Culture

An unusual, but beautiful, method of forming your company's values

I've got the Conscious Capitalism Summit on my mind as I write this.  Specifically, the main Summit (in Dallas this year), which my daughter, Rachel, and I are leaving for tonight.  Rachel is one of the keynotes and I couldn't be more proud of her.  She will be speaking about the process of writing her first book, Guardians of the Forest, which has been her dream since she was eight-years old and just happened this past January, after a year of work and years of saving up to pay for it (she paid 100% of her savings to the illustrator, Ryan Durney).  My good friend, John Mackey, will be introducing her on stage.  He has been a mentor to me for years and most recently her, for her book.  There are many good lessons for living a fulfilled life in her book and she is certainly an emerging conscious capitalist.  You can see all of the speakers here, and in the spirit of the post I wrote at the beginning of this year on continuous learning, I highly recommend you attend this Summit in the future (or the CEO Summit if you qualify).

But I've got the Conscious Capitalism Summit on my mind for another reason, and it is because of what it has taught me as an entrepreneur.  Last year, at the CEO Summit version of their events, I heard a CEO say on stage, "If you want to learn something amazing, just ask each of your employees to share with you the core values that they bring to work each and every day."  This immediately resonated with me as I had been thinking about how beautiful our culture was becoming at data.world but yet we hadn't written our core values down yet.  This isn't that unusual, BTW.  We didn't write down our core values at my previous startups, Coremetrics and Bazaarvoice, until we were around this age.  You want to get some operating history and some significant team build-out going before you do this exercise or it is just aspirational with no real resonance for how you've actually been living your day-to-day business life as a collective.

What you can learn from Blockbuster's failure

Two days ago, Blockbuster announced that it will close all of its remaining approximately 300 U.S.-based stores (news link). This has been a long time in the making, and there is a lot you can learn from this. Prior to Netflix, Blockbuster thrived due to its use of "bad profits" (a term from Fred Reichheld's book, The Ultimate Question, which introduced the concept of the Net Promoter Score, NPS). Bad profits are a highly disruptive source of negative word of mouth. Blockbuster's bad profits were, of course, late fees. Everyone I know that was a Blockbuster customer - including myself and my wife - hated late fees. You knew Blockbuster "got you" and you felt that you "only had yourself to blame" because you were the one that was late on returning it. Sometimes you would plead with the in-store associate to have mercy on you. It became the primary source of Blockbuster's profits. Anytime bad profits are your primary source of profits, you are due for a hard-knock. That hard-knock came from Netflix. Their original ad campaign, "The end of late fees", was pretty much all they needed to say. Their business model was designed very differently - leveraging the Internet and network economic effects (a nod to another favorite book: Net Gainby John Hagel III). When Netflix said, "The end of late fees", word of mouth took care of the rest. This is why NPS has become so important to companies as a form of measurement for their most important external stakeholders - their customers. It is used by thousands of companies, including many Fortune 500 companies. Brad Smith, the CEO of Intuit, said, “Thank goodness for Net Promoter. It provided a framework for thinking about—and managing in this social media world… our teams call it the love metric”. Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, said, "We use NPS every day to make sure we are wowing customers and employees."

A rant on derogatory language in business

As I continue to help more startups in Austin, I want to go on a bit of a rant. In my opinion, there is simply too much derogatory language in business - and there is no place for it. Most leadership training comes from the roots of the military, where people can die if they don't follow orders. As I always told our incredible people at Bazaarvoice, especially during the very difficult Great Recession years, we are working under an air-conditioned roof, receiving free snacks, and seeing our families at night much of the time. If we take too many of our leadership cues from the military, we don't honor the unique culture of modern-day business.

The tale of Bazaarvoice, as told through the shirts on our backs (2009-2011) - part three

The tale of Bazaarvoice, as told through the shirts on our backs (2009-2011) - part three

After a long and terrific family summer vacation and the resulting hiatis from Lucky7, I'm back. We spent most of the month in France (from Paris to the French Riveria), starting with a quick juant in London, complete with a very nice dinner at Coya(awesome Peruvian food) with two of our longtime Bazaarvoice London team members.

As I mentioned in my first and second Lucky7 post in this series, every startup has their t-shirts. But you can tell a lot about a company by the t-shirts they make. And so I would like to continue to take you through Bazaarvoice's history - and our culture - with the most complete collection of BV t-shirts with the possible exception of my co-founder, Brant Barton.

Compare Metrics raises Series A, and I've joined as Chairman of the Board

Today, Compare Metrics announced their Series A funding from Austin Ventures. You can read about it in the Austin American-Statesman article or the Compare Metricspress release. The company is still largely in stealth mode, as you can see from their website. This is something we talked about since I backed the company as an angel investor and Garrett Eastham, co-founder and CEO, read my Lucky7 post on whether to be stealthy or not and took it to heart.

I'm very proud of the team in reaching this major milestone, and I look forward to continuing to serve as the independent Chairman of the Board. If you read aboutGarrett's background, you'll see that he was meant to found this company. Whenever I'm investing, I always value whether or not the founders are destined for their business background wise. Garrett is one of those guys, and I hope you get the chance to meet him soon and experience his passion first-hand. His leadership team is also stellar and I've had the pleasure of working with Chris Richter (VP of Sales), Lisa Roberts (VP of Marketing), and Joel Knight (VP of Client Services) as leaders in the early years at Bazaarvoice. Garrett also worked at Bazaarvoice and was one of our best.

