The Partnered Podcast

033: Nikolai Avrutov • VP of Alliances at Bringg

Episode Summary

Welcome to The Partnered Podcast Episode 033 with Nikolai Avrutov, VP of Alliances at Bringg (prev. at ClickSoftware & Gimmonix). Enjoy!

Episode Notes

Join host Adam Michalski as he interviews Nikolai Avrutov, VP of Alliances at Bringg.

Nikolai and Adam discuss how he's built a partner program that's focused on "physical partners" like Doordash, Postmates, Lyft, and over 35 others. 

Topics Covered:

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Episode Transcription

Welcome to The Partnered Podcast, the podcast where we interview C-level enterprise partnership leaders from the world's best SaaS companies. The goal is to give you an inside view on how leading organizations drive the most partner sourced and influenced revenue out of channel sales, partnerships and alliances.

The Partnered Podcast is brought to you by Partnerships Leaders, the community where the best in partnerships, channel and ecosystems come together to share knowledge, network and grow their program. Apply to join the conversation at PartnershipLeaders.com. 

We're also sponsored by Partnered.io, the leading tool for managing and measuring SaaS partnership sales. Partnered.io helps you make more revenue from your existing partnerships. If you're using Salesforce and Slack, check out Partnered.io to get started today!

Adam Michalski: Welcome back to The Partnered Podcast! Extremely excited to have Nikolai Avrutov, VP of Alliances at Bringg on today. And Niko, just to kick things off, can you give us a little bit about your background and how you got into partnerships? Sure, Adam, 

Nikolai Avrutov: [00:01:15] thanks for having me here. Very excited. So my name is Niko.

I'm a Russian Canadian Israeli. I've been in sales since I'm 12 finished business school in Canada, where I also ran a landscaping firm and did some financial consulting sales afterwards, and eventually returning to Israel where after completing my military duty, I joined the exciting high-tech scene over here.

My previous company was ClickSoftware where my team and I have established a strategic Alliance with Salesforce. And what started as a grassroots gorilla initiative eventually resulted in the joint. World-class product. And together we took over a substantial part of our industry market share. And eventually we sold the company to Salesforce for well over a billion dollars.

That's when I joined bring last year seizing an exciting opportunity to join a company that a hyper growth stage and with a great vision to build its alliances function. Partners were an integral part of my career overall, but I think that the true passion for the profession grew out of the multifaceted experience of building ClickSoftware Salesforce Alliance.

Adam Michalski: [00:02:11] Very cool. Very cool. And I want to dive a little bit into bring specifically, so can you tell us a little bit about your current role at bring and for any of our listeners who aren't familiar with, bring what, what bring is and what the problem that it solves. 

Nikolai Avrutov: [00:02:22] So bring enables retailers and logistics providers.

So scale up and optimize their delivery and fulfillment operations to meet growing e-commerce demand. We serve customers such as Albertsons, outer zone and KFC, and Coca-Cola enabling double digit growth in sales from rapidly. Introducing new fulfilling channels, whether it's curbside, same day or next day delivery, delivering with own fleets or third-party all while reducing operational costs.

For us, it's all about enabling cost efficient, convenient, and fast, last mile operational on the front end with improved efficiencies and lowered complexities in the back end and my team and I we're on a mission to build an expand, bring alliances, to become a scalable source of five gen broaden and document our product offering as a differentiating value and ease the access to bring capabilities by way of making them available in relevant ecosystems.

Adam Michalski: [00:03:13] Very cool. Yeah. And I think last mile right now is definitely seeing a boom with a lot of folks at, at home with COVID. So I'd imagine your business is doing pretty well. Oh, 

Nikolai Avrutov: [00:03:22] absolutely. Our customer face immense pressure to grow their business faster than the overall meet their customer's expectations of superb experiences.

And as we all saw this year to be highly risky, Sponsor of the changing circumstances and they're expected to do all of that while achieving greater operational efficiency. So absolutely top of mind. 

Adam Michalski: [00:03:42] Right. Awesome. And I think I guess one of the questions that I had too is like, I mean and we'll get a little bit more into, you know, last mile delivery and how you kind of blend the digital world with like the physical world.

But before we get there, how do you structure the partnership organization at brink? 

