The Performance Management Wars Have Started… who will win?

I’ve been getting quite a few calls lately from investors and analysts that track the Performance Management space. It seems as though the performance management wars are starting to heat up, given all the focus and attention on frequent goal setting, real-time feedback, and being agile with one’s workforce. I imagine COVID is actually accelerating adoption of these services, given the need to effectively manage a remote workforce.

Back in 2016, I trademarked the term “Continuous Performance Management” to capture this concept as the founding CEO of Betterworks. Additionally, it’s clear the work that John Doerr and I have done to advance awareness of OKRs has also catapulted this modern approach to performance management.

Companies that are still setting annual goals, in a non-collaborative manner, and entirely tied to compensation (without stretch goal setting) are being outperformed by those that review and set goals quarterly, share and discuss goal performance up and down and across the organization, and practice more frequent rounds of feedback collection — all for the purposes of maximizing learning, adaptability, and speed of execution.

I usually don’t share these types of predictions, but given a select group of companies are advancing this category, I thought it would be interesting to capture their strengths/gaps, and also document possible exit scenarios for these startups. Note that I am a largish shareholder in Betterworks so this is just my opinion and is probably biased.

1

Betterworks is considered the true innovator in this field. We wrote the book on OKRs, literally. Betterworks also offers CFRs (Conversations, Feedback, and Recognition). Given our deep focus on engineering and product/product design, I would say the product is the strongest in the category. The service integrates with Salesforce, Jira, and many other systems for collecting operational data. Betterworks also has a seasoned CEO that I helped recruit and hire, Doug Dennerline.

2

Lattice is the new kid on the block. They are pretty hip, and work with a lot of startups (Reddit, Asana, etc.). Their product is more small business oriented, and I don’t think they exude a lot of “enterprise DNA”. Their goals product is simple and they focus on basic features that are easy to use. I bet their low friction approach to sales has been quite effective for them. I’m surprised by the way that Doug Dennerline hasn’t enforced the Continuous Performance Management trademark that Betterworks owns against them given that Lattice is really pushing the CPM message on their site.

3

Reflektive came out of the gate strong, but has been wavering lately. They have a great CEO (I worked alongside Greg Brown years ago at WebEx) but it may be a case of “too little too late”. Their focus on real-time feedback was considered innovative but their lack of focus on goals really hurt their ability to deliver a complete solution. I do think they have some enterprise chops, and they do have great backers (Andreesen early, Lightspeed). Also, fun fact, Greg Brown was a