Focus First with Ali Cudby
Joe Mills: What are the unique experiences that drive business leaders to keep growing,
Reid Morris: and how can the lessons learned from those stories enable others to do the same?
Joe Mills: I’m Joe Mills.
Reid Morris: And I’m Reid Morris,
Joe Mills: and together we’re investigating who it takes and the tools to use to build companies and culture.
Reid Morris: Then we’re sharing those stories with you.
Joe Mills: This is 1,000 Stories, an original show from Element Three.
Reid Morris: Okay, Joe, so coming up, we’re gonna have Ali on the. I’m really excited. Seems like a really interesting guest, but I don’t have a ton of context for her background. So could you walk me through, you know, how we ran into Ali and a little bit about her before we go in and have that conversation?
Joe Mills: Yeah. Well we got introduced through Matt Hunkler. Um, I just put out a LinkedIn post asking for people with a particularly non-linear background. Mm-hmm. , she was one of the people that he tagged. She’s got a very interesting background, New York Times discovery in the animal planet and then small biz, and now she runs her own thing.
Um, here’s the part that is very interesting to me. So she started for working with people who were doing bra fittings, like lingerie brands mm-hmm. who were doing bra fittings, which candidly, no idea that was even a thing. Um, but that turned into working on internal and external alignment for your business, like with your customers, with their experience, with your internal teams, with how they function.
And now she runs a company called Alignment for Growth, where their job is to help internal, external teams get really clear about what they’re trying to solve. and they do that through workshops and speaking engagements and consulting engagements that are, you know, set times and it’s like, wow, that actually came out of a bra fitting organization.
Like let’s unpack. Mm-hmm. How that happened. So I’m looking forward to hearing that. And then obviously with our own company, it’s a really interesting overlap that I don’t think they run inside of the marketing space. We start engagement with the lining, right? And so it’s interesting to hear how somebody else got there and just what their perspective is and all of that will be interesting to hear.
Reid Morris: You know, we’ve called this out a number of times over the course of the show around. People who experienced a problem and then went out and created the thing to solve that problem. And we don’t have the full context, but it sure feels like there must have been some moment of like, I’m experiencing some friction in this business and I need to go develop the thing to solve that problem.
Yeah. So it’ll be really interesting to have you explore that and dig into it of was that the sort of, Natural way that that process occurred, or was there some certain thing that had been in the back of her mind for a long time? Like there’s a really interesting kind of trend there or career path
Joe Mills: that drove to where she is.
Yeah, she’s just got an interesting career path in general that I want to hear about how she made decisions around it and. End it up here. Uh, awesome. Well, should be really fun convo. Totally. All right, Ali, welcome to 1,000 Stories. Thanks. I am so glad to be here. Obviously your company works a lot on getting, um, internal and external people all on the same page.
Um, where did that idea start coming to you from? Like, what did you experience that said like, oh, this is a problem that people are consistently dealing.
Ali Cudby: I started my career after business school and got into customer loyalty and retention work, and ultimately took a very non-linear path, which I think we’re gonna talk about a little bit more.
Eventually, it became clear that I needed to focus back in this world of customer loyalty and retention, and so I went way out of bounds and then came way back. And so I, I named the company Your Iconic brand, because that’s what I thought people wanted, like I wanna have an iconic brand. You know, that was such a me thing.
I, I fell into the, my own trap of, um, doing things that sounded cool to me without actually validating it with my customers, you know? Oops. Um, and, you know, how many, how many times have we as entrepreneurs like not eaten our own food kind of thing? And it was one of those, so when I decided that I needed to rebrand, I started talking to my customers, go figure.
And the word that I kept hearing over and over and over again, Align alignment. A align alignment. Mm-hmm. , every single customer interview used that word. And so that’s how the company became alignment. Mint, we spell it m i n t alignment, mint growth Strategies because mint grows like crazy. And when you have something awesome, it’s in mint condition.
