With everything and everyone moving so quickly in today’s world, it is important to make the most of the time we have. Efficiency is a key concept for those with hectic schedules. CEO, Kellan Barfield, learned the importance of efficiency at a young age and has built her company around the concept of giving people time back into their lives.
- 4:44 – The sexiness of efficiency
- 6:15 – Happiness vs. job difficulties
- 7:02 – The birth of Source Explorer
- 7:51 – Starting with the foundation: A job well done
- 9:26 – The pits & peaks of entrepreneurship
- 10:49 – Putting personality back into emails
- 14:46 – How FUN trickles down from leadership
- 16:17 – Bringing the human element into your organization
- 18:12 – Lessons learned: Be yourself & test everything
- 20:58 – It’s ‘OK’ if you don’t have all the answers
As far as Source Explorer is concerned. What should people know about the business as it stands today? Obviously you mentioned it’s evolved a lot for people who are just learning about you and learning about your offer, but I’d love to know what you do, what do you want them to know about it and how it’s going to help their businesses or to their profession or to their needs.
So source Explorer was designed based on creating greater efficiencies. You hear individuals all the time saying, I don’t have time to work out. I don’t have time to do this. I want to give people hours back in their day. So that is my number one goal and I’m doing it in three different ways.
Speaker 3 (00:39):
Hi, my name is Derek Linson and for the past decade I’ve been helping companies discover ways to make learning fun. And in doing so, help them to attract, train and retain great talent. Join me in our host Todd staples is the interviews from the top minds and learning human psychology, gamification and training to help you and your team learn to win.
So welcome! Obviously it’s awesome to have you on the show, having been a client, being an entrepreneur, being a friend. Like you’re just a lot of fun. We’re really honored and really appreciate you being on the show and excited to share with our audience about your business and your journey and what’s really lighting you up right now. And I know it’s been so many lessons along the way from everything that you’re doing. So why don’t we just start there? I mean, how did you, you know, tell us about how source Explorer started and then we can kind of take it back to the evolution of how you became an entrepreneur.
And especially for me Kellan what I was so excited by when I started reading a little more about you and talking to Derek and Sharon was that you are one of the few people that has had a real challenge in your own life that you went to solve as a, I think you were 10 years old, when you started having your migraines, right? And that pointed you in a direction. And that I assume is part of your story. So I’m excited to hear about that. How you were really trying to tackle a problem for yourself initially and then that has led to multiple different avenues within the life science and pharmaceutical space. Okay.
Absolutely. Well thank you guys first for both that having me on. I really appreciate it and I’m excited about the conversation today, but I’ll take us back just a little bit. So you referenced my migraines and that was one of the last articles I published on LinkedIn. So since I was 10 years old, I suffered with debilitating migraines. It would take me away from the sports, the BMX racing, everything that I was very active in ice skating competitively and I would just have to stay at home away from my friends. But when I was 20 I was at college, I went into the doctor on the Baylor campus and he gave me a shot of Imitrex and my migraine was gone in five minutes and it was the first time I’d ever had something that solves such a huge problem for me. And it gave me time back in my life. And one of my leading drivers is efficiency. It’s not sexy to most people, but it is to, so it’s actually one of our core values. It is my number one core value. So I think we have a lot of core values that are similar fun as another one.
Efficiency is totally sexy. Okay, very cool. So, so then that got me into the life sciences industry. You know, I started out with sales like most people, and I’ve had a lot of different roles across commercials, so leadership development, a lot of training, marketing and so forth. But most recently I was with a top 10 company out in London leading their commercial excellence division across Mia. And I kept running into, well actually two things were happening at this time. I had been there three years and my level of satisfaction, actually, my level of happiness was not as high as I wanted it to be with my company. And it didn’t have anything to do with the company. I think it had just I, I had gotten what I needed out of that experience. And then on the other side I had difficulty, I was trying to source several different agencies and vendors for upcoming projects for my team and the sourcing department could not help me find the right ones because they specialized in marketing and I was looking for more leadership development or training.
