Laika Head of People Joe Bast

Joe BastLaika Head of People

Our behavior dictates how people treat us in all aspects of our lives. Talking to us today about adjusting behavior to define and maintain company culture is Joe Bast, organizational psychologist and Head of People at Laika.

Episode Transcript

TTM 220 Transcript EPISODE 220  


[0:00:06.1] RS: Welcome to Talk Talent to Me. A podcast featuring the most elite talent leaders  on the frontline’s modern recruitment.  

[0:00:12.8] FEMALE: We actually want to understand the themes of someone’s life, we want to  understand how they make decisions. Where are they willing to take risks and what it looks like  when they fail.  

[0:00:22.7] RS: No holds barred, completely off the cuff interviews with directors of recruitment,  VPs of global talent, CHROs and everyone in between.  

[0:00:31.1] FEMALE: Once I went through the classes and the trainings got the certifications  through diversity and inclusion, I still felt like something was missing.  

[0:00:39.7] MALE: Talent acquisition, it’s a fantastic career, you are trusted by the organization,  you get to work with the C-Suite and the security at the front desk and everybody in between  and everybody knows you.  

[0:00:53.0] RS: I’m your host, Rob Stevenson and you’re about to hear the best in the biz, Talk  Talent to Me.  


[0:00:59.8] RS: Joining me today on Talk Talent to Me is an organizational psychologist turned  head of people where he currently serves Laika, Joe Bast. Welcome to the podcast, how are  you?  

[0:01:11.0] JB: I’m great, thanks Rob, it’s good to be here.  

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[0:01:12.6] RS: Yeah, really pleased to have you, lots and lots to talk about, important to call out  the company you worked for, Laika, do you want to share a little bit about the company before  we get into the weeds here?  

[0:01:23.4] JB: Yeah, Laika’s a two-and-a-half year old startup. We are a series-B currently with  about 150 employees, three founders came together and had a vision for creating a platform  that helped companies with IT compliance and so we are a SaaS based company. We built a  platform that allows other companies to gather information and jump through the hoops of like a  stock two or an ISON compliance in a way that doesn’t require hundreds of hours and dozens of  auditors that would be kind of prohibitive for them in the market.  

The space has been really good to us, we’ve been able to pickup 300 corporate customers in  the last two and a half years. That number grows every week and what we’re finding is that if  you can empower clients to do a lot of the compliance work themselves, they don’t need to be  team monitored, it’s really been a great space for us.  

[0:02:05.6] RS: Got it, thanks for that context, that will be helpful as we surge ever onward here.  You have such interesting background, Joe. As I mentioned, you sort of got your feet wet as an  organizational psychologist, consulting for various companies, could we even go back a little  further than that? How did you begin on this trail that started as the CEO of Spur, went into the  head of people, before that, where did your path begin?  

[0:02:30.0] JB: Yeah, this actually goes a ways back. I haven’t told this story for a while. I was  the son of entrepreneurs. My mom and dad had a restaurant and a beauty salon. In high school,  I spent my time at the back of those businesses doing homework and I noticed that when they  were in the businesses that the employees behaved differently. They responded differently, the  engage differently, they talk differently.  

At the same time, I had a psychology professor in high school who said, “You can be a  psychologist and you don’t have to work with rats or mentally ill people to actually be in  psychology and it’s called organizational psychology” and so I raced through, like literally, went  from my bachelor’s in psych and business, masters and a PHD in industrial organizational  psychology and came out with the full intent to spend my career consulting.  

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The types of things they taught us in school are really interesting action, maybe a mistake of  going to an engineering school for my PHD. I went to the Illinois Institute of Technology and it  meant two solid years of statistics which at the time, I thought, “I’m going to be consulting an  industry, what do I need all these stats for, I’m not going to be doing research.”  

To cut to the end of the plot, that statistical training was probably the best training was probably  the best training I could have ever hoped for to be the head of people at a company, figuring out  from measurement perspective, the impact that your people’s systems can have on your  company is probably the best gift you can give to the people that you lead and your executives  to be able to make really good financial decisions.  

