Rachel Orston with UserIQCulture Champion
Rachel Orston joins us as our next Culture Champion! She shares with us her experiences with great company cultures in the past, and how they inspired her when building her own culture, which is full of transparency and trust!
CEO of UserIQ
Deep experience launching and marketing new products for some of the world’s most recognizable technology brands, including Microsoft, Sony, EMC and IBM. I love re-writing the rules and coming up with new business models that will uncover significant growth opportunities. I recently drove customer success and SaaS growth across IBM’s global SaaS portfolio (including Watson), having successfully led customer adoption and client services at Silverpop (IBM acquired Silverpop in 2014). I’m now taking all my lessons-learned to UserIQ, where I serve as CEO.
Passionate about mentoring and growing strong leaders, I enjoy sharing my start-up lessons learned and mentoring other aspiring entrepreneurs in the areas of customer development, product-market fit and fundraising. I serve as an advisor/mentor to the Atlanta Tech Village, Engage Ventures as well as Points of Light Civic Incubator. This summer (2018), I will also participate as a mentor with Atlanta Techstars.
UserIQ’s platform enables businesses to exceed their users’ needs, starting at adoption, so they can be successful in every moment. That means combining the intelligence to understand users with experiences that guide them — all in one seamless solution. Our customers effectively scale their onboarding efforts, increase feature usage, accelerate time-to-value for their customers, and ultimately drive more revenue throughout the customer journey. This results in faster user adoption and healthier retention and growth rates thanks to a better customer experience.
From the Podcast Booth:
Series Quick Links
Speaker 1: Welcome to The Epic Company Culture Podcast, where your host Josh Sweeney will give you the business leaders, HR professionals, and company culture aficionados the knowledge you need to take your company culture to the next level.
Josh Sweeney: Hello, my name is Josh Sweeney, and welcome to The Epic Company Culture. Before I get started, I would like to think Prototype prime for this amazing podcast space. Today I’m joined by Rachel Orston of UserIQ. Thanks for joining me.
Rachel Orston: Hey Josh. It’s great to be here.
Josh Sweeney: Yeah. Awesome. Well, what I would like to do today is hear just, I guess we’ll get started by hearing more about you, about UserIQ, and then we’ll talk a little bit about company culture.
Rachel Orston: Lets go it.
Josh Sweeney: All right. So tell us about yourself.
Introducing Rachel Orston
Rachel Orston: So I’m Rachel Orston. I’m the CEO of UserIQ. We are a digital adoption platform that helps primarily B2B SAS companies understand and engage with their users so they can guide their users to success. We help companies improve user adoption, onboarding. If users are using more of your product and hopefully getting what they need to get done, they’re going to retain, they’re gonna stay with you, they’re going to grow with you, you’re going to get more revenue out of them. And so that’s the problems that we solve for those companies.
Josh Sweeney: Got it. So you’re helping other organizations with the adoption of their software, of their platforms.
Adoption of Software
Rachel Orston: Absolutely. Absolutely. With adoption and ultimately retention and expansion and advocacy. Because if you can’t get adoption going, if you can’t get users really to use your product to solve a business problem, they’re not gonna stay with you and they’re not going to become advocates and they’re not going to expand. So it really starts with getting that foundation strong.
Josh Sweeney: Awesome. Well, we’ve talked about it on the show before, all about the perception of how company culture expands into your customers’ perception of you. So how do you feel that the software really helps all of your customers convey their culture, convey they really care about that user experience. How does that translate to the users for your clients?
UserIQ’s Unique Differentiation
Rachel Orston: Well it’s a really good question. And I see part of really our unique differentiation is that we care about our users, users, we pair about our customers, customers, we’re not just all about our customer, we want to make our customer successful, but we want to make our customer’s customers successful. So there’s like an extension of that. And in doing so I think it’s really important that our customers make their customers feel heard and to the extent that they can create a very personalized experience for that individual user. And that’s hard to do. Many of our customers have like tens of thousands of users. So the problem becomes how do you do that? How do you do that at scale? How do you do that when I’m a big fast growing SAS company and I have tens of thousands of millions of customers, right? How do I make each of them feel like they’re getting a great experience?
