Episode #34: Customer Centricity And Jobs To Be Done With Jay Haynes

Join us for a conversation with Jay Haynes, CEO of thrv, the first and only jobs-to-be-done product management software, which is based upon the foundational work of Clayton Christensen. At the heart of everything Jay and thrv do, is customer centricity. As humans, our goals don’t change over time. For example, the need to get from point A to point B. It’s how we use technology to accomplish the steps in between that has changed.

B2B companies love to chase technology: AI, blockchain, APIs, but from Jay’s perspective, customers don’t care about the technology. They only care if the technology helps get the job done faster. Think about maps. In a very short time, we’ve gone from paper maps, to GPS, to a free phone app to get us from point A to point B. If your product takes more than pushing a button to get the job done, you should constantly ask why because you could be delivering a bad customer experience. This simple example demonstrates really knowing your customer and what they are struggling with on a daily basis.

Jay also touches on moving away from the model of “shareholders over everything else” in an effort to be more customer centric, allowing customers to develop their product roadmap.

Watch the episode here:

Listen to the Podcast here:

About Jay Haynes

Jay Haynes is the Founder & CEO of thrv.com, the first and only Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) software for product, marketing, and sales teams. Jobs-to-be-done product management helps CEOs align their product teams with customers to dramatically increase their effectiveness by reducing roadmap risk, accelerating revenue growth, and generating superior equity value.

As an Award-winning executive with three decades of innovation and investing experience, Jay’s customers include Microsoft, Dropbox, eBay, Twitter, American Express, Oracle, Target, and Viacom among others.

While at the Harvard Business School, Jay studied with Clay Christensen, who pioneered the concept of disruption and popularized the jobs-to-be-done innovation method. Jay graduated Phi Beta Kappa with the highest honors from Brown University, and he received his MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School.

Customer Centricity And Jobs To Be Done With Jay Haynes

Why Humans Should Be At The Heart Of Every Business

Betsy, I’ve got to tell you. I am so excited for this interview that we had with Jay Haynes and to share it with our readers because it is so impactful and powerful. The depth he goes into with us about Jobs-to-be-Done, which may sound like a boring topic but frankly, he exposes us to an entirely different way of thinking about really getting to know your customer.

Jay is the CEO of thrv.com. They have a software that helps put a process to the Jobs-to-be-Done. I highly encourage everyone to go out to their website and understand what that concept is, something created by Clay Christensen, which many of our readers will know. It’s fascinating and valuable to every single person in business. This isn’t specific. This is something that we should all have a deep understanding of.

Customer Centricity: Most of the time customers have no idea what your features are supposed to do for them.

With Jay’s background, he’s been in so many cool companies, funded companies, old companies, and new companies. He has this phenomenally broad perspective that I feel like is culminating in the work he’s doing now. Some of the key points that we hit on are so much aligned with what we talk about and feel passionate about in terms of really knowing your customer. He articulates it so well. We should jump in because this is a good one. We don’t want our readers to have to wait much longer.

Jay, let’s go ahead and get started. Thanks so much for being here. We’re so excited to have this conversation.

Thanks for having me here.

Jay, for our readers, we’ve briefy introduced you but give us a little context about your career and the path that got you to where you are today.

Your equity value is tied to your growth.CLICK TO TWEET

I started my career years ago in finance buying companies. I was working with a firm that was making acquisitions. Back in the early ’90s, you could buy companies for five times cashflow, use a bunch of debt, cut costs and create equity returns. One of the companies we bought was Steinway & Sons. I always like to refer back to Steinway because it is the least innovative company on the planet. It has been selling the exact same product for years. In fact, they pride themselves on that they haven’t changed the product in years. They invented the piano and that’s all they sell. That got me interested in the question of growth and innovation. If you take the music industry, it’s gone under some enormous changes in that time.

Steinway didn’t capitalize on any of it. We created good equity returns but none of it was through growth. I was always fascinated by that. I went back to business school. I got a chance to study with Clay Christensen, who as you know and your readers may know was very famous for disruption. He started focusing in the later part of his career on Jobs-to-be-Done, which is how do you understand what customers really want? From there, I went and worked as a Product Manager at Microsoft, this was in the late 90s, in the Windows group, thinking that they would have the secret sauce. Back then, they were the dominant company in the world by far. It was still very product-focused. It was coming up with feature ideas and asking customers what they thought of the feature ideas. Most of the time, customers had no idea what your features were supposed to do for them. It wasn’t very scientific or efficient as a process.

