“With great people in the right positions, you can achieve anything”
TrustYou Founder & CEO, Benjamin Jost, on why people are a company’s competitive advantage
TrustYou’s adventure originated over 10 years ago when it all started in a small office with four people. Now, this journey has transformed into the world’s largest guest feedback platform, with more than 160 employees across the globe. Did you expect this development when you founded the company?
When we started TrustYou, we wanted to build a hotel search site where users can compare prices and quality. The combination would be very powerful and commonly known as “best value”. This focus quickly changed and we saw the opportunity in the B2B market. Since we didn’t have the funding to compete in the B2C market, we looked for other revenue incomes. We realized hotels were showing high interest in learning what their customers were actually thinking and saying about them. The highest learning after these 10 years: with great people in the right positions, you can achieve anything.
Also, it is not essential to have the most detailed business plan or a perfect office, when you want to be successful in your adventure. Instead, you need to focus on creative, passionate, dynamic, and ambitious people, who challenge the status quo. While markets and players are constantly changing, it’s the team and its skills who remain. They tackle these uncertainties and create innovative products and processes. The unique culture at TrustYou has always been marked by the people who manage this dynamic environment.
You mentioned the importance of the TrustYou team. What is it you’re looking for when you’re hiring new TrustYou talent?
New TrustYou hires should not expect to receive a fixed set of tasks waiting for them. Static structures are not what make us as successful as we are today. We seek team members who love dynamic environments, who are able to adapt, and who embrace constant change. They should have an agile mindset and show flexibility when coming up with new products, workflows, and ideas. The majority of our departments and areas require readiness for constant change and non-linear processes.
What is the key when you’re searching for new team members?
When we’re looking for new TrustYou talents, our People Operations & Culture team closely collaborates with the individual departments. All make sure that new recruits match our expectations for being a cultural fit in addition to their skills. The TrustYou culture is shaped by people who excel in challenging situations, who take on responsibility, and who own their ideas. They are proactive in finding solutions and drive innovation regardless of seniority level. Thanks to flat hierarchies and fast-decision making processes we are able to create a dynamic environment. This culture has become the core of TrustYou and all of our success. New talents need to be open to this working style.
Given the dynamics and flexibility you describe in the TrustYou work environment, how is this reflected in the field of talent development and personal growth?
With the implementation of career paths, teams decide how to promote personal and define their professional development. Across the globe we have team members with a can-do attitude, who are ready to share their ideas, who are creative in approaching solutions. While we have established career paths to show potential directions, we also always encourage team members to be proactive about their development within TrustYou. Doors are wide open to take the next step to develop oneself and grow with the company in any direction. Both with our extensive growth in the past few years and after having being acquired by Recruit, we are in an exciting phase with opportunities open to everyone.
There has been a lot of investment and initiatives to encourage the development of employees, such as the TrustYou Academy. How has that influenced TrustYou’s working environment?
The TrustYou Academy was born out of initiatives from our team and creates multiple opportunities. We have since adopted the 70-20-10 model, which is based on team members’ interest in learning something new. 70% of the training stems from job-related tasks, including those that go beyond actual job descriptions. 20% come from interactions with others, such as mentor / mentee relationships and from informal learning environments, like our monthly “Lunch & Learn” sessions. These have become quite popular, as team members present a topic of their choice to their coworkers. This ranges from talks on situational awareness and user experience testing to food culture in Italy. Roughly 10% comes from classic coursework, which includes both professional and employee-driven training, allowing for TrustYou talent to create their own paths for growth and development.
How do formal learning environments look like?
Within the framework of our internal TY Academy, we offer workshops to our team members which go beyond their actual day-to-day business. So for instance, a Marketing Manager can complete a one-day workshop on Python, the computer language many of our products are based on. This allows team members to gain insights into what their colleagues are working on which helps to understand all aspects of our business. We also offer free German and Japanese courses, taught by external instructors. We believe that stepping outside of your comfort zone enables you to grow, and makes you a great asset to your team and the company. New joiners often also need a little extra help to understand what their colleagues are working on. They will face a lot of challenges, different clients and have to learn more about product development and sales processes. This has an impact on how one perceives their own job and contribution to the company’s growth, which is one of our major expectations.
With the acquisition by Recruit in 2017, TrustYou plans to grow further. What does this mean for the working culture of the company?
With Recruit, we found the ideal partner and shareholder. This is an investor who gives the operational freedom to continue our vision: providing excellent solutions in the field of feedback management. Additionally, they provide years of experience, support, and guidance whenever it is needed. Everything else, such as product development, sales processes, and daily business topics continue to be handled by the TrustYou adventurers.
Do you see any other changes since the acquisition?
There has been massive growth of the TrustYou team in the first half of 2018, having hired more than 50 new adventurers. This now accounts for almost one-third of the whole TrustYou team. Now, we approach day-to-day business situations as well as overall strategies in a more structured way. This also requires implementing processes, such as paying more attention to internal communication, having consistent job titles across teams, and reviewing our processes regularly. While we’ve come very far in this journey, there is still more to do to make sure we scale our business for the future.
With all these strategies and initiatives to grow the TrustYou business, what do you envision for the next 10 years?
Since 2008, TrustYou has been a pioneer for guest feedback. We were among the first to collect reviews from across the web and deliver actionable insights for the hospitality industry in the form of online reputation management (ORM). Our vast collection of reviews soon caught the attention of third-party sites like Google, KAYAK, and Hotels.com, who continuously display our review content. Then we became the first ORM solution provider to add guest survey technology that helps directly impact a hotel’s online reputation. Most recently, we became the first to implement guest messaging technology into an integrated guest feedback platform. We will definitely continue to innovate along with the speed of technology, focusing our efforts on the future of guest feedback, which we envision happening more in real-time via different channels like chat - think SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook messenger - and we will encourage the response to feedback and questions via chatbots and AI to assist the work of employees to be successful 24/7 without any language barriers.
Feedback can make any product better, whether it is a hotel or restaurant, but only when the business understands what the customer wants. Only then can you make your strengths known to future customers.