Rachel Orston: And that’s really what UserIQ does it make some, be able to understand here, listen, collect feedback, do custom surveys. And really to the extent that they can tailor a really strong experience for those users. And so the more that you could connect with users on an individual basis, which is hard to do in an application, the more they feel like they’re part of your community, the more they feel like they matter. And so that in itself I think is a cultural statement that you as user matter and that we’re going to do everything we can to try to connect and make you feel heard and understood.
Alignment for the Customers
Josh Sweeney: I love the alignment with what you do for your customers, customers and what we do and what you work on as well in your own company culture, the experience of your employees, the experiences that you’re having what they’re going through in the organization. So with that, one thing we like to hear about is your experience from company culture. So I’ll kick it off with the first company culture question, which is what is the best company culture experience you’ve had other than UserIQ?
Best Culture Experience
Rachel Orston: I feel like there’s always recency bias when you asked that question because you’re shaped by more of your recent experiences. For me it’s harder. I’ve been doing this a long time so it’s harder for me necessarily like pull back like a couple of decades ago. But I would say my best cultural experience was it Silverpop with Bill Nussey as the CEO. He happens to also be an investor now and UserIQ and a board member. And I’m very lucky that I worked for him for many years, learned from him as a CEO and now being a first time CEO myself and feel like I’ve tried my best to bring a lot of things I really liked about Silverpop culture into UserIQ.
Culture During Acquisition
Rachel Orston: So I would say my biggest cultural lessons learned both what to do and what not to do and I think Bill would have his own perspective on that as well came from my time, I had about a good six years at Silverpop prior to joining UserIQ. And then of course there were a couple of years IBM because Silverpop was bought by IBM. And that was a very big culture change being a fast growing company in Atlanta than being acquired by one of the largest technology companies in the world. Right.
Josh Sweeney: Yeah. I went through one of those acquisitions myself at a security firm that was bought by IBM. So complete change and I’ve been through that a few times.
Rachel Orston: Yeah. We many talks about that, yeah.
Josh Sweeney: There’s a lot of differences there. So as far as Silverpop, what were some of your most memorable portions the great experiences that really stood out where he said, I want to replicate that in at UserIQ or I want to replicate that later.
The Silverpop Experience
Rachel Orston: Yeah. There’s a couple things that we did and I feel Silverpoppers in Atlanta listening to this podcast. You might get a smile because this will bring back memories. But Bill loved Halloween and we did a big deal out of Halloween and it just became this like bigger than it just kind of grew organically. We did a big Halloween Party and employees were allowed to bring their family. So it was also the stage of life. I think we were, as a company, we had a lot of young people that were starting families.
And so there were a lot of young children. And so this idea of really bringing families, it was a very, it became a family event and bringing families into the fold from a party perspective in a way that I’m not seeing companies do really acknowledging families beyond the traditional like holiday party where you bring your spouse, but really saying, hey, Silverpop’s really this place where young people are having kids and they’re little kids and how can we kind of bring them into the company in some way?
Making the Family Connection
Rachel Orston: I thought that was very special. And Bill used Halloween is a way to say, look, I get it. You guys have families, you have small children. How can we connect Silverpop to family? So that was number one from Halloween perspective.
But then the second thing was we had a competitive Halloween costume. And like office decoration competition where it got pretty competitive, where different departments would come up with Halloween themes and we would like completely decorate the halls and the floors and it got pretty elaborate in terms of like the ideas, the execution, the costuming that went in.
And it’s like crazy now to look back at like what we did. But it also really I think fostered a lot of camaraderie within the teams. Like people would start planning like months in advance for this and it would bring like coworkers together I think in a way that people wouldn’t normally interact around something that’s just kind of silly when you think about it as like decorating the office costuming, completely different than like the day to day of our email marketing and what we did.
Rachel Orston: So to me that whole experience around Halloween was something I had never experienced before and it was really quite memorable. Both from the way we engage with families on the party because we did a party at night and then during the day we had this really fun office kind of contest competition.
