The Remote Show







Show Notes:

This week we’re excited to share our conversation with Beckie Thain-Blonk, the Co-Founder and Chief Customer Officer at Prosper, a leading coaching platform for emerging leaders. We dive deep into career coaching, leadership and much more.

Career Coaching is something many people hear about, but not many of us get the chance to enjoy and benefit from. Prosper is looking to change that. They are bringing personalized 1-1 coaching to the masses by creating a online, scalable platform for coaching professionals into the next steps of their career.

It was a pleasure to learn from Beckie’s backstory working in corporate environments and entrepreneurial endeavors, before she began Prosper. We discuss the shifting landscape of  business and how Prosper came to be in its current form, what career coaching can do for professionals and organizations, and how to find and nurture mentorship type relationships.

Beckie is a true professional in every sense, and I hope you get as much out of this conversation as I did!

If you’re interested in trying Prosper and benefiting from their coaching services, or providing it for your organization, please go to helloprosper.com to find out more.

Also, be sure to follow Beckie on Linkedin, as well as on Instagram at B. Thain Blonk 

Beckie’s book she’d force everyone to read: Think, Learn, Succeed by Dr. Caroline Leaf 


Transcript:

Matt H.: 00:06 Hello, everyone. My name is Matt Hollingsworth, and welcome to another episode of The Remote Show, where we discuss everything to do with remote work with the people who know it best. Thanks so much for listening. The Remote Show is brought to you by We Work Remotely, the largest community of remote workers in the world. With over 220,000 unique users per month, We Work Remotely is the most effective way to hire.

Matt H.: 00:24 My guest on today's show is Beckie Thain-Blonk. Beckie is the Co-Founder and Chief Customer Officer at Prosper, which is an online community of best-in-class coaches who are committed to helping you hit your career goals. Prosper matches you with a coach who understands your industry and ambition and helps you achieve with the career success that you want through in-depth, personalized, one-on-one coaching. Beckie has experience in large corporate environments and is now leading the extraordinary growth at Prosper. Go to and GetProsper.com to learn more. Beckie, thanks so much for coming on the podcast. We really appreciate it.

Beckie T. B.: 00:59 Oh, thanks so much, Matt, for having me. I'm really excited to be here.

Matt H.: 01:02 Yeah, I'm really excited to have you on. The segment that you're working in is a really interesting one for us, and I think it's going to be a growing one. I'm really excited and interested to get into it with you. But my first question for everybody before we hop into what you're doing, and sometimes it's a good segue, so what is the thing that you've done over the past 12 months that you're most proud of?

Beckie T. B.: 01:21 Oh, that is such a great question. Well, happy to share a little bit more about what the last 12 months has held for me. I am the Chief Customer Officer at Prosper, and we are a digital coaching company that connects team members and employees with a coach over a virtual network. The company has been around for coming up to two years here. The very first portion of my time, which doesn't include in the last 12 months, was very much testing our hypotheses around what we were building and using technology to give a larger group of the population access to career and coaching services. What we've built over the last 12 months is a platform that connects individuals in teams with an employee basis. Whether they're located in the same office or whether it's remote work, connecting them with a digital coach. What that means is it's a certified professional coach who is a real human, not a bot, and connects them to that individual for leadership development, for guidance around developing soft skills, helping them become more productive individually, and also empowering that leader or that employee to be more productive in terms of how they work with their peers or people on their teams.

Beckie T. B.: 02:40 I'm really proud of that. We raised our first round of financing last summer, so about 13 months ago, and built our product team. We have a global team of coaches now and we've been building out our customer base over the last 12 months. That is what I'm very proud of, both on a professional level and also for our team and company as a whole.

Matt H.: 02:59 Yeah, that's a great answer. It sounds like it's been a busy year and a bit for you guys, but especially the last year.
Beckie T. B.: 03:07 Yeah, it has been very busy. A lot of fun though. Lots of learnings, which I'm sure we'll dive more into in this conversation.

Matt H.: 03:11 Yeah, I'm hoping to. I'm hoping to for sure. The actual coaching itself, so I guess we'll just jump into the actual product because I'm just so curious about it. The coaching itself, is it both prior to getting a job, and that's kind of one piece of the puzzle is helping somebody find a job that suits them well, or is it mostly people that have jobs already that are just wanting to increase their performance and get better at what they do?

Beckie T. B.: 03:31 Yeah, great question. When we initially were developing Prosper and when we launched the product in March of this past year, we were very focused on developing a product that was meant for consumers. We had initial data and market research to show that the average person in North America was looking for guidance and coaching really. From our testing, we learned that it was that connection to a coach for those key moments in someone's career, whether that be job transition, leadership development, help getting a promotion, there was real value being transmitted by working with a coach and using a digital platform to really broker that connection, as well as have enough tools on that platform to keep someone engaged and accountable and support it.

