“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”
– Robert Collier
Kelly Hickmann has had an exciting life so far, graduating high school early then deciding he wanted to explore and what better way of going that than hiking the Appalachian trail which is a trail that goes from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katadhin, Maine and in total is about 2,200 miles long. His end goal was to live in the mountains somehow.
After he completed the trail he simply lived life until doing Praxis in 2016, he landed a sales job at PandaDoc for his apprenticeship but after a little bit of time doing cold calls and purely outbound sales he realized it wasn’t what he wanted to do. Kelly was intrigued by customer success, the more relaxed schedule was a big plus as well. Turns out he was really good at customer success and ended up being a Customer Success Manager (CSM) at PandaDoc.
His Customer Success Experience
Kelly explained that although customer success and customer support can sometimes be interchangeable depending on your company, there is in fact a difference. Customer support is more transactional and fast-paced, you are in and out if something is broken you tell them how to fix it in the most efficient way possible. While on the other hand you often have a more personal relationship with your customer in customer success, as a CSM you are handed a basket of accounts that are your accounts, You are responsible for retaining then and expanding how much they give you. So, it also requires some sales/negotiating skills on top of the other skills needed.
Speaking of needed skills, customer success is an interesting niche that is also extremely broad. A lot of the people in these roles like challenges, they like solving problems and putting the puzzles together. They are the ones that have phenomenal typing, diction, response times, and get straight to the point. You must constantly be in the mindset of getting things done with the least amount of friction/questions asked, being able to hold yourself accountable and then once finished move on the next task.
After some time at PandaDoc Kelly asked to go remote to a tiny town in the mountains of Washington State, fulfilling his dream of living in the woods. His journey here was a long one, he has lived in thirteen different states and has been to forty-five. Kelly talked about how to takes a matter of getting there that worked for him and figuring out who he is which simply put takes time and experiences. He believes that your core self never changes too much just the flavor and how it looks is going to be a little bit different. Which seems like a very fitting statement for a soon to be restaurant owner to make. There are plenty of options and you can easily get overwhelmed, sometimes you just have to pick one. He is actually about to open up a restaurant in the town he lives in with a few of the people he met on the Appalachian trail, further proving that you never know what is going to happen on the rollercoaster that is life.
Focus on the major and the minor stuff when thinking about your life, the big picture is good but don’t get too caught up in it. The world is a lot kinder than you are taught growing up, people are really out there to help you more than the media or worried parents would ever want you to know.
This concludes my interview with Kelly Hickmann, I had a lovely time talking to him and learning the somewhat unconventional way of how he got to where he is today.