Tangibles AND Intangibles
Josh Sweeney: Yeah. We try and share a lot about how company culture is the tangibles and the intangibles right in the tangibles can be the parties and the events and the ping pong tables and whatever other tangible items are part of it. But you hinted and kind of mentioned on the intangible side of people planning together and collaborating and spending more time. So what do you think the intangible factor of that was? What do you think the outcome was of everybody’s spending this time together? Planning for the events or building, their costumes or doing other things outside their normal day to day?
The Intangible of Halloween
Rachel Orston: Yeah. It’s a tough one for me. I think the intangible and this very much and I know you’ve probably had other people on the podcast and you’ve, the conversation should play gone in this direction. There’s been a lot of written work about his culture about being a family versus the sports team. You’re, there’s Reed Hastings article that you always very much you the Netflix culture is about team versus family. I think ideally you want to balance it both, right? You want that team sport attitude. But there’s some family camaraderie, acknowledgement of families. I think when I look back at that particular Halloween example, I think for me it was Silverpops way of balancing both. I think that Silverpop did a good job kind of balancing a family like atmosphere to some degree.
Check Your Ego at the Door
Rachel Orston: With like we’re a team, like how do we compete, how do we come together and do that in a really fun way where we don’t take ourselves. I think Bill and if Bill, this will make sense, but there’s a way of doing it, not taking yourself too seriously, right? And having fun and trying to have fun in the process. And so I think those were some of the intangibles that came through and how we acted at Silverpop. I think we never took ourselves too seriously. I think we were not very … We were like, check your ego at the door. We came together in a very competitive way, like a team sport but never to an over like too much, like 180 detriment. Does that make sense?
Josh Sweeney: Right it wasn’t so over competitive or didn’t go in a direction that had a negative impact?
Element of Fun
Rachel Orston: Correct. And there was an element of like fun to the work where like I really would, during my six years there I tell people I had so much fun and it’s not often that you characterize your job as that, especially when you are in email Marketing space and let’s be clear that email. But I had a ton of fun. And so I think that those were some of the intangibles. And I think most people that worked at Silverpop would probably share a lot of my sentiment. It’s easy to look back now and have a bit of sentiment around it, but it was a lot of fun work.
Josh Sweeney: So with Silverpop having their Halloween party in that be in the memorable experience in multiple different ways. Do you have something at UserIQ, that is really yours?
Rachel Orston: I’ve been with the company so I’m a relatively new CEO. I’m in there about 20 months and it’s hard because there’s maybe what I think is memorable versus what the team would think is memorable. And I would say we don’t have necessarily an event like the Halloween party that I described with Silverpop, but I do a Monday morning stand up and I’ve gotten a lot of feedback that those stand ups are really important to the team. And lots of times I’ll talk about just my view of what’s going on in the market or I’ll talk about a particular leadership topic or where I think the company is going and in dealing with a particular challenge that might be having.
And one of our big culture characteristics is radical candor and transparency. And maybe to a fault, I’m completely open and very direct about where I see us in the market, how I think we’re doing.
Rachel Orston: And I think for the team they would probably say that my 10, 15 minutes every Monday morning, just talking to them like really personal about what I’m dealing with as a CEO, what my week is like, what I’m thinking, what’s top of mind for me. And doing that in like a very open way and like not holding back on stuff I think for them is probably a meaningful event.
Which is weird because it’s about me. And I hate saying that because I’ve actually asked them like, do you guys care about this? Like maybe I should stop doing this. And they’re like, no, no, no, no, no. Actually that’s, we want you to keep talk every Monday. Because I’ve always kept saying, should we pull back from that? Is that working? Do people value it? And it’s probably the one thing that people consistently tell me they really look forward to on Monday mornings.
Rachel Orston: So that’s more pressure on me a little bit. So I think it speaks to some of our culture, but also I think that’s kind of a rhythm and kind of events that we’re creating. But we don’t have yet. And we do like parties and socials. We have a social committee, we do things every month. But nothing like the Halloween party yet, the bar’s really high for that in my mind. Like I don’t think we’ve gotten there yet.