Beckie T. B.: 04:21 We launched in March. To answer your question, the coaching was very much, as I mentioned, broadly focused around someone's career. Whether that was helping with job search and that transition into a new employment opportunity or whether it was helping a freelancer build their business, we really tackle many points throughout someone's career.

Beckie T. B.: 04:41 During that process though, we learned a lot, and we learned that while there was definitely appetite for this mass market of coaching, really what we were doing was creating a little bit of a category and a new market. As you know, that takes a lot of capital to really build that out properly. We realized that, at that point, we were not in a position as a company to fully capture that market with the level of funding that we had at that point in time.

Beckie T. B.: 05:10 During that time, as we were collecting this data, we started to get a lot of inbound leads from enterprise organizations who saw what we had built and were really, really curious to bring on that leadership component of coaching to their employee teams.

Beckie T. B.: 05:27 Where we've really grown the company is we still have that consumer platform available and it's still alive and well, except we're not focused actively on that. Where we're very focused now as a company is around serving that emerging leader, so that high potential, that new manager, that's where they get coaching as a package that's paid for by the company. At the end of the day, one of the things that we learned was that yes, you could say that this was very much a pivot for the organization, but in some ways it isn't because we're still serving the same person except the person who is paying for it has just changed. It's moved away from that consumer and it's moved into more of the employment space.

Beckie T. B.: 06:09 Today we're very focused as a company around that emerging leader in that employee space and really focused around tech specifically because there's a really big need and a big gap in that area. The coaching that we do today is very much focused around leadership development, around productivity, around helping that emerging leader identify what are the roadblocks for helping them make their team more productive and working with their peers in a really collaborative way so that they can move the business forward and move their career forward at the same time.

Matt H.: 06:38 Hmm. Yeah, that's fascinating. I guess my question when it comes to the different approaches on the consumer side, which is the more enterprise side, I'm sure that changes the dynamic of how you coach because on one side you have the consumer coming to you and wanting your advice and your help and seeking that advice and help versus on an enterprise team whose company has purchased the package and it's almost brought on them in a way. Is that a dynamic that you've had to deal with and have you thought about sort of how that changes the way you coach or how one is coached? Because, like I said, one is seeking out that help, the other one is more, "Hey, this is what we want you to do. This is the coaching that you should do." That's the way that the relationship is started. Is that something that you've thought about at all?

Beckie T. B.: 07:19 Absolutely. Yeah. One of the things that we do when we work with our customers is we understand from the get go, how are they thinking about who is actually joining that coaching cohort. Nine times out of 10, it's actually the emerging leaders putting up their hand saying, "Hey, I want this and I need this in order to be able to progress my career and really support the organization in the way that my role needs to support the organization." Absolutely there are though some cases where it's employer told, but this is what's happening and this is the type of engagement you're going to have, but nine times out of 10 we're actually seeing that there's such a demand for this. In talking to our customer base, really understanding also that emerging leader what are their key pain points, what we found is that both for the organization and for that cohort, this is one of the most acute areas.

Beckie T. B.: 08:12 If you think about, let's take an engineer for example, who's been a phenomenal individual contributor, they're whip smart, they're executing really well, and then typically what happens is then they would get promoted to be a team lead. Well, being a team lead is a completely different skillset compared to the skillset that this individual already has and they're excellent in, in terms of execution and delivery. But that team leader, that requires a whole new skillset around soft skills, people management, project planning, perhaps in a way that they've never done before.

Beckie T. B.: 08:45 What our platform does and what our coaches do is really help equip that individual with the skills to be able to do that role well and really help them engage around, day to day, what are the core challenges that they're having versus just providing theoretical frameworks around "Here's how you could manage this," but the coaching really looks at "Here's the situation you're facing today, and let's actually work through what could role playing that conversation look like with that next person on your team that you need to have a tough conversation with."

Matt H.: 09:17 Yeah, I know. Then my next question is around sort of what kinds of companies are using your service? Because in my mind, the startup world, and I guess the smaller companies that transition into sort of larger companies, I guess, in sort of the middle of their growth, they have lots of people that are probably in the same boat as the person that you just described, which is somebody who came on to do a marketing role or an engineering role, and all of a sudden they're doing these other responsibilities that they're not sure of. Their team grows and they don't know how to manage people. There's all these different responsibilities thrown their way and they just feel overwhelmed and they don't feel qualified to do those things. Do I have that right? How much of it is that level of coaching versus the larger organizations where they move up the chain and they sort of transition in an easier sort of more defined way? Do you have both of those or do you focus more on one or the other?

Beckie T. B.: 10:01 Yeah. Oh, great question, Matt. To answer your question, so when we started out, we were testing the market to see is this going to land really well with say a 20 to 50 person organization, or is it more of a thousand plus person organization? We had a lot of conversations and we did sell contracts into pretty much every segment of the market. What we have found and where we're very focused on today is that 500 to 5,000 person organization. The reason for that is because the organization needs to have enough of a people and culture team in place and strategy in order to be able to have enough support beyond the coaching to actually help those managers get to where they want to be.

