You Should Talk To

Robert Berris -- CIO at Brightwell, on RFP's and Innovation

October 21, 2023 YouShouldTalkTo Season 1 Episode 34
Robert Berris -- CIO at Brightwell, on RFP's and Innovation
You Should Talk To
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You Should Talk To
Robert Berris -- CIO at Brightwell, on RFP's and Innovation
Oct 21, 2023 Season 1 Episode 34

In this episode of YouShouldTalkTo, Daniel Weiner sits down with Robert Berris, the Chief Innovation Officer at Brightwell. They cut through the noise and get real about the challenges and opportunities in innovation. Berris brings a fresh take on co-creation, emphasizing the need for client collaboration from the get-go.

The conversation shifts gears to the often-dreaded RFP process. Both agree it's broken. Berris offers a no-nonsense approach: no decision-maker in the room, no proposal. It's that simple. He argues for a process that values meaningful questions over price tags.

Lastly, they delve into the complexities of navigating a regulated industry like payments. Berris shares his ongoing journey to validate new ideas in a space where MVPs are a no-go. The episode wraps with insights that challenge conventional wisdom, making it a must-listen for anyone looking to shake up their business strategy.


💡 Name: Robert Berris, Chief Innovation Officer at Brightwell

💡Noteworthy: Expert in innovation, emphasizes client collaboration and challenges conventional RFP processes.

💡 Where to find them: LinkedIn

Key Insights:

Standing Out in a Saturated Market:

Robert emphasizes the need for agencies to differentiate themselves by showcasing the value they've created for clients. He criticizes the repetitive pitches that focus on buzzwords like "human-centered" and "strategic," stating that agencies should instead highlight their unique contributions to client success.

Measuring Innovation:

When it comes to innovation, Robert advises focusing on what you intend to learn and why. He introduces the concept of a "learning agenda," which includes knowns, unknowns, assumptions, and hypotheses. This structured approach helps in validating key unknowns and can be a game-changer in any industry.

Rethinking the RFP Process:

Robert calls out the flaws in the traditional RFP (Request for Proposal) process, stating that it often dehumanizes the interaction between agencies and brands. He argues for a more collaborative approach, where both parties can ask meaningful questions and understand each other's thinking.

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of YouShouldTalkTo, Daniel Weiner sits down with Robert Berris, the Chief Innovation Officer at Brightwell. They cut through the noise and get real about the challenges and opportunities in innovation. Berris brings a fresh take on co-creation, emphasizing the need for client collaboration from the get-go.

The conversation shifts gears to the often-dreaded RFP process. Both agree it's broken. Berris offers a no-nonsense approach: no decision-maker in the room, no proposal. It's that simple. He argues for a process that values meaningful questions over price tags.

Lastly, they delve into the complexities of navigating a regulated industry like payments. Berris shares his ongoing journey to validate new ideas in a space where MVPs are a no-go. The episode wraps with insights that challenge conventional wisdom, making it a must-listen for anyone looking to shake up their business strategy.


💡 Name: Robert Berris, Chief Innovation Officer at Brightwell

💡Noteworthy: Expert in innovation, emphasizes client collaboration and challenges conventional RFP processes.

💡 Where to find them: LinkedIn

Key Insights:

Standing Out in a Saturated Market:

Robert emphasizes the need for agencies to differentiate themselves by showcasing the value they've created for clients. He criticizes the repetitive pitches that focus on buzzwords like "human-centered" and "strategic," stating that agencies should instead highlight their unique contributions to client success.

Measuring Innovation:

When it comes to innovation, Robert advises focusing on what you intend to learn and why. He introduces the concept of a "learning agenda," which includes knowns, unknowns, assumptions, and hypotheses. This structured approach helps in validating key unknowns and can be a game-changer in any industry.

Rethinking the RFP Process:

Robert calls out the flaws in the traditional RFP (Request for Proposal) process, stating that it often dehumanizes the interaction between agencies and brands. He argues for a more collaborative approach, where both parties can ask meaningful questions and understand each other's thinking.

Daniel Weiner: Hello, and welcome to [00:01:00] another episode of the, you should talk to podcast. I am Daniel Weiner, your host, your everything, your sponsor, all the things you should talk to Paris brands and marketers for free with vetted agencies and or freelancers because finding an agency is easy, but finding the right agency is hard today.

I am joined by Robert Barris, who is the chief innovation officer at Brightwell. Robert, thank you for joining.

Robert Berris: Thanks for having me. Um, I didn't realize you were the everything and you, and you teed it up as everything that was, that was disarming,

Daniel Weiner: Give me money, give me some money today. Robert, you can sponsor episode. If you, this, this could be sponsored by you or Brightwell. Well, trust we'll, take anything.

Robert Berris: Fair enough. All right. Well, yeah. Thanks for having me, man. Great to be here.

Daniel Weiner: Yeah, absolutely. Let's, uh, let's dive right in. What is an unpopular opinion or a spicy take of sorts in the marketing world in general, a marketing hill you're willing to die on?

Something in that vein.

Robert Berris: Oh, wow. I'm going to say, it's actually strategy and it's more than just the word, but I think people often look at strategy is a permanent idea. A lot of time and energy is spent in [00:02:00] developing your go to market strategy, and it feels like people look at that as a plan that must come to fruition no matter what.

And so from my perspective, Yeah, I think a strategy is something you actually validate through the work that you're doing, not necessarily just lean on it for the entirety of a year. but I will say that the caveat to that statement is if you're just trying to create 5 percent change, you know, year over year, and you're an established brand.

Sure. You could probably rely on that. if you're more of a growth stage company, there should be a lot of uncertainty in your plan. I don't know why people look at them as permanent fixtures. It blows my mind.

Daniel Weiner: Interesting. I've got a question for you now about strategy in my world with helping brands with agencies. Strategies like a dirty word, in opinion, for agencies where every brand wants and presumes they will get strategy. But if they see it as a line item in a proposal, they freak out.

Whereas if you just take that dollar amount and put it in the big number, everything is totally cool and normal. Have you have you seen that in your your days?

Robert Berris: I have seen that in my days. yeah, I've spent [00:03:00] about 20 years working in professional services. So I've seen it all the time. I think part of it depends on, on the hoop. So, you know, if you're working for a pretty large organization and that company, think of like an enterprise level brand, like a Cox automotive or like a Toyota, I mean, those people have a strategy and so it's probably disarming to see the word strategy inside an agency proposal. On the other hand, you could also just say planning. you know, a strategy is a plan for the future, that's probably a way to get around it. But I, but I have specifically tried to skirt around those. Sometimes, depending on the audience, I'll call it an experimentation plan. and so I do try to, uh, try to be cautious of using that word, particularly when the head of strategy is on a call wondering, well, what is my job if you're doing

Daniel Weiner: Sure, now that's good advice. you're currently CIO of Brightwell. You're the first, non CMO or VP of Marketing on this podcast. 

What exactly is the I? innovation is a little bit of an interesting, title, because I speak to a fair amount of them, and it's usually very different across [00:04:00] Brightwell?

