Sam Jacobs is the Founder & CEO of Pavilion, a community-powered learning platform for go-to-market leaders and teams.
Sam launched Pavilion as Revenue Collective in 2016 and bootstrapped the company to $10M in ARR before taking on a $25M growth financing round in early 2021, led by Elephant Ventures and GTM Fund.
Pavilion is powered by an international community of more than 10,000 sales, marketing, RevOps, and success leaders from the world’s fastest growing companies.
Pavillion teaches new skills, forges meaningful connections, and helps companies grow. Pavilion University leverages a proprietary Immersive Learning Framework™ to fuse structured training with ongoing social learning and just-in-time resources that drive results.
Prior to Pavilion, Sam spent 15 years as a senior revenue leader at VC-backed companies in the New York area including Gerson Lehrman Group, Axial, Livestream/Vimeo, The Muse, and Behavox.
What you will learn
- The big lessons Sam has learnt from his past failures
- How Sam’s business coach helped him create value beyond money
- Discover why it’s so important to do what you love for a living
- The unexpected joy of creating
- How to monetize the ideas that bring you the most energy and joy
- How Sam’s business helps it’s members unlock and achieve their professional potential
- Find out how Sam created a business model to scale his business
- Uncover why documenting what’s in your head can help you clarify your thoughts
- Learn the challenges of using third party platforms for building a community
- Sam shares his top insights from his entrepreneurial journey
00:00:04 - 00:01:25
Hi everyone and welcome to The Jeff Bullas Show. Today I have with me, Sam Jacobs. Now, Sam is the founder and CEO of Pavilion, a community-powered learning platform for go-to-market leaders and teams. It's also known by the acronym GTM, which is not gross trailer mass, it’s Go-To-Market. So I just want to make sure we're clear on this with all our folks, well I don't even own one or other, so it's fine. Sam launched Pavilion as Revenue Collective in 2016 and bootstrapped the company to a $10 million in annual recurring revenue before taking on a $25 million growth financing round led by Elephant Ventures and GTM Fund. Pavilion is powered by an international community of more than 10,000 sales, marketing, RevOps and success leaders of the world's fastest growing companies.
Everyone at Pavilion teaches new skills for just meaningful connections and helps companies grow. Pavilion University leverages a proprietary immersive Learning Framework to fuse structured training with ongoing social learning and just in-time resources that drive results. Prior to Pavilion, Sam spent 15 years as a senior revenue leader at VC-backed companies in the New York area including Gerson and he's dialing in from New York. Welcome to the show, Sam. It's an absolute pleasure.
00:01:25 - 00:01:28
Thank you for having me, Jeff. It's wonderful to talk to you today, thanks for having me.
00:01:28 - 00:02:08
It's an absolute pleasure. Now, Sam just released a new book called Kind Folks Finish First and I have read part of it, not all of it, and it is really, really a lot of it aligns with what I believe in as well and we're going to touch on some of these things that he values, the things he's learned along the way, which the book is his story and also what he learned along the way and what he shares with the world and that's, it's fascinating. So Sam, what was the driver to starting Pavilion? What was it desperation, was it inspiration or was it both?
00:02:09 - 00:05:21
Ah well, I would say closer to desperation than inspiration, that's for sure. So, you know, as you mentioned in my bio and I apologize that we gave you such a long and labor bio, but, you know, I've been building companies here in New York for 20 years and the last, really the from 2010 to 2018, I was in senior leadership roles that, you know, startups at kind of venture capital backed high growth companies. And it was a job that had never done before. It was a job that, you know, we're all good sales people in the sales profession. So you're good at selling yourself into the job. But the job description itself is not persistent, it means different things based on what company you're in. And it was also the world was changing so rapidly and is only changing more rapidly today because of technology and so I needed a support group, you know, that's what I needed, I needed other people to talk to, that we're facing the same challenges and for whatever reason, you know, the communities that were out there didn't really serve my people in that way. And, so back in 2014, I started bringing people together in New York City. There was never, and you know, there was never any grand master plan, I'm sure you might talk to some founders or CEOs or people that have started companies and, you know, from the minute that they started this vision of where it would be in 10 years, that's not what it was for me. For me, it was, I needed help. And so I started bringing people together for dinner every quarter to just talk about our challenges, talk about what we faced. And again, never thinking that it would be a company because it's a dinner club and those are pretty easy things to copy. But for whatever reason, there wasn't that kind of club in New York City, one of the biggest cities in the world. And so, I gave it a name. At the time, we called it Revenue Collective, it has since been changed to Pavilion and we just started sharing ideas and best practices with each other. It was actually free as well at the time. Now over 2018, people started hearing about it from all over the world. and I got emails from people in London and from Amsterdam and from Toronto. And so, and I don't know how they heard about us, but they heard that we were doing something interesting and they wanted to be a part of it. And so we expanded globally pretty quickly. In fact, we do have a reasonably sized chapter in Sydney, down in Oz, in addition to Singapore, sort of, you know, our Asia Pacific presence and then the final, you know, the final sort of milestones or inflection point was, meanwhile, you know, as I'm starting this group and we're coming together and sharing best practices and ideas, I'm getting fired all the time. And certainly that's in the book. And so obviously like, you know, it, the group helped me find the next job that's for sure, but by the last time I was fired from my last full time job, which was four years ago, I realized that we really, this might be a thing that we needed, I needed to work on full time. And so I've been working on it full time for four years because I felt like generally I'm unemployable to other companies. And so I guess I needed to be a CEO because I couldn't keep a job anywhere else. And so I've been working on it full time for four years. And since then it's been more inspiration, but the inception was desperation.