Beckie T. B.: 10:46 What we've found has been a challenge for, say, a hundred person organization or less, is that oftentimes everyone is just really running towards the execution and the goals of the company. Sometimes that leadership development just ... There isn't enough of a strategy around it to really effectively bring in coaching to support on the day to day. Because I'm sure as you can imagine, there's a lot of systems and processes that also need to be in place in order to really help that individual thrive, and coaching is one piece of it.

Beckie T. B.: 11:16 Where we're seeing the most success is with organizations that have enough of a people strategy defined and then we can come on board and support the manager training that is often done in house, and actually where the system that helps that employee work out what they've learned in that manager training system and actually apply it on the job versus just going to a weekend workshop and then, starting on Monday, having some fuzzy idea of how they could apply what they've learned. Whereas coaching actually pulls that into real life and into their day to day job and gives them that support network along the way.

Matt H.: 11:53 Yeah, that sense. It's sort of the target for your organization and what you do. I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on what somebody in a smaller team 
could do themselves if they don't have the processes and maybe resources of going to an organization like yours. What tips maybe would you give that person who is feeling that little bit of impostor syndrome and not really knowing sort of where to turn with all these new responsibilities in a startup? Is that something that you sort of have thought about and what maybe would you suggest that person do if they're listening?

Beckie T. B: 12:22 Yeah. No, that's a great question. Just to be clear, we still do serve companies that have a smaller employee base. It's just in terms of our sales teams target, that's where we're very focused, on that 500 to 5,000 person organization. We do have companies that are in that other range, more of the growth and startup phase.

Beckie T. B.: 12:39 I would just say I think the first thing to do is, number one, identify how you're feeling and identify where you see the gaps are. I think from my observations and personal experience as well as talking to customers and talking to people who are in this space, the first thing is to start to identify where are the things that you lack personally, either from a lack of experience or lack of exposure. Then, secondly, are there any process or more systematic issues in terms of how your team is either structured or how it integrates within the organization that could be adjusted?

Beckie T. B: 13:15 To address that first point around yourself, I think the first thing is I would recommend getting a coach. As I've built this business with my business partner, Kristen, we both invested in coaching from day one. For both of us, we've built other things before and had a career in a different place or different spaces. But this was really important for us to get that one-on-one executive leadership coaching so that we could take what we were facing on a day to day basis and work through that with the coach and really come out with better strategies for how we were leading. I would highly recommend it and I think that there's definitely at Prosper, there's a place for ... People can find a coach, whether you're connecting either through our enterprise platform or you can download the app directly and connect with the coach for our consumer play.

Beckie T. B.: 14:02 Then the second thing that I would really look at is there's like that personal component, but then there's the functional component of the role that you're having. I would say that there's still very much a place for mentorship as someone goes from an individual contributor to a new manager. Coaching is really all about helping you identify what are those personal roadblocks and then coming up with strategies to navigate those roadblocks and work both with yourself and with others. Mentorship is about someone who has been there and actually done the job you're doing currently and will likely have a different perspective on some of the things that you could learn and apply. I think the two of those things go hand in hand.
Beckie T. B: 14:41 Then the third thing I would say is if there's systematic issues, find that internal sponsor that you could connect with to share what's going on and get by and around creating change to make things stronger and better.

Beckie T. B: 14:55 At the end of the day, if you're accomplishing those three things, I think the organization is going to see that adjustment and see that shift in how you're actually influencing both yourself, your team, and the organization as a whole, and you've got a really strong path set up for yourself at that point.

Matt H.: 15:10 Yeah. What I love about that answer is there's very clear takeaways and I hope people are writing stuff down at home because I think those are super valuable. I know that I'm going to be probably using those as well. I don't have a coach myself and it's something I've thought about, so I'm definitely curious to hear or to experience that because, again, it's not something that I have experience with.

Matt H.: 15:26 One of the things that you mentioned there was mentorship, and I think mentorship is a really interesting component of just the business world in general, but somebody who's starting out and also just small businesses especially as well. I'm always interested to hear how people recommend, first of all, finding and also nurturing a mentorship relationship with somebody that they admire and how best to approach that. Because if you do it correctly, I think it can be one of the most life changing experiences of somebody's career. But again, you do want to approach it in the right way or else I think it can turn people away. Do you have any advice about just finding and nurturing mentorship relationships?

Beckie T. B.: 16:02 Yeah, I think there's lots of great-

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Matt H.: 16:03 A nurturing mentorship relationship?

Beckie T. B.: 16:03 Yeah, I think there's lots of great platforms out there that support on connecting you to other individuals. However, I like to kind of take the old fashion route. I would recommend actually doing a scan of who you know in your network. It could be a second degree connection, potentially, but really doing a scan of who you know in your network, and thinking about what's their past experience been? And what do you think that they could bring to the table in terms of helping you broaden your understanding of what your career could look like, and understand where you could take that?

