Richie Jones has experienced both client side and agency life across multiple sectors. Having spent the majority of his career to date being just in front of the curve, he is now in the sweet spot having found his niche. Launching vvast has allowed Richie to blend his agency experience and brand expertise to deliver an innovative, low-capital entry to market for brands but crucially plugging them into a relentless R&D roadmap to accelerate revenue. He is passionate about the concept of creative destruction and feels genuinely privileged to have seen the inception and gradual impact of the internet on society and brands.
Ritchie builds teams with a shared love of brand, a stoke for surfing, mountain biking and music, and drive to deliver epic work. Having embarked on B Corp journey in 2021, Richie has discovered how aligned it is with his purpose for vvast, it is so much more than environmental impact, it's about considering our contribution to the wider community, and understanding the way we do business through an ethical lens.
• We read your bio, your formal bio that they sent over to us, but we always like to ask our guests to share in their own words, a little bit about your journey, how you got to where you are today?
• So, could you share with our listeners a little bit about vvast? What kind of clients do you have? What kind of work do you do? so they have a better idea of what your organisation is about? I know you mentioned just now that it was formed six years ago, and it's about 35 employees that you have in your complement.
• So, I'm sure many of our listeners may have different organisations that they are a part of, and they may outsource some aspects of their business. And so, when you outsource a lot of times, the customer may not necessarily have the same experience across the board, could you share with us maybe two or three things that you found has made your team successful to make that experience so invaluable for the customer that they're not even able to pick up that you are a third party? But you're just all one.
• What are maybe I would say, two things that you believe is important to grow a profitable and purpose led business focused on transparency, and communicating values, because especially the values part?
• Can you share with us what's the one online resource, tool, website or app that you absolutely cannot live without in your business?
• Could you also share with us maybe one or two books that have had the biggest impact on you? It could be a book that you read recently, or even one that you read a very long time ago, but it has had a very big impact on you.
• Could you also share with us one thing that's going on in your life right now that you're really excited about? Either something you're working on to develop yourself or your people.
• Where can listeners find you online?
• Now, before we wrap our episodes up, we always like to ask our guests if you have a quote or a saying that during times of adversity or challenge, you will tend to revert to this quote if for any reason you feel off track or you get derailed, this quote kind of helps to get you back on track, remind you of as you said that Simon Sinek says, “Why are you doing what you're doing?”
Richie shared that the bio really sort of summarises the journey he’s been on. And he thinks the concept of being in front of the curve for quite a long time in his career has definitely been something he guess, paid for in the early parts of his career, because he was almost too early with the internet and technology. So, what's amazing now, having first founded a company that was about 20 years ago, he sold it about 10 years in, that was an amazing experience to see what it's like to start something and take it all the way through to selling to a A-listed marketing group. So, it's what you do when you've sort of found things and see what it turns into is really exciting.
After that, he went brand side as they call it for a five-year period where he was on a private equity, and also venture capitalist funded board, where they selected brands and kind of took them to a whole next level really. After that, he went what they call brand side and worked, got a big learning for how brands operate, some of the challenges they face. And the crucial thing he kind of learned on that long sort of period as well was how to create amazing brand and consumer experiences, what will actually really make consumers want to buy again from a brand and why they enjoy doing it.
And most recently he founded vvast six years ago, and they’ve now grown to sort of 35 people that handling approaching 15 million pounds worth of revenue for their brands at the moment. So, it's been a really great journey. And crucially within that they have a whole customer services or customer centric elements of what they do as well. That's what he’s done in a nutshell so far.
About Richie’s Company - vvast
Me: So, could you share with our listeners a little bit about vvast? What kind of clients do you have? What kind of work do you do? So they have a better idea of what your organisation is about? I know you mentioned just now that it was formed six years ago, and it's about 35 employees that you have in your complement, correct?
Richie affirmed, yes, that's correct. So, what they do in sort of summary is they’ve created an approach to be able to bring brands to market, initially in the European marketplace, but they’re expanding into the Middle East, they actually have some brands in Australia and New Zealand as well. And fairly similarly going into the US, as well. So, it will be a global thing they’re doing. But in the early stages, what they’re doing now is they’ve set up the business so that a brand, some of the brands they work with brands, like Yeti and they have Stance, they have some of the Truly brands, so Truly Designs and brands like Jansport, which is one of the VF brands they work with.