Josh Sweeney: So, but yours right now, that Monday stand up is giving a time for you to be, have your radical candor with this realization, transparency. They know what’s going on and they feel like they’re in the loop and things just start really coming down on high miraculously or anything. They know what the market are so-
Remote Employee Meetings
Rachel Orston: And we’re small enough that we can do that today. We’re small enough that we’re 30 some more people in Atlanta. Now I also do a separate one with our team in India. We have seven folks in Bangalore. So I kind of do like another reply of that for them. And oftentimes I’ll even send an email that I before kind of teasing the topic that I’m going to talk about on Monday and I’ll send that out to the whole company, including our investors. So yeah, and they vary on all different topics, different themes. Yeah.
Josh Sweeney: Very cool. What are some of the other things so you said like market research, what’s happening in the industry. What are some of the other themes that you’d like to share?
Rachel Orston: I’m very candid about accomplishments of celebrations and what we can learn from it and also where we could improve. So I’m a big fan of like, I don’t know if you’ve read Ray Dalio’s Principles, have you read Principles?
Principles by Ray Dalio
Josh Sweeney: Yeah I have read it but it has been awhile.
Rachel Orston: Not everyone’s a Ray Dahlia fan necessarily, but he’s got this concept of pain plus reflection equals progress, right? Instead, there’s this concentric loop of learning. And so we’re very much a growth mindset company. And so I’m very big on like what can we learn from every challenge, from every setback and also every accomplishment. And so like that pain plus reflection. So especially if we’re going through a particularly challenging time figuring out a problem, maybe it’s, we’re still trying to understand a product fit with some of our product with an area of our product. It might been some feedback we got from a customer positive or negative. Lots of times I’ll put that out there in the room and say this is what’s going on and this is how I’m thinking about it.
Rachel Orston: This is how I’m thinking about how we could respond to this. This was when I’m thinking about the lesson learned, this is what I’m thinking about how this experience can shape our strategy moving forward. So it’s very much very specific examples of either what’s happening with our customers.
Nurturing the Users
What responses we’re getting in the market, positive or negative from our product. Things of that nature. And I’m also out talking to investors a lot though I think we’re in a very hot space UserIQ. If you think about the whole post purchase experience, coming out of marketing automation like Silverpop, right? It’s been all like email, customer acquisition, marketing automation, right? But now we’ve got this whole like what do we do with users after they’ve been acquired right after that they bought, how do we nurture them? How do we create these great experiences? And the spaces I think really nascent, I think it’s going to be huge, probably bigger even than on the marketing automation space.
The Investor Perspective
Rachel Orston: So I am also out talking to investors and so I’ll bring back a lot of investor perspectives to the business. I’ll be like, well this is what investors are telling me they think about the space. So stuff like that that I’ll bring back into the room so that people feel connected to what I’m hearing what I’m learning, especially like the development team or necessarily the sales team, they wouldn’t necessarily know what I’m talking about with investors for example, or what. So.
TRACTION – EOS Model
Josh Sweeney: Yeah, I know we follow traction, the whole EOS model, and we have cascading messages from our level 10 meeting and we’ve always looked at how do we provide more value to the entire team. And I liked the idea of how am I thinking about it? What am I hearing? What is the translation on that or the other things that I’m dealing with?
Josh Sweeney: So I think it just adds, like you said, that candor and transparency. So the team really has a good idea of what’s going on. And then what I’ve also found is when you tell the team those types of things, when you’re more transparent, when you’re more candid, they come up with solutions for you.
Rachel Orston: Absolutely.
Josh Sweeney: So they solve the problem.
What is the CEO Doing?
Rachel Orston: Absolutely. And it’s on a common for them … I think it’s also, I worry sometimes that people, see the CEO running around meaning to meeting, to meeting. Like they’re very busy people like I’m on the phone, it’s phone calls, you are popping in and out of my office. And I worry that I never want to be that person where people are like, what does she do all day? Like what conversations is she having? Like I know Rachel’s busy, but like what does that really mean?
Rachel Orston: And so for me, I really want people to know like this is what I’m doing all day. Like this is how my week went, and by doing so I want people to feel like I am more accessible and I have a lot of our employees and we’re still a small company. I mean let’s put 40 people. So we are pretty open and I want that to be the way it should be. And what I like about it too is it invites people to come to me.