00:05:21 - 00:05:33
You mentioned some of the reasons why you got fired from your job and you sort of hinted that maybe at the time you're a grumpy bastard and were complaining all the time. Is that correct?
00:05:33 - 00:06:14
I would say that is correct. I have this, you know, I don't know if you've ever been in this kind of relationship, but unfortunately for better or for worse, I've been in this kind of romantic relationship where you fight, you get the sense that your partner wants to fight. But neither of you is leaving the relationship and neither of you is deciding to stop fighting and just get along and those are toxic relationships and that was the kind of employee I was, right. I was always disgruntled. I always thought I was smarter than the boss and that I knew better, but I never just said, okay, well if I think that's true, then I should go start my own company. So it's kind of like the most toxic kind of person because I'm the person that's sort of kissing and moaning in the corner but not actually.
00:06:14 - 00:06:15
00:06:15 - 00:07:20
Yeah, exactly, well, I'm, you know, I'm doing some stuff, but it's like, you know, one of the things I realized that this was hard for me as an independent kind of like iconoclast is like, when you work for somebody else, you aren't working in service of their vision, you just are and it's their company, it's not your company, they might call you a partner, sometimes they might give you some equity or some shares, but it's their company and that's okay. You just have to get on board with that deal. And if you're not on board with that deal, that's not their problem. That's your problem. And so, I was a grumpy bastard and I had a problem. And my problem was that I didn't want to accept the reality that if I wanted to be in charge, I needed to take the risk and I needed to do my own thing. So yeah, it's been, you know, this is what one of the reasons why I kept getting fired. Now, there, you know, there are other reasons too. But I, you know, one of the lessons of the book is like, hey, you're not a victim, you know, life isn't happening to you. For the most part, you are the responsible for the things that are happening in your life. And you know, that's been the journey for me over the last 15 years.
00:07:21 - 00:07:26
So the reality is that if you hadn't failed and been fired so many times, you wouldn't be where you are today?
00:07:27 - 00:08:10
I 100% agree with you and that's why even in the book, you know, I've been divorced, you know, this is my second marriage. I'm grateful for every single experience, I really am because it led me here. And even in the book, you know, I talk about getting fired. I talk, I tell some of the stories, but I really try to make it clear that like, I don't view these people as evil people, you know, the CEO that fired me. They were doing the best they could with the information that they had and I learned something every single time and it made me who I was and I'm grateful for it. If I had never had any of those experiences, I wouldn't have ended up here and I'm glad where I am today and I'm happy, finally. And so yeah, I'm grateful for it.
00:08:10 - 00:08:33
Yeah, certainly. That's what I've learned along the way is that you learn more from pain and pleasure and as long as you're willing to learn from it and that's the attitude to failure, I think, and some people like scream at the world for their entire lives, some go, well, there's a lesson here. How can I learn from this and how can I grow from it? And it sounds like you've done that brilliantly.
00:08:34 - 00:09:13
I agree with you 100%. And I think, yeah, I just think that a lot of people think, it goes the same with luck. You know, I consider myself lucky, but whether you think you're lucky or you're unlucky, you're right, It doesn't, you know, these are just stories that we tell ourselves, you know, you can say you're the luckiest man alive because you survive something tragic accident where you lost a loved one, but you still made it, you still survived and then somebody can, you know, have a car drive by and splash muddy water on their dress and say that, you know what it will always mean. It's just up to you how you define the narrative of your life.