Nikolai Avrutov: [00:03:57] So functionally, we structured the team across four pillars of activity. There is the commercial side which is focused on pipe gen, and that's where many of our coastal activities live. We have tech alliances that they enable for our customers this full end to end process.

So e-commerce order management, inventory management systems, et cetera. We have platform alliances and that's. Our efforts to make our capabilities available, where our customers are in the relevant ecosystems. And then there's a differentiating added value for our customers. That's where the delivery network comes to life.

We are a team of five with with different skillsets and specializations. In fact, I'm fortunate enough to have a great combination of. BizDev product legal, commercial and sales skills within the team. So each person has his or her own goal and quota. But at the same time, we also have a team quota which helps to support the notion of mutual support and collaboration, as well as a shared joy when any individual member of our team succeeds.

And since we're only five, each individual holds at least two different programs. 

Adam Michalski: [00:05:00] I liked that I liked the mutual support and collaboration. And I mean, with that said like, given your experience, bring, I'd love to get your take on how you go about like getting alignment across the organization. You know, just not just within the partnership organization, but more broadly.

And how you thought about kind of getting the, the, or setting up the KPIs that bring to make sure that you can kind of foster that cross-functional alignment. 

Nikolai Avrutov: [00:05:21] Sure loaded question, Adam. I think I'll start with, I was fortunate to have a strong starting point leadership saw great strategic potential and value in establishing an Alliance esteem.

This was important for me when I joined, I currently have the benefit of reporting directly to the CEO. And so as a member of the executive team, I can really align our activities to balance both short-term as well as long-term needs of the company overall. We follow the principles of trust, transparency, collaboration, and inclusion in our approach to partners.

And as a company, we aim to inspire our partners, customers, and people to be more given our early stage the two main KPIs, my team and I are gold on our PI Jen. Generating opportunities and license, revenue driven or influenced by partners. And my team is calmed accordingly. This went a long way in aligning our interests with those of the organization.

Then it drives the desired behavior yet it's not a 50, 58 style compensation split. So my thing can still focus on long journeys and invest in building. Long-term relationship. The only matter of the team quote and naturally maintains the notion of collaboration, as you mentioned before. And as we come into the build, we first searched for the lowest hanging fruit programs that will require least resources beyond my team's human capital to get off the ground and fastest to bring initial results.

Much simpler to drive their organization to make bigger partnership investments, having confirmed viability and actually contributed to the company's bottom line. From there, we progressed to develop the more complex relationships which are the tech and the platform plays after we evaluated. What's.

Already there. And what's possible when I was just ramping up, we introduced a sense of structure, you know, clear vision programmatic approach with a plan on how and when to scale clear KPI expectations and easy to access internal contents. So anyone in the company could easily figure out what are we up to and how to engage with us.

And alignment is an ongoing effort, ongoing dialogue, regular updates, carefully listening to the feedback from the field teams on what's desired what's needed, what works and what isn't and overall sheer transparency on what we were doing early. Inclusion of sales and partner dialogues is important and above all assurance that we are aligned with the strategic goals of the company.

That's 

Adam Michalski: [00:07:35] great. Yeah. And I love how meticulous you are about, you know, making sure that the entire company is kind of marching to the, the, the partner playbook. One other piece that I definitely find super interesting about bring is that, you know, you have physical partners a lot of the. You know, folks that we have on the show or more just traditional, you know, SAS and digital experiences.

So with you, I mean, it's more, you, you have those physical partners door, dash Postmates, Lyft, you know, I think like over 35 others. And I'm curious, like, how do these partnerships differ from tech partners and your other partnerships? 

Nikolai Avrutov: [00:08:07] Well, this is, this is an exciting part of our organization. In essence, when our customers need to fulfill their orders, they need wheels on the ground and sufficient coverage to provide that unified commerce and consistent Omni channel experience across their country.

Sometimes even internationally, many of our customers have their own fleets, but even they oftentimes are compelled to augment their own capacity with third-party carriers. I mean, look at the category leaders in this space. Not only. Are innovators like Amazon rolling out their own first party logistics.

They are also partnering with nearly every provider in the markets to ensure they can offer their customers that optimal experience while maintaining their target efficiency. So to compete in this market, each brand needs to similarly build their own coalition, utilizing every available resource. And that requires two things are real-time sync across a wide array of providers and the intelligence to automatically select the optimal delivery resources in real time and with a suburb consumer experience.