Open Door Policy
I have a very open door policy. So it invites people to say, hey, can I talk to you about what you talked about? Can I get five minutes on your calendar to ask you a few questions? Absolutely. Like that’s what I want. I want curiosity. I want people to say I thought about what you said on Monday, can I ask you a few other questions about that? Sure, yeah. Let’s talk about it. Like to your point, how can you help us solve it? Or do you have a different idea of another way we can look at it.
Rachel Orston: And those are the ends up being the conversations that I have with our employees that really get me excited and help me engage with them in a different way than maybe I normally would.
Josh Sweeney: Yeah, I can definitely see that and also from my experiences, just having them come to you with those questions you know that they were hearing it. You know that it was engaging, that they were thinking about it and you aren’t just standing up talking for 10 or 15 minutes and then went off about your day.
Rachel Orston: That’s right.
Josh Sweeney: Because they’re coming back to you.
Rachel Orston: That’s right.
Josh Sweeney: They are providing their feedback.
Rachel Orston: That’s right. Well if you think about it too, I mean, look, we’re an early stage company, like people who choose, choose to do this.
Choosing the Early Stage Venture
Rachel Orston: Like think about it. Like you’re choosing an early stage venture. You’re choosing the Messiness, you’re choosing the uncertainty you’re choosing, the rest, you’re choosing … Many of them are choosing pay decreases, right? So you’re making a lot of sacrifices to some degree depending on how you look at it to take a bet in an early stage venture. And so I think in many respects, it’s a responsibility that you have because these are people that have made career bets in this particular company.
And I take that really seriously. I mean, we’re really lucky because we have a very really interesting hiring profile, we hire obviously like we look for very high performers. People who are very well you and I were talking before we started recording about motivation.
Rachel Orston: I mean these are people who take their work really seriously, who want to make a big contribution. And so that idea of connectedness I think matters a ton, especially at this early stage because this is why these people made this decision. If they want it to go be like a sit in a cube somewhere and you’d just be part of the machine, like they go back to it they go work for some Joe big company. Right? Right. but they chose this. So how are you going to respond? What’s your role as a CEO I think to respond to that commitment?
Josh Sweeney: Yeah. I love what you were saying about what they’re really sacrificing and what they’re there for. I think that could be a clip for new hiring, just to get people on board, let them know what they’re going to be working with. I’m going to switch gears real quick to a culture experience that was memorable but in a more negatively impactful way. So you don’t have to name any names.
Rachel Orston: Yeah.
Josh Sweeney: But what was the one thing culturally that’s happening or company culture that you are a part of that you just said, I don’t want that at UserIQ. I don’t want to have that to happen again or I don’t want to work for a company that has that as part of their experience.
Rachel Orston: Yeah. So I thought about this question and I’m happy to answer it. So and in the spirit of my commitment to radical candor and transparency I will say that over the last two years I’ve been with UserIQ. We’ve had a lot of strategic interests in the business. And that’s exciting because we love that there’s other bigger companies out there that level we’re doing and are interested in us. And when I worked for Silverpop, it was the same way. We had a lot of strategic interest in the business and the time that I was there. And so lots of big companies would come knocking on the door, talk to the leadership team, which I was a part of. Ultimately, obviously we went with IBM, but it was getting to that point, there were a lot of people that came to the dance. Right.
Silicon Valley Experience
Rachel Orston: And then the same way UserIQ is also had a couple of folks knock on the door. And there was one particular experience, I won’t say I when it was or who was where I was talking to the leadership team of a particular Silicon Valley, a large, very well established business. And they were it was the entire leadership team in this room and I was out in the bay area. I was on their turf in their board room with their leadership team. And they were kind of grilling me on the business and I won’t say it when it was, but they were grilling me on what I was doing and what was going on. I could tell by the questioning and by the dynamic in the room that have you ever been in a conversation where you could tell Josh, like people are trying to, they’re not even talking to you, they’re trying to show each other up in the room.
