Human Resources Today

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core values


Startup Culture: Q&A with Trupanion’s Darryl Rawlings

Dog A recent Wall Street Journal blog post talked about the fight for talent at startups. The blogger, Neil Blumenthal (Co-Founder and Co-Chief Executive Officer of Warby Parker), said, “The first step toward finding the right people is to have a deep understanding of your company’s identity.” This couldn’t be more true.

Darryl Rawlings, CEO of Trupanion (a pet insurance company whose mission is to help pets receive the best veterinary care possible), believes this to be true as well. Continuing with our Q&A series with startup leaders, today I’m sharing Mr. Rawlings  views on startup culture in his growing company and the role of Trupanion’s identity in hiring talent.

exaqueo: Does your company have a stated set of cultural values?

Darryl Rawlings, Trupanion (DR): Yes. They are: 1. We do what we say; 2. Simple is better (which is why we have one simple pet insurance plan); 3. Do not punish unlucky pets (meaning pet owners and their pets do not get punished with fees, restrictions, etc. for making claims. We want them to make claims! That’s what we’re here for!); 4. Do not be insurance-like. Be innovative and fair; 5. and We love our pets! And if you don’t, it was nice meeting you; however, you’re not a good fit for our company.

exaqueo: Can you describe your corporate culture in three words?

DR: Original, Fun, Passionate.

exaqueo: When you have made an effort to understand and strengthen your culture, what did you learn the most?

DR: I learned that the stronger the culture, the happier the team. And the happier the team, the happier they’ll make your clients.

exaqueo: What have you learned about the importance of culture that you can apply to the work you do for your clients?

DR: In my business it’s extremely important for every team member from the bottom to the top to be passionate about pets. Their passion for pets makes them passionate for clients pets. When you care about your work like we do, you do better work.

exaqueo: How do you manage having the right talent to meet rapid growth?

DR: When you’re growing as rapidly as we are, you don’t just find good leaders; you find leaders who will strive to create other leaders. Team work is important too, we only hire team players. We’re constantly on the lookout and keeping our eyes peeled for good talent. We spread the word about our company and network our tails off. It’s paid off over the years as we’re getting more people excited about our company and wanting to work with us. It helps our recruiters with candidates knocking on our doors versus the other way around.

exaqueo: Why does talent + culture fit matter?

DR: For Trupanion, the talent absolutely has to fit our culture (pet-friendly culture) or they simply won’t be able to fully understand the value we are offering pet owners. You don’t get the same high quality work from workers who don’t fit well. Quality is low and that worker’s future opportunities in the company are low too because they simply don’t fit our values. When I was raising capital for Trupanion, I brought a variety of big hitters into a room together. I asked them all to raise their hand if they had a pet. For those without their hands raised, I asked them to leave, because unfortunately, they just won’t get what we do. And I made them leave. I require everyone who joins our Board of Directors to own a pet.

Lexi Gordon is a Lead Consultant for exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.



Startup Culture: Q&A with SocialRadar's Michael Chasen

Let’s face it, culture’s hot right now. From Zappos and Netflix to Hubspot and Google, founders are eager to create their own manifestos and espouse a cool culture. I’m constantly reminding clients that it takes more than a list of values to create a culture. The values have to become part of the everyday of your organization. And that means you have to hold employees accountable for them. At exaqueo, we call them work rules. It’s how our clients go beyond a list of core values and cool perks to a culture that really sustains. As founders, sustainability is the model we should be emulating. So I’m always seeking founders who are making that happen–creating a culture that lives, breathes and sustains. This week, I caught up with one founder who’s doing just that.

Michael Chasen is the founder and CEO of SocialRadar and former founder and CEO of Blackboard, Inc. SocialRadar aggregates existing social data to better connect users in real-time, in real places. With almost $13 million in funding earlier this year, SocialRadar’s growing fast. That’s where culture comes in, and Michael knows the importance of getting it right, now.

Susan LaMotte, exaqueo (SL): Does your company have a stated set of cultural values?

Michael Chasen, Social Radar (MC): Indeed, and we worked hard to create it. An introduction to our culture.

SL: When you made the effort to understand and strengthen your culture, what did you learn the most?