Beckie T. B.: 16:39 One strategy that I would very much recommend before you land on that formal mentorship relationship, is to just take a whole bunch of people out for coffee, and ask for 20 minutes of their time. Come prepared with a list of questions around their career, their experience, what they've learned, what their values are, because that values piece is very important, especially if you're learning and growing in your early stages of your career. Really getting a sense of talk to five, or ten people, and get a sense of what their career has been like, what their value set is, what their goals have been. And then the last thing I would assess is just do you like 
hanging out with them? Do you feel like there's an easy connection where you are comfortable to ask questions?

Beckie T. B.: 17:24 And then once you've identified, maybe, those one or two people where it checks all the boxes for you, and you think, yeah, there's a lot I could learn here. Then I would recommend having a second or third coffee conversation, and then at that point you could broach the topic of saying, "I'd be really interested to learn from your career. Could we formalize this a little bit more?" Perhaps it means meeting once a quarter, or once a month, and formalizing that, having that conversation a little bit more to understand if they have the time to be able to invest in you at that point. I think by going out and looking at a wide variety of people, you're going to get multiple inputs to be able to make the best decision for this point in time for your career.

Matt H.: 18:02 That's great advice. I think, also, people underestimate the willingness of others to share their experience, and how again, if you approach it the right way, I think it can come across. And people tend to be wanting to share, and to teach, and honestly flattered that somebody would approach you in that way. I think it's a worthwhile thing to think about, and to execute on if that's something that you're looking for.

Beckie T. B.: 18:21 100%, and I think one last thing I'll say about that is especially for people who are fresh out of undergrad, or new in their career, often it can be very intimidating to talk to people who are, maybe, 40 years into their career, so to speak. One challenge that I would throw out there to anyone who's in the first 10 years of their career is to actually just push that fear to the side, and find people who are, perhaps, in maybe the last 10 to 15 years of their career before they retire. Find out if there's an opportunity there with someone, because I can guarantee you, as people grow, and get older, and get closer to that retirement phase, they're starting to think about, " How do I leave a legacy?" And, "How do I give back?" And would probably find so much joy, and satisfaction in having a conversation with you.
Beckie T. B.: 19:09 Very much would recommend that approach if you've got people in your network who could support you in that way.

Matt H.: 19:15 Yeah. We've talked about that on the show a little bit. And then the deep way that we have today. But I do think that there is very little risk in sending an email to somebody, or a note to somebody, because the worst that they could say is no, or not respond. But at least that you tried. I think there's very little downside, very big upside for that kind of outreach.

Beckie T. B.: 19:36 100%.

Matt H.: 19:36 I do want to shift a little bit, because this is a remote... more specific podcast than, I think, anything else. I would love to talk about, and if this is something that you've come across, and had to deal with, and is part of your process, but talking about remote work in the context of coaching with Prosper, and how that's affected the way that you integrate that as a system in place, or think about that as remote work as a part of your coaching with Prosper. And if it is, how have 
you approached that as a phenomenon that's happening within that workspace?

Beckie T. B.: 20:04 I think as a I was reflecting on some of these questions, and specifically around this topic of remote work, one of the things I'll just say off the gate is that the way we've structured coaching, because it's a virtual model, and you're connecting to a coach over a digital platform... We're a mobile device that's on both Android and iOS, and because you're connecting through this already virtual model, it works so well for remote teams. I'll give you an example.

Beckie T. B.: 20:35 I've just onboarded a customer who has their headquarters in one city where they've got, I think, around 50% of their work force is out of this one primary office. They've got a second office that's across the other side of the country. And then they've got a third office that's in Europe. And then across the United States they've got a number of different pockets of individuals that are maybe two, three, four, max five in one regional location. Covering multiple time zones, teams are spread out.

Beckie T. B.: 21:08 One of the things, why they've engaged Prosper specifically, is they had invested in an in-person coaching program in their headquarters in early 
days, and had a lot of success with that. But the challenge of that is that it's hard to scale that out over a remote workforce. And then the challenge becomes further, then, are you showing preferential treatment to the people who are in the headquarters just because they happen to be there? It created a little bit of a tension in terms of how they were rolling out their leadership development training program.

Beckie T. B.: 21:40 That's when we got connected to them. They still do have in-house coaching for individuals who want that face to face model. And then they've just recently rolled out Prosper to all of their employees, and across all these remote offices, still we're being offered in the headquarters, as well, because sometimes the axis of meeting with a coach on your phone is a little bit easier than meeting in person, and having that take a little bit more time out of your day.

