Onboarding is a crucible of leadership. Done right, it accelerates progress. Done wrong, there's pain for all involved. This is true for onboarding new people and for onboarding new rounds of funding. The key is to be intentional about onboarding new funding in ways that strengthen your culture - just like you onboard new people.
Bonnie Crater shared her perspective on this with me. She is one of Marc Benioff's former colleagues at both Salesforce.com and Oracle and is now CEO of marketing performance management company Full Circle CRM. Her driving insight is that
"For high growth companies, selecting great people that can work with the culture and dedicate themselves to growth is the game.
Bonnie suggests "Really strong company culture creates success...All successful companies have a strong culture." This reinforces my earlier article: Culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage.
One of the things Bonnie most admired about Benioff at Salesforce.com was his V2MOM framework: Vision, Values, Methods, Obstacles, Measures - and values in particular. There's no doubt that values are the bedrock of culture.
Bonnie has built the Full Circle CRM culture on five core values: customer success, transparency, team first, financial success and balance. Bonnie told me they hire a lot of Millennials and these are values Millennials care about - especially balance.
"This population wants to give back. They want to contribute at work and they want work-life balance.
Given this, it's not a surprise that Bonnie says her "onboarding process takes priority." She told me
"When you're hiring, you want to make sure new hires will really help you scale your company.
She invests time and energy to make sure people buy into the culture and the values. She cautions high-growth companies to
"Watch out for folks that are trying to join your company because they want to be in the right place at the right time. These people often become political and change your culture.
Bonnie is right. Executive onboarding is the key to accelerating success and reducing risk in a new job. Help your new leaders get a head start, manage their message and build their team. It's worth the investment.
New funding brings new opportunities and new risks. As Bonnie explains, two of the biggest and often unanticipated risks to new funding include new pressure to grow fast and new stress on your culture.
Before her new round of funding, Bonnie found it relatively easy to say, "We can't do that because we don't have the money." Then, with the new funding there was "an avalanche of projects that had been deferred." Bonnie knew she couldn't "turn the avalanche loose." It would have buried her team leading to more and more mistakes. And "making mistakes burns money."
As Bonnie put it,
"With funding, the company focus shifts to fast growth. So with this shift, employees are expected to do much more - and employees can start feeling pressure to generate many more leads, close many more details, and support many more customers. If the management isn't careful, the pressure can become too great and companies can start seeing higher turnover which drives higher burn rates which creates even more pressure to sell, sell, sell.
Implications for you
1. Be even more intentional about your culture. Building culture is the most important job of any leader.
- Align everyone around how new team members are going to fit - before you start recruiting any of them.
- Acquire them in a way that fits with your culture.
- Accommodate their needs so they can do work.
- Actively assimilate them into the culture and then
- help them accelerate progress.
- Align everyone around the opportunities and risks brought by the new funding.
- Acquire the funding in a way that fits with your culture.
- Then accommodate, assimilate and accelerate the new funding and all the stakeholders that come with and are enabled by the funding in ways that strengthen your culture.