Everything I've learned as Head of SME sales at FitPass - almost all of it I still implement today.
Most important ones include 3 rare and valuable lessons about people and managing high-performing teams in (sometimes) hard ways.
Here's the full story and tips on how you can do it too.
💡 FitPass is counted as one of the most successful startups in Serbia, providing access to over 650 sports facilities throughout the country for the cost of a single membership fee. The company has B2C and B2B business models and was acquired by a prominent French company in 2020.
I started working there by accident (if something like that even exists).
I entered the website to order a Fitpass card, and a job opening popped up. I didn't even consider taking another job because my previous career in the auto industry had drained me so much that I decided to take a summer off.
For some gut feeling, I sent my CV.
Literally, three days later, I got the job — the shortest interview of my life. I was shocked.
No numerous iterations, no bullshit stories, and everything was straight to the point.
I was the 17th employee in the company, which grew so much that it had expanded to other countries by the time I left.
I started as a Corporate Sales Manager.
During my first two years, we achieved astonishing results.
Our teams expanded, and our internal culture revolved around employees.
It was challenging to convince people that working at a Serbian company was different from what they might have expected, given the negative stories that circulated about Serbian bosses, for example.
However, our reputation started to change, and word spread beyond our company (if anyone attended our parties, they would know what I am talking about) 😀
We received hundreds of job applications at some point, not because of parties but because of the value they can gain by working with us.
And that is how I've reached lesson #1:
Take a gut feeling seriously and take a chance even if you "decide" otherwise. Great things can happen if you listen to your real-feel-self.
After two years, at 28, I become a Head of SME Sales.
I didn't even want that role, but Ognjen didn't even ask me.
💡 Ognjen Radić was owner & CEO of FitPass. It's a pleasure to say that I consider him a dear friend now.
One day, he called me to his office and said, "Come back after the meeting; you are taking a Head of SME role."
If you know him, this actually makes a lot of sense.
He is the most straightforward guy in the world (That’s the reason why I had the shortest job interview ever). And on the other side, he was fully aware that I would try to skip that promotion.
I was in an awful place with my personal life; I had just started to visit a therapist and didn't feel enough strength to take a high-management position.
He was aware of that.
With his encouragement and the support of some colleagues and friends, I took the position and started leading a team of three people, not counting me.
At this point, I've reached my #2 lesson learned:
Believe in people when you struggle. You may be amazed at how much support you can receive, even if you didn't consider it possible.
Taking on a new role with people who were just your coworkers two minutes ago can be tricky.
I was afraid that based on my first actions, they would think, "What does she think she is."
So, first, I analyzed the team's actual performance and started writing internal standard operating procedures (SOPs).
SOPs are the best way to start anything. Document everything. And change rules through time.
While writing these SOPs, I talked with each team member to understand their perspective, even though I already understood how things worked.
The SOPs outlined every step someone should take to accomplish key performance indicators (KPIs).
In sales, success is not just about hitting targets.
This is the end goal, but it is also essential to add value through knowledge, understanding the type of person you're dealing with, and striving to get the best deal for both the salesperson and the customer in the sales process.
The SOP structure I use to this day is confidently structured in a way that has proven successful (at Omnius, too).
Daily & Weekly Timelines
I began by creating a timeline for working hours and determining how much time should be spent on outreach, calls, and exploring potential clients.
If someone does not respond after the third email, let them be, schedule a reminder for another contact in three months, and focus on new potential clients now.
Organizational skills are among the top 5 things you need to master in business — no matter the position.
Effective communication with clients is crucial.
In fact, one salesperson on my team acted as a mini-project manager for their clients, serving as the single point of contact for all needs and issues.
You need to know your client and act according to that.
The second point concerns how team members communicate and treat colleagues in other departments.
Internal communication is often overlooked, yet it is crucial.
In every company, work is interconnected. If one person is late, it can delay everyone else.
Therefore, it's important to take responsibility for oneself and the teams as a whole, as we all share the goal of happy clients, which translates to more revenue, higher salaries, and other benefits for everyone.
