A strong product or service deserves an equally strong advocate. That was STRV’s thinking as we searched for the person best fit to lead our business development activities.
Meet Jeremy Stephan.
It wasn’t just his experience that impressed. Sure, he’s got a decades-long track record of helping companies grow and evolve. But what he also has is a sense of adventure and curiosity. If there’s an opportunity, Jeremy’s there. He’ll recognize the potential, analyze the challenge, plan the best route—and make the journey a blast.
Whether it’s spearheading a new development project, or organizing a freediving trip on Greece’s Amorgos island.
To get some insight into what drives STRV’s business mind and how he’s built a rock solid team in under a year, we sat down with Jeremy during his most recent visit to our Prague office—which is where his relationship with STRV began.
Your experience includes founding a startup consulting company and serving as VP of Strategic Accounts & Business Development. What brought STRV to your attention, and why did it feel like the right step for you?
Back in 2015, I was working for a competitor in San Francisco and lost a deal to STRV. From that point on, the team was on my radar. The following year, I decided to leave the other company, at which point STRV’s former CEO, David Semerad, reached out and said, “Hey, I heard you left the company. Why don’t we get together?” I happened to be heading to Europe, so I accepted STRV’s invitation to come by the Prague office.
After some nice discussions with David, Lubo and others from the team, we kept in touch. For more than a year, I provided sales strategy consulting on an ad hoc basis—until one consulting session in the summer of 2018, when Lubo said, “This is exactly what we need. Why don’t you come and work for us?” And a few months later, in September of 2018, we made it happen.
Can you talk a bit about the evolution of your sales approach?
My entire working life has revolved around providing a service. The different variations and companies I have worked with have helped me to understand that in a service engagement, you’ve got to put yourself in your client’s position. You’ve got to understand their needs, wants, desires and pain points—all of which gives you the ability to be empathetic. And if you can successfully embody the empathetic approach in a consultative manner, you can craft the best solution for your clients and increase your success.
In crafting that solution, what is equally important is that the solution not only meets their needs and their goals but also seamlessly delivers. At many of the past companies I’ve worked with, delivering the solution that was promised became an issue.
Before joining STRV, I worked at another tech company. This helped me to really fine-tune my approach to working with startups and companies in the tech space. But it also made me aware of certain gaps in their overall business approach and delivery. I quickly found that those gaps were not gaps at STRV. This was one of the reasons why I was attracted to STRV, which seemed to have a much greater holistic offering and a more client-centric approach than other companies in the same field.
What would you say is your management style?
More hands-off, with guidance and support whenever needed. I want to give my team the space to find their own path. At the same time, there’s a certain way that we need to do business, a certain way that we need to approach customers based on the services that we deliver. My guidance helps the sales team understand and adopt those practices. But how they do it—as long as it’s in the most ethical manner—is in their own hands. With my support, I want to empower them to be the best they can be, and to deliver the best business they can deliver for our clients.
What has been one of the greatest challenges in setting up a sales team in America for a Czech company?
In retrospect—now that I’ve been with the company since September—I can say I haven’t come across challenges specific to the international nature of STRV. The culture of the U.S. and the Czech Republic are very similar.
My biggest challenge has been one that perhaps most new sales teams encounter. That is, ensuring that we have a strong team that will represent STRV’s values with the proper sales approach. Meaning that our people must fully understand and embody STRV’s sales philosophy—which is to be consultative. It’s a philosophy that allows us to deliver a premium-level service to clients, and adhering to it from the getgo makes it clear that we are not a transactional company. Meaning, we’re not just about closing deals. We’re about seizing the right opportunities with the right clients for the right business need. This process requires a lot of thought and care. Therefore it takes an equal amount of effort to find the right people for the role.
Say I’m a prospective client reading this. I like how you work, I like STRV—and I want to talk. What can I expect?
You can expect to be treated with thoughtfulness, care and a sensible strategy behind how we engage with you.
It’s not just about what it’s going to cost. There’s so much more that goes into the initial meetings, and beyond. We spend a lot of time carefully unpacking what you’re looking for to make sure that ultimately, whatever solution we craft and present to you is one that puts you in the best position to build your product, and to be successful as a company.
We discuss the product, the vision, the technical requirements, who the customers are and what stage you’re in. Immediately after this, we bring in our experts from other disciplines within STRV—from product management to design and engineering—and make them a part of the conversation. I feel that you need to know the people you are working with. That’s how we make sure that we understand all the different facets of your needs, which then allows us to craft the best possible solution.
At the end of the day, if we do our best to make you as successful as we can, then STRV is going to be successful as a result. Nothing else is an option.
And finally—what about Jeremy outside of work?
For me, it’s all about water. I grew up swimming competitively, which then translated to scuba diving, to standup paddleboarding and even to snowboarding—which is on frozen water. More recently, I found my way into the world of freediving, and I now help organize different events around the U.S., and even around the world. So when I’m not traveling through different cities and countries in Europe, you’ll find me in or around the water.
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