Hosts Will Larry and Victoria Guido talk with Lonni Kieffer, Co-Founder and Chief Customer Officer at SmartCert. SmartCert's mission is to digitize and streamline the certificate transfer process in supply chains, mainly focusing on the aerospace industry. Lonni shares insights into the challenges of managing change within traditional industries, the importance of building a solid foundation of leadership and core values, and SmartCert's strategies for customer success and self-service.
Lonni also shares the history of the company's growth and its focus on vendor accountability and internal processes to increase supply chain efficiency. SmartCert's platform offers features like document verification and digital signatures to facilitate accessible communication among teams. She discusses the role of their partner company, TechFabric, in building their MVP and how they've grown their internal team. She also highlights 2024 as a pivotal year for SmartCert, aiming for a global impact within the next five years.
Regarding advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, Lonni emphasizes the importance of grit, flexibility, and a strong belief in one's mission. She also talks about the value of relationships in business growth and the critical role of sleep for effective functioning and decision-making.
- Follow SmartCert on LinkedIn or X.
- Follow Lonni Kieffer on LinkedIn.
- Follow thoughtbot on X or LinkedIn.
Become a Sponsor of Giant Robots!
WILL: This is the Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots Podcast, where we explore the design, development, and business of great products. I'm your host, Will Larry.
VICTORIA: And I'm your other host, Victoria Guido. And with me today is Lonni Kieffer, Co-Founder and Chief Customer Officer at SmartCert, a universal cloud-based platform that simplifies every aspect of cert transfer. Lonni, thank you for joining me.
LONNI: Thanks so much for having me. I love what you guys do. And I'm excited to contribute to the conversation.
VICTORIA: Wonderful. Well, we like to warm up a little bit first before we dive into business topics. Anything exciting going on in your world, Will or Lonni?
LONNI: I'll let Will start.
WILL: It's funny because, with three small kids, I think we're finally starting to find our rhythm and our routine, so that's kind of exciting. I know it sounds boring, but when you have three small kids, routine, I feel like, is everything. We're starting to find that because a couple of weeks ago, my son had surgery. So, it threw all of our routines off and everything, and trying to help him get better and heal and everything. But now he's doing good. He's back running around, having fun. So yeah, getting back to that normal life it's exciting, and we're looking forward to it.
LONNI: That makes so much sense. And I'm glad you mentioned kids because [laughs] I was also going to talk about my three kids and the fact that I am headed down to a family weekend tomorrow to join two-thirds of my daughters for a fun activity. It usually involves some fun meals, grocery shopping to fill [laughs] small college dorm refrigerators. But the challenge that I have then...Will, you have the young ones, and I have the older ones that are definitely going to keep me on my toes. I don't know that I can keep up with college life so much. So, usually, this is really fun but also really exhausting [laughs].
WILL: I promise you, they're looking forward to it, so don't underestimate what you're doing [laughs].
LONNI: [chuckles] Yes, for sure.
VICTORIA: I'm going to feel bad with my update [laughs]. It's like, oh, I'm surfing. I think I was in a surf film yesterday on accident, which was pretty funny. And then I'm going to surf this afternoon and climb. Which you're talking about being on a routine and I just...I can't seem to get my routine of when I'm surfing or when I'm climbing figured out to the point where I just keep, like, exhausting myself trying to do both [laughs]. But that's what's going on in my world. But I am not quite on the kids and baby train yet. But it does sound fun. It sounds...it encompasses a lot. And then you get to just experience a different time of their life compared to what you're going through.
WILL: Yeah, don't feel bad talking about something else, and fun. Like, today, I signed up for a kickball league in my area. So, I'm looking forward to it. So, I have those activities also. That's a must, I feel.
LONNI: That's so true, any kind of outdoor time. Even just reading about all the statistics now about direct sunlight, I think it's so incredibly important to weave that into the day. So, Victoria, I give you mad props for having a full agenda of those [laughs] activities.
VICTORIA: That's good. I'm glad to hear you're having some fun, too, Will and Lonni, getting out there, getting outside in the sunshine while it's still here. Yeah, I appreciate that. So, I'm curious...you know, that's what humans do best, right? Like humans, we're supposed to be outside. We're supposed to be, like, enjoying the sunshine. We're not supposed to be managing paperwork every day [laughs]. So, could you tell me a little bit more about SmartCert and the mission behind the company?
