Implementing feedback from all the reviews you receive as a business owner can be an overwhelming task but don’t make the mistake of overlooking their importance. In this episode of Behind the Review, Alok Ahuja, founder of Trexity, shares how he utilizes constructive criticism to guide the direction of his business. Even after finding success as a CEO, the voices of his customers is something he’ll never let go unheard.
On the Yelp Blog: Learn Alok’s strategy for using customer feedback (both positive and critical) to his business’s advantage.
EMILY: I’m Emily Washcovick, Yelp’s Small Business Expert. Behind the Review features conversations with business owners and customers who wrote one of their Yelp reviews. In our discussions, we talk about lessons they’ve learned that can be used by other small businesses to improve their own reviews…and their bottom line. Occasionally I talk to industry experts on topics like digital marketing, social media, and leveraging technology. Today, is one of those expert episodes, featuring Alok Ahuja – Co-Founder of Trexity.
Let’s give our conversation a listen.
EMILY: To start, why don’t you introduce yourself and tell us about Trexity. What is it and how did it become a thing?
ALOK: First of all, thanks for having me on the podcast. I truly do appreciate it. My name is Alok Ahuja. I’m the CEO and co-founder of Trexity. We are a last mile logistics platform, essentially enabling any local merchant across the globe to outperform Amazon on delivery.
The platform was created and started to come to fruition back in 2018. It was formed out of a specific need. Here we were sitting in our homes and requiring something from a local store within the same day and, and calling that store up and saying, “Hey, listen, can you send the following items to the house?”
And they basically said, “Well, listen, we don’t do that. We don’t deliver, but we’ll put all the items in the front of our store and you can have somebody come pick it up.” And so I started calling a bunch of courier companies. I ordered two Ubers to come to the house, explained what I needed, and they did not hesitate to flip me the bird and leave.
This sounds super cliche, but that’s when I went back into the house and started to architect a platform that would help enable any local merchant to offer some degree of same or next day local delivery. And when I called up my co-founders and told them what I was trying to do, they said, “Boom, we’re in. Let’s do this together. And Trexity was born.”
EMILY: I love it. And so many of my small business owners start their business in a very similar way. They see a need and they wanna address it head on. I think something that’s very unique about your business is when you got started, you were very homed in on who your customer was and who it wasn’t. Can you outline that for people? ‘Cause I think it’s a good learning to not try to be everything to everyone.
ALOK: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s such a great point. I’ll just give one quick reference before I answer the question in its entirety, but, when I was younger, I tried to start different little tech companies. I was always trying to solve 10 or 20 things at once.
‘Cause you have these mentors and investors that say, “Hey, what about this? And what about that?” And as a young entrepreneur, you’re running into those problems and you’re like, “Yeah, I can do that. I can do this.” And you end up trying to solve too many problems and not having a narrow focus on that one thing that you wanna perfect and do really well.
So, with Trexity, we said, “Listen, our primary goal is to do this one thing, and that is to be the true last mile from the store.” Allowing them to own their customers’ doorsteps in a very intimate way. So we knew the problem that we wanted to solve and we weren’t gonna deviate away from it. Then we got even more focused on, okay, well who do we wanna work with and who is this gonna be for?
And right away, me and my co-founders looked at one another and we said, “Okay, we’re not doing hot food ‘cause we’ve never gotten a hot set of french fries to our door. Always disappointed. And we’re not gonna do humans, right?” It’s just two things that for us, obviously there were behemoths in the game already doing this, but for us it was a race to zero.
And so we then looked at each other and said, “Well then who’s it gonna be?” And so very quickly we learned the gaps around local delivery when it came to high-end grocery subscription boxes, meal kits, of course retail of all types. Nothing big and bulky, right? We’re not trying to move washers and dryers, but all retail.
And that obviously my background coming from Shopify, I knew there was a gap there. And then obviously the last two, which are huge verticals for us, are pharmaceuticals. And of course, who doesn’t like an ice cold beer to their door? So we do really well with alcohol as well.
EMILY: I love that and I should have prompted you earlier, give everyone a little bit of your background before Trexity because you really do have quite a bit of background in tech platforms that many of my listeners will be familiar with.
ALOK: So 16 years ago after finishing school, our university, like most students, I didn’t wanna work, so I would just sit at home and build things and break things and that’s when I basically ventured into the very first startup around web personalization, and what a ride that was.
