Kris Bondi, CEO @Mimoto. How to align your teams quickly and get into a position to be acquired or IPO!A-Players - The top startups' recipes to build teams of top performers
- 750 views
- 24 Nov 2020
Kris is a leading CMO whose sweet spot has been getting companies into a position so they can be acquired or IPO: she has contributed to seven acquisitions and two IPO filings. This expertise requires moving fast and aligning quickly the marketing teams to new objectives. In this episode, she shares the playbook she used at LogDNA and Bitnami. This playbook includes: a full day offsite to map the team’s new roles, have distributed teams act as one, and send grocery cards! Don’t wait for an exit or IPO to apply this battle-tested strategy and start aligning your team now!
Talent wins games, but teamwork wins championships. Welcome to eight players. But guess what? We'll tell you how to target, hire, retain and train top performers for your team. The playbook is how I manage. And some of this is just basic. What I think is good management, which is you can't be a micromanager. If you're a micromanager, then not only are you not trusting the person, but they also are going to have a lack of confidence.
I am rubbing show you at higher suites and we are sourcing automation software that helps of the tech companies hire the best talent at me. And follow me now on LinkedIn. You want to keep an eye on this? So today I'm very happy to host you, Chris, to talk about building and managing international and distributed teams, welcoming a player as Chris, can you tell us more about you and your background before we begin? Yes, I have been a CMO and a marketing executive where a revenue executive for more than twenty five years focused on mostly international organizations.
Most of my time is focused on go to market strategies, ramping the sales process and positioning companies usually with an eye towards acquisition or IPO to date. I have been involved with seven acquisitions to IPO filings and the most recent acquisition was that Naameh being acquired by VMware last year. Wow. OK, so I guess when you join a company, you have your playbook that you're trying to replicate that you improved over the years, right? I do. The actual go to market strategy part is very dependent on technology and who your buyer is.
But the growing team part, the part that we're really talking about, the growing and managing effective and stellar teams is definitely a playbook that I've implemented over and over again. Can you tell us more about the playbook, the main things you're looking for, how you're building on top of the existing teams? Yes, well, you're right. Those are two different things, because there is whether you are hiring people or whether you're inheriting people. But either way, if I jump into the playbook, part of it, the most important thing is respect.
And you would like everyone to love each other, but they at least need to respect each other. Knowing that the team has confidence in each other and in themselves will make them more effective. OK, I guess that respect isn't always here when you join a company and sometimes you have to build that out of the blue. Why don't you do that when the teams are already existing?
So one of the things that I do early on is I bring the team together and I have them work on projects with me officially not in the room. So, for example, my last company, I gave the example of a product launch to back up a moment. I joined the company where I ended up bringing on five new people. So it was in essence a department that was very nearly baked. So I said, OK, we're going to have a product launch.
It's this far out. I want each of you to map out what your role will be in this and how it will interact with the other members of the team. And I've done this now in a few different companies, and particularly when you have people who are coming from different regions or different countries having to work together, understanding that I can depend on this person in this way, I can depend on that person. And for them to do this part, everyone understanding what each other's roles are and what they're going to contribute is incredibly important.
I think of it as creating a braid, of braiding together what everyone's roles are so that they just know when it's time they can just do it.
OK, so how does it work exactly? You have everybody sitting in the room. How long does it last? What is it, 30 minutes. Two hours a full day.
I prefer when it's a full day. OK, truth be told, I haven't done it over a zoom yet, so we'll see how it works when I do it every time. But I have done it where usually it's a full day with breaks in between. So the sessions go an hour and a half to two hours at a time. I've now done it where because people have followed me from company to company, they're expecting it to happen. They also know some of my tricks, like the first time I did it at but not me.
I was in another room, but I could hear everyone. So the next time I did it at log DNA to people in the room were like, oh, she's trying to figure out how she can listen into us. So they figure it out. Some of the tricks that I'd come up with on implementing it. But I then have them present to me on what their role is going to be. And I start questioning them as if they had created the action plan.
