Just Pick Up the Phone | Ep. 05

We welcomed James McCarthy to this week's podcast to chat over how modern businesses can get back to delighting customers by just getting on the phone.

Pick up the phone

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Take a look at your business systems — are you using 3 or 4 (potentially more) different tools that allow you to communicate with internal and external parties? How many times have you had an email slip through the cracks? Or, you’ve missed notifications in your project management tool? 

It happens. But, just picking up the phone and calling someone can alleviate a lot of frustration we’re all feeling. On this week’s episode of the podcast, we brought on James McCarthy who is the CEO and founder of Cradle. 

Cradle gets back to the root of human interactions — talking. James and his team have built a modern phone system that connects your customers to the right person at the right time when they call and seamlessly integrates into HubSpot, Xero, and is cloud-based meaning your team can use it anywhere with an internet connection. We’re huge fans of Cradle (and James) here at Synx! 

We thoroughly enjoyed chatting with James on this episode as we covered how businesses can use Cradle to provide instant delight to their customers especially during COVID-19, how businesses can shift to outcome metrics rather than activity-based questions, and more. Hope you enjoy the show!

Some of the show highlights include: 


  • What led James to start Cradle and what their mission is
  • How call volume during COVID-19 has increased dramatically 
  • Why humans prefer to speak to people on the phone over other various forms of communication
  • How trust is built extensively by social connections 
  • Email is a static form of communication whereas phones are dynamic and allow you to add emotion
  • How Cradle can help businesses solve problems more effectively and quickly 
  • How Cradle can use HubSpot integration to have a single source of truth into where customers are in their journey
  • Why businesses need to shift their mindset to the world we’re living in today


Links and Resources 

James McCarthy on LinkedIn


How Cradle can help businesses during COVID-19

Quotes by James


  • “All I wanted to do was just have a quick interaction and find out what was going on and we had all of these tools, which were getting in the way of us just talking to each other. All we needed to do was sign off on something and once that that process was done, all the work could keep continuing.”
  • “how do we give a medium-sized business that's operating in this new International world a tool so that when their customer calls the right person can answer the phone, have the correct context, all that data can be saved, so that we've got this view of their customer that really sums up what's happening with them. Are they having a good time having a bad time? What comms have we had with them? How can I help them right now so that they're going to be more successful with that product?”
  • “The dynamic nature of a phone call and your ability to ask questions, vary what you're saying, vary your emotional tone and just connect like a human into the person on the other end of the phone is really useful. “
  • “Previously, our average call time was 80/90 seconds and now it’s gone up by two minutes.”




Charles McKay  00:00

Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Beyond Business podcast. My name is Charles McKay. Today we had the absolute pleasure of interviewing James McCarthy , the CEO and co-founder of Cradle  James and I had the pleasure to meet at Inbound last year in 2019 through a great friend of ours, Clodagh Higgins. In that conversation, we had a really interesting chat around business, business values and personal values and how important it is to have them engrained within your business and so that you hire the right people and keep the right people. But we don't really go that far into that today, we talk about how James started Cradle what the problem he was trying to solve at the time, and now how that business is evolved into the business that is today and where it's going in the future.  James is located in Auckland, New Zealand. And one really interesting stat that he mentioned through this COVID period is that 40%... call volume is up over 40% in the last few weeks. Just shows how important it is to talk to people and how people want to talk to you. But without going to the detail of how James started Cradle because that's what we're going to cover in this episode. I'm going to hand over to James and myself to get right into it.  James, what a pleasure it is to have you on today. So James McCarthy, tell us a little bit about yourself obviously CEO of Cradle, co-founder of Cradle but whereabouts are you sitting in these interesting times, my friend?


James McCarthy  01:31

Yeah, look, thanks very much, Charles. Um, where am I sitting? I'm sitting right here in Auckland, New Zealand, stuck in my house under a level-4, unable to leave basically.


Charles McKay  01:42



James McCarthy  01:43

Yeah. You know, having a lot of fun walking around 74 square meters on my own.


Charles McKay  01:48

Yeah. What's your, what's your record kilometers clocked up in a day?


James McCarthy  01:53

I think one day did.... So we're allowed to go for a walk and one day we went out for about 11k walk around the city, but within what they're letting allowing us to do is local. Lots of lots of walking and not a lot of much else outside.


Charles McKay  02:09

So you haven't tried to clock up the marathon in the apartment yet.


James McCarthy  02:13

I'm not competing with the young, obviously. The Joker in the in the UK who's walking laps of his backyard.


Charles McKay  02:19

Yeah, that's that's classic, classic. So, James, it's awesome to have you on today. I'm really looking forward to chatting to you too. So we were lucky enough to meet at Inbound last year and have a really interesting conversation with a good friend of ours, both of ours Clodagh. And since then we've been able to build a bit of relationship and talk about lots of things and do some work together. But let's sort of rewind a little bit. Tell us obviously you're from New Zealand tell us you where  your sort of business career got started and you know how you've got to where you are today.