Robert Berris: Yeah, so, so let me zoom out briefly, just, just for the sake of saying at least a bit about my background. I spent

about a decade in advertising and marketing. And so I started in user experience and design, eventually moved into strategic planning. And then I said to myself, why am I trying to get people to buy things they don't need?

Right. And so maybe there's another way to look at that. And so I started to go down the path of business strategy, product development, eventually getting into quote unquote innovation. And so, I think innovation is a pretty abused word, unfortunately. Um, it means a lot of things to a lot of people. And so what often I tell, friends, colleagues, and when I give talks, innovation just has to be defined.

I think it has to be a defined, uh, word for every organization, cause it's going to mean a bit different things. At Brightwell, uh, innovation has two meanings. One is there's a brand side to it. And so for the brand, you know, uh, for those who aren't familiar with Brightwell, our core business is global payments and remittances, basically cross border payments for the cruise industry. So we, we basically are the market leader in that. and that's what people know our brand for. And [00:05:00] so part of innovation of Brightwell is we have to become known for more than that. How do we do that? Well, part of it is some of the new products and services that we've built over the last two or three years, one of which is sort of the stripe or plaid. Uh, for cross border payments, and therefore, it enables any industry to adopt a cross border remittance tool. and so at some point in our future, we're going to go into new markets, new customers, new problem types and use cases. and that's where innovation is going to happen for Brightwell, because that's going to be a growth vector. if I zoom out one little lens further, I'll just say for me, innovation is generally about value creation. And so, you know, if you were an innovator and don't know, we don't either A, what value creation is, or B, how to define yours. It's just about new customers and new revenue, right? Now there are some innovators that focus on process innovation.

That's great. That's wonderful. Just make sure to define it. Most executives are thinking about innovation, about generating net new streams of revenue. And so that's where I focus most of my career.

Daniel Weiner: I know you are fairly new in the role. Have you had to shift your thinking, a ton? [00:06:00] Not so much, you know, moving from professional services to brand side? Or has it been a seamless transition?

Robert Berris: Yeah, definitely not seamless. I think there's two things that I've been experiencing. I think one has been, payments as a whole and then cross border payments. It's its own animal. you know, I've worked probably across 15 different industries within my professional services career.

Payments is very, very specific and nuanced and difficult. So, so I think from a language and understanding standpoint, I think it's been, it's been an interesting challenge bringing a we'll call it a divergent perspective to an industry where there's a lot of regulatory and government constraints on top of it.

And so how do you navigate and move around there? That's been a bit of a challenge. I would say just from an industry perspective from a company perspective, I would just say. I think, I think one of our biggest opportunities that I'm still helping navigate is how do you, how do you quickly validate new ideas? again, payments is something where you can't really build an MVP. You can't build like a quick prototype. It's kind of an all or nothing type of product. And so how do you [00:07:00] then validate with new customers and use cases? I'm still learning how to navigate those challenges. In my former life, it was pretty easy building, proxies of products in order to gain feedback from customers and users is a little bit more difficult now.

Daniel Weiner: You trying to get used to the speed, it sounds like, a little bit more, or?

Robert Berris: So some of it is speed. Some of it is legitimacy. In other words, when you're when you're sending money across borders, it's difficult to just build a solution to one country, right? And so if you were to sort of minimize the footprint of the product, you might build, you all of a sudden have a very narrow audience to, to provide this product to, and it's probably not going to be a great read.

And meanwhile, the expectation is I can go into 185 countries, 160 currencies, et cetera. So, so again, it's hard to kind of narrow a product down. what I'm trying to learn into connected to speed is how do you test new use cases where payments enable something as opposed to just having to build the full on solution and then bringing it to market?

So it's a tricky balance between the two of those, particularly in the payments [00:08:00] industry. I've got a lot of friends in work in innovation who've given me some great advice in it, but, um, yeah, still learning that.

Daniel Weiner: No, it makes total sense. you had talked about defining innovation as sort of value creation. I'm curious if you have advice for other marketing leaders, innovation leaders with the economy in some state of flux, you know, some say recession, some say we're in a recession, uh, with discretionary spending for brands, innovating to use word.

Uh, what's your advice to those leaders to Get the most out of their budgets, or how they should think of testing and innovating when things are, I don't know, in a weird, uh, a weird state.

Robert Berris: Yeah. It's a totally fair question. a couple of ways to think of it. And part of it's going to go back to the macro of what are they trying to achieve? let's let's just take any, any brand in Atlanta. Let's, let's use, uh, I don't know. Let's use auto trader as an example. You know, auto trader is basically a market leader.

So if you're the VP of marketing for auto trader, you might just be trying to sustain. Right. Maybe, [00:09:00] maybe your strategy involves. All about sustaining and therefore not losing any sort of market share or user, adoption or conversion. Maybe that's your key goal. for many marketers, I feel like you might miss that key part in the beginning, like what's, what's the step change you're trying to create.

And based on that, you can then actually hedge your bets. Like, so for example, again, if you're, you're the auto trader of the world, maybe it's all about just trying to make sure you stay relevant. Maybe it's just about, Hey, as long as we don't have a drop, we're going to be okay. Well, we've defined that with our executive leadership team.

And that's, that's connected to our revenue goals as an organization. Now it's up to us marketers to think about, how do we at least achieve that? And what, what ways we might do that. I think the cautionary tale is we just keep operating like business as usual and we're taking bigger leaps. In other words, we're going to new markets.

We're going to new customer types. I would argue there's nothing wrong in a down economy with trying the net new, but it really does depend on the company context. And I think again, if you're a market leader, you might do some things that are different than if you're a growth stage company, right?

Because your growth stage [00:10:00] company, I could attack in a different way, and be able to provide perhaps a different message in a different context. All in support of trying to achieve goals that, frankly, you could capitalize on in a down market. So it's a little asymmetrical in the advice I would give, but I would say I would still go back to what's the percent change you're looking for?

Is it 5% change? Is it 10? Is it 20%? and then the second part is, you know, where are you in your in your competitive set and what's realistic? And I think if you can look at those goals and look at your competitors, I think you might be able to a see that opportunity to actually spend more in a down economy if it makes sense for where your company is. Meanwhile, you might want to tighten up and reduce your experimentation just to kind of maintain with where you're at. So it's, a tricky one to answer, but hopefully the, the symmetry of that makes sense.

Daniel Weiner: It does. I'm curious, like, the word that stuck out there, you didn't even say the word, but it popped into my head. Most marketers I talk to in innovation, people they're obsessed with, uh, attribution. How do we track all things? How do we measure it? I'm curious. How do you... You know, I know you mentioned if, is it a 5% change, is it a [00:11:00] 10% change?

I'm know, it doesn't always happen exactly in a set amount of time or in a vacuum. how do you think about measuring innovation? when creating net new, how should somebody, is there a time frame? I presume most things are long. You're not going to say we're going to innovate for three months and, you know, expect madness.

But how do you think 


Robert Berris: I'm about to blow your minds. Yeah, I'm about to blow your mind


Daniel Weiner: You can do it 20, you can, you can do it in 20 minutes.