I went and ran a couple of Silicon Valley Sand Hill Road backed companies. Those investors had invested in some of the world’s leading tech companies that everybody knows. I thought, “They’re going to have the secret sauce. They will know how to do this consistently again and again and, of course, they didn’t either.” That’s where I went back to Clay’s work years ago and said, “This seems like the most promising way to approach understanding customers, markets and competitors even before coming up with product ideas.” That’s where I started doing Jobs-to-be-Done work. It is wonderful.

Just so your readers know, it’s a basic idea, which is your customers are not buying your products. What they’re doing is hiring them to get a job done. That’s a deceptively simple idea but when you start applying that to markets and understanding those jobs, that generates an enormous amount of data and information about what your customer’s needs are, where they struggle, what your competitor’s weaknesses are, which segments to target, the market size of those segments, your potential revenue, your pricing. All those things get impacted by understanding your customer’s job. That’s why we started thrv years ago. We knew that it would be better to use a software tool to use Jobs-to-be-Done than it would be to use PowerPoints and spreadsheets.

Jay, I’m intrigued about the opportunity you had worked with Clay Christensen. I’m sure a lot of our readers know who Clay is and what he brought to the market. Dive a little bit more into the Jobs-to-be-Done.

I highly recommend reading Clay’s book Competing Against Luck. I will say Clay operates in a very high level academic 30,000-foot view. It’d be hard to read his book and then go launch a successful product but it is the starting point. The basic idea is that human goals do not change, what you’re trying to achieve as a human, as a person and all customers are a person. Even in B2B markets, you’re selling to a human at a company. It’s either the CFO, the COO, the VP of HR, an IT Manager or a Product Manager. You’re selling to some human, not company X. If you look at human goals, they don’t change over time. I’ll give you a few examples. We all use Apple and Google Maps. I’m old enough. I lived in Southern California when we had a Thomas Guide, which is this credibly huge paper spiral-bound map. To get around LA, you had to use this big paper map. Then we all got these GPS devices and we all use applications on our phones.

Customer Centricity: The underlying power of jobs-to-be-done is you can measure where customers struggle to get their job done in very precise detail.

The underlying job, what you’re trying to do with either a map or a navigation app is to get to a destination on time. That is the same job it was 100 years ago and it’s the same job in 100 years. That’s true for music. You can go through any market and do this example of music. I’m old enough. I had 8-track tapes. I remember those. It was a pretty horrible format. Then records and we all switched to CDs, to iPods and then to streaming services. This is very bizarre. I rebought my entire record collection five times. It’s insane. The reason is because a new solution comes along to the job of creating a mood with music. That job of creating mood with music is the same when Mozart was alive. You had to hire a string quartet. You didn’t have any recorded mediums. That’s what’s fascinating.

In any market, in consumer, business and medical markets, the job is the same and it doesn’t change. That’s important if you’re innovating because you have a stable target to hit. In B2B markets where we work with a lot of companies and I know you do too, if you look, they always love to chase the new technology. “We better have some AI or machine learning.” “Let’s use blockchain.” Those are all solutions. I can guarantee you, even in B2B markets, your customers do not care at all about your AI. Zero on its own. They do care if your AI helps them get a job done faster and more accurately.

The customers should be determining the product roadmap.CLICK TO TWEET

The underlying power of Jobs-to-be-Done is you can measure where customers struggle to get their job done in very precise detail. That detail comes from in a Job-to-be-Done like get to a destination on time. There are sixteen different steps and there are usually about 100 different customer needs. People can see this on our site and download this information to see an example of this. When you break down a job into all of its elements, we consider them to be variables in the job. There are a lot. Jobs are difficult. Getting to a destination on time has 106 customer needs.

That’s pretty crazy if you think about it abstractly but when you start to talk to customers they all come from variables. You need to know the routes to the stops, the optimal sequence of the stops and the departure time. You need to assess if you’re going to get there on time. There are all sorts of things that basically constitute the underlying needs to get the job done. Like the job itself, those needs are independent of any solution. They don’t have a technology, a product or a service in their statements. It’s a very stable target for teams to hit.

You dove into the question I was going to ask, which was how does this apply to knowing your customer? From one perspective of the example you gave, you said there was 160 needs that you have from the purpose of using a GPS as an example. Let me twist the question a little bit here. How have you seen this impact your clients when you sit down with them and you take something like a GPS or a product that looks simple? You start breaking it down with all the jobs that need to be done, the needs that need to be met. How does it shift their perspective of what they’re doing in the marketplace?