It's as simple as that.
I remember when the Head of Operations called me to a quick meeting to explain that one of my team members had an attitude toward his team. I was furious.
But I didn't point to that person; I pointed to the whole team.
Result: They resolved that among themselves without needing me to have a massive explanation of why that is not the way of behavior to others.
It's really fascinating to see how people's behavior shifts when they're in a group working on the same problem.
They strive to improve and encourage one another, even if the situation is not great.
They probably think that I consider them idiots, but in reality, I simply wrote step-by-step processes that appeared that way, to be honest.
I still believe it's the best way to avoid future misunderstandings.
And boy, it can be misunderstood.
For example, when a client agrees to a contract (this is a rough explanation because there are a lot of detailed sublists, but you get the point):
1. Ask for contract details - Company name, number, address, etc.
2. Let your manager know - Ask for advice if needed.
3. Send the contract proposal - Some companies experience a lot of back-and-forth due to legal barriers.
4. Ask for additional information from the client - In the FP case, a list of people to make cards.
When they sign the contract:
1. Take off the contract to Finance Department - email all the details explained.
2. Make a Task for Operations Department - use the PM tool to give them every information they need to do their job.
3. CELEBRATE WITH YOUR TEAM.
At some point, even with this list, we had issues with "I forgot that, I forgot this." So my solution was to do a test, as in school.
The entire team got tested the processes to determine what actions to take and when to take them.
I'm not kidding. They thought I had gone crazy (again).
However, that test, checked with a red pen at the end, was a positive breaking point for what was coming in the future.
Also, when making final output timelines, they must consider other teams' obligations.
Other departments are not someone's service providers but colleagues.
The #3 thing I learned:
Michael Jordan once said, "Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships." This statement is so true that I don't have better words to explain its point.
Five months later, the coronavirus became our reality. Our future that a mentioned earlier.
You can imagine how "interesting" it was in the fitness business and employee benefits.
Still, on the first wind of it, before the official lockdown, Ognjen wrote us on Slack something that I will have as a PrintScreen for life - the essential point was, "Nobody is gonna be laid off, and please call me if you need anything any time."
When everything was fucked up, as at the end of the sixth season of GOT for most people, we felt safe.
You can't put a price tag on that.
Therefore, our goal was clear: do whatever it takes to retain the clients and get FitPass back on track. Or save the one Kingdom that we had.
Being responsible for people during those times was beyond challenging, and most of the time, I hadn't an idea what to do.
I often listened to a gut feeling made by my experience until that point or consulted other managers because nobody can be prepared for that circumstance.
That were scary times and revealed the best and worst in us.
From March to September, it was a rollercoaster.
We lost some clients but gained new ones (believe it or not). We experienced emotional and business struggles. We buried the hatchet of war and opened new ones.
But we survived in the end.
And knowledge from that period is invaluable at all levels.
In October, I decided it was time to say goodbye.
It is no secret that the reason for my departure is Ognjen's announcement of leaving the CEO position and the company. I believed at that point that FitPass would be different with the new management. Unfortunately, I was correct (from my point of view).
The #4 thing I learned is:
Sometimes, unpleasant decisions bring about the most growth. Fear is not the worst thing; it is the promoter of pushing you outside your comfort zone, and a whole new world exists beyond it.
These lessons positively improved me, but there were also:
- Days I didn't want to go to work. 🛌🏽
- Days when I couldn't stand some of my colleagues. 🙅🏽♀️
- Some I still can't stand. Sorry, but no, sorry. 🤷🏽♀️
- Days when my team will piss me off more than my mom (Love you, mom ❤️)
- Days, when the results were produced were awful.
- Days when I laid off someone. Still the most unpleasant feeling ever. 📴
- Days when I ended a call with clients by saying, "Fuck off." Not to them, of course. 📲
- Nights that I didn't sleep due to stress.
- Days I rather want to forget.