You know, I helped scale the business over five years and help take it public on the Toronto Stock Exchange Venture Capital. So a couple months later. getting acquired by Microsoft and injecting the software into Commerce Server 2009, which at the time was Microsoft’s kind of de facto enterprise solution.
Then, I started to rub shoulders and work with a lot of the internet retailer 500, so companies like Honeywell and Aramark, and spending a considerably large amount of time in Chicago at Hamburger University, at McDonald’s, which was like a dream for me. I lived off the stuff and then locally here in Ottawa, I really got deeply rooted into the e-commerce community ‘cause that’s where my heart was.
And I got approached by a couple of gentlemen doing this on a smaller scale for the SMBs. And they said, “What does enterprise look like?” And what do those merchants need?” And very quickly, we shared a lot of the same ideologies on some of the tools that we wanted to build for enterprise commerce.
And so when my four years was up, I went over to that small local startup known as Shopify here in Ottawa. And that changed my life. I learned things and rubbed shoulders with people that I never thought I could work with, some of the brightest people in the world, to be honest.
And helping Shopify Plus and build the accompanied Shopify Plus partner program, which essentially was me working with our team of partner managers to travel the world and educate massive digital agencies that like, “Listen, Shopify Plus is a viable solution for big enterprise customers.”
And very quickly they started to realize that this wasn’t a joke. Next thing you know, we’ve got Kylie Jenner Cosmetics and Rebecca Minkoff and Estee Lauder and all these big brands every month signing up. And my team and I looked at each other and we’re like, “Is this happening?”
And it was a wild ride. And then after spending a couple years on the partnership side, I went over to build out, helped operationalize the marketplace where we were now connecting these plus merchants to these properly vetted digital agency partners. And then ultimately stepping away from the business in 2018 to be a stay at-home dad to two very young kids that I was barely seeing and to be a son to my father who was battling pancreatic cancer.
And that example I gave you around that merchant that was unwilling to deliver. It was actually because my dad needed a bunch of stuff to the house and I couldn’t leave him alone. So there was my dad in his living room on a hospital bed fighting for his life and his son right next to him trying to change the world through local delivery.
I will say this one last thing, but he was our biggest fan. Everyday he would ask, “Hey, how many deliveries did you have today, son? And I’m so proud.” I’m like, “Dad, we did four deliveries.” And he’s like, “All right.” And then two days later, “How many? I’m like, “Eight.”
He’s like, “You see that? You doubled.” And towards the end of his life, it really put him in a different spirit when he saw that Trexity dashboard. But that’s my background and that’s how this whole thing came to be.
EMILY: Such an awesome story, and I love how even though it was a hard time with your dad at the end, he’s still such a big part of where this business has gone, which is incredible.
And I just have to give a little Shopify shout out because even though you were on the enterprise side of things, I point to Shopify as a great resource for all SMBs if they’re really trying to figure out that e-commerce thing for the first time. My boyfriend used to own a buy-sell sneaker store here with a partner, and they use Shopify for everything, and that was really the way that they were able to streamline sales in the brick and mortar and sales online in an easy and functional and hands-on way.
So, Shopify is not associated with Yelp at all, but I just have to give that shout out that it is super user friendly and great for businesses that are really trying to figure that out and kind of get their inventory management under control.
ALOK: So, so great that you said that. Yeah. No, we love Shopify. We’re in the Shopify app store. It was the first thing we did when the pandemic hit was we built a Shopify app and because of us having access to their platform, we exploded and all props off to Shopify. I’ll bleed green forever. That’s awesome.
EMILY: I love it. Okay, so today I wanna get into a couple of different things that I think you are so uniquely suited to talk about. The first one is just why your merchants have switched over and started using delivery. And the interesting thing is, it’s based on feedback, which is what this show is all about. So I’d love if you could just tell that for us. How have some of your independent vendors gotten themselves on Trexity? Where did that need for them independently come from, and how has that journey looked?
ALOK: Great question. And so one thing you said there was when did they switch over to Trexity? And the thing is, delivery is still relatively new in the verticals that we service. And so a lot of these, these SMBs, these small to medium-sized businesses, when we tell them that they can own their customers’ doorsteps in a very intimate way, they instantly perk up.
And they’re like, “What? How do we do that?” And I think we spoke about this on an earlier call, but we were talking about the evolution of delivery and the evolution of commerce. And I was saying to you, 15 years ago you couldn’t just have a brick and mortar store. You had to have a brick and mortar store and an online site.