00:09:14 - 00:09:23
Exactly. And that's an attitude. It's a mindset. Yeah. So obviously you've moved on from grumpy to great, which is fantastic.
00:09:23 - 00:09:27
I'm so grumpy. Don't worry. I'm just better.
00:09:28 - 00:10:05
I love the book because it's honesty. And now one of the things you mentioned was that you got a coach to help you, Jim Rosen, and it helped you, I suppose get some focus in your life. Can you tell me a bit about that story? Because I was fascinated by it and thought it was great in terms of how he led you to move beyond money to values and let that drive you or tap into it and discover it. Tell us about what happened there with Jim Rosen's as a coach and around that.
00:10:06 - 00:14:44
I'm happy too. So yeah, I mean that was the second to last job where I was fired. That was a company called The Muse and I hired a coach because once again, you know, I felt myself in hot water. There's a thing that happens when you're or a thing that happens to me at least when you're a startup executive, the initial couple months are always wonderful, it's the honeymoon period and then the last couple of jobs I've had, there's just been like, and it's almost in the moment, it's almost like on a day you walk into work one day and you realize something changed and you're alone in a way that you didn't feel alone before and it's probably because the CEO is getting ready to fire you, so which is of course what happened, so I hired a coach to just try and help me navigate my career because it wasn't going the way I wanted it to go. And he said, so we met in our first meeting and he says to me, so what do you stand for? And I never heard that question before and I thought it was silly at first I said, why does it matter? You know, I stand for making money, you know, I'm trying not to work for these assholes and to work for and to like retire at some point. So I stand for wealth creation, and he said, well that's not a good answer, that's not enough, standing for making money, in fact doesn't help you make money. Money comes after you do the work, money is the exhaust of your good work, it is not the input unto itself unless maybe you work in finance and that was a lightbulb moment for me and so we went on this and he had this exercise that he did where we identified a bunch of different pillars and we figured out where did I find energy and what my core values and where did I really draw inspiration? And at the end of this multi week process you come out, I came out of it with this vision statement with this statement for what I stood for the answer to the question and my statement was I stand for helping people I care about and respect, achieve their professional potential, achieve their goals and that's because I reflected on how much where I got, you know, besides the work, every day of running sales teams, which you know frankly wasn't always what my favorite thing to do in the world was. What I really, really liked was helping people and that sounds a bit cliche but it was true, you know, I liked helping people find jobs, I like being a resource for people and what I really, really liked was I liked doing all of those things and not asking for anything in return, just doing it because it helped differentiate me, and helped me stand out by not being the person that was a chiseler that was asking for, you know, every last penny of every transaction anytime you created value. So I got this vision statement and low and behold, you know if we zoom forward, you know, that happened in 2017, in October of 2017. So it's five years later, you know, just over five years from that moment, that is exactly the mission statement of my company. That is what Pavilion stands for, that is what we do. Our mission statement is we help our members unlock and achieve their professional potential which is, you know, almost to the word what that statement was that came out of that values exercise that I did with Jim Rosen and, you know, sometimes you do these things and you think, well you know, that's nice, but you can't really make money doing that. And I will say, you know, to you Jeff and to your audience, I am continually surprised at how you can make money, how many ways you can make money doing things that you love. And I'll give you one funny example and I don't mean this in any gender specific way. This is just my wife, right. My wife loves to shop, she really likes nice things very, very much. And you know, I think about what I like helping people. I built a company helping people, but there's no possible way that my wife can get paid to do what she loves, which is to shop. Well, my wife just opened a jewelry store, a fine jewelry store here in New York City and what she does is she goes around and she finds beautiful things manufactured by other designers and she sells them, you know, she's like a multi brand retailer and she has somehow created a job where she gets paid to shop. She gets paid to shop and she gets paid to help other women feel beautiful about themselves and to look their best and to be proud. And that was just one more example of, wow, if my wife can get paid to do what she loves in that way, then maybe anybody can, maybe there's a way, more ways than we think where you can align what gives you energy with what pays the bills.
00:14:44 - 00:16:41
I love that. And I read at the beginning of your book and you've just summed it up to, there are many paths to success and that is so true because we sort of get this idea that there is only one path for you. There are, it's almost infinite. It's just trying to find which one is hidden within the granite that you are going to carve out. And this also comes to what you've done and what you're helping people do is and it's also what I learned from your book, observed in your book was the joy of creating. And you talked about choosing joy and you also described the fact that one of the ways that gave you joy initially with one of your other past failures, which was becoming a music media mogul, is that you love music and you suggest, you said that what you really loved was just getting an idea or a sound and then turning that into a song, in other words, it might evolve over months until finally, you've crafted a song. Now, I think for me observing, reading in your book, is that you are choosing joy in other words, and I think you also reframed doing what you love is sometimes not understood properly. Do you have something to add to that because it's to do what you love and everything will just be, you know, sing Kumbaya, but where hidden within that is doing something, I think you're good at enjoy and do something that brings you joy raises your energy. But you've used it a couple of times as well. So is there anything you'd like to add to that, the creator or any of the things I've just said?