LONNI: For sure. The paperwork side is truly sad. I was having a discussion with a customer yesterday, and they still receive 90% of the product certs as paper from their vendors. And if you imagine not only the time that it takes to use paper these days [laughs] but the cost associated with that, I think there's some painful statistics around the fact that companies spend on average almost $500 a day on paper and toner.
And, you know, our goal started three years ago when the founder, Lyndon Lattie, who had spent 20 years in manufacturing and distribution in aerospace, finally decided to quit his perfectly good job and really work on alleviating a lot of the bottlenecks and hurdles that's really prevalent in supply chains. Every little nut and bolt that goes into an aircraft requires a lot of documentation that provides traceability to acknowledge that these parts meet the standards that the industry holds that we all have confidence in. So, when there isn't a paper trail or documents go missing, things get very expensive and chaotic.
And what we're trying to do is really remove paper [laughs], the physical part of it, from the equation and use the cloud to not only receive documents from suppliers but store them and send them on to customers. So, we're not only speeding things up, but we're also checking the box on sustainability and helping a fairly antiquated industry move forward with innovation and technology.
WILL: I love that idea because I'm the type of person that I don't use journals or things like that or paper to-do lists because I lose them all. And I like to think I'm a fairly responsible person, and I still lose them all. I love having it on my phone because I know exactly where it's at. 9.9 times out of 10, I have my phone with me. So, when I think of an idea, I have it; I can do something on it. In your experience, I don't know if you have this number or if you can estimate how often does paper certifications go missing, do you think?
LONNI: We're talking to some big, big aerospace companies these days, and they have estimated on a daily basis that 80 to 100 shipments have paperwork problems. So, when you think about the sheer volume on a daily basis and the time that it requires to really enable teams to track down paperwork, sometimes you go to your vendor and ask for the documentation, and they have to go back in time because they don't have it. Those delays can halt manufacturing and certainly make a big impact on profitability and just the ability to do business.
VICTORIA: Right. And from my background working in the federal government space for a while, I have a sense of just how many rules and regulations a particular product might have applied to it. And thinking about, like, the aerospace where, like, down to the individual bolts and nuts have to have all the specifications and the documentation of, like, the size, and where it came from, and the materials. And if you lose that, then you can't...it's, like, you can't work, or you have to go back to a manufacturer. So, how does SmartCert start to solve that issue?
LONNI: One of the big things that we're focused on this year is making it easier to receive documents from suppliers. It's the one place that a lot of companies don't have control over. You could have a strong internal process. You could have a strong process for sending these documents to your customers, but you're still at the mercy of what your suppliers choose to do.
Our big focus this year is starting with vendor accountability and starting to be able to compile data around vendor performance with documents but also start to create a more standard receiving process. So, next month, we are launching a new feature where you could take an email or a digital document, even if you do have to scan it in from a supplier and add that all to your shared dashboard.
And the idea here is to create a strong internal process instead of being at the mercy of your vendors but also make things work faster once documents are received. Usually, that effort is pretty siloed, where there's one receiving team, the processing and review team. The quality team is waiting for the documents. When you start to give everyone access to documents as they're received, you certainly can see cutting down on the steps and fostering stronger communication among internal teams.
So, because you now have a good repository and time and date-stamped information, you can start to see the vendors that are costing you money, have the conversations ahead of contracts. There's a big focus on vendor scorecards and continuous improvement in the industry. So, our goal is to be able to provide that centralized repository where the data comes to life instead of multiple people receiving certs and processing certs. That's one big focus on the receiving side.
And then, from an internal perspective, we've built the tools in SmartCert that enable the teams, once the documents are received, to quickly search in the document, make sure that the information is included and accurate. If it is, they can digitally sign and approve it, which is a common next step. If there is information missing, they can reject those certs and kind of maintain the communication within the same platform instead of going into an email and waiting on when to provide updated documents. We're focused on, again, keeping the conversation within one platform.