Robert Berris: So, so here's, here's how I think about, I'm going to pull the two apart. You, you were sort of getting there, right? One is about the measurement and maybe one is how long might it take for some, some we'll call it evidence to arise for the, through innovation. And, and, you know, one way to think of it, which I think might surprise some folks, I often get asked, what does it look like a good innovation team? Who should be a part of that team? And, and are they just innovators? What's interesting is that they should be marketers. They should be engineers. They should be strategists, designers, business leads. So, so really my career in innovation and what I've been able to leverage over the years are [00:12:00] principles across all of those different disciplines, all in support of trying to figure out How do I, how do I separate the signal from the noise?

Right? What type of evidence do I need? And what type of evidence is my organization and my executive sponsors need in order to have confidence in a decision, because that's what we're really doing, right? We're sort of doing this work all in support of hopefully getting to this outcome of net new opportunity, revenue, you know, customer, you know, satisfaction, but we're trying to gather evidence for our next set of decisions.

And so sometimes we're dealing with higher uncertainty. Other times it's much lower. And so a good way to, a good way to frame it in my mind is one, I think across the board, whether you're an innovation or marketing or product, there's often a dichotomy between what people call insights and what's really reporting. That's number one. I often observe both with agencies as well as internal folks at companies, you know, it doesn't matter who a lot of the data folk focus on observations, which is really groupings and clusterings of data. So for example, time spent, that's great. That's a great number, number [00:13:00] of pages you might visit.

Cool. A number of click through is awesome. But there's no insight from it. I can't take action from that. And so I often don't see people who construct, reports that are anything more than observation. So my first, my first piece of the puzzle is reporting is a word that is unfortunately I think misunderstood.

Second is you've got to be able to get to the insight. And if you can't do that, you don't have the right data set. So then if I zoom back out to any marketing experiment, innovation, product, it doesn't matter. You have to state what you intend to learn and why. All right, so normally what I do is I create what's called a learning agenda and learning agenda consists of knowns, right?

So what are the things you know about my customer or my problem unknowns? What do I actually not know that I seek to learn? Assumptions. Hey, we believe a customer might do X, but we're not a hundred percent sure we want to validate that hypotheses from those. So I wonder using a real world example. I wonder if consumers could measure their own room, in support of [00:14:00] buying flooring. I don't know that they could do that, but why is this a key unknown? Well, that might unlock a way different model for selling flooring online, right? All of a sudden you don't have to have a contractor come out. It could be a key unlocker to driving business at scale for the flooring industry. We're going to find that out.

So there are ways in a very short period of time to validate that that's the key thing you're trying to learn. Not dissimilarly from marketing. I just launched three campaigns, uh, about six weeks ago and I targeted completely new industries for us. Completely new problems to solve with basically six different messages that I was trying to go to market with The signals I were gathering was of interest basically I of course I can get impressions to something that doesn't tell me much can I get conversions and can I delineate why those?

conversions paired with a who so my consumer and what the problem I'm solving. Can I just get signals that there's interest there? It doesn't have to be conversion of like, Hey, I got a lead, but I got interest. And why did I get interest? Right? So I paired that kind of quantitative marketing experiment [00:15:00] alongside of some qualitative business discovery. And actually I now have a really great roadmap for one or two industries that I'm playing with right now. That I can then go to market in a more broad way, so it only took me about six weeks, only spent probably 15 in total of time of agency time and actually budget for media and all of a sudden I'm starting to have signals that can give me more confidence of pursuing this new market, so it doesn't have to be that long to get it. But if you don't define what you want in the upfront, I don't know what you're measuring on the back end of it. And I think, again, a lot of marketers don't do that. And that's okay. it's a very, my opinion is a very innovation led methodology. I love defining what we intend to learn and why I think it's really important part of the puzzle.

Daniel Weiner: No, that was awesome. I hope we can clip that entire thing. Uh, my final innovation question, does innovation ever end? Or is it just always a living, breathing thing? Like, do you reach a certain point in something, your test, your thing, where you're like, all right, we're done innovating on this thing. Let's innovate elsewhere.

Robert Berris: Yeah, yeah, yeah. [00:16:00] So. The answer is yeah. I mean, I do think innovation can end in a particular initiative. I'm going to go back to something I said earlier. I was using the word confidence and I was using the other word evidence. a couple of very weird meta thoughts I've observed and learned over my, my career and working in innovation.

and I, and I'll just throw a couple out to you. here's a question for you, Daniel. have you ever asked a company what their risk tolerance is?

Daniel Weiner: Robert, this is my podcast. 

Robert Berris: Yeah. 

Daniel Weiner: Have I ever asked a company what their risk tolerance is?

Robert Berris: That's right.

Daniel Weiner: Not in those exact words, no.

Robert Berris: Cool. Okay. have you ever worked with an executive who knew how to talk about their risk tolerance?

Daniel Weiner: I think so.

Robert Berris: Okay. That's pretty cool. I've seldom seen it, but I, but I, I've seen a little bit more recently. And then I guess finally, has anyone ever talked to you about how they make decisions? In other words, Hey, there's a strategic initiative. Here's how I'm, I have a decision to make. Here's how I think about making it. Anyone ever talked to you about that before?

Daniel Weiner: The closest would be when [00:17:00] we create the agency scorecards for 

RFPs and they how 

Robert Berris: Yeah. It's a rubric, 


Daniel Weiner: things. But not exactly, I think, how you're defining it.

Robert Berris: Yeah. So, so that's the part that I would argue signals when innovation comes to an end. So, so if we, if we just throw out the word innovation, which I'm happy to do, and we just talk about it as business growth, right? That's a relatable word. Every business got to grow. my question for you would be then does business growth ever end? We both know the answer is no, generally speaking, right? We just keep pushing for bigger. the second part is particularly with net new products or net new, um, we'll say services that you're trying to validate. Once you've defined, and it's a hard conversation to have, once you've defined the risk tolerance of your stakeholders, and the type of, uh, we'll say evidence that's needed to get to a multi million dollar decision, because it's mostly about investment, you're able to then say, okay, guys, well, we've run this experiment. Be it qualitative, quantitative, or a mix for three months. We have the following evidence that we've all agreed [00:18:00] upon that we think is needed to make this decision. My recommendation is we just go ahead and build the thing. As opposed to continuing to experiment and wait longer. Why? I think there's going to be a diminishing return for our time and our money in order to validate that this product, service, or market is something that people want.

I think we have plenty of evidence. So if I have the decision rights as the head of innovation, I can just call it a day. And then all of a sudden my team can pursue this. They could bring it back to the core business or build it inside of innovation. The flip side is sometimes your business leaders and other parts of the org, they have that decision. And so by working with them in a much more qualitative and relationship driven way on the upfront. Well, if we understand what we're trying to solve for, which is your decision and the evidence around it, yeah, it should come to an end actually pretty rapidly. In some cases, you know, there's different examples, right?