00:16:41 - 00:21:16
Well, I think you're making a, I mean, you're we're talking about stuff I wrote about, So obviously I think you're making good points, Jeff, but nevertheless, I think you're making some good points. Here's what I think I, you know, I think I talked about in the book, right. There's like, if you're thinking about career, right, you're thinking about making money, you're thinking about like supporting yourself and creating something that's productive that the world values and you know, I say that people, there's sort of a three components: what you're good at, what you're interested in and where the market is moving. And most people overweight what they're interested in and they underweight what they're good at and where the market is moving. And, I then add my own little take on it because that's from somebody else. But the other part I would say is that people don't define what they're interested in properly. And so what do I mean by that, and I use the example of the record label. So some people say like I don't like sales and you're like well, what does that mean? You know, it's like, I don't like accounting, well which part? You know, like sales is a bunch of different activities. Sales is talking to people. Sales is a sort of a transactional kind of job where you get instant results, you get a lot of quick feedback. You have to make the sale or you don't, you get your rank. And so some people really like that competition. But defining it so broadly because it sort of feels, I don't know because you feel like you're afraid to dig a little deeper. I think it obscures your ability to discover where you find energy that maps to the market, that maps to an area that society wants you to work on, because they will pay you to do it because it'll serve some kind of value for them. And the point that I make when it comes to writing songs, because you're right, you know, I am, first I was a media mogul and failed. Now, I'm a probably nominally more successful songwriter. And I’m not a professional songwriter, meaning like, I just can't pay for whatever reason, I'm not good enough to pay my bills by writing songs. And so once somebody might say, wouldn't you love to go back to being in a band? And my point is, I don't really miss it. Why is that? Well, because I find joy, like you said, in terms of, like that part of what are you interested in and what do you like doing. It's not just the music that I'm interested in. I'm interested in the act of creation. I'm interested in the act of having an idea and then seeing that the idea over time, particularly over time. Because it's not about instant gratification, it's about this journey that you're on of bringing this thing and music is a good example because, you know, you're screwing around with your acoustic guitar and you got a couple of chords and you come up with something and then there's a moment when you hear it in your head and maybe it's got strings, maybe there's horns, maybe there's like actually good musicians and a piano player that's competent unlike me. And you hear it in your head and then you go about the next couple of months pursuing the creation of that thing that you heard in your head and it takes a long time and it's not instant. And of course, by the time it finally is finished, you're completely bored of the song and you've written 30 new songs, but that same fulfillment, I get that joy almost every day. I get that joy from helping create this business. I get that joy from the sense of autonomy and agency I have as the founder of this company and knowing that this is my work, this is my art, that like people, it's really kinda hard now to tell me what to do, which I never liked in the first place. And I get to work on these ideas with great people and they bring my ideas to life in ways that I couldn't have imagined. And that's the same thing as bringing in a great piano player and having him or her write some line that you never even thought of that complements your chord progression perfectly. So my point is like, yeah, I think people, they say do what you love, that doesn't mean that if you love poetry, you can be a professional poet but you have to figure out why do you love poetry and are there elements of that thing that brings you joy that might be put to use where the market is moving, where there are more productive, where where society will reward you for the work that you're doing and yeah, and I think that that's way more possible again than people think because like in the previous example it's like, we'll literally just walking around to people like introducing them to other people in the spirit of helping them. Maybe I couldn't make money. But I built a business that was able to monetize the ideas that brought me energy and joy and I think that that's more possible than people think.
00:21:16 - 00:22:54
Yeah, I totally agree with you and I think you've got to be patient and play the long game on this and enjoy every day's creation I think, which is what you've just mentioned. There's a great philosophy out of Japan called ikigai and you actually summed it up even a simpler way in other words, I think ikigai, what are you good at, what do I enjoy doing and what would the world pay me for and which is what you summed it up, ikigai adds a couple more dimensions of that, but it doesn't really matter. You've summed it up perfectly and I love it. I think it's so on course. So alright, so what I also love is that you work out how to take an idea and then take it to the world. In other words, a lot of people have ideas, ideas are cheap, but not many people act on it. So here you are, so you decided in about 2017, I think it was to take your failure learning from it what you enjoyed doing and what you were good at. And then you were starting to look for a market and you started consulting, didn't you? And prior to that consulting, you documented your expertise. Tell us a bit about the, documenting your expertise and then we're gonna talk a little bit more about how you created a business model that could scale at Pavilion. So, tell us about that documenting your expertise and what you did.