And then, on the customer side, it's the same thing: the traceability, the visibility of sending documents. So many companies are at the mercy of customers losing paperwork or asking them to resend it. And those are the things that we've eliminated by providing dashboard-to-dashboard delivery and that centralized access. So, even if the buyer you work with is on vacation, your certs aren't sitting in an email inbox for the next five days, not being accessible to the rest of the team. So, those kinds of, I think, focuses on efficiency all the way through the process are where we really feel will make a big impact for every company, large and small.
WILL: So, I know in the past you started multiple companies, and then about four years ago, you started SmartCert. So, how was the beginning getting traction for SmartCert? And were there any benefits to being a founder in the past that helped you with SmartCert?
LONNI: I love that question. My efforts at entrepreneurship certainly help. You know, you recognize that the ball's in your court in every facet of the business, the hats that you have to wear across everything you do and want to accomplish. It helped provide a good foundation. SmartCert certainly is more daunting and bigger than my past experiences. But having a good understanding of the requirements around flexibility, a willingness to figure things out on the fly, and a real confidence in what we're doing and believing in is so important.
You know, we are working to convince hundreds of thousands of companies to finally move away from super manual processes. And I think you have to have a lot of confidence and belief in not only what you're doing but the impact that you can make in order for you to keep going. And recognize if you are a new product in a new category, the path to building growth is usually pretty difficult.
WILL: If there is someone who is thinking about starting a company, what advice would you give them? Because I know it's not easy to start a company. It's hard, let's just be honest, it's very hard. If you can give someone advice on, "Hey, take that next step, start it," what advice would you give them?
LONNI: Well, I think you have to have the grit to get through the bad days. It is an insane roller coaster. But, for me, I think there are so many books and advice, and formulas out there for starting a business. You know, we've read every single book out there. And I think intuition is such a big piece of the potential and success for a business. While formulas and successful companies and what they share and how they did it is really helpful, I think at the end of the day, there may be moments that give you pause because it doesn't align with your intuition. And I think you really have to pay attention to those.
So, we spent all of 2022 really working on the SaaS formula. We aligned our website and our conversations to fit those kinds of meetings and conversations. And it turns out because of the people we were talking to and the challenge with change management in this level of transition, the SaaS formula was not successful for us. We made a decision at the end of 2022 to move towards product-led growth, having about 1,000 companies. I hope that'll be next week—our big magic, fun, new milestone.
We're really looking to empower the companies who are already participating on the network to drive growth. Many of them are receiving certs from our paying customers and just starting to get familiar with a new way of doing business. But things last year didn't feel right. It was incredibly frustrating to go through those motions and not have the success and metrics that were expected. The piece about intuition and being bold enough and confident enough in why you're doing what you're doing to be able to pivot is crucial.
VICTORIA: So, you've talked to...or have over 1,000 customers. I wonder what was anything really surprising to you that you discovered in that process.
LONNI: I think for us...and it kind of lends itself to the conversations we were having last year. To us and to our early adopters, SmartCert was a no-brainer. People that were spending eight hours a day were now spending an hour a day on the same work but just doing it much faster, reducing a lot of human error and automating so much of it. So, when we did have the conversations and make, you know, the introductions to the industry and work to build awareness, it was very obvious that change management is a paralyzing [laughs] aspect.
And when technology is rearing its ugly head in the requirements for your business, the future of your business, I think for manufacturing and distribution, the timeline for a lot of that movement towards digital documents and working in the cloud was accelerated with COVID, with inflation. And all of a sudden, now there's companies who are leaping ahead and some that are falling behind. And it's now a requirement to prioritize more efficient processes simply because there's less people to do the work. And the companies who are taking advantage of innovation are really maximizing the opportunities to build their business, get more customers, and have more success.
WILL: I was looking at your team, and it looks like you brought on the head of technology, I think, in 2022. And so, I think it was you and your co-founder in the very early days. How was it as a founder to build a technical app and going through that process? How was that process for you?
LONNI: We were so lucky to partner with a local company in building out the MVP of SmartCert. They had an amazing team. They helped us bring to life a lot of Lyndon's ideas and also had a good background in supply chain. So, I always give props to TechFabric in Gilbert, Arizona, for giving us the opportunity to prove out the model. And that was then enabling us to get the funding and higher Mark who, I will say, every day I don't know how we became so lucky.