And all of these brands, they operate in the European market, primarily, they set them up. So, it's actually, this is crucial on the eCommerce channel, but also on Amazon as well. It's actually a very complicated channel to navigate. And if you're saying based in the US and you’ve worked with a lot of California West Coast based brands, it's actually very quite risky setting up an entity and trading in the European market in the first place. They have all of the teams, the infrastructure and crucially the technical platforms to be able to launch a brand in Europe, navigate all of the challenges around the 28 countries that exist in the main sort of European Union trading block, things like language, how to price correctly, how to go to market, and also creating amazing customer and brand experiences. So, they’re able to do that. And it's actually very low cost for a brand to use them, compared to them setting up the sort of one to 2 million US dollar cost of setting up your own local team and market. So, instead, they can talk to them and they basically act as the brand, they don't see themselves necessarily as an agency, they see themselves as a genuine extension to what the brand does, and in sort of customer facing side of what they do, especially, they're trained by the brands that they work with as well.
So, if you were to contact one of the brands they work with, you might talk to someone who works at vvast, but actually in effect, the consumer or customer is none the wiser they are being dealt with as they are the brand. And they take great pride in that and they feel like they’re huge sort of custodians of that as well. This year, they’re going for a B Corp as well, as mentioned in his bio, and they’re particularly excited about that, because they were able to apply a lot of the learnings from their B Corp, to the brands and make recommendations and how they can be more sustainable and more ethical.
Strategies Found That Has Made Your Team Successful to Make Experience Invaluable for the Customers
Me: Amazing. So, I loved what you said about talking to someone from vvast but you didn't know you're talking to someone from vvast, because it was almost like you're talking to someone from the actual company, because that experience was just so seamless. So, I'm sure many of our listeners may have different organisations that they are a part of, and they may outsource some aspects of their business. And so, when you outsource a lot of times, the customer may not necessarily have the same experience across the board, could you share with us maybe two or three things that you found has made your team successful to make that experience so invaluable for the customer that they're not even able to pick up that you are a third party? But you're just all one.
Richie stated that is really crucial with the kind of brands they work with as well. So, a lot of high end. So, the expectation from a consumer point of view is that it should be a like a premium, incredible experience. So, the real challenge of it is that if there's if common issues that are coming up, but it's having good software to track, so they use Zendesk as their main platform, but there's others out there, obviously, they're having really good software to track what are their consistent problems that the consumers are contacting them about? And that's where because they own the full 360 user experience, they call it 360 so they can actually change if it's a problem with how you're describing the sizing, for example, on the website might be one specific product.
And that's particularly important when you're importing products from say, the US where sizing is completely different, and they don't use it, they use Imperial not metric to do it, making sure all those things you address. If it's a really common issue, and it's reoccurring, making sure they have a really clear process that addresses that, so you can actually reduce the amount of inbound you're getting around that particular issue. That's a real kind of big advantage that they have, because they will have visibility. That's definitely the first thing he'd say.
He thinks as well. The other one is what is really immersing their brand team, sort of customer experience facing team in the brand itself. And again, with a premium brand that they’re working with, they’re very fortunate that they actually extend the training, the onboarding, and also product update training with their team. And that's been really instrumental in terms of their success. So, often the US team will just treat their team exactly as an extension, which is exactly what you need. And likewise, they will share their excitement. So, if there's a product update, for example, that addresses one of the key issues, because a lot of these products, they're driven by the consumer. So, if there's a key issue that comes up like the latch is too tight or too hard to close on a key kind of piece of luggage, for example, when there's an update, and there's a really great accessory that comes up that addresses that issue, their team are the first to know from those brands that there's a brilliant kind of solution to this. And that is just a great example that the brand is listening to the consumer, which is again why consumable repeat with a brand.
He thinks the third one he'd say is that glue that exists between the trading team that they have who actually trade the eCommerce websites and also things like Amazon, and the insights that team kind of getting so there’s a great trust there. So, if there's an issue with a website, which he’s happy to say doesn't happen very often, they their trade team will be the first to tell their customer experience team that there's an issue.
And it might be on one particular payment type, for example, like Apple Pay has gone down or MasterCard isn't working in Germany for some reason, or whatever it is, their trade team are very quick to tell the customer experience team just say really quickly, “Okay, we're aware of this issue. We're working on it, here's a resolution, can we help you with an alternative payment method?” That kind of thing really. So, those are probably the kind of biggest things and it really leverages their 360 model, because they've got that visibility across the entire business, so to speak.
