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With Scott Orn

A Startup Podcast by Kruze Consulting

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Scott Orn

Scott Orn, CFA

Ian White of ChartHop on bringing transparency to your organization

Posted on: 10/14/2020

Ian White

Ian White

Founder and CEO/CTO - ChartHop

Ian White of ChartHop - Podcast Summary

Ian White is the Founder & CEO of ChartHop, an Org Chart Tool & more that brings transparency to your organization. With ChartHop, you can automatically create and update org charts, build headcount plans, and analyze all your people data in one central hub, no spreadsheets needed.

Ian White of ChartHop - Podcast Transcript

Singer: (Singing) It’s Kruze Consulting’s Founders and Friends, with your host Scotty Orn.
Scott: Welcome to Founders and Friends Podcast with Scott Orn at Kruze Consulting. And today my very special guest is Ian White of ChartHop. Welcome, Ian.
Ian: Hi, Scott. Great to be here.
Scott: Ah, thanks. Well, I’m a huge fan of your company. I’m so excited. Maybe you can just give everyone kind of the quick retrace your career and how you had the idea for ChartHop?
Ian: Sure. You know, I’ve been building tech my whole life. Started programming because I wanted to make computer games for myself back in the day. I’ve been building tech startups primarily in New York City for a while now. Built some media tech startups many years ago. One of them was Business Insider, where I was the first head of engineering. I joined when we were probably seven or eight people, and built it into one of the highest trafficked websites in the world. From there, I left BI to start a company called Sailthru, and Sailthru was a personalized marketing platform that we basically started with two founders, and we went from two people to 200 in less than three years. And for me, for my role as founding CTO, my responsibilities quickly changed, right? From what I had done previously of running a small team or, you know, designing a system and helping a small group of engineers scale that system up. Suddenly the challenged I faced was not scaling the technology, but scaling the organization that we were building. And both of those companies had positive outcomes. I was consulting and working with some different companies, and I saw that large and small, everyone had this problem of the organization management. The people management side of the business. We don’t have great tools or technology to help do what’s actually the most important thing. The only thing that’s going to matter if you’re building a business is actually going to be the success of the organization that you build. How you promote. How you level. The roles you assign. How you build a hiring plan. How you compensate. How you build inclusion and equity across the organization. And there wasn’t any great software to do it. So I basically went and built the thing that I wish I had had when I was scaling my previous companies. And that’s ChartHop, and we launched it a couple years ago, raised our seed round last year, and we just announced our Series A lead by Andreessen Horowitz.
Scott: Yeah, congratulations. And you’re right, like the people side of it, and the organizational side of it are really all that matters. And I really kind of appreciate that now. We’re at 65 people, which is … I’ve never run a company before Kruze. I was always an investor. So I got to live in the pie in the sky world and PowerPoint world, and never actually had to really do it. And now that I’m actually running something, I realize how important it is. I’m not sure if this is your guys’ tagline or I made this up in my own head, but ChartHop brings clarity to the organizational structure. And it’s like, when you start running something and it starts getting bigger, it’s super important for the executive team, but it’s also super important for the team members, so they know what’s going on. They know who’s reporting to who. They know all the relationships. And we’re super lucky, we’re probably your smallest customer, your service is for much bigger companies than us, but we get to use it. And I’m just so excited about it. It’s a real big step forward.
Ian: I think it’s important for everyone to understand one single view of the organization, right? Every person who works at a company, big or small, should understand their role in it, if somebody emails them from around the globe, where does this person work, who do they report to, what’s their role and responsibility? That builds alignment and that builds transparency, too. You’d be amazed how many companies, people either keep the org chart secret or people literally don’t know who works with who. And what we found is, you know, obviously our product is great for executives, leaders, managers, who are planning the organization. We do headcount planning, and compensation planning, and performance management, and all these things, but the usage, the user activity, the people who log into the system, yes, executives log in the most, but up and down the entire organization everybody wants to have better context, transparency, and access to information. And so, especially now we’re all working remote, you know, the usage for companies that are now spread out around the world is massive. We have just everyone from the CEO to summer interns logging into ChartHop on a daily basis.