And, um, when you do something really successfully, you make a lot of money and you make. So
Joe Mills: I li I was actually thinking about that because the, uh, the fat fingered email moment I had with you when I was working on like, oh, here’s our stuff for the show, was I, I wrote it like normal alignment. Yeah. And then I saw the M I N T and I was like, That’s intentional.
She’s a brand gal. Like there’s a reason. Yeah. So that’s fun. But you,
Ali Cudby: but you actually, you actually remind me that, um, I actually do still own alignment so that, um, when people do that at forward, but I think it got turned off for some reason. So I gotta go fix that. That that’s a whole other funny story.
Joe Mills: So, yeah. Actually let’s, let’s go there. You went to business school and then you came out and you were in, you were in big co land New York Times to start discovery. Like, just walk me back. That season of your life, that alley, if you will. And what, what led you to go that way? What was it like coming outta business school?
I want to go big co. What were you, what were you
Ali Cudby: focused on? Sure. So, um, I really felt like I needed to hone my b a chops. And so I didn’t wanna go into a traditional consulting company, uh, And I had, I’d done it between the first and second year of business school, and it just sort of wasn’t for me. It felt too impersonal.
I didn’t love the idea of being able to be on a financial services job on Monday and an energy project on Friday. I loved media and entertainment. That was what I had my background in. Before business school. I wanted to stay in media and entertainment, so it just made more sense for me to be in a company that focused in that.
Joe Mills: So something about the bouncing between industries. Was it like, did it lack depth for
Ali Cudby: you or, I think I really liked the idea of building things and so jumping around a lot didn’t appeal to me as much as being focused. So the idea that, mm-hmm. , I could go to this globally recognized brand and help them grow and, and it was an industry that I thought was interesting, so it just appealed to me a lot.
And I also don’t love living in a hotel forever. Um, I had literally lived in a hotel for a year and a half, um, when I was between undergrad and grad school. And so the idea of going back to a world of living in hotels all the time did not flip my boat.
Joe Mills: That’s actually a really interesting point I hadn’t considered.
You know, when I started focusing on what am I gonna do and what’s really just like thinking about business in general, newspapers were starting to. In the sense that like that was the headline. It was almost like newspapers were writing their own headlines about themselves dying . It was very weird. Um, so what was happening when you were looking at it that you mentioned it was at a very interesting part in its growth journey, what was happening in the newspaper
Ali Cudby: world?
So at that point Times had a customer that was a print customer. They were profitable. If the Times had a customer that was an online customer, they were un profit. . And so the name of the game was keeping print customers. And, and so the, the project that actually got me really hooked into this customer loyalty and retention world was digging into some of the reasons why the Times was losing their print customers.
And the answer was they weren’t getting a great customer experience. And so, . The place where we started seeing that happening was in their call centers, which are the totally unsexy part of a newspaper company. Mm-hmm. . But yet, if you’re a newspaper subscriber, that’s the person that you’re talking to. And so it’s really the only, you’re not talking to the fancy reporters.
Right. You’re talking to the people in the call center and we weren’t giving our customer. A great experience when they called the call center and realizing that, oh, there’s this small piece of the pie that is kind of off to the side, and if we don’t get that piece right, we undermine the whole magilla.
And the, the thing that was really interesting to me, and this is kind of, you know, is nerdy, but it’s, it’s cool, right? Those customers didn’t think that they were becoming disloyal. They just thought that they were consuming the material a different way. But for the company and the revenue structure of the company, it was, um, just a blood loss because literally went from profitable to unprofitable at that point.
I mean, everything’s changed now. This is a little while ago, but yeah, I thought that
Joe Mills: was so fascinating. The call center turnover high at the time. Oh, yeah. Um, it, I mean, it is everywhere, right? Like that’s the norm for call centers. Yes.
Ali Cudby: So I, I do tell this story. I think the statute of limitations has passed on me, on me sharing this.
Okay. Um, but at the time, call center was in New Jersey. There was a Burger King up the road. , the Times literally paid less than the Burger King. So the company was getting the people who couldn’t get a job at Burger King. And so for many, many reasons the retention was terrible. A, because of call centers B, because they were better paying jobs up the street.