00:22:55 - 00:26:34
Well, sure. Well, you know, and I by the way, you know, because we have like 10,000 members now in Pavilion all over the world. And so, I still, most of my, much of my day, not most of my day, but much of my day is still doing one on one consultations, like coaching conversations just because people, the point of the company is like trying to help people in a time of need. So literally today, I had a conversation with somebody that's like I want to go out on my own. I think I wanna, you know, but I'm scared and I'm not sure what to do or how to do it. And so to the point of, you know, of what you asked, Jeff, that is my answer, which is the same piece of advice. And by the way, this was advice that actually my wife gave me because I was thinking I'm so sick of these bastards, I need to make some of my own money, how am I going to do it? What should I do? And she said, why don't you spend time writing down everything you know about running a company? Why don't you just take this moment? It was on a Tuesday because I've been fired on a Monday, you know, and just document all of the opinions that you have about how to build a company because I sensed that I wanted to try consulting. Ultimately, Pavilion is not a consulting business, but really the consulting effort for me was about taking a leap of making my own money. And so, you know, it was this process and I really encourage everybody to do it. I probably encourage them to do it, you know, over the course of their career rather than just in one fell swoop. But the idea of like, okay, like, let's, you know more than you think you know, sometimes we have this inner monologue that, you know, we're not good enough, we're not succeeding. We don't really know that much. And the reality is, a lot of us have a lot of wisdom and experience. You mentioned, you know, like a phrase that I think about, there's only one way to learn something which is the hard way, right, which is through pain. Like, and we've all learned a lot of things the hard way. So let's document all of the things that we've learned. So I spent a bunch of time just dropping out all of these ideas that I had and ultimately, those things became a product that I sold in my consulting business, which was like a company diagnostic tool. Basically, I took all of my ideas about how to run a company and I turned it into the scorecard that I could then use to go into a company and say, let me rate your company on how well you're doing against these critical dimensions and you'll pay me to do it. And it worked really, really well. And so, you know, I think the lesson there is like, you know, one of the things I've discovered, which is sort of an odd observation perhaps, but we assume, you know, human beings, you and me or maybe you and me are different. But many people, for a long time, I assumed that my thoughts were in complete sentences and they're not, they're actually not. My thoughts are half their fragments and their pictures and their words. So my point is when I think I have a complete sense of all of the things that I know, because it's in my head, I don't, I don't and the act of documentation, the act of getting it out of your head onto a piece of paper or into a microphone. But some way of memorializing it, it becomes far richer and more complete than you think you might think, oh, I don't know that much. I don't have that much interesting to say, well, let's start getting it out and we can figure out afterwards if that's actually the truth. So for me, documentation besides being a useful exercise just to get in the habit of writing and understanding yourself and some introspection and awareness. It also helps memorialize your expertise, your wisdom, your experience in a way that I found to be quite useful later in life.
00:26:35 - 00:27:49
Yeah, I love that inside about actually taking what's in your head and documenting it. And a lot of people don't realize how much expertise they really do have until they take the time to sit down and document it. And one of the joys I have and where time stops or slows right down is writing. And what I love about the craft of writing is that you've got to take what's in your head, which you said is in messy snippets and words and visuals and put them down on a piece of paper and then you're gonna go, does this make sense if someone read this? And also there is so much learning in that because you suddenly go, well, I need to research a little bit more here. So for me, just like you've done, that really resonates because I write to learn and also write to communicate so it makes sense. And then also the structure of that to keep it as simple as possible. So that and not use big words and that is just the art and craft of documenting writing is a lot of people, I think I would encourage everyone to do that a lot more.
00:27:49 - 00:28:33
I completely agree. And I mean this is an even weirder suggestion, but I also strongly recommend more people talk to themselves because sometimes people think writing is, you know, it's intimidating to some people, but again, same thing I found that I can come and reach certain conclusions. I'd obviously do this away from other people. So I don't seem completely insane, but actually literally talking out loud, talking through a problem with myself and almost creating two opposing, you know, narratives out loud helps me figure out what I actually think because again, sometimes you think, you know what you think, but again, it's half formed. It's not fully formed and the act of putting it out into the universe in some way, actually helps you clarify your thoughts.