James McCarthy  02:53

Yeah, absolutely. So look, I did engineering at uni and left uni in about 2005 and at about the same time as I got back from. There was a helicopter crash, and New Zealand quite a famous helicopter crash one of the sort of wealthier New Zealanders if you like was flying from one end of the country to the other. And at the time, I happen to have a sort of a temporary job working for another guy who was a helicopter pilot. Now this crash prompted a like a more than two week search and rescue mission to try and find the wreckage. And the guy that I was working for and his wife became quite anxious about the fact that this is a problem that he could go through. He could be out flying, he could crash or even just have to land somewhere, helicopter gone missing for more than more than an hour, more than week and nobody would know where it is.  So obvious problem and then we went about making a solution so that even the smallest of helicopters could have a device on it and someone who wasn't on the aircraft could see where it was when it was flying and could check that it continue to fly and then even get alerted if something went wrong. So we started a company called Spidertracks, they were about three or four of us that did a whole lot of stuff back in 2006/2007.

So we launched, you know, across New Zealand, Australia in late 2006, early 2007. And basically, we said about, you know, our mission there was just to basically make the aviation world a safer place to operate.  You know, in the first instance, sort of post crash, make sure that if something did happen, you could go and solve it quickly. And, you know, if someone was alive, go and find them. And we've got some great stories of those things, those events happening and us being successful with those, but then move more into, like, how do we how do we be proactive about making sure that an aviation business is a safe business to run and operate? How do we make sure that the pilots are flying properly and all of those sort of preventative things are being done. So Spidertracks over the last 12 or 13 years is pivoted more into helping businesses be proactive about safety as well as still being there as a... as a tool to make sure that if an aircraft does crash you've got information on where that's happened. 

So yeah, that's that's my like my first venture into business. I was deeply involved in Spidertracks for a decade. And we sold heaps and heaps of tracking units to lots of different aircraft operators all around the world. Started off I think our biggest initial order, probably the one order that more than doubled the size of our customer base came out of Victoria in 2007. Obviously, firefighting was a big thing in Aussie and they had a need to know where those aircraft were when they were fighting fires. So one of the government departments over there bought a whole lot of stuff off us and more than doubled the size of their customer base. And yeah, the rest, as they say, is history. So yeah, we've got thousands now thousands of aircraft around the world which are tracked by our system and you know, kind of help keep those people safe.


Charles McKay  05:55

Yeah, wow, that's, that's fascinating. So that business is still running today?


James McCarthy  05:59

Yep, yep. Absolutely. So yeah, we still... we've got... we're probably the largest by number of aircraft tracks... aircraft tracking provider in the world.


Charles McKay  06:08

Wow. Wow.


James McCarthy  06:09

With a focus on... go ahead...


Charles McKay  06:12

I was just gonna say and obviously in this current climate with planes not in the sky. I'm sure that that business is finding some really interesting things.


James McCarthy  06:20

Yeah, we're learning. So I'm still involved with that business. And we don't focus on what are called scheduled commercial aviation. So your, you know, your Qantas, Jetstar, Air New Zealand, Emirates, that sort of thing. They're not our customer. And those guys that big end of town has really been hit. Most of those planes are getting mothballed around the place.  We're more focused on smaller aircraft and the sort of customers that we have are doing things like checking the oil pipelines are safe, fighting, fighting fires, and that these are all much more essential things. So that part of the industry was... well, everyone's been affected, right? It hasn't been as effective as the top end of town.


Charles McKay  07:02

Yeah, I do have an aeroplane tracker app just because it's fascinating. When you put it over American You see, there's no land. It's all blank. You're like, wow.


James McCarthy  07:13

Flight rader 24 or something like that.


Charles McKay  07:16

Yeah. Yeah. So I think that's fascinating. I'm sure we could probably talk about that for hours in a nutshell of that 10 year journey within that business and what you've learned. But I think there's a reason why you've started this business. Which, you know, I suppose what was if you can tell, tell us about the driver and the current problem that you, you know, you're trying to solve with the business that you're in now with Cradle and give us a quick, you know, overlap of what Cradle is? Yeah, what's, what's that core problem? And how did it come about?


James McCarthy  07:46

Yeah, so I think it's probably best to tell the story of how it came about. And it was a little bit of an internal story that was also reflected in the way that we at Spidertracks were dealing with our external customers. So there was a situation where someone internally said to me "Hey, James, did you get my email?" and I'm like "Aw, sorry I didn't get your email... What's it about?" "It's about the Slack message I sent you, which is about the, the JIRA ticket that's open on a Confluence page." And I'm like look "just talk to me" and I said, "talk to me like I'm a fucking human."

All I wanted to do was just have a quick interaction and find out what was going on and we had all of these tools, which were getting in the way of us just talking to each other. All we needed to do was sign off on something and once that that process was done, all the work could keep continuing.  But getting the right person on the phone or in person to have a conversation was just becoming more problematic for us. So aside from that little outbursts in the office, we kind of reflected a little bit on what we've done with our customers externally as well. And we had all these tools in place, we were pushing them to the knowledge bases and the help desks and asking them to do a whole lot of things that tried to get them off the phone. 