So I was doing these Google searches and when you report in to senior leadership across a Mia taking four months to even find somebody to initiate an RFP doesn’t look good. And I had that happen multiple times. So I moved back to the Dallas Fort worth area and started source Explorer. It’s changed a lot from its inception, but it originally started out as a site services director directory. So lifetime professionals could come on if they needed somebody for training technology automation, they could find a list of vetted boutique suppliers for their next project. So it gave them some time back to focus on what the real job is.
I love it. So I’m going to come back to sources bore in a moment. But when I take a step back with questions, you mentioned this. So when you, when you’re working in Europe, right, as we all know, many countries, many different cultures, many different languages, many different stakeholders. What did you learn about people about education and about, you know, commonalities that have served you both in your leadership in corporate that has carried over to your journey as
Absolutely. I think we’re more the same than we are different. And I think there’s a perception, and I used to hear it in the U S all the time. Oh well AMEA, you know they do things different over there. And whenever I was over in Europe they would say, Oh we can’t operate like the U S because there are less of us to do more projects. But when you really tear the layers back and look at it, we’re all trying to do a great job at whatever we’re doing. We all have some sort of passion for what whatever we got into this role. And so we, and we all want to have this connectedness, this working as a team. So there are subtle things that are different, you know, little cultural stereotypes on, you know, how people show up. Are they on time? Are they early, are they late? You know, there are a lot of cultural differences around that. How direct somebody isn’t in their communication. But I think if we just start with the foundation that we all want to do a good job, you know, and we want to do it for ourselves and for other people, then that’s, that’s the baseline. So let’s start there and not make assumptions that somebody is out to get me or somebody trying to beat me at this. But I think that’s the main lesson. We’re more alike than we are different.
I love that. That’s a totally consistent message. Again, shared values there. So, so then coming back around, so you come back to the States, you start your business. Tell us a little bit about that journey. I mean, you’re going from a well well-resourced staff, cut team, you know, lots of, lots of structure, lots of policies, lots of resources to now literally building from the ground up. And it’s completely your engine, your responsibility, your desires. How has that, how has that gone? That was just open-ended.
It’s an emotional roller coaster as you know. So they’re in the beginning, there’s all of this excitement. You spend a lot of money on things you don’t need because you assume that you need them, but there’s just this grind. You’re so excited about what you’re doing. You’re putting in so many hours during the day and then you have these wins and they start up, Oh, I made a sale, I made a sale. And then you go a few weeks and nothing’s really happening and you’re like, this is going to fail. I’m going to fail. Why did I move? Why did I stop? You know, I need to go back to corporate. Where’s my insurance? And then you make another sale. It is, I’m at the top of the world. I’ve made this, you know, I created this amazing idea. So that’s what it’s like for every entrepreneur. The more that I talk to them. So it’s, so I had to change and pivot and alter some things that I started with which have made my company even better. And it’s helped me feature suppliers on my site more prevalently, which is great because I have so much respect for the people who are signed up as suppliers. I want to get them as much press as I can.
Yeah. And you do an amazing job with that. So thank you. And, and you mentioned what else before I can just tell you we’re lighting up sharing about fun. I mean, talk to us about some of the things that you’ve been doing at the U now that you have complete autonomy to do what you like and try what you like and play here at work. Like what is, what has that been like for you? What have you been doing to kind of innovate with your profile?
Yeah, it’s been great and it’s been an evolution for me on this fund. So I think in life sciences in particular, there’s kind of this dichotomy that occurs. So we were at the Alton conference together last June and I had a consultant there with me, Laila Smith, and she walks in and she called this out. She said, it’s so funny because during the day when everyone’s at the booths, they’re all suit and tie and you know, business attire and it’s very professional, shaking hands. Then we go to an event later that night, people have had a couple of cocktails. Everyone’s loosened up dancing. It’s like a whole different group, but it’s the same people. And so I think that’s what started frustrating me a little bit about life sciences. I just wanted to have fun. So at the beginning I started out and I did the same, like our about us page was a typical paragraph that you see in an about us section and on our email campaigns, which is how we get life science professionals to sign up.
