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With Scott Orn

A Startup Podcast by Kruze Consulting

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Scott Orn

Scott Orn, CFA

Stephanie Mann and Anne Foreman of At Your Core, a leading startup values and culture consultancy

Posted on: 06/25/2019

Stephanie Mann

Stephanie Mann

Founding Partner - At Your Core

Anne Foreman

Anne Foreman

Founding Partner - At Your Core

Stephanie Mann & Anne Foreman of At Your Core - Podcast Summary

Stephanie Mann and Anne Foreman of At Your Core discuss how to set the foundation for a strong culture in a startup, and how to build and maintain a startup’s team value system.

Stephanie Mann & Anne Foreman of At Your Core - Podcast Transcript

Scott: Welcome to Founders and Friends podcast with Scott Orn at Kruze Consulting and before an excellent podcast, quick shout out to our sponsor, Brex. Brex is a credit card for startups. The first one ever. It’s fantastic. They don’t require a personal guarantee by the founder. That is a huge, huge deal. Also has great integration with QuickBooks, which makes life easy for your accountant. And finally they have really good rewards. They do start up centric rewards. So, bonuses on ridesharing and travel and eating out and things like that. All things that will appeal to the whole team at a startup. So, check out Brex. If you go through their signup and type in Kruze, you get a discount. Hopefully you enjoy Brex and thanks so much guys for sponsoring the podcast. Thanks. Welcome to the Founders and Friends podcast with Scott Orn at Kruze Consulting and my very special guest is two guests, Steph Mann and Anne Foreman of At Your Core. Welcome ladies.
Stephanie: Thank you for having us.
Anne: Yeah, thanks for having us.
Scott: My pleasure. So we’ve started taking or doing a lot of work on our internal company culture and values. So I want to have you on, because we’ve actually found it like really inspiring. It’s been amazing. So maybe give the quick story of what you do and why you started this company.
Stephanie: So first off At Your Core is a values and culture consultancy. So we help companies define their core values, which we believe really creates a foundation for culture as they scale. And those values support both the business and the culture. And that’s really important. But just how we got here. So we are not in the HR space at all. We do not … Our background is not in human resources, but rather we spent the last 15 years as operators running businesses at a range of companies. So I’ve previously worked at companies like Deloitte and Clorox and Method. Anne has worked at agencies at Mattel, Method, Juicero. So a huge range of big and small companies. But we met together working as jams at Method. I was running the personal care business and Anne was running the home care business and we quickly connected over our shared energy and desire to build strong cultures. So we realized that we’ve always kind of done this as extracurricular activities, shall we say, as part of our job. So spearheading culture initiatives, running values teams, leading and facilitating off sites. That was just kind of a side hustle or gig.
Scott: Was it because like you … Like the word operator has a really strong connotation in startups. Like those are the people who get stuff done and run the business.
Stephanie: Yeah.
Scott: So I’m assuming you came at it from like, “Hey, it’s actually going to enable our businesses. This is actually just make us more successful.” I don’t care if it’s like x’s and o’s, or numbers, this is whatever. I don’t care what it takes. I’m just going to run a better business. And so doing all these off sites and paying attention to the culture, which is like a very pragmatic thing for you to do.
Stephanie: Mm-hmm.
Anne: I would say yes, it was a pragmatic thing to do, but it’s not necessarily a pragmatic thing for everybody in that role. I think something that makes us unique is although we are interested in running businesses efficiently, we were always sort of naturally inclined to focus also on the human side of things.
Scott: Yeah.
Anne: And to really make that a part that can be operationalized, which is kind of how this business …
Scott: You said it better than me. Like I was trying to say is like the human side actually just getting that really optimized and people feeling good and going in the same direction makes the business stronger.
Anne: Yes.
Scott: That’s what kind of what I was trying to say.
Anne: Yes. Exactly.
Scott: Okay, cool.
Stephanie: If you were … Think back to our days at Kellogg and management and organization classes. All the classes on organizational behavior. Anne and I both in business school. That’s what we were drawn to on. A lot of people would be like, “Oh, that’s the soft side of business. Does it really matter?”
Scott: I took a lot of those classes too.