MC: When we started the company, we knew that culture was going to be an important component of a successful team and product. We didn’t leave our culture to chance; instead we called upon various influences to establish it and put it in writing for all on board to refer to. It’s one thing to say that teamwork is important, but it’s another to operationalize the company to support that—for example, we have fixed “work late nights” and team outings. In other words, we have both scheduled group overtime and scheduled group fun time. We offer perks such as gym membership, healthy dinners on work late nights, and general flexibility with hours to show our commitment to a work-life balance.

SL: That’s so true–you have to have examples of the values in practice to make them come alive.  What will you do to grow the company you want to grow?

MC: If you build it, they will come, right? We are pouring our energy into fine-tuning a product that is not only cool but ultimately indispensable. Even our marketing team would admit that word of mouth can be more powerful than any planned campaign...

…continue reading the rest of this post over on Tech Cocktail where it was originally posted.

Susan LaMotte is the founder of exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce strategy that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.



Work Rules: What They Are and Why You Need Them

Work Rules: What They Are and Why You Need ThemEvery company wants to be cool in some way -- more specifically, be known for something: a great place to work, a cool thing to be part of, a place people brag about joining. That's where the values come in. Whether valuable or not (pun intended), core values are the hot topic when it comes to culture. You have to have them. And whether you're Toms Shoes, Whole Foods or Teach for America, your values set the stage for your business.

While values and culture creation is the first step, it's not the most important. Enter work rules.

What Are Work Rules?

"Work rules" is a term we've developed here at exaqueo. Work rules are a way to make what a company values real and hold employees accountable. You can have the best list of core values ever, but if you don't hold employees accountable and align the way you do business to them, they don't mean anything.

Here's how it works:

Take one of Whole Foods' core values: "supporting team member excellence and happiness." Sounds good, right? But what exactly does that mean? How is that manifested in the day to day operations of a Whole Foods store?

It could mean personal support -- doing right by each other when it comes to learning and development, lots of time off, special dispensation for family needs, stipends for personal interests. Or, it could be about the business -- supporting team members who need help stocking shelves or find themselves overwhelmed with a line of customers at customer service.

You Have to Define Your Values

Specifically, what do they look like in practice? And at Whole Foods, this particular value is focused more on workplace happiness than happiness outside of work.

Nothing wrong with that -- in fact, their clarity is commendable. As an current or future employee it's clear what they mean by happiness. I can expect very fair wages. I shouldn't expect extra time off.

Another example of a value many companies might have is "customer service." But what kind of customer service is valued?

That's where work rules come in.  Maybe the focus is on deep customer relationships and problem solving. Or it could be about fast service, getting customers served efficiently and correctly. Either way, work rules help you better define what great performance looks like in your organization, and that makes hiring and performance management better. And it helps your company stay focused.

If you're wondering if it's worth it, if there's real, monetary value in this, let me know. I'll send you a real-world example from one of our clients.

If you need the motivation to get started, ask yourself how important talent is to growth.

There's your answer.

exaqueo is a human resources consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to grow in the right way.



Brand: Jerry Leo

If all I watched was Top Chef, The Millionaire Matchmaker and Inside the Actors Studio, I'd be a happy couch potato. And, I'd only need the "Bravo Channel" package from Comcast. From a channel that brands itself as every show being the next big thing (and then delivering) comes the brand of Jerry Leo. The Senior Vice President, of Program Strategy and Acquisitions for Bravo, Jerry has the enviable task of figuring out what happens next.  How did he get here?  A great personal brand for starters. Susan: Thanks for taking the time to chat--I know you have many things on your plate right now. So let's get right to it. I've been thinking about how selling yourself and angling for that next job or promotion is really, in essence, a pitch.  If you were a show, how would you pitch yourself?

Jerry: "An energetic, fast paced, competition reality show with high stakes on the line."

S: High stakes can be risky, but it can be good to be known for taking risks too.  What else are you know for? When people talk about Jerry, what do they say?

J: They say I am a "Pop Culture savant" and that I have my finger on the pulse of what's popular and trending.  [People] also think of me as creative, [always] craving new information and trying to figure out what's next. [I'm fond of] rolling up information to analyze what's happening in the big picture. I'm also a loyal friend, a teacher and mentor and high-energy.