In the early days, as a consultant, I actually worked for a moderately sized firm in the space,  they had about a thousand industrial psychologists and we did everything from developing  leadership to development programs to designing performance management systems,  executive coaching, conducting organizational surveys. Spent six years with them, really  enjoyed learning about all the different practice areas but found at the end that my  entrepreneurial spirit was not being tapped in that environment and went out on my own. 

I had a decent book of clients that I could draw in for work and really found that if I could design  customer programs for clients, I could actually have a much bigger impact. I spent most of my  time as an external consultant working with CEOs and their top teams to design HR systems  that would drive their business to the direction they wanted to go.  

That’s a combination of listening to them about what their goals are, talking with them about  what culture they want or a culture they have, hearing about their strategies to expand their  business and then designing the right incentives, the right feedback systems, the right cultural  components so that their employees could all go on the same direction.  

Spent probably eight years on my own doing that consulting, built what I thought was really  good client book in oil and gas and finance and then like all good careers, life intersects. I got  married and we started a family and my wife was very clear that I could not be on planes 30  days a month.  

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Raising family was not consistent with that so I looked at my client book and said, “Hey, where  are there roles internally where I could apply these same skills?” and found Amazon. Led to  learning and development in the fulfillment business form Amazon for several years and really  enjoyed deploying a large team across a very big organization to do this but Amazon’s culture is  everything it’s advertised to be.  

As a psychologist, I’m very interested in human potential and growth, it’s not the right culture  where the systems like that can really flourish. Went out looking for a culture that had more  promise in developing people and I found the Cheesecake Factory, where I headed up learning  for the Cheesecake Factory for a couple of years, 30,000 employees across 220 restaurants  and it’s all about employee experience. It’s all about celebrating the customer and it was a  culture that invested and we developed and I found a great home there, built a team that really  impacted probably across the business but in my first really big career twist our head of talent  acquisition had resigned while I was there.  

My SVP of HR who was really great mentor, a very good coach, asked me if I wanted to run  talent acquisition for a bit while we searched for a leader. I’m like, “Yeah, I’ll tackle that.” Well, I  mean, talent acquisition at a restaurant company that employs 30,000 people involves tens of  thousands of applications a year. It involves onboarding tens of thousands of employees and  there’s massive cost in that.  

For the first time, I could actually see how the money we’ve put into recruiting people and  training people and onboarding people could be impacted by how much we train managers and  did organizational culture at the restaurant level because turnover went down.  

When turnover went down, you didn’t have to hire as many people and all of a sudden, this  connection between how many people were hiring, training and onboarding, how well we’re  training their managers and designing their restaurant culture to treat them has this really big  financial impact, not just on the employees but as the employees are better trained and stick  around in those restaurants more, the customers come back and the average restaurant table  ticket goes up and you start to see these connection between everything you do in for people  and an impact on the operation. 

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I knew I wasn’t going to get the top HR job at a publicly traded restaurant company but I wanted  more HR functions underneath my wings at this point because I can start to see how all these  systems interplay and that’s when I found Startups. Probably eight years ago, ended up with a  series B-startup in Vancouver called Hootsuite, where I was our VP of people and all of a  sudden could run training, recruitment, compensation, benefits, employee engagement, DENI,  and really seeing how all these systems work together to create a culture was when I knew I hit  my sweet spot and since that point, I’ve been leading people teams at startups, especially  startups in a high growth space.  

[0:07:39.4] RS: Can I ask you about that moment at Cheesecake Factory where the writing was  on the wall a little bit when you said, “I’m never going to ascend to be the senior most HR  person here.” How did you know that?  

[0:07:51.3] JB: Well, I worked with a lot of HR people. I knew that from a discipline perspective  in HR, there’s definite functional tracks, whether you’re coming up in recruiting or coming up in  compensation benefits or coming up in training or coming up in employee relations and I knew  that at a large company like that I only specialized in learning in development and a little bit in  recruitment.  

