The Future Is Now: Brittany McClain of ‘Source’ On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up How We Create

Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should. If you find yourself at a company that is experiencing rapid growth, what was once one person’s job quickly becomes 4 people’s job. Perhaps even 4 jobs across 4 different departments, but then if you don’t let those people do the work they were hired to do because you are afraid to let go, or feel that you could do it yourself faster than it would take to explain it to them (See no 3 above), it eventually it catches up to you and can cause hiring inefficiencies.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brittany McClain .

Brittany McClain is the Director of Membership at Source, a national, digital product library and specification platform that connects architects, designers, contractors, and manufacturers in commercial construction.

Brittany has demonstrated success in managing B2B sales and marketing programs across a wide range of industries. Her lifelong passion for design and architecture lead her to Source where she leads their Client Success team. Brittany is a creative soul who is always looking for new and effective ways to solve problems through clear communication and innovative approaches.

Source embodies Brittany’s commitment to transparency, efficiency and simplicity. Source launched in February 2020 and hosts standardized data and exportable photos for 160k+ products from 1900+ brands.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

As a kid my family moved a lot, which meant going to a lot of open houses and walking through model homes. I also fell in love with watching Trading Spaces on TV and got my first look at floorplans from that show, so I started collecting the floorplan layout sheets at the home centers and drawing my own furniture layouts on them. Fast forward a few years and I decided to study Interior Design in school, but then life took me on a bit of a detour. Instead of pursuing my original dream of being a commercial designer, I started working in Sales for a software startup focused on talent development and training. Although I found success in selling, I kept having the itch for something a bit more creative. I wanted to be able to develop programming that impacted the long term success of our customers, and help attract new customers. I moved over to the marketing team and spent the next few years managing their partner marketing programs. Then, I moved to manage their customer marketing program. It was around this time when I was introduced to Source. They were looking for someone who could help scale the growth of their OAC (Owners, Architects and Contractors) clients and build out a client success program to keep those users coming back for more. It was a dream job in my mind — I was able to apply previous experience I had, but in an industry that I absolutely loved! Now instead of watching Trading Spaces for inspiration for my next floorplan, I get to see our clients work on amazing projects every day and dream up new ways to make their experience of designing a space even better.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

What shocked me the most was how many samples are coming and going from architecture firms (and now people’s dining room tables) everyday. We are talking about roughly one ton of unwanted samples per month from a single mid-large architectural firm. While physically seeing and feeling material samples is 100% a necessary part of the design process — it just screamed “there’s got to be a better way.”

Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

The ecosystem of manufacturers and brands that make up commercial building products is larger than one might think. But, if you add in all of the individual products each of those brands carry and all of the properties of those products, as a designer, finding what you want becomes a bit of a hunt. The good news is that there are endless possibilities and unique solutions for every design problem or idea. The bad news is that there are endless dead ends on websites, displaced material specification information and too many sales reps for designers to keep track of.

Source is bringing critical data, and information that designers need to make specification decisions on projects all a part of one system. By collecting, standardizing and managing product data, we reduce the time spent specifying the perfect material or tracking down your local rep to request samples with our digital catalog and tools.

In an industry that it’s imperative to pay attention to detail and truly understand the proper application of materials both from a health and safety standpoint, but also how those choices impact how people will interact with the space, Source believes that investing in tools and data that allow people to meaningfully collaborate and discover materials for their projects will allow for a wider range of creativity and a more thoughtful built environment that you and I get to be in each day.

Also, Source is investing in how to help reduce the waste involved in material sampling by leveraging local library fulfilment centers in major design hubs that serve the local community without a need to constantly rush ship samples across the country, but also meet designers in their moment of inspiration with actual materials they can touch and feel (and then easily return to the local design community for the next moment of inspiration).

How do you think this might change the world?

