E353 - The importance of building trust and creating fans instead of customers for your product | with Matthew Bertulli - Jeff Mendelson | Automation Superhero

E353 – The importance of building trust and creating fans instead of customers for your product | with Matthew Bertulli

Matt Bertulli is the CEO of eco-friendly companies LOMI and PELA, a company on a mission to eliminate 10 billion pounds of waste from global landfills by 2028. PELA has been around for over 10 years and has helped over 1 million customers make the switch to more eco-friendly products. PELA is famous for being the creators of the world’s first compostable phone case, Apple watch strap and AirPods case, and fully biodegradable sunglasses, even the lenses! Their newest venture LOMI is the must-have home appliance for anyone who cares about the environment or hates gross compost waste.

This software engineer turned marketer and entrepreneur, describes himself as a product-first CEO. Matthew believes that the best product wins, but also understands the importance of marketing and customer buy-in for a product’s longevity. His company aims to create fans, not just customers, by consistently showing up and building trust with them over time. With over 15 years of entrepreneurship experience and multiple successful ventures, Matthew continues to innovate and create eco-friendly products that resonate with customers.

He explains that the success of a product depends on the customers’ perception of its value. While some may inherently see the value of a product, others may need more persuasion to understand its benefits. Effective marketing plays a crucial role in bridging this gap and building a loyal customer base. For example, when launching Peel-a-Case, Matthew and his team tried different messaging strategies to target different audiences. They eventually found success with customers interested in the zero-waste movement. However, creating a new category or problem can be a challenging approach to building a business. 

Building a team with the same values as the company is the key to success. A company can’t expect to gain external support if it can’t even get its own team on board. This starts with creating a culture of trust and building a team that is fully committed to the mission. Trust among team members is essential for any business to work more effectively regardless of size. It’s crucial to have a team that’s not only ambitious and intelligent but also willing to learn from mistakes and work collaboratively towards a shared goal. 

The humble, hungry, and smart framework is a useful tool for evaluating potential hires, ensuring that each individual brings the right combination of skills and attitude to the team. Matthew believes that empathy and integrity are two key character traits to look for when hiring new team members. He stresses that trust is something that erodes over time, and thus, it’s pivotal to avoid the traps that can lead to that erosion. With empathy, he warns that leaders can become too focused on one person at a time and forget about the organization as a whole. He emphasizes that every good trait comes with a caveat, and it’s vital to identify the line that shouldn’t be crossed.

Matthew emphasizes the importance of allowing the mission to change and grow, rather than striving for perfection. He challenges the idea of evaluating people based on how close they are to perfection and encourages a culture where progress is valued and mistakes are seen as opportunities for learning and people are not afraid to try, Matthew has built a team that is comfortable with taking risks and pushing for progress.

It is important to do your best work within the constraints you are given, whether it be capital, team size, or calendar time. Matthew suggests that guardrails in business should be set by the rhythms of the business itself, such as weekly leadership meetings to discuss numbers and milestones. Values can also be used as a guide, but should not be relied on as hard guardrails as they are more effective as a general framework for behavior.

In this episode:

[02:00] Trust takes time and consistency, creating fans instead of customers.

  • The product-first approach requires both a great product and effective marketing.
  • Longevity and ease of use are essential factors to consider in product ideation.

[05:00] Building a strong team that shares the mission & values of a company is crucial as it 

allows for scaling and growth.

  • Creating a new category of products requires convincing people of a problem they didn’t know existed.
  • Phone cases are a highly visible product that people use frequently and show off in social settings, similar to watches or sunglasses.

[8:00] When building a leadership team, Matthew looks for people he has worked with before. 

  • He looks for people who are humble, hungry, and smart.
  • Humility is especially important for his team, as well as empathy and integrity.  

[11:00] Hiring and firing should be based on company values.

  • Good character traits come with a line that shouldn’t be crossed.
  • Not every business needs an altruistic mission statement.

[14:00] Encouraging a culture of growth and progress can help teams push toward success.

  • Perfect should not be the enemy of progress, as mistakes are valuable learning opportunities.
  • Allowing the mission to change and evolve is paramount in creating a successful company culture.

[17:00] Values are guiding principles, day-to-day execution is best served by tactical guardrails.

  • Weekly leadership meetings set guardrails for the business.
  • Understanding constraints is crucial in business.

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