I think startup life is challenging in and of itself. But he really embraced the mission and the opportunity to rebuild SmartCert from the ground up for the scalability it requires but to also embrace the security aspects that are coming to the industry, those compliance requirements, and working alongside us. He's one of the few, I think, heads of technology that are involved in a lot of conversations with customers. And we are absolutely so lucky to be able to add him to our team and continue to evolve the platform in all the ways it needs to to accommodate what we're trying to achieve.
VICTORIA: Thank you for sharing that. I wonder, what does success really look like for you now, or six months from now, maybe even five years from now?
LONNI: It'll be three years that we have launched SmartCert in March. And when we think about, you know, what's the first thing to prove when you're a new product in a new market, and it's to prove that people are willing to pay to alleviate the pain. And I think we've done a good job doing that. It's building virality now, you know. As the industry is now expanding its use of SmartCert, more companies are participating. So, we've built a good foundation, which has allowed us to start working with some of the global aerospace companies, distributors, and contract manufacturers, and pilots. We're defining those opportunities now.
And I think 2024 will be a really big year for us to expand the features and the usage and adoption not only with additional supply chains but much more fast-paced growth with participating companies so that in five years, we could really look back and say, "We have really supported supply chains all over the world in working smarter, approaching sustainability with the right goals and processes to cut down on paper, and also be able to combat the challenges with labor shortages, apply technology in ways that are going to certainly make sense for them and for the future."
VICTORIA: I like that you tie in business goals with, like, big, dreamy goals, like, really reducing our impact on the planet and things like that. Because I think that's...you need to have something to come back to at the end of the day when you're working really hard in a startup like this.
LONNI: We had a really fun exercise, an internal exercise. So, our lead investor, TitletownTech, obviously has entrepreneurs in residence that we had the advantage of working with. We went through an exercise of really trying to articulate what is, like, the big, hairy goal? What is our mission? And our tagline is now taking the paper and the work out of paperwork so humans can do what they do best.
Are your engineers spending too much time on DevOps and maintenance issues when you need them on new features?
We know maintaining your own servers can be costly and that it’s easy for spending creep to sneak in when your team isn’t looking.
By delegating server management, maintenance, and security to thoughtbot and our network of service partners, you can get 24x7 support from our team of experts, all for less than the cost of one in-house engineer.
Save time and money with our DevOps and Maintenance service. Find out more at: tbot.io/devops.
WILL: You were talking about the exercise to figure out, like, where your company is going. I want to ask question, like, around your leadership and core values. Like, how important is it for you to set that foundation now for the next couple of years? Because it sounds like that's what you're doing. You're setting that foundation, and I heard you say it a couple of times, foundation. So, how important is it to set that foundation for the growth that you're expecting over the next couple of years?
LONNI: When you do have a product-led growth initiative, it means you need to provide as much self-service onboarding, and training tools, and resources as you can to make it easy for companies to move from their free account to a paid account and take advantage of all of the features and the functionality.
So, our goals right now are to eliminate hurdles that companies may feel in making the transition. Because we've had so many conversations over the past, I guess, almost three years, we're pretty articulate on being able to help with process changes. What are you doing now? Here's how SmartCert fits in. Are your goals on the supplier side or your internal organization? Is it with customers? And just help walk them down the path of making a transition so it doesn't feel like it's going to require months or years or tons of man-hours that just aren't available as people just try and get through the day.
So, from a foundational perspective, customer success is really now sales, marketing support. And those are the tools that I think will help companies have a clear path. We've learned that they really want to make very clear decisions. If I do this, what are the steps? So, we're providing clarity and a lot of good guidance that doesn't require a lot of man-hours on our side to be able to help turn free accounts into paid accounts and continue their expanded use of the platform.
VICTORIA: That's very cool. Do you have any questions for me or Will?
LONNI: So, you guys have a lot of conversations. I would love to hear what's really stood out in the last month or so. What's kind of resonated with you? Or what did you hear and apply in your life?
