A strong culture should be substantive and authentic, differentiated and visual. By visual, you should be able to see employees in various work scenarios that unquestionably embody company culture. While hiring teammates for cultural fit may feel burdensome or lengthy during the recruitment process, it ultimately pays off in the rapid assimilation that is created by shared values.
Here at RichRelevance, our shared values come down to three basic phrases: Own it. Keep it simple. Get it done. Weaving all three together is communication—every step of the way, in every direction, through rank and file, horizontally and vertically. Every individual should know “what are we doing every single day to make this company great?”
This may appear obvious to the casual reader but over the years, time and again, I have seen many smart individuals, competent teams and entire companies (from small to large) miss these three basic concepts.
Each of us at this 200-person small company is effectively running the company. You run your own show and hopefully if things go well, your domain continues to grow. Rather than waiting to be told what to do, be self-motivated and self-disciplined.
A great example of “owning it” was the launch of Relevance 2.0—a complete re-positioning of our company. While the concept was born last October, serious strategy, preparation and groundwork were laid out during the holiday season. Marketing owned the overall re-positioning; but sales owned pricing; technology owned the road map; finance owned the revenue recognition aspect; legal owned new customer contracts; our partners co-owned strategy. Every executive on the team assumed a piece of the effort, and communicated succinctly to all parties from concept to refinement to preparation to full execution.
When we own it, the combined power of phenomenal skills and execution ensures that we will get a lot accomplished. We leveraged the momentum of Relevance 2.0 across additional programs in the new year—at the NRF Big Show, our global Customer Advisory Summits and Partner Summits. All these events continued what we referred to internally as “rolling thunder”—an ongoing volley of product demos, training and public positioning to further promote our most important initiative of the year.
Keep it simple
There is no single scenario where complexity is good.
As an example, for a couple of years, it was evident that we needed to re-vamp our customer-facing dashboard. It was unwieldy and non-intuitive for customers; they were limited to looking at reports and creating rules. More complex tasks like setting up MVTs, modifying layouts and managing strategies had to be handled internally—costing money and creating friction and challenge for our support staff. This forced the realization that we needed a self-support dashboard that could automate and streamline workflow.
So we dug deep into the most commonly used features with aim of reducing complexity, and eliminating repetitive tasks. In one case (creating a new placement), we were able to combine several independent systems into one workflow. We transformed a tedious task that typically took 5 minutes down to 10 seconds. This new UI was easier to understand, and produced more accurate results, as the user could see everything on one screen. Cutting through the layers of complexity to simplify workflow not only achieved the goal of sustainability and self-support, it also more than doubled customer usage, allowing our team to support more sites with same level of staff.
Get it done
Politics are not acceptable at a company of this size.
Continuing with the dashboard, our product manager knew that it would prove a challenge to convince many employees it could be done. The revamp had been tried in the past but absent properly allocated time and resources, it had floundered. But that didn’t hinder him—he went to battle armed with a plan. Using attractive mockups and a deck that detailed the numbers, he proved that the time savings by itself would be a huge internal win. Slowly but steadily, he convinced the rest of the team that not only was the new dashboard possible; it could be accomplished in a short amount of time without having to rebuild everything. By completely redoing the most commonly used pages, and ensuring that less frequented pages could match the look and feel of the new dashboard while remaining functional, he moved the team from tentative buy-in to whole-hearted endorsement. Giving the keys to the kingdom to the customer resulted in client empowerment while reducing internal challenges, creating time savings and enabling re-direction of resources to more strategic initiatives.
We have been going through significant change at RichRelevance over the last couple of years. This has been very demanding to all employees and the amount of work in front of us can sometimes seem overwhelming.
So in case of doubt—own it; keep it simple; get it done. Phenomenal things happen when our shared values and communication ensure that we can always answer the question “what are we doing every single day to make this company great?”
Working for a San Francisco tech start-up is the dream summer internship for many undergraduate business students like myself. Little did I know that RichRelevance would exceed all of my expectations.
I expected my job to entail lots of research, data entry, and other classic intern duties. But my manager Christine saw potential in me, and soon, I was knee deep in several key account opportunities. For example, on day one I was asked for my input on a slide deck that my CEO David Selinger was to present to one of our top customers.
Under the tutelage of Christine, Janet (the VP of Global Accounts) and the rest of the Global Accounts team, I knew I was on my way towards a busy and exciting summer.
I’m naturally very curious. But little did I know that this curiosity would lead to a major career change here at RichRelevance. I first came to RichRelevance in June 2012, when I was hired as a temporary office assistant to help with a San Francisco office move.
Earlier that year, I read an essay called “The New Girls Network: Women, Technology, and Feminism” by Shireen Lee, which highlighted how young girls don’t “see the connection between technology jobs, which tend to be highly specialized and solitary endeavors, and changing the world,“ and that “women tend to be users more than creators of technology, wheras men are as much creators as they are users.” This troubled me and sparked my desire to learn more about how to become a creator—rather than just a user of technology.
It all started with a cheesy holiday party invitation featuring cartoon-style ice skaters carving the words, “Cool As Ice” on a pristine San Francisco winter day (meteorologically impossible to freeze anything outdoor in SF, let alone an entire body of water). Just your standard holiday get-together with co-workers, right? Wrong. The only rumor floating was that there would be a “special guest…”
If you were one of the few who knew the 1991 movie reference, you could probably decipher the code. But with the ambiguity behind the reference, “Cool As Ice” quickly became an internal scavenger hunt for who the “special guest” would be. Despite the blatant clues, no one even thought to consider the 90’s rap superstar…
I started working at RichRelevance about 3 months ago. In this brief span of time, I have found the team, attitude, verve and work culture to be impressive, and I am enjoying my experience thoroughly. While many different initiatives are in flight within the company, I’d like to shed some light on one particularly innovative concept called “Ideas for Change,” wherein an initial idea is solicited and vetted over a month-long process.
As a start, each “idea” is posted on our internal Wiki page where one can also ask clarifying questions or post comments. This makes the process more engaging from day 1; understanding the origin of an idea involves tremendous reasoning, and rational thinking. Imagine how exciting it could be to rationalize bright new ideas while taking a break from your mundane grind. The process itself sparks creative thinking and becomes as rewarding as the outcome. In the past, I have seen people hesitate to put forth ideas because it would require that they drive and implement it. But with “Ideas for Change,” our “idea” is executed not individually but collectively by the company’s support system. After each employee allocates his or her two votes, votes are tallied, and the best idea wins!
My one-year anniversary at RichRelevance is fast approaching and I’m starting to worry what my bobble-head might look like. This traditional first birthday present for RichRelevance employees will be an action-figure-sized, 3D resemblance of me, likely sculpted in some amusing pose that characterises how my colleagues see me. Absolutely no need to worry there then.
It’s hard to believe that 15+ months have passed since I first set my sights on RichRelevance during the search for the next phase in my career. Cue wavy flashback sequence…