Stephanie: Right. They’re fascinating and professors would always say like, at some point you’re going to realize that this is the most important thing you’ll ever learn.
Scott: Yeah.
Stephanie: You know, fast forward 10 plus years when we’re all like leaders in our career, realizing that like those skills do really matter. And we kept thinking about how … If we’re getting the biggest amount of our energy derived through helping people create stronger teams, does that have to be just a side part?
Scott: Yeah.
Stephanie: Can that be our full job?
Scott: It’s classic. Like this should just be my full time job.
Stephanie: Yup, Yup.
Anne: Mm-hmm.
Scott: Did you look around and you’re like, “Hey, no one’s really doing this, too.” Like that’s kind of like … You must have this really amazing epiphany where it’s like, “Oh my gosh, we can actually have fun in our work and also make a living.”
Anne: Yeah, no, exactly. I mean I think we both were sort of wanting to get into that space and feel like this could be something that could be meaningful. And so what we did initially we were thinking about starting a company, is we had a ton of conversations with people. Obviously, we had our own firsthand experiences just from our work to date, but we wanted to know how do companies really approach values? So we talked to a host of people. We found sort of two main things. One is, that my company has words on a page. I got them at orientation. I don’t really know what they are.
Scott: Yeah. Totally.
Anne: If I look through my files, somewhere I’ll find them.
Scott: Yeah, you read them once signed something.
Anne: Exactly. Yeah, definitely signed.
Stephanie: You might see them on a wall in the bathroom, but that’s it.
Anne: But not very inspiring and certainly not something that people were connected to.
Scott: Yeah.
Anne: On the flip side, we talked to some people that you know really understood their company’s values through and through. That we’re using it in everyday situations. Their leaders were reinforcing it. They were personally reinforcing it.
Scott: Yeah.
Anne: And the people from those companies, these are people from companies that not only are known for strong cultures, but also are kind of have differentiated themselves within their field. So like the Airbnbs, Zappos …
Scott: Yeah.
Anne: You know, those kinds of hub spot companies that have both of these things really going for them. And it kinda comes back to, “Hey, there’s this key unlock there where if you set up your values correctly and if you really embed them properly throughout every facet of the employee experience, it just unlocks the potential of the company, both on the business side and on the cultural side.”
Scott: I feel like it keeps people … It’s a good checkpoint. People can always refer back to it and know … It’s almost like a compass or their North Star.
Anne: Exactly.
Scott: Then you like, “Am I doing this right or am I acting the right way?
Anne: Mm-hmm.
Scott: Well, let me look at this. And “Oh, maybe this isn’t consistent with how we should be doing things, you know?” Without that North Star, sometimes you don’t have that guiding post to even kind of go off course. You know?
Anne: Yeah, exactly.
Stephanie: Yeah. We often describe it as like it’s a code of how to work together.
Scott: Yeah.
Stephanie: So it’s really like bringing to life the how, not just the what.
Scott: Yeah. And as we get bigger I feel it’s even more and more. So much more important for us, because we used to just be sitting in the same room and kind of culture built that way. But also we would sometimes not go the right direction. We would like … We were working too many hours or we were whatever. And now as a distributed company it’s actually more important, because now we can all kind of identify the same things. Have something in common. That North Star is actually more important for us nowadays. Are you finding that with like more companies going remote, like it’s … ?
Stephanie: Yeah, it’s very timely. We actually have a talk that we’re giving soon to a VC company to all of their heads of people. It’s all about how to create culture and engage remote workforce. It’s becoming more and more important.
Scott: Can I sit in on that?
Anne: Absolutely.
Scott: That would be really good.
Stephanie: [crosstalk] We can come here and give …
Scott: That would be awesome.
Stephanie: Give the same talk.
Scott: That should be like a webinar or something like that.
Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. You’re spot on. It becomes even more important, because you don’t necessarily have the flybys and the face to face all the time.
Scott: Yeah, So it was that Matt Sizer is working with us as a consultant just on a bunch of stuff. A friend of ours from business school and he’s actually working on that project, too.
Stephanie: Oh, nice.
Anne: Yeah.
Scott: Call you.
Anne: Connect us.
