clevergig is a SaaS workforce management tool focussed on the gig economy, connecting people to work on-demand. It also helps temp agencies easily place workers with their clients. Our team recently had the opportunity to sit down with clevergig’s sales guru and Chief Commercial Officer Arnoud Visser to discuss how clevergig has navigated 2020, and what plans the gig economy startup has for 2021 and beyond.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about your background, and how you became part of the clevergig team?
I have worked in sales and lead generation for 12 years. I started off cold/hard selling computer hardware at Dell with very high targets (€2.5 million a month) for our team to reach. From there, I grew into the software side and started my own lead generation services business, helping customers get more cold leads. Then in 2017, through various connections I made in the industry, I met Michel Pilet (clevergig’s Founder) who asked me to help with sales and generating leads for clevergig. The plan was for me to just consult for a few months after getting them off to a good start in terms of sales – which I did. After that, I returned to focus on my business. But then at the beginning of 2018, Michel and I met and he asked me to join the clevergig team full-time as Chief Commercial Officer.
Q: Your team recently reached 500 000 shifts filled on the platform. How else do you measure your success?
The more shifts our customers fill, the more it shows us how happy they are with our service, and that is how we measure our success: by adding value. We are incredibly proud to have reached 500 000 shifts filled on the platform, and now we are looking to go further. A big bulk of those shifts occurred in 2020, so we hope that next year will see a continuous rise. Our next milestone is to fill a million shifts, and we’re getting closer to that mark. But it’s all thanks to our customers and our relentless focus on helping them achieve their goals.
Q: One of your core values is customer obsession. Many of your clients are in the Hospitality and Healthcare sectors, both experiencing very different challenges since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Could you tell us about what you’ve seen happen in those sectors since then? What has been its impact on you, your clients, and how they use the clevergig product?
Everyone was obviously surprised when COVID-19 hit, which has subsequently created really challenging times for everyone. We sell many of our products to hospitality and healthcare temp agencies, so obviously when the hospitality and events sector shut down they required less flexible staff which affected our clients. Additionally, our clients in the healthcare sector also faced various challenges, especially because the industry had to be extremely strict on restrictions of temp workers.
We see ourselves as a customer-obsessed company, so the call was to keep all of our customers on-board by all means necessary. For our clients who were struggling, we gave massive discounts, halved prices, and even provided our services free of charge for a couple of months. We did this to show that we are a team: if they stick with us, we will stick with them.
Q: Talking about the product, how has your roadmap evolved? Has it moved in a certain direction to accommodate for any challenges this year?
We’ve made some interesting choices about our long-term growth strategy, the markets we want to expand into, and the kind of product we want to offer. We want to be an on-demand planning and scheduling product that is a perfect fit for the likes of catering companies, security companies, road traffic controllers, care institutions, hospitals, etc. Basically, any business which requires any form of temporary worker.
We are working on upgrading our infrastructure while keeping the same level of experience that our customers have now. Furthermore, we are trying to make things better and simpler, and that doesn’t necessarily mean adding more features. It’s about improving the foundation of our product: how it is used, how our customers get the most value out of it, how to provide proper data insights with good dashboards, and so on.
We want to move into the ‘front-office’. The mid-office is what we do now with the on-demand scheduling, so the front-office would be more like CRM, onboarding, staffing, and hiring. We want to expand our product in that direction since some of our customers are already using it as such, which we can improve upon drastically. But overall, our roadmap hasn’t really changed a lot.
Q: During the pandemic, you decided to go “remote first” as a company. What was the reasoning behind that and did you experience any changes compared to the setup you had before?
Part of our team is based in Kyiv and the other is in the Netherlands, so remote working was already part of the clevergig culture, so to speak. Freedom is one of the core values of our company and we wanted to make it a distinctive feature of our business, which is why we encourage remote working. There’s a whole philosophy about flexibility, fewer meetings, more focus on the work, shorter cycles (planning for a couple of weeks instead of months), which we have embraced. We also worked out a new meeting strategy where we are moving more and more away from unnecessary weekly standups. Meetings should not be standard, you should only meet when you have something to say. We also try to work more asynchronously.
Q: Did you notice any impact on your sales cycle after moving to a fully remote environment?
At first, some clients were a bit reluctant simply because it was different. But video calls really help with these situations to create a sense of comfort, along with your approach to avail any unease derived from the setup of course. So, our sales cycle hasn’t been affected. However, what has changed is that more weight is added to what you say, what you show, and how you follow up. It simply means being better at every touchpoint.
Q: You changed your way of working to Basecamp’s 6/8 week cycle. Could you tell us a bit more about what that entails and why you did the switch?
We felt that a quarter was too long, and a month was too short, so we were thinking about what was best for us and we came across the 6-week cycle from Basecamp, developed by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson who also wrote Remote. This way of working also seemed like a logical extension of their philosophy.
In short, it entails everything you need to do being chopped up into 6 weeks. If you can’t finish it in 6 weeks, the project scope is too large. You also have a two-week cooldown period in which you close your previous cycles and start your new 6 week cycles. In those weeks, we pitch new ideas, process the old ones, and select the ones that we want to move forward with, which we call batches. You end up with 3 or 4 big batches (which you really need the full 6-week cycle to complete) and a lot of smaller batches that can be done in a shorter time. Every team member gets their 6-week cycles (product growth, customer success, and operations) assigned to them. You form teams together with the people you need to do your batch with and schedule meetings to work together. You really focus on the work that needs to be done instead of being preoccupied with unnecessary tasks and administrative black holes. We’re really happy we moved into this way of working.
Q: clevergig often identifies as a “company that plays the long game”. Could you elaborate a bit on what you mean by that and what lessons other entrepreneurs could learn from this approach?
Towards the end of each year, we usually have discussions around what kind of company we want to build: do we want to do the whole VC thing and sell-off in 2 years, or do we want to build a long-term investment which can run itself without hands-on C-levels. Of course, we always settle with the latter, and that’s where the long game comes from.
We notice there’s a whole lot of people talking about building the next unicorn, taking on millions in funding, and we really try to stay away from that. We want to choose our own path, finance our own growth, or at least not dilute it in terms of shares and people who want to have a say. And we try to have this long game mentality present everywhere: in how we treat our customers, the kind of agreements we want to make, how we focus on our marketing, etc. It all comes down to the long game and we see this as a philosophy of life and business.
Q: How are you marketing the clevergig software at the moment (videos, blogs, etc)? Who is your target audience/clients?
Our biggest target audience is owners and planners of temporary agencies, and it’s quite hard to target them demographically speaking, so we mostly invest in Search Engine Advertising. We have a couple of campaigns running and we try to keep optimising them for increased efficacy. In addition, we’re also really investing in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), so building a list of the important keywords that our potential clients might be looking for and we try to build our content based on those keywords. We also leverage what we call ‘The Network effect’ which is a feature of clevergig. If you consider our customers and our customer’s customers, as well as the workers scheduled to work for these customers, that is a massive web of connections. So we also receive a lot of business through the referrals of our happy clients.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, Arnoud. We appreciate your insights and transparency around the successes and setbacks clevergig has faced in a very challenging year globally. We look forward to witnessing your continued growth and we’ll have the champagne ready when you hit 1 million shifts filled on your platform.