Josh Sweeney: Right. There you go they are competing against each other.
The Impact of the Interactions
Rachel Orston: Exactly. So I’m in this meeting and again, these are all let’s kind of say what it is like I would, and actually looked up a lot of these guys and girls women’s profiles prior to going into this being, so I knew the people I was meeting with and their backgrounds. Overwhelmingly like Stanford Grads, like MBA is like great histories. Many of them had like top other tech for, I mean, so stellar resumes, right? These people are incredibly smart and bright, like really smart people. But you could tell in the way they interacted with each other and with me that it was very much a show of who could stump me the most and who could kind of, I could feel the tension in the room and the competitive nature between them.
Lack of RESPECT
Rachel Orston: They didn’t talk to each other and they cut each other off. They were very rude. They interrupted one another and like spoke over one another. I didn’t sense that there was like a lot of respect in the room. And here I was actually really excited to meet with these people. I had no idea where the meeting would go and ultimately where the opportunity would go. But I’m thinking, Geez, I’m sitting here with some of the most, like these are some really talented again, looking at their resumes, really smart people. And they were, but the way they interacted with one another and the way they interacted with me was really, I left that meeting. It’s funny I spoke to my husband later that night and he was like, from my hotel room. He’s like, how did it go?
Rachel Orston: And I’m like they asked some really good questions and like they did stump me. It definitely was a grilling kind of meeting, but I left with a bad taste in my mouth and he asked, why? “You could just tell that it’s just such a competitive environment. They were just trying to eat each other up a little bit in the room.” And it really just left a very bad impression.
It’s interesting since that meeting there had been a lot of turnover and I had later found out that there was a lot of infighting and I think that there are some cultures where they do … I think there isn’t a philosophy that some companies subscribe, which is high performance happens when you get people in that like that’s a good tension. Get people internally competing with each other, you get the best, supposedly you get the best out of people when you have that healthy kind of internal competition.
Rachel Orston: I never subscribed to that. I don’t believe in that. I don’t really get that at all. It’s not in my DNA. And I think seeing that play out in that meeting was really just left me very feeling about the company and frankly I was really glad that we didn’t end up doing anything.
Josh Sweeney: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, I’ve definitely seen various situations and on boards of advisors and things like that where people are really trying to show each other up as opposed to get value. Value that they need out of it because really it was not to stump you. The goal probably wasn’t to stump you, it was to get information from you and find out whether it’s a fit and what you guys are doing. But in the challenge with each other I don’t even see how you can pay attention quite as much as you would need to ask the most pertinent question.
Rachel Orston: That’s right.
Josh Sweeney: If you’re just challenging the other person.
The Understood Apology
Rachel Orston: And I remember too in this particular meeting it was interesting how to follow up meeting and and there was, the CFO was in the room and he was pretty quiet the whole time and he was probably one of the more senior people in the room in terms of like age experience. And I could tell he was almost embarrassed. Like I could tell that he was seeing what was going on. And I met with him later, one on one and he didn’t apologize, but he kind of did. He was “I felt like that meeting was a bit intense and I hope it went over well with you.” I could tell that the questioning people were talking over one another and I could tell that he was fumbling through it, but that was his way of saying, I know what was going on there.
Josh Sweeney: Right.
Rachel Orston: And I agree that that wasn’t a great experience for you.
Fixing the Challenges
Josh Sweeney: Yeah, I know, we see that in some of our customers. We almost always get one person that really just kind of seems to know what’s going on and when they know what’s going on and they want to explain it to us. So we’ll go meet with the executive team and we can kind of feel the dynamic. You know something’s happening and then this one person always kind of pulls you off and like, let me give you the breakdown. This is all confidential. Right? Here’s what’s going on. Help me fix it. So there’s different ways that each company tries to fix those challenges.
Rachel Orston: That’s right. So and I think when you’re talking acquisition too, I think people also go in fear mode. Like when they’re looking at another company, there’s kind of also, I think those leaders get very insecure and they’re like, well what will that mean to me? And I want to puff up my feathers and make sure that people know where I am. Like all sorts of weird stuff comes out.
