Today, we are interviewing our Head of Western Sales: Joseph Shin. During his 20-year career, he successfully led sales teams at both a startup and enterprise companies. Now he joined oVice to drive the company’s Western market expansion and introduce global organization leaders to the platform.
In Part I of the interview, Joe will share his journey to joining oVice and talk about his approach to using the platform for sales management and talent ramp-up.
Tell us about yourself and your role at oVice
I have over 20 years of experience in sales and sales management predominantly in New York City, but five years ago I moved to Japan to start a new life there. I spent a couple of years as a technology advisor but I am now back in a sales management role at oVice.
I am heading up sales in Western markets which currently means everything outside of Japan although my focus will eventually be the US.
Can you describe your career path before joining oVice?
I started in hardware sales at RICOH, and around 2000, I made the move into managed hosting services. The company I worked at, Digex, is no longer in existence but they were one of the pioneers in the space now dominated by AWS and Azure.
Following the dot-com bust, I went back to RICOH where I had my first opportunity in sales management.
The interesting thing about this company was that, although it wasn’t a SaaS company, in a lot of ways it was very similar: web-deployed and MRR-focused. The teams we had in place were pretty much what SaaS companies have today with the exception that the product team was made up of lawyers instead of engineers.
After three years, Practical Law was acquired by Thomson Reuters, at which point I took over the team for the Western US. At the end of 2016, the company asked me to relocate which I considered, but, after spending my entire adult life in New York, I had a hard time imagining myself in any other city.
I always thought that the one other city I would love to live in was Tokyo. I had been going there every year since 2000, my mother is Japanese, and I have a lot of friends in Japan. Coincidentally, as I was considering relocation, friends of mine from Tokyo were visiting New York. After talking with them, I came to the conclusion that, if I had to uproot my life anyway, I might as well take this chance to finally move to Japan.
At first, I was going to learn Japanese and see if I liked living there. I ended up finding a position at Robert Half in their Management Resources division so I decided to stay. At Robert Half, I worked on business development and did a few consulting engagements.
For my next role, I joined Nishimura & Asahi as a technology advisor. There, I was introduced to oVice.
My initial reaction was that it was interesting but maybe not essential. However, I soon realized the benefits.
For one, I found it much easier to come into the space and have a quick conversation rather than spend a lot of time figuring out how to word something correctly in writing.
Also, I noticed that some people would stay in the space all day long. When I asked why they said they were lonely at home and liked the thought of being “together” with other people. Having the opportunity to use oVice for about six months allowed me to see its potential and was certainly one of the reasons why I decided to join the company.
What else motivated you to join the project?
Ever since I moved to Japan, one of my original objectives was to find a Japanese company that is expanding overseas. With oVice, I got that opportunity and I like the idea of trying to become one of the first Japanese SaaS companies to really do well in the West.
I liked the people that I spoke with, including the CEO, the CTO, and the operations manager. I felt like this was a team I could work with. Also, with the CEO’s long-term vision, I could see opportunities for the company to evolve beyond what it is today.
I knew that working at an early-stage startup was going to be a challenge but, after my experience at Practical Law, I always wanted to get back to that.
Before joining oVice, you have been working in enterprise companies with robust sales teams and a lot of trust capital. What key differences do you see between working at established companies like Thomson Reuters or Robert Half and a newly established startup like oVice?
A significant portion of my work history is at enterprise companies, and the difference is that you have established processes and a lot more support. On the plus side, it’s great to step into a well-oiled machine with all the teams in place.
The downside is that there’s less room for creativity and flexibility. You can, of course, implement some changes but not to the same degree as you would at a startup. Working in a startup, especially in my type of role, you really get to build everything from the ground up. At an enterprise company, you are expected to work in their system, and companies hire people that they think would fit that system. At a startup, it’s about culture, and you are the one creating that culture.
Where, in your opinion, does a platform like oVice fit in the sales workplace?
It facilitates interactions and allows you to harness the collective energy of the team. Not to suggest that you have to have salespeople coming there for the whole day – most reps probably won’t like this. But I think it’s definitely reasonable to say “We want you in here for 2-4 hours a day”, especially when it comes to onboarding. For example, a rep can work side-by-side with a mentor — one week, the new hire will sit with one teammate, and the next week he’ll sit with someone else.
The manager should be there for a significant portion of the day so that a rep can ask any little question. This lowers the barrier to communication.
I would also see oVice as a gathering place to create more opportunities for sales teams to feed off of each other’s energy. It creates social interactions that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
It’s the same concept for hybrid – at the end of the day, you have people in different places. oVice allows you to have a common meeting point that’s always there without having to schedule a call.
As someone focused on promoting oVice, a Japanese company, in Western markets, do you see any differences do you see in the way the product is being perceived? How do you work around them?
I think, in Japan, we had sort of a perfect storm. All of a sudden the country is in lockdown, everybody is used to going to the office for 10 hours a day and now they have no way to get together. There was a very low penetration of collaboration tools, unlike in Western markets, so oVice was the perfect tool for them.
In Western markets, you had a much more remote-ready culture. I don’t think it was as difficult a shift because a lot of people were able to transition quickly to other methods of working, picking up things like Teams, Slack, and video conferencing tools.
They don’t have a dedicated 10-hour-office-day culture like Japan has so, overall, it was easier for the Western markets to shift to remote work.
For the Western markets, we need to take a different approach, especially now that the pandemic appears to be coming under control, so we are fine-tuning our value proposition and messaging to match market trends.
What challenges are you facing in promoting an innovative startup like oVice?
I think that, in the West, people don’t always know what to make of oVice at first glance – I myself didn’t. For one thing, there’s a categorization issue. The concept of a virtual office is a new one and, for now, it is usually considered part of the metaverse. In many ways, the virtual office is a metaverse-ish concept. However, if we introduce oVice as a metaverse project, people tend to expect VR.
Another challenge is that we have little name recognition in the market. We are working on everything from creating initial market awareness and developing proper demand gen which is always difficult.
How do you recommend using oVice to lead a sales team? What rules and practices can help managers make the most of the platform?
One thing I would recommend would be to establish core hours. If people have a client call at that time, no worries, but reps should have a regular time every day when they can come together and bounce ideas off each other, role play, have sales competitions and social interactions.
I would also recommend creating a mentoring schedule to have reps spend time with successful team members. A manager should be in the office for a significant portion of the day to have “office hours” and make sure that their team can reach out easily.
As I mentioned, I think it’s great to be able to bring back some of the collective energy of the office. While I don’t miss most things about a physical office, that is one thing that was good for sales teams: things like Monday-morning kick-offs and Friday wrap-ups to talk about results which could be followed by a happy hour.
This was Part I of the interview with Joseph Shin, Head of Western Sales at oVice. You can learn more about the team by exploring other posts in the series or explore the solutions oVice offers organizations.
If you want to join oVice, take a look at our list of job opportunities. Once you apply, our HR team will get in touch with you.