And on that online site it would have Contact Us and About Us and your operating hours. And then 10 years later it was like, you now have to have an online commerce component to this website. And then that became a thing. And now what we’re finding is a lot of merchants are coming out and they’re saying, “Well, we have to offer some proponent of local delivery. Our store is bursting at the seams with inventory and instead of shipping it out every couple of days with a legacy shipping partner, why don’t we just get it to their doorsteps right now?” And that’s when they really started to get smart around, “Okay, well here’s Trexity. It’s a one-click integration into our Shopify store. This is kind of a no-brainer and it’s compound interest for us.” These merchants start off small, but then they start to really grow week over week. There are a number of deliveries, but why that’s happening is because we’re essentially changing, psychologically, the buying habits of their customers.
So they’re now going to their favorite stores, they’re going online, and guess what? It’s the customer, the shopper that’s choosing that. They want it today. It’s not the merchant saying, “We’re gonna ship this out right now.” It’s the customer saying as they check out, “Yeah, I’m gonna pick Trexity cause I want this today.” And now the merchant is empowered to say, “Yeah, we offer that. This is now a piece of our business”
In case you haven’t noticed, I do obsess about moving something from point A to point B, and one of the things that we do is we communicate with the end customer. And so when a package is picked up and scanned upon pickup with the Trexity app, we then send SMS communications to the end consumer.
And the reason why we wanted to do this was for a couple of reasons. One was we wanted to be very transparent so everybody knew where their package was at all times. Just like an Uber Eats order, right? Track it in real time. None of this cable man, it’ll be there between nine and five.
But more importantly is upon dropoff. We wanted to make sure that A, we could use a couple of different tools like pin delivery and photo verification for the alcohol, the pharmaceuticals and peace of mind for the customer. But the most important thing we do is in that SMS there’s a link and we hit them with a little survey and the survey says, “How did we do on a scale of one to five and give us one line of feedback on something that might’ve gone wrong.”
I always go to the darkest, deepest parts of the business or something that really great happened and we aggregate all of this end customer feedback in real time. And then what we do is every month we present it to our merchants on what we call the merchant report card, and we tell them, “Listen, this was your rating out of five it was a 4.9 or five outta a five, and here’s all the feedback your customers gave you.” And it’s that feedback, believe it or not, Emily, that our development team and product team reads every single day to figure out what we need to do with our product and our platform.
Where are the gaps? What are the customers saying, right? A point in case example, a couple months ago, probably eight, nine months ago, a customer said we started seeing this in the feedback like it’d be great to know if the driver was here. So we said, “Great. We send an extra SMS that says, ‘Knock, knock, we’re at the door or one minute away’ Like the merchant can choose.
And it was a game changer and people said, “Oh my God, it gave me time to prepare and put my bathroom on cause I just came outta the shower. Like we started getting really great feedback. And so a lot of the decisions that we make as a company that our merchants make are based on the feedback we get from their end customers. And it is so important to have that feedback. We try to do it on the merchant side as well. And believe it or not, we do it with our couriers. We have focus groups of drivers that give us the feedback of what they’re hearing and what they’re seeing on the streets. And I think Yelp wrote the book on this, when you go anywhere in the world, traveling in Italy with my wife, and you see that Yelp logo on a restaurant door because you know that restaurant is wanting you to give feedback. They want to better themselves because of that feedback. And you walk in and you can tell right away the way that they cater to you, right? When you care about what your customers are saying, you’re instantly, deeply rooted into the experience, but also you’re bettering yourself as a company.
And so, I’ll be straight up with you, man. We took that page right out of your book when we looked at what you guys were doing and we said, “This is great.” Like, we would read a lot and some of our sales team does this. We’ll read Yelp feedback from businesses and we’ll say, “Hey listen, did you know you got like 20 Yelp feedbacks asking if you guys could offer delivery? Like, we’re here.” And they’re like, “Oh my God, we didn’t even think of that, that this is great.” So feedback is more than just an opinion. It is a direction.
EMILY: And I think the coolest thing about what you all have done is. by providing a solution for these businesses that maybe didn’t even think of delivery as something they would ever offer, you’re just opening a funnel that’s not even taking away from these other customer funnels they already have. And I kinda want our business owners to think of their online presence like that in general, right? By having their delivery option set up through Trexity, they don’t need to think about if the employee is on payroll that day, at the time that a delivery comes in or any of that. It eliminates it for them. And the same is true when they set up their online profile, like on Yelp, and they complete it, and they turn on that little button that says request a quote or get more information. They’re just opening up a way for customers to connect with them and ultimately transact.