They were boring. They were stale. I wouldn’t have opened them. So as soon as I’ve started transitioning saying I’m not having fun writing these or reading these, I’m going to put me into them. And so now my email, the first email people get from me is I’ve sat in your Herman Miller chair, I’ve sat, I stood at your sit, stand, sit, stand, you know, Varidesk standing desk, you know, so I’ve got stuff in there that let them know that I know what they’re going through and I know who they are. But since we’ve done that, everything has just taken off.
Amazing. That is so refreshing to hear. It’s so great because it’s true. You look through your inbox and it’s just a boring email after boring email after boring email. I actually for the first time in, I don’t even know, weeks, I actually opened an email, read the whole thing, click through to someone’s site because it was so like human and it’s communication. And I think when your personality can shine, especially with your background, you have a very relevant experience. You sat on both sides of the table, right? You were looking for services, trying to find them and knowing you had to go present that to someone on your team. And you either have to do in a certain amount of time and you have to have a good story about how you found them and Oh, I just went on Google and it took a long time. It’s not the best presentation of the process, but now you’ve built a company around what you needed at the time and I love that you’re incorporating some of your values and personality because that is going to make you unique, that that by definition, that’s what makes you unique and will make people attracted to the company.
Well, if email is something I rely on so heavily, I mean, we all know what it’s like to get marketing emails and get spanned all of the time. But my goal when I craft an email with one of my marketing consultants is if somebody gets this, even if source Explorer is not the right fit for them, I want them to feel refreshed after they read the email. I want them to at least chuckle or smile. They don’t have to sign up for my services because I’m not for everyone. But if, if they can say that, then I won. I won that day with that potential client. So that’s what I’m going for because I wish somebody, I wish more people had me in mind when they were emailing me rather than, than what they were trying to get out of it.
So that’s a good question. So that, that’s, that’s that red door where I wanted to go in two parts. So one, how do we bring more fun into the context that people can be themselves at work and have fun at work and not necessarily have to have the two personalities, but more of the one all the time. And then, and then to that second point, like how do we give it to a value that allows them to be themselves, it allows them to feel that’s not they’re being sold to and that we really build the relationship because it’s hard to do that in this world where they’ve got these two sides of the fence and you really don’t understand this on a very personal level. So yeah.
So on the fun, I think this is, this is for leadership. I think we need to see this being demonstrated from leadership. I worked for an organization where there was someone who was in charge of all of commercial operations globally. They prohibited anyone from giving high fives at the company because they thought it was like us beating our chest and being too celebratory. So right then with somebody standing in a main stage at a national meeting saying we don’t high five in this company that’s telling you don’t have fun, don’t enjoy what you’re doing, when you’re really working your butt off to go out there and be successful ultimately for the patients. So, you know, I think leadership needs to demonstrate that it’s the same thing with PTO. So American companies get, you know, let’s say it’s three, four weeks of PTO, but it’s almost a sense of pride to say, Oh, I’ve still got three weeks left at PTO. Well when your employees see you doing that, then they think they need to do it as well. So I think you know, more of a top down approach. And I think there’s more groups that can be involved as well just to, you know, have some more fun at work. But on how we connect with people and bring more of that human back. It’s, you know, that’s, are you, are you asking that question from my work picked people who work together or from us as suppliers talking to people? We don’t know.
Both actually both versions of it. Yeah. The answer you may have, you may or may not have a different answer. I’d be curious to see.
Well, I think my first answer on leadership, I think that’s one that would help the people at work if they see more co-mingling, you know, more having fun with colleagues. It brings some of that human element into it. And you know, there’s a line you don’t want to go over and overshare or anything like that. But I think most, most people kind of know where that line is, but we can come, come closer together. Then we need to be further apart. And I think when we’re reaching out to people similar to who I am from my email campaigns, put something of us in there. Something that it’s not just in, in a lot of my emails are a copy paste, but I know exactly who I’m talking to. I know exactly what their roles are and I know exact challenges that they’ve had. People not recognizing them.