And C, because, you know, part of the reason that we weren’t giving a great customer experience was because we didn’t have a great employee. . And so all of those things play together. It’s one of the reasons that I think customer retention is so cool. Um, everything has to fit together. The puzzle all has to work and the employee experience is an important part of that.
Joe Mills: Yeah. We say a lot here that um, cuz we do a lot of work inside of brand building, that brand is the external experience of your internal culture, like bra or that brand is just the external word for culture. Mm-hmm. , as you saw the. I say like the, the center of this problem being, they’re having a bad customer experience when, like, when they call somebody.
How did you go about fixing that? Given like, those also true limitations on like, hey, we’re not gonna all of a sudden start paying our call centers executive salaries. There is going to be turnover in this world. That is simply what it is. How did you take what was real and what was desired and, and try to start getting closer to that.
Ali Cudby: So some of it, a very simple step, like don’t pay less than Burger King. Um, so you don’t have to pay an executive salary, but at least be the person in the area that, that everybody wants to work for most. And some of that is just pay. Um, but part of it was actually giving the employees a better path to success so that they felt like, okay, I work in the call center and I know how to be successful in my.
and, and some of the things that we did were really just making them feel like they were part of this great company. Little things like they didn’t get, they didn’t get New York Times Company schwag, like they didn’t get access to the newspapers. You know, little things they felt disconnected from the experience of being New York Times company employees, even though they were, and so, It was a lot of small steps that made a big difference.
It wasn’t, oh, we need to implement this big fancy technology. And, and as part of the project, I actually got to go to a number of companies around the country that were best practices in, in call centers and see what they did. And a lot of it was technology, but a lot of it was, Putting the time in to give your employees a chance to feel valued and successful.
Joe Mills: sounds really obvious in a sense, but a lot of times the best solutions are like, they’re very simple. They don’t add complexity to the problem. It’s what’s the simplest thing we can do, make them feel like they’re part of the group. Part of our internal team here, they’re not feeling like they’re just this like arm, we push out over the river away from the sexiness of Times Square and no, you can’t have the newspaper and no.
Get swag and like all, all this stuff. Um, when you say it, it’s like, uh, duh. Right? But it’s revolutionary in the moment cuz it hasn’t been done before. Right.
Ali Cudby: And the bottom line is that it’s not about the complexity, you know, like mm-hmm. . Yeah. There are companies that have really complex processes for customer experience and that’s great, but the win isn’t the complexity.
The win is the consistency. And so how do you. Employees to deliver a consistent customer experience so that you, you know, gather the right information, but also deploy the right processes and all that stuff. Sometimes it really is the little things and just being able to do them on a regular basis. Easy to do something once.
The great analogy is, you know, how do you lose weight? Right? You, you eat right, and you exercise well, okay, anyone can eat a salad one day and go to the gym one day. Like, that’s not the magic, right? The magic is, mm-hmm. , how do you do a little bit every day so that over time you’re getting the outcome that you want.
Joe Mills: Right? So you’re at the times, and then you move to Discovery Channel, animal Planet, right? What’s the like reason for the switch? What triggered you wanting. Investigate a different problem. What was
Ali Cudby: happening? Um, I was ready to leave. New York City was kind of the, the big reason that I left. So, um, went to DC which is where discovery is located, and, um, also happens to be my hometown.
So I went back home and, um, just it was, I wanted to stay a media entertainment and there’s not that much in DC and so it was a great opportunity to be able to stay in my field and do the work that I really
Joe Mills: like. you mentioned, uh, there’s a parallel here between, I asked you one of the reasons that you didn’t wanna stay in consulting that you gave was, I’m just like tired of living in a hotel room, , which is what you do.
And you mentioned like, I wanted to get out of New York City. How much have, when you look back on like career and life choices have been driven by, I, I guess if we were to put those in two different buckets and one of our premises that there aren’t different buckets, but if we were to put them in different buckets, things like living situation.
Access to housing and how my life looks. I would put in the life bucket versus the career bucket. Like what are the problems I’m solving? Where do I, who do I work with, et cetera. When you look back at your own decision making points, how much do you think you balanced heavier towards life versus career, or career versus life?