Beckie T. B.: 22:07 I think one of the things that we've found is that because of the way the platform is set up, it works automatically for remote work. And it helps because it's a shared service then across an entire company, it helps connect people in a way that doesn't alienate certain parts of the organization that are already at a, potentially, not always, but sometimes can be a disadvantage if they're not in the headquarters, and in that head office.

Beckie T. B.: 22:32 That's just a little bit of an example around how our platform, and how coaching through this digital platform has really helped unite teams in a company with a number of remote workers in several countries.

Matt H.: 22:44 And I think it's one of those, especially with the larger companies as well, I think, and again it's hard for me to reflect, to understand that I'm sort of in a bubble here with the companies that I deal with, and people that I talk to because most people that I talk to are very much gung ho on the idea of remote work, and it's very familiar to them. But I think it's easy to forget that there's other companies that it's still very out of the realm of what's normal for them, and what they're comfortable with.

Matt H.: 23:07 Have you found that companies have come to you, or come to Prosper with the question of, "Can I take my company remote, or somewhat distributed? How would I do that?" Is that a question that you're facing a lot with Prosper? What is the most common question that, I guess, managers, or people that hire you have about remote work?

Beckie T. B.: 23:25 Truthfully, I've never gone through more of a consultative process with an organization around making that decision of whether or not they should go and have remote workers from a customer perspective. But one of the things that we as a company are constantly talking about is how do we create a really modern employee experience? And does that need to be centrally located? Can it be fully remote? I think there's a number of really fantastic case studies around that. Or is there a combination of both?

Beckie T. B.: 23:56 And if there is a combination of both, what does that model look like? Is there still a headquarters somewhere? To be fully transparent, we have... some of our team members are remote workers. Our entire coaching team, they're all remote workers. They all work virtually from home, or from their own office. And then our product team is centrally located... the majority of our product team is centrally located. Some of that team is still remote. And then, again, our sales and marketing team, we do have a large portion of that in our head office, but then we do have people that work remotely, as well.

Beckie T. B.: 24:32 I think what we've identified as a company is that having remote work, there's definitely challenges to it. I think as a management, and as a leadership team, having the right systems in place to ensure clear communication and accountability, and also I would say rituals in place to make sure that people still feel very connected to the organization, connected as a community, rallying around one core idea is very important. If those things fall apart, then I think the strategy for remote work doesn't work. But if you're able to implement that really well, and have enough check points to make sure that you understand where any breaking points are occurring, then it's a fantastic model for being able to capture talent that are not physically located in your city, and to allow for a little bit more of a flexible working model for those who want that. Which is really attractive from an employee retention perspective.

Matt H.: 25:27 Yeah, no, it definitely is. There's a study done, I think, by [ProductTime 00:25:31] recently that was talking about how important remote work was to people. It was polling remote workers and asking them if they would ever work in an office again. I think, don't quote me on this, I think it was 90% of remote workers wouldn't go back to working in an office. It was very, very high. Wouldn't consider it, wouldn't consider a company that wouldn't allow them to work remotely. That in itself I think is an important thing for companies to consider when they're thinking about how to hire the best people, because this is going to be something that's demanded by the best people.

Matt H.: 25:59 This is why I think it's interesting to talk from your perspective, because being a coach of both managers and people that are looking for jobs and things like that, I think over the next few years, especially, it's going to be an interesting way of having a pulse on how the remote work world is evolving, and shifting. You're going to have people that have been working in an office so long, and then realizing that they have to either manage a team of distributed workers, and how do they do that? And maybe are considering working remotely themselves, and having that major shift in their environment. It's an interesting place to be, I think, from your side because it's so important to people's work culture. I'm interested to see how that goes.

Beckie T. B.: 26:39 And I think you bring up a really important point around as a leader, and as a manager, I'm thinking about the target person that we're serving, that emerging leader in a company. If it's a transition period, where maybe employees have been centrally located, and are moving to remote work, what does that transition structure look like? What are those new management practices that need to be put into place? And as I talked about earlier, what are those systems, and those rituals that still keep a team effective, productive, and working together, and still feeling connected?

Beckie T. B.: 27:13 I think that connectivity piece is so important, because sure, you can be productive on your own, but if you, again, are not tied into the core objectives, you're not clear on what's happening, that's the first step for a lack of productivity on a team. I think for us, how our coaches really deal with that, it's all about helping that manager identify before the breakdown happens, and really think about what's the path forward here in terms of what do we need to put in place? What could the roadblocks be? Maybe it's around even certain personalities on their team, or certain individuals that might nee a little bit more support going through a transition like that. Identifying what could those potential challenges be even before they hit.

Beckie T. B.: 27:55 And then what the emerging leader does with the coach is work through different strategies. After they've identified those roadblocks, what are the strategies for actually removing those roadblocks, and making that transition really, really smooth? That's a lot of what we do with our teams, and our coaches really do a lot of work to make sure that the emerging leader is really prepared, and they've got tools in their tool kit to make them more effective, and proactive instead of reactive as those transitions take place.