Me: Amazing. So, you mentioned the glue, the technology and the training and development. And that's kind of how your methodology works in order to ensure that seamless experience. That's really, really good.
Important Factors to Grow a Profitable and Purpose Led Business Focused on Transparency and Communicating Values
Me: Could you also share in working with your company vvast and all of your high end clients and brands across different countries across Europe, what are maybe I would say, two things, let’s narrow it down to two that you believe is important to grow a profitable and purpose led business focused on transparency, and communicating values, because especially the values part. Because you're working with many different people, many different personalities, we're all socialised and grown up differently. So, how do you kind of get everybody on that same page, and then your consumer buys into those values that you have for your organisation and they can see those values permeate in your day to day interactions with you?
Richie stated that it's such a kind of question of now. And often it's very pertinent to the kind of the zeitgeist of purpose led really, and we're in a smoothness age now, especially the internet and post COVID, where the brand is the biggest brands in the world, and even the smaller ones and operations like vvast do as well. If you're going to embark on a purpose led mission and use things like the amazing movement is being fought to make it a transparent process, you absolutely 100% have to live and breathe your kind of company vision fundamentally, that's the most important thing. And he thinks anchoring it back to your company vision, and reminding your team of what you're doing and why you're doing, it not only creates a feeling of belonging and excitement in that you're on this bigger mission, it isn't just about making profit, it's actually about what excites their team so much, him especially that really makes him happy about that, it's not just making money thing, is that you can really feel like they're on a mission that is going to potentially not just influence the brands they work with, but ideally, also influence everybody else, their peers in the industry. And our peers could be either competitors to what vvast does, and there's not many at the moment, or the actual competitors of some of their brands that go, okay, that's a really good idea that if, for example, they deploy a type of version of Shopify, there's much more low energy for the end user and also for the hosting environment that they use.
So, they're willing to share how they've actually achieved that, in the same way that Volvo did when they designed the seatbelt, they made the Payton open source that meant the whole car industry could then adopt that and save millions of lives.
So, they feel like they're in a place where they can create just a great passion for what they did in terms of like, they can address the climate emergency, they can start to, or at least be part of that solution to the climate emergency. They can start to say to people, that they've got a way of engaging ethically in eCommerce selling techniques.
And all those things join back to this kind of common purpose that exist in the business itself, it's phenomenal how the B Corp kind of framework gives you this, what it does is literally a framework to actually implement some of the findings and learnings to actually get you to turn your company mission statement into a set of values that then your team will do and live day in day out and you can attach those to the team objectives.
So, if someone has a team objective for that particular quarter, for example, an individual has an objective, you can say what company value are you actually going to attach that to and you can benchmark it. And they actually have an award that they give out once a month, it's called a vvasterfy award, it’s quite bizarre in a shaped you mentioned surfing earlier, he’s not sure if you're familiar what a shackle is, which is you stick your two fingers up on each end of your palm, but your thumb out and then your finger out the other way and you sort of do a shackle, which is a surfing thing.
Me: I've never surfed before, but I'm a good swimmer.
Richie stated that It's basically a golden shackle that they give to people each month who have demonstrated the best, they've exemplified their values in the best way. And an example of one of their values is for planner and community. And it's like demonstrating how they've managed to lower impact to improve their impact on obviously on the planet, but also on their community as well.
And those are great ways to meet. They’ve given away a month's worth of charity days in terms of their teams, so each team member can spend a day and maybe two, if it's a great sort of thing if the workload or allows working at a charity that they believe in, or an NGO. And that's another example, they are just living that example by their kind of company mission, really. And it's all made possible, really by that whole B Corp sort of framework that they can then report against, really. Those are probably the biggest ways that they demonstrate that purpose, really.
App, Website or Tool that Richie Absolutely Can’t Live Without in His Business
When asked about online resource that he cannot live without in his business, Richie stated that that's a great question. So, where they're at now, and he promises, it's not an advert. He thinks a tool that is a kind of a playbook, where they store all of their insights and their processes in terms of a new product launch, or a new starter joins, or someone leaves or whatever it is, is a platform called Asana. And they've gone through two or three tools that have a similar to Asana. But they now using it to a point now where they literally can just fire up all kinds of processes and tasks, simple things that if there was a data, he’s just thinking now in terms of the more customer centric stuff. If someone did a data request, “Okay, I want you to delete all my data that this brand has on me. Can you confirm your do that within in 48 hours?” Which is what the legislation says they need to do. So, they have a process, they just fire up in Asana and bosch it’s done, the team, they are pulling in the right sort of way. He thinks that that has been a game changer for them. And it exists the costs in a web browser and also in app on desktop as well. So, that's probably the one he would choose out of all of them.
