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Confessions Of A CEO: 5 Lessons To Improve Organizational Health At Your Company

David Hassell, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of 15Five

Have you ever watched helplessly as your company was undergoing immense strain or was even burning to the ground? What did you do about it?

 Kyle Porter is founder and CEO of SalesLoft, a rapidly growing company that provides a powerful platform for sales development teams to increase qualified demos and appointments. But back in 2012, SalesLoft just wasn’t working. They had to refund a major deal, one of Kyle’s closest friends decided to abandon the company, all of their cash burned out, and Kyle had to let go of all remaining staff.  

Today SalesLoft employs over one hundred talented people, they’ve raised over $10 million in institutional capital, and have added over $15 million in revenue in just the last 2.5 years. The company was also voted Atlanta’s #1 best place to work. How did they turn it all around?

I recently hosted Kyle on a webinar where he shared the lessons he gleaned on his journey from failure to success. Kyle credits a great deal of that success to a focus on organizational health, which leads him to believe the following:

– The greatness of the SalesLoft Team is driven by the selflessness of their people.

– Each and every customer is also considered a member of the team.

– Winning is fun!

– SalesLoft’s duty is to help their customers win more often.

By learning from the mistakes below, Kyle and his team were able to create a healthy, energetic, and thriving organization:

Mistake #1 – No Core Values

Kyle has a great set of values instilled in him since his youth, but he was not intentional about codifying these and placing them at the center of the business. Instead of hiring for values-fit, he hired solely for skills and experience. Today, Kyle considers whether a candidate meshes with the company’s core values:

1) Positive

2) Supportive

3) Self starting

4) Open

5) Empathetic

6) Exceptional

Of course there is more depth to these than one word alone can convey. For example, positive does not mean optimistic. It describes somebody who uncovers what’s happening, understands the full scenario, and then makes the decision to be positive about the direction taken.

To create your core values, think to yourself how you think humans should interact with others. If you have children, how do you want them to behave with others? Don’t worry if your business is already humming along, you can do what Kyle did and interject the values after the fact with these tips:

Cloning methodology. Look at the people who you admire in business and think about the set of qualities that they possess. Which ones could you adopt that would lead your business to market domination?

Share them all the time. Make your values easily rememberable and reiterate them during meetings and interactions. Don’t just write them on the wall and forget them.

Non-aspirational. Aspirational values are who you’d like to become or improve upon. Core values are what differentiate you and make you unique in the marketplace.

Manage from them. Ask values-based questions during your interview process that will indicate whether candidates share them. Managing from your values also means using them as a standard when you reprimand or praise employees.

Mistake #2 – Not Answering the Tough Questions

The What? Why? How? of your business is your mission. The What? of SalesLoft is to surpass $100 million in annual recurring revenue. But more important than that is their Why?

Today’s consumer has more information and more control, and sales is eating the world through software. Organizations need to adapt to modern methods of customer acquisition. SalesLoft’s Why is to change the lives of their customers and to change the world of sales. Potential customers are tired of robotic and repetitive sales messaging. That’s the antithesis of SaleLoft’s principle of sincere and awesome selling. 

SalesLoft is also driven to change the lives of their talented, ambitious team-members. It’s leadership’s responsibility to create an environment where they can thrive, learn more and do more. And finally, the team is driven to make a difference in the local tech culture of their beloved Atlanta.

How will they reach their goal? They put their core values, company culture, and their customers at the center of everything. They value engineering, customer research, product development and all the other SalesLoft teams that are building a world class product.

Mistake #3 – Not Having a One Page Strategic Plan

This is a document that lets you put your entire business on one piece of paper. That’s everything from the values to the vision, to your balance scorecard, and your priority projects.

Mistake #4 – Lousy Meeting Rhythms

Meetings are tough! People don’t show up on time and when they do, they are easily distracted by their laptops and phones. Kyle recommends that you don’t have too many meetings or not enough. Here are the five different meetings that SalesLoft conducts on an ongoing basis:

1) Daily Scrums. Each team has a 10 minute standup where employees discuss what happened yesterday, what’s happening today, and any roadblocks they are facing.

2) One on OnesEvery employee has a scheduled weekly 30 minutes with their manager.

3) Weekly Tactical. The leadership team comes together to discuss highlights, lowlights, and metrics. Each leader also discusses the most important thing they’re working on, shares how they’re trying to solve it, and opens up the topic for dialogue.

4) Monthly Breakfast. A company-wide meeting where statuses are updated, and the co-founders end with a transparent ask me anything session.

5) Quarterly Offsite. It’s important to take teams out of the office to refresh and start the new quarter off right.

Mistake #5 – Not Taking the Pulse of the Company

The Pulse is a survey of the entire company to understand what people are thinking about and how leadership can address any concerns. SalesLoft intentionally address organizational health by using 15Five . Everyone receives an automated weekly questionnaire wherein they explain what’s been going on at work and where challenges lie. Those details bubble up to team managers, to their managers’ managers, and on up the ladder to Kyle. In this way, leaders gain visibility and insights into company-wide progress.

For more helpful advice on improving the health of your organization watch the recording below (note that special offers have expired).

The webinar also includes a detailed Q&A session with Kyle and myself, where we answer questions like how to keep your company culture thriving during times of upheaval at your company.

Image Credit: fabfotofx