We always start with job steps that enable teams to see their market in a different way. Getting to a destination time is a good example. You need to estimate the departure time, plan the stops, travel to the destination, assess if the destination is going to be reached on time. Is there a traffic jam? Should you take a different route? You need to reset the route as needed, park the vehicle, walk to the destination. All those things are job steps. The job steps tell the story of what the customer needs to accomplish, what they need to do to get the job done, to get to a destination on time in that case.

What’s powerful for teams is it enables them to empathize with their customer more deeply because when you look at that job, it doesn’t have anything about their product. It doesn’t have any statement about technologies or solutions. It’s merely what do you have to go through to get the job done as a customer? That is the first part of customer empathy, of understanding what the customers are struggling with. We can get into it but there’s a lot of quantitative techniques you can then use to see who are the big group of customers who struggle the most with this job?

Customer Centricity: If you have the customer’s job and focus, you can do the market pulse analysis to tell you if you’re on the right track or not.

A good example of this is Apple and Google Maps. That seem like a crazy market to go after. First of all, let’s say you went to your board of investors and your CEO beside you said, “Let’s try and beat Apple and Google Maps.” People would look at you funny. They would say, “That’s insane.” Apple and Google are the most successful companies in the world. They have hundreds of billions of dollars of cash, multi-trillion dollar market caps and they have about 100% market share. Why is there even an opportunity to grow in that market? Their products are free. Even worse, no one’s willing to pay for a product. This is the definition of a totally terrible idea and a horrible market. Yet, if you look at the Job-to-Be-Done of getting to a destination on time, instead of asking people what they’re willing to pay for a product, you ask them what they’re willing to pay to get the job done. There is a huge opportunity in that market.

There’s a $2 billion segment of customers who are willing to pay per month to get to destinations on time better. Why is that? That’s so interesting. The reason is they struggle with Apple and Google Maps to plan their stops. If you’re a traveling salesperson, if you’re a busy executive on the road, you’ve got five meetings in a city you’ve never been to before, you got to optimize the sequence of those stops to stay on time. You don’t know if there’s a ball game. Is there construction traffic? You don’t know the traffic patterns that are normal in that city for the day and those kinds of things can make it a struggle to stay on time with your hectic day. That’s a big enough segment in the market to say, “We should target that.”

The only way you can find that out is by asking not about what product price is in the market, which is the very traditional way of measuring markets but what are you willing to pay to get the job done? The quantitative techniques allow you to not only look at customer empathy but also say, “Where’s the market growth opportunity? Where is someone going to pay us to help them overcome their struggles?” That ultimately is the question that you want to help answer. If we invest in this roadmap we’re going to build, are we going to end up looking like BlackBerry or are we going to end up looking like the iPhone? That’s why we always think about roadmaps. BlackBerry had a roadmap. It just was the wrong one. That’s the investment question to ask.

Along those lines, you work with some big companies. When you’re talking to people that are interested in working with you, what are you finding is the commonality more from a psychological standpoint or a mindset standpoint on companies that get that this is the way they need to do this? What do you see across the board in terms of their characteristics?

Everybody on the planet needs to understand what’s happening to collectively work to make it a better place.CLICK TO TWEET

The companies that we worked with that are looking at Jobs-to-be-Done usually aren’t hitting growth goals. They have big goals. Everybody wants to grow. As Warren Buffett says, “Growth and value are tied at the hip.” Your equity value is entirely tied to your growth. If you’re growing 10% a year, you’re going to get one multiple. If you’re growing 20% a year, you’ve got another. If you’re going 50% a year, you’re going to get even higher. That’s an exponential creation of value. It’s not just linear. The companies that are missing their growth goals or they feel like they should be growing faster, there’s something that is not running on all cylinders. That’s where we can be helpful.

The other element is there’s a lot of product team dysfunction but it’s very political making these kinds of decisions. If you’re a startup, you’ve got your founders with you and you’re building your product, that’s fine. If you’re a larger enterprise and you’re going through things like digital transformation, you’ve seen new competitors in the market, there is M&A activity you’re trying to understand, all that stuff can create dysfunction within product teams and also a disconnect between product marketing and sales. These companies can also be so big that what the product team wants to build is nothing like what the sales team is selling. It ends up being very different than what the engineering team builds and the market team is marketing. It’s like a game of telephone, where it starts at one point and what comes out of the other end is different.