Obviously Spidertracks, operating an aviation with quite a large export market was dealing with customers from all over the place. And we had sales people with mobiles in different markets, lots of different numbers in the market. And then difficulties as well, when someone in the US, for example, picked up the phone and dialed our 1-800 number, getting a phone to ring here in New Zealand, where most of our support team was, was actually just challenging. And it's not as challenging anymore because the world just become more globalized and the tools and software and telephone services have improved. But basically, the phone experience when you called ur business was shit.  And customers wanted to talk to us, but getting us on the phone was difficult.

So there was this problem of just getting the right person on the phone at the right time. And then having that person be able to help whoever it was that was calling. So basically, we started off with this, 'okay, calling a business is a shitty experience' that was probably the problem. And how do we give a medium sized business that's operating in this new International world a tool so that when their customer calls the right person can answer the phone, have the correct context, all that data can be saved, so that we've got this view of their customer that really sums up what's happening with them. Are they having a good time having a bad time? What comms have we had with them? How can I help them right now so that they're going to be more successful with that product?


Charles McKay  10:19

Yeah. It's, it's fascinating. It makes so much sense to me. And I also know how complex that is. So... and I can imagine through that journey, you know, as we've gone from these, you know, traditional legacy phone systems, so, you know... that was the only way to communicate, then it was email, we've gone to all of these channels, and everyone's saying, no one answers the phone. But reality is what's the easiest way to articulate something, if there's communication issues. If you can't do a video call, I pick up the phone. I still 100% I do that because like, for me personally, too, I'm dyslexic. So to write it in an email and get it sometimes out makes no sense to anyone until I talk through it.


James McCarthy  11:04

So often like an emails static, right, once you've sent it, the information that's in there is going to be interpreted and read by whoever receives it, how according to whatever their concept is, at the time when they open it. And you can't you can't alter your messaging, you can't change the information you're putting in there based on questions that they're answering. So it's a pretty it's a, as I said, it's a static form of communication that can't really help you once it's gone. It can just convey whatever you thought the problem might be and one, maybe two potential solutions. So the dynamic nature of a phone call and your ability to ask questions, vary what you're saying, vary your emotional tone and just connect like a human into the person on the other end of the phone is really useful.


Charles McKay  11:47

Yeah, yeah. It is fascinating. It's such an important piece I just... you know, we obviously being pushed pretty hard on you know, conversational marketing and email like all of these other channels, but it's it's still a massive channel. What some, since you've obviously built this and you've got it going and you've started to see it, and you've probably worked with industries and sectors that have gone very heavily digital and gone, you know what we need to fix the phone like, what are you seeing and learning as people adapt to smart what I call smart telephony, not just telephony. What are you studying?


James McCarthy  12:21

So one of our early hypotheses was that we would create technology that would solve this problem of the phone experience being shit. And we thought that we could do that by understanding previous interactions and relationships and getting either the same or similar skillset person on the phone.  And we've recreated a sort of feature set that we kind of rolled out and called smart routing, where we're going to route the call to the to the best person that sort of works, but it didn't solve the problem of phone experiences being less than great. So we started collecting... in order to do that we collected a whole lot of data on who people were talking to, and how long they were talking for and what people's answer rates were and, and that sort of thing. And what we started seeing was that the people who anecdotally were really good on the phone had certain things that they that we could reflect on the data and those who weren't also had things that were reflected in the data.  Even simple things like how long one takes to answer the phone. Some people like talking on the phone, and they do a good job on the phone, and some people just don't want to be on the phone at all.

And we've seen businesses where two people with the same job title meant to be helping their customers on the phone and one of them just doesn't want to talk it takes them 15 seconds to answer the phone, and then they miss half of their calls. So basically what we saw is that if you have some of this data, you're able to understand which person on your team is actually good at frontline phone call answering and which person isn't and should be doing something else maybe running help docs or maybe managing people internally, but definitely not talking to people on the phone. And the outcomes that you get from those people matched the sort of data that we had. And we kept getting more and more questions from customers on "Hey, can you tell us what this person's like on the phone? Can you tell us what that person's like on the phone?", so we moved much more into providing managers with insight into the way that the team worked on the phone than just trying to trying to short circuit things and use tech to solve the problem. And that for us has been a you know, an improvement of dramatic improvement in the way that our customers are able to support their customers.


Charles McKay  14:40

Yeah, it's fascinating and are most of these customers driving people to the phone or are they giving people the option of whatever channel they want? Pick phone if you want or?


James McCarthy  14:53

There's, there's a mixture of all of these things. Like some of our customers are like they had various sites and those sites are like permanently on the phone and they don't do any non-phone based communication. And we have some customers that just want to have a phone number there so that those people within their customer base who want the security of knowing that they can call someone can call someone. So I yeah, there's definitely no blanket answer to that question if ah yeah everyone's driving people to the phone.


Charles McKay  15:21

Yeah. And I totally... You've been doing this for a couple years now. And you want people to have a fucking conversation or human conversation as you could, as you say, do you think you've achieved that today?