Scott: Well, let me explain how the service works. Like how, you know, if me a startup company or a VC fund wants to get a diagnostic, how do they get involved with you?
Stephanie: Yeah, so a lot of our clients end up being through referral or they see us talk on a panel or whatnot. It tends to be, as we said, small to midsize companies. So there’s really kind of a key inflection point between like 50 and 75 employees. Where they’re starting to grow and they’re about to escalate their growth quite quickly. They really need to make sure that they embed the core values and define them, so that they create that strong foundation.
Scott: Yeah.
Stephanie: So the other key inflection point is also if someone’s experienced a leadership change and there’s a new CEO coming in and really wants to kind of reset and restart the company on a really strong note. That’s an excellent time to bring us in. We have a pretty … Like key three-phased approach when we’re partnering with clients. The first is all about discovery. As we’ve said,.the values have to feel like they are part of the company. They’re authentic to them. They’re created by then. So Anne and I in some ways or just a tool to help them.
Scott: I was going to say, you’re like helping them suss it out themselves.
Stephanie: Absolutely. It’s … It’s still all them. They’re really doing the creation. We’re kind of helping to articulate it. So during this discovery phase we’re meeting with definitely everyone on the leadership, but a host of people throughout the organization. We typically also host like company-wide culture, lunch chats. We do surveys too, just to get as much information as possible to understand what are the unique things that make this company tick? What are people really love about the company? What are some opportunities for improvement across the employees?
Scott: Do you find like, this is a crazy question, but do you find you get more out of the interviews or the surveys or what, or is it just the combination of both or … ?
Anne: I think it’s definitely the combination. The interviews are really insightful because you know, as Steph mentioned, we usually talk with the whole leadership team, but we talk with them individually, so we get their specific take, not only-
Scott: Do you compare it and you compare it over like overlay on, [crosstalk] There are three people who are totally seeing this differently than others, you know?
Anne: Yeah, but one of the things that we ask them is where is the company going in three to five years? And it’s amazing, even on leadership teams, sometimes they’re very United on that and sometimes they’re not. But even still, we can help them to sort of reflect back. This is where you want to go. What is it really going to take to get there?
Scott: Yeah.
Scott: Do you ever have like a hard conversation of like if you’re not, you are not aligned with the rest of the management team, like maybe this isn’t the right place for you. Is that not … That’s kind of out of scope for what you’re doing. Or they feel it. I would just be interested in sitting in some of those interviews and you must know where maybe senior manager really wants to go and then you see people who are not aligned.
Stephanie: It’s definitely the case that some people are not aligned. I think this process is great in getting people aligned, because we’re bringing everyone into a room kind of and brainstorming and ideating together. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point that becomes something that we do. Because at the end of our projects we’re often continuing our relationships with the leadership to figure out how do they model those behaviors.
Scott: We’ve been talking more about just like the Jeff Bezos like disagree, but then commit thing.
Stephanie: Yeah.
Scott: Because, sometimes you can … Everyone’s not going to buy in completely, but they have … Everyone has to kind of commit to doing whatever the …
Anne: Value. Exactly.
Scott: Shared version is.
Stephanie: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Scott: Cool. Okay. So you do the discovery process.
Stephanie: So we do the discovery. That uncovers a ton of themes that we think could be values themes, but we need to dive in a lot further. So the second phase is a workshop approach. We take folks off-site and we feel like it’s very important to have a broad range of folks representing the company. So all levels, all tenures, all functions. Like this really broad set of folks who leadership is usually identifying as cultural champions or people who really … Like unspoken in unspoken ways embrace the culture that they want to maintain or grow or keep. And so Anne and I facilitate. It can either be one to two day workshop, which we take a storytelling approach. So it’s all about these like pulling out these nuggets of what was their best day ever at this company?
Scott: You ask the group that or do you … ?
Stephanie: Mm-hmm.
Scott: Cool.
Stephanie: It’s the group and we go around and have everyone share either a story of their best day or the biggest challenge they overcame. Who exactly were they working with? What were the behaviors? Like really digging in as to what made that so good.
Scott: What do people do … People say individual stuff or do they say company stuff or maybe that’s part of it.
Anne: It’s a mix.
Scott: Yeah.
Stephanie: Yeah.
Anne: It’s a mix. Some people definitely take more of a broad approach versus others are very, you know, it’s a very personal thing …
Scott: I own this. I got this over the finish line. Yeah. That’s interesting.
Stephanie: Yeah. So there’s a range of exercises of storytelling. Of thinking fast word associations of like, different values themes. Does that feel like it matches with the company or not?
Scott: Yeah.
Stephanie: So it’s a whole day of exercises to really pull out what are those best moments? What makes this company super unique? And then we break them up into teams and we give them ideas and themes to workshops. So the onus is on them, as a team, to really pressure test and say, does this fit for our company? What are the specific behaviors we want to see? What exists today versus what should exist in the future?
Scott: This is like the multi-day retreat?
Stephanie: Mm-hmm. And it’s very important to go offsite. As you know, people have very busy schedules and so we really need to remove them from the day today.
Scott: And then they make the commitment, too. Right? It’s like a psychological thing?
Anne: Mm-hmm. And part of the beauty of having, you know, partners like Agricorp to come in and help with this process.
Scott: Yeah.
Anne: Is it really almost as a forcing function for the company to say, you know what, we’ve known this is important, we’ve wanted-
Scott: We’re spending money on this-
Anne: But now we’re committing to it. Commitment … We have the whole process laid out. We get dates on the calendar, all this stuff, then we help them to really prioritize it.
Scott: Yeah.
Anne: And also at the end of the day, when they’ve got all of these themes and all of this brain dump that they’ve just done. Right?
Scott: Yeah.
Anne: That’s exhausting for that team. It’s also really empowering. They feel like, wow, I’ve got … Look at all this great stuff. I really do love working here and this is something that’s going to recommit me and I don’t need to wait for the values to come out. Tomorrow I can go back and start making change. But what we do … After we get that brain dump is then we spend the time to bubble up the theme and really reflect back to them. This is what we heard. This is what we heard is really special about this and what is imperative going forward for you guys to be successful. We just had one with a client last week where we shared back. The first time that they were seeing sort of our version of the values after the exercise. And they just said, I don’t know how, but what we left with was all of this essence and here it is reframed. Like now it makes sense.
Scott: That’s awesome.
Anne: And you know, it’s-
Scott: [crosstalk] Yeah, people when they’re constantly coming up with ideas they can lose … It’s hard to digest while you’re come with those ideas. You make it easier. It’s also, I just love that. Like comparing that to your example at the beginning of the podcast where you’re like, yeah, people get a piece of paper with five core values on it. They don’t really internalize. They’ve helped form this and so now they’re part owners of it.
Anne: Yeah, absolutely.
Scott: And it’s easier for them to spread it …
Stephanie: Yeah, they’re champions now. The onus … We definitely talk about the onus is on them to champion it. The other thing, just when we come back and deliver the values is given our brand background, we make sure that it’s all in their brand voice. Right? It has to reflect their personality. It has to include if they’re, [crosstalk] you know, if they’re playful or humor or serious. We’ve had a range of different clients, but we have to reflect that uniqueness and make sure that it’s very distinct, so they feel like it is like totally ownable by them as a company.
Scott: That’s really cool.
Stephanie: Then the third phase is once … Just to be clear, the values development is super iterative. So we do the workshop, but it is … It’s hard work to pull it down, because we always say like three to five values. [crosstalk] It’s like the right area and getting really clear on what behaviors matter most for that company. Then it’s all about bringing them to life. The last thing we want to do it again, leave a company with just values on a page.
Scott: Do you make them act it out after or what do you do?
Stephanie: So there’s two big things. There’s a rollout moment. So we’ll help advise them on having a big, big company cultural moment where they are sharing the values with the whole organization. And this is a great way, as Anne said, to get the whole company kind of recommitted and re-energized. As part of that day, we suggest a agenda for how to run it. There’s a ton of exercises. There’s some may be role-playing. We have different ways to bring them to life. You might be doing skits, acting it out. Other times it’s just storytelling or you’re actually presenting values awards as a way to-
Scott: That’s cool.
Stephanie: Use real-life examples and bring it to life. So that moment is a huge moment. Then again, we want to make sure even then it’s not just like, “Here it is. It’s done.”
Scott: Take, yeah.
Scott: What does modeling mean?
Stephanie: Modeling. You want to talk about modeling?
Anne: Well, yes. Modeling is the seventh pillar, but we say it’s actually the most important one. So it’s … You can think about it as how does leadership show up? But it’s really everybody, right? Everybody should be modeling and living with values every day. But for leaders, it’s how do they make sure that in the big moments and also the small moments that they are really living the values. Because if you have values that are clearly articulated, but your leaders at the top are not modeling them.
Scott: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Anne: That’s a very easy way to break trust within the organization. Right? And then they can start to feel inauthentic.
Scott: That makes sense. So, they’re like living the values, basically.
Anne: Living the values. Yeah. But taking the time and taking the opportunities when maybe there is a tough business decision that has to be made. How can they refer back to the values? They themselves use the values as a tool. Then reinforce that with the organization. So, stand up in front of the company and say, “You know what, everybody, this went this way and this is why we’re making this decision. It goes back to our values and this is how we’re really committed to what we stand for.”
Scott: Yeah.
Anne: And making sure that you’re reinforcing it, those important things.
Scott: That’s really cool. That’s actually … You’re right, because if they … If they take shortcuts, or I’m an exception, because I’m the leader of the company. That actually is super destructive. Right?
Anne: Mm-hmm.
Scott: Yeah.
Stephanie: Yeah. Does more harm than good.
Scott: That’s really cool. How do you … Okay, so you have the seven pillars.
Stephanie: Yep. So, again, it’s very customized based on the processes that already exist and how you make sure that the values are embedded. So if you think about onboarding a new employee, how do you make sure that … Like right when they start … I mean ideally they’d been exposed to the values in the interview process. You’re hitting the ground running by reinforcing the values. Bringing them to life.
Scott: To really-
Stephanie: You know, though … Whether it’s through orientation, presentation, swag. Everyone we always say should have values cards at their desk the first day they start.
Scott: Oh, that’s cool.
Stephanie: Pocket size, so they can bring them everywhere. You want to make them really-
Scott: That’s a good … Well that makes it really tangible, too. That’s really smart. What do you do? Like little note cards or like …
Stephanie: Yeah, we recommend different sizes, but oftentimes you have the name on one side, the behaviors on the other, as like a reminder.
Scott: That’s really cool.
Stephanie: It can become a tool later if you’re in a difficult meeting. It honestly sometimes diffuses situations. We’ve seen in conflict where-
Scott: People break them out.
Stephanie: Yeah, where people … You could have a behavior, let’s say, that’s like yes, and. And someone is like adamantly, no. And you’re like, let’s, you know [crosstalk 00:19:21]
Scott: Seen as an improv technique. Right?
Stephanie: Exactly.
Scott: We’ve had an improv person on the podcast before. How do you measure the impact? Do you measure the impact? How does that work? After you’ve kind of gone through your process?
Anne: Yeah, so a lot of the companies that we work with are already doing engagement, employee engagement surveys, or if they’re not, we recommend that they start doing that. We have a series of questions that we ask them to add to their employee engagement survey. Do they fully understand the values? Do they feel like their coworkers are living the values? Did they feel like leadership are modeling the values? So we’ll track those over time. Then we’ll also just look at the general employee engagement scores. Because, kind of like I was mentioning at the beginning, at those companies that are really living it and doing a great job at every inflection point.
Scott: You can tell.
Anne: You can … Yeah. People know what they’re supposed to do and how they’re supposed to do it. It just diffuses any confusion.
Scott: Yeah.
Anne: And keeps people on a really positive path.
Scott: Yeah.
Anne: So employee engagement naturally goes up.
Scott: Do you have like a … This is like the super finance person in me. Do you have an ROI calculation? How do you justify the expense? You must be selling this to someone who has to write a check. They’re like, “Okay. Anne and Steph, this sounds great. How do I think about the return on my investment for this?”
Scott: [crosstalk] Like the engagement survey.
Anne: Yeah, yeah. Exactly. Tracking these things over time. So we would definitely point them to those types of things. We would also encourage companies to just really think about this as another process that they have to operationalize before they scale. You know, if you’re thinking about expanding into new GOs or new product lines or quadrupling your engineering team, you have to really think through what those processes are that you need to scale. So, we’re kind of a people’s side of that equation and making sure that all of that is really set before you experience that hockey stick.
Scott: That makes total sense. Do you come to them and be like, “Hey, the normal company doesn’t do this kind of thing, has churn of 30%, but we think we can get your turn down the 10%.” Or, you’ll have good churn and that the people who don’t buy into the values tend to leave very quickly after we do something like this.
Stephanie: Yeah.
Scott: And you can hire more aligned people, things like that.?
Stephanie: Yeah, absolutely. So there’s a couple like Gallup polls that have actually researched productivity as well as retention, if you have highly engaged employees. So you can kind of put it back action.
Scott: There’s a strong correlation. Yeah. And like even there’s a stat that from Gallup that revenue can increase by 33% if you have a more engaged workforce. Absenteeism lowers by like 41%. So there are a bunch of like data that, when we do go present to companies, we will bring those stats. Some people, as you’ve said, are very tied to that. But we’ve actually found more than anything, people understand when they need it and they kind of get the service. As long as they can have some budget, they’re willing to do it.
Scott: Yeah, they probably, I mean they probably have an intuitive understanding, “This is important.” Then just kind of presume over. One of the things we always joke about is, startups bring us in when their accounting or finance is totally screwed up. So, almost every company we do has … We have to go fix a bunch of stuff.
Anne: Mm-hmm.
Scott: And we actually brought in an HR person on recently and I was like, “Hey, guess what? We have some things to work on [inaudible] “ And she’s like, “That’s every single client I take on.” So, it’s … There’s no shame in that. That’s just how it is. Do you find the same thing? Like you come in, you’re like, “Oh, that doesn’t sound like a great situation, but hey, I’m here to make it better.” Is that like the a kind of a core thing for you?
Anne: I think there are some founders that just get it and want to do it proactively.
Scott: Yeah.
Anne: There are also other businesses that are like, “Ooh, you know what, we’re having a little bit of tension here and we’ve gotta figure out a way to address it.”
Scott: Yeah.
Anne: Sometimes when we … All the time, actually, when we’re working with companies that the output is objective tools to point to. So you can say, this is a behavior that we expect to see and if people are doing something that’s the opposite, then you all of a sudden have something that you can point to.
Scott: A common ground.
Stephanie: Yeah.
Scott: You know it’s wrong? Yeah, yeah. That makes sense.
Stephanie: You hold … You’re able to hold people accountable in a clear fashion.
Scott: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That’s what the North Star thing is. It makes sense. Also, what about just like the signaling power of this to your team members, right?
Anne: Absolutely.
Scott: Like you take it really seriously. You’re spending money on it. You’re spending a lot of time on it.
Anne: Yeah, and often when we get up in front of companies, we’re reminding them how awesome it is that their leaders are [crosstalk] into this and how excited they should be. That we’re all getting the chance to engage in this process together and really build the culture that they collectively want to see.
Scott: Yeah.
Anne: Because it is pretty neat when leaders step up and do that for their people.
Scott: That’s really cool.
Stephanie: And just initiating the project can make an impact.
Scott: Yeah. That’s kind of what I’m saying.
Stephanie: Just as you said, like day one, when we did this like lunch chat and we’re like, “Hey guys, we’re here because your founders really want to proactively define your values.” They’re like, “This is awesome.” It’s Super Fun. It’s an engaging process. Then hopefully they’ll see even more benefit obviously when it’s rolled out. But even just knowing that people are committed, makes an impact.
Scott: That’s awesome. How has it been starting this from scratch? Like you have literally started this company from zero. You quit your jobs.
Stephanie: Yep.
Scott: How has that journey been for you? You’re still smiling.
Stephanie: Yeah.
Anne: We’re smiling because we love it.
Scott: Yeah.
Anne: You know, this has been the easiest labor of love I think that either of us have ever taken on. I’m speaking for you now, Steph. But you know, it’s just doing something that you really enjoy, is amazing.
Scott: Yeah.
Anne: And you know, the cool thing is we still get to do the business strategy side that we kind of grew up doing. Because we’re getting to know companies so intimately and we’re getting to know what their problems and challenges are and sometimes we throw them extra.
Scott: [crosstalk] Yeah.
Anne: We can’t turn that part off. We’re getting to focus on the people side.
Scott: Yeah. I also think your positioning of like the x marketing people who know your brand language really makes sense to me, because as it … Maybe I tend to be more of a functional person, because I don’t have an HR background. There’s a different … That’s a different sell than just like, “Improve HR”, something like that. You actually like speaking their language. I would assume that make sales a little bit easier.
Stephanie: Yeah. I think especially because we, you know, sell into founders or CEOs. It’s because we believe that has to … The process has to be bought in from the top. We’re not selling in just to someone on the HR team. They can often be like a critical partner in the whole process, but we have to start from the top. So being able to talk and really understanding their business and their strategy.
Scott: Yeah, well it gets back to them not being an exception and buying in and demonstrating and modeling the behaviors.
Stephanie: Exactly.
Scott: Yeah.
Anne: Exactly.
Scott: You’re selling the small and medium-sized … First of all, why did you choose small medium-sized businesses and how has that been? Is it working and not working? What’s your experience?
Anne: I think it’s working very well actually. Because there is that sort of inflection point that Steph was mentioning earlier. Where when you’re really small, oftentimes you can kind of get by, because the values are understood. They very much flow from the founder. Everybody’s working together very closely on a daily basis. Then you start to grow a little bit and you get a couple of reporting layers and all of a sudden people aren’t quite as close to the everyday decisions and you kind of lose a little bit of that control in a good way. Right?
Scott: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well, you’re trying to delegate but … [crosstalk] Then another way of looking at that is losing control.
Anne: Yeah.
Scott: So yeah.
Anne: Then once you get to about 50 people, we find that if the values have not been really codified, things start to get really fuzzy and break down and that’s where you start to get a lot of these hotspots and tensions. So we find that there is a real need at that size and we are also able to make a big impact. Because you can involve the whole organization in some way or another as they’re creating it. So everybody feels really personally connected. It’s just a … It’s a really rewarding …
Scott: Yeah, I would say like 30 people actually.
Anne: Yeah.
Scott: I know this is your business.
Stephanie: Yeah, 30 works, too. Yeah. [crosstalk]
Scott: I think 30 is where it really starts to get a little more fragmented. Person to person messaging isn’t as effective.
Anne: Yeah.
Stephanie: Yeah.
Scott: Because oftentimes people go from like 30 to 40 pretty quickly or 30 to 45 so …
Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Once you hit those different kind of inflection points. But it is, I mean it’s … I think we always say we love what we do and we’re really fortunate that we work together so well, because we are literally next to each other, often. Like sometimes have to be separated, but it just works.
Scott: Yeah.
Stephanie: And we always say we’re actually better together. Like all of our output gets strengthened by the feedback we give each other. It is also hard starting a new company and selling as you can imagine, because a lot of these companies that could really benefit from our services, they’re trying to manage their budget. And they’re trying to raise money at the same time. So, you know, it’s kind of … Sometimes it’s right place, right time.
Scott: Yeah.
Stephanie: We’re just hopeful the more that people hear about us or know, it’s top of mind. So, when they’re ready for it …
Anne: They even know service like this [crosstalk]
Scott: Yeah, that’s what I’m saying.
Anne: [crosstalk] Not some defined industry. You know, we’re kind of creating something that doesn’t really exist.