We think of ourselves as teachers but also partially therapists to help these teams align around their customers because ultimately, these decisions about their product roadmap and their investment, what they should be doing and what they should prioritize shouldn’t come from the company. It should come from the customers. We asked teams, “How do you prioritize your roadmap?” We get a lot of different answers but the answer is they shouldn’t be prioritizing their roadmap. Their customers should be. We take that customer centric approach to excruciating detail.

I love what you said about the customers should be determining the product roadmap. That is so spot on. I’ve got a quick follow-up question to that. What industries do you find that are gravitating toward Jobs-to-be-Done?

It does span a lot of different industries from consumer markets to business, to medical. We always used to say, “Jobs-to-be-Done isn’t good for every industry.” If you’ve got a pure commodity like if you’re selling a kilowatt of energy. A kilowatt of energy is a kilowatt of energy. A gallon of gas is a gallon of gas. A certain volume of chemical is a certain volume of chemical. There are parts of those industries that can be very interesting but with that pure commodity, Jobs-to-be-Done isn’t going to help you if you’re just competing on cost.

Also, there’s an emotional element to every job. Getting to a destination on time. One of the emotional elements is you want to be perceived as professional when trying to get to destinations on time. If you show up to meetings late, people think, “That Jay guy, he’s so unprofessional.” That’s an emotional job. If there’s high functional complexity and there’s high emotional complexity, that is perfect for Jobs-to-be-Done. If there’s just pure emotion, like high fashion, I don’t think anybody that’s grabbing some high fashion outfit is looking for function. Whereas clothing that’s very functional like if you were an Arctic explorer, a mountain climber, underwater adventure there’s some function there. But where it’s purely emotional, I don’t think Jobs-to-be-Done does very good.

I’m not sure how you would use it to create a video game, for example or other purely artistic endeavors but in consumer markets, business markets and medical markets where there’s function and emotional complexity, they’re very good for those. You can think about it. What it does is helps you manage complexity. The world is complex. What people need to do is very complex. It helps you manage that complexity and understand it to make those product investment decisions.

Speaking of complexity, we move to this type of customer focus in a deeper way than a company’s ever done before. If they’re calling you, they’ve got some problems, they’re not growing and they’re missing their targets. What are some of the biggest challenges that you see as companies try to turn to be more customer-focused or customer-centric, whichever term you want to use for it? Let’s make this relevant. Since COVID, we’ve had some significant changes. What are you seeing now?

I would summarize it as saying, the companies that succeed with Jobs-to-be-Done recognize that it’s a process, not a project. We’ve certainly done work where it ends up being a project and then nothing changes. We try to help companies recognize that this is an ongoing process. Tony, that’s a great question. The pandemic makes very clear that you need to have the process in place to understand changes that are external to the customer’s job. You couldn’t use a better example in getting to a destination on time. People didn’t need to do that during a global pandemic. We’re all locked in our houses. That changes things.

The idea that you are going to do a one-off project and then it’s done, is usually not going to be successful. If you recognize that it’s an ongoing process where your customer’s job is stable, that will not change. What will change is where they struggle because of external factors hopefully that aren’t frequently a global pandemic but there could be new competitors entering the market, M&A activity and startups that come in to take a part of your market. All these different external factors can change where your customers struggle. The job will be the same but your customers will struggle.

I’ll give you a great example of a company you probably know called Nest. We like to use consumer example because everybody knows these companies and the jobs. Thermostat companies for decades have been selling $30 thermostats to HVAC contractors. Their market was selling to HVAC contractors and that contractor shows up your house, installs the thermostat for you and you never program it because it has a terrible interface. It’s horrible to use. A new company called Nest launches with a $250 thermostat. Imagine you’re competing in that market and a new competitor comes out with a product that’s almost ten times more expensive than the average price of your product in the market.

Customer Centricity: Your roadmap over time should help customers get the whole job done.

You may say, “Who’s going to buy that? Who’s going to pay $250 for a thermostat?” The answer is no one is buying a thermostat. They are hiring a thermostat to achieve comfort in their home. That’s the job. Thermostat is just a solution. If you looked at that market when Nest entered it and we did this, Nest was targeting the unmet needs for achieving comfort at home that related to saving money and automating the temperature throughout the day. All sorts of needs that weren’t being addressed by these HVAC thermostats that were supposedly programmable, which effectively zero people ever programmed them.

Nest got the job done much better and people were willing to pay for it. They were bought by Google for $3 billion. It was a pretty successful product. That’s key. That is where the rubber meets the road. If you have this market pulse, you can then analyze competitive entrance like that, what happens during a pandemic. If there are new regulations in B2B market like Sarbanes-Oxley emerges, how do you respond to that? There are all sorts of external changes to the job but because you’ve got the customer’s job and focus, you can do that market pulse analysis to tell you, “Are we still on the right track or not?” By the way, all the thermostat companies are consumer electronics companies or you’re going out of business.