“Knowledge is power.” By putting more data in the hands of designers and architects, they can have a bigger impact on the health and wellbeing of our communities.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

I feel the opposite. By being transparent and providing detailed information, we can provide a better specification process. The dark effect means there’s always a budget and client who demands restraint on specification choices that might not have a positive impact long-term as a more local, sustainable or durable alternative. However, I also believe those tradeoffs should be easier to understand, talk about and promote new ways of thinking about alternatives.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

The tipping point for Source being founded was literally a box of tile falling onto the head of our then-pregnant CEO, Nicole Schmidt. She was working as a manufacturer’s rep and was updating a firm’s library, standing on her tiptoes at 6 months pregnant and started pulling down her box of samples to update. The library was a mess and she slipped on a stack of vinyl planks, and dropped her box of rocks on my head. Expletives ensue. As did her realization that this industry needs to modernize, and badly. She started researching and used her lens and past life as a designer to analyze what problems exist, and how to solve for how archaic this market is.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

We need to come to work everyday with the focus of truly becoming the “Source” for specifying commercial construction materials. This will involve continuing to grow our product database, harnessing powerful data search tools that are user-friendly and tailored to project requirements, unlocking better visual collaboration tools for our clients to plan and interact with their clients on; all while keeping the human connection and drive to feel connected to a space and idea at the forefront of what we do each day. We have to honor the work that is being done digitally as it crosses over into the physical word that we interact with each day.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We’ve leaned into the “phygital” experience for attracting new clients on the OAC side. . . What is phygital? While it’s not the most euphonious word out there, it really does describe what Source is able to bring to the specification journey that designers go on:

Phygital = physical + digital. Source provides designers the immediacy of being able to find product data, images and local rep contact info for anything they want to specify on a project and then adds in the physical side of the specification journey with sample delivery and our human-powered services.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have loved interacting with high school and college students who are weighing their first steps in their career journey. As an example, in highschool and college I always thought I wanted to work for a large company, but once I experienced working at a startup, my feelings changed.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Don’t be afraid of Excel. Learning some “scary on the surface” Excel tricks such as VLOOKUP, INDEX-MATCH or even the CONCATENATE functions of Excel can be so powerful to analyze, clean up and report on basic pieces of data that are often readily available, but not always easily digestible.
  2. Keeping customers bears more weight than gaining customers over time. The book “Customer Success: How Innovative Companies Are Reducing Churn and Growing Recurring Revenue” by Dan Steinman, Lincoln Murphy, and Nick Mehta really opened my eyes to the details on why the rise of Client Success managers is so correlated to the rise of SaaS products. Ringing the sales bell and adding new logos gets a lot of attention, and it should. But if that customer quietly exits 6 months later, you have a real problem.
  3. SOPs are a pain to write and maintain, but explaining the same thing 50x is worse. Working in a fast paced startup is an incredibly rewarding experience — things are changing often, but then you start to get your groove and go on to to tackle a new part of the puzzle to optimize. The problem is if you don’t document the processes you’ve solidified for at least the next 6 months, then you’ll spend a lot of time passing on and extracting “tribal knowledge” from other team members and that cuts into your time to better other aspects of the business.
  4. Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should. If you find yourself at a company that is experiencing rapid growth, what was once one person’s job quickly becomes 4 people’s job. Perhaps even 4 jobs across 4 different departments, but then if you don’t let those people do the work they were hired to do because you are afraid to let go, or feel that you could do it yourself faster than it would take to explain it to them (See no 3 above), it eventually it catches up to you and can cause hiring inefficiencies.
  5. Find and protect your “power hours” if possible. I’m a morning person naturally and I am the most creative and productive between 8am-11am. I’m the least creative and focused between 2–5pm. I often get a second wind after dinner between 7–9pm. I learned that over time and have started to protect blocks of my calendar during those peak hours when I know a task requires a lot of creativity or focus.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Little things go a long way. Did you have a good experience with a tech support person on the phone? Take the time to write down their name and then seek out where to pass along a positive note to their supervisor or company. Try and find a way to provide a specific complement to someone each day.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Again and again forever, these things are hard, but we can do hard things because when we do, we finally become alive.” — Glennon Doyle

^ This quote encourages me everyday to say “yes” to the things I want to do, but might be scared of and to say “no” to things I keep doing, but know it’s time to let them go. Keep learning and keep challenging yourself as you grow and change.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Architects and Designers exert enormous influence over these spaces through product specifications. Every year, their specification decisions impact:

  • $429B of US GDP spend
  • 170M tons US waste
  • 39% of global carbon emissions

. . . And yet, these same people are still using 3 ring binders stacked on a dusty shelf to try and find product information or wading through terrible websites to find the number for their local rep to see if they have a product similar to one their client saw on Pinterest and loves.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can keep up with all things Source on our LinkedIn or Instagram. I’m personally on LinkedIn and would be happy to connect.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

The Future Is Now: Brittany McClain of ‘Source’ On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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