourself up for success once that demand return.

Sam Schutte 49:47
So if folks want to go to your website, what’s what’s the address?

Darrin Murriner 49:50
Cloverleaf.me – so “.me”, so a little bit different, but you can go to cloverleaf.me. And then, you know, there’s different products and there’s many You have options at the top of the page, they can pick and choose which one makes the most sense for them. And, yeah, we’d love to hear from you.

Sam Schutte 50:08
If folks have an urgent pressing question, What’s your phone number or email address they can reach out to

Darrin Murriner 50:14
My email address is Darrin@cloverleaf.me. And then they can reach me on the phone 859-240-9861. We also on any of our pages on cloverleaf.me, we have a little chat window, you know, during business hours that is, is manned by multiple people, and we’re relatively responsive. So if you’ve got questions, even if it’s just, hey, I’ve got conflict with my team, what do I do about that? You know, we we, we literally help people through those conversations, as well.

Sam Schutte 50:53
Awesome. Well, Darren has been a great conversation so relevant to the current time what you all are doing and the need that are out there that everybody’s sort of, you know, the changes that everybody’s having to sort of weather through. So very much appreciate.

Darrin Murriner 51:06
Ya know, thanks for the time today, Sam, thanks for allowing me the chance to the chat.

Sam Schutte 51:11
Absolutely. And hopefully we’ll we’ll get to be able to get together sometime in person.

Darrin Murriner 51:16
Look forward to it.

Sam Schutte 51:18
Thank you.

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