How have you seen yourself act in that capacity? It’s a great
Ali Cudby: question. I. Definitely have made choices that are a balance in some ways and not in others. Um, so I’ve always been happy to work hard and so that work-life balance thing hasn’t for me been a thing of like, I’m gonna work from, you know, nine to five, but it’s been more of mm-hmm.
I want to be where I wanna be. I want to live the life that I wanna. So, being in the cities that I wanna be in and having big stuff, like I don’t wanna travel all the time, I still don’t wanna travel all the time. That hasn’t gone away. You only get, you only get one shot at this, I think in, in life. And so, um, there are things that matter to me and where I live is one of them.
Joe Mills: We, we were just having a conversation with a, a guy by the name of Mark Caswell. He is a CEO for a consulting group here in town. and he talked about, um, his dislike of the word work life balance because of the, um, sort of black and whiteness of it. It’s like, what does that mean to have them balanced? And I, I think you started to touch on that a little bit there with like your work life balance might be balanced towards work, but if it feeds the life that you want, then it’s a good thing.
Right, right. I I, I know in, in my seat, if I’m 20. Sort of younger millennial individual, there’s almost like societal pressure to not work too much. It’s like, oh, if you work too much, you’re, you’re selling out to the man and there’s more to life. How do you balance that? If you’re like, well, I really like what I do.
Like, what are your thoughts about that? I
Ali Cudby: think it’s fascinating. I mean, what’s going on right now with this shift is, is fascinating. Sometimes I look at the millennial and Gen Z generations. I’m Gen X, um, and I say, you know, uh, come on, like step up man. And yeah, sometimes I think, wait a second, why don’t we being such ding dongs and like only living to work and you know, being willing to work off the clock.
Like I totally did that when I was younger. You know, I look at the way that, um, like, like I said, millennial and Gen Z are looking at this and it’s like, oh no, they’ve got the right idea. And, and I think it’s a balance there too, right? I think that this idea that you want to only work a limited number of hours, but have the remuneration and the benefits and the.
um, like something’s gotta give somewhere. And solving this problem is way beyond my pay grade. I have more questions than I have answers, but it is fascinating. But to answer your question, if the goal for millennials and Gen Z is to be able to lean into having the life you want and doing what you wanna do, and you like the work that you do, and you’re excited by it and energized by it, then do.
Um, you know, I, I also believe that in order to be excellent at something you have to dedicate yourself to it. It doesn’t just come in the ether. And so how do you, how do you balance those things? And ultimately some of it is just about priorities
Joe Mills: and choice. It’s interesting you brought up the excellent piece, cuz one of the messages I think you, you touch on is like, customer experience begins with your employee experience.
They can’t give a great experience to your customers if they’re having a bad one themselves. Mm-hmm. . So I’m curious, where do you think employee experience starts for a company? Does it start when I walk into the office or I log into my computer? Or how, how does an employer think about the experience they give their employees?
Ali Cudby: fundamentally believe that when people feel seen, heard, and valued, they want more. . And, um, so whether that is because you’re a customer and you’re getting a great experience where you feel seen, heard and valued, or because you are an employee and you’re getting a great employee experience because you feel seen, heard and valued, that’s where loyalty lies and, and, um, it’s not in the transactional, it’s in the, how do you feel about it?
And there’s research that backs this up. I would say let’s, let’s focus in on that. . Um, and so let’s make sure that if, if we had a world where people felt seen, heard unvalued, then what other things would work better? Okay, so now we have a better employee retention because people feel valued here. Well, that’s gonna solve a lot of problems because it’s gonna cut down on our, you know, recruiting expenses.
It’s gonna cut down on our HR problem management expenses. It’s gonna. Our customer experience better because our employees have been around longer, they have better institutional knowledge. They’re able to be more consistent with employees like, so you start to see all of these knock on benefits that make the business healthier.