James McCarthy  15:37

I think by and large, we were going a long way towards that. So I was talking to I was talking to someone this morning, actually. And we we internally, we're struggling a little bit to articulate all of the value that we bring to a business because sure we're a phone system but by being hooked into HubSpot, for example, providing that insight but also making or giving the person who answers the call the tools to be much more human in the way that they communicate. We're struggling to sort of tangibly wrap that up into what that value is. 

But when we have conversations like so at the moment, a lot of businesses are struggling, right? And they're looking at cost and they're coming and talking to us and saying, hey, look, you know, we can't afford this but we we can't afford not to have you guys. So how do we how do we get through this next period? Because we don't want to go back to just having a mobile phone sitting on a desk in an office somewhere and having it ring and no one answers or when it answers you as you have no idea who they are. We don't we don't want that and can't have them. So I think looking at it from that angle of people see the value and really get why having us as part of the business is important demonstrates the fact that these conversations are actually a value.


Charles McKay  16:55

Yeah, yeah. I agree with you like the current situation is tough. But in saying that, if I ring someone, and you know, I ring the company line, and then they answer it and know who I am. Probably I if...if, like, if I rang you and you said, "Hey Charles, how are you?" I'd be like "How cool is that? Like they knew who I was." I can see how a lot of people would be like, wow, that's just creepy. Like, who are you? But I think we're going into a world where people go, you know what I respect that I've obviously got things pretty well set up. So I now like that and tend to be able to go, you know, hi, Charles, how are you? So I saw last week you're doing this and then you'll just like, wow, like, this guy's totally tapped into how we're working, understands the business, all of that. It just the experience at the end of the day is going to be better, which then will create a better human to human conversation. So I would say that you are a long way into that journey of solving that problem. It's just, you know, like any early adoption thing, people don't get it. Now hopefully that's what we're trying to talk about today is to understand like that was the problem, this is what's possible.


James McCarthy  18:06

Yeah, we're just to give an example. So, and I'm sure that these guys won't mind me calling them out. But we have a customer called Henry, their a New Zealand based company, and they do sort of... they do software to help sole traders and contractors basically manage all their tax, and expenses and invoicing and all that sort of stuff. And they use us for all their phones.  And a friend of mine called them he uses them. He's, you know, like, knows that they use us but wasn't really kind of aware of what was going on. And he signed up for them, had a problem and called them and they like, answered the phone with his name. They said, Look, we can see that you've done these things, but this is what you're missing.

And they like within a minute and a half all of those things have been solved and they knew who he was and because they had that, you know we can you and I both drink a little bit of the Kool Aid, right, but because they had that single source of truth. Yeah, they knew exactly what was going on. And that you know, you start to see the value when you can delight your customers so quickly and solve the problem. And yet there's the privacy issues, do people feel creeped out that businesses know where they're up to in their, in their user journey? I think you're naive if people... if you don't think that people are, you know, making sure that you're working your way through this software properly.


Charles McKay  19:21

Yeah. 100%. And, like, also, it's coming from a human element. It's people, you know, you're not using it in a in a non human way. So, you know, I think people starting to expect it and understand it now too, especially the younger generation. I think it's the problem too. It's like a lot of problems that are in the globe today. Solutions already exist. It's just people have got their head in the sand to the problem. And don't even want to be aware of it. So they don't actually then go and look for it.


James McCarthy  19:57

I think like this... So, this COVID-19 thing, I'm gonna, you might cut this out later and go I, he's gone off on some weird, weird deviation here, but like COVID-19 there's a whole lot of stuff, it's economically it's gonna really destroy the world for 18, 24, 36 months. It's a lot, some people are going to die, people are gonna lose the jobs and all that stuff, like we just pack it off to the side. But what this is, you know, for me, there's an exciting aspect to this, which is the fact that a lot of businesses are going to be forced to do things that previously they would have gone on, and we don't want to take that risk. But now they're gonna go, "Okay, we've got to try anything to survive this and to come out the other side stronger and ready to thrive. So let's try all of these things that we previously thought might be useful, but we're too risk averse to do. Yeah, because we've got to survive this. So now's the time to do something risky."


Charles McKay  20:49

Yeah, yeah, totally. And I couldn't agree with you more and 24 or whatever it is quarters in a row of growth, why would you take the risk? But I totally, totally agree with you. And on other levels of problems, they're all there. And I think the thing that is fascinating in this current situation, how, you know, what is the pollutions drop, like, all of these things that supposedly could never be fixed, or it's going to take till 2020 to be fixed, it's like it's happened in three months. You know, if we don't take learning out of the back of this and go, Oh, actually, we can move things. And, you know, I've talked about this on a couple of previous podcasts actually, of, you know, it's just a shift in skillset. Don't sack people and don't remove their role, just shift their skillset, spend some time to train them and upskill them into using or doing new ways of working. And you know at the core of it, business is going to keep going, this transaction is going to happen. It's just how they happen is changing. And you've got to be up to, you know, up to the speed with that.


James McCarthy  21:55

Yeah, exactly. And things like things like working from home and things like leveraging technologies So that you can have people being really productive for four hours a day instead of, you know, spending an hour and a half in the car, going to an office somewhere and sitting around and sitting in meetings that are worth nothing. How do we use the tools, the technology and really extract the max amount of value from people's time in half the amount of time and still get the same amount of stuff done? And as a society that has... you know, that's the possibility that could sit on the other side of this? Maybe I'm a dreamer.