Books that Have Had the Biggest Impact on Richie
When asked about books that have had the biggest impact, Richie stated that the classic one at the moment, he’s referencing quite a lot at the moment is The Power of Why, which is a Simon Sinek book, which is was probably his first kind of big mass market success, he'd say. And that talks about going right back to what is your purpose? Why does your company even exist? What gets you out of bed? It literally will pull you right back out of all of the kind of mode you’re in to a to go on that journey about literally why is so important, and is definitely worth a follow on LinkedIn, if you can, Simon Sinek he's really great. And he is now really sort of taking things, his success with COVID was phenomenal, is taking it to the whole next level, and what you can do, but that's a great, great book to start with.
He thinks another one is one called Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike, which is the story autobiography, actually, written by the founder of Nike. And just on a personal level, but also, we all know about the kind of sacrifices you have to make when you start a business.
And he encapsulates that whole summary. And also, he should say, is also the founder of Nike as well, which is Phil Knight. And in that book, it takes you on such a journey about him going from bedroom start-up literally from his, his classically educated academic dad questioning why on earth he wants to set up a trainer brand in the first place, all the way through to the end where the business is obviously worth billions.
The most successful kind of shoe and apparel business on the planet, so to speak, really. And he thinks it's a fascinating read, and it's actually very inspiring. He relates to it because of how he's engaged in community in such a clever way, especially through active sports. And they obviously started in running but when diversified, obviously, all kinds of areas like basketball as we all know. So, that's a really inspiring read or recommend that to anyone, even if they're not in the kind of lifestyle, fashion businesses. It's a great read.
What Richie is Really Excited About Now!
When asked about something that he’s really excited about, Richie shared that they are like six years old and that feels like they're older, but feels like at the moment, they're going through the stage where they're really going up from being like teenagers who are probably coming home late at night, and their parents are worried about them sort of thing, to actually go in into this amazing stage where they're going, they're really, really accountable. They've always been accountable at this next level of accountability, where they're now doubling down on their processes, how teams are iterating things. And they've been on this amazing journey with an external company, he’s going to name drop them, which they're based in Bristol, a company called Lunos. And a good friend of his who runs it as well, two friends of his, and these guys have done an amazing job in terms of coming in and evaluating where they're at as a business and in providing them krushi with these really simple tools to help them transition into this grown up versions of themselves. And the process is called Launchpad. And it's been an amazing, it's gruelling as well, he'll be honest, in terms of how he’s running the company at the same time, you got to keep all your people on the same page, that this journey is worth it.
But he can really see already from the green sheets, he’s seen already that this process is going to be transformative in terms of how they get on to the amazing work they do for their brands that he internally call this the gold that they're creating, out into the ether to demonstrate all of the value to their brands, because they don't talk about it enough. They see so many things, but the passion doesn't always come out sometimes. And that's just purely a product of people just delivering the day to day and not taking that time, like Simon says to ask what the Why is and go, “Oh, by the way, we've seen this, look at this solution we've got, would you be interested in doing it with us?” So that probably is the single biggest piece and he can't wait to continue on the journey to keep on delivering against that.
Where Can We Find Richie Online
Website – www.vvast.net
LinkedIn – Richie Jones
Lunos - www.heylunos.com
Quote or Saying that During Times of Adversity Richie Uses
When asked about a quote or saying that he tends to revert to, Richie stated that he thinks it's probably a quote he just tell himself so when adversity strikes, and sometimes you'll be on top of something that's even more, you've been dealing with, just for the business, you might be in peak trading, or whatever the challenges are, he just tells himself that, “This is what you do, you can do this. You can face this adversity.” And the saying that comes in his head sometimes, it's kind of “This is what you're here to do. And you can do this, you demonstrate this to yourself multiple times that you can just navigate.” If you'd have to stay up until 3:00 am one day and just navigate something because you have to do something you need to do last minute, you can do it. And he thinks it's that reminder that we've got the ability to push on through to that next level, way beyond what you think you can do, mentally and also physically. He learned that from sports especially. So, it's that thing that it's what you were meant to do. And if it's meant to happen, you will be able to do it. That's the kind of thing he tells himself and at the moment he seems to be proving to himself that that he can do that which is a cool feeling.
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