S: I like your confidence and that you know what you're known for. It's absolutely key to a strong personal brand. You've had a pretty amazing career trajectory from NBC to MTV/VH-1 and now Bravo. Has what you're known for or your brand evolved with those different businesses?

J: I don’t think my specific brand has changed drastically throughout my career. While each brand that I’ve worked at have differences, my brand in its core has remained the same from my days at MTV through Bravo. I’ve scheduled for, and targeted, an audience and demographic that I am a part of and have grown up with for the last 15 years. In my 20s at MTV, the audience was young and fickle, and the challenge was staying ahead of and keeping up with them. In my 30s at Vh1, we were celebrating “retroeclectic” and our shared pop culture nostalgia. Now at Bravo, my audience is more precisely affluent and educated and we target them through five passion points in our unscripted programming – food, fashion, beauty, design and pop culture. At my brand’s core, tracking and forecasting pop culture has remained a constant thread throughout my entire career.

S: It's amazing that your career has aged along with a fine wine!  One of the important brand lessons I try to showcase to people I work with is managing those common career threads alongside what's new and different as your personal brand evolves.  Has your brand evolved with the increasing responsibilities and leadership roles you've had too?

J: In that respect, no. My core brand values have remained constant even with my increased responsibilities. I still conduct business with the same passion, enthusiasm, creativity and strategic focus. However, as my career progressed and responsibilities increased, there becomes a greater volume and scope of challenges that present themselves.

S: Core values--really setting who you are at the core is such a key part of the brand foundation.  So when you think back to your early days as a sales assistant at NBC, do you remember thinking about your personal brand then? If not, when was the first time you realized that your personal brand matters?

J: Yes. I had several role models, mentors and training. I think the personal brand begins the first day in any  job.

S: So true. It's not just a first impression. You're planting seeds of reputation and how you are and will be known.  Now, I'm a huge Bravo fan.  And "Watch What Happens" is a great tagline for Bravo, but it also strikes me as a great personal brand tagline too. Does it describe you? Or is there another headline that's Jerry?

J: Maybe “Imagine Greater” (SyFy's tagline). I’m always looking for the next big thing by thinking creatively and out of the box. It’s very important to me to always be trying to do something new and exciting and to grow to be a better strategist/businessman.

S: Thinking ahead is a hard thing to do. But brand management (both for consumer and personal brands) is about juggling both the current and thinking about the future. I appreciate that you have that mentality as well as the perspective of always trying to be better. On that note, what's your advice for people who want to have a good reputation in the workplace and have a strong, well-known brand?

J: Be loyal. Always hold yourself to a higher level. Aim to EXCEED, not MEET expectations. Carry yourself as if you are the level you want to be. Make sure all actions are congruent with your goals.

S: Sage advice from someone who's clearly a walking example.  We'll all be imagining great things for you, for sure Personally, I'm already excited for the premiere of Top Chef Season 9 (Nov 2. 10pm EST)).  Thanks for taking the time Jerry.

J: Thank you.

Stay tuned for our next Brand profile.  Want to suggest someone for the hot seat?  Let me know.


Jerry Leo's Bio (courtesy of NBC):

Jerry Leo, Senior Vice President, Program Strategy and Acquisitions for Bravo, is responsible for all phases of program planning for the channel including long range planning, scheduling of programs and stunts on the network, and all acquisitions. Based in New York City, he also works closely with the development and production departments as well as ad sales.Prior to Bravo, Leo held a number of positions at VH1/MTV Networks, most recently as Vice President, Program Planning. In this capacity, he was responsible for scheduling all programs, series, stunts, theme weeks and cornerstone events. Prior to that, Leo was at MTV, where he was Manager, Program Planning and Acquisitions. Previously, he worked in MTV's Production department as a talent coordinator as well as in MTV's Series Development department. Before his tenure at MTV Networks, Leo began his television career at NBC. He held the position of sales assistant at NBC's Prime Time and News Sales department, and also held positions in the Corporate Communications and Entertainment Programming departments.Leo holds a B.S. degree in television, radio and film management from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.