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Podcast Pit Stop: George Alifragis on Building Teams Using the PES Framework

Posted by Arielle Walsh on May 20, 2022
Arielle Walsh
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As a leader, optimizing a team is a priority. In episode 46 of the B2B podcast, Pit Stops to Podium, George Alifragis, a seasoned data-centric team leader, shares the secret sauce in his People, Experiences, and Systems (PES) Framework for building teams and organizations. George is the COO at Analance, a global systems integrator and data solutions provider. He brings more than 15 years of experience in spearheading revenue-driven organizations across the technology, telecom, and financial services industries. Grab an apron and follow George’s framework recipe to successfully build your own team. 

Take 20 minutes to listen and digest and then head back to the races! 🏁🏆

Pitstop Highlights

People

As George says, “People are your differentiator.” People are on the #1 aspect to focus on;  It's people who develop the technologies we've come to love, it’s the people that make the biggest difference. However, they’re often forgotten in the equation–maybe not even in a company’s playbook. 

George’s recommendation: Don’t look for the right playbook, look for the right people. That will develop the right talent you want for your company. Finding the right talent should be your #1 focus.

Experiences

Everything comes down to an experience. Look to develop experiences, then use those experiences to build your system and processes. 

George suggests building a customer experience model that consists of four stages: buying, onboarding, caring, and loyalty. First, it's all about building and buying a better experience. Then, you’re entering the stage of onboarding. In this stage, treating your employees with the right care can tremendously make a difference. With loyalty, it’s all about focusing on retention. 

Systems

A system is a set of things that work together as part of a framework, as part of a mechanism. And this can really to everything, including the product development projects companies may take on. Not only are you developing a product, but you’re also developing a system. It’s important to step back and understand the data and analytics embedded across all your systems, leading to better experiences with the product.

When building your products, solution, and services within a greater system, you’ll have the right holistic approach to deliver the proper experience and outcomes. 

Connect with George:

Full Transcript

Brendan: Hey, everybody. Welcome to Pit Stops to Podium, the RevPartners podcast where we talk to execs who competed and won, taking their companies from high growth to high scale. My name is Bernard Tolleson, Co-founder, and CEO of RevPartners, and I'm delighted to have you today, George Aligragis for this episode of Pit Stops to Podium. Welcome, George. 

George: Brendan, it's nice to be here. 

Brendan: Well, we're delighted to have you. This should be a fun episode. George serves as a CIO at Analance, a global systems integrator and data solutions provider. Prior to that, he's got 15 years spearheading revenue driven organizations across technology, telecom, financial services industries. So we have a lot of thought to talk about or we could talk about, but excited because for our audience, these are the type of people that we want to be hearing from. So thank you for joining the podcast. 

George: Appreciate it. 

Brendan: So, George, as we get started, I think it's good just to level set on who Analance is. I just mentioned it at a high level, but it's always good for our guests to share who you work for and what you do. 

George: Yeah, absolutely. So I have a pleasure of serving the go to market team at Analance, and we're both, like you said, a global systems integrator and a data solution provider, so we can build a system from the ground up, which includes applications, products, you name it. We can integrate all kinds of systems. So a lot of really cool technical projects, transformation projects, optimization projects, you name it. And from the data perspective, we have our own platform. We do embed analytics. So we really take a data driven approach to everything we do. So we bring both worlds together. Well, yeah, I would say that's pretty integral in this day and age from a data perspective. 

Brendan: Definitely. George, before we get into our big idea, we have a tradition here at Pit Stops to Podium. And it's an opportunity to know our guest outside of work. So what are three fun facts that our audience should know about you outside of work? 

George: Um, where do I start? So I guess first, I'm a huge foodie, so I love food and I guess I stay active and work out quite a bit. So I can basically eat more food. 

Brendan: So now you've got a two for one there. What's your what's your go to cuisine? 