So to me, this is just good
Joe Mills: business. You mentioned the excellence piece and like how that can give fulfillment as well. Right. Being excellent at something. . It certainly makes work more interesting because you’re trying to hone something that you care about being excellent at. Is that an employee’s responsibility or an employer’s responsibility?
I’m just sort of having this realization in real time, so it could be a completely the coldest take ever, but how much employee experience does the employee need to take responsibility for and like where does that handoff happen? It has
Ali Cudby: to be a little bit of both. If you’re an employee who. is sort of showing up sour and expecting to have everything handed to them and unwilling to put in the effort, then, you know that’s on you.
But it’s the employer’s responsibility to provide a, a path to success, right? So if you get a crummy onboarding experience as an employee, not a costume, . Um, and so you don’t have the tools to be successful in your job, not because you haven’t been trained and and skilled, but because you need to be able to understand the company that you’re working for and how they do things.
Um, well, that’s on the company, so you know. Mm-hmm. , it, there is a balance. You know, employees have responsibility. to show up and be invested in the work. The companies have responsibility to provide a clear and consistent, positive experience so that you can be
Joe Mills: successful. I do hear people and I, it’s like, it’s a cliche to be like, oh, people nowadays job hop, whatever.
Everybody says that. I don’t know if it’s true or not. I’m curious how much of it is like we get into a new. and we expect that new role starts to like give us fulfillment in all these different areas without recognizing where we should like put our hand up in the air and be like, it’s my responsibility to make my own fulfillment happen.
And sort of this like balance of going in, making it happen for yourself and being in the right environment where it is enabled. And the thing that’s in my head is that like the employer is responsible for the environment that you walk into and that the employee won’t partake in the environment. So just to use Element three as an.
We’re a hybrid place. Um, some people work remote 97 to a hundred percent of the time, and some people are in the office all the time. At first I was like, I love working from home. This is awesome. It’s so great. And then like, I don’t know, maybe six months in I was like feeling myself, get less engaged. And I was like, what’s going on with this really, like my role really love my company?
What, why am I feeling less engaged? And it was like, oh, it’s like I am not a person who does. when I don’t interact with the group that I’m connected to. Yeah. Like I prefer to go talk to prospects. You know, I’m in sales role. I prefer to go talk to prospects in person when possible. And then I prefer Zoom and like last on my list as a cell phone call.
Why would I not approach my work the same way I’d prefer to be next to the person I work with closely, then I’d prefer a Zoom and then I’d prefer a phone call. And so I started coming back into the office that they provide for us to come into. And like I felt my engagement come back up. And it’s similar like, you know, we.
company, holiday parties, and we have big engagements we do as a team. And it’s like, well if you decide to take PTO on those days and not show up, your overall like engagement with the company is gonna be a lot less. And I’m just like, I think there’s an area where we’ve put at least like culture as a whole has put all of the onus on the employer to make this incredible job that everybody who walks into it should feel in.
This is so amazing and like the employee feels like you’re just lucky to have. I’m just thinking about the balance between the two and how to make that function better and some like shared responsibility. Yeah,
Ali Cudby: it’s interesting the millennials and that the notion of you’re just lucky to have me. That’s so didn’t exist when I graduated from college.
Um, you know, I, yeah, I graduated from college in, in a down economy and so we were grateful to have. And it was, yeah, much more of like, what else can I do to help? And, and so I wonder how much our perceptions of what’s expected and what our roles are, are entrenched and sort of what we walked into when we started working.
Joe Mills: That is an interesting
Ali Cudby: thought. Yeah, it’s, it’s probably a really deeply encoded. Pattern that’s hard to unwind because it would explain a lot about that tension between Gen X and millennials and Gen Z.
Joe Mills: Okay. Shifting gears slightly, I am very curious about how you ended up. Doing bra fittings for the lingerie industry.
Ali Cudby: what? You don’t see that as a natural.
Joe Mills: I literally didn’t know this existed. I had no idea this existed until I talked to you. I was like, wait, that’s a thing that people do. All right, tell me.