VICTORIA: I have a couple of answers. I mean, I've had a lot of really amazing guests on the show. It's hard to pick out any few that were really important or had some meaningful takeaways. I really liked Charity Majors when I asked her how the company is doing, and she's like, "Well, we haven't failed yet." [laughs] And just an interesting mentality of very humble and very just open to change and open to seeing, like, what's going to happen next.
And also, I think that Irina Nazarova talked about managing products versus managing open-source projects, and how that is different, and how it might influence your business differently, especially as a consulting company. So, I thought that was really interesting.
I always love having guests on the show and hearing about why they started what they're doing. And it's just really inspiring to hear people take a chance on an idea that they have, that they feel passionate about, and really put everything behind it. And, you know, most of the time, we're talking to people who have succeeded [chuckles]. A few guests we've had are just getting started in their journey, and it is still kind of unclear. And I really enjoy those conversations as well, where they're just still not really sure if it's going to work. So, that's been a little bit about my experience as a host on the show.
WILL: Yeah, I think I was going to go in a similar direction because I love talking to founders because it's just a different...almost like what you said, like, it's okay; go out there. Take that next step. It may hurt. It may be hard. It's not an easy path but go out there. You can do it. And it's not just for starting a company; for me, it's almost everyday life, like the hard things that come my way in life. Like, it's okay; I can do it.
So, I think it's very encouraging to hear founders and their mindset when they started companies and after, like, multiple years of where they're at. And, like, yeah, it was hard. It was not easy, but hey, I made it. Like, I'm on the other side of it. And we're doing great, or we're still in there just hanging out. So, I think, for me, it's being resilient. I think that's the big thing.
LONNI: I think you nailed it because real talk is survival. And if you aren't honest with yourself, it's not likely you're going to be able to survive. So, I think when you take stock of what you're trying to achieve, the road is super hard, or, like, everyone says, "Everyone would be doing it." But there's a reason, and there's intention there.
And there are so many entrepreneurs who have failed over time only to have more intelligence, experience to get it right at some point. So, I don't know that anything is linear these days. We get smarter and certainly savvier around topics that interest us. And if it drives you towards entrepreneurship, I salute you. It makes having three daughters feel like a spa treatment.
But I also know that I get excited about the other side of this. But our board reminds me that there's so much of this that feeds my soul. And it's hard to give that up when you do sell the company or move on because you're used to just being involved in all the things and being able to take advantage of the highs and come together during the lows. And that roller coaster is actually what everyone tells me I'm going to miss the most. I don't believe them yet. But [laughs] I think that they're probably right.
VICTORIA: I think maybe you'll have a nostalgia for it. But you'll enjoy your peacefulness as well.
LONNI: Yeah [laughs].
VICTORIA: Hopefully. [laughs] You have to hope. Yeah, I wonder, you know, speaking about, like, having investors and going around trying to raise money for a product, did you receive any advice or suggestions that, looking back on, you were like, "Actually, that was completely not helpful; I'm glad I didn't take it"?
LONNI: There were many companies who declined to participate in conversations because we were not building SmartCert on blockchain. And some of them have come back around and asked, "Are your plans to include it?" And we've always felt not only does that require a huge leap...We're taking an industry from paper to digital, so if you want to layer blockchain on that, you're probably going to go nowhere really fast. Because I don't think there's anyone on this planet who can explain it well or really articulate the benefits when, in fact, you're sending paper in boxes. And, sure, there's the security element to that, but it's not really aligned with what blockchain is meant to do.
So, we kind of have a laugh now about those that pushed so hard for we will only fund if this is blockchain-enabled. And we're so glad we didn't do that [laughs].
VICTORIA: Yeah, I mean, my understanding for, like, a blockchain, one good use case might be for, like, unique identities or something. Taking the more practical approach, sometimes I think people forget in technology that we're just...the future is here, but it's not evenly distributed. And there is paper being sent in boxes. And sometimes we can make a big impact, which is very simple solutions. But even simple solutions aren't simple to implement and make change happen.
So, I'm wondering if you have any advice for founders who are facing a big change management that they're trying to push through. What advice would you give them to kind of start making inroads into that?