Scott: I totally agree, and like … Well, we can cover the downside scenario of not using ChartHop, but when people are logging in, I think the other thing … When I first got introduced to ChartHop, I was thinking just visualizing an org chart. And that was cool, and that would be helpful. But also, you guys load a ton of information into the kind of people inside the org chart. Do you want to kind of explain what it looks like and some of the functionality in the tool?
Ian: Yeah. I mean, this is really where I started with it was, you know, back in my last companies, I would want to pull together information, whether it was even just literally understanding the growth of the engineering team, from who was on the engineering team last year, how they’ve been promoted since then, how’s their compensation changed, what is diversity or representation look like? All that information, we had it somewhere. It was usually in our HRAS or payroll system. But those systems are good at storing data, they’re not really as good at giving, as a leader, giving you the information that you really need. So I was pulling all this information out of spreadsheets. I had a million spreadsheets. I had a spreadsheet with a tab of, this is what the team looked like in March, this is what the team looked like in April. And, you know, it’s not only just inefficient to pull all this together, it’s also not really how we think. Right? When we’re thinking about planning the organization, when we think about org structure, we should think about it visually. That’s why people spend so much time building the PowerPoints for the board decks that have the org chart on them. Because this is how we … You know, we’re visual creatures. This is how we think about things. So the idea to be able to look at an org chart, and not just see what department someone is in, but actually superimpose things like compensation or performance or who’s a retention risk. Or being able to see the diversity of the organization, being able to see, not just how many women do we have in the organization or how many historically underrepresented groups, but how many do we have in leadership? How many do we have in management? Being able to visually see it, tells this really powerful story. And in so many ways, across so many other areas of the business, we’ve got all these great business visualizations for things like, if I want to get a visualization of my servers I can go into DataDog.
Scott: Yeah.
Ian: But why don’t I have the information at my fingertips to understand the organization I’m building and my people? So being able to pull from all these different systems and have one place that you can go, and then slice and dice the data by any dimension is really, really powerful, and actually empowering for our customers and our users.
Scott: I love it. I couldn’t agree more. And even talking, once you get kind of the base visualization, you can see what’s happening, the really cool thing about ChartHop too, is you get like … You can run kind of cases. You can basically … Like sensitivity analysis, or essentially like, hey, what if we hired five people in this group? Or what if we hired five people in that group? What does it do to our entire organization? What does it do to our stats? What does it do to our equity and diversity inclusion? These hypotheticals, I think, are really, really powerful. Because again, people default to spreadsheets for planning, but that’s not really how we really think. It’s way easier to plan visually and run hypothetically visually. Does that make sense?
Ian: Absolutely. The thing is, we think about, why do we need information at all, right? Why do we need to know anything? It’s so that we can help plan and forecast, and make better decisions. This year has been, you know, sort of poster child for why an annual plan is not sufficient planning. You need the ability to, you know … Any annual plan for 2020 that was approved by the board in December 2019, basically got torn up by the end of Q1. So, companies need, what everyone needs, is the ability to be able to plan flexibly, responsively. And move to a continuous planning mode. And again that, to some degree, comes back to the quality of the tools that we have at our disposal, right? You know, if it’s a big pain to go and fetch all this information and model it and do what if scenarios, then the only team that’s going to do it is the FPNA team. But if it’s actually you have one place, and this was very core to the data model and the way I engineered ChartHop from the beginning is, to be able to … You know, in the code world we have the idea of version control, right? You can branch and get. You can create a mole request, which is a set of changes you can merge back against the primary code base. I wanted to create the same thing for organizational planning where … Being able to jump into a what if scenario. Being about to say, what does it look like if we hire five more people? Or what does it look like if we give these ten people this promotion? The act of doing that could be … Takes seconds to put together. Not making it a big project, but actually putting the ability to ask and answer those questions in everyone’s hands. So, you know, I actually think we can transform the way organizations run through having a better way to plan and forecast and design their organization as they grow.
Scott: Yeah. I totally agree. Anyone like me, who’s ever over hired, in the past, didn’t realize I was over hiring.
Ian: Join the club.