One of the fascinating things, as I’m listening to you describe Nest here, what strikes me is the whole idea of Jobs-to-be-Done allows a company that may be a product company to transform themselves into an experience-based company. You’re hiring a product to do something, to establish comfort in the home as an example. It’s critical because there are so many companies that are still stuck in the product or even in the service era. They’re not even in the experience economy yet. They don’t get it. To see that you can use Jobs-to-be-Done to move them as an organization there or at least give them a roadmap to get there is a fascinating approach to this.

When we work with companies, we talk about this too. What is customer experience? It’s such an interesting question. With Jobs-to-be-Done, it gives you a nice way to be able to measure customer experience because you can separate it into the functional job. Achieving comfort at home or getting to a destination on time and then the emotional jobs, like being perceived as professional by others. The third category is known as consumption jobs and that’s interfacing with the product, learning to use it, maintaining, repairing it. All three of those elements, those jobs, are incredibly critical to the customer experience.

We like to tell companies that in their idea generation sessions, imagine your product like this. The entire customer experience is your customer pushes a button and the job’s done. That is the ultimate experience. This is critical to the mindset in adopting it as a process, especially we see this in B2B markets a lot where they need to adopt this mindset because the customer wants your product to get the job done for them. They don’t even want to use your product to get the job done. They want your product to do it for them. No one has more time in a day. We’re all busy, hectic, stressed out and anxious. We live in this late capitalist society where it’s enormous amounts of anxiety, pressure, stress and no one has any more time. You can see this happening in market. This isn’t just theoretical.

My favorite example back to music is my fifteen-year-old self, who used to take records. I had to go to the record store, spend what little money I had to buy a record and then I had to buy a cassette to make a playlist. I’d have this Walkman. I’d walk around and have this cassette that will eventually be burnt out or the tape would get eaten. To envision that I would go to Pandora and push a button and wherever I was on planet earth, I would be streamed a great playlist of songs that I liked over the air wirelessly. That’s insane to think about. That whole industry went from very highly complex, very technical plastic records, vinyl records, magnetic tape to push a button and you’re creating a mood with music that’s pretty accurate.

That’s true in business-to-business markets too. You can even see this in SaaS applications. Before, Salesforce pioneered this to set up an enterprise application. You, Betsy and Tony, are in this business and I think your readers know too. On-premise software solution was years of hiring consultants and millions of dollars of provisioning. It was incredibly painful even to access emails. You had your Microsoft Exchange Servers, an army of IT Managers. All that went away because now you just log into the application via your browser and you’re good to go. That’s essentially the push-button experience for your customers. That’s what you want to think about. If your product takes more than pushing a button to get the job done, you have to constantly ask why because that is a bad customer experience.

Another way to think about it is let’s say it takes fifteen steps with your current product for your customer to get the job done. That’s an opportunity for a competitor to come along and say, “Ours only takes 10, 5 or 0.” The music example is great about this too. Microsoft launched the Zune, which I assume neither of you owned a Zune because almost nobody did, to compete with the iPod. It was exactly like the iPod. It even had a podcasting feature ironically. The reason it failed is because they thought there was an iPod market. There’s no market for iPods. There’s no market for creating a mood with music.

It failed because it took the same number of steps. It was exactly the same as the iPod to create a mood with music but when Pandora launched, you typed in Miles Davis, Indigo Girls or whoever you liked and you immediately were creating a mood with music in one step. It was signing up 90,000 users every single day when the Zune launched. That is innovation. That is growth by any metric. That’s because it gets the job done for the customer. That’s the key insight to the customer experience.

Jay, I’m interested in learning, internally with your company, how you talk to your team and the culture that you’ve built around customer-centricity and how you incorporate what you’re professing within your company.

Companies have a responsibility to make the world a better place.CLICK TO TWEET

Not surprisingly, we’re building thrv on thrv using Jobs-to-be-Done. We use it every day. The best example I can give you that demonstrates our approach to this was when we started the company years ago, we knew we wanted to build software. We built some initial versions of the tool that weren’t very good. The software wasn’t our focus. Our focus is working with companies to help them satisfy their customer needs. That’s the job. We had a combination of software plus training with services. We were going to help our customers no matter what.