Matt H.: 28:24 Having some tools and some guidelines, I think, is always a key part of not only being successful, but feeling like you can be successful, which I think is part of that process where if you don't know where to turn, you're going to be very overwhelmed very quickly. I think that's a really important to think about for those leaders who, especially taking on a new role, maybe that they need some coaching to help them along in that process.

Beckie T. B.: 28:44 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Matt H.: 28:45 I would love to talk a little bit about, because I have talked to some CEOs, and you mentioned you're Chief Customer Officer, I think is your title. I would love to just talk about what that role is, and how you define success for your role right now with Prosper.

Beckie T. B.: 28:59 Happy to share a little bit more about that. My role right now, given the stage of our company, straddles a lot of really exciting parts of what we're doing. My role today is different than what it will look like a year from now. And again, if you were to talk to someone who has this role in an organization that maybe has 1000 people, again, this role would look different. I'll share a little bit more about what my portfolio looks like, as well as what do I consider success, and what are my key success metrics as I think about it, both for my team, and for the departments that I lead.

Beckie T. B.: 29:33 I am responsible for our sales team right now is growing and developing. I'm still very much involved in the sales process, and in bringing in new customers. And then working with our account executives, and we have an onboarding team that really works once that contract is closed, to make sure that that customer is set up with their coaching program, and really set up for success. We understand what their objectives are, what are they trying to measure, what is coaching... what is the intervention of coaching doing, and what is their desired outcome? We have a way of measuring that with our platform, and with our teams.

Beckie T. B.: 30:09 And then the customer success team that I lead is really responsible for making sure that that customer not only gets what they need from a data perspective, and really stays as a happy customer, but we're also working quite actively and closely with those customer to help them think about their organization, and potentially areas where they might need to invest a little bit more from the learning and development perspective, or identify trends that are coming up. We work quite collaboratively with our customers to make sure that they have the insights that they need to really manage their workforce in a productive way.

Beckie T. B.: 30:44 And then the last part of my job is to really look at revenue opportunities for our existing customers, and think about where those new revenue opportunities based on learnings that we have, what are the inputs that potentially could need to go to the product team for, and to really think about expanding those customer relationships overall. Those are some of the key metrics that I'm looking at, is what is the value that we're adding to the customers? And then what does that look like in terms of the following year contract size, and making sure that we're really serving that customer well?

Beckie T. B.: 31:16 That's one portion of my job. The second portion of my job is I lead our global coaching team. This is a really fun part of what I do. I have a phenomenal team. Our head coach and community managers that really support what we do in terms of we've created a very cohesive coaching community. Just going back to the whole topic of remote work, some of these coaches I've never met in person before. It's only been over virtual conversations, or phone calls, or Zoom chats over video where I've met our team. Our whole purpose here is to keep our coaching team engaged, to keep feeding them business in terms of bringing them new members to coach, and making sure that they are supported in their own professional developmental training. We do that through a number of different ways, but.

PART 2 OF 3 ENDS [00:32:04]

Beckie T. B.: 32:03 National development and training. So we do that through a number of different ways, but my team is responsible for that whole process, including, so the recruitment, the onboarding, the engagement, and the retention of our coaches to that full life cycle. So there's a lot on my plate and I love every single portion of it because they are all very interconnected. And success for me really means growing our organization both from the number of customers as well as customer contract expansion and then growing our coaching team and making sure that they're utilized, they're engaged, and that the community health is quite strong.

Matt H.: 32:36 Yeah, it sounds like you have a lot going on. So this is within our realm a little bit and talking about how you manage and find ways to collaborate with your remote coaching staff. I would love to hear how that process has been for you since you started and what is the most surprising aspect of having a large distributed workforce that you maybe didn't know or think about when you first started? Is there something that comes to mind for that?

Beckie T. B.: 32:59 What comes to mind, it sounds so basic. But I think without it, there's been moments where we haven't had it and we felt the strain. And then there's moments where we've had it and it's just like things are just flowing so smoothly. And that's just communication, and it's what's your cadence for communication? What mediums are you using for communication? What frequency is your communication going out? And I'm not talking about day-to-day collaboration around the actual job itself, but I'm talking more about strategic direction, updates in terms of where the company's going, making sure that there's buy-in, and making sure that people are all really clear and understanding the vision and the direction that we're going in. So that for me has been the number one component of both the challenge. And also, when we get it right, it's like, "Oh, this is great."

Beckie T. B.: 33:49 So I think it goes back and forth in terms of we'll get it right at certain points, and then we'll realize, "Oh, this is an area we need to adjust or fix." And so I think it's just that continual evolution of where are we at as a business? What does our team need? What are we communicating? And how are we communicating? And then also what's the frequency around it? An organization is a living and breathing organism, I would say, because it's made up of people. And so that means that your needs are changing on a constant basis. And it's not something that you can just set in stone and say, "This is the way it is forever." But it does require that constant monitoring and evolution and checking in to make sure that people are heard and that you're acting on feedback that you're getting.