And that's where we come in. Our carriers are quite diverse with geo coverage across EMEA and North America and Latin America. And they have diversabilities too. Some can hold big and bulky items, you know, like refrigerators, others can transport food medicine, et cetera. But we are not a marketplace nor a reseller of these services.

We rather allow these carriers to have direct commercial relationships with the brands that we serve with bringing acting more as a technical facilitator and the operating system. So in a sense, these are still tech partnerships and the carriers, which was to work with either have a state-of-the-art technology of their own.

Or they themselves are onboarding on our platform. That's making that real time orchestration and communication possible. Having said all of that actual wheels on the ground is what is really all about. And so the main difference is that these partners make money, not when we mutually sell licenses, but rather when they actually starts to deliver for bring customers.

So everything has to be aligned, connected, and functional before they earned their first dollar through us. And the fact that these carriers are diverse and abilities also weaves them in a unique way through our sales cycles while we don't hold the commercial relationships, we are in a position to consult our customers on carrier abilities and coverage and help them to make the appropriate introductions and this results in a very symbiotic relationship where we are able to add significant consultative and technological value on one hand, and our carrier partners are introduced to highly pre.

Pre qualified and the rice customers on the other. That's pretty 

Adam Michalski: [00:10:38] fascinating in, I mean, I find this pretty awesome because I mean, I think at the end of the day, it's like, you know while SAS business models have their own nuances and interesting, you know, issues that go with them in terms of actually developing the software.

I think that connecting that to the, off our, the offline world and making sure that everything is actually sinking in unison, where in the offline there's a lot of variables that are, you know, much more difficult to control is, is definitely an interesting procedure. So I definitely applaud your effort.

On that front and I guess so switching gears a little bit I'd be curious to see, you know, given your experience, like, what do you see as like some of the major pitfalls that folks who are scaling their partner programs need to avoid? 

So 

Nikolai Avrutov: [00:11:20] I think that. While you, you have to communicate your long-term vision.

You really need to start with what could make rapid impact. You need to build that trust and show viability before you are able to commit the organization to invest more and greater resources. So. Not engaging in a continuous dialogue with all parts of the organization is a major pitfall that should not be ignored.

And on the other, on the partner side, you really need to understand where you add value to your partner and what scaling your collaboration means to both sides. And it's really easy to focus on what's important for you or what the partner can do for you. But unless you are able to articulate a mutual win and a mutual vision, Both companies significantly win from that collaboration.

You're not going to be able to scale that partnership to my opinion. 

Adam Michalski: [00:12:12] Interesting. Interesting. And there's two things that you touched on, I think a little bit earlier in the conversation that I also want to bring this back to is, you know, for, for your partner program, it's a quite diverse partner program.

But two of them, the co-selling and reseller relationships are ones that I want to focus on here for a second. So how do you think about kind of co-selling and reseller relationships as, as like a revenue 

Nikolai Avrutov: [00:12:32] driver for your business? Oh, well, Co-selling is a big part of what we've been doing this year.

And we see it as a very important part of our work moving forward. But we differentiate between co-selling with ambassadors, which oftentimes are a professional sellers or boutique consultants versus global software integrators with whom we are working closely on the larger enterprise deals. And I think that's the main difference is what's the, it's the wisdom what's what's in it for the partners.

Are they mainly focused? In the revenue share that we are providing them with or are they selling a broader scope? And we are part of that scope. And if so, how strategic are we? And I think this, this largely affects the dynamic and overall positioning when you engage with a partner on one hand, but during the sales cycle, when you're out there in the field together, and it requires a different approach, where are they helping us and how do we reciprocate and above all, are we successfully creating a greater reality for our mutual customer?

Adam Michalski: [00:13:31] Got it. And I mean, conversely, so those are some where, you know, like you see those operating very like you're very, well, I guess like on the opposite side of that spectrum, what are ways in which you see, you know co-selling or reseller relationships not necessarily work out as intended or just like more broadly pitfalls to avoid for our listeners.

Nikolai Avrutov: [00:13:51] So from brain perspective, our solution is quite complex and there's a lot of moving parts to it. And there's various challenges that we are able to resolve for our customers. So I think that's that enablement and making sure that we are putting the right knowledge in the minds of our partners is very important.

