90 Days In: Building an Empathetic RevOps Team

Sometimes we forget our heroes are human too. Doug Houvener is a data leader bringing compassion and process to every conversation. As the Director of Revenue Operations at WebPT, he’s building alignment from the ground up, bringing an established $100+ million company into the future of operational excellence.

WebPT’s robust web-based solution helps therapists from single-therapist clinics to multi-location enterprises with integrated documentation, scheduling, and billing solutions. With Doug’s vision for process and an emphasis on reducing the stigma on mental health, he is forging a new way to work.

I sat down with Doug to discuss what he’s been learning in the first 90 days of launching the RevOps function, bringing GTM alignment to an established company, and the power of having honest mental health conversations with your team.

Nick Bonfiglio: How did you become the Director of RevOps at WebPT?

Doug Houvener: I started at WebPT as a campaign strategist in the infancy of their ABM program. It wasn’t long before we realized we wanted to focus on enterprise marketing. To build on it, I needed to move beyond a ‘get on the same page’ method of collaboration into true GTM harmony. I started to think of sales and success teams as my ears to the ground. I’d tell them, “You talk to our customers more than I do, so I need your input on our campaigns.” This approach helped us through a Salesforce migration where I essentially acted as our de facto Sales Ops person. Through that process, I discovered my passion for what eventually became RevOps.

All the pieces fell into place when our CRO approached me to ask if I’d build and run our new RevOps team. I was thrilled. I’m a bit of a rare person — I build processes in Salesforce by day and do graphic design by night (laughs). But when you can find Ops people like that, creatives who love the process, that’s where you can make something special.

What did you learn in those first 90 days of building your RevOps function?

Anyone starting a new RevOps team in an established company is going to inherit several former side projects of the teams they’re supporting. If there’s a large interdepartmental effort to improve something, but nobody seems to own it, it’s likely because the people attempting to solve the issue all have day jobs. Customer Success (CS) is focused on account management and adoption, Sales is focused on closing deals, and Marketing wants to fill the funnel. The processes that support Sales, Marketing, and CS need special love and oversight they haven’t been receiving. RevOps is perfectly suited for the task.

Similarly, I’ve learned that your RevOps team should be the neutral arbiter of alignment conversations. For example, we recently faced an issue with our field and metric definitions. Marketing was defining any lead that wasn’t disqualified as an SQL, while sales had a narrower definition. It was significant enough that when I sat down with our analysts, the discrepancy threw off our funnel metrics.

Those conversations can be challenging, which is why establishing RevOps as a neutral, Switzerland-esque party is important. We can say, “Hey guys, we hear both your sides. Here’s what we think is the best path forward.” We’re not picking sides, we’re aligning everyone. In the end, we all want to see more streamlined, accurate data and processes.

What do you wish someone had told you about aligning go-to-market teams?

You rarely know why things have been done a certain way or why certain people were involved when you initially dive in. RevOps pros often encounter a problem as objective observers who clearly see the solutions. But it isn’t until we reach the “build” stage that someone involved from another team stops us in our tracks with new information or insight.

Those experiences have taught me two lessons:

  1. Do smoke tests and seek every bit of input you need. Don’t assume that anyone is beyond the scope of offering solutions or insights, especially in the early stages.
  2. Too many cooks in the kitchen can cause fires. And sometimes, we get hung up on that chaos.

A process project that appears to be a small task may be a passion project for someone, and that may not be so easy to take off their hands. We have tech debt, process debt, and established ways of thinking. It’s common to get defensive when someone questions why we do things or offers suggestions on how to improve. As your GTM teams see the fruits of your efforts — efficiency, improved data quality, consistent reporting — they will begin to trust RevOps more.

It’s difficult because we’re a $100+ million company with 600+ employees. But that challenge is what I love most. RevOps pros aren’t here to win awards. This is not a job you do because you want public accolades. We’re here to contribute to the success of our peers. The more our colleagues understand RevOps and the more mutual trust we gain, the better the outcomes.

You’ve written about breaking the stigma around mental illness. Why did you choose to write about mental health and work?

I’ve gone through some rough periods in my life; I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety for many years. It got to a point where it was affecting every area of my life, including work. I wrote that piece to articulate how I was feeling at the time and how I’ve managed my mental health.

I was extremely uncomfortable asking for help. Once I finally reached out, it felt like I had released this burden I’d been carrying for years. If one person can see themselves in my experiences, feel validated, or realize they need to reach out for help, that’s the value of being vulnerable to the world. I want people to see that talking about mental illness isn’t an admission of weakness — and it’s certainly not a limitation of your potential.

In any given year, 1 in 5 adults deals with some form of mental illness. Ultimately, getting my story out is about helping other people see mental health struggles don’t have to hold you back or slow you down. I want you to know you aren’t alone in that struggle. I want to be the kind of leader that invites people to bring their full selves to work, without judgment.

How are you reducing the stigma of mental health in your RevOps team?

I’m pretty transparent with my team. About once a month, I take a mental health day and explicitly share the purpose of that day. Since I’ve been open with my team, I’ve noticed they are taking mental health breaks as well.

Work isn’t usually the place where you receive mental health support, so I want my team to have the space to take care of themselves. We’ve established several employee resource groups (ERGs) around various topics — I help lead our mental health and parent groups. Being able to build a community inside the organization has been extremely valuable, and I’m thankful WebPT supports these important discussions.

Ultimately, if you are burned out or you’re going through a difficult season, you’re going to need some extra support to handle that. I want my team to know they can take time for themselves and prioritize their mental and emotional well-being.

Want to learn more? Follow Doug on Linkedin.

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