Matt H.: 34:32 Yeah, no, it's a good analogy because I think with communication, especially when things aren't great with communication on our remote team, it's hard to pin down exactly that it is in fact communication. But it can also feel, and maybe this is just me, but it can feel that something's wrong and you don't feel good about the way things are going. And it feels just like things aren't moving in the right direction or there's something wrong, but you can't put your finger on it. It's probably communication. When communication isn't good and you aren't in that flow that you talk about, it's not going to end well. And it needs to be addressed. So I think it's good place to start for people I think that don't feel that their work environment is the way it should be.

Beckie T. B.: 35:09 Yeah, and just a story to kind of highlight that, when we first started building out our team, we had just released our beta version of the product. And this was like a year and a half ago, almost two years ago. And so we were starting to develop our coaching team because we knew that that was going to be important. However, the challenge was we were still testing the product. And so we didn't have a lot of coachees to be coached. And if you think about it, the whole point of being a coach is so that you can connect with individuals. And that's their joy, that's their passion, that's their professional calling, if you will. So when you're not providing that, there's a challenge there, and then we needed to address that. But we were at a point where we were still figuring out some very core strategic components about our offerings. So we weren't in a place to suddenly bring in a bunch of customers. We had enough to do testing with, but we still wanted to maintain our team.

Beckie T. B.: 36:01 And so one of the challenges that I had was how do we still keep this team engaged and around and keep them excited about this journey that they've signed up for with us. And again, that all came down to communication. And I did not do it perfectly by any means, but I think the one thing that I did do well was we were on a call on a weekly basis, and they were getting regular updates from our headquarters around the strategic direction of the business, what new insights were coming in, when new opportunities were being featured.

Beckie T. B.: 36:34 And so I think the value that they got out of it was really by being brought along the journey and knowing that they were part of that and that they had a voice to contribute back to it. And so that initial coaching team, we've had an 87% retention rate since then when we first started building that team. And the only thing that I can really attribute that to is the fact that we were so consistent in the early days in bringing everybody along for the ride and being very transparent and very, very open to feedback at every point.

Matt H.: 37:09 Yeah, it's interesting in terms of the business model and what you do because you can use so well your own experience in presenting your value to others because sometimes your own organization probably needs coaching. So it's nice to be your own customer at the same time, which I don't think a lot of companies have the luxury of being able to do.

Beckie T. B.: 37:29 That is very true. We use our own product on a daily basis because we are not perfect. And I think as a company, we've never strived to be perfect, but we want to be excellent at what we do. And in order to be excellent, you have to be aware of your blind spots. And have we done it perfectly? Absolutely not. But we have learned from every single leadership mistake that we've made. And that just becomes again more foundation to know what to do or what not to do in the future.

Matt H.: 37:58 Yeah, it's fascinating. I'm really excited to see what you all do and how the company evolves. And it's nice to have a front row seat and see what happens because I'm excited for you. I think it's a really interesting product. I hope people will take advantage of it. We'll link to everything of course in the show notes. People can go check it out, companies can go check it out. Beckie, you've been so kind with your time and I want to be aware and cognizant of the fact that you've spent so much time with us. And so I will wrap up here in a few minutes. I do have a couple of closing questions here for you though. So my first question is around what you'd be doing if you weren't doing what you are right now? So if you weren't running your own company, if you weren't doing what you're doing right now, involved in technology and coaching, what do you think you'd be doing?

Beckie T. B.: 38:38 Oh, Matt, that's such a great question. Well, I have to say, first of all, I love what I'm doing today. So it would take me, I think a lot to get out of this. 
But for me to really build something, I mean, right team, right idea, right time, those are the three things that are important to me, so what would have to be in place if I was to continue in entrepreneurship posts, if I wasn't building Prosper and building another business, beyond that though, my background is in strategy consulting, and if I wasn't an entrepreneur, I'd always envisioned a career for myself where I was actually teaching at the university level. I've got a few things that I'm working on in terms of actually course curriculum, very much around business and around entrepreneurship and around really giving people the skills that they need, whether they're intrapreneurs or entrepreneurs to be successful. So first would be teaching, second would be doing work with businesses on the side. And then the third would be writing and speaking. I'm working on a... in my spare time, so it's taken a while to really develop it. It's still in progress, but working on a book right now, and also the ability to just share thoughts and ideas specifically around this space, but really around career development and helping give people the skills and the tools that they need to be successful in their career and really in life is a big passion area of mine. So that is what I would be doing.

Matt H.: 40:04 Wow, yeah, I know it doesn't sound like you have a lot of spare time. That makes total sense because you're obviously a fantastic communicator and you built something really amazing. So my next question here is... and this is a difficult one I know because I tried to answer it in a recent podcast myself and I wasn't very successful, but I'm going to ask you anyways. If you could force everyone to read one book, what would it be and why?