To actually go for the top job there would mean rotations across compensation benefits,  rotations across that for relations. The rotations across employee engagement and while I could  have built a 15 or 20 career to do that there. My goal wasn’t to be this impactful HR leader  running tens of thousands of people and managing this incredibly high payroll. My goal was to  see how these functions can interact and impact a business and that was going to be a lot  easier to startup.  

[0:08:38.1] RS: Got it, yeah, that makes sense. I want to be selfish as an interviewer and ask  you what’s going on at Cheesecake Factory, can we go down that path?  

[0:08:47.8] JB: Absolutely.  

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[0:08:47.9] RS: For a minute here before we deliver on the title of this podcast? What’s going  on at Cheesecake Factory? Let me disclaim that by saying, I have eaten at Cheesecake Factory  a handful of times and I’ve enjoyed it myself. It’s an insane place, can we agree on that?  

[0:09:00.2] JB: Absolutely.  

[0:09:01.1] RS: The dining room is equal parts like cutesy bakery, Russian Oligarch dining room  and like McDonald’s.  

[0:09:08.6] JB: Yup.  

[0:09:09.0] RS: Then, to continue with the Russian metaphor, the menu is like a Dostoyevsky  novel but you can literally — it’s like 20 pages long, you can get everything, you can get a wet  burrito and you can get Shawarma.  

[0:09:21.4] JB: Absolutely.  

[0:09:23.2] RS: What is the goal, what are they trying to accomplish there and how did that take  the shape of the culture you were in charge of shaping?  

[0:09:28.3] JB: What’s really interesting about the Cheesecake Factory is it’s still, even though  it’s a publicly traded company, it’s still very closely run by a CEO and founder, David Overton  who is now probably in his late 70s and disclaimer, I haven’t worked there probably now for  more than eight years but I don’t think it has changed a ton. 

The whole goal of the Cheesecake Factory was to give someone a place to celebrate really fun  things in an environment where they can get whatever they wanted and where other people  would help them enjoy that time and so, lots of things that led to it. It led to a very decadent  seating spaces where people could get comfortable.  

It led to a menu that just kept adding things and things and things because people have lots of  different desires and tastes and it led to a service orientation where your wait staff, all the way  

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from the wait staff to under the kitchen staff is super interested in helping that particular table,  that particular person indulge and celebrate the thing that they want.  

While some Cheesecake Factories do have regulars that come in routinely and for lunch on any  given day, they’re usually populated with families or groups or friends that are celebrating  something. That environment actually bleeds right into the employee experience with a lot of  employee recognition, a lot of celebrating employee birthdays, lots of getting entire restaurants  staff together on a Saturday morning to roll out a new menu item and having the leaders of that  restaurant cook that new menu item for their 200 staff members.  

It permeates every part of that culture. There’s a lot of things about the Cheesecake Factory you  don’t know about which again, you could go down this rabbit hole for a while.  

[0:10:55.0] RS: I’m sure you could fill a Cheesecake Factory menu on what I don’t know about  Cheesecake Factory.  

[0:11:00.0] JB: Oh my goodness, so the coolest thing is that everything the Cheesecake  Factory is cooked on site that day. They don’t drop ship anything from a factor kitchen, every  sauce is cooked that day, every dish is cooked from scratch that day and the executive kitchen  managers are rewarded based on how little waste they produce.  

Meaning, if they over prep a sauce and they have to throw it that night, that goes against their  monthly bonus. Being zero waste, as close to zero waste as they can is a huge part of that  culture being really efficient, having food that’s really fresh and having a staff that’s super  engaged.  

[0:11:34.9] RS: Yeah, makes sense.  

[0:11:36.8] JB: It was a really interesting place to work. I’ll also tell you and this is maybe a  story for a different time. That recruiting data and that employee satisfaction data we were  actually able correlated using some really great regression analysis to predict profit and growth  data for your readers and sales by restaurant and it was directly related to employee  engagement which was directly related to satisfaction’s leadership and supervision on that.  