Josh Sweeney: Yeah. Or Ion covered the most important thing for that acquisition so it’s more of credit type of situation.
Rachel Orston: Yes. Totally Josh.
Biggest Culture Challenge with UserIQ
Josh Sweeney: So last thing at UserIQ, what is the biggest company culture challenge that you’re looking at taking on or changing or initiating going into the new year?
Rachel Orston: Okay, so this one’s an interesting one and it’s a real one that I’m dealing with right now. So we’re growing, we’ve grown, we’ve more than doubled where we were at the ATDC. So like think of like 14 people on top of each other. Georgetown tech, and now we’re in a bucket space that we’re subleasing and now we’re again over a little over 30 folks and we’re growing a lot more next year. So we’ve had a great year and I anticipate we’re going to have an even better next year and that’s going to be more employees.
One of the things that I’m struggling with is we’re in this really cool kind of open, collaborative space. And everyone’s kind of in one open room and developers, sales, blah, blah, blah. And I recently did an employee survey, which I’m going to share with you after this because I’d love to get your feedback on it.
Too Open Space
Rachel Orston: And an overwhelmingly it was really positive. But one of the things that came out of it that really surprised me was people are not happy with the space. And a couple of things emerged. we’ve got this issue of developers sitting in an open space with sales. So there’s this quiet kind of dark environment that the developers really want. So and then their sales and marketing phones. And so and I knew this happens all the time, but it’s one that I’m really dealing with. Like it’s a cultural thing too because what’s happening, and this is the one thing that surprised me the most is, and I guess now there’s articles written about the benefit of open spaces versus not. I think in our case because it is such an open space, literally no walls.
No Walls, No Sidebar Conversations
Rachel Orston: I mean we’re all in open tables, there’s no cubes, there’s no partitions. And I think sometimes people, some of the things that came out in the survey too is that people feel almost like they can’t talk because like everyone’s listening like they can’t have like a sidebar conversation. because it’s like their onstage, in front of everybody in the office. And so that was really interesting to get that feedback and how people felt about the open space felt like, I mean I heard some very specific criticisms like don’t feel like I can have open conversations necessarily and I don’t feel like I haven’t a place to go because we’re, it’s still small space. Like we don’t have a lot of breakout rooms and things like that. There was comments about just the environment like quiet versus loud feeling like developers wanted a certain way.
Finding the Right Space
Rachel Orston: And so I think one of my big challenges, and it’s interesting to our subleases up in June, so we’ve been in this really cool space in buck head for two years. I can’t believe it’s been two years since we moved out of ATDC. And now once again I got to think about space but it was great timing to do the survey because I’m like, oh this is actually a bigger challenge than I thought in my mind I’m like oh I just have to go find new space. And in my mind I’m like, oh I’ll just find more open space because this is working, but it’s not necessarily working based on what I heard from the survey.
Space is a big part of Culture
Rachel Orston: So I’m like, oh, I really have to nail freak about space differently in a way that I didn’t think I was going to have to do. Looking at that’s a big challenge. It sounds very specific, like not that exciting, but space is a big deal to people. Like especially if they’re working long hours in a building all day and they’re commuting making that space really conducive to productivity is something I want to really focus on.
Josh Sweeney: Yeah, it’s interesting. I’ve actually started finding space more and more interesting over time as I’ve visited spaces and got certain feelings when I walk into those spaces or when I work from them because I’ve seen the same thing where the evolution was lots of space where everybody’s cordoned off, right? Private offices Dev over here, sales over here and there’s lots of walls. And then we went to this open space where everybody’s in the same space.
Rachel Orston: Right.
Josh Sweeney: And now we were actually, we had Jeff Pollock on who’s a commercial real estate agent, does real estate for a lot of tech companies. And what he said that he sees it is going is they’re actually pulling back and trending towards more cordoned off spaces than we are at now. But instead of it being dedicated, it’s flex space. So instead of somebody corner office, it’s a collaboration space.