Charles McKay  22:26

No, no, I'm in the same boat. Like, I've read the Tim Ferriss 4-Hour Work Week and I'm not not saying I run that 4-hour work week, but um, you know, you start empowering the right people, getting the right people in the right seats, getting people that love what they do, and automate the tasks that people don't want to do.  You know, having someone like, you know, how many receptionists exists today to just answer the phone? Like it doesn't exist. So, you know, like, but how important is that for some businesses that literally they still have a receptionist because I think it's really important to the business so to be the face and all of that, but what's.... how empowering is that job for that person? They probably hate it.


James McCarthy  23:07

Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Like how many people are in bullshit jobs that we don't need?


Charles McKay  23:15

Yeah, yeah, I actually talked about this topic yesterday. You know, we can go to that abundance mindset or a scarcity mindset. So what's abundance look like it's less hours work, more hours of, you know, connecting with people and family and pleasure. At a global scale though, like you start shifting the way and the ways of working and the way works done. We can be doing more productive, empowering things. And, you know, this is where I get a little bit cranky with people when they say, you know, outsourcing, it's like, No, you don't outsource mundane work, you work out a system to do that work. And you, you partner, or whatever it is, you get the right people doing that work.


James McCarthy  23:55

Yeah, yeah.


Charles McKay  23:59

Fascinating. It's fascinating. So now that you've seen, you know, people are starting to be more human on the phone. And if not, it's definitely gonna happen you know now. More and more people are going to be more empathetic I think than ever. What problems are you seeing, and especially in this current situation, what problems you're seeing businesses do and how they leveraging your technology that you just weren't expecting?


James McCarthy  24:25

So I think, Oh, look, look. So some to sort of come back a little bit into some more basic stuff. People are talking more. People are talking more on the phone. Obviously, obviously, our technology enables any business to send their team home and provided they've got an internet connection, they can still continue doing any of the customer facing work that requires them to talk to them. So, you know, we're being leveraged in that regard a lot by lots of people.  But one of the things that we've really noticed is that people previously... Like our average call time was something like 80/90 seconds, and it's gone up by two minutes. So people are spending so much more time when they call someone. I think there's probably an underlying need just to interact with another human. But when they call someone, they're actually spending time to talk to them, instead of just some kind of transactional phone call that we previously had.


Charles McKay  25:21



James McCarthy  25:24

How else are people leveraging us? Obviously, as I mentioned and touched on, you can send your team home and they can still continue to work. People are really, really learning what their business continuity looks like, if they do have to send people home. They're leaning on us a little bit, because we're relatively well set up for it. They're asking questions like, you know, what sort of security considerations do we need to have? What tools do my team need at home that they might take for granted in the office? How do we how do we see how do we have oversight that team are doing what we expect? How do we measure them?  We... We've seen a lot of what I'd call more traditional businesses that kind of operate on a on an activity rather than outcomes type basis, especially managers who are very activity focused, like has he, you know, has he answered 15 phone calls today? Or has he spent eight hours at his desk? Why did he take a 17 minute lunch break, instead of a 10 minute lunch break, all that sort of thing.

We've got some tools to tell what someone's up to right now. So I can tell right now, for example, that so Joel is the last person on our team that that I spoke to, he's at the top of my call list here and he's been on a phone call for a few seconds, I just saw his presence change. And we've got some tools like that, but what we're really pushing our customers towards is understanding outcomes rather than activity. Because ultimately, what the business is trying to do is deliver value to their customers that that they're therefore willing to pay for. So trying to push our customers towards that and provide you know, mechanism for them to do that has been something that we've been helping with. We've had requests for "ah, can you tell me how much time people are spending on the phone each day?" And yes, sure that informations available, but is it the most relevant information for you to be checking up on?


Charles McKay  27:15

Hmm. Totally makes sense. Makes sense. What's maybe the funniest thing that you've seen in the last couple of weeks? We're just like, wow, I wasn't expecting that one.


James McCarthy  27:27

What's the funniest thing I've seen? I think probably one of the things is some of the customers and this I don't know if this is just funny or not, but we've got with a range of customers, right? So we've got, you know, your tech companies where everyone's already set up to work from home and they've got a MacBook Pro and a you know, brand new awesome headset and high speed WiFi and they work from wherever they want to. But then we've got like, we got a district council here and he's dealing with a customer of ours and that's filled with all sorts people. Some of them have been working there for a long time and I think it's fair to say that when we brought them on as a customer, we were not that flavor of the month. 