So I need to make sure and communicate that and let them know I appreciate them. Because so many people, they just are unrewarded or unrecognized at work. Let me do it. You know, I, I’ve worked with a ton of these people, so let me help them know, you know, I talked to an event planner recently and she was just texting me. I’ve reached out to her via email and I sent her a message. I said, I wanted to thank you so much for what you, you have a thankless job, you are not recognized like you should be, but you were running around probably from four in the morning until two in the morning during these meetings and conventions. And so thank you. And she was so touched by that. So we’ve stayed in touch now, so it’s easy to make it human.
That’s cool. Yeah. I think I commend you for taking this and carrying the charge, so to speak, on both sides because I think it’s a special role you have. You’ve got to be an ambassador, like I said, to corporate and also to the people that the supplier side. And that’s what you’re doing. That’s literally what you’re doing in your day to day now. So what if some of the, some of the biggest lessons that you’ve, that you’ve learned through this journey about yourself or about business or leadership or learning? Any, any of the above or all the above.
Okay. So the more I am myself, the more fun I am having with what I’m doing. And I think a lost a little bit of that in the beginning. Trying to conform to what a lot of life science people, you know, are during the day. So I’m acting like that life science, that individual at night. So that’s more who I am. I’m a very playful person outside of work and I like to laugh. So that’s what I’m doing for people. And then the main lesson I learned over anything is test everything. So I, I test subject lines for my emails. I test content for my emails, I test what, you know, what time of the day that I’m sending these emails. Everything has to be tested. And so if I think I’m going to implement something in two weeks, I have to add another week in there because I’m going to have to spend a week testing.
So applying that back. So let’s just take it back. So I agree. Obviously we’ll take it back to our corporate world, right? So a lot of our, a lot of our audiences come in the corporate space. How would you apply that lesson to, if you went back to Kellan in your old role, like how would you, how would you change things to optimize your experience or for your people or for, and particularly for training and learning, what, how do you carry that lesson over to a way that’s meaningful to our customers?
So I, I think I did do some of this testing when I was in corporate. So, especially if you’re about to roll out a new leadership development program, you bring in, you know, a few managers from each division to kind of looking at content and everything. But it’s more a fly by the seat of your pants type approach. Like, Oh yeah, we need to get somebody in here, you know, to see what we’re doing. And if they agree, I think it’s more formal processes for testing these types of things. When a new major initiatives going to be rolling out, okay, here’s the rule, we need X percentage of the managers from each of the different divisions need to come in. They need to see this, they need to provide some kind of feedback. So we’re tracking it. But I would love to see more testing because so many things get implemented and it’s really just group thing. You know, the people around Tim were like, it’s a great idea. We know it’s a great idea. And then it doesn’t land like you think so like you can think it will. Okay. Because you haven’t involved the people who are going to be sitting in the chairs.
Yeah, Kellan, you’re, you’re a woman after my own heart because I’ve spent the last decade consulting clients on A/B testing and conversion rate optimization and the whole scientific approach to getting rid of your opinion, suggesting potential ideas that may work, and then running tests and measuring the data and figuring out what is actually most effective and what’s having the biggest positive impact on your team or your website or your clients. So I just, I love that approach.
Well, and I think you just, you just said something there. You don’t have to like necessarily like everything that you’re testing. So it may, it may not be something that you came up with and it may seem like it’s going to be really off base, but I’ve had this happen multiple times where I’ll give two subject lines and one of my consultants will give another one and I’m thinking, there’s no way that’s going to work. That’s the winning subject line. So that’s what we ended up going with. But I just have to be humble and say I don’t have all the answers. And I think that’s another lesson. Just going back to your question earlier, Derek, is I have to lean on so many more people and I just have to hold my hands and say, I don’t know. Can you help me? And I have to be willing to take the help from people and everyone I’m going to has been willing to give it. So it’s been great.
Awesome. Thank you for, I mean, 100% what you just said is like entrepreneurial gospel for lack of a better as leadership too. I mean, it really is. I think that’s, I mean, as we all know like that people talk about the best leaders are the ones that really gain information and empower their people to find the answers and to bring the smart ideas forward and to test them and execute them. And really our job is to truly support that. Right? I mean, I believe that fundamentally.