Can you talk a little bit about the operational rollercoaster that your clients go through and what it looks like for them to add this new feature and how you use that feedback? To keep it a smooth and seamless process, even though they’re going through a lot of different changes at the same time.
ALOK: Yeah, for sure. A lot of people early on would ask me and they’d say, “Why are you going after SMBs? Right? Why the small business? Why?” And I would say to them, “Because it’s these businesses that continue to uplift our local economies.” But they’d come back to me and say, “Yeah, but they’re the ones struggling the most. Do you think they have time for this?” And I say, “Of course, because they don’t have time to run it themselves, right? They need to manage their business” So I would sit and talk to these businesses and they would say, “Look, we have a tool for everything in our business. We have accounting software for our accounting. We have an inventory management system for all of the stock we have. And we need a platform that’ll handle our logistics because right now it’s just not working. We are afraid to scale with the solution we have now, which is handwritten.” This is the true story. I went to immersion and they’re on this, I won’t mention the name of the logistics carrier, but it was a legacy one that still exists. And I walk in and I’m like, “What is all this paper on your desk? And why is there a scale on the floor?” And they’re like, “Well, we have to measure the box on all sides, and then we have to weigh it on this.” I go, “Oh my God, there’s gotta be an easier way.” And so I took a lot of these learnings and that’s when we really started to get smart around creating a very low barrier to entry for these merchants.
And so it’s exactly what we did at Shopify. We said, “How quickly can we get a merchant to sign up to have an online store, and then how quickly can we get them to do their first sale?” So there were a couple of conversion points, and for us it’s no different. It’s how quick can we get them to create a Trexity account.
So we’ve narrowed it down to about two minutes, and then how long before they get their first delivery on the road? It’s literally a couple of minutes after we’ve seen merchants sign up. We’ve seen their name show up in our HubSpot. And then I’ll look at the dashboard and their name is now there a couple of minutes later.
And for us, this is exactly what we and still continue to try to achieve. When you can create that low bird entry and that trust within these merchants, you won’t lose. Because if we were dealing with enterprise customers, which we do, you can have more than three strikes and mess up, and they will still forgive you and they’ll still keep using you.
Now, the high risk with small to medium sized businesses is if you lose their trust, they are not using you again. Their business is too small and fragile for you to mess up their revenue or their customer experience. They’ll say to all of their street friends on the street that also own local businesses, “Don’t trust these guys.They don’t do a good job.”
And so we got really hyper-focused on that experience when we were designing and building this out. Or even when it just comes to delivery as a whole, right? Like, I’m not saying it has to be us, but any delivery experience and listen, I’ll go out and I will do deliveries on Trexity and obviously when it says driver approaching, it’s not my name.
I will unveil my alias to all of you listeners, but it’s Stanley Ipkiss from the Mask and when I’m out doing deliveries on Stanley Ipkiss, I’ll do a couple deliveries and I’ll talk to the merchants and I’ll ask them “How’s this going?” And they don’t know who I am, and I’ll go to the end customer and drop it off and ask them, “How urgent was this? Are you super glad you got us today?” And use a lot of that feedback to just really understand how important it is to now offer local delivery as a proponent of how these small to medium sized businesses operate.
And the beauty of it all is this service doesn’t cost anything. So there’s no monthly fee or signup cost or annual subscription, and we definitely are not like the modern day robber barons taking 25 to 30 points of their invoice cost. This is truly honest delivery at a flat fee from Point A to Point B. So we tell a lot of our merchants like, “Listen, put it on your site. Let your customers know you now offer local delivery and let them decide if it’s something that they want because you’re not gonna lose on this” And right away, like I said, back to that notion of compound interest, it just grows and they start to realize like, “Wow, we were missing out on a giant piece of revenue that we didn’t even know existed.”
And one of the wild pieces of feedback we got the other day was one of our merchants reached out to me and said, “We’ve been delivering with you for so many years now, and we’re finding that a lot of the people that we deliver to, they’re coming into the store more now because they’ll come in, they’ll have a look around, they’ll touch, feel, they’ll go home, they’ll think about it because they know that we’ll just get it to their door and they don’t have to buy it right now.”