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You could actually look at what you spent on training a restaurant’s management staff, the  correlation it had with the employee engagement and whether or not they were going to hit their  year over year same store sales growth.  

[0:12:10.4] RS: Wow, you were able to basically connect your employee performance ultimately  because more highly engaged employees perform better, better performing employees, have  better service, have happier customers, people come back more sales, et cetera.  

[0:12:24.4] JB: All of that. They have — there’s a higher per table ticket average, they’re selling  higher margin items to their customers, the customers come back happier, more of the  customers complete the satisfaction surveys on the receipts. Final tip, at the end of every  receipt at a Cheesecake Factory has a link that you can fill out a survey for, they will give you, at  the time, I think it was $20, a $20 gift card every time you fill out that receipt and do a survey.  

[0:12:49.1] RS: Yeah, that’s worth it. That’s data, that’s worth it to the company, I’m sure.  

[0:12:52.2] JB: For sure. Anyway, good stories though but that analysis comparing employees  engagement and satisfaction, management engagement and skill and average customer ticket  price, you’ve seen the relationship between what we’re investing employees and how it came  back to us from customers was the spark that excited me to run an entire HR department.  

[0:13:13.1] RS: Are you able to replicate that regression analysis in your current role?  

[0:13:18.2] JB: Yes, a little. Let’s talk about Laika in particular. Laika, since last April has gone  from being 40 employees to being 145 this week. In that run-up during the great resignation, we  only had two people leave the company which is pretty insane. At a time when other tech  companies were losing 35 to 40% of their workforce, we lost 1.5% and it had to do with really  high engagement.  

I think part of that is that we do things to encourage engagement. We do things like regular one on-one so we trained our managers to do, we do things like weekly all hands where we  

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transparently share business information on how the company’s doing on week over week basis  but we also hire for engagement. 

We have a set of values that sound like things like being entrepreneurial, being open and  inclusive collaborators, solving big problems for our customers, having diverse ideas and  diverse teams. All of these things actually are around engagement and we hire for these things  and so I think we’re stacking the deck a little bit in hiring to engage people. 

At the same time, that amount of engagement changes the way we talk to our customers, it  changes the way our leaders talk with our employees and that is what gives people both  working at a company and really working hard together because it doesn’t feel like hard work. It  just feels like I’m really switched on.  

[0:14:36.7] RS: That is your approach to developing culture it sounds like?  

[0:14:40.4] JB: I think that’s part of it. Actually, there’s — we can back up a little bit and talk a  little bit more about this path but defining the culture you’re looking for upfront I think is a really  big part of getting the culture that you’re looking for. Most startups end up stumbling into culture  pretty accidentally. We have a founder and he or she has a group of cronies that they came  through B-school with or a group of people that are investors sent towards them as SCCs, those  people have a set of skills and values and those values get amplified because we hire more  people who are like us and that defaults to our cultures.  

There are times when that culture is super successful because those founders created  something that has lots of inertia. There’s usually a ceiling on the success of that culture  because there’s a point at which the founder can’t scale it or the culture doesn’t scale.  

Laika’s different. Laika, one of the reasons I joined Laika was because we had three founders  and all three had been to previous rodeos. One of our founders who runs our growth  organization had actually been a CEO-founder and has successfully scaled and sold the startup  of his own. Another one had been taken seed in series-A companies and building applications  and platforms and selling those platforms to larger companies like Google and Facebook.  

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Then our third founder, actually ran compliance at Citi Group for 10 years and prior to that, was  10 years as a CFO on one of their divisions. In none of these situations are these, the 25- or 30- year-old B-school grad who has an idea. It’s just three people who have worked in other  companies, who knew what they wanted from a culture and by this time I joined, there’s only  employee number 41 had already defined the values they were looking for in that culture and  why they wanted to scale them.  