And that not only is giving them each confidence and what they do and what each other does, but it gives them a real world experience of what it's going to be like. Because one of the other things that is important when you have a external team or a distributed team is to do less dictating and more allowing them to create the plans initially and then add it. It's much better to edit a plan or to give feedback into a plan than to just dictate.
One of the things with creating a loyal team is that it's better to mentor a team than to dictate what they're doing because they're going to learn more and they're going to be more motivated.
And also, obviously, very important points that we didn't mention is when you did that either at NAMI or look Disney, how many of these people were actually working originally from other countries, other time zones? And how did you gather all these people in the same room?
One of the things that I did with the loved one was we had a company offsite, so I planned around the company off site.
The team had in the case of log DNA, they were in three time zones. In the case of Big Normy, one of the agreements I made in hiring some people who were going to move from other departments into my department. Was that I would only hire them if we could get them into the Bay Area as soon as possible, because it was very important for people who are coming from other departments to suddenly be part of the actual team as opposed to still sitting in severe and just having a different boss.
And so what's interesting is that we're talking about building, managing completely distributed workforces, and the first advice that you give is to put everyone in the room and have them talk to each of them, right? It is.
It is. As I said, I haven't done it a resume yet. We'll see how it goes when I'm doing this resume. In other cases, I've done it where I've been the distributed person. So I worked for nor which was an Israeli company, is an Israeli company. And the first thing I did was to go to Israel. In fact, I would spend one week a month in Israel. So, again, it doesn't match the times that we have now, but having the visibility was very important.
OK, and just to make sure so those people that you managed, what were their roles, whether they're marketing people or sales business development, whether they roles, it depended on the company.
So in Israel, we had an approach called circles, which meant that I was in charge of the adoption circle. So I had not only the traditional things that you would think of under adoption, which would be product marketing and demand, Jen, and obviously the sales development. But the other parts that I had under it was some of the engineers were under me. So I had a whole stack engineer. I had a product person who, because he was doing a lot of interacting with customers and prospective customers, that he was under me in those cases.
So it was definitely a different approach with the role a bit. Normy, the role was developer relations, technical writing and then the traditional marketing pieces you would have thought of.
OK, so the first thing that you do is, well, try to organise that session. And again, what's the rule that you give to those people? So you have one day you working on a marketing lunch and everybody has to work together. How do you explain these to them?
Yes. So at Vietnam it was different. At logged DNA was we have a product launch coming up. It's a specific new technology play and I do it over a day, but I do it in sessions of two hours at a time. I want you to map out on a whiteboard, map out what are OK, we have this launch is going to happen in let's say it's going to happen in nine months. Look at your role. What is your role going to be in this launch and then how are you going to work together with the others?
So that would be on that one, on the big normed when it was a different piece, but still the same thing of we're going to have X happen in six months. What is your role going to be, what is everything you're going to do? Who are you going to interact with? How are you going to interact with? And I'm going to come in in two hours time and take me through what the plan is. And then after they do that initial one with me, which is an hour plus debrief, then we'll go through it again with another option of, OK, now if this happens, how will you change it?
And so that's part of the playbook. Very interesting and very actionable because it's easy to implement, I think, for everyone that's listening to us. What other things are in that playbook?
The playbook is how I manage. And some of this is just basic. What I think is good management, which is you can't be a micromanager. If you're a micromanager, then not only are you not trusting the person, but they also are going to have a lack of confidence. So there's a few pieces of that that matter, which is the reason why I mentioned having people make plans instead of dictating to them. So that's very important. The second thing that is definitely part of my playbook is I adapt my schedule as much as possible to them instead of them having to adapt to me because I live in San Francisco and I work not only internationally, but often it is we're looking at the Central Europe Time Zone or people who are in the U.K. So I tend to get up early and do early morning meetings instead of having somebody stay late.
