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Carl Lewis: Welcome to The Connected Enterprise podcast. I’m Carl Lewis, your host from Vision33, and my guest is Tiffany Boyd from Vendavo. Tiffany, welcome. Please tell us about yourself, Vendavo, your journey there, and what you're doing these days.

Tiffany Boyd: Thank you so much. I'm excited to be here. I'm the chief of staff for Vendavo Incorporated. I was born and raised in project management and technology. I started my career in a network operation center, running downtimes across multiple companies, running multi-million projects such as taking down data centers, and relocating software and hardware. I’m an alum of Winston-Salem State University with a computer science and mathematics degree. I’m a mother of one and love to travel. I started at Vendavo as a business process manager, then became business intelligence director.

Carl Lewis: How big is Vendavo’s workforce?

Tiffany Boyd: We’re just shy of 500 employees across the US and Europe.

Carl Lewis: So, they're scattered all over.

Tiffany Boyd: That's correct.

Carl Lewis: When the pandemic occurred, many companies were somewhat prepared for remote work, and I imagine Vendavo was one of them. You were probably doing it already, right?

Tiffany Boyd: Yes. We have a corporate office in Denver, Colorado, headquarters in Dallas, TX, and a presence in our Czech Republic and Sweden offices. But our employees are worldwide, which we pride ourselves on. One reason I joined Vendavo was the people. They're very specialized in what they do, and they're global. I enjoy connecting and building relationships with folks from different regions with different experiences. It comes together for a unique work experience. 

Carl Lewis: Did the pandemic make you change anything you were doing? You were using remote meeting tools already, but did you modify anything or just expand what you were already doing?

Tiffany Boyd: Vendavo does a great job with our document repository and engineering tools already, but the pandemic gave us insights into which tools make us most effective, keep us connected, and make us feel as though we were still building relationships while housed in our cocoons. So, it was consolidation. How do we get everybody on the same tool? How do we optimize it? Can we use plugins to make it better? For example, we used JIRA plugins, Miro [a virtual whiteboard], and Zoom. We made them available for every employee and used them for meetings. And we did it fairly fast.

Carl Lewis: It was distributors, manufacturers, and others who weren't prepared because they were focused on on-premises operations, and everything was in person. It was harder for them. However, even in companies like yours and mine, where we were prepared from a technology perspective and got better at working remotely, people still struggled. Did you find some people had a harder time with the remote experience?

Tiffany Boyd: Definitely. Our people are special and take on the onus of their functional area. And one thing we do well is build relationships in person. When we have big meetings, or need to brainstorm and solve problems, we come together as a unit. Not doing that was hard. I’ve built my career off relationship-building. That's sitting across from somebody and seeing non-verbal cues. You don’t pick up on those on camera. There’s less connectedness. We adjusted by removing some of the professionalism and connecting to have coffee talks, chatting about our lives or books we read. The goal was to continue to connect on a professional level while adding that personal connection and ensuring people still had a work-life balance.

Carl Lewis: Absolutely. You said you're a mother of one, right?

Tiffany Boyd: Yes.

Carl Lewis: My grandson lives with us. And over the last two years, people who would never have gotten to meet him got to meet him because he decided to attend a few meetings. 

Tiffany Boyd: Same for me. Everybody has met my son and two dogs. I think it’s neat. Not that you didn't think they were human, but it’s seeing their daily humanistic side. And this is ingrained, not only from a Vendavo perspective, but what they do with their families. That's essential. Vendavo holds that as one of its true values.

Carl Lewis: I'm sure my grandson has a better idea of what I do than my kids because he's been around it more.

Tiffany Boyd: That's right. Because it looks like you're on the phone all the time. Or in a meeting. Now it's, "Oh, there are people on the other side, and they're actually trying to do something." That's great.

Carl Lewis: I think you're correct about the nonverbal communication. My educational background is in communicology. I studied ways to read the room. And one of the most important ways—although we don't know we're doing it when we're doing it—is by watching how people act.

Tiffany Boyd: Yes.

Carl Lewis: Their comfort, their expressions, etc. It’s difficult to get that when all we see are headshots. Some people say as much as 90% of our communication is nonverbal. It emphasizes what we lose, even with video calls.