00:28:33 - 00:29:52
I totally agree. I think there's a power and verbalization and I think there's two aspects of that on reflection is that there's a power verbalization with yourself by doing it out loud. And also there's a power verbalization in a conversation. Whereas you communicate and talk to someone, the ideas seem to come out of almost nothing out of the universe as you verbalize because by verbalizing you actually are creating. So now, the other thing that I love too was an observation about, early on you decided with your consulting and you got your first gig that you didn't charge for time but for a product. Now, I think that's really important to make, there's a lot of consultants out there and they are always trading time for money. Whereas you early on almost from the gecko said I'm going to create a product that I sell and I believe you went from not quoting a time hourly rate, but a product that a five day diagnostic interview, the sales team. So, tell us a little bit more about that, how that's maybe fed into Pavilion and how you have scaled what you do.
00:29:52 - 00:33:59
Well, I mean to your point, right. Like I'm always, being a consultant was fun. It's fun to go into other people's companies and not really have any, your butt on the line whether your ideas work or not, right. And I just remember consulting for some really terrible companies and thinking man, I am so glad that I am not a full time employee here and, you know, it's 4:59 PM, I will see you tomorrow. I thought, you know, good luck with this disaster that is your company. But relatedly, I felt like, you know, there's so, I was always focused on scalability, I was always focused on and my problem with consulting was like it's how do you scale it, how do you reach beyond yourself? Because if you're always just trading your hourly rate, it becomes difficult, now fundamentally if you're one person show, it is still time for money that is still the gent. But how do you present it differently in such a way that you can, because the only way to scale a one man or one woman, one person consulting business is to charge more for less time. And so I, so my rule first and foremost, which is, you know if you have any consultants out there, I refused, because I met with a bunch of consultants. I was doing some research and my friends were consulting. I charged 125 an hour, I charged 250 bucks an hour. And I'm like I'm just not doing that, I'm not gonna, it felt like it cheapened, it cheapened me in a way that and it didn't create any kind of replicability. So to your point, you know, the next step after documenting everything I know is I created that diagnostic tool. And so I, and then I started selling the tool and I said, hey this scorecard, this process takes five days and $1000. And, you know, and obviously there's an implied day rate there which is I guess like $2200 or something like that. But or maybe it's $2400 but the point is it's more, I probably wouldn't have gotten $2400 a day if I said that's my day rate. And then what I did was I took that same tool and I just said well now it takes three days and it's $15,000. And all of a sudden I had raised my day rate to $5000 a day. And, but I was still selling a product, right, people didn't think about it like that, they thought about, so how do you create? So I was focused on, okay, I want to create template repeatable deliverables that I can give to people over time and that they can and they have the appearance of authority and credibility and objectivity and that's why I spent all this time building this diagnostic tool because otherwise it's just like, well, let me take a look at your company and I'll tell you what I think. But this is no, no, no. I've created the scientific process, you know, I've been in the laboratory for 10 years and this is the result. This is my beautiful thing that I've created from that laboratory. And you know, for me, I mean, how do those ideas relate to Pavilion? I'm always just interested in what is, what can we repeat? How do we take experiences that are ad hoc, that are one off, that are ephemeral and can we create something that builds upon itself and that's, you know, more than even consulting or productization, you know, the main thing I'm such a passionate advocate of is recurring revenue. I am, yeah, they're just, it's just the best. It's also the most humane way to build a company and I say that because what a subscription definitionaly implies that you're providing ongoing value to your customer. And if you stop providing that value, they stop paying your subscription and that completely aligns your incentives with your customers. Your goal is how do I build stuff that keeps them sticking around and they're the final arbiters and everyday judges of whether you're doing that successfully and it's just a way, and of course there's a bunch of benefits from like running a bit from an operational perspective, but fundamentally I find that it aligns the company and the customer more effectively than any other kind of payment model.
00:34:00 - 00:34:37
Yeah, subscription model has become, almost everyone's trying to work out how to do that from whatever they're doing. And even comes down to these subscription models, even for products such as shavers, that was one of the, you know, and their subscription models everywhere now. And also, it increases the value of the company because you're not basing it on project, having to win a new job every project every day, it's recurring monthly revenue. That's predictable and as an entrepreneur that allows you to sleep a little bit better at night.
00:34:38 - 00:34:53
And it allows you to invest, you know, that's the whole thing is that like it allows, because you have a better sense for what will happen tomorrow, you can make plans, you know, whereas if you have no idea what's going to happen tomorrow, then you're just stuck waiting for tomorrow every day.
