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Creating an engaging, exciting and buzz-worthy culture is no simple task. We spoke to Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight, which was rated one of the bay area’s best places to work by the San Francisco Business Times last year. In this Q&A, Mehta sheds light on how he created what has been described as a unique and fun office environment and gives advice as to how you can do the same for your sales team and your company as a whole.
Can you tell me a little bit about your background? Were you always an Entrepreneur?
I was making cold calls since I was in diapers. Just kidding, though my dad said I did start a company in elementary school and fired one of my cofounders. It was apparently very dramatic.
What was the culture like when you arrived at Gainsight?
I joined Gainsight super early but our founder (Jim Eberlin) and I really shared the same thoughts on values and we both got excited about our vision for driving our company around ‘The Golden Rule’, ‘Success for All’ and ‘Child-like Joy’. Since then, we have tried to make sure we continue to live up to our aspirations from those early days. It’s not easy, though karaoke night, fake/bad music videos and giant pink elephants show that we can’t get away from being child-like!
What is the culture like now? How did you help shape it?
I always find it interesting when companies try to capture a culture into words. It’s really challenging since culture is the emergent outcome of all of the people in the organization. But values give people permission to be who they truly are. We’re fortunate to have recruited people who believe in our values and have created an environment to let them live them. We’ve also tried to be very explicit about our culture so that only people that are into it come here – I’m sure we scare many away!
Day-to-day, I like to say we are a combination of super nice and compassionate while being accomplished and aggressive at the same time. Tough balance!
How did you build your sales team?
Just like Rome – not in a day!
We started with a few early reps and figured out the profile that worked for our business. Our sales team needs to really understand our client business models well. We aren’t selling a tool – we are trying to enable a business transformation toward a more Customer Success-centric approach. To do that, our reps have to really listen well and understand what drives revenue for our clients and how we can help.
What was your greatest challenge?
Mostly my bad karaoke singing skills. Though I have passable rap skills.
But beyond that, I think the constant challenge is balancing a desire for growth with a need to deliver massive success for our clients. You always have to tune the dials carefully to grow but also grow with your customers.
What was your greatest success?
By far, the thing that gives me the greatest joy is giving our teammates a chance to find joy, meaning and challenge in their jobs. That goal never ends but you have small moments along the way – awesome holiday parties, fun team events (usually involving singing or dancing) and nice notes from teammates – that make you feel like you’re going somewhere.
How would you describe your sales team culture, specifically?
First of all, with our value prop, we have to drive customer success for our clients. We’re not perfect but this means constantly learning from customers and making sure new ones are the right fit and understand what they are getting themselves into. Furthermore, it’s super important for our team to be very consultative and be able to work with execs at our clients, since our sale really surrounds business transformation. Finally, we’re all constantly learning from each other.
How do you keep employees motivated?
Hoopla of course! But beyond that, we think it’s a combination of transparency, celebration and passion. Transparency in that we try to have weekly all hands where we discuss everything that happened in our exec and board meetings – nothing is held back unless it’s personal to employees. We celebrate victories big or small in a weekly post on Chatter (“what’s the best thing that happened to you last week?”). And passion in that we bring energy and enthusiasm to everything we do.
What is your experience with Hoopla?
Love Hoopla. It fits the concepts of energy, recognition and joy that we talked about above. Many of us are sports fans but no matter what our hobbies are, all of us are passionate. And Hoopla helps us foster that.
What would your advice be to other entrepreneurs who are starting to build their culture and sales teams?
-Create a deck on why someone should work for you – this forces clear thinking-Build out your story on your website-Celebrate every high – they don’t come all the time and help you get through the lows-Make it personal to you – don’t choose values because you heard about them from others – choose what matters to you-Don’t change things too often and repeat them a lot!
Nick is CEO of Gainsight, the first and only complete Customer Success Management solution that helps businesses reduce churn, increase up-sell and drive customer success. Before coming to Gainsight, Nick was the CEO of leading software-as-a-service e-discovery provider LiveOffice through its acquisition by Symantec. Prior to that he was a vice president at VERITAS Software and Symantec. Nick has also been an Executive in Residence at Accel Partners and Trinity Ventures. Nick is a member of Hoopla’s Board of Directors.
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