That was a huge part of us being able to scale as quickly as we did. We knew the type of place  we wanted to create, I helped them translate those values in the behaviors we could look for in  applicants into competencies that we can put in job descriptions and then we built a recruiting  team that hires not just for someone with the experience and the technical competencies we’re  looking for but for the values and behaviors it takes to be successful in the culture that we want  to create.  

[0:16:33.0] RS: Early talent hires face a tremendous amount of technical debt.  [0:16:39.7] JB: Yeah.  

[0:16:40.8] RS: That takes the shape of there’s no ATS, there’s no interview process, there’s no  other recruiting people here so I’m the head of people but I’m also the recruiting coordinator and  I’m also the recruiter and I’m also the office manager. Then also, in culture like you said, I think  it’s clear that it’s easier to get culture right from the beginning than it is to rescue a rotten culture. 

For you when you are assessing, was that part of it when you were learning that, “Okay, they  got this right from the beginning, this isn’t their first rodeo. They have a vision for how this is  going to be and the culture is intentional” was that just like a cherry on top or did that figure  largely into your position?  

[0:17:22.2] JB: It was 100% involved in my job search. I definitely wanted to place if they knew  what they wanted. They didn’t have to have all the T’s crossed and the I’s dotted but they had to  have a really clear vision culturally where they wanted to be and I think they had to be open to  defining it in a deeper way, so for instance when I joined, we had these values but we didn’t  have a set of behaviors underneath them. 


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I push them to define those behaviors because when you say you are selecting for values, it’s  frequently very ambiguous unless you are getting down to behaviors that people can exhibit and  I also very early in my tenure here held them accountable, so they had hired a CSM about three  weeks before I joined and I don’t know if you have other heads of HR who listen to the podcast  but I am sure everyone would get a chuckle out of this. 

Within your first week or two of being the top HR person, they will always bring you a curve ball  and a challenge with some employee relations issue and this was we hired this person three  weeks ago. He is berating our other CSMs, he is not showing up with his deliverables done for  meetings but worst of all, he’s talking other functions about how bad his team is and these  things are completely inconsistent with our culture and so they asked me to deal with it. 

I actually said, “Yeah, I can deal with it but you guys know what the problem is and you know  what you need to do about it, so I think I want to hold your feet to the fire to do the right thing  here, which is to give him feedback and if he doesn’t change, to remove him” and to their credit,  with a little prep, they had a phone call with him where they gave him feedback. They put him on  a two-week plan to make some very consistent differences with how he engaged in team  meetings, how he treated people.  

By the mid-point in the second week, he basically said, “This place isn’t for me” and I got on the  phone with one of our founders and we terminated his employment 100% because he was  behaving inconsistent with the values. It’s that type, you know, when we talk about creating the  culture, yes you can hire for it and you can reward the culture congruent behaviors but you also  have to remove the people who are behaving or change the people who are behaving in ways  that are contraindicated in the culture that are toxic to the culture. 

I do think especially when you have a culture that’s based on some really nice qualities like we  have. It is hard to be tough and direct with people and for me to see the founders do that in my  first few weeks and to listen to my advice that this is what it needs to be done was a big  indicator that they believe in the culture that they were creating. 


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[0:19:36.0] RS: Yeah, that could have easily gone the other way though, right? You could have  easily run through this process and have been like, “Wow, what a jerk this guy is. It seems like  the way he does work is inconsistent with the values and alignment with the mission” but it was  never surfaced, never brought to your attention, people wouldn’t see the problem with keeping  that person on board or even giving them feedback. 

When you are in the CEO meeting or when you are talking about values and vision, any CEO  worth their salt will be able to take you on a journey, right? Will be able to do that storytelling  part that is so important to be an early-stage founder or a CEO and be like, “We want to do this,  this and this” and you’ll probably feel great. You’ll probably lead that meeting being like, “Wow,  what am amazing person this individual is. They just totally swept me away, I can’t wait to work  with them. I would follow them to hell and back” right? 