I mean, if you're a material science company, this is R&D. This could take a year, two years, five years to build. If you're a consumer focused product company and you're doing customer segmentation and you're trying to figure out problems to be solved. I don't know. [00:19:00] I think you could probably make a decision within three to six months from most initiatives, depending upon risk tolerance. These are the things that no one talks about. And yet this is exactly what stymies organizations from being innovative.

Daniel Weiner: I like it. It's a good answer. let's switch gears and talk some shit about agencies since 

Robert Berris: Hell yeah. Let's do it. 

Let's do 

Daniel Weiner: have them near and dear in our hearts. What is your overall opinion on agencies? You spent, uh, I think you said the last 20 years in services, you have a sweet spot for them.


do into everything at Brightwell? All the 

Robert Berris: yeah, for sure. well just landscape, you know, uh, Brightwell, we use, I believe we use three or four different agencies right now where we're using one who specializes, I believe in, Webflow, for our website. we use one that's about, you know, advertising, marketing, PR. and I'm just blanking on another one.

I think we're using for something very specific. I think it was like CRM migration or something like that. and so, you know, when I think about agencies as a whole, to your point, yeah, I got a sweet spot. I I've enjoyed the hell out of my career, working at agencies. I like the pace. I like the [00:20:00] speed. I appreciate some of the pivoting that occurs in agencies when you're building new capabilities or services. I think the exposure to lots of different industries was always one of the biggest attractions for me, 

Always love learning about net new industries, and, and problems to be solved. I think that's a, for me, it's an energizing experience. I know others in the agency world, particularly individual contributors. They love focus. They love spending time on one or two clients and one or two projects. and that dichotomy can often be challenging for those who work in agencies because obviously it's a little bit more of a, uh, a mixed bag with what you're serving. in terms of, in terms of agencies, like what are they doing? Right, wrong, et cetera. there's been trends my entire career of specialization versus full service, right?

I think it's coming back around again. Like where, where, where do people spend their time as a brand? How do you invest in agencies and why? I think it comes down to a couple of things. I think one is, Marketing and advertising has so many nuances of channels, techniques, methods, et cetera, it's, it's never ending.

I think from a capability [00:21:00] standpoint, agencies extender for any organization. I think it's difficult for, I'll just say like a SAS based company just to build the largest marketing department ever in support of all of what might be through social, through digital media, buying and planning, it's too much. So I think

capability is a 

Daniel Weiner: it's, 

Robert Berris: It's exhausting, 

Daniel Weiner: the, the internet messed everything up.

Robert Berris: It did, it did. and then there's actually like capacity, right? And, and this is my least favorite form of needing an agency because I think it's the most disposable. in other words, Hey, I have one copywriter on my team, but now I need an art director and a copywriter at scale.

And so I need like a whole team of folks. I never loved being in a position to pitch for capacity, but it's a real need because to me, capacity is something you can always cut with a budget, a capability. Is something that's much tougher to cut all of a sudden we can't achieve our marketing and advertising goals because the channels were working in the strategies we're doing was actually incumbent on this agency.

We're working with always love those situations of capability versus capacity. But listen, [00:22:00] agencies function of both ways. But the last part, which I was going back to the first was specialization versus full service. I think it's tough to do both. I have observed agencies try to be real specialized. But they've bolted on the wrong services or, or divergent enough services where you're like, I don't know what you're offering, but are you doing enough work to think about how at the brand level, that brand, uh, you know, manager, leader, marketing, whatever, uh, they're going to have to manage multiple agencies and they're going to have to sort of figure out how you fit in to a portfolio of others. You got to think about your services that you're putting together, because I I've seen some very weird, it's a weird, very strategic choices that people have made.

Daniel Weiner: Yeah, I think the combination of services, I see some weird ones as well. I blame clients for that sometimes on the brand side. I'll give you an example from my old agency life. You know, we do something well, Client would say, hey, you did this well, your core thing, can you do this? And we'd go, no.

And then the week after they'd go, you sure you can't do it? We'd really love to give you some money. And we'd go, yeah, we can't do it. We don't do that. You know, two weeks later and eventually like, give us the damn money. We'll, we'll figure it out. We're reasonably [00:23:00] smart people. And being reasonably smart is not the recipe for like figuring out an entirely new capability, and using a client as the guinea pig.

So, I'm actually curious. There's, there's more agencies now than ever. You know, uh, especially if you start classifying, you know, the, uh, one to two person entities, there's over 100, 

Robert Berris: Oh, is it that small now? We're doing two person agencies?

Daniel Weiner: if you classify that as an agency, there's something like there's varying numbers. There's one stat that says there's 70, 000 in the U.

S. alone, 

but they don't define exactly how, they define, that fact. But I'm curious in 2023, how do you stand out as an agency? I have extremely strong opinions about this, but I am curious, uh, your opinion.

Robert Berris: Yeah. It's, it's a tricky one. I'll say, well, how do you stand out? I'm going to tell you some ways to information gather. How about I start there and then I'll get to the handout or the standout piece of it. I think one is there's not enough agency leadership and or agency owners who are connected with other agencies.

And one of the reasons I think that's really important is number one, [00:24:00] you guys should really even just talk to each other about the messages you're using. I think you and I were joking around a few weeks ago. Uh, every agency says we want to be your partner. Not a vendor.

Every agency, every agency says we, we, you know, we're human centered and that that's in our


as much as in our work, we care. 

We have passion.

We might have optimism. we have really smart strategic folks. We have the most experienced markers you've ever seen. yikes. I can probably do most people's pitch without even seeing their deck because they're saying all the same things. And it's, it's problematic, right? what I don't see agencies do enough, and this is where I think you can stand out, is talking about the value you've created for your clients. So as an example, you know, we used to have a little bit of a pitch at 352, my former agency, we used to talk about the amount of value created, literally dollars created for our clients, both in, both in direct sales as well as indirect sales, OpEx, et cetera. and we tried to like anchor people to that.

We would say, listen. We [00:25:00] have created a seed change for these types of companies in these ways. And we've done that through using things like user experience and, you know, qualitative research, et cetera. but the other day we're a business oriented organization trying to focus on your growth.

This is what we've provided for them. This is what we can do for you. So I think there's one piece of the puzzle. That's really about what did you actually generate for the company as opposed to did you make a nice looking campaign? Right? So I think that's one piece of the puzzle. I think the second one,

Daniel Weiner: Not to interrupt, I'm just 

curious. On your part, you talked agency owned, not enough agency owners talking to each other. I firmly believe they just cannot. Because they 

nice together, despite... It's a good sentiment. There's plenty of agency groups. I think they're all, Everybody's too competitive necessarily for their own good like it's so hard to, because again, it's such a competitive landscape.

I think it's really hard to give, and I feel for them truthfully, like to a bunch of agency owners in the room who, it's very hard to get a group with no overlap, right? And say, [00:26:00] really have honest conversations together because you do have to be Right. Rigght. Weary of sharing too much and stuff like that.

I'm curious. Did you experience that during your professional services career where it was like, I don't know if I trust these people and stuff like that. Like, there's always this sentiment. Yeah, we should work together. We should partner. We should share back and forth. I very, very rarely see it done well or where it's not just good for one side and not good for the other.