And it's really easy to go through a couple of decks and Provide access to, you know, a knowledge base and think that your partner is onboarded, but really working closely with them and making sure that they are at the comfort level as if there were someone from within our own ranks, able to articulate the vision, able to qualify and probe the challenges of the customer and really drive and steer the conversation towards the right areas and articulate how we address those problems or challenges is really important.

So I would say enablement, regardless of who the partner is it should be top of mind. It certainly is top of mind for us. And we still have a long way to go in terms of establishing it. Then I re if I reflect on, on the Salesforce Alliance that I had back with fleet software, enable enablement was a cornerstone of everything that we did, and whether it's implementers, whether it's the sales teams, whether it's.

The support teams, et cetera, everyone has to be enabled. And sometimes this means distilling it to a focused message that relates directly to their, to their business function. What is it that they do and making it very coherent and structured but never losing sight of providing the overall you know, a bird's eye view production or information on who you are and what is it that you do?

Adam Michalski: [00:15:27] Yeah, I think that, that makes a lot of sense. And what I mean, what I think is really cool about, you know, were your role and kind of your experience obviously, you know, you've had a breadth of experience at previous companies, but also like, as you're building out, you know, the, the bring alliances part of the organization, like you're really kind of starting from like, you know, from scratch and kind of building something that that's, you know, new and adding that onto the org.

So I guess like, Are there any thoughts that you'd like to share for companies who are in a similar situation who are kind of, you know, building out their partner programs? Hmm. Well, 

Nikolai Avrutov: [00:15:59] I'll answer this question humbly, as I'm on a continuous learning path, myself, including your podcast, Adam, which we've been very insightful.

I think. A key thought that I recommend to keep in mind is is the value that you extend to your partners. What's in it for them. How does your technology or your service helps them to thrive better that they need access to customers and they differentiate themselves by way of close association to you.

What are the potential revenue streams that could come out of, out of your collaboration beyond. The ref share that you might be offering that's, that's a really important aspect that we continuously keep in our minds and internally never stop aligning will we live in a high paced society and our organizations change and evolve constantly.

What was relevant six months ago might be less relevant today. And this of course, has Sydney have significant repercussions on partnerships. And so making sure that you are aligned and in a. And engage in a continuous dialogue with the rest of the organization is critical. 

Adam Michalski: [00:17:01] Got it. Yeah. That's a great point that I think a lot of folks will often overlook.

So I appreciate you, you, you, you bring that to the forefront. I guess, I mean, before we wrap up the one question that I love asking everyone is, I mean, I'd love to get your take on the partnership landscape and just where you see it going over the next, you know, five to 10 years, 

Nikolai Avrutov: [00:17:19] Looking into the future.

You know, I come from a customer service and from. You know, I come from customer service and customer experience, B2B B to B to C worlds. And when it's all about the customer, it's all about how to make smart things and complex things, easy, connected, unified, and smart and business customers have consumer expectations.

You know, it's an all-in-one old connected, super smart, yet super simple to operate. So I believe that partnerships will have a greater emphasis on the greater together. What is it does together combined results in more than the sum of the two. How do you make more capabilities accessible and beat a tech where commercial partnership is, will thrive when both parties gain a lot by joining forces and by doing so, provide a unified and hands user experience.

Adam Michalski: [00:18:12] love it. I love it. Yeah, couldn't have said it better myself. And I guess for. Last question that I have here is for folks who are looking to partner with bring, as you continue to scale out your program, how should they get in touch? 

Nikolai Avrutov: [00:18:24] Sure. Just go through our partners section on bring.com that's bringg with two gs .com and fill out the contact form we'll we would love to speak 

Adam Michalski: [00:18:33] fantastic.

And for our listeners, I'll link out to that in our show notes. But Niko, thank you so much for joining today. I definitely learned a bunch as I imagine our listeners will too. So I really appreciate your time. Thank 

Nikolai Avrutov: [00:18:44] you very 

Adam Michalski: [00:18:44] much, Adam, for hosting me. All right, we'll talk soon.

Thank you for joining us! Don't forget to subscribe at PartneredPodcast.com to get updates on new episodes. Also be sure to check out our sponsors, Partnership Leaders at www.PartnershipLeaders.com and Partnered.io at www.Partnered.io. See you on the next show!