Which is like a great CEO trait to be able to inspire people like that. How do you know that that’s  actually the case at their company? In the case of Laika, it sounded like you were able to early  on like “Okay, you had this great vision, let’s put it in terms of values or let’s put in terms of  behaviors so that we can measure this”, how did you know though that there was an actual  commitment there beyond just a CEO’s ability to tell a good story?  

[0:20:44.1] JB: Again, I think in Laika’s case, there is some particulars that made it easier. They  were three founders and they got to talk to them independently and they give me the ability to  triangulate on what they were talking about. It’s the equivalent of when you are only talking to  one candidate in a hiring process that person has the opportunity to very much sell you a whole  bunch of stuff that you can’t validate. 

In this situation of three founders talking to them independently, they were very aligned and they  were very clear and they were very much singing from the same song book. The other thing that  they did which I really liked is even in particular painted this picture and then at the end said,  “This is where we want to go but we really don’t know anything about how to tell the people in  the organization how to get there and it is why we wanted your expertise.” 

For them to be actually be able to say, “I don’t know and I want to listen to you” was a huge  motivator knowing that my ideas would be considered and received and hopefully implemented.  


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Literally, the first time I got there, you talked about talent teams being underpowered, I got there  and there was no recruiters. There was a bunch of hiring managers working directly with a slew  of external recruiters who have no ideas, no standard operating process, no compensation  damages, nothing. 

Literally within a week, I’m like, “Okay, so we have a huge hiring plan for this quarter, I need  someone to lead recruiting. We need an ATS and we have to get all of these compensation stuff  lined up” and they were 100% behind me. It took a couple of weeks to get everything kind of  figured out and contracted but they didn’t for a second doubt that we needed to build a people  infrastructure especially starting with the recruiting function.  

[0:22:10.9] RS: Yeah, that makes sense. Can you give an example of behaviors that are  indicative of a company value? 

[0:22:18.9] JB: Yeah, so we have this value: open and inclusive collaborators and it sounds like  it’s nice to have. It sounds like, “Oh yeah, that would be great” but what it actually means when  we’re in meetings is someone who when faced with an idea that is not theirs instead of  defending theirs, ask questions about the other side and it’s really easy to identify it because  people who don’t have this value stand on their box defend the idea they brought to the meeting  and people do say, “Hey wait a second, tell me why you think that’s a great thing?” 

“You know, let us talk about how you see that fitting into the solution here and is there room  between our two ideas to actually make something better” so this open inclusive collaborator  value, which sounds like, “Hey, let us all just get along is really about engaging intellectual  information that is different from your own with an open mind” and it completely changes group  outcomes.  

[0:23:05.6] RS: In that example, is that questioning as oppose to being defensive approach,  does that now work its way into performance reviews or is that something that’s just broadcast  like, “Hey, here is the kind of things we want you to do in meetings” how do you turn that into  behavior in the business? 


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[0:23:21.0] JB: Yeah, so first of all, it’s people leading the meetings especially founders but also  the functional heads actually doing it in front of people, so it is modeling the behavior and it is  making sure like if we are in a leadership team meeting together and someone hasn’t done that  it is one of us as a function leader pulling the other one aside saying, “Hey, I really think we  stifled the conversation in this meeting by XYZ and not leaning into that questions asked” and  so it is holding each other accountable little too. 

Yes, it absolutely happens in performance appraisals but there is other values that I think lend  themselves to performance appraisals as well. Our value about being entrepreneurial and  people taking their own initiatives and it really getting a running start before anyone asked them  to is a huge part of how we evaluate performance and how we write goals and objectives. 

Diverse ideas, diverse teams, sounds like it’s a DEI initiative but it is actually about broadly  soliciting ideas functionally. Yes, we are doing a decent job with diversity and inclusion and  belonging but the way diversity really shows up in diversity of thought in our company is CX is  sitting with product helping the product team figure out what clients and customers are looking  for and it is that cross functional diversity of thought that that value really comes alive when it is  time to put down our product roadmap and the first that are if your product doesn’t say, “Hey, I  have to go talk to the CSM team” which is insane. 