Ali Cudby: I had gone on a personal journey and long story short ended up blogging about the experience of a great bra fitting, and the blog got picked up by a, um, Publication and ultimately became a book. Um, and the book became a bestseller and one thing led to another, and I found myself with this methodology for bra fitting, which by the way is a huge problem.
And almost any woman will tell you that their bras uncomfortable and they can’t wait to rip it off at the end of the day, and it’s hard to find the right bra and all that stuff. So it’s a big problem. Um mm-hmm. , and ultimately what I discovered was that the businesses that sold bras, and not just lingerie stores, but also companies that used bra fitting as part of their business, so like personal trainers or doulas, nobody ever taught them how to fit a bra.
The methodologies existed. There were trainings in stores, but there wasn’t anybody who was offering that as. Training that was easily accessible in the industry. And so I created an online bra fit training and certification program specifically for professionals. And so what it meant was that anybody could have that training at any time, no matter where they were in the world.
And so it became the global leader in its niche. because it was a really, really small niche. Um,
Joe Mills: okay. So much to unpack here, . Was it weird to write a blog about Broing? In my head, it’s sort of like, man, I found the best pair of boxer briefs just ever, and I’m gonna talk about it. It just feels a little bit past the like, normal thing you share on, on the internet.
And I, and I imagine frankly, that it was very different for you to share it at the point where you. , if you
Ali Cudby: talk to women about this, they’re oftentimes like pretty engaged in this conversation. Maybe not with a man, but with another one. Interesting. Yeah. And there were times when, just as an example, like people would hear about the work that I did and literally would drag me into the bathroom and whip their shirt off so that they, they’d be like, am I doing okay?
Like, is this good? Um, and so it is something that women. Think about and care about. It’s just unspoken. I did share a lot of things that were personal. Um, the, the forward of my book is deeply, deeply personal and, you know, I did have to think about whether or not it was a story that I wanted to share.
Every time I went bra shopping, I cried because it was a terrible experience and not because the people did a bad job of, of fitting me, but because. At that point in, in American retail, they just didn’t have bras unless you fit into sort of the Victoria’s Secret size range of bras and, and you know, there are a lot of women out there that need something that does not fall inside that range of band sizes and cup sizes.
And I was one. And you know what? Actually, at any size, that was really what I learned in doing this work, right? Women at almost every single woman has some story that they tell themselves. their bodies and specifically about their breasts, like they got some mm-hmm. story from a, a boyfriend or a parent or a friend or a whatever, and it’s a story that women carry with them.
Mm-hmm. and oftentimes internalize it and think that it’s something about them. And really, I was willing to share my story because it was important to hear. , and I’m not gonna speak universally, but, um, you know, a lot of, a lot of, for a lot of girls, this is not a fun, comfortable moment. Um, and whether you’re, whatever the story, you’re too big, you’re too small, you’re too high, you’re too low, you’re too wide, you’re too narrow.
Your, your nipples are weird. Like every girl tells themselves or hears a version of the story and mm-hmm. , um, and you’re right, it is it a lot of women carry, like, even if they don’t think about it every. . Um, if you talk to a woman about it, they’re like, oh, yeah, oh yeah, I have that story. Mm-hmm. . Um, yeah, so that was sort of where the company started, was being able to make that a better process.
And, you know, I talked earlier about feeling seen, heard, and valued. A lot of the work that I did was the technical fitting element, but also helping. , these employees. Make sure that every time a woman walked into the fitting room, you were seeing them with, with fresh eyes and with this compassion. Because as a professional, you’ve seen a lot of things and you’ve seen how bodies are put together.
You’ve seen how bras fit, you’ve seen all that stuff, and so it kind of becomes like, yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s all, yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s fine. I’ve seen this a thousand times. , but if you blow that woman off and you don’t let her have that moment of feeling seen for who she is and acknowledging what she’s going through, then you’re going to miss the opportunity to connect with that woman as a person, but also as a business.
Joe Mills: That actually feels really similar to the conversation around like, connecting with your employees and your customers. And like you might have seen somebody who was in the exact same place this employee was eight times over or where this customer is. But if you make it feel like it’s not unique or, or like valuable in some sense and really make a lasting negative impression on that person.