Robert Berris: So, so I'll start with the last statement and then work my way back. You're right. So over the years, I've tried to partner with some agencies and I actually found that we were sending them more leads than we were receiving and that's okay. Like it, it happens at times. there's always things that aren't quite a fit for your company.

And so, Hey, listen, it's business. This business is based on referral. It's one of the number one ways still of being able to, Close the trust gap from, Hey, I need an agency and my job might be on the line if I hire the wrong one. And therefore I'm, I'm relying on you Daniel to tell me who should I talk to. Right. , same works for us. Right. And, and it's, it's all about that trusted relationship. [00:27:00] But what I will say is very few agencies I've experienced have a true, like contractual partnership agreement. Very few have skin in the game and very few have, let's just say go to market strategy together.

And so over the course of my years, I've maybe done it once or twice successfully and still didn't result in enough business development driven that I felt like we got to keep doing that. However. I became a managing director of 352 several years ago, that's actually the, that's probably the number one thing I sought out most was actually speaking to other agency owners. being an agency owner or an agency leader is tough work. There's, there's a, there's, being an operator is hard and so I was actually looking and seeking out a peer group and so I sort of built my own little tiny peer group off to the side and started having these one-on-ones with folks. I found it really beneficial.

I mean, we talked about the challenges of business development. We talked about the challenges of pitching. We talked about stories we would use and, and candidly, I would give away some of the techniques I use just because I felt like, listen, there's 70,000 plus agencies, to your point,[00:28:00] We're all going to be some level of successful.

What, what, and this sounds crazy. Why would I hold back some information that's worked for me? I guarantee you, I'm going to lose to someone. Uh, I may as well start to change some things about the industry that I don't love and, and maybe it makes a better experience for agencies, for clients, for new business, happy to give that stuff away.

I probably in the minority of people who want to do that.

Daniel Weiner: I don't disagree. It's funny that beyond, you know, the common narrative, I think Gary V ruined everybody. Would you give it all away for free? And eventually, like, you know, it comes back and stuff like that. And 

I. I, I struggle with that as well. Like, there's a lot of stuff that I give my agency partners that I see other agencies I don't work with doing that feels, a little bit like the, the secret to certain things because I see as such a different thing and I struggle.

I'm like, should I talk about this? Like, you know, none are necessarily, like, a groundbreaking industry changing but, like, they help my partners win. You know, nothing is cheating or anything like that. But yeah, it's an interesting thing with agency owners. I've seen a [00:29:00] lot of like masterminds done and I've heard the resounding thing is more in line with, I, we tried and we just didn't get, cause to your point, there wasn't skin in the game, which I think is Like I think the money or the referral fee between agencies makes it real, even if not life changing or business changing money, I think it makes it an actual thing versus just talking about it.

Robert Berris: Yeah, I would totally agree. I mean, I think even, I mean, there was a point where I was interested, although it didn't get this far of like actually combining go to market strategies and putting real dollars, not just in the referral space, but even in the advertising, marketing and new business space and saying, Hey guys, like if we're really going to do this, let's do it.

And, and just some folks were just as committed as I was. And I'm like, Oh, that's okay. It's totally cool. But I think this would make the partnership valuable. I do want to, I do want to jump back cause I realized I lost a thread, but I want to, I want to go back. So the specialization versus full service. We talked a little bit about that. the second thing I would say, though, in terms of what could help agencies, or at least what do I see agencies do wrong? agencies love [00:30:00] what I call the call and response model of developing ideas. And I think it's the single biggest reason and single point of failure in the agency model. So, call and response. Hey, uh, whether it's an RFP, or it's an existing client and there's a brief, the typical model is... we, you know, meet with you. We have a discovery call. So Daniel, you tell me what's important to you. What should be in the brief. Wonderful. We go back. We come back together a week or two later.

We have a brief. Then we talk about the brief. We bring the creatives in the room. We bring media folks in the room. That's great. And then we say, all right, guys, in the next three weeks, we're going to start to build campaign ideas. Then we go away. We come back and not a whole lot happens in terms of communication, other than are we on or off track. And then finally, we get together, we present, and now we're at the highest risk possible. This is the first time anyone has seen any of this work. It's on the client's side, and now you're in a confrontation. And whether you realize it or not, it is very much a, like, it's like, it's like standup comedy, right? , someone, someone goes away, comes back, goes to an open mic and like, I dare you to make me [00:31:00] laugh as an audience member, right? I'm kind of bought in, I'm here, I'm having a drink. I'm, I'm glad I know what I signed up for. It's an open mic.

Um, but, uh, but here I am. And are you going to be funny or not? I have seen agency after agency, over the years of experience. It just happens, right? You, you do a campaign, you have a bunch of ideas, the client hates them all. Right. And it's not the team's fault. I think it's the process. so a big part of how I've tried to teach other folks who work in agencies, other agency owners talk about all the time. I talk about co creation, the idea that there are a lot more opportunities to work with your clients in the sales process, to work with them in the ideation process as a co creative collaborator inside the room, live. And then to do so frequently so that it's not a surprise when they come back and they start to see the final version of the work. So it's really, it's a true iterative model of working. I think that's one of the key reasons I was successful in the agency world, particularly with the innovation practice I built, about five years [00:32:00] ago. I think had I not done that. Wouldn't even have been close to the success I've seen. and that's client feedback, not just my observational feedback. so for what it's worth, like, you know, I'm a big believer in trying to specialize. I'm a big believer in trying to, specialize with the right services and also just co create with your clients.

I think if you're not doing it, you're just setting yourself up for very high risk situations where you could spend three or four weeks of time, burn a bunch of money in cash, and no one is seeing any sort of good result from it.

Daniel Weiner: It's also an optics thing, like one of the biggest things that I think I found out early on that so many agencies do that, like, boggled my mind was they would take a call at noon on a Monday like today, and then they're sending a proposal at 12 45, you know, 

Robert Berris: Oh my gosh, that's wild.


Daniel Weiner: And I would, you know, say, how'd the call go?

They go, great. I go, great. What's next? They go, we sent a proposal or we're sending a proposal tomorrow, you know, and I'd be like, for what? Like, what do you mean? It doesn't even look like you put any work. Oh, well, it's like the same as this other thing. I'm like, yeah, the client doesn't care. Like, let's, let's put something in between.

Let's call them. Let's ask [00:33:00] if they, what they think about the, you know, like, There's so many, even if let's, to your point I agree, even if you're not going to go the length of say co creating, like to, try to get the answer to the test essentially, you like to go back and forth. It's just such a big risk to create a proposal, send it over and just fingers crossed hope, hope we win this thing.

I just never see anybody win anything like that. And if there are agencies that are winning like that, I don't know what they are doing because I don't see it in my world.

Robert Berris: I think I may have shared with you an anecdotal story, but if I didn't, I just want to bring it up. I mean, so, so my history and working with agencies allowed me and of course my background as a designer allowed me to do a lot of really beautiful proposals. I had the prettiest keynotes, great ideas. It was really well structured.