Scott: Two months later, this really resonates with, because we’ve done it, we messed up. We over hired. There’s one time like three years ago, where we just totally over hired, and it was so painful. And if we would have had a better planning tool … And really, the secret for us … Again, we’re accountants, so we’re really good with numbers, we just didn’t have a visualization tool to really kind of understand exactly what we were committing to. So that’s huge. And then, we didn’t really talk about this that much, but the potential for miscommunication if people don’t really know who they’re working with, or who they’re reporting to, is really profound. And it doesn’t just cost money or time to explain, but it creates a sense of unease in the team members. And you don’t, like the last thing you want people doing is wondering if they’re even talking to the right person, or reporting to the right person, or what’s going … You know? Does this person have authority? It’s just like table stakes. You know? Any healthy well-run organization should have that buttoned down. And Vanessa and I, I think I told you this, but we vowed every time someone gets promoted at Kruze Consulting now, we are just going to show the org chart, so everyone clearly understands exactly what’s happened and who they’re reporting to. Because just those miscommunications can really stink. It’s not fun.
Ian: Yeah, I think that was definitely one of the more important lessons for me as we grew. Because it’s normal. It happens at a fast-growing company. Everything is changing so quickly, roles, responsibilities are changing. And communicating, you know, as an executive, you have to repeat the same thing over and over. And it’s really, really important to do, because people need to hear things, and sometimes you make a change, and if you don’t communicate to every single person, every single stakeholder, why that change has happened, then it creates not only confusion and dis-alignment, but it can create a mistrust, right? Because often people, when they don’t have information, they’ll fill in the gaps with their own worst imaginings about what’s really going on. Right? If somebody leaves the company, let’s say, and leadership isn’t being transparent about that, or is sort of … I see startups do this a lot, wanting to kind of downplay that or cover that up, or run away from it. Then people distrust the motivations of what has actually happened. And goes even more so for promotions, right? If people are being promoted, that’s a moment actually to celebrate across the company. And acknowledge. And sometimes through no fault of anyone’s … No malicious intention. People just don’t have that information communicated to where it should be, and by having a single place where everyone’s logging in, everyone’s looking at the same view of the organization, if someone’s manager changes, somebody’s role changes, that’s visible. And we actually very consciously surface things like promotions on the dashboard of ChartHop. Customers configure that if they don’t want to show them there, but being able to really see it has really brought a whole amount of alignment. And you know, because we work with small companies, we work with large companies, but so many of our customers are really in just hyper growth mode when we’re looking at it. It felt like over the last couple every other one of our customers was raising a $100 million round.
Scott: That’s a great problem.
Ian: When you’re moving quickly, it becomes so much, so important, to communicate, get everybody swimming and rowing in the same direction. And the importance of a tool that provides that transparency to the organization only grows.
Scott: I love it. I love it. If I can even just add to that, even especially in the remote kind of error that we’re in right now, we’re totally remote. We’re 100% remote. We have been for two years. We still have a couple offices. But that sense of, am I missing something? Do I not quite understand what’s going on in our organization structure? It can be even worse in a remote structure. So, I just think, I mean, I think you built … Like you didn’t know this was going to happen, obviously, two years ago when you started the company, but you built the defacto tool for our new era.
Ian: Absolutely. No, I think that’s exactly right on. In a remote or distributed environment, it becomes that much more important to have … Writing things down is important, right?
Scott: Yeah, that’s a good way of saying …
Ian: Having a place that people can just check and look, and understand, and get information themselves. Having those shared resources is so important. You know, one of our customers is InVision, which has been fully remote, I think, their whole life. They initially signed up for us because they wanted to have an org chart, a place that everyone could come together and see the state of the organization. And what we found is, they collectively use that tool, the CEO emailed me saying, hey, I actually use this. This has had a transformative impact on how I operate the business. Even more so than any other SAS tool we use.
Scott: Wow.
Ian: And obviously, when we signed up one of the larger remote organizations, we didn’t expect that suddenly the lessons and learnings from that type of organization would become ones that everyone would have to use. That everyone would have to rapidly learn that. But that’s part of what’s really driven our growth post pandemic is it’s just been … It’s become so clear that people need an organizational source of truth for the whole company.
Scott: Yeah. Yeah, you wouldn’t try to run a sales team without using Salesforce or something like Salesforce, but we’ve all been running our companies for many, many years without that source of truth and place to go for our organizational structure and people. So, I think you nailed it, this is going to be really awesome.
