With the permission of the Whitney Peak staff, I had a chance to sit down in their lobby with Michael Tragash of YelpReno. We got to talking a lot about some the things that Michael has been doing with YelpReno, with his staff, and with the community at large. Being new to Yelp in an active manner, Michael helped explain how it works for all those actively participating and what it means to him.
Elton: “I’m going to start really broad hear because I think you hit on some great things when it comes down to the product, the people, the event and your interaction with all three. So, can you tell me how your views on all three drive YelpReno?”
Michael: “Well, for me, it’s all about the people. It’s not so much about the business or a product. It’s about the people that are creating that product, making that happen here in the community. And those are the stories that need to be told. Yelp’s mission is to connect people to great local businesses. And, I’ve adapted that mission to connect the people (you and me) to the people that operate those great local businesses and share those stories with the rest of the world. You know, you love walking into a business where you feel like you know the guy behind the counter. And that’s the bottom line so if those people are out front, then mission accomplished! You get to know the business owner.”
“But at the same time, the premise of everything for me is partnership, it’s a two-way street and it’s about establishing value by offering value first. You know, I could ask you to lone me twenty bucks and you’d be like “who are you?” But if you had asked me first, and I had given it to you, when I came to you and said I need forty, you’d be like “yeah, no problem. He loaned it to me the first time of his own good will.” So that’s kind of how I like to make it work. I will continue to offer so that I’m of value to someone else. So when the time comes to have that value returned, it’s just natural”
Expert’s Input: I brief interruption here. I really liked what Michael was saying about “establishing value by offering value first.” So I did some digging and I found a blog post that I believe encapsulates this idea. Its’ a Life Skills type of blog titled Create Success by Creating Value for Others and amongst some other great stuff it defines this value by value first as a shift in thinking. It says:
“A quantum shift: When we focus on creating more value for other people, it completely shifts our perspective. We will naturally start to move away from self-serving motives as we increasingly consider the welfare of others. This causes our own happiness and success to become a byproduct of our efforts to contribute to the happiness and success of others.”
I think Michael is a great example of someone who has moved away from these “self-serving” motives the post references. And the results is not just a happier Michael, it’s a more successful YelpReno. Now, back to the conversation.
Elton: “Right, I think I got it. But to clarify, how would you put that into the terms of bringing me, who may not know this individual or what this product is about “in”? What is driving you in getting me to know this individual or this product? How are you facilitating that type of interaction?”
Michael: “So, say we’re talking about a “Yelper.” As a Yelper, you’re already passionate about local businesses. You write reviews to let people know what’s great, you share the not so great in a manner that is constructive, that’s letting business owners know what they can do better. So your interest and your passion for these local businesses and learning about them already exists. Right? So, I’ll explain that to a business owner, that Yelpers are positive people that are here to support your business. Their reviews will live on for a long time and will help lots of other people find your business. And it will also help you improve your processes over time. So I focus my efforts with business owners on explaining that premise in a way that they can relate too in two ways. One, I understand the processes of businesses and in looking at Yelp reviews, you can understand where exactly something went wrong. And two, when it comes to a business owner, their passion is running a great business, end of story. Whether that’s producing awesome pasta, making great pizza, or selling a great widget, it doesn’t’ really matter. A great service, that’s what their passionate about, that’s why they’re in the industry they’re in.”
“And so, giving them an opportunity to sit on a stage and explain their passion to people whose passion is to understand their passion, it’s a natural two-way street. Yelp is just the conduit between the two. And what’s written and shared it just one way, one other way of getting the word out about what they do. Yelp events are that platform for showing it off. Yelp is the way to share that dialog and tell that story through photos and writing. But also, it’s within a community of individuals who share that same passion for understanding what’s happening in our local business community.”
Elton: “That’s a great way of putting it. That’s a great way of explaining it to me, someone who is new to this online community you’re talking about. I definitely now have a better understating of it.”
“A little bit earlier we were exploring how the next phase for you and YelpReno is really about cementing down some of these processes you’re talking about, some of these events and what you are organizing. Can you tell me how, in bringing in that new staff that we were talking about, how that’s going to enable you to do this in an even more effective manner than what we’ve been talking about?”
Michael: “Well, as a community manager I wear a lot of hats that involve everything from event planning to marketing the site and to social media. And it’s a manageable work load for one individual but it doesn’t allow you the time to focus your efforts on any one specific thing. And there are things that “move the needle” for what I do, and there are other things that are part of the bigger picture of continuing a strong presence here in Reno. And so, over the last eighteen months in this role, I’ve learned where my skills are best suited to help me accomplish my goals, and which things are helping to move that needle I’m talking about in the right direction; where my time is essentially best spent. And as anyone might know, a good CEO isn’t good at everything. They surround themselves with professionals that can help support exactly what’s going on. And while I am effective at all of the hats that I wear, in all of my hats there are people out there that are going to be better than me.”
“And so, I have hired two interns to help augment my skillsets in two specific areas. One, to help me execute ideas that will both make what they are doing, and also that “hat”, for that effort, more effective. In this way they will learn the “why”. Because as we discussed, understanding the why we’re doing this is so critical. We’re not just posting to Facebook, “what” are we posing to Facebook? “How” is that helping to connect people to local businesses? It has to support the mission statement. So:
- How is it helping YelpReno be more effective?
- Why are we facilitating these relationships?
- What are we doing to maintain those relationships?
- How can we make more relationships more effective?
That’s one area. The other area is helping with marketing and special events. How to make those events have more of a “WOW” factor? Make them more exciting, more attractive and more facilitative of those relationships we’re talking about. The people not on Yelp, the people on Yelp, and of course the people on the business side.”
Expert’s Input: What Michael is doing in bringing on the two interns is key for him, but not as key as how he’s going to incorporate them into YepReno. The best way to describe it is in a piece titled Why You Need to Delegate to Be Effective by Pamela McClinton. She really nails down what Michael is doing:
“So, while it may be easier to “do-it-yourself,” raising the bar on your leadership involves making sure your team is fully equipped to handle their day-to-day responsibilities. Delegating tasks helps improve the skills of your team members and creates an overall collaborative culture that shares knowledge and prevents information silos.”
Michael is going to equip his staff effectively, and the results will be a more effective YelpReno. And avoiding those information silos referenced is so critical, even in a three-person team, those communication channels are vital for Michael’s system to work with the outside community. Let’s wrap this up.
Elton: “Because when it comes down to it, from what I’m understanding about Yelp and the community, it’s not about the product, it’s about the people and the people?”
Michael: “Well, you still have to have a great product. I don’t want it to seem that you can make a bad product and have a win. The fact is that Yelp reviewer’s reference service of the product, and who’s providing that service? The People. So, if you understand or know the people that you’re interacting with, then the likelihood is your service experience is going to be a little bit better. But, you still have to have a good product, you can’t bad food and have a nice décor and have that be an excellent experience.”
Elton: “Okay, I believe I have a much better understanding of what Yelp is, what it is for you, and where it’s headed. Michael, I don’t have any other questions for you at this time. I think that what we touched on was at the heart of the great things that you’re doing right now.”
Reno is lucky to have Michael on board as the YelpReno representative and I would like to thank him again for his time in sitting down with me, an up and coming Yelper, and explaining the “why’s, what’s, and the how’s” of YelpReno. Look for him at upcoming events which you can check out on the YelpReno Events page. You can also check him out on the YelpReno Facebook page and Twitter.
Note: This post is in continuation of the interviews I’m conducting with other project managers and leaders from a WIDE variety of industries and fields. See my 1st guest speaker post for a more detailed description.
Image credit: Photo by Author