Beckie T. B.: 40:26 Oh, that I haven't answered for that right away. So everyone needs to read, Think, Learn, Succeed by Dr. Caroline Leaf. She's a neuroscientist who is done 30 years of research on the brain and on learning. And this book breaks down 16 different core mindsets that everybody has. So that's the first part of the book. The second part of the book looks at the science behind how we think and how we learn and what actually happens in the brain. And then the third and last part of the book actually helps you understand how you process information from a learning perspective so that you can better retain information and learn and grow.

Beckie T. B.: 41:11 I read this book unfortunately after I finished my master's degree and I was kicking myself. It wasn't published when I was in my masters, but I was so wishing that I had it during that time. But what I've been able to do is when you think about in order for someone to continue to grow in their career, we have to keep learning. And it isn't always necessarily in a formal education process, but a lot of it is on the job. It's how we think, and it's how we adjust our attitudes and our perspectives on things. And so I think in order for anyone really to progress in their career, especially in the times that we live in, the very exciting times that we live in, 
being able to learn and relearn and unlearn is a very important skill. And so this book will help you with that.

Matt H.: 41:53 Well, yeah, that's a great one. I haven't actually heard of that one, but will definitely make sure to link to it. And again, all this is doing is adding to my large stack of books, but it's in the best way possible. So I appreciate that. Yeah, like you said, learning is such a key piece and not something that I think a lot of people have a formal education in how to learn and how to get better at learning. And so that I think that's a great one. So my last question here for you before I let you go, and again, you can take this in any direction you'd like, but what is the best advice you've ever been given?

Beckie T. B.: 42:23 Hmm, that is a great question. I think the best advice that I was ever given was don't be afraid to fail. And I feel like that sounds very generic, but as someone who grew up with very high standards for themselves where perfectionism was really part of my high school life and that was tough. It was challenging. I did well outwardly, but inwardly I always felt like I was falling short of a specific bar, specific standard. And the advice that I received, which took a long time to actually sink in, was to not be afraid to fail. And whether that meant feeling like I'd failed internally, or feeling like I've failed others, or feeling like I'd made an unpopular decision knowing that I could fail and that things were going to be okay at the end of the day was one of the most freeing personal experiences that I've gone through.

Beckie T. B.: 43:19 And I think that that has really helped shape what I do as a leader, and specifically, my role at Prosper in terms of being able to take big risks and execute on them, and even if they don't always turn out perfectly the first time, knowing that there's always going to be 20% of the learning through that process that you can apply to next time. So that would he the best piece of advice I received that definitely required a lot of work internally to actually action and act on.

Matt H.: 43:49 Great piece of advice. It is something that I think people have heard probably, but at the same time it's really hard to put that in place if you're somebody like yourself who has very high standards for themselves. And yeah, it's something that I think people would face when they get out of school, especially where you're putting this into the world and the possibility of failure is there, and whereas it maybe wasn't there for you before. So I think it's a really, like you said, a really freeing concept and idea, and I think everybody can learn from that. So great advice. Well, Beckie, thanks again so much for being on the show. We really appreciate it. And I know I got to let you go here. But before you take off, is there anywhere else that you want to be sending people? We'll link to the book and that you mentioned and obviously Prosper, but is there anywhere else you'd like to highlight?

Beckie T. B.: 44:36 Yeah, so definitely check out helloprosper.com. We've got a section of that website that it's fully dedicated. If you are a manager and you want to bring coaching in house, we'd love to connect with you there. You can also find me on LinkedIn. My full name is Beckie Thain Blonk. That's T-H-A-I-N B-L-O-N-K. So it's a fun double barrel name. And I'm also on Instagram under B. Thain Blonk. So would love to connect and hear if you've got any further questions. Happy to chat a little bit more.

Matt H.: 45:06 Fantastic. We'll link to all those. And Beckie, thank you so much again. And hopefully, at some point in the future, we can get you back on and we can talk about Prosper again. I have a lot more questions.

Beckie T. B.: 45:14 That would be wonderful.

Matt H.: 45:15 All right, thank you so much again. And yeah, hopefully, there's another one coming.

Beckie T. B.: 45:20 Awesome. Matt, thanks so much for having me on the podcast today and excited for our next conversation.

Matt H.: 45:25 Yeah, me too. All right, thanks, Beckie. Thanks so much again for listening to the show. Be sure to check out weworkremotely.com for the latest remote jobs. And if you're looking to hire a remote worker, We Work Remotely is the fastest and easiest way to do so. As always, if you have someone we should talk to, any device you have, or if you'd like to advertise on the podcast, please reach out to us at podcast@weworkremotely.com, that's podcast@weworkremotely.com. Thanks so much again for listening and we'll talk to you next time.
PART 3 OF 3 ENDS [00:45:56]




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