I think it's very important to we started by saying respect and it's very important to show that respect from the beginning. And there are times where I won't be able to be flexible, so I try to be as flexible as I can. There are so many people who are willing to do whatever they can to flex for the executive, and that's an advantage I don't I shouldn't be taking advantage of. It's better if I show so much more respect from something as simple as I'll do a six 30 in the morning call or a seven a.m. call because it works better for them.
I will do that because at some point I'm also going to come back and ask them to work on very tight deadlines. And so giving them that up front, it sets a great tone for the relationship and you're showing them that you care.
Exactly. So what I understand is your role when you join a company is to take the company to the next level, usually liquidity event acquisition IPO. And you've done that time and time again. Do the company usually when they hire you, do they want you to build a team or do they want on the opposite side to do what you can with what's already existing and try to improve the topline and improve profitability for the company to bring it to the IPO or acquisition?
How does it work?
Usually the tough word in there is that you said usually it really depends on the company. It definitely has always been don't overspend. But that doesn't mean that I'm not growing teams. It's just growing the right team. There is times where there's realigning what people are doing. And I think that that's probably the thing that's the usual. It is assessing what people are doing and seeing how we can get more results out of the function overall. So it doesn't necessarily mean that sometimes it means that you're adding people.
Sometimes it means that somebody's role is changing. There's actually another piece to my playbook that I didn't mention, which is when I joined a company for the people who are already there and then the people I hire. One of the first things I'll do is I will have coffee or lunch with them and ask them about what their goal is for their career a few years out. And based on that, it doesn't necessarily change their role. As far as if you're a demand gen person, you're going to be a demanding person.
But an example is I joined a company and there was a junior marketing coordinator who was doing the implementation of Demand Gen. And when I asked her that question, she told me that she was an English writing major and that she wanted to figure out how she could write more. And so I gave her the newsletter to edit and I said, your role does not change at all. But now you have this additional piece and you can see what you can do with it.
And within two years of that, she had been through that experience, had been able to move over to a world where she was only writing. So having that ability to add on to somebody's workload, if they're willing to take the step and do more and giving them the thing that will help them get to their next level of their career or where they want to go.
Career path is something that has helped in creating very motivated teams. OK, and so when conversely, you have to build a team from scratch, what's your playbook in this situation? Do you have any tricks on sourcing the leads, on getting people entering the interview process, on the interview process itself? Yes, the best hire, we always say, is a referral. So that is definitely one of the things that is important. But the other thing that I do is I make sure that I'm very tight on the job description as well as what in the job description is the we most definitely have it and which parts really are flexible.
And I make sure that the recruiters understand that. So there are times where the position is more flexible. For example, when I've hired a dev advocate, the job advocate role is a very broad role. It can be defined different ways. And one of the things that I make sure is that. The position plays to the strength of whoever has come into that role. So if somebody is a great speaker, but not a great writer or vice versa, I tend to, particularly if it's that first person, the role, they have more flexibility.
But I think it's very important to make sure that you're working closely with the recruiters to the understanding what matters to you and what matters less to you. As well as the company culture, so that's part of it during the interview process, as far as getting the right people into the mix, I think it's important to go, even though I'm looking at referrals a lot of times, I'm also want to go beyond the I guess, usual suspects is the best way I could say it.
So where can we source from so that we're not going to get a team of people who all look like each other? And how would you do that? It's a good question. Part of it is, is that it can't happen just when you're recruiting. I have been active at different times in various organizations that support inclusion or support diversity. So I'm a big proponent of black girls who code. Earlier in my career, I was a member of the Asian American Journalists Association when I was doing things that were PR related.
I don't look like I belong to either of those groups, but they're groups that are doing good work and I support it. And I think it's important to as an executive, at least, it's important for me to be involved with organizations that I think are doing good work, whether I am benefiting from it or not. So you mentioned hiring again, distributed teams remotely in other countries. How do you find those people? I assume there are people coming from referral, right?
I know they are. I will reach out to and sometimes I'll do the cold calling or I'll reach out to executives in certain regions and say, do you know good person who does demand? And so a part of it is, again, going through networks. But I think that once you say that you're open to talking to somebody in any region, it opens up a lot. I also think that being involved with tech associations overall has helped and frankly, the people I've worked with before.