George: I would say sushi and Greek comes close second, I just I like a lot of different places. But those are probably my top two at the moment. OK um, second, fun fact, I guess, is fun for me, sometimes a bit less fun for others as I measure everything. So I measure and track my meals, my macros, my steps, my sleep, my energy levels, my performance, my team's performance, my business performance, you name it. 

Brendan: Do you have a Woop? Is my main question.

George: I've tried them all, and yes, I have. I think I have all of them at this point, and depending also what I'm looking to measure more accurately, I rely on one versus the other. 

Brendan: All right. That's great. OK, so your foodie, you track everything. What's your third?

George: I guess that I'm a devoted dad to two French Bulldogs. So wait, let me rephrase that two crazy French Bulldogs. And let me tell you, I've always had tremendous respect for parents, but I have even more respect now because my two franchisees are a handful. So shout out to all the parents out there who are taking care of human beings because it's a lot of work. 

Brendan: I have three little kids. I also have a dog.  And yeah, so not much sleep is being had. But so let's George, I appreciate you share a little bit more about who you are outside of work. It's always fun to get to know our guests. Let's transition to a big idea. We've talked a little bit about your background as it relates to leading teams, and you've come up with a pretty interesting framework. And I think it's a fun topic for today. And it's and what you have kind of defined is people, experiences and systems that acronym apps as a framework really for building teams and organizations. And so I love just to understand before we get into those three. What led you to come up with this system? 

George: Well, it's a great question. So one I'm a huge fan of frameworks I've always been and growing up in the telco space. We would always refer to people, process, and technologies. And over the years, as I serve different teams and just grew through that leadership journey, what came together for me and kind of where that model evolved for me anyways is into what I call people experiences and systems in that specific order as well. And there's a reason behind that, but it's allowed my teams and I to be extremely successful. It's allowed organizations to go from 10 million to 30 million, from 200 million to 300 million revenue to just grow teams tremendously at scale as well optimize teams. It's I find finest the framework that brings it all together. 

Brendan: That's great, I think what's exciting for our audience is, as you just mentioned, regardless of what stage you are at, it could be in that kind of high growth earlier stage that $10 million you mentioned or it can be a more mature at scale 100 plus million range. So that's the beauty of it. It seems like it's malleable and these are universal principles. So to your point, you kind of mentioned it in order as it relates to people, experiences and systems. Let's park on the people side as we begin. 

George: Yeah, so I would say people are your differentiator. Oftentimes, founders, colleagues, team members, you know, they always ask you or they ask in groups like what's the secret sauce? What's the best process? What's the best technology? What should I focus on? What should I buy? My answer is sometimes the most boring one is who's behind? It is like, where? What's the right talent that we need for the problem. We're looking to solve? It's really the people that make the difference. It's the people. It's people who develop the technologies we've come to love. We've come to know it's ML engineers who develop the AI that we see in different products, platforms. It's data scientists who solve complex data problems. It always comes back to people. And yet I find oftentimes people are often forgotten in that equation, and we're always looking for a playbook. We're looking for a process. Even when hiring like I have, you know, the hiring market right now is crazy, and I have different leaders in my network that are like, oh, I'm looking for people, but they don't have the right playbook. I'm like, why are you looking for a playbook? Why aren't you looking for the right talent? Who's going to develop the right playbook for your organization? It's not a copy and paste short sprint type solution, right? So so I still find today that comes up way too much. And what do you in your mind?

Brendan: I don't disagree with you, I don’t think most people would. But why? Why do you think that is happening? What's the underlying reason for that?