I lost so many more of those than when I said, I don't need a pretty keynote anymore. , and I started adopting a model of literally co creating the proposal in front of the client. And I forget if I've told you about that. very literally in 90 minutes from most proposals, we could get about three quarters to, [00:34:00] I would say 90 percent of the way there.

We would talk about budget. We would talk about outcomes, we would talk about why this work is important to the context that brought us here, and we would get feedback from, from team members in the room and, and of course from the client, does this make any sense to you? Like if this is a 100, 000 investment and we're going to do this over four weeks and we can gather this type of evidence for you, whatever that might be. Is this going to get you where you need to go? And if it's not, that's okay. Let's talk about that, but let's do it now. So we were live prototyping proposals in the room. And by the time I would then be ready with a written proposal, which by the way, I will never send a proposal without a presentation. Absolutely never. That

Daniel Weiner: What if the client, what if the client pushes back? I'm curious.

Robert Berris: Then I will say, I will not deliver a proposal at all. Your, your ability to sell on my behalf, if you are not the decision maker is the number one reason why I have observed other innovators not be successful.

Daniel Weiner: I'll put you on spot. What if the decision maker says we just don't have time right now. We want to see it first. what's your 



Robert Berris: [00:35:00] let me, let me, let me just make sure, cause I want to align on where we are. If, if the decision maker isn't in the room during the proposal process, I will not do the proposal process.

Daniel Weiner: Okay. That's good. I like 

Robert Berris: that. 

So basically I need to have every so so we talk about band right budget authority need time if I do not have authority in the room Who is a key stakeholder in either making a decision or contributing to it, and we're building a proposal. I will not even get the people aligned in the room. I'm going to say, listen, man, my job, truly, my job as an innovator is to make everyone successful. Part of the way of doing that, and this is hard, is getting buy in from lots of executive stakeholders, supporting the needs that you guys have, because this workis difficult and has aa high amount of uncertainty. As a result, I won't even bring a team together because I'm going to bring my team in. I want to bring stakeholders from your team. if we don't have them present, there is no point in building this proposal at all. And so from the get, that's my, roadblock, right? I will not open up a door to build a proposal without the decision maker in the room.

Daniel Weiner: I like that.

Robert Berris: Yeah, I know it sounds bizarre when, when you're in a [00:36:00] position of strength,

easy to do this. If you're in a position of weakness, it's even harder, right? But I think it's, it's, it's a bad use of everyone's time not to have that decision maker in the room.

Daniel Weiner: I agree. I'm curious at the end, though, like I see this a lot where they have the decision makers in the room, the agencies participate, they go back, they put something together and they say, Hey, we'd love to set time to walk you through come up with. And they go, Yeah, it's really difficult for us to get everybody in the room.

Can you send it over so we can take a look? And we'll let you know if we have any questions first. 

Robert Berris: Yeah. It's a, it's a no. It's a no from me. Yeah. I mean, it really, I know it sounds bizarre, but it's like, you gotta, you gotta set, you have to set the right expectation. And I think, I think it comes down to, it's, it doesn't have to be a hard no. It can be a really friendly, hard no. It can be like, Hey, listen, Daniel, that's not how we do our process here.

Right? So, so listen, I'm happy to send. Uh, a copy of a proposal in advance of a set conversation that we're going to have in person or that we're going to have up on the calendar. But the challenge is, if I'm sending a proposal without explanation, if I'm sending one that [00:37:00] doesn't have us talking about the why behind it, which of course you were a part of that process.

I think some of it gets lost and it's going to get broken down. And so for everyone's success, this is the process we've used and leveraged. So I can appreciate the situation you're in, but we're not going to be sending that proposal.

Daniel Weiner: I like it. I think what you just described, when I get asked what separates agencies and how can they stand out, it's very rarely the actual work. To your point, it is. Eloquently handling the billions of different micro interactions that happen on a daily basis with all of your prospects, some that are, more apparent than others that are in writing or over the phone and stuff like that, and getting to whatever the next step is, and to your point, like some people do not handle those types of scenarios eloquently or they just give in too easily and send it over, stuff like that.

I think the best agencies I see handle The weird, uh, like it's normal, day, day in, day out.

Robert Berris: Yeah, I just think, listen, [00:38:00] you and I both know it's all about the relationship, right? I mean, and,

and while that's not a big insight for this podcast, that's just the reality,

Daniel Weiner: I think it really is, though. It's 

Robert Berris: I did, you think it is the big insight? Yeah,

Daniel Weiner: It's because, I talk, I mean, that's like my common daily trope on LinkedIn is, so many people at agencies, in my opinion, over index for the work. 

And I remind them, you don't get to do any of the work if you don't get hired first. 

You like, there's an order of operations to these things.

You could be the greatest web development agency in the world, but you gotta get hired first over here before you get to show your process, and the work, design, and all of that stuff. 

And yeah, you, you know, the most common thing I hear from CMOs is they want reliability. Again, like, the work is table stakes.

Yeah, of course. Nobody wants bad work, and they want to look good and all that stuff, but like they it's just so hard to hire Like there's such big stakes Especially at like the innovation level from my experience because it's significantly bigger budgets and also to your point It's the unknown. It's we don't know anything.

We're paying you a bunch of money [00:39:00] to like Take these ideas and come up with some insight that we can't figure out that doesn't exist that turns into a business outcome. And yeah, I think so many agencies just immediately lean into like case study. Or like, we did this thing for this other company, right?

they'd be better served leaning into the relationship side.

Robert Berris: Listen, I think it's spot on. I think, a small build I would share is that in your process, whoever, you know, whatever type of agency you are, whatever type of, um, project or retainer based model thing you sell. my best advice to owners has been. Try to make the process feel like you're working together and if, and if obviously if you're working together, relationship feels really good, it gives them a taste of what it might be. And so when I mentioned co creation, that's a huge part of how we work. And so I would often tell folks like, listen, we have a really simple business development process. It's all about trying to make you understand and feel like you're comfortable working with our team. Here's how we go about doing this.

We have the decision makers in the room. So let me know if you are or aren't. We do this because it gets buy in immediately and they understand the why and why this is important.[00:40:00] we talk about budget, we talk about activities. We think through why and how this is going to be the right work and why it might be the wrong work.

And so we're basically prototyping it with you in the room. Our proposals, they're like three pages or less. They're Word documents, right? It's really designed to be super straightforward. but the other day, we want you to feel like you've already worked with us. You've seen how we think. and I think there's no replacement for seeing how people think and that relationship building.

So if it's not doing it every step of the way, that's what I used to tell my team. you're missing something, right? There's something missing from the process. if everything is just transactional. So yeah, I mean, for better or worse, people are investing in you.

Daniel Weiner: I agree. Mike, the question I was most looking forward to you answering is, I'll, I'll ask it in the simplest form. If you had to describe, uh, or when I say RFP, what's the one word that comes to mind? What's your initial reaction?

Robert Berris: hatred, hatred,

anger, pain, 

It's, It's yeah, it sounds like a Sith Lord or something, right? Like, anger, pain, it's, all, it's all terrible. It's a terrible process, it's broken.