Josh Sweeney: It’s the phone booth rooms that you get at the co-working spaces. It’s ways for other people to still go collaborate in a great way or it’s ways of separating people but not with a door or With a full wall. So there’s all kinds of things that people are doing. And I know many months ago I went to visit a friend of mine’s company, Red Pepper up in Nashville and they had this concept that I’ve talked about before on the podcast around work modes. And it talks about the various different work modes that people go through in a day. Are they at a sit down desk in a cube? Are they in an open area? Are they in a bean bag? Are they in a room where you can’t see out of it and there’s no visual distractions?
Josh Sweeney: So I think they had eight or 10 different work modes that they’ve identified and built into their space, which was just a really cool way to think about it when I visited, I could really get that feeling because they had these big open areas where they would just move a wall and they did a very cost effective wall where it blocked off that room. You could still get in and out, but then if you moved to the whole law, it would just open up into this big space. And it was like, wow, this is awesome. People have put tremendous amounts of thought into space. So I look forward to hearing about your new space and then what that’s gonna look like.
Rachel Orston: Yeah, I appreciate. Yeah because the next time … we were lucky to get a two year but the next space, probably be longer time commitment. So it’s a big deal, right. We’ll play, can be in this space for two, three, four years. So we need to be thoughtful about it.
Josh Sweeney: Yeah. Well, thank you for joining us on the podcast.
Rachel Orston: My pleasure. Thank you.
Speaker 1: Thank you for tuning in to today’s episode of The Epic Company Culture podcast with Josh Sweeney. If you enjoy this content, please subscribe on iTunes, SoundCloud, or Stitcher. For additional content and transcripts, visit epicculture.co if you have questions or topics you would like us to address or expand on, tweet us @epicculture1 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Podcast Highlights and Resources
- I think it’s really important that our customers make their customers feel heard and to the extent that they can create a very personalized experience for that individual user.
- Bill used Halloween is a way to say, look, I get it. You guys have families, you have small children. How can we connect Silverpop to family?
- You want that team sport attitude, But there’s some family camaraderie, acknowledgement of families.
- I’m very big on like what can we learn from every challenge, from every setback and also every accomplishment.
- You’re choosing an early stage venture. You’re choosing the Messiness, you’re choosing the uncertainty.
- It’s a responsibility that you have because these are people that have made career bets in this particular company.
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Principles by Ray Dalio
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He also describes the innovative tools the firm uses to bring an idea meritocracy to life, such as creating “baseball cards” for all employees that distill their strengths and weaknesses, and employing computerized decision-making systems to make believability-weighted decisions. While the book brims with novel ideas for organizations and institutions, Principles also offers a clear, straightforward approach to decision-making that Dalio believes anyone can apply, no matter what they’re seeking to achieve.
Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business
All entrepreneurs and business leaders face similar frustrations—personnel conflict, profit woes, and inadequate growth. Decisions never seem to get made, or, once made, fail to be properly implemented. But there is a solution. It’s not complicated or theoretical. Based on years of real-world implementation in more than 100 companies, the Entrepreneurial Operating System® is a practical method for achieving the business success you have always envisioned.
In Traction, you’ll learn the secrets of strengthening the six key components of your business. You’ll discover simple yet powerful ways to run your company that will give you and your leadership team more focus, more growth, and more enjoyment. Successful companies are applying Traction every day to run profitable, frustration-free businesses—and you can too.
For an illustrative, real-world lesson on how to apply Traction to your business, check out its companion book, Get A Grip.
The Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) at Georgia Tech is Georgia’s technology incubator. Founded in 1980, ATDC has developed a global reputation for fostering technological entrepreneurship. Forbesnamed ATDC to its list of “Incubators Changing the World” in 2010 and 2013, alongside Y Combinator and the Palo Alto Research Center.
Through a unique framework combining curriculum, coaching, connections, and community, we help startups succeed.
The Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) is a Global business network of 13,000+ leading entrepreneurs in 185 chapters and 58 countries. Founded in 1987 by a group of young entrepreneurs, EO enables business owners to learn from each other, leading to greater business success and an enriched personal life.
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Our suburban location within a 500-acre commercial office park, adjacent to a custom- built intelligent mobility test and demonstration track, is the ideal place to envision what smart cities of the future will look like.