So I now work with people in the Netherlands and France and Spain in Israel. I will go back to those same people. And when I'm saying I'll open things up to my contacts, I open up to my contacts in Europe and say, Do you know anyone who would be good for this role recently? Not for a company I work for, but somebody, a contact of mine who has a company in Spain. I reached out to somebody in the U.K. and said, would you be interested in this VP sales role?
And somebody I worked with 10 years ago. But I know he's a fantastic VP of sales and I'm able to then make those connections.
And then how do you build the interview process? Do you usually build it from scratch? Do you use the company's pre existing templates?
I'm a bad person when it comes to the existing templates. I'm trying to get better about them. I do have my own template of I like to start off by doing the screening or if there's a pre screened use your pre screening done. I do a screening. I then will ask trusted people in the organization to be part of that hiring process. I basically appear in two to three interviews, usually three interviews. I'll come back to that person after they've met with a number of people.
I always make sure that everyone on my team has had an opportunity to meet with the person before they're hired, because I want them to feel that they have a voice in the process doesn't mean that they are the decider, but everyone needs to have a voice in the process. And so when I have larger teams, sometimes they have to. It has to happen in in groups, but everyone gets to talk to that person. It's very important to have that.
And then at times, depending on what the role is, we've had the person do presentations as well to a small group.
OK, and do you have to take unreferenced checks? I do. I like doing reference checks, but I like to also do a back door reference checks. I personally think that the reference checks are usually a check box to let you know that you're not getting something that's bad. The back door ones are sometimes more valuable in either direction. But I also want your reference check unless I actually want to make an offer. OK, good.
And then you hire those people and then you run the session when you get them all in the room and have them talk together and work on the specific projects. And then what are your other tricks once the people join the team to keep them engaged, to keep them motivated, especially if we take a remote stand point, people working remotely in a distributed ways.
So it's building in a lot of things that you would have done if they were in a physical office. So, for example, one of the things that I think is for an office where you would usually have lunches brought in, sending a monthly grocery card, that is even if it's for fifty dollars USD, it's just that on going there, not a second class citizen type of approach, making sure that they have the equipment that they care about.
So I think more companies are realizing that that's necessarily so, but making sure that that happens also setting up the team meetings so that they're shorter. So I don't do update meetings. I do a meeting that is when we go around. And it is not what are you working on? But is there anything that you're doing that everyone in this room needs to know about? Is there anything that you need help from somebody in this room or from me that you haven't told them yet?
And my meetings tend to be more of the. Twenty minutes to 30 minutes instead of an hour, and for people who are on a jam, call the time that matters, making sure that the whole team isn't distributed and you just have a group of people just making sure that the audio and visual works so they can actually see all the screens, they can see the whiteboards, the audio is checked so that they actually hear the questions people are asked.
There's all sound like obvious things, but it's not always taken into account. And so it's both. Part of it is, again, the theme of respect. The other part of it is functionally, if you think of it as a distributed team, first approach, that's important. And then the other piece of that that is important is on balancing the need to track projects where there are some tools that people get so incredibly detailed that it actually breaks down the productivity of other people.
So part of my role is to play that balancing act of keeping projects on track and knowing what's going on. At the same time, not having everyone need to write down my new details of what they're working on. OK, cool.
And my last question to wrap it up would be and we talked about these before, what's the part that you hate the most about hiring?
The part that I hate the most about hiring is, frankly, what I've been able to give an offer that I think matches the quality of the person I'm getting. And that happens sometimes where it's just you're out of stage of a company and that person you think deserves more than you can give them. And it's not the way to answer that or the way to to work with it is it's not always about money. So how can we make this a good experience and not have somebody come in feeling like they've compromised to begin with?
Yeah, this one stuff. I understand that. Thanks a lot for being here today and for sharing your tips. And have a great day, Chris.
Thank you. Thank you.
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That really, really helps. Thanks a lot and talk to you soon.