And I was like, “Oh my God, I never even thought of that. Things like shoes – we do a lot of streetwear shoes with kids with way too much disposable income. Spend their parents’ money and they’ll go in and they’ll humm and haul a really expensive pair of shoes. And then maybe when they’re at home at night, they’ll be like, “You know what, I’m getting them.”
Boom. Online store. Trexity, it’s at their door and there it is, right? So that’s something that I never even knew would happen, but it’s a really cool way to see how customers are reacting to the service and how they’re using it to benefit the way that they shop. Like everybody’s got a different shopping style, right? I’m definitely different from my wife. I’ll go in and get all Christmas shopping done in 20 minutes where she does like a month of shopping, right? So everybody’s a little different.
EMILY: I think the reason I was so excited for this conversation is because Trexity is a great resource and platform, but there’s also so many learnings in what you’ve achieved that any SMB can apply. And the biggest one is just how important feedback and that open dialogue is for you between both audiences – your customer, the business owner, the merchant, and the end customer who’s purchasing the item. And I wanna dig in a little deeper on that. First, I want you to share how did you get to this place with feedback. Because for some people, feedback is always someone telling you what you didn’t do right as opposed to uncovering things that could help you improve. But I feel like you’ve never looked at it that way. Is that true?
ALOK: Yeah, that there is some truth to that and. I don’t think I ever told you this, but in 2019 when I started trying to build this thing out, I’m a little obsessed about solving problems. It consumes my life in the greatest way. And when I started building this out with my co-founders, I said, “Who’s gonna deliver this stuff and how are merchants gonna interact with this platform?” And in February of 2019, I remember the night as clear as water. It was like a Tuesday night and here in Ottawa it was like minus, it gets like minus 40 at night.
It’s ridiculous. I remember putting my kids to bed and telling my wife, “Hey, I’m gonna go to the airport.” And she’s like, “What?” And so, I put my jacket on and I went to the airport and I hung out in this area called the Uber Lot where cars just kind of sit and wait for a plane to land, and this is how deeply rooted I am in feedback.
I went to those driver’s cars and I knocked on their windows one by one, and I asked them, I said, “Why do you do this? What do you love about it? What do you hate about it? But what would you do if you were in charge?” And I started to get a tremendous amount of feedback from these drivers and they would say things to me like, “Well, we don’t make enough money, or we don’t get paid quick enough. And, you know, the hours aren’t the greatest.” And I started to build a focus group of drivers. Now, crazy thing is those drivers in 2019, still my same focus group drivers. They’re still working with Trexity, so I love them. But day one of deciding to build this out, I only made my decisions based on the feedback that I got from the couriers that were already doing it.
And so for me, Emily, feedback and focus groups are a part of every decision we and I make as a company. And it’s so important to stay in touch with making sure you’re actually solving a problem that needs to be solved. I see so many tech companies come and go, and I ask myself, “Who used that? Like, who did they build that for?” A lot of people miss the mark and you can’t miss the mark if you’re listening to the people that you’re solving the problem for. And so feedback for me goes back to day one of this company. It literally started at that airport when we started to understand the needs of our couriers.
Now for businesses, it’s no different, right? There’s a lot of businesses that don’t offer local delivery, and there’s more that don’t than do. And I still think it’s something that’s relatively new now. Obviously the pandemic expedited people doing research around it. And I think it’s become a thing now where people are accustomed to spending a small amount of money to get something delivered to their house.
I know I said this to you before, this is old school in me, but pizza used to be free to get to your house. Now it’s not. And as a society, we’re okay with that. Like delivery is something now that is here to stay. And I think it’s now up to the merchants to embrace that and to figure out a way as to how can you fold this into the workflow of your business and make it a new service offering for your customers.
Because I’m telling you, customers love it. And finding companies like Trexity to help facilitate the needs of that local delivery is not hard. Because at the end of the day, through rolling lockdowns or end of school or there’s so many things, life is so busy that we have just now become accustomed to. Like I said, live a life of convenience, not a luxury.
This isn’t something that’s luxurious and it’s high end. This is now out of necessity and one piece of feedback, the last one I’ll share with you around this, is we do a lot of maternity and baby stores and got feedback from a mom that was putting her baby to bed, but her bottle warmer had busted. She went online and she went to the store that she gets all of her baby stuff from locally. We delivered the bottle warmer. And the feedback was literally, “You saved my night, or I would not have slept.” And, as a new mother, do you know how incredibly tough that would’ve been for her? She would’ve been busted the next day. And who knows if she has other kids and if she got a deadbeat husband or something? I’m throwing all husbands under the bus. But anyways, You know, it’s just instances like that where you would never think of a maternity store offering a local delivery, but now look at the impact it’s having on their customer. But that loyalty piece that they win off of there, she’s a customer for life. She might even have kids and she’s still gonna be buying blankets ‘cause she just likes to feel, you know what I mean?
EMILY: For sure. And I think that just speaks to the value of taking a look at what your customers are experiencing. And I wanna dig a little deeper on that because your perspective I think can be so helpful for the SMB who feels like they’re always chasing their own tail.
You know, a lot of what I hear is, “Well, Emily, I can’t follow every piece of feedback. I’d be constantly changing things.” And it’s like, I understand but the whole point isn’t every time you hear feedback from anyone, you go change something. But talk to me about that fine line and kind of where you’re still making sure that you’re gathering and listening, but not at the detriment of your own North Star.
ALOK: Yeah, that’s great. And it’s true. It can be overwhelming when you get tons of feedback from customers, especially if you’re a very popular and reputable business. My advice to business owners, and I say this all the time to the ones that I meet in person and all the Trexity ones, is anything that’s three stars or less, you have to read.
You must read that and I do this, and I’m not saying everybody has to, but go to the darkest places of your feedback. Go to the ones where, not the ones that are like, “You suck and I hate you.”, those are just trolls but actual shoppers that have constructive feedback on something that you can do to improve. If they truly care about your business or the value of goods that they’re getting, they’ll give you real feedback.
It’s not hard to get nowadays. So my advice is to those business owners, don’t be overwhelmed by the amount of feedback you get, but try to home in on the ones where you know you can improve as a business. And I’m not saying that you have to improve on every single one of those low star ratings, but the ones that are kind of low hanging fruits, like, I don’t know.
Bad example, but like, why don’t you have a mat when it’s raining at the front door? That’s not a hard fix, right? Like, you can do that and turn someone’s opinion around. But I would say just take the time and it doesn’t have to be all, every day at the end of every day.
Sunday mornings is, believe it or not, when I get a lot of peaceful reading and catch up done as a CEO and as an entrepreneur. I understand weeks can be crazy, but it’s for some reason it’s that Sunday morning where I get up, I have a coffee, and I’ll sit down and try to read my inbox a little or read some of the feedback on Slack or go through our dashboard and see what went wrong that week or what went really well. And don’t let it consume you, right? Let it marinate in your head. Don’t get all worked up about it. I let it sit there and then I bring it to my team on either Monday or Tuesday, a couple days after the weekend and say, “Hey, did you guys see this? Or what do you guys think of this? Or, what can we do around this?” And then you really start to brainstorm ideas.
And now I’m speaking to business owners. Never get overwhelmed by the feedback, A, and B, never make knee jerk decisions on the feedback that you read. Right? Take the time to make smart decisions instead of those kneejerk ones. ‘Cause I’ll tell you right now, I used to do those kneejerk ones when I was in my twenties and they never panned out well. I look back and I’m like, “What was I doing?” Right? So just take the time, absorb it, and if they enrage you because the feedback is so hardcore, you gotta calm down before you make any decision there.
Right, Emily? So that would be my advice to the business owners that have a ton of feedback and say, “Well, how do I read all this and how do I absorb it all?” Just in doses. In doses for sure.
EMILY: Is there anything that you wanna speak to as it relates to business owners’ obsession with getting criticism offline?
Let me tell you what I’m getting at. I think sometimes, the entrepreneur cares more about the fact that there was a one star than what the one star said. They get really lost in what could help them and even the ones who are willing to reply and try to make it right, but are still mad because the review is still on the page, like I think that’s misguided energy.
I think sometimes a negative review makes you look trustworthy, particularly if you reply to it. Do you have any insights or experience there of how you look at maybe the difference between trying to get something removed and just trying to show how you operate and respond to feedback?
ALOK: Yeah, that’s such a spot on question because listen, every business gets a one star review. It happens. It’s a part of life. And your timing of this is great ‘cause we got one a couple of weeks ago and it was from a merchant. And I remember reading it and I was like, “Oh, that, that hurts.” Like it hurts my heart to read this. And the thing is that the feedback from the merchant was not fake. It was not lies. It was real. Like we totally dropped the ball on this one merchant, on this one delivery. And we just didn’t pick it up in time. We were a little late.We didn’t hit the pickup SLA.
And I remember I was driving to Montreal for a meeting and I called my COO and right away he goes, “Did, did you see the review?” And I said, “Yeah.” It was on all of our minds. It’s the elephant. No one wants to talk about it. And I go, “Yeah, I did.” I go, “Man, that was hardcore.”
And he goes, “Yeah, it was. But you know, he’s telling the truth.” I go, “No, I know. I know he is.” I go, “So, here, listen, let’s put that in front of the entire company. Let’s everybody read that. Feedback and what can we do now to improve on that feedback?”
So what I’m gonna say to people who get those one-star feedbacks is don’t try to get removed. Do not try to get removed because you know what? There’s gonna be somebody who saw it and then will go back and be like, “Hey, where did that, they took that down? Why did they take that down? Keep it up. Keep it up.” But try to create a dialogue with the person who put up the one star. So we always reply, even if it’s a good one, we reply and we try to start a dialogue.
Now, this can go one of two ways. One is they can reply back to you and say, “I hate you, go to hell. Die.” And just don’t want to continue to engage with that person. And that’s when it might make sense to contact the upper or somebody and say, “Listen, we got somebody who’s a little off the rocker here.”
But it can go another way where they can say, “Listen, thanks for reaching out. I appreciate you guys trying to solve this problem, but I’m still upset.” And that is an opportunity for you to go offline and show the humility that you have as a company for the issue that they went through because of something you couldn’t deliver on, or that’s something that you couldn’t provide them with.
And the great thing is we’ve seen this happen, and then you can go back once it’s settled offline and go back and say, “I’m so glad we figured this out. Your feedback has allowed us to get better as a company.” And you’ll see more of those than the enraged off their rockers. And that’s my advice on the one stars. It will hurt, it stings at first, but then you just gotta get over it. And then when you do get over it, it’s like, “Hey, let’s put our heads together and figure out like, why did that, first of all, why did that happen and what can we do to now engage with that person too? Make them understand that we feel your pain?” Like how do we solve this? Right?. So, uh, yeah. I do hate the one stars though. They are, they are, they do sting.
EMILY: They’re brutal. They’re super brutal. I feel like we covered a ton of ground. But I would be remiss if I didn’t ask someone of your level at your own company a little bit about just like the human side. So many of my entrepreneurs, they talk about how it’s lonely at the top. They talk about, if they have enough time to do the business, does that mean they don’t have time for their family? I heard you mention earlier you were full-time stay-at-home dad at one point, so I know that balance is important to you. Any advice for being the one at the top, time management, taking care of yourself, prioritizing your team, anything like that you’d wanna share with our listeners?
ALOK: It is so lonely at the top. No, I’m joking. I’m joking. I’m joking. That was a gimmick. I had to, I had to, I had to. You know, there’s a lot of books. As you can see, I’m a huge reader. I love to read, I try to read two or three books a month and just continue to educate myself on the leaders and the people that have done this before. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m figuring it out as I go. It’s not like I took a course to be a CEO or an entrepreneur or a co-founder.
These are just things that happened, I don’t wanna say it’s lonely at the top. Okay. Is it tough? Of course it’s tough cuz if it wasn’t tough, then everybody would be at the top as a CEO. And does it require a lot of patience? I think so, but more importantly it’s the person doing it.
Are you made for this? Because it’s not for everybody. And I’ve now, you know, been in a position where it’s been five years and we’re continuing to scale. We’ve raised tons of capital, we’re scaling the business and this is not for everybody. I’m lucky in the sense that my parents raised me to have very tough skin and deal with stress in a different way than other people.
I thrive under pressure. Like, I kind of live for it. Whereas most people would be like, “I can’t sleep. I don’t know what to do. I’m panicking,” and I’m like, “Yes, here we are. Three seconds left, fourth quarter, me and Brady, let’s go.” Right? Like I live for that. So I think it comes down to the individual that’s in that position.
But the other thing, and if people are listening to this and they’re like, “I am that individual.” Then my other piece of advice will be, make sure you surround yourself with an incredibly talented C-Suite – people filled with humility, enthusiasm, and that truly care about the problems you’re solving.