00:34:54 - 00:35:34
Yeah, exactly. Now tell us, I'm always intrigued by business model. So you started with a certain business model and you're always thinking about scalability as a consultant and part of that was creating a product that was scalable, replicable, and the thought, an inspiration has to keep doing that with almost everything you do within that. So, in having a look at Pavilion, it appears that you have two areas. One is a community where you charge a subscription, I believe for that. And the other one is Pavilion University, which is training. Is that the two core pillars of what Pavilion is about?
00:35:35 - 00:38:28
Yeah, effectively, I mean, it's interesting. So, you know, Pavilion started as a community, right, with very, very strong word of mouth, right. So other people would pay to be members of the community and say, hey, Jeff, you gotta join this thing, it's great. And you say, what does it do? You know, what do I get for my money? And I'm like, don't worry about it, it's great. You're like, well, I trust you, Sam, fine. Here's my money, that worked at the beginning when you had such strong word of mouth that everybody felt really compelled. But as you try to grow, as you try to scale, as you try to add thousands of customers, not just hundreds of customers, something happened to us, and it really happened this year, which is, people say, well, I'm not getting what I thought I would get. And we say, well, what did you think you would get? And they, with a bunch of things, and we say, oh, well, that's not, that's not what we, it turns out that community is a really ambiguous category without clear ROI, clear return on investment. And so this year we figured out, well, what what can we build that references community, but is a much cleaner, has a more understandable value proposition, going back to, you know, my wife not to use her example all the time, but she started this jewelry store because I love selling jewelry, because everybody knows why gold and diamonds are expensive. I don't have to explain it. If I was selling some $2000 dress, somebody, I would have to explain why this $2000 dress is $2000 and why you couldn't just buy it at H&M for 50 bucks. Everybody understands what online training and taking a class online means, and nobody, and many, there's a lot of different expectations around what the community is. So we realize that the heart of the business is, if we can build courses using our community, meaning using practitioners to teach these courses, because they're doing the jobs themselves every day, and you take these courses with other people, then the community can be the same community that you get from going to, you know, secondary school from university, which is the community of the people that you have that shared experience with, that you took the class with, that you learned that life skill with. And so that's why, that's where Pavilion University came from. And now the category that we talk about is called community powered learning. And so, the business is, but to your point Jeff, there's still effectively two businesses. The first business is the executive business which is learning plus still interesting experiences among peers. And what that does is brings the rest of the teams into the organization. So we have two businesses, we have an executive business which is focused on the CEOs and executives that run companies and they get learning plus a bunch of other stuff, mainly pure networking and then everybody else just gets learning. And so those are effectively, but fundamentally I never thought that's what I was building. But what I'm really building is an education technology business. That's what it is, that's what it turns out because that is the way to product ties community in a way that has clear tangible benefits than just calling it community.
00:38:28 - 00:39:56
Yeah, very interesting. I had a chat with a young lady in Silicon Valley who sold her business called Vibley to Kajabi and her concept was building communities that matter and lead to happiness. And she's developed and on the platform, she developed what she called engagement metrics and I said, well so she would say, okay, how many comments are being left? How much interaction are they doing? And so there's actually a metric for community engagement in other words, an engagement, a bunch of engagement metrics on top of that. Then I said, well, how do you get the community engaged? And she said, well, the number one thing we use is this. I found really insight which she said, we keep people accountable by having challenges, in other words, a seven day meditation challenge. And that was really quite fascinating. And it's really interesting to hear what you said about communities that the benefit is this sort of amorphous, massive cloud that you're not. People say, well, what's the point? Even though they know that the end benefit down the track, a lot of people think short rather than long still. Yeah, but that was really interesting in terms of building technology that allowed to build communities online. And that raises the next question for me, how much of your business is online today?
00:39:57 - 00:40:25
I would say 80% of it. I mean, most of it, you know, it's online learning, you know, it's all through, you know, Zoom and sort of, so the courses are all online. The community portion of it is largely online through Slack and you know, kind of group chat. And then the last piece of it, you know, the last 20% is in person event experiences. And that of course is not online, but that's still just about 1/5 of it, most of it is online.
00:40:25 - 00:40:38
So what does the technology used to, you mentioned a couple of tools like Slack and chat, do you have a technology or use of technology where the community gathers online?