Like most organizations I have been with, product is like, “Well, no. We know what’s best and  the customers need this” and here it’s like “Let’s talk about what’s getting the way for our  customers and CSM has the best perspective on that. Let’s go talk to them.” 

[0:24:51.1] RS: Yeah, the entrepreneurial value is an interesting one. Clearly at the stage you  are right now, it is super relevant but companies have this natural progression where, as time  goes by, there is more bureaucracy, there is more red tape, there is more at stake really for  every decision, so every decision, you can’t just have the people who are like move fast and  break things, ask forgiveness not permission. 

I am less interested in the scalability of the entrepreneurial value. I am more interested in how  you know when your company has perhaps outgrown the values you set down in the early  stage. 


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[0:25:24.0] JB: This is actually taking a step further back. I think it is one thing to set out the  values you want in a company and then to try to scale them and I think it is another thing to  recognize the things you need to let go of as you scale. It is really hard so at a previous startup  and this startup was a 100 people when I joined it, 1,100 people three years later when I left and  we did it mainly through small acquisitions of like 10 and 15 and 30 person firms. 

We didn’t do a lot of organic hiring and as I sat down with the executive team, you know they  had very much a bro culture, it was like microbrews on Fridays at the kitchenette and when I  asked them why that was such a big part of the culture they’re like, “Well, we really want to stay  connected to people. We really want to know people personally.” I’m like, “Okay, so our value is  really about connection. It is not about being a bro or drinking beer or wearing lumberjack  shirts.” 

The way we scale this was to say, “Wouldn’t we go into doing acquisition and we’re going to  lead with values, the first one is about connection and so our founders are going to meet with  their founders. Our sales people are going to meet with their sales people. We are going to find  a way to connect with these people before we decide on the acquisition and so that if they don’t  want to connect, if they’re really about the transaction that’s not the acquisition for us.”  

We have to let go off of that culture was Friday afternoon happy hours drinking micro brews.  What we wanted to scale from that culture was this idea of continuing connection and so I think  part of the idea of as you scale a culture what becomes maladaptive, I don’t know that the  behaviors that were right being it wrong later but the context changes and the way we exhibit  them changes. 

For us, entrepreneurialism which could have very well have been 10 or 12 months ago,  someone deciding on a new service offering for us and we’re running with that because their  client wanted it. Now, that could very much look like someone taking the initiative to do a  competitive analysis and then presenting their competitive analysis to say, “Hey, we’re in the  wrong market. Let’s talk about this differently” so the initiative is still there but to your point, there  is more at stake. 


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There is more bureaucracy and there is more decision makers in there. It doesn’t change the  fact that we want people to take initiative. It may change how much we want them to decide  independently and maybe that then becomes value and the value falls back to I mean, in our  example here, the value maybe found falls back to open and inclusive collaboration meaning  you are balancing entrepreneurial drive with including people in your analysis and including  people in your decision making. 

Again, it’s about how we express this. It is not necessarily about whether or not these things are  maladaptive. 

[0:27:49.3] RS: I love that reconceptualization of what entrepreneurial means, it doesn’t just  mean shipping to product and I think as you grow there are opportunities to cultivate in the  same as like the microbrew analogy, the question wasn’t about — you know it wasn’t about  IPAs, it is about connectivity, right? 

[0:28:04.0] JB: Yep. 

[0:28:04.9] RS: In the same way, entrepreneurial spirit isn’t about shipping, it’s about initiative,  right? You can take initiative anywhere. 

[0:28:12.0] JB: Yes. 

[0:28:12.3] RS: You said to be creative and what that looks like and it may be a little slower, like  you said, it may be a presentation you have to make to a room full of people or several people  before you know it turns into something but that energy to create something out of nothing and  to go in a direction that you weren’t necessarily pointed in is entrepreneurial, right? 

[0:28:30.1] JB: A hundred percent. 

[0:28:30.3] RS: Yeah, interesting, just a way to reorient a value to a larger stage perhaps.  

