Matthew Schiltz | Crain's Portland

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Matthew Schiltz

Background:  

The world’s top brands use Conga to accelerate sales processes, address compliance regulations, protect brand and message and report on actionable data to drive business growth.

The Mistake:

If any CEO who's built multiple companies tells you they’re mistake-free, I think they’re kidding themselves. The one I want to share with you is a big one, but it’s also something I’m really passionate about.

I’ve spent all of my senior executive/CEO years in the software and technology business. I always knew that it was a people business. But early in my career, I got caught up in the technology, the technology roadmap, the technology go-to-market and all the ultra-importance of that. I failed to emphasize enough with our people how important they were, and are, to the business.

All of my direct reports understood this. But when you build companies, and they grow to hundreds of employees, it’s harder for everyone to feel that we are a people-oriented business.

I discovered that I wasn’t doing a very good job of developing an overall culture where everyone felt valued and important – regardless of their title or position – by talking to people. I took them out to lunch and had other one-on-ones. And what they said was that they really liked me as a CEO and my leadership. But they told me I was too consumed with technology, and they had no sense of how I felt about the employees and their work.

Emphasizing people has really paid off for us.

The Lesson:

I thought, 'That’s not really reflective of my passion, which is the people.' My passion is assembling a great collection of people and providing a great environment for them to do their best work and be their best selves. I knew I had to change things up to make sure they knew that.

We invested in a few things. We invested more in communication to our employees, with more regular all-hands meetings, talking about people and what we’re doing from a people-development standpoint.

We invested in a core values team. We built a team of people across the company, from all different geographies and job titles. We made core values part of our hiring plans and performance reviews, emphasizing who we are and how passionate we are about being a people business.

Today at Conga, we make sure everyone understands our core values and our commitment to people. We tell every single candidate about those core values. We ask them how their past experience would fit into our culture that recognizes and accentuates those core values. We continue to reiterate our core values throughout their employment.

We see its success manifest in many different ways: lower turnover and attrition and higher degrees of employee satisfaction. We have experienced a higher percentage of internal promotions. People are excited about the company. They’re energized, looking for ways to innovate and improve themselves as people, and they end up getting promoted more often.

The percentage of new hires from employee referrals has gone up as well, and generally speaking, those are the best hires.

We invest in educational programs. We actually have an internal group that does internal skill training, people skills and enhancement. We also encourage interdepartmental connections.

We bring in lunch every day for our employees, globally. We encourage people to enjoy lunch at our facility and interact with people outside of their department. Some companies provide lunch to enhance productivity and encourage employees to bring it back to desk; we do it to encourage connection and greater collaboration. Emphasizing people has really paid off for us.

Follow Conga on Twitter at: @GetConga

Pictured: Matthew Schiltz. | Photo courtesy of Matthew Schiltz.

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