Right. Um, is, is. The line that you dragged as you moved. Because if I read your sort of background, well, what I understood is that this actually is the sort of seed from which alignment came from. Yes. Is that right? Yes.
Ali Cudby: So what happened was I would have these clients and they would come to me and they would say, oh, you know, Ali, our customers are crying tears of joy in the fitting room.
This is great. And I would say, that’s awesome. Now what are you gonna do to make sure that that customer comes back? that they come back to your store, that they come back sooner. Um, and they don’t replace their brass every five years like they have been, um, but maybe once a year, uh, which is, was, would be a huge difference for these stores.
And universally, they did not have a good answer. At best. They would say, you know, we’re just gonna keep giving them awesome profiting like you taught us. And I knew that that wasn’t the answer. And so, , I started working with these retailers and professionals on customer retention strategies and customer loyalty strategies, and you can see how this all comes full circle.
And so ultimately that’s where Alignment Growth Strategies was born. Um, because the business started getting bigger on the customer retention side and started growing away from retail and into different sectors. And so now I almost never, I’m, I’m pretty much never working. , um, lingerie retailers anymore, but more sort of technology and B2B SaaS and other recurring revenue companies for lots of reasons.
Um, it’s just sort of a better, better business model. That’s where it mm-hmm.
Joe Mills: was born. Mm-hmm. is, is moving out of that field and into, Hey, I’m working with a more like B2B tech and SaaS and recurring revenue models. Is it, is it any more or less fulfilling than seeing what you were seeing? ,
Ali Cudby: I love being able to see progress and um, a lot of independent lingerie stores are run by, you know, sort of owner managers and they just didn’t have the time bandwidth budget to be able to fully embrace the kinds of changes I could see happen.
and there are other sectors where the stakes are higher and the numbers are bigger and there’s more opportunity to make a difference. And so part of it was sort of an organic shift. Um, I always will have a, a soft spot in my heart for people in the lingerie business. I think it’s incredibly important work.
Um, but in terms of growing the company and mm-hmm. seeing. where I could make a difference on a bigger scale. Um, I was, you know, pulled in that direction and, you know, like there were times when I was just beating my head against the wall saying like, if you would just make a change. But they just, they literally didn’t have the bandwidth to do it, you know, they were mm-hmm.
putting out their own fires every day. Um, and so it just, it wasn’t ultimately as good, uh, whatever, you know, product market. .
Joe Mills: Well, no, I, I love this message that you’ve talked about. I think throughout is just like this focus on the individual first and this focus on like fo focus. I guess that’s really the thing is like focus somewhere first.
Even with your business, I cannot imagine that you started it and you’re like, yep, at some point this is gonna be a customer retention and employee experience like consult. I can’t imagine that, but you were like, oh, there’s a problem that I can solve right here, and it’s the first step and I’m gonna start working on that because it’s the opportunity in front of me.
And it to me really mirrors. I’m at the New York Times, we have this retention problem. Oh, there’s one little problem. First. We aren’t paying them. What? Burger King pays them. Well, that seems crazy. Let’s switch that. Oh, we aren’t giving them New York Times swag. Let’s switch that. And I, I, I sort of see that mirrored in, in later.
It’s like, oh, I’m, I can help this very specific. Provide a much better service to their customers. And like slowly but surely another opportunity that’s maybe a little outside of that niche. And another opportunity. Another opportunity. I, I can expand because I narrowed first because I was focused on a thing first.
And I think that it’s really easy to get focused on this like grand vision that feels so far away that you never take action toward it. Cause you don’t even have a path. And I love like the message that you’ve lived of, like just focus on what you can impact, right. and let it grow from there. Yeah,
Ali Cudby: it’s, it’s one of the things, so we have this, there’s two sides of the company.
There’s Alignment, growth Strategies, which is the consulting side, and then CX Ology, which is an online training platform, um, focusing on what are the things that you need to do inside a company to improve customer loyalty and retention. And one of the things we talk about extensively inside of Cology is start small and grow from.