LONNI: There are companies who make hundreds of millions of dollars helping [laughs] other companies through change management, and it's not lost on me that it's its own business. What we have really come to understand is you need to meet everyone where they're at. The tools that we've built are simple. You learn SmartCert in five minutes. It is how processes change that have been in place since the beginning of time for this company.
And I think when it comes down to it, there are plenty of business owners and C-suite executives that can say, "Yes, this makes sense. We're going to do it." But being voluntold as the user who needs to not only learn something new but move out of their comfort zone figure out how to learn while doing your job every day, those are the people that I really think is important to support. They're going to mean the success of the adoption. And they are the ones that deserve the cheerleading.
So, with change management, my advice would be is to think about every single person that this affects in the company, understand who is able to realize immediate benefits, whose are maybe more short-term once this is launched or as your customers adopt it. And then who benefits, and how do they benefit for the long-term? Because you sort of need to help them keep their eye on the prize to get through the steps, it's going to require to change the way they show up every day.
WILL: So, Victoria asked you about advice that you're glad that you didn't take. Was there any advice that you're like, "Wow, that was the best advice, and I am so glad that we did follow it"?
LONNI: Towards the end of last year when, we sort of accepted our fate that standard sales, SaaS sales, was not going to work for us. Lyndon, the founder and one of the members of our board, had a really great conversation around relationships, especially with these antiquated industries. And if you are new technology, the real key to winning business, sort of earning that street cred, being accepted as a thought leader, is to make relationships with people.
It is still a person-to-person decision that helped us prioritize attending regional conferences and industry conferences to meet people face to face as often as possible to build the trust and to be able to build the relationships that will help create the confidence in every company we talk to about moving forward but making sure that there's still a human element involved.
WILL: I love that advice. Yeah, it's interesting how many companies, I feel like, forget that, is that the people is the reason that your company exists. I don't know where I got it from, but someone told me it's three Ps that, like, what is kind of the foundation for your company. I think it's people, processes, and products. If you can nail those three things, like you will be successful majority of the time. And I thought that was very interesting.
LONNI: It's so true. Empowering people and accepting the challenges that they face, being real about what change means for them, being able to, you know, speak their language, and acknowledge what taking on new commitments and new processes means for them is going to be the way to be successful.
VICTORIA: And how does your balance feel between your life and your family, that you've mentioned, and working for this company trying to get it off the ground?
LONNI: There are times where I'm proud being able to show my daughters that you can do it all, but it's hard to do it all. I'm grateful to work from home because it does enable me to not only work in yoga pants all day but to have time for self-care. So, the endorphins at the gym are survival for me. Being able to find your people...I was so lucky to be a part of StartupAZ, which is a cohort here in Arizona of just about a dozen companies. And we got together on a monthly basis to talk through what's working, what's not working, sort of setting goals for ourselves but also commiserating.
Because I feel like being an entrepreneur can feel really isolating. I don't think there's many people that understand what this means on a daily basis. There's certainly a whole new language beyond that with tech founders. And it helped me feel seen in a way that I can't articulate or get from my friends. So, that was really important for me.
What I try and be really sensitive to is this is a grind, but I'm doing it on behalf of my family. So, prioritizing time, even if it's, well, you know what? I'm going to drive you to school because that means I get 10 minutes in the car one one-on-one with you. Those are the things that I think if you're going to have less time, find ways to make it more meaningful without screens and phones, and just connect to your people. That's been important to me.
There are days that I'm better at it. This week has not been great simply because we have some big deadlines. And I do still try and prioritize things like the gym simply because my brain works so much better with [chuckles] endorphins than without. So, you'll have parental guilt. But if you really remind yourself that you're showing up for the greater good and you're doing it for your people, then your people will still always be in the forefront.
WILL: Do you have any foreseeable hurdles coming up with SmartCert?
LONNI: This is a big year for us. We, as many tech companies, have worked really hard to extend our runway. The funding [chuckles] world, the milestones, and markers required for a Series A round have all changed a lot since we were funded. And I think the hurdles we face is to demonstrate enough of momentum, great outcomes with our pilots, with these larger companies, to be able to go back to our investors and expand the future with the funding we'll need to continue to scale. So, that's probably a consistent point of view for a lot of tech companies.