Scott: Also, word of mouth though is really powerful with … I mean that’s our, by far, our biggest kind of channel for new clients. I’m sure that’s going to kick in for you too or already has kicked in.
Stephanie: Yeah. It’s funny if I think back to the beginning of how we got here. When we decided we wanted to do something different that was more focused on people and culture. We would literally like talk to people in the industry and the talent people space. There’s no job description that captures what we want to do.
Scott: Or search term.
Stephanie: Or search term. There’s nothing. So that’s when we just were like, maybe we just create it.
Scott: Yeah.
Stephanie: So it is, it’s … Sometimes we have to educate a little bit more, but I’m finding more and more and especially in the Bay area, people get it.
Scott: Yeah.
Stephanie: And they’re pretty excited about it.
Scott: Yeah. So, again, they recognize the ROI, like intuitive ROI and this … Especially as Bay area companies are moving. Are doing more remote stuff. I think we’re like a little microcosm of every other startup in San Francisco. Where it’s like you can just attract really amazing people across the country and it makes sense to you. Instead of battling it out for good people here in the city.
Anne: Exactly.
Scott: Like so how many … Is it you two still or is it …
Anne: It’s just us. Yeah.
Scott: I was thinking actually we were talking about how great it is working together. I was like, “Oh, they’re in the honeymoon phase right now. This is … “ I recognize that look. [crosstalk] This is so nice. [crosstalk] So we’re … So we’re just so productive together. Pretty soon you’ll be like, you sit over there and I’ll sit over here.
Anne: Uh-huh.
Scott: And what’s … What’s the growth like? I always like to kind of ask like what’s next? Like where are you? Is it just fine tuning this and just kind of getting more clients or … ?
Anne: Yes, definitely wanting to continue on this space. And then we’ve also found sort of a natural extension in employer brand work. So really helping companies to identify what is their unique employer value proposition. This again goes back to our marketing backgrounds, but it’s a natural extension from the values work.
Scott: Yeah.
Anne: But helping them to hone in on that and think about how are they going to attract, hire and retain talent.
Scott: Yeah.
Anne: And particularly in this area. Right? It’s such a competitive talent market right now. So, companies are really hungry for figuring out how do we get really crystal clear about who we are as an employer and how do we message that? And then how do we actually show up for our own employees in that way?
Scott: Yeah.
Anne: So it’s kind of a nice … A nice …
Scott: I think you’re really early days in this trend, so congratulations. Kudos to you for taking the risk and going out there and starting your own company. That’s really cool.
Anne: Thank you. We’re having fun so far.
Scott: Two years from now, she’ll be smiling. [crosstalk] Well, okay, thank you so much for coming by. Can you maybe tell everyone where they can find At Your Core?
Stephanie: Yep.
Scott: And Steph and Anne and how do they find you and reach out to you?
Stephanie: Absolutely. So, www.atyourcore.co C-O.
Scott: I always tell people just type into Google.
Anne: Yeah, yeah. That too.
Stephanie: That too.
Scott: At Your Core.
Stephanie: At Your Core. It’s Steph@atyourcore.co and Anne@atyourcore.co
Anne: Anne with an E.
Stephanie: But yes, just reach out to us directly. We’d be happy to meet you in person. Jump on the phone and talk about how we can help.
Scott: Cool. And like I said, we have started really doing this kind of work internally and it’s making a big difference and we … It makes the job more fun for everybody, including us. So it’s … I highly recommend.
Anne: Yeah. It can just … It’s a lot of fun for people in companies. Right? This is a opportunity to connect with each other and to really enjoy each other as well.
Scott: I always think just find your North Star as a company. That’s what you’re helping people do.
Anne: Absolutely.
Stephanie: Thank you.
Scott: [crosstalk] All right. Thanks for that ladies. Appreciate it. Bye. Bye. Hope you enjoyed that episode of Founders and Friends podcast. Quick shout out to Brex. The first startup credit card. Brex is our sponsor and really appreciate their support. Brex has no personal guarantee for founders. That’s a really big deal. It integrates really nicely with QuickBooks. Great rewards that are startup-centric. It’s a really nice little tool and we are seeing it all across the Kruze portfolio of clients. So check it out. And again, if you go through the signup flow and type in Kruze, you get a discount. So hopefully you’ll check out Brex. Thanks again for the support on the podcast. Guys. Take care

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