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Flight Crew Series: A Top Navan Sales Leader on Building Culture, Leaving a Legacy

Flight Crew Series: A Top Navan Sales Leader on Building Culture, Leaving a Legacy

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Samantha Shankman

4 Aug 2020
6 minute read
Blog Image // Flight Crew Series: A Top TripActions Sales Leader on Building Culture, Leaving a Legacy

Welcome to The Flight Crew Series, where we sit down with our team members around the world to get to know them better. We talk about the careers that led them to Navan, what their roles look like on a daily basis, why they believe in their teams, and even their favorite travel memory. Their peers selected the participants for their incredible work, team spirit, and how they embody Navan values. Read more from the series here.

Matthew Shephard-Lupo joined Navan more than two years ago in San Francisco as one of the first 100 employees. His time at the company began in San Francisco and Palo Alto before he moved to New York as one of the first two people to open the East Coast office.

Although Matt has found his professional home at Navan, he arrived with years of experience in the travel industry. He previously worked at a travel software company and an antiquated, legacy travel management company, which gave him the insight and perspective to recognize how truly innovative the Navan product was and how the team's approach differed.

“The dramatic difference between the legacy TMCs where I worked previously and Navan was clear the moment I joined. Navan was in a completely different league, from the sophistication of our technology to the broader, more modern approach that our team took when solving long-standing traveler, travel manager, and finance leader pain points in the industry. The solution started with our cloud-based, data-driven product (that already beat any current offering) but has since expanded to become the leading end-to-end online booking tool, travel management company, and payments and expense platform that we offer today — all from a single trusted partner with Navan. This is without even touching on the importance of our expert global travel agents, who are accessible 24/7/365 by chat, phone, and email. Can you imagine being unable to chat with a support agent in 2020? We were the first to make it happen, and many of the legacy TMCs haven’t even caught up with that one traveler-focused innovation,” Matt explains.

Where Career + Culture Meet

Matt started at Navan in a mid-market sales role before transitioning to the enterprise organization to bring his expertise to large international companies. Most recently, Matt became the Director of Enterprise Travel Management at Navan.

“The goal is to enable and help scale the broader enterprise account executive organization, specifically on travel industry knowledge,” Matt explained. He’s also thinking through the future state of enterprise travel management and working with global companies to best understand their needs in a constantly changing travel landscape.

“It’s an exciting move because Navan is giving me the opportunity to help impact the broader organization and our clients,” he says.

But what excites Matt more than anything about Navan is the culture.

“We’re in an extremely unique and exciting moment right now. The sales culture is extremely collaborative. It is very much cross-departmental,” he explains.

The vibrancy of the New York office is particularly well-known throughout the organization. Hiring played a major role in the early days of the New York office, and a team of ambitious, focused people was attracted to the company. Matt played an integral role in the office’s growth.

“I got to see it from the ground up. One thing that was done really well in the beginning - with the leadership of Tyler John (SVP Sales, North America) and Lizzie Rouleau (Senior Manager, Mid-Market Sales) - was building a super-connected, tight-knit community. Everyone is friends here. That sense of community has definitely continued throughout COVID. We talk on the phone and catch up. I think that community is probably the reason why a decent amount of folks wanted to come back into the office at the first opportunity,” explained Matt.

An Exciting Time in the Travel Industry

While the past six months have brought challenges for the travel industry, Matt views them as opportunities.

“Given my experience in the travel industry and some of the stories that I heard ten years ago when I started out, I have the unique insight to know that the travel industry -- both business and leisure travel -- will rebound,” says Matt.

“I have full confidence that business travel will resume, and we are currently laser-focused on defining how the corporate travel landscape operates post-COVID. From a buying perspective, we’re seeing a huge appetite from enterprises that found themselves ill-equipped with their existing TMC when COVID hit and are now looking for a more innovative solution that can meet the challenges ahead. Travel is such an integral part of business growth that its critical enterprises get it right now.”

Enterprise travel managers who historically were too busy managing internal noise from travelers are taking the opportunity while travel is slow to fix that. Matt often hears enterprise travel managers and finance professionals say, “We actually have some time right now to do something that we've been wanting to do for years."

A Global Mindset, Built to Solve Problems

Giving large global organizations the tools they need to improve traveler satisfaction and productivity, make their T&E program efficient and cost-effective, and drive safety and compliance to deliver a robust, global corporate travel program excites Matt still.

“They are complex organizations with many pain points and challenges to solve. Most enterprises are operating with legacy configuration models, and it provides an opportunity to truly create value, helping them move to a modern T&E platform and trusted partner. What’s your distribution strategy? How can we deliver a consistent booking experience across 30+ countries? That's what excites me the most, and we've built this incredible tool that's not just a little bit better, it's a step change difference from what enterprises have accepted for years as the status quo,” explains Matt.

Matt is inspired by the collaboration and detailed questions he receives from every level of an enterprise, from the executive leadership to finance teams to the travel manager.

“It’s strategic, complex, and exciting with a lot of opportunity to provide value by helping enterprises solve massive pain points for their travelers, travel managers, and finance teams.”

A major turning point for the sales organization happened in early 2020 when Carlos Delatorre joined the Navan team as Chief Revenue Officer (CRO). Carlos came on board with nearly 25 years of experience leading global, high-performance sales, customer success, professional services, and operations organizations to scale hyper-growth tech companies. He played an integral role in helping the sales team scale and rapidly adapt when COVID-19 changed the travel landscape. In particular, Matt and his peers cite Carlos’ focus on career development and growth for every member of the team.

The Foundational Values

Underneath the incredible culture, ambitious sales team, and innovative product are six values that serve as the foundation for Navan. Of those, Matt feels most aligned with “challenge the status quo.” Navan does things differently, from the product it builds to how it scales and cultivates culture.

“I would say “challenge the status quo” is definitely what we do. If we lose that, we're done because then we become just another traditional TMC.

Culture is integral to what makes Navan who we are and allows us to work together to innovate quickly for our customers and users.

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