Every company and every entrepreneur want to envision their great product that’s already on version 7.0 but you have to start somewhere. We tell this to product teams and entrepreneurs that we work with too. “Go out and generate revenue from your customers by creating value.” That’s what we did. We have no outside investors. The company has been profitable and growing since we founded it. Precisely for the reason that we wanted to view that we were helping our customers with their Job-to-be-Done regardless of what our product is. I can guarantee, one thing certain in this world is that the products and solutions for whatever job you’re getting done are going to change in the future but the job is the same. We took that approach to helping our customers, which is the same approach that companies should use with their customers.

In my experience, most software companies don’t use their own product, not because they can’t. They simply don’t use their own products. I find it back when I was buying software, when I was running customer satisfaction and business intelligence for a company many years before I start my own practice. One of my rules of thumb was if they didn’t use their own product, I was never going to buy from them because I knew they could not understand what I was going through if we installed and tried to use their software. As you’re working with your clients, do you help them get out in the field and understand what it’s like to use their product or their service? Is that part of the Jobs-to-be-Done methodology?

We do that in phases. The answer is yes. I couldn’t agree with you more, Tony, that people should eat their own dog food, as they say. I believe 100% of companies should be using their products. There’s nothing like that to identify the struggles of your customers. The first step is still understanding the customer’s job, independent of the product. Before we do the analysis of their product and its current state, we still take that step of saying, “What is your product being hired for? Why are people using your products?” Interestingly, even before that, especially in B2B markets, we even asked them who their customer is. You’d be surprised how many companies don’t have a very good definition of their customer. There’s a lot of disagreement about it. That’s usually because, especially in B2B markets, they’re very complex.

Jobs are very complex. What level of abstraction do you define the job at? Ultimately, if you look at companies, if you’re in a B2B market, creating equity value is the goal. If you’re a CEO in a board and your company is not creating equity value, you’re getting fired. BlackBerry is a great example. They failed to create equity. They lost $50 billion in market cap. People forget that. What’s amazing to me is people forget very quickly but BlackBerry was four times bigger than Apple when the iPhone launched. They had a market cap. They seemed like the behemoth. The Apple is a little company that has cheap Mac product for creative people. They had this iPod thingy for consumers but no one was looking at the iPhone when it launched and said, “This is going to take over the world.”

The BlackBerry CEO dismissed it. Steve Ballmer said, “Who’s going to pay $650 for a phone?” It’s not a phone. It’s a portable computing platform. We always make sure that regardless of where their product is, the first step is still understanding the customer’s job and then it’s much easier to say, “What is our product doing? Why are people using it?” Sometimes your customers are using your product for different reasons than you think and that’s because it’s helping them with some part of the job. The reason that’s so important as a first step is that your roadmap over time should help them get the whole job done.

No one wants to use multiple products, multiple services and have to integrate different technologies to get a job done. You can see this in many markets. This helps understand M&A activity when companies are buying other companies. They see, “We’re not getting this part of the job done but this company over here is. Let’s acquire them and try to put our solutions together to be a single solution to get the job done.” It doesn’t always work but that’s the theory behind it.

Jay, if you were sitting in a coffee shop and overheard somebody talking about your company, what would be the thing you would most want to hear them say? It would light you up if you heard people talking about your company in this way.

We have some case studies that people can see. One of my favorite quotes is from Matt Bjornson, who was a Director of Product Management I worked with at Target. Target’s biggest competitor, as everybody probably knows, is Amazon. How would you beat Amazon? That seems like an almost impossible task. They were working in the registry market, baby and wedding registries. They use Jobs-to-be-Done very successfully and they empathize and understand their customers. They launched their new features within their roadmap using Jobs-to-be-Done and Amazon started copying them.

If I heard someone at the coffee shop say this, “We worked with thrv and our competitors started copying us.” Imitation in this is zeros form of flattery even in business. That was exciting. A huge competitor who seems super scary and taking over the world, their CEO is jetting off to space, all these crazy things, to be able to reverse that and say, “They’re following us. We’re the leader.” That’s powerful because that generates growth. When you become the market leader, that is everything. Business is super competitive like anything in this world. To hear that directly from Matt was wonderful.

I’ve exhausted my list of questions I have. This has been a great interview. Thank you very much, Jay.

I have one more. Looking forward on the next years, what’s on your radar? What are you thinking about when you are sitting in that coffee shop?

Customer Centricity: Your customers are real people. They are struggling. There are opportunities to help them where you can create value in this crazy, stressed-out, anxious, and complex world.