It because going back to something that I said earlier, you know, it’s not about, oh, we’re gonna create this best practice way of doing things and it’s gonna get crushed under its own weight. No. It’s about do things consistently and then build from
Joe Mills: there. . Well, speaking of the company, you mentioned right before we hopped on that you have a little offer for everybody who’s listening.
Yes. So do you wanna talk about that? Sure.
Ali Cudby: So for your listeners, for your audience, if people want to go to CX ology.co and check out the product, which is, like I said, it’s training on how do you embed customer retention oriented strategies for your customer facing. That they can get a free month by going to cxl.co and then sign up and the coupon code is stories.
Joe Mills: Awesome. Well, Ali, thanks so much for coming on and spending time with us. Really enjoyed the conversation and uh, we’ll look forward to keeping up with what you’re working on. Likewise. Thanks so
Ali Cudby: much for having me.
Reid Morris: Okay, Joe, so you had a conversation with
Joe Mills: Ali? Yeah, it was cool. It actually reminded me a little bit of the conversation with.
Block and around the idea of like, just focus on the thing you can impact right here, right now instead of getting lost in what could be or this big future vision and like letting the coolness of your future be like, oh, but this is so not. and sort of like this progression of making small steps all of a sudden leads to a really big result.
Mm-hmm. was a parallel to that conversation, which was interesting to see again. So was it really
Reid Morris: a around discipline? Is, is that the thing or what exactly? Patience. Like what was the real
Joe Mills: thread there? Yeah. Good. Good question. With her, I think it was just not making it too big. Hmm. Like she, so the conversation we had around, she’s at the New York Times needs to solve.
Retention problem notices it is a call center problem. What’s the first thing we can do for the call center? And then later she, um, shared a story about how she ended up running a company that taught people how to fit bras appropriately, which was the precursor to what she does now around employee and customer retention and, um, experience for those.
And, uh, that was also about like one little thing at a. . And it’s really interesting just to see how it was like next step, next step, next step in an intentional way. But it was like, what can I impact right now? Who can I impact right now? And then her, her current company, alignment for Growth. Um, that business has expanded way beyond the niche of lingerie companies, like it works with B2B SaaS and technology and all these things.
And it was like if she had started out saying, I’m gonna do customer experience and employee retention and experience and all these. For B2B SaaS technology, these big players, it would’ve been like on the basis of what mm-hmm. and getting traction inside of that would’ve been very difficult. And so just start, like, just starting with a thing that it presented itself and like an opportunity came up, she did a great job with it.
It allowed her to take an opportunity later, later. And now it’s built into what it is. So it’s, it’s a good reminder that, um, you don’t always have to have this brilliant vision from the start. Mm-hmm. , you can just start making an impact where you. and seeing what happens from it. Yeah. I mean that’s something
Reid Morris: that I definitely have struggled with and I’m sure lots of people have of you have this grand vision.
I mean, we dream about things all the time, right? We do. Of, of what would be awesome to have built in X amount of time. It’s like, but if you just focus on the thing that you’re good at and build from it, that can happen organically versus being stuck in a place of like, I don’t know how to make this big
Joe Mills: vision happen.
Yeah. The thing I’d like to investigate a little bit is how you balance. , like goal setting with that. Mm-hmm. . And like, you need the motivation to keep acting, I think. Yeah. It’s not complacent, right? Like there’s, yeah. It’s not just like, oh yeah, whatever happens to me happens to me. Mm-hmm. . So you need some sort of vision to keep moving toward.
but you also don’t wanna get lost in the bigness of that vision. And I’d be curious if
Reid Morris: there’s some thread there of patience of you can recognize that the best thing to do right now is to like be disciplined and iteratively improve on the thing that you’re doing, but you trust that you’re building towards something bigger.
Yeah. You just don’t bother yourself with the fact that that’s not happening right now, and that it takes a lot of discipline and the small things to get there. Really interesting. Yeah, we got some places to go dive in after we
Joe Mills: do. Awesome. Thanks, Joe. 1,000 Stories is brought to you by Element three with production by Share Your Genius.
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