We were... e were new. We were... like some young guy from Auckland drives down here and tries to show us what to do. And we worked hard to really meet their needs and bring them on a journey. But now, you know, they've been with us for over two years now. And I've been talking and interacting, I send out a weekly email and we talk about, you know, what we're doing how we're surviving living in a house, I put a picture of whatever latest puzzle it is that I'm working on in there. And the people who were the, you know, like we're the most established at doing things the old way, let's let's word it like that. They've come back to me, they're like, well, this is really awesome, you know, thanks for the pieces of the puzzle. Here's my puzzle. So people who we really struggled to get across the line of going, oh, wow, here's the value in this thing. That's been really cool. I think there's one other thing which I can talk about and it happened yesterday. We were a Jabra reseller and they were scheduled this month they had a conference in Sydney where they did a big release of all their new products. And obviously, that couldn't go ahead. So they did it virtually yesterday. And they organized the weirdest way of demonstrating the new headsets. And it was basically there's like blind dating online exercise with three guys wearing three headsets. And someone asked me questions, trying to get engagement from people. So it's fair to say that some people's experimentations around ways to take you know, previously physical things online has been an absolute balls up.


Charles McKay  29:41

Yeah, that's, that's funny. That... It's going to be really interesting to see how, you know, the traditional enterprise rollout of, you know, the playbook, which traditionally is a bit of a digital presence, regional marketing events, regional events regional then, you know, trade shows like how that's going to get to deployed. You know, the SMB markets actually way, way ahead of the enterprise market in that space. So, you know, it's, that's gonna be fascinating, I think an outcome down the track.


James McCarthy  30:14

Yeah. It's amazing how I like... we're lucky, right? You and I are lucky and most of our customers is really lucky because we can, we can try something like that and if it works great if it doesn't we pivot somewhere else. But large corporations man, they can take so much time to create something. This sort of environment needs you to be responsive.


Charles McKay  30:36

It's, it's, um, just on that too... I think like one of the businesses that is obviously flying in this environment is Zoom. And I read an article... This is a couple of years ago that when they had their first board meeting, so they've only ever had two face to face meetings that business and the first one... was two board meetings. The first one was to install Zoom on their computer and then the second one was to make sure they knew how to use Zoom. And it just shows though, that you can do these things. Yes, face to face is absolutely important at times, but it's not. You know, it's not the number one thing anymore and when people are too busy for it to like, like you said before, you know, I if I could do my job in three hours a day without having to go and sit in the car to see five people. I could do those meetings in two hours. Yeah, 20 minute blocks. It's just as valuable. Yeah, I'll come and see you a couple of times a year or once a year, but not just for a coffee.


James McCarthy  31:39

Yeah. And I think there's a lot of this is slightly off to the side. But I mean, some I think it was VidYard who were giving me an overview of some of their stuff a wee while ago. And I was talking to one of the team there and they say look what this is what I do in my sales process. I send them a video. It's five minutes, it comes off all of the basic boring stuff that I'm going to do. At the end at the beginning of every, every call, and it's the stuff that prompts the questions. And it's the stuff about which we're actually going to have the real conversation. And when you do that stuff in person, you know, because you're doing it in person, you go to the effort of doing it all live every single time. But if you can seed your meeting with all the stuff that's really important, but mundane, and once viewed, gets the questions going. And everyone arrives at the meeting with all their questions and ready to start the actual conversation you can speed up that process instead of having five people sitting around doing nothing, you can have a really productive conversation, and maybe your meeting only needs to be 20 minutes instead of 40 or 50 or 60 minutes. So, yes, you know, speaking to that point about people becoming more productive and actually having meetings that deliver an outcome.


Charles McKay  32:51

100%, 100% if that can be an outcome of this whole period to get rid of pointless meetings that would be awesome.


James McCarthy  32:58

Yeah, ah look.... How much time at pointless meetings, presenteeism sitting in the office because you feel like you've got to be there for eight hours or nine hours or whatever it is, instead of just doing what needs to be done, delivering what it is that the business needs on that particular day. And going and going for a bike ride or doing a yoga practice, or kicking a ball around or whatever it might be.


Charles McKay  33:20

100%, 100%. So, starting to switch gears a little bit and talk about your journey as a business owner and what you're, you know, your vision probably personally and within this current business at Cradle, like what did the vision originally look like? And you know, what's it looking like today? And how's that journey been?


James McCarthy  33:40

Yeah, so originally. Look, so we called this company 'talk like humans' when we first started. It was just kind of like our placeholder name. And I am a big believer in the value of social connections, and especially when it comes to people in business who do business with each other, right? There's that trust element that you need to have in order to back someone to do what it is that you need from them and vice versa.  And I believe that a lot of that is built on the social interactions that you're able to have with people. And sometimes that's meeting up and having a beer. And sometimes it's just being able to jump on the phone and have a call and actually talk like a human.

So the vision was to create something that... that to bridge that gap between being with someone and not being with someone, but still having the same experience for people where you meet them, you recognize who it is, you can actually have that human conversation. And basically take the telephone experience from being a shit one to being a really awesome one. Where, where have we got to and what has changed a lot, nothing's really changed. It's still what we want to do. We want to help people talk to each other. The way that we've gone about over the last four years has changed a little bit and all that this has highlighted. All of this COVID-19 thing has highlighted is that we're actually really relevant.  Previously, people went, ah, yeah, we could do that. But you know, our PBX in the closet kind of works. Now people are calling us and going, "man, everyone's at home... we need the phone, we can't, we can't help our customers if we can't talk to them on the phone. Can you set us up now?" So there's been a lot of emergency setups of our software and I think this presents for us and for our industries, big opportunity, once the world pulls out of this place, but I think fundamentally the vision of a, a more connected and human interaction between businesses where people can just pick up the phone and talk to each other or have a piece of technology that allows them to communicate now using the best method is still very much there.