George: I think because it's harder finding the right people, it's harder finding the right talent that is really going to help you go from stage a to stage B because you're not always looking for the same profile, you're always looking for someone with that specific expertise in that same industry, sometimes across industry. And I think as human beings, we, we sometimes tend to want to go down the path of least resistance. So we're looking on Google or wherever to find a process of play playbook, a blog, something that will help us. But again, we can't forget that behind all that someone wrote it, someone developed it, and that that's what really should be your focus when you're looking to grow and scale is, do I have the right people? Am I empowering my people to bring their superpower to work? And what I mean by that is that we all have a superpower. So one, it's understanding and recognizing that even the ones who think they don't really do. And over the years, and this is only because of my team members, we started this. They shared with me that one of my superpowers is unlocking other people's potential. So, so, so for me, that's also what's really important because sometimes we're not all born superheroes, but over time, over the years of experience, you do develop superpowers. It's a question of having the right leader who's going to help and tap, unlock and grow that. And that's what needs to be the focus. It's not always, what's the next best tech? What's the next best practice? What is Gartner saying? I have respect for all of those, but it really comes down to your talent and that absolutely needs to be your number one focus. And the other thing I would add, because this is really top of mind has always been top of mind, but especially now is diversity as a differentiator. So when you think of people, you have to think of it through the lens of diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging. So the EIB, because that's where it becomes extremely impactful and extremely powerful. And that's where we can dive a little bit further, if you'd like. But that's how I would really frame it all together. 

Brendan: Yeah, I like that. The thoughts come to mind as I hear you speak. You know, I recently interviewed Sterling snow, who's a CRO at Divvy. You know, just got sold for about 2 and 1/2 billion and we were talking about success versus significance and people was a core part of it when we thought about significance and one of the things that we talked a lot about was maximizing talent, as you describe just now. And the reality is there's finite time, you have finite things that you can do. And so how do you prioritize what it is that you are uniquely gifted at? But the point is like, where do you come alive and where can you have the most value? So I really like that. I think the other thing that struck me is Jim Collins talks about being the right person on the bus to the right seat, et cetera. But there's also flexibility, not what I mean is if you're in a startup mode, the characteristics for the skills that you're looking for look different than if you're in a more mature organization. And so generalist, for example, may be what you need as you're looking to build. But as you get more mature, it's more that specialists where, you know, made his a playbook, and that's OK. But making sure that person is the right fit for what's necessary in that specific role? Let's transition. So we talked a little bit about people, and let's get into your next part of the framework that we talked about, which is really around experiences. So what does experiences mean to you? 

George: Yeah, so. To be honest, I see the world through experiences, and I think more of us should. So what I mean by that is everything comes down to an experience. So a process is part of an experience, right? So so you so from my perspective, the way I kind of frame it is look to develop experiences and then afterwards from there, build the systems, build the processes. And obviously, your people will help you build those experience and really focus in on that. And I've developed another model over the years, which is basically breaking down the customer experience for both C and B to B across four different stages, and those four stages are first by then on board, then care and loyalty. So by onboard care and loyalty. So what I would encourage anyone to do is really to think of their experience and the experience they want to deliver in those four categories and really take the time to build a better experience and optimize one that's adopted across those four different stages. So what I mean by that is if I start with bi, it's all about building a better buying and selling experience. But yet still today I find it's probably the area where people think the least about experience, and they don't really associate sales with customer experience when they should, right? Because dealing with an account executive dealing with a sales lead, all of the various sales questions out there is very much part of your brand experience, very much part of the experience you're going to market with, and that is a huge differentiator. If I look back at some of the technologies I've gone with and why I've chosen one partner versus the other. Let me tell you most of the times, if not all of them, it is a sales rep who made the difference and he didn't make the difference or she didn't make the difference because they were a better salesperson and more sales. It's because they delivered a better buyer's experience. And again, I find that part is not as emphasized and prioritize. The same goes for onboarding, onboarding, regardless of a product, or if you have a service, you are onboarding a customer. That first impression post-sales. I've seen that failed tremendously where the sales experience was incredible. Then you get handed off to someone and it's a nightmare. And then the reason why I've kind of positioned the other two stages the way I have is once you have your customer, you have to take care of it if you don't take care of them. Why would you think that you've earned the right to retain them? So it's all about care. And yes, you can take care of B2B clients. This is not only a concern for consumers. And last but not least, is loyalty. So instead of focusing on retention, we should focus on driving more loyalty because with more loyalty brand advocacy, you will have less churn, you will drive better net and hour and retention. So so again, it's focusing on those four areas that I find been extremely impactful and in just the last couple of years. 