Ian: Yeah. Well, I mean, think about it, like Salesforce, when Salesforce first came into being, it was not necessarily something people thought they needed, a CRM, right? But now, you would never think of operating without it.
Scott: Yeah.
Ian: It’s the same thing with ChartHop. Once you have an org management platform, and once you’re used to having that alignment, and transparency, and visibility, and access to data, and ability to plan and forecast, there’s no going back. I think every company is going to wind up using a org management platform. It’s a fundamental change, because we’re now in a new world that there’s no return to the previous normal.
Scott: Yeah, for sure. And for those who don’t know this, I think it’s helpful, ChartHop syncs with your payroll provider?
Ian: That’s right.
Scott: So, like for us, we run on Rippling, and so, ChartHop pulls all of the people in our payroll system into ChartHop, and brings all this visualization, single source of truth, all that stuff. Because people might be listening to this and not know that you guys actually sync with pretty much all the major payroll providers.
Ian: Pretty much everything. We’ve got about 30 integrations. Everything from PEOs like TriNet up to enterprise, great products like Workday, and everything in between. And not just payroll, right. We sync with Carta, we sync with Slack, we sync with the applicant tracking system, like Greenhouse or a Lever. We sync with Okta and G Suite, identity management. We really try to bring everything together so that within under an hour after signing up … You know, usually migrating HR systems is just this massive, massive undertaking. We try to make it really, really easy to be able to get started with ChartHop. And when you first see your org chart in this really visual way, the first time you can bring together total compensation in one place, because usually people are tracking … Maybe they’ve got base pay in their payroll system, maybe they’ve got the list of everybody’s bonuses in the spreadsheet somewhere, and they’ve got Carta tracking their equity grants. Being able to pull all that together to be able to get a total view of total compensation for every employee, and then being able to slice and dice that by anything from level, role, position, geography, or demographics, is really, really powerful. And there’s sort of this magical moment when people first turn on these syncs with ChartHop. They’re like, how did I never have this before?
Scott: It’s so, so true. I have to say, we are a little undermanned in operations. So I’m looking forward to the Slack integration like you wouldn’t believe. Because I think also people, it’ll make that meeting super easy. And you know exactly who you’re talking to, you have all their background. Like I said, ChartHop loads a lot of information on the person, which is super cool. There’s something, you also were just saying there about kind of demographics, understanding who’s really working in the company. I think one of the coolest things is just your guys commitment to the inclusion and diversity. We’ve really strived for that since day one, really. But I think there’s some … A mentor of mine told me this little piece of wisdom a long time ago. He said people from diverse backgrounds are not going to work at your company if you don’t already have people from diverse backgrounds working there. They want to make sure you’ve already made that commitment and if they see people that look and sound like them, it’s a lot easier to recruit more people like that. And I think this is one of the under-utilized things about ChartHop, being able to visualize everyone, and seeing everyone’s faces, knowing exactly kind of who you have working at your company and being able to run reports on that, I think is just going to actually accelerate diversity at a lot of companies that maybe want to do it, but maybe don’t know how, quite. Or just need a little bit … Need a tool that’ll make it a little bit easier for them. Do you know what I mean?
Ian: I think that’s right on. You know, a lot of companies in early days, maybe because the founder went to their initial network of people who they knew, they can wind up maybe a really homogenous early group. And as a result, incur diversity debt, right? And get to 20 people or 50 people or 100 people, and start saying, oh, you know what, this company isn’t very diverse. We now need to start looking for people of color. We need to start looking for more women on our engineering team. And all of a sudden, this becomes this, oh, we’re going to scramble to do a big initiative. But what you really want to do is think intentionally, from the beginning, and look at your metrics. Understand where you are. Maybe you’re not where you want to be. But really own those metrics. Not hire a outside consultant to tell you what your metrics are. But share those metrics, right? Put those in front of the board. Put those in front of the employee base. Help everybody understand where you are. Because what gets measured gets managed. And it’s like anything else, if you sort of say, hey, you know, we have a diversity problem, and we’re going to work on this. But then you don’t actually share the numbers, you’re not actually measuring your progress, that doesn’t build a trust or a healthy environment. Or create a lot of accountability for solving the problem, and ultimately doing what you want to do, which is build a better, more diverse team with more people from different backgrounds. Nobody likes to feel alone. And I think anything that can help build a sense of belonging and inclusion is really something we’re always shooting for. You know, we just rolled out a feature, yesterday actually, which came from a customer, which is being able to record your name, and the pronunciation of your name.