The thing that gets me very excited and the reason I love doing this work is we are trying to inventory the jobs that people need to get done across industries, whether it’s consumer business or medical, ultimately to make the world a better place for people. This is what it comes down to and gets us motivated. We live in an insane world. It is very strange. People don’t fully grasp because we just live in it, how different the world is. Even from when I was born in 1967, the world has changed unbelievably fast. If you look back 100 years, the world has changed like nothing else ever in the history of evolution for billions of years since the Big Bang and certainly for billions of years of the earth.

This time period is like nothing else. It’s accelerating and getting faster. That means companies, ultimately countries, society and everybody on planet earth needs to understand what’s happening in order to collectively work to make it a better place. We have a lot of struggles. If you took a snapshot of the world, almost 40% of the United States is extremely lonely. The UK appointed a Minister of Loneliness because loneliness has such detrimental health effects. It’s as bad as smoking packs of cigarettes a day. The UK has a nationalized health system. It’s costing them an enormous amount of money to have all these lonely, sick people.

What can companies do? Companies have a responsibility to try and make the world a better place. I know there’s a lot of, “Yes, we’re going to be helpful and sustainable, think about our stakeholders.” What does that mean when you’re putting your customers front and center, as well as all the other stakeholders? You’ve got employees, communities that you operate in and you have shareholders certainly. Jobs-to-be-Done helps us get past this era of the shareholder at all costs to everybody else. It doesn’t matter what happens to the community and even to our customers. We’re entirely shareholder-focused. There’s been a lot written about this because we’ve had this 50-year experiment of pure shareholder value creation at the expense of everything else.

It hasn’t improved our society. We have massive income inequality. We have loneliness. The planet is on fire. I live in California. We’ve had back-to-back-to-back fire seasons where the fire is down the road and I’m huddling in one room in my house with my children with five air purifiers trying to be able to breathe. It’s crazy. I do think Jobs-to-be-Done can help companies be a big part of this solution because there’s value to be created, growth and empathy that should drive that.

Jobs-to-be-Done, if nothing else, is about customer empathy. Your customers are real people. They’re struggling. There are opportunities to help them where you can create value in this crazy, stressed out, anxious, complex world. When I take a step back, look at across all the companies we work with and all the jobs that we’re looking at, it makes me hopeful. It says, “It’s not just about creating the new widget, using machine learning or blockchain.” At the end of the day, it’s helping people live a better life. If we can make some tiny little dent that helps with that, I’ll feel good.

I mentor in the entrepreneurship class at the University of Dayton. What you said should be taught in every entrepreneurship course around the country because that’s so much bigger than building a company or a series of companies. It’s one of the biggest whys I’ve ever heard. I love everything about what you said.

Thank you very much. That’s great that you’re teaching there. I’m hopeful about the next generation. They’re really interesting. They don’t want to do the same things in the same way. They’re very innovative and open to new ideas. That’s fantastic. Congrats to you for doing that.

Thanks. A quick sidebar, we have this location that is a hub bringing the students from the University of Dayton together with the business community to foster exactly that. We’re going to have on any given day 250 students in this building with the businesses. It’s the opportunity to see them in how creative, innovative, compassionate they are and getting to interact with them but then also giving them the mentorship and wisdom that comes with being born in the ’60s. It’s a cool vibe to see that happening. It’s a model that we’ll be spreading across the country. Like you, I’m very optimistic and hopeful that it will be the philosophy and mindset moving forward with entrepreneurs.

We think of ourselves as teachers. I’ve taught a lot. I taught at the USC Marshall School at USC and at the Presidio School of Management, which is where I first started teaching Jobs-to-be-Done. They have a sustainable MBA program. I love working. I’m still mentoring some entrepreneurs too from my undergrad that are doing some interesting work. That’s so important being a teacher, a mentor, an advisor. It makes me hopeful. That’s great to hear.

When Betsy and I were writing our book in 2018, ProphetAbility, we take a section of the book that we point to what’s happening at that point in time, where things were headed over the next years, which we’re living in. We didn’t predict the pandemic but there’s a lot of other things in there. One of the things we point to is how Gen Z was influencing, even before they had money, they were influencing their parents to change their buying behaviors.

I watched that happen because I’ve got two daughters, 16 and 18. They’re right in that core Gen Z population. They’re more sensitive in the sustainability of the earth, to veganism or vegetarianism, those types of things. I stepped back and looked at it. It’s like, they’re citizens of a world rather than just citizens of a state, a city or a country. It gives me hope when I see that they can influence the purchasing patterns of their parents before they have the money because once they have the money, those habits are already embedded and ingrained. We’re going to see an extremely rapid change as they come into the workforce and over the next years as they become the primary income earners in the economy.