Tiffany Boyd: Our senior leadership is big on turning on cameras. Sometimes you can’t—you’re in a car, you're eating, etc. But we’re proud of turning on our cameras because it's easy to hide behind that camera and avoid engaging. Vendavo has done an excellent job of being present and allowing folks to see your expressions.

Carl Lewis: A friend I've worked with for years started doing that about five years ago. We didn't use cameras routinely, but in meetings with him, he’d say, “Cameras on.” He trained the organization. I imagine it would be difficult if you weren’t used to it. "Am I ready? Am I good enough?" Because some people got very casual.

Tiffany Boyd: Many of us at Vendavo are customer-facing, but it feels good to have a routine and dress up for each other—to be our personal best for each other. Vendavo takes a lot of pride in that. We're showing up for our customers and ourselves.

Carl Lewis:Do you feel like there are downsides to remote work? We talked about missing non-verbal cues, but are there other things we've given up that you’re looking forward to getting back?

Tiffany Boyd: There are many benefits. If someone needs to take their children to school, pick them up, they can. We’re saving money by not paying for parking. No commute. That’s gotten comfortable. Now, we must make folks want to be in the office again. We're doing creative things like Taco Tuesday or virtual happy hours for that, and people are warming up to being together and having workshops again. But it's not mandatory. It's encouraged because I think people want that one-on-one connection.

For me, one-on-ones are best in the office. I want to see you. I want to be next to your presence and know what's going on. There's a human approach to building relationships you don't get through a camera. That's the challenge. It's understanding that people will say they hate losing that hour to come into the office, but guess what? Their day will still be productive. We want them here. But it may not be all the time anymore.

Carl Lewis: Exactly. There are a lot of hybrid situations. You said building relationships has been the backbone of your career. It’s very similar for me. I miss the coffee breaks and the casual conversations. I did some of my best work while walking around.

Tiffany Boyd: Now you're home. You're like a bear hibernating. One benefit of going into the office, one, is Vendavo’s beautiful headquarters. They've worked hard to make our space homey and comfortable. We have various sitting areas, not just conference rooms. We have a full kitchen and a dining area where people can sit family-style. We have talk boxes if you want to be private. They've made it very diverse. And two, getting out of your house, connecting with people, walking around downtown, and getting fresh air are benefits. What’s going on now is expressing it's not required. The 9:00-5:00, eight-hour day isn’t a hard stop. People have learned to do short bursts of work and get personal things done, and we trust that. You can have that same behavior and expectation at work.

Carl Lewis: If you want people to come to the office regularly, you’ll have to compete for it, right? Make it a more attractive place people want to spend time.

Tiffany Boyd: That's right. And we don't want to scan badges and monitor when people go in and out. We want it to be fluid. We want people to have a work-life balance, feel comfortable, and want to come to the office.

Carl Lewis: Have some changes worked out so well they’ll permanently be part of the culture now?

Tiffany Boyd: Absolutely. The pandemic forced us to look at our people, how we value them, and how unique they are. The market is hot right now. If you’re looking for a job, you can literally write your ticket. So, what’s the special sauce that will keep valuable employees with you? Vendavo has done that well by doing assessments for our roles. They have from maturing development practices for how they develop their employees and move them up, through, parallel, and horizontal in the organization. Each employee has a unique and special role. That makes us competitive in the market. We’re in a competitive, unique space in the market. Consider pricing and helping people realize their revenue across manufacturing, distribution, and other areas. It’s a unique space. I think we're doing it well.

Carl Lewis: That's good. People are discovering that it's more competitive to find and keep employees because there’s so much demand. Did your turnover increase during the pandemic? Did you have to reemphasize recruiting to meet demand?

Tiffany Boyd: Yes. But it wasn’t only because of the pandemic. Vendavo is growing. We have a lot of employees with a long tenure, but you’ll always have folks who decide it’s time to move on and do something different. It hasn’t really been a challenge keeping people, though. It's a matter of preference and where you are in your life. As we evolve, we’ll have more recruiting resources in the US and with our friends across the sea. We’ll invite new ideas and space by having people who’ve been out in the market and can give us a different perspective and help us grow. It's been all the benefit.

