Why Authentic Communication Matters with Alexx Hall
Alexx Hall is the VP of Strategic Partnerships at Kapitus, one of our capital partners here at Investable. Alexx is both tenacious and kind, and we have long admired her ability to forge meaningful relationships. Learn about how she built an entire department from scratch, how she deals with obstacles in communication, and why she believes vulnerability is a critical tool for relationship-building.
How did you come to head up Strategic Partnerships at Kapitus?
I studied speech language pathology and audiology as my undergrad, and I thought that that was going to be my career path. Obviously, that didn’t happen. I ended up moving to New York City, and I had my first sales job at Indeed.com. I learned so much there from sales, to prospecting, to pitching. After 2 years, I was really hungry for something new. I felt like I had reached a ceiling, but I didn't know what direction to head next. I started poking around in my network and stumbled upon the FinTech space, which really piqued my interest. Then I was contacted by a recruiter for Kapitus (formerly Strategic Funding). They had been around for about 10 or 11 years at that point, but they still had a startup feel. They had just hired their VP of Sales and he was interested in creating something completely new. The universe works in strange and delightful ways sometimes—within the first three or four minutes of my interview call with him, we had put together that we were from the same small town on the Jersey Shore. It was incredibly coincidental that our families were neighbors and friends and we immediately established a connection.
I’m thankful they were willing to take a chance on me, having only been out of college 2 years. More importantly, I’m glad I stepped up to take a chance on myself to accept the job and run with it.
What did you assume you would be creating vs. the reality of what you built?
I really had to channel my inner creativity. Many things didn’t work and I had to come back to the drawing board over and over again. Though I wasn’t certain how to create a new department, what I did have were leaders in place that trusted me to experiment. When you’re in the thick of it, you can’t see the pieces fitting together, but now 2 years later, it’s cool to reflect on how things have changed and to feel proud of what we built.
My boss put me in uncomfortable situations pretty consistently and I was in a male dominated sales team. But I tend to thrive in that space. I have an ability to be a bit more aggressive and forward in situations where others might fall back. Myself and my team have built a large and thriving merchant referral program. We seek out partners like Investable that have a similar clientele, mostly being small/medium businesses, and offer our financing as a supplement to our partner’s core product.
What are you known for by friends, family, and colleagues?
When people first meet me, I'm definitely pretty calm in nature and a bit laid back (I fit into the state of California really well). But I grew up around sales and I was a competitive athlete. My dad owns his own business and he’s also the head of sales there. When I really get into something that I'm passionate about, you’ll see my tenacity, but people don't see that right away. When channeling my quirky side, I often break out in song on my sales floor and eventually people join in for a sing-a-long. It’s great fun.
What do you think it takes to build strong relationships?
I love partnerships and I love meeting people. That attitude is the foundation for my role. I think patience, commitment, and open-mindedness are key. I always like to ask myself when I'm talking to a new potential partner, “how are we going to solve a problem for this person?”. They come to us because they believe that there is something that we can do for them and I take that seriously. One thing that I love about working for Kapitus is that we've always had customizable partnerships. It's cliche to say, but people want to work with people that they like, and that they enjoy speaking to, so I think finding anything that's relatable on a more personal level is the best way to begin building relationships.
What communication obstacles exist with founders and business owners coming to Kapitus?
Where I really see the most friction is in founders who are hesitant to open up completely about their history or issues that they went through that may still be affecting their credit or cash position. We hope to enable them to feel comfortable enough to talk to us about the really good and also the really not so good. Our goal is to find the appropriate form of financing or strategy. Right out of the gate, we invite transparency and authentic connection. We message that we understand all kinds of pain points and have a multitude of options.
I have found myself in some pretty difficult conversations, historically and predominantly with men, who don't feel like they can open up to somebody like me. I tend to push back on that and it feels powerful to be able to break through those conversations and gain their trust.
What keeps you interested in the work you do?
I love the people that I work with and I love that I've been able to travel to get in front of people and understand their particular needs. The most important thing I’ve learned is that financing is a critical part of every business. So many people do not have a trusted partner or even know what their options are. When you're able to create a solid relationship and be that partner for somebody, it’s incredibly rewarding.
I think right now authentic communication is in the spotlight in our society. Now more than ever, I think it's especially in demand in the business world. People are expecting greater levels of humanity, understanding, and honesty from their leaders and from their peers. Someone has to authentically reach out their hand and have some willingness to be a little bit vulnerable, rather than sort of glossing over what problems or issues exist. It takes courage and some confidence to be open like that. Sometimes being the courageous person to reach out first clears the space for someone else to feel like they can do that too.