Charles McKay  35:53

You start to think about the future of work and be like, you know, Siri, call it whatever you want. It'd be like, Hey Siri, video call James or it's like, Hey Siri, I just want to chat to him. Can you just call him? Hey, hey series, send James an email about this, or Hey Siri, can you get an update on that project then have to ask James, it'll just tell me. Like, I think that's quite cool. So then when I do have that meeting or conversation with you, it's not about business, it's about who you are, what you're working on, or what your challenges are, you know, not about the transaction, or the product or the service that you're talking about. Um, I think that's a better place to be too so I think Yeah, your story and journey is amazing. I love it. It's cool to hear and listen.


James McCarthy  36:43

Yeah, I think one of the interesting things is going to be how our approach transfers across those different cultures. So in the past, obviously, I've done a lot of business up in North America, and a decent amount in Europe and then all around the rest of the world as well with Spidertracks. New Zealand and Australia have a I would call it a very similar business culture. We, we spend the first five minutes of each meeting talking about what we did on the weekend and what's happening in the footy, the rugby, the, you know, whatever it might be, depending on where you are. The North American approach is very much more sort of cut to the chase and transactional you know. The Americans are very time is money click your fingers, make sure you know, let's make this a good time, not a long time. So I'm interested to see what our approach and our you know, this kind of thinking does when you apply it in that context. But I guess that's a... it's a part of that journey that still lies in front of us.


Charles McKay  37:35

Yeah, it's fair. It's 100%. Like I don't know how that'll play out. I agree with... I think maybe Americans when you like, you know, we met in the US. We met at Boston and that isn't you know, it's an amazing event. But I think that's probably one of the more human probably ecosystems around too. You know if you look at what HubSpot is doing, it's trying to make businesses better to be more human, at the end of the day,


James McCarthy  38:05

My whole philosophy around grow better is... It's, I like it. That's why we align with HubSpot, right? It's because it fits and feels right. And well aligned with our values. So.


Charles McKay  38:17

Yeah, and like I'm exactly the same. And it's, it's just fascinating too because everyone you speak to and you end up interacting with, you have these great conversations. So I think that's the values at the deep down level, how engrained they are and how important they are to most businesses. And I can sort of say personally where we've had challenges with clients is because there's a math value disconnect. And and even that transactional stuff in the US it can flip to be like, alright, deep down once you get past that, they will open up. Just takes some time.


James McCarthy  38:53

Yeah, I think they find the same with us. I think they find that the culture is so different they don't know how to interact with us properly to begin with.


Charles McKay  39:01

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, totally, totally. So, obviously, four years of helping people talk to each other, and the current environment and everything that's going on, what would one or two tips coming in a business that is, you know, taught two things here, one that is going Holy, Holy smokes, we've got to actually do something here. What's really important? And then two, you know, I'm okay, but I really need to start thinking about what the future looks like from a business. Like, how would you go about it when you've got a lot of people that you employ, you know, the end of the day feeding lots of families, and there's a lot of pressure on you. What would that tip be to get through this and leverage your like systems like your and digital technologies to make your business get through and help you through this challenging time?


James McCarthy  39:58

Yeah, so I think both of those are going to be underpinned by whatever your values are, right? And you mentioned it there, you've got a lot of people that work for you. It's a lot of a lot of dinner that gets put on the table every night. So different people are going to have a different approach based on what their values are and what's important to them.  Look from a, from a tech perspective, let's say things are okay. Your people are often and probably always going to be your biggest resource, right? And if you can leverage those people and really listen to everyone on your team and what they're hearing from customers, and what they're seeing, you've got a huge resource here that you can already go and leverage to understand where you can make improvements.  You if you if you've done well and you've got a decent amount of data that you can quickly access.

Like for us we can we can look on a minute by minute basis at how many calls people are making; how much time people are spending on the phone; whether people's calls are actually good or not. We can you know, look at that document respond really well. So if you're set up and you've got that strong data about what's important for your industry and your business, then you can, you can see the opportunity and your team who were close to to the, to the ground, they're gonna see a lot of that as well. So leveraging them to maximize the opportunities or minimize the downside of this would be where I'd go first and where we have gone first.  And if, you know if times are tough, you know, if times are tough, and you're in that probably half of businesses that are really struggling, again, big values, questions around what you do, sometimes you're not going to be able to keep your entire team on. So how do you do those things in a way that respects the time and effort and work that people have given you in the past? There are some really big questions there and I don't I don't know if I can answer that question well enough without more sort of context to a particular business situation. But I think going back to what is you know where your values sit would be the first place that I'd been looking.


Charles McKay  42:03

Yeah, I think you've answered that really well. And, you know, if you were to remove the manager mindset and go, right, if I empower my team to just make their day and job easier, what would they do? It'd be fascinating to see how much efficiency gain you would get out of your business. Instead of saying no, we can't do that.