Daniel Weiner: So [00:41:00] I agree. I think the RFP is a dirty word. I think brands are usually, don't want to do them and it's usually mandated by somebody else. I think agencies oftentimes don't want to participate. And in its most antiquated old school format, I think they're terrible as well. So my question to you, , since I now know that you hate them, how do we fix the RFP process?

I have I think I have fixed somewhat, which I, I approach it from the lens that I've never worked at a big, huge, enormous company and I've never worked at a big, huge, enormous agency, which I think serves me well because I ask sometimes, uh, in my opinion, like really simple, seemingly stupid questions that distills the information down into its simplest form, which helps it just doesn't benefit the brand, in my opinion, to run an RFP, how they normally are run to learn from their agency.

So in your opinion, how do you fix the RFP process? 


Robert Berris: Yeah. So I'm going tback to myy, my designer hat. So the question might be, what are we solving for? Right? the RFP process from my perspective has [00:42:00] been about solving a couple of things. One is, Can we align on the specific thing that we want to have quoted to us? In other words, Hey, it's a web dev project, innovation initiative, whatever it is.

Can we align on this thing? And, and that's sort of number one, like, can your agency do this? The second thing we're trying to do is. Let's talk about price. I mean, we're basically using the RFP as a proxy for bidding. and then we're using that for most large organizations as a way to look at from a procurement standpoint, are we getting the best bang for the buck and why, how do we eveAnd in most?

And in most cases, full transparency from me, most procurement folks are not practitioners of any one, uh, area. So all they're really doing is looking at price and they're trying to of course constrain everything to kind of like a, a menu of A, B, C, D column, you know, you get the idea. so I think, I think the key problem there is that One, excuse me.

The, the brand is being put in a position to say, well, number one, can we effectively describe the thing we need? Two, can we describe why we need it? And [00:43:00] three, can you adhere to everything we're talking about? Meanwhile, we ignore any ability for you to ask deeply and meaningful questions. It becomes, almost, like a, an anonymous chat box that, that you really just don't have much access to. and frankly, it dehumanizes the process. I mean, if you think about it, we've talked about how much you buy on relationship. This is designed right now to not buy on relationship is designed to buy on cost and designed to buy on feature. so for me, I think two things are really important. One is if I can't see how you think as a company I don't know that i'm i'm able to make a decision at all So, so to be more specific, without doing some sort of live work together, whether it's the first couple of conversations, whether it's a problem identification workshop, whatever it might be, if I can't hear how your team thinks, I don't know how to transact with you because as we talked about the top of this podcast, we said that every agency says the same stuff.

We're all full service. We're all human centered. We're all passionate. We're all the smartest [00:44:00] people. Well then how would I ever make a decision? Right. So now, now it comes down to price, which I don't think making a decision based on price makes any sense, right? I mean, obviously price is a factor, but we're probably not talking about magnitudes of pricing.

We're probably talking about 20 to 30 percent variances. So, so to me designing a better process, number one, , I've actually designed an RFP process for a client, believe it or not in my past life, and we had the vendors come in. We had the vendors come in, be a part of a workshop to define the RFP.

Why? This was in the sustainability space. This was in the innovation space. And there was no off the box solution. There was no like, Oh, this is the way of doing it. So the brand couldn't articulate it. The, the vendors certainly couldn't figure out how to articulate it either. We had to build it together.

And so doing that built relationship, doing that the end of the day, it helped them hear how people think. And so hearing the thinking is probably the number one way I would actually, augment the RFP process. create a way where it's not about filling in boxes, create a way where it's [00:45:00] validating.

These are smart thinkers who can advance what your company needs. And without that, I just don't see the RFP process being successful.

Daniel Weiner: You had mentioned it earlier about, agencies often being like a capability, or a capacity extension, and I think a lot of RFPs are written that way, uh, where it's a list of. task, which, you know, I don't think is a bad thing sometimes. Like, I typically talk to the brands. I give them my professional opinion on the RFP or their ask, or if I would do it a different way, but I also remind them, like, who am I?

I'm one person with one set of experiences. You're in your company, you have different, I'm here to help do what you all want. I'll let you know if I disagree, but to your point, a lot are written as we need somebody to manage website, you know, and they're just a list of tasks with a dollar associated with it, and yeah, it's hard to, uh, you know.

Really get to see how somebody thinks and operates or what it'll be like working with them. I think the biggest thing too I see is you often get the pitch team or the A team and it's 

not [00:46:00] representative of who you are working with. If you're an agency or who do you recommend works on, I know big agencies have RFP departments who will never see the pitch.

Never be in the room. What do you think about that? Who do you think? If you're a brand, should you mandate, talking to the people who will be working on your account or something representative of it?

Robert Berris: Yeah, I used to bring the team that I most likely believed would be the one working on the, on the account. And what I would do is I would act as a facilitator in the room, but I would not try to exert my opinion or really influence in there unless somebody was just going off the rails, right? So like, Hey, we're talking about X and all of a sudden moving to Y.

Hey guys, let's, let's try to bring the conversation back in. but that was what I thought was most important for my clients to see. there was a time where I would actually much, much earlier on in the innovation, uh, uh, the development of my innovation practice where that was actually a complaint I would hear.

I would hear it about some of the big four consulting firms. Well, you know, often in the RFP process, I don't [00:47:00] get a chance to even know the team I'm working with. and we just could see it over and over and over. And it's like the closer I could get you to the team or, or at least the average worker who we had at our agency, I think the better off the legitimacy and authenticity of what we could offer would actually shine through.

And candidly, it actually made onboarding much easier. They already had a relationship with those folks. It didn't have to be sort of a dump of like my brain and that information, no matter how good your onboarding process is. There's always something that gets lost from biz dev all the way through to the team. yeah, man, if you can put the real team on it or your average team, I think it, I think it absolutely gives the brand more confidence that this is, this is the right agency to work with. Cause this is, you know, average Joe X, as opposed to the best speaking people in the agency. It's a big deal.

Daniel Weiner: Yeah, if, uh, if it is a fair fight in an RFP, which I would argue most are not, because there's always stuff going on behind the scenes, but I'd argue if it's a fair fight, it is as much popularity contest and likability contest, not to keep bringing up the relationship side as anything. Because if you [00:48:00] pick again, I'd say this, if you, if you work with somebody like me or the brand, has, you know, three to five agencies who are relevant fits and strong, You know contenders, and it's fairly done and stuff like that.