It's sort of that make-or-break year. But we feel pretty good about it certainly because of the changes we've made to the way we go to market, but also the features we released this year in support of these larger conversations and being able to bring on someone who's going to then have 2,400 of their suppliers join the network. So, there's a lot of potential, but there's also a lot at risk.
VICTORIA: Yeah. So, I'm curious how that process was when you decided to pivot and you decided to create some new features to meet what your customers were telling you. How did you go about getting the support you needed to build those features?
LONNI: One thing that I think we did okay at, but if I had to look back, I'd say we should have done more of, is talking to the companies represented on SmartCert, certainly our paid customers. But those conversations helped us prioritize the features that would enable them to work smarter, to reduce risk, to be more efficient, to grow in a way that's going to support and embrace technology as it's introduced to the industry.
So, when you think back to what can you learn, it should always be the people that are using your product. We have, in this year, created a lot of internal tools so that once you do receive documents, or if you're a manufacturer and you're generating documents, centralizing those for access among teams, and creating a really automated process to send those to customers was the focus. And the conversation now has moved, as I mentioned, to the supplier side. And that's one area where I think we have the greatest opportunity for growth simply because it is the one area of the business you have the least control over.
So, we've kind of come full circle with building the tools that make sense for those that are using it now and building a new path to participate on a network or create efficiencies by making standard processes. Even if your suppliers aren't participating on SmartCert, we are going to be launching the ability to take the documents, as I mentioned, and turn them into SmartCerts. That, to me, I think presents the greatest opportunity for us to really build a lot of momentum.
VICTORIA: I love that. And so, you have your own team of developers working on this. Are you working with, like, an outsourced team? Or how did you structure the type of technical skills you needed to bring into the team?
LONNI: Our partner company that built our MVP, TechFabric, is still connected with us. So, if we have integrations, their team usually assists us with those SmartCert integrations into things like ERPs and just legacy systems that our customers are using. What they helped us with is to kind of provide the ideal candidate framework based on their knowledge of not only where the platform needs to go but the requirements and capabilities it requires, and participated in interviews to help us build our internal team. So, without having leadership in technology, that was a huge win for us to have an advisor and a supporter to be able to have the conversations we weren't qualified to have in order to hire the right people.
VICTORIA: Gotcha. That makes sense. And maybe I missed this point earlier. But how did you meet them, or how did you find them?
LONNI: Well, the story is a good one. We're based in Gilbert, Arizona. And as we were exploring what the options were, obviously trying to prioritize local relationships and partnerships, we did a Google search and ended up just having great conversations and feeling very fortunate that they were in our backyard and still are a really strong partner.
VICTORIA: Oh, that makes sense. And having someone nearby, too, probably helps to just make it all feel a little cozier, so I love that. I love hearing about it and that they've helped you get to a place you want to be with the app. I'm so grateful to hear your story and hear more about what y'all are working on. Is there anything else that you would like to promote?
LONNI: It's always fun having these conversations because sometimes you forget, you know, you're stuck in the minutiae of the day-to-day. And I just appreciate being able to tell the story and be reminded of how far we've come. And certainly celebrate and challenge anyone else who's considering a [inaudible 41:24] at this to take it.
And if there's any advice that I would want to leave everyone with is to prioritize sleep [laughs] because it's the secret weapon. And I can tell that the days that I don't get enough, I don't think the way that I should. And it's almost like sleep is the new drug. And find any way possible, whether it's white noise, CBD, black-out shades, find your peace because sleep is your friend.
WILL: I totally agree with that.
VICTORIA: Thank you so much for your time and for being here with us today.
You can subscribe to the show and find notes along with a complete transcript for this episode at giantrobots.fm. If you have questions or comments, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can find me on Twitter @victori_ousg.
WILL: And you could find me on Twitter @will23larry.
This podcast is brought to you by thoughtbot and produced and edited by Mandy Moore.
Thanks for listening. See you next time.
Did you know thoughtbot has a referral program? If you introduce us to someone looking for a design or development partner, we will compensate you if they decide to work with us.
More info on our website at tbot.io/referral. Or you can email us at email@example.com with any questions.Support Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots