September 2021 was marked by SEC's insight-driven Chief Revenue Officer Summits. One of our favorite talks was a panel discussion with these four amazing panelists:
- Zeeshan Hafeez, VeeOne Health
- Kelly Wright, Gong
- Debra Senra, ThreeFlow
- Jake Stone, CHEQ Inc.
The group had a fascinating, hour-long conversation on how positive company culture is at the heart of continuous, repeatable revenue growth in an organization.
Why is it so important to have a positive company culture?
Culture is more important now than it actually has ever been, and that's for a few different reasons.
People thrive in environments where they can bring their best authentic self to work, and they thrive in environments where the operating principles and the core values are aligned with what makes them tick and how they do their best work.
Part of what happens is that companies sometimes think about the operating scale, their tactics, and they think about culture as a secondary piece.
That is completely the inverse of what it should be. Culture is the most important thing.
The interesting thing is whether I'm now at Gong, or my during my time at Tableau, or in board work or in teaching, oftentimes companies will ask me: 'What should be the most important priority?'
They're thinking about hyper growth, global expansion, or going up market to the enterprise, whatever it is. People think that there's this secret sauce, and that you have different answers at different stages.
However, my answers are always the same, no matter what. Going forward, my top three priorities will always be the same. Number one? People. Number two? People. Number three? It's probably obvious; people.
If I can take it one step further, from my perspective I sometimes make buying decisions based off of the company culture that I'm working with.
There's certain companies that I've decided to work with such as HubSpot and Gong. We're proud Gong customers over at VeeOne Health, partly because we love the people that we worked with there. We had some really fantastic sales reps and sales teams that we interacted with.
When you have that kind of culture, and people just have that great personality, it's one of the differentiating factors in helping you win.
I think that's part of why it's important to have that culture.
How do you build an effective culture that promotes positive revenue growth?
What I've seen work really well is having the conscious development and reinforcement of core values. I think a lot of companies who have core values actually get this pretty wrong. They pick things that sound really good, and they think about the opposite of their core values as something bad.
When you do that, you pick aspirational values that are really hard to reinforce, because they're not authentic to you and your team. Especially as leaders and as managers, if you can't reinforce your core values, it's not a culture.
The recommendation I have for folks is to take your core value, and come up with a different core value that a logical person would want to have at their company which is the opposite of your core value.
The example that I often see in startup land is transparency. Some form of transparency is on just about every startup's website as a core value.
The opposite of transparency isn't secretiveness and lies, it's thoughtful communication. It's planned time to have retrospection and analysis before you share something broadly with your company.
That's not a bad thing. That might not be my style, and it might not be a place where I would thrive. But the opposite of my core value isn't something bad, it's just different.
How has a toxic culture negatively impacted productivity, performance, or overall revenue generation?
Culture is so important for not only the well-being of a company, but especially when we talk about revenue generation.
If I'm sitting on a revenue team, and I don't have a clear understanding of which role I'm playing, what the company's goals are, what my goals are, where the company is heading, all of that can negatively affect productivity.
I feel like I'm sitting outside, on an island all by myself without any clear support
That really does a number in regards to generating revenue, and also in regards to feeling like you're part of something that's greater than yourself.
Also, one thing to add is that if I'm in an area where I don't feel like there's an opportunity for growth, advancement, or success, and I feel stuck in the same spot, that's another negative force to productivity.
So from a manager's perspective, try to constantly have ongoing feedback with employees. Not just one time each year when it's forced, at the end of the year, and in a review. It should be consistent, constant feedback. Understanding levels of satisfaction and being able to adjust and make changes now, instead of waiting until it's too late.
How do you become an effective culture leader?
One thing that's really important is that people often think that culture is just dictated from the top, and that it's only dictated by senior managers. That's just not the case.
I like to say that everyone at a company is really a guardian of that culture
The people that actually have the most impact on the culture on the day-to-day tend to be the frontline managers, because they're the ones that are in the trenches with all of the team and helping to get things done.
So for everyone reading, all of us have to realize our own accountability and ownership in the impacting of the culture at our company.
Not only impacting the culture internally, but to what Zeeshan said earlier, how our customers, partners and the world at large see the personality of the company, how we operate, and how we show up.
I just want to say that I think an extremely important aspect is that it's easier to teach skills and experience, while it's very tough to teach culture.
So bringing in someone who has the right culture, and then teaching them with the skills they need is so much easier when you compare it to doing it the other way around.