You're you're picking who you like, you're picking again process matters all the things but like You know if somebody if you connect with somebody the most like you're probably gonna at least try to find the way to work With them first before moving on To

Robert Berris: I would agree. I'll build on it and say agencies, you know, again, love agencies, spent my whole career in them. There's one other tough element about working in an agency, and I think it connects back to like the pitch process, RFP or not. The, the chemistry and relationship that you're talking about, of course, is a big deal. some of it is just likability, to your point. but a lot of it is cultural. And so, you know, in my experiences, agencies, of course, you know, they, they, they claim to have a great culture. I could do an entire podcast about culture, but I'll just say it this way. Your culture is, is a great way to [00:49:00] frame what you hope happens in your company. Your organizational climate is what it's like to work there. And what I would argue is the agencies are in the unfortunate position where their clients and their clients culture merge with their agency team. And therefore as best as a culture that you can set up in agency X, those people are experiencing brand wise culture every day. And so as much as the RFP process is sort of this anonymized process about fact finding, what it lacks is the ability to answer, are we going to have a great cross cultural relationship, or is this going to be a nightmare? And one of my proudest achievements in my last company was doing all that I could to seek that out early on. And just gracefully bow away when I thought the culture was going to be too hostile. that is the number one reason why people have fatigue in agencies short of like bad managers or bad leadership it's the companies that you're exposed to and if the work isn't stimulating and The [00:50:00] people you're working with are challenging boy.

Oh boy That is a very very hard thing to get through and and it's it's a big reason for attrition in agencies

Daniel Weiner: speak like the kids you got to have a vibe check as early as 

Robert Berris: You got to have a vibe check, you know

Daniel Weiner: You need to. You gotta see if the vibes are there. we'll finish with a couple. Are you, what are you most excited about in the marketing or innovation space at the moment?

Robert Berris: I am excited that I'm excited where AI can augment the amount of how. In other words, the way people are doing their work, enabling them to think more. I'm really, really curious to see how this plays out. you know, when you're a designer, when you're a strategist, there's a lot of methods, frameworks, etc.

that enable you to run your work through them and make sure you're thinking in the right way. what if that could be sped up some and what if it could allow you as a designer, as a marketer, as a, you know, as a strategist, just to think more because the how is, has now decreased the amount of time you're spending.

So I'm fascinated by how I might augment. Speed, but actually increase the thinking there [00:51:00] because I think we just move too quickly often in marketing and advertising, and sometimes we're just trying to race to the timeline as opposed to racing to the outcome. so that's the thing I'm actually most excited to see.

that's very much a process and capability in and of itself that I think is going to take a few years to see a change in.

Daniel Weiner: What keeps you up at night from a marketing or business standpoint?

Robert Berris: well, from a business and what keeps me up at night, I, you know, I think organizational and operational change is always a tricky one. In other words, the market is doing something all on its own. You're trying to work on your initiatives. And so your ability to focus on both what you need to get out the door as well as what's happening in the marketplace is very hard.

That split focus is tricky. so, you know, the, any innovation initiative that you've ever, that I've ever worked on. I'm always thinking in the background what's happening outside of all this, because gosh, we're, we're in our little bubble. We probably need to move a little faster.

And so I think about how quickly the market can shift despite the best laid plans.

Daniel Weiner: Something [00:52:00] scary for everybody in marketing to think 

Robert Berris: Listen, I love, I love unknowable unknowns. great.

It's just the way the world is. 

Daniel Weiner: Well, we'll finish with a couple fun ones. What was your very, very first job?

Robert Berris: I worked at Best Buy computer, as a computer salesman. And I have a vivid memory of bringing this IBM computer, which back in the day, probably weighed a hundred pounds.

Daniel Weiner: a Geek Squad member? Weren't they run out of Best Buys?

Robert Berris: So, so I'm old enough. Yeah, they were, I'm old enough where Geek Squad didn't exist

when was 14. So, so unfortunately I was Geek Squad.

Daniel Weiner: were the OG Geek Squad. 

Robert Berris: I would, that's right. I can still. Feel and remember the smell of that Best Buy fibrous shirt. It was, it was, it was something.

Daniel Weiner: I can vividly, all I wanted for birthdays or anything was gifts, gift cards to Best Buy and Media Play, 

Robert Berris: Oh my God. 

Daniel Weiner: is around anymore, 

Robert Berris: It is 

Daniel Weiner: Play, but I I can, I loved walking around Best Buy. It is sad that we don't get that anymore, because you couldn't, sorry Best Buy, you couldn't get to go shop at any of those types of stores, at this point in my [00:53:00] life, for technology 

Robert Berris: You know, you know, they're, they're trying, listen, they're trying. I had to go to a Best Buy

recently and you know, they've got their sort of, department store esque, channel partners, right? You've got an Apple area, Samsung area. They're doing their best to make retail fun, but that's a challenge.

They're, they're not gonna. They're probably not winning that war. Sorry, Best Buy.

Daniel Weiner: agree. What would your last meal be?

Robert Berris: That's going to be Glide Pizza. I, I, it's, it's so delightful. If

you guys 

Daniel Weiner: in the building with Glide Pizza. 

Robert Berris: No, do you really? I didn't know 

Daniel Weiner: live in StudioPlex. 

Robert Berris: that's so funny. that's Yeah. Obsessed. 

Daniel Weiner: Glide is the best pizza, in Atlanta, in 

my, my, opinion.

Robert Berris: Have you been to the Inner Voice plus Glide Pizza?

That's a

Daniel Weiner: I haven't at that one, uh.

Robert Berris: Inner Voice is a, it's a, you can't miss

that. There's really great beer. And then of course Glide is right there. It's a deadly combination.

Daniel Weiner: I agree. And then my final question, who is somebody who inspires you, uh, both personally or professionally? Please don't answer me, Robert, even though I know that's your, I know that's your true answer, you 

Robert Berris: I get inspired by your humility lot, Daniel, so

it's, uh, it's, it's almost overwhelming. Uh, no, no, no. So, uh, so one [00:54:00] of my favorite ones, he was featured on Chef's Table on Netflix, a guy named Grant Ackes. he is a chef, from a restaurant in Chicago called Alinea. Might be one of the most innovative minds I've ever seen, and so if you haven't seen that, I think it's like season two, episode one or two or something on Netflix, but boy oh boy, the way he looks at the world, it's, it's, it's fun to, to go back and re watch a few times, so.

Daniel Weiner: that. Alinea was the long standing best restaurant in the country, wasn't it? 

Who took them down? Eleven Madison Park, I think it was.

Robert Berris: I don't remember who took them down, actually, but you are right, that they were, I think they're a three star Michelin, restaurant, and they were best for a number of years, so.

Daniel Weiner: Good. Well, thank you very much, Robert. , for anybody listening, you can find Robert on LinkedIn, I presume. if you are in the cruise industry and you need some payment stuff, check out brightwell. com. And, uh, anything else, Robert, to leave our audience with?

Robert Berris: if you're not in the cruise industry, cause this is where my department comes into play, we would love to talk to you, but if you need global payments, just come on by and give us a chat. We try to make it a lot easier for [00:55:00] industries all over the world to be able to send money. it's tricky.

Global payments is hard. So, uh, I just want to thank you, man. I really appreciate the time. it's a great podcast and, uh, you're great. You're a great human being, Daniel.

So I'll leave that. You can, you can quote that in like the video promo. You're a great

Daniel Weiner: We could have cut this thing down to 30 seconds if you just wanted to do that. Thank you for 

Robert Berris: Just put it on loop. Yeah, of 

Daniel Weiner: thank you very much.