Scott: Oh. That’s so smart! That’s so smart.
Ian: Then you can just play. You know, you think about someone who has a name that maybe gets mispronounced, especially in a remote environment where people are typing over Slack, it’s actually really powerful today, hey, this is the way you say my name. And give a way that people can share that. So, we’re always really thinking about that, and I think this year especially with the Black Lives Matter movement, there’s just been a lot more awareness, and a willingness to confront issues in the tech industry. And companies are looking for the right way to approach these issues. And a place to start is visualizing your organization, understanding the metrics, and being able to track those metrics, and that’s what we want to help with.
Scott: I love it. And just to add to your what gets measured gets improved or built upon. I agree with that so much. But you can actually create a lot of excitement, even if you’re starting from a place where you’re not diverse enough, but you’ve made that commitment. And you start sharing the metrics, and you start sharing the good news, that you are hiring great people with diverse backgrounds, and people can kind of see the growth curve of that single initiative, it can become really empowering. Everyone wants to join the winning team, right? And once people see that it’s staring to bear fruit, then they’re more apt to join in, help out, introduce a friend, spread the word, you know? So, I just think there’s so many good things that come from this transparency. I’m just really excited for you, and I’m really excited for the company, because I think two or three years from now, we’re going to be replaying this podcast, and be like, oh my god. Listen to Ian talk when ChartHop was still a relatively small company, and now they’re just, you know, they’re becoming the standard across the industry. So, couldn’t be more excited. There’s one thing I want to just also cover, which I think is a pretty new feature for you. But something that resonates with us because we’re still doing it the old school way, which is performance reviews and compensation reviews. And maybe you can just spend a minute or two just kind of talking about that functionality, because I was telling you before we turned the mics on, I’m an accountant. I should have a better way of doing this, but I’m still doing it in like Google Sheets, not the best way. And then our performance reviews, we’re kind of using an Airtable combo, instead of using like a real kind of rock-solid system. So, maybe let the audience know what’s possible with ChartHop on comp reviews and also performance reviews.
Ian: Yeah, these are both processes that in a lot of cases have been spreadsheets, Google forms, Airtable, some of the HRASs will have some bolt on products for these. They’re usually not a lot of fun to use. And then there’s some vertical solutions that provide just performance or just compensation planning. Those tend to be systems that people don’t really want to log into until the HR team tells them to. Because it’s not linked to their day-to-day. It’s not linked to all the other things that they’re doing. So, what we shot for with both our performance and our compensation products is that these things do not exist in silos. Performance is inextricable from compensation. At a good company they should be linked together. And being able to understand data that you get back from performance and compensation review is really important. And we want to be able to have something that scales to small and large companies. We’ve found that by being able to pull the data, being able to collect the data in this really flexible way … So, we’ve accommodated all kinds of different use cases because of the flexibility of the platform, any kinds of questions people want to ask, whether it’s continuous feedback or periodic feedback, we can then pull all that data, and now you can slice and dice. What’s your turnover rate look like for your top performers vs. Your bottom performers, right?
Scott: Oh, that’s pretty cool.
Ian: That’s a really, really important thing to measure. You know, not just performance … Not just turnover and not just the turnover that you’ve retroactively scored as regrettable, but ahead of time, who are your top performers? How are you compensating them? How well a job do you do at promoting them? And how well do you do at retaining them? Having that all in one system where in real time we can get feedback on all of that is really important. And obviously, performance, compensation, both things that people tend to run, like headcount planning, they tend to run it in annual or periodic, maybe twice a year, maybe four times a year, types of processes. By being able to make some of those processes continuous is really powerful. So, for example, we have a one on one check in. You can score how you’re doing. This is all configurable, by the way. But we can do a one to five rating on how you’re doing. And then you can actually see on the org chart, actually visualize what areas, what pockets of the organization are struggling right now, and which pockets of the organization are doing well. And then, over time as you’re tracking metrics, you can tie feedback and performance to things like turnover. You can also slice and dice by demographics, right? Let’s make sure that we don’t have bias perhaps in how performance ratings are being assigned between different groups. Let’s make sure when we’re doing compensation planning, that we can plan not just based in equity but also tie that to performance, tie that to levels. Having all of this in one system is really, really powerful, and actually can change the way people operate. And there haven’t been any great attempts to pull all of this together, which is why so many people resort to spreadsheets as workarounds for these processes.