[0:28:36.1] JB: I also think it’s important to talk about it out loud because as leaders whether  you are leading a function or leading a team or leading yourself, the behaviors that we tolerate  


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or the behaviors that we accept become the new standard and if what we accept is people  under the guise of entrepreneurialism, creating a specific service for a specific client because  that’s what the client needed and it is not scalable with the company, we have to have a talk  about how that team reshapes that offer or what the process looks like for approving a new  offering like that. 

It is true with every behavior at work. The behavior you tolerate becomes the default standard  and so it’s about rewarding and shaping and recognizing the right behaviors and the way we  want to express and it is about reshaping or giving feedback to or putting an end to the  behaviors or the expressions that we don’t want to show up and that is a constant process. That  is not like, “Let us re-evaluate this every 90 days” that’s like a daily process in meetings. 

We frequently have leadership team meetings, we’re going to talk about whether or not a  particular squad of product designers, product managers and engineers, whether or not they are  getting enough input from the functions that their interacting by the product they are designing. It  is that constant, “Hey, did they talk with this group? Hey, did they talk with these people?” that  reinforces this idea of open collaboration but it is never on autopilot, it can’t be.  

[0:29:52.7] RS: This is not just people ops management or organizational psychology by the  way, this is just regular old psychology with a capital P I think because this is relevant anywhere  in your life. You teach people how to treat you by what you tolerate and what boundaries you set  or neglect to set everywhere in your life.  

[0:30:15.8] JB: If my people team is running correctly, it’s never about human resources or HR  or policies. It’s always about behavior and it is always about enabling the organization and if  what the organization sees is their ability to be more effective because they are enabled by a  people team that has given them the right expectations, build systems they don’t have to worry  about, provided input that is not providing barriers. 

If the people team is meant to make the organization run smoothly then that’s the metric. If what  we get is a bunch of stuff that means the psychology of the business is running well and our  managers and leaders are doing it in their behavior in their day-to-day, all the better not to have  to build the big people team. 


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[0:30:57.1] RS: Our business is for you anthropological case studies? Are you like Jane Goodall  but with ties? 

[0:31:05.8] JB: Yeah, maybe my time with the apes. Yes and no. As a consultant, I would have  told you 100% yes. You know, looking companies from the outside you get a really clear view of  their norms and their morays and you figure out who has the power and how decisions get  made and as an external consultant, you really can do great case studies and figuring  organization out. 

Your Jane Goodall example might be a good one because when you are inside an HR  department, when you are building a people team, you’re in it and it is much harder to make a  case out of it because you are a player in that case. I think a lot of my job, being the top people  leader is holding the leaders in general, the founders, the executives in particular accountable to  the things they say they want to do. 

This is frequently used in the culture they espouse against them, encouraging them to have the  hard talk rather than dumping the hard talk off on someone else. It is encouraging them to ask  for input when they don’t know and they feel like they should know because the whole  organization is expecting them to know but the culture says it’s okay not to know and so I am  leading themselves to saying, “Hey, I don’t know, I need input from you guys.” 

You know, using that against them to have them come through on their promises for the  organization is something that really excites me and to your point, it is a little bit like just good  psychology, you know, holding people accountable to do the great things that they say they  want to do for themselves and for their organization is really just enabling them to be great.  

[0:32:27.1] RS: I don’t think we’re going to find a better bookend than that. Joe, this has been a  really fantastic conversation. I have learned a ton from you today. I didn’t expect to be talking  about Cheesecake Factory but I am glad we did and normally I out it on the guest to say, “Hey,  what’s your advice for folks who want to be more strategic in their career” but you summed it up  there at the end just the examples of the questions you can ask and the behaviors you can point  


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out and encourage or not, I think those are all great examples of ways people can be effective  at work and more importantly, create a healthy engaged workplace. 

At this point Joe, I would just say thank you so much for being here. This is has been a great  episode. 

[0:33:02.0] JB: I really enjoyed my time. 


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