If we understand the struggle, we can be more empathetic and have better conversations.CLICK TO TWEET

You see some of that now post-pandemic where people don’t want to go back to the office. Even Apple said, “Everybody, come back to the office.” Their employees are like, “We don’t want to come back to the office,” even that crazy spaceship-looking headquarters. You’re right, Tony. Those habits are changing. That’s another good example. The pandemic isn’t just it began and ended. It has these long-term changes in what people are struggling with and what they want to do. That’s interesting to hear you say that.

I have four daughters too. They’re a little younger but they’re influencing me every single day. That’s the type of thing that companies, if they can keep track of that and get a market pulse, rather than looking at those Gen Z and saying, “What products are they buying?” Looking at them and saying, “What are the jobs that they’re prioritizing? Where are they struggling to get those jobs done?” Those represent the market growth opportunities while also satisfying those customer needs for Gen Z, for example, but also contributing to this idea that we all do live on this one tiny small blue planet that’s hurling around this giant nuclear reactor in space. It’s a crazy idea to think about.

Jay, along those lines of working for the greater good, one of the things that we love to ask our guests is what can we, Tony and Betsy, but also what can our readers do to support your efforts and help you with what you’re out to achieve?

It’s along these lines of teaching and spreading the word about Jobs-to-be Done. There are a lot of people talking about it. It’s not like we’re the only ones. If they think about it through this lens, think about growth, opportunity and what’s happening in the world, that helps contribute to a dialogue and a conversation that’s productive rather than everybody yelling at each other and having these heated debates. Outrage is a drug that everybody’s addicted to on social media. We try and stay out of that. If you’re understanding where people are struggling, it’s called a Job-to-be-Done but you’re trying to look for struggles.

If you have that understanding of that struggle, hopefully, that can make everybody more empathetic and have better conversations instead of being outraged and yelling at each other. That happens in social media but it happens inside companies too, where people have different opinions. Product teams are very smart people. Smart people can disagree with each other but if you put your customer front and center and you put empathy as your main goal, that can hopefully facilitate those conversations and maybe someday make the world a better place.

Jay, I feel like we could talk about this for days. We do appreciate and respect your time. Thank you so much for joining us. I know Tony with the customer experience background that he has is completely geeking out on this conversation. A lot of the things that we wrote about in our book, we’ve touched on too, about the emotion. A lot of the things that you brought up were also something that we feel passionate about. We can’t thank you enough for joining us. It will be great following your company. Thank you again, Jay, for being here. This was an awesome conversation.

Thank you, Betsy. Thank you, Tony. It’s great to be here.

Betsy, this is probably one of my most favorite interviews we’ve done yet. I know I’ve probably said that on past shows but they keep getting better. Jay covered so much ground. A few of the pieces that standout in my mind are this idea that the customer is hiring your product to get a job done. They have specific needs and struggles. His perspective on how to address that gets to the heart of our show, which is to really know your customer. It’s knowing what your customer is struggling with on a daily basis. It may even be things that your customers take for granted that they have to do this hard work.

They’re setting a thermostat as an example or the old joke about the VCR or the VHS players. I was like, “I don’t know how to reprogram the clock on that.” We don’t need to because anything we have automatically set its clock. It was such an interesting interview. I believe that our audience has taken a lot away from it. The other thing that stands out to me is when he said, “We’re always working with humans. We’re always selling to humans, whether it’s B2B or B2C.” That’s a favorite saying of mine. I use it all the time. He showed us a roadmap of how to do that in business.

When he mentioned that, I immediately went to that part in my head in our book about how we talk about it. One of my favorite quotes of yours is that people don’t do business with businesses. They do business with people. I thought that was spot on. The one thing that jumped out to me was when he said that, “The businesses should not be the ones determining the product roadmap, the customers should be.” That’s very similar to the work we do with customer advisory boards. Getting the customer feedback on a product roadmap and helping define that roadmap with feedback from the customers.

That I thought was key and then the big why. At the close of the interview, when he was talking about how this work makes the world a better place and then connected those dots for us, I thought was inspiring and fascinating. It does give me hope for the younger generations that they are going to figure this out better than we have. I’m excited about this interview. I know our readers are going to get a lot of value from this one. That wraps it up for another episode of the show. Thanks for joining us. We’ll see you next time. Thanks. See you, Tony.

See you, Betsy.

 Important Links:

Related Podcast