Scott: First of all, I didn’t know you had the one on one scoring, which is so amazing. We actually, again, built like an Airtable tool to do that for us as a company. But we don’t have it … It sits in the silo. Like we don’t really have a way to mine that very easily. So that’s really cool. But I think the other thing I’m hearing is that you’re kind of constantly reinforcing that people can be using the tool in many different ways, but they’re kind of in it. And I like that, because especially for the reviews and compensation stuff, people tend to use it a couple times a year. And they kind of forget how you use it, or they don’t know how it works, or they need a tutorial, or whatever. And they just don’t feel very comfortable. And that kind of lends itself to that sense of dread to doing reviews or doing compensation reviews. And so, I like that it’s kind of building a habit of doing pushups every day, you know? If I’m using ChartHop every day for a bunch of other stuff, then when it comes time for the performance review, I know how the system works. And I know I’ve been doing one on ones with it a bunch, and so it’s just nice and easy. It just makes the whole process a lot better.
Ian: It makes it so much more fluid, you know? What we keep kind of finding is, customers keep sort of … Because the system is designed in a really flexible way, you can build anything on top of ChartHop, I think. We’ve been called the Minecraft of HR software.
Scott: Awesome, that’s a compliment.
Ian: [crosstalk]. You know? If you right now go to your ChartHop, you can install a bundle for an engagement survey. Or for those one on one check ins. We’ve had people do Covid test tracking in the system.
Scott: Oh my god.
Ian: You really can, anything that you might have done with a spreadsheet or a form, you can actually pull into ChartHop. And it’s almost like this sort of low code type of experience for someone who doesn’t know how to program and doesn’t need to, to be able to build whatever they need. You know, a lot of systems going and adding a new custom field and functionality can take months. Being able to just go into ChartHop and say, hey, this is a survey, or this is something I want to measure, and something I want to report on, and be able to put it together in minutes is really, really powerful. And it just unlocks all these different use cases that maybe I didn’t even imagine when I started building this [inaudible]. I certainly didn’t build in a Covid 19 module, that’s for …
Scott: Yeah. The Minecraft analogy is so perfect though, because it’s … I mean, even look, on this podcast, I’m discovering things I didn’t even know that I could do with it, that I can’t wait to do, so … Well, I want to be respectful of your time, thank you so much. Maybe you can let everyone know how they can reach out to you, how they can reach out to ChartHop. If someone’s a potential customer, what channel do they go through? Maybe just give the background on that?
Ian: Absolutely. Just go to ChartHop.com, or follow us on Twitter. The handle’s ChartHop. Or you can email me, Ian@ChartHop. We’re hiring, by the way. We did just raise the Series A round, but business has been accelerating in the last few months because of the pandemic. And we’re hiring in roles ranging from engineering to customer facing roles, support, marketing, really you name it. Take a look at our website, and we definitely are looking to expand the team, and we’re very remote friendly, of course, because we use ChartHop.
Scott: I love it. I love it. Well, I’m a happy customer. Now I’ve got a little bit of homework, but it’s like good homework. [inaudible] implement. Ian, thanks so much for your time. And I really mean what I said about, I think we’re going to look back like two years from now and just be like holy smokes, what a great moment for the company, in a tough time for everybody else, I think you’re making a lot of people’s lives a lot easier. And just more fruitful at work. And improving the work environment just really helps people in so many different ways. So, thanks for all you’re doing. Also want to give a quick shout out to your support team at ChartHop. Just delightful people to work with. When I was syncing the rippling thing, I accidentally … I didn’t see a portion of my screen, and they were so patient with me. The little code or number I needed was right there staring at me the whole time, and so, just delightful support team, thank you so much. And appreciate everything ChartHop’s doing for Kruze.
Ian: Thanks so much. I’m glad you’ve got a happy customer. And, yeah, I really appreciate that. The support and customer success team is fantastic. I think it’s an important part of any SAS product is not just that the products be great, but that the team behind it be great too. And they really do great work with all our customers.
Scott: I love it. All right, man, thank you so much.
Ian: Thank you so much, Scott.
Singer: (Singing) It’s Kruze Consulting’s Founders and Friends, with your host Scotty Orn.

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