00:40:38 - 00:42:02
I mean, one of the craziest things about our company given the success we've had is that there is still nowhere to go, but in two weeks there will be. But as of today, there's nowhere to go to log into that we own, that we built, there's no user name and password. The first thing that happens when you sign up for Pavilion is you get a login for Slack and that's really like where the community is housed and, you know, I'm embarrassed to say it, but also proud because we built a $20 million business without having any kind of software at all that we've developed, but we're building our own platform now because it's breaking and because Slack is not the right way to organize community and we need our own tools and we didn't want to just use a third party tool off the show because I want to build a valuable business and we need to own some of the code ourselves. So we are at Pavilion digital for the first time, we will go into testing again, like I said in two weeks and we'll have the opportunity to log into it. The foundation of it will be taking classes, you know, the foundation of it will be gamified almost not, you know, the vision, the long term vision is like duolingo for sales and marketing training, it is, what is to, your point about challenges, what are the ways that we can continuously reinforce the skills and the techniques and the tactics that you're learning on an almost daily basis. But so anyway, so that's what we're building.
00:42:02 - 00:42:48
I think that's a great move because the challenge is building a community on a third party platforms such as Facebook groups. Matter is going to keep changing the bloody rules all the time and then you're going and you know, they're doing, they don't give a shit about you, all they care about is making money. So I think taking control again, another independence, taking control moment, which is great. So I look forward to hearing more about how that technology and platform goes. But yet getting control of the, having control of the community platform I think is a really great move and I totally get what you're doing and hats off to you for building it in Slack. I think that's quite amazing.
00:42:48 - 00:43:08
Yeah, I mean, it's started to break down, but nevertheless, it's been pretty crazy. But like you said, Jeff, we don't have the time to go into it, but it's been a very long journey of building our own platform and I'm super, super excited that we're finally gonna be shipping some actual product in the next two weeks, which is great.
00:43:08 - 00:43:38
I'm mindful of, we've got a hard stop coming up. So just to wrap it up, what are some of the most important things that you like to share, what you've learned along the way as a grumpy old bastard that left the corporate behind and started his own business and found out where he really does have joy. What are some of the top insights you'd like to share that you've learned along the way that made a difference in your life?
00:43:39 - 00:45:43
Well, I mean, I wrote a book about it, so you know, the top insight I will share is the title of the book, which is that you mentioned this earlier, right. Everybody thinks that the way that they succeed is the only way to succeed. So, you know, yeah, Donald Trump or some whomever doesn't matter. And I don't even have a point of view. I mean I do, but it's not relevant here, but everybody thinks, you know, so you'll meet a lot of people out there that tell you that you got to be heartless bastard, you know, you got it's a dog eat dog world, you gotta get them before they get you, don't leave money on the table, you know, you gotta make sure you extract fair value for every transaction, every negotiation, you got to make sure that you get what's fair, don't get screwed over. There's this us vs. them mentality and my point is and what I would share with people regardless of if you buy my book, of course I would love it if you did. But many, many benefits or people are available to people to make bulk orders. But the point is that there is a different way, there is a different way and I realized I'm not statistically significant. I haven't done a scientific study and maybe I have some skills or innate advantages that maybe people out there listening don't have. But I can tell you that my life changed traumatically when I stopped thinking about life so transactionally and when I set out intentionally to try and help people without expecting anything in return. And really trying to play a long game and not need to be paid every single time I offered assistance or support and you look different. You accumulate power and influence because somebody that can help lots of people with, somebody that can help lots of people, right, is somebody that is a helper that you go to when you need help. And it really changed the trajectory of my life when I started thinking about what can I do to just start making infinite deposits into the Karmic bank without requiring any kind of withdrawal. And good things just started happening so, you know, that's that's the message.
00:45:44 - 00:46:05
I think that's awesome and inspiring, so in other words, you gave your gift to the world and the world is giving you back and I think that is a great way to live. And it's a great place where joy rises as well. Thank you very much Sam, for your time and insights. It's been an absolute pleasure to have you on the show. Thank you very much.
00:46:05 - 00:46:15
Thank you, Jeff. And, I appreciate it and folks want to chat to me, you can, you can email me [email protected] And, you know, the book is called Kind Folks Finish First.
00:46:16 - 00:46:33
Thank you and go and read it. It's actually a great read. I'm about one third way through the book, so, and it's great, great stories, great insights and I've got more to learn from you within the pages of the book where you've actually taken what's in your mind and put it on paper.
00:46:33 - 00:46:36
I am living, I'm living my life lessons here.
00:46:36 - 00:46:41
You are and thank you very much for putting it down and sharing with the world. Thank you very much.
00:46:41 - 00:46:41
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