Carl Lewis: Are people looking for work looking at it differently regarding the type of job, the environment, and the type of place they want to work? Do you think expectations have changed?

Tiffany Boyd: Absolutely. Now that the world of remote capabilities and knowing you can have work-life balance has opened, people are evaluating what works for them versus how to get their foot in the door. It's writing your ticket like, “I want a job with flexible vacation time I don't have to get approved. I want a smaller workspace. I want to travel. I want to write my own hours.” I think that’s becoming especially important to people. They want to drop off or pick up their kids. They want to go to soccer games. They don’t want 60-hour weeks or stress. It’s an “I only live once, and I'm going to do it well" attitude. It sounds selfish, but I call it self-full behavior.

Carl Lewis: It's probably a byproduct of the pandemic making everybody appreciate life more. We miss some of the stuff from before.

Tiffany Boyd:  Absolutely.

Carl Lewis: But we got other things in exchange, like being with our families more often.

Tiffany Boyd: That's right. Just from people getting sick and dying, people are cherishing more moments. I’m happy to see our senior leadership team consider and hold it as a value. And they’re not only speaking it—they’re living it. I see it in the vacations where they go offline or when they delegate and trust their people to do what they need to do.

Carl Lewis: Yeah. We've even had people take trips over the weekend, then stay and work from that location for a week.

Tiffany Boyd: I've also taken a vacation and worked at that remote location. It’s a testament to technology and how it's evolved over the pandemic.

Carl Lewis: Sometimes people needed to get out of the monotony of the house and into a different climate. Enjoy their evenings. Watch the sunset.

Tiffany Boyd: That's right. The unfortunate thing, though, is you have time and money invested in business spaces. Those aren't small tickets. How do you balance that out? You need more or creative ways to rotate people in and out and to keep your space or not. Think of places like WeWork. Maybe evolve to that. Having meetings there and reserving office space a couple days a week versus having a whole space.

Carl Lewis: We eliminated several offices because so many people in our consulting-type work can work remotely, and we discovered we could trust them to do the work. They've been just as productive—if not more productive. That saved us money. And then being strategic about where we have offices and their real purposes.

Tiffany Boyd: That's right.

Carl Lewis: I've also seen people revamp the internal part of their business, considering how many private offices and what kind of meeting rooms they have versus need. One company put in a whole auditorium so they could have companywide meetings. Another combined two facilities in the same city because it made so much more sense. Businesses are still going through that.

Tiffany Boyd: It's been interesting in our office space. Many of our executives have their own offices because of the pandemic, which is great because they have such critical conversations, meetings, and one-on-ones. We have a big conference room and several meeting rooms with tons of whiteboard space and interactive Zoom calling. We use our space well. We also have things that keep you fresh during the day, like desks that go up and down so you can sit and stand. And the sitting spaces that feel like your home living room with lamps.

Carl Lewis: I haven't figured out how to take my Zoom meetings kind of on the run. I’ll get a cup of coffee, but I'm still in the meeting. I can go to the kitchen, come back, and still be on Zoom. That technology's not quite there yet.

Tiffany Boyd: Not yet. Maybe with the glasses.

Carl Lewis: Yes, maybe with the glasses. If they ever get that to work. But I'd probably fall down the stairs.

Tiffany Boyd: It's too much stimulation at one time.

Carl Lewis: Exactly. One more question: Does Vendavo have big plans for growth, or are you planning to keep on the same track you are?

Tiffany Boyd: Absolutely. We’re doing well in the market among our competitors. We've been concentrating on data and slicing and dicing it in new ways. We're evolving. We have a great commercial analytics avenue. Our industry best practices are guaranteeing—not just forcing but guaranteeing—our measurable values in less than three months. We're growing our customers’ profitability. We have internal opportunities for employees with the expansion of our business. It's only up from here. Our products are moving to the cloud, and our customers are excited about it. They're engaged and giving us more ideas. So, Vendavo is up.

Carl Lewis: That's wonderful to hear. Well, Tiffany, it's been wonderful to spend time with you. Thanks for chatting with me. 

Tiffany Boyd: Absolutely. Thank you for the opportunity.

Carl Lewis: You're welcome. And for everyone else out there, stay connected.