And I will say that my life is much easier than it should be because of my co-founders: my CTO, my VP of Engineering, and my COO. Right? It’s this team of people that truly do keep me sane. And I think we keep each other sane. Like it’s very much a two-way street. And we never take anything too seriously. We just don’t. We could be in the most intense conversation as a company and people are upset. And I will normally try to crack a really inappropriate joke. And I do because it should never get that thick, right? This isn’t our practice life. We know that, right? This is it. You get the one and you do the best you can with it.
And I just never want people to think in this company or anywhere in the world that you have to take it so damn seriously that you just can’t enjoy yourself. Like you have to enjoy it and make sure that you can crack that joke and the people around you will also laugh. And if they don’t, then maybe it’s not the right person. But making sure that you’re all on that level, it really does help. Time management is something that you can’t teach. It’s something that you have to have a militant focus on if you truly care about it, or you will end up losing things that might be important to you in your life. I’m a father of two young kids. I’m truly blessed to have the most understanding wife in the world. She’s my best friend and my number one supporter, and I’m her number one supporter. Having that is really important as well. And then just making sure that you don’t miss too much in life while you’re trying to do this role as an entrepreneur, as a CEO, right?
You just got to set those boundaries for yourself. And my advice is just read up on those that have done it and have done it well. I learn from the greats. People like Howard Schultz Starbucks. Read his book multiple times and he might not be the most adored person in the world, but you know what? He did something very impactful on a company that needed help and he did it still while maintaining an incredible relationship with his family and his kids. And that’s what I admire. People like Mark Randolph from Netflix. His thesis in his book was get to the point where you, where you know you’re successful and you’re happy. And what he did is he left and he traveled the world with his kids. And I was fortunate enough to have met him a couple of weeks ago and I said to him, “You’ve inspired me and I read your book, and I love the thesis about just finding that balance.” And so these guys have done it. I’m still trying to figure it out, right?
It can get lonely, but it only gets lonely if you make it lonely. It doesn’t have to be lonely and all this BS around…it’s hard, but if you don’t have to do it then don’t do it. You know, go do something else, right? You truly gotta love it. You gotta be in it and you’re not gonna be doing it for the rest of your life.
So while you do get to do it, don’t whine about how lonely it is. Talk about how incredible the opportunity is and how you get to inspire so many people around you and build something magical. Like that’s what it’s about. I’m tired of all the, “Oh, it’s lonely at the top.” Then go to the bottom. You know what I mean? Like you don’t have to be here.
EMILY: Totally. And you know, I think something really important that you hit on is having those people around you. And in your case, it’s this incredible C-suite. But I wanna encourage my SMBs, like that can be your friend that you grab a beer with. That can be the person who runs your cash register who you find out is huge on TikTok and could maybe help you figure out how to do social. All of these small business owners have people in their life that could help them with different elements of their business. And it’s about lowering those walls and really talking to the people around you, whether that’s your customer, your team members, whoever it is.
So that was great, and I thank you. Love recommending books. I always want my entrepreneurs to be reading more books and what better way than to focus on leaders who you think have created things that you want to emulate. I think that’s great. Yeah. Is there anything else that you wanted to talk about or mention that I didn’t tee you up about Trexity online reputation reviews, anything at all?
ALOK: I don’t want to talk about Trexity and I don’t want to talk about Yelp, but I do want to talk about very quickly this moment in time that we’re currently in, in the state of our society. And as a Canadian, I watch Lester Holt every night on NBC because I’m infatuated with what happens in America because it truly does affect Canadians. Like we are the way that we, the wave falls on us. And I just want to say to everybody out there that is either an entrepreneur or has a day job or maybe trying to find a job or having a tough time in school, these are very unruly times. This is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, right?
You see the effects on climate. You see the effects on the economy with interest rates. You see mental health is not in a great spot. You see all these things happening and I continue to try to educate my kids on this, but like this is not your practice life. We’re so fortunate as humans to get one chance to truly enjoy ourselves and be loved by the people around us, and love those that are around us and enjoy every moment the way it’s supposed to be enjoyed. And that is the way you want it to be. I just wanna tell everybody that’s listening, like, listen, these are tough times. Be the person you needed when you are where you are right now. And, I try to do that every day to the people around me. And I look at young entrepreneurs or even my kids, and I was like, “Who did I need when I was 10 years old?” I’m gonna try to be that person to my daughter, right? Or that person to my wife. And so all I ask of everybody is kindness all over the world. Enjoy yourself. This is not your practice life and truly savor every moment. We’ll get through this together as humans for sure. We’ve done way better before and I know we’ll get back to where we need to be.