But about that some other time.
All of this led me to this point now.
Anyone who opens their own business knows the stress, work hours, sleepless nights, and excitement it brings.
My FP experience has prepared me for this Omnius Journey.
Building a team from scratch is no small feat.
Our team has grown from zero to 18 members in less than two years.
From the start, everyone has the same chance and is treated equally, the same as members who work on client projects. Every leave happens in the first two months, so the ones who stay are still with us.
Building the right team is essential; getting here has been a crazy path. Nevertheless, we know that they will put in extra effort without us having to ask. And they will be compensated for that without having to ask.
We have from the first day:
- SOP for every department
- Onboarding documents for newbies
- Knowledge base available to everyone
- Full support to our teams
- Scrum meetings every week.
We gain associates, not employees.
Communication is the key to Omnius.
Clients are not always right, but our job is to explain what is better for them.
This means we consider them partners and want to support their growth. We don't want to just say yes to the dress because they paid for the service.
I don’t like to talk about our clients, I believe their words speak louder than ours.
Let me put it this way: I was so demanding of prompt communication via Slack that my team never let me get away with forgetting to respond in a thread and leaving it in the channel.
To enhance the company's communication, values, and the overall system, consider establishing the initial internal SOPs in the following order.
These are just some examples (expand every point as you wish), and if it's not resonating with you, consider trying other options.
1. Social Code
Make a framework about everything you consider a must at your company:
- Saying sorry is not a sign of weakness but one of strength.
- Address behavior, don't label people.
- Blameless problem-solving.
2. Values & Mindset
Make a framework that explains what you appreciate and requires of people:
- Measure results, not hours.
- We hire people based on their trajectory, not their pedigree.
- We expect team members to complete the tasks that they are assigned.
3. Making Decisions
Make a framework that describes how your organization and its people should make decisions:
- Complex problems often don't have a single cause and won't be fixed by a single solution.
- We rarely, if ever, have perfect and complete information before deciding.
- The 'goal' is not a specific outcome; the goal is a consistent improvement over long periods.
Make a framework for transparent communication practices that suit your business:
- Communicate major company announcements that impact everyone in the company or team.
- Communicate information quickly to ensure employee safety and minimize risk and impact.
- Set rules on how you expect people to communicate with other teammates.
- Set rules for how you expect people to communicate with team leads.
And this is my favorite - Don't refer to Omnius as a family.
It's lovely that our team is close-knit, and we should encourage this as it strengthens our team. However, it's essential to acknowledge that families and teams are different.
- Families are united by their relationship and prioritize maintaining that relationship.
- Teams are formed to accomplish a task and prioritize completing that task. Let's not prioritize the relationship over the task.
Additionally, families don't have an offboarding process; they thrive on unconditional love, while teams operate on conditional love. The best companies support their employees like families. Believing that our team is our family can create undue pressure, such as feeling obligated to work on holidays because "this office is like a family."
If you have questions about this, feel free to write me.
Out of the comfort zone.
Two years ago, I would have been ready to shoot you if you had asked me why I hadn't started my business.
The story of "knowing as a kid that I want to be my own boss" wasn’t resonated with me. No podcast, book, or career success has ever changed my mind.
But then, I met Matija. His persistence can be studied scientifically, I guarantee.
Honestly, I don't remember when I agreed to join this journey. The journey may have picked me along the way. For the rest of the projects, I don't have an excuse. 😃
Matija is the co-founder of Omnius and the creator of a marketing agency business idea.
He likes from 0 to 10 & I from 10 to 100.
We both launched ourselves into the stratosphere from our comfort zone on that scale.
He and the rest of the team (Sergio, our beloved CMO, I didn't forget you) are the main reason I got into this lovely entrepreneur mess, but I often think that everything prepared me for it before. It may not be Mat's fault after all.
But hey, when all's said and done, I wouldn't trade Omnius' ride for anything in the world.
Welcome to Omnius Experience, the agency that puts people first and encourages growth in every possible way.