Brendan: Yeah, I like the distinction in wording, because to your point, you typically hear for this. Of the three, it's people, process, and tools or technology, but from a what you're describing, there's a why behind what the process is not like. Yes, a process is useful, but what is a process designed to do and what you're kind of elevating it and reminding the stakeholders that we are creating a process to ultimately deliver a better experience. And so it it frames it in a way in which your priorities. What are you prioritizing and why? And so I think it's a really helpful way for people to think about what the process is meant to do. 

George: And then it also allows you to measure those different stages accordingly. So instead of looking at churn only at the end of your customer journey, you're actually looking at churn right from the onboarding stage. So it really allows you to measure the outcomes and measure the performance when you split it up in those four different stages. 

Brendan: I like that. All right. So we talked about people. We talked to experiences. Let's now dive into systems a little bit. 

George: Yeah so it's a little bit like how I see the world through experience, but I also see the world through systems. So what I mean by that is a system is a set of things that work together as part of a framework, as part of a mechanism. And I really apply this to everything, including the product development projects that we take on. What I sometimes advise my clients because I'm also an advisor to tech startups, but even when I help my team out with different opportunities that we have is don't only view it as you're developing a product, but you're developing a system. So you have to take a step back and understand how are all the dots going to connect right? And what you're really delivering is it can be a product or a service, but it has to be part of a greater system. And with that system, you're then able to ensure the right data and analytics are embedded and integrated across your systems. And that ultimately, which is why it's part of the greater framework, leads to better experiences, right? Like, I'm sure there's a bunch of examples that come to mind maybe on year-end, Brendan, where there's this great product. But wow, is it either so built in silo or it's disconnected from this other process that you're trying to squeeze it in? Or it doesn't speak at all to this other system? There's no way of having it speak to another system. It's one of the reasons really why actually, if you think about the last two or three years, integrations have just dramatically exploded, like everyone wants to integrate with everything. And that makes sense, right? So so that's just a confirmation that if you build your product, your solution, your service within a greater ecosystem or within a greater system, you'll have the right holistic approach to then be able to deliver on the proper experience and outcomes. 

Brendan: It creates a translation layer where it helps tell the story and that's kind of the interconnectedness in the systems exactly allow you to truly understand what is happening and why and how you act to your point. In terms of from experience perspective, like what where should we be prioritizing in light of what we're seeing from a system. So I wholeheartedly agree with that. Well, Georges, it’s been a great opportunity for us to connect. I always enjoy our time together. This has been a really helpful framework. I know that our audience will enjoy it when we think about the people, experiences and systems, regardless of what stage of your company journey you're in. This is definitely a useful tool that I hope people take advantage of. George, any final thoughts as we conclude our time together?

George:  I would say, don't forget data. Everyone says they want to be more data driven. I hear people saying, I hear organizations saying it, but very few really are. So again, make sure that data is part of your strategy embedded through your strategy and better through your systems. Because if you don't, you'll never truly be able to be data driven. You're just going to look at pockets of data here and there without driving the insights you're looking for. So don't forget data. That's what I would add. Both professionally and personally, right? 

Brendan: Exactly well, George, thanks, Thanks again for coming on. If our audience wants to engage with you, where should they go?

George: Linkedin. So just shoot me, on Linkedin, connect with me on Linkedin. I'd love to continue the discussion.

Brendan: All right, George. Well, Thanks so much for stopping by. I love your insights on this framework. It will be in touch. 

George: Thanks so much for having me, Brendan. I appreciate it. 

Brendan: All right. Talk to later. Cheers 

 

Pit Stops to Podium: A RevPartners Podcast

On the RevPartners Podcast, we talk to executives who have competed and won, accelerating their companies from High Growth to High Scale. Hosted by RevPartners Co-founder and CEO, Brendan Tolleson. Take some quick notes from each week's "Crew Chief" and then head back to the races!

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