James McCarthy  42:29

Now I've got this, I've got this. I'm not sure if you can see this here. But I've got this post it note which I, you know, remind myself to keep asking these questions, you know, what's working and what's not working? And, you know, what can we how can we use that as a starting point for our team to look at the things that we should a. do more and b. stop doing altogether or change?


Charles McKay  42:51

How regularly do you like you're obviously looking at it every day, but how regularly do you as a team sit down and go right what's working, what's not?


James McCarthy  43:00

So look we are... what we've done is we used to have stand ups every morning where we would kind of it became a little bit formulaic... this is what I'm doing, this is what I did yesterday, a little bit based on the Agile Scrum model from software days. But we've made those a lot more meaningful now. So we're meeting every, every morning. And we were kind of, sorry, I'm just getting a call here. With... it's gonna ring over here in a minute as well... With.... Push that further. And we're just asking those questions all the time. So you know, we're not waiting. We're not having formal planning sessions. We're not doing any of that sort of thing. We're just hitting them as soon as we can. As I said earlier, about large companies taking a lot longer, you know, turn the Titanic around. We can we can make a change just like that. We decided two weeks ago that our website was crap and so we went out and a week later we changed the whole thing.  And, you know, that's the sort of thing that we as a smaller business can afford to do and can pull off.


Charles McKay  44:14

Yeah, yeah. I think they're great tips and always be challenging yourself. How you can get better not necessarily bigger or stronger, like what what will get, you know, how do you become better? Yeah, I do that personally. It's like, what's my happiness radar. If I'm not high on a happiness, radar there's something that's not right, generally underpinning to my values personally, as well and you just challenge that. So over these challenging times, it's full on but to get a bit braggy here, tell us some of your success stories. And I suppose where the businesses is at today, you know, and where you see it in the next couple of years, but you know, a couple of those success stories where you're at.


James McCarthy  44:59

Yeah, so... Look, I think... our team needs a pat on the back with double revenue last year, we just closed out the financial year and for an earlier sort of bootstrap business we've done really well. Which I think you know, really demonstrates how you know, we are bringing value to our customers.  What else is worth bragging about? I think the thing that you know, one of the things that keeps me coming to work is that our customers love us, eh? If more than more than three quarters of our customers when we ask them basically tell us that they love us and even the people who are like, I don't really want to change technology, I'm just want a phone that sits on the desk. I don't really care if you save the fact that I had a phone call, I don't want any of that. Once they've had us they go I love you guys. So delivering value and having that demonstrated both financially is a bit of a dipstick but also just sort of through the stories that our customers tell and the way talk about us, has been really, really cool. We've done a series of case studies over the last three weeks since we've been in lock down. We've had someone who's sort of semi external to the business doing these case studies for us. And so there's a an element of neutrality there and the feedback from this person has just wow these, these customers all love what you do, how you interact with them, and what your product does for their business. So that's, that's been really cool.


Charles McKay  46:27

Mate, that's, that's, that's amazing, especially to have an external source do that and challenge those questions. I think that is very exciting and you've got a very exciting future. And out of you know, obviously Australia and Zedd and a bit of the US, like how many countries are you guys in now and can you service most of the world?


James McCarthy  46:50

Yes, we, um, I think we probably have customers in about five or six countries. And we've got users, we've got users in more countries than that because a lot of customers even though they're like, for example, New Zealand based, they might have an Aussie Office, a South African office, a UK office, you know, like, they're like spread around. So we're making, you know... there are a decent number of calls going through our service. We had a, I think it was a 40% increase in in calls over the course of this period. Just goes to show you how much more time people are spending on the phone with this with this thing going on.


Charles McKay  47:29



James McCarthy  47:32

And, like growth wise, where do we go next? I think, I don't know. We'll see. I think we're really following HubSpot. We're we're very vertically integrated with them and and where HubSpot is successful and people of medium sized businesses want to talk to the customers, we end up going here.


Charles McKay  47:48

Yeah, yeah. It's fascinating. I'm like, obviously, the cornerstone of this conversation and podcast is about people trying to do things better in a more sustainable way. And, you know, I think you're you're a really nice shining light to that. So I want to say, you know, thanks for coming along, and thanks for sharing your story.  We better start to bring it to ground because I'm sure you've got lots of people you need to talk to. But James, I really appreciate you joining the conversation. So how do people find you? What's the best channel or place to find if they want to reach out?


James McCarthy  48:20

Yeah, so you can give us a call. In Aussie 0385959965 or in New Zealand 098879333. I must be like autistic or something because phone numbers never leave me. But you can hit our website cradle.io and all the details are on there. Yeah, the best way to get in touch with us as on the phone, of course.


Charles McKay  48:45

Amazing. Amazing. Well, James, thank you very much. I really appreciate it again and stay safe and I hope that the NZ lockdown doesn't...  it becomes unlocked as sooner than later because you guys I think you've done a pretty amazing job. So stay safe and keep things rocking my friend.


James McCarthy  49:02

Yeah, thank you very much Charles.


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