We recently collaborated with one of our Calgary-based clients, Kudos, to help them revamp their website design. After the launch, we caught up with Emmett McPartlin, Director of Marketing Communications, and Tom Short, Chief Customer Officer & Founder, to hear more about their vision for the company and their perspective on our teams’ recent collaboration.
What is Kudos? How did it get started?
Emmett McPartlin: Kudos was first conceptualized and developed as an in-house employee engagement solution by Kudos Founder Tom Short at his creative agency in 2008. Social recognition wasn’t even a concept back then. Tom’s team was struggling with culture, retention, and motivation following the 2008 subprime banking meltdown along with the rest of the world. They wanted to find a way to let the team know how much they cared about and valued them. But when they went to look for solutions, all they could find were reward programs. They didn’t believe giving people cheap stuff was the answer, and rewards programs were often costly and unsustainable.
At the time, the leadership team was reading the book “First Break All the Rules” by Marcus Buckingham (along with many other books about what makes the best companies in the world, well, great). It became evident that the most universal and effective solution was earnest, timely appreciation and recognition. They also believed that inclusion and trust were necessary to create a culture of appreciation. So they started building a platform that could provide those things with consistency, transparency, sustainability, and reach.
It was an immediate success and a massive hit with the team. Shortly after that, clients started asking about it and wanted to use it. That led to testing the market with an MVP commercial product. Then in 2010, Tom Short saw the huge potential of Kudos and took the product out of the agency and officially started Kudos. In 2012, Tom recruited his now Co-founder and CEO, Muni Boga, to commercialize Kudos and help him take it to the world.
How has Kudos evolved and grown over the years?
Tom Short: Kudos was such a new concept when we started. Our market was primarily small to medium-sized businesses that also believed culture was the key to business success. That market quickly expanded to organizations of all sizes which presented both opportunities and challenges. So, over the years, we have had to balance funding and resources between development and marketing as we continued to develop and refine our product, add features, improve our user experience, refine our system, and promote our philosophy as we scaled the technology.
It was challenging, exciting, scary, and a blast building something we all believed in. We proved that social recognition was the next evolutionary step in employee engagement and that it was now a critical business tool – and in the process changed how people looked at traditional reward-based programs. We see a lot of traction and immense opportunity in the future.
What prompted the website redesign? What challenges were you facing with the old site?
Emmett: As Kudos has grown, our platform has been adopted by larger and larger companies. Both our product and our team have evolved. As a result, our brand and our messaging have also taken a big step, and we needed to see that reflected in our website.
There are many web design agencies to choose from. What were you looking for in an agency, and why did you choose Tiller?
Emmett: A few things. We were looking for a track record with B2B and SaaS marketing websites, the ability to create a really refined, modern design that would adhere to (ideally, even advance) the aesthetic we were developing, and a team that would be able to work with us collaboratively – not just take the specs and come back with a “finished” product. The other thing that’s extremely important is having solid processes in place. You can tell what kind of company you’re dealing with early on – do they have a comprehensive, thorough proposal process? Do they have a process for change orders, ongoing communications, follow-up, etc? From the start, it felt like Tiller had all that in place and that does a lot to put a client’s mind at ease.
What was it like for your team to collaborate so closely with an agency?
Emmett: It was great. I have a background in interactive design and wanted to be very involved, and Garrett Genest, our Director of Growth, also had some very clear (and in some cases complex) ideas and technologies to incorporate. With a less adaptable design team, that level of communication might not have been possible. Thankfully Tiller – their project managers, art directors, and designers – were experienced and flexible enough to just roll our involvement into their workflow.
How do you think the new website will help Kudos achieve its business goals?
Emmett: I think primarily we’ve found a number of ways to sharpen our messaging and to keep our content highly focused and concise. The natural inclination for company stakeholders is to think “our customers want to know absolutely everything about us” – when in reality, people’s time and attention spans are extremely limited, and it’s crucial to be able to get the most essential pieces of information front and centre, in an attractive way.
Have you heard any initial reactions to the new site?
Emmett: All very positive. We even got a few “oohs” and “ahhs” – and one “it’s beautiful!” (so far).
Was there anything that surprised you about working with Tiller?
Emmett: I’m not sure if I would use the word “surprised” – I would say just that things ran smoothly. No tense moments of uncertainty or doubt that they would deliver. When you hire a design company, you’re taking a big risk. Are they able to deliver what they promise? Are they able to do it on time? Will they be able to translate the vision we have? So when you get designs back on time that are really close to what you envisioned, that are considerate of your specifications, and that answer some of the questions that you were looking for guidance on, that’s an enormous relief.
What’s on the horizon for Kudos?
Tom: With the rise of remote working and hybrid workplaces becoming the new normal, the world needs a product like Kudos more than ever. A system like Kudos can connect teams wherever they are and allow organizations to project and protect their culture and connect, and engage their teams to succeed in our new normal. Add in the new reporting requirements on how companies are good stewards of environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) practices, including employee engagement and well-being; the future is bright for Kudos. We will stay on our mission to change the world one thank you at a time.
What advice would you give to a SaaS company considering revamping its website?
Emmett: Make sure you work with a company that will take the time to understand your creative vision and that has experience with other SaaS companies. In and of itself, building websites is no longer a necessarily challenging endeavour – anyone can put up a website in a day. The challenge is finding collaborative partners that can help you hone your vision and steer you in the right direction, especially on the minute usability details that you might not be thinking of.