The President and the CTO of the United States visit Austin and Capital Factory

The President and the CTO of the United States visit Austin and Capital Factory

Well, what a week it has been. Speaking of my last Lucky7 post on entrepreneurship being all about the journey, this week has been a one giant leap for Austin mankind (and womenkind, of course).

First, the week started out with an amazing Austin City Limits taping with the band Phoenix playing. Debra and I are annual donors to KLRU and attend these tapings regularly. Debra was out of town for this one, though, and I took Garrett Eastham, co-founder and CEO of Compare Metrics, a company that I proudly serve as their independent Chairman of the Board of Directors. You'll be hearing a lot about this company soon (it is currently in mostly stealth mode, taking a page out of my book - see my Lucky7 post on the weighing whether to be stealthy or not), and I'm having a blast working with them. Here is a photo of Garrett and I at the show. Phoenix was one of the best tapings I've seen - right up there with Pearl Jam, Arcade Fire, and The Lumineers.

It is all about the journey, so take (many) photos along the way

It is all about the journey, so take (many) photos along the way

If you want to build a strong company culture, then you should care about your company close to as much as you care about your family. That was my goal at Bazaarvoice as our CEO (you can read my 7 lessons learned on the journey from founder to CEO), and I deeply thought about how our family showed that we care about each other. One thing we are particularly good at, especially my wife, Debra, is taking photos while we are on vacation. We want to document the very important time we spend together, and we know that our children will only be this age once. This, of course, is the natural thing for most families to do, especially with young kids (as their appearance changes so much from year to year).

The tale of Bazaarvoice, as told through the shirts on our backs (2007-2009) - part two

As I mentioned in my first post in this series, every startup has their t-shirts. But you can tell a lot about a company by the t-shirts they make. And so I would like to continue to take you through our history - and our culture - with the most complete collection of Bazaarvoice t-shirts with the possible exception of my co-founder, Brant Barton.

This is the second in my series, and I'll cover the years 2007-2009 here. The first post covers our first two years in business - 2005-2007.

Michael Osborne, our first global head of sales, and I worked hard on establishing a sales-driven culture. In my opinion, this is very important for a B2B company. Your clients are the ones that pay your bills and you should be obsessive about both selling to and servicing them well. All other functions in the company are in support of that goal. The most successful B2C companies, like Wal-Mart and Amazon, are no different in that they are obsessive about those that also pay their bills - with the only difference being they care most about consumers - versus businesses - as consumers are their key source of revenue. Osborne, as we all called him because his personality is bigger than life, was amazing in this regard and a huge part of the culture that quickly took root. His theme song for us "doing the impossible" in our achievements quarter after quarter became Don't Stop Believing by Journey. The YouTube video below will give you a window into our culture and all of us celebrating at the Alamo Drafthouse, where we held our All-Hands (I talked about why the awesome Alamo in my first post in this series). I took this video right after my talk to close out the day, where I was expressing my deep love for the company and then the Bazaarvoice band brought the house down by playing our theme song. This can only be described as a magical moment as I think you'll agree in watching the video (have you ever seen this type of energy at a company you worked at?).

How to leverage advisors and investors as your extended team

As an entrepreneur, I fostered an unusual communication practice with our investors and advisors. I treated them as I would have wanted to be treated if I were in their shoes. This is the Golden Rule in action.

You need to have empathy for those that you raise money from. They aren't the "man in the arena" (one of my favorite quotes from Theodore Roosevelt), but they can be very supportive - should you choose to treat them as part of your extended team. They are putting their money (if they are angel investors) - or their investors' money (as is the case for venture capitalists) - into your venture and you should treat that capital as if it were your own. And if it were your own capital ask yourself, "What kind of updates would I want?" My guess is you would want to always know how the business is doing and how you could help the business - and therefore help your investment. Part of the thrill of investing is to see the entrepreneur succeed - both changing their life and many other people's lives in the process. Investors enjoy telling their friends - other investors and family - about the success of your business. The journey is more important than any return they get (although to be clear they don't want to lose either their money or their investors' money). The more they help you, the more they live vicariously through you - and their fingerprints are all over your business. This is called a "helper's high" by my good friend and CEO coach, Kirk Dando (you can read more about Kirk and the value of CEO coaches in my Lucky7 post about the 7 lessons learned on the journey from founder to CEO).

The tale of Bazaarvoice, as told through the shirts on our backs (2005-2007)

Every startup has their t-shirts, and we were no different at Bazaarvoice. But you can tell a lot about a company by the t-shirts they produce. And so I would like to take you through our history - and our culture - with probably the most complete collection of Bazaarvoice t-shirts with the possible exception of my co-founder, Brant Barton.

This will be a series of post, and this first post covers our first two years in business - 2005-2007.

The first t-shirt we made was the coveted Bazaarvoice Community One 2005 t-shirt. There are very few of these. The point that I was making was that we were part of a very special community - those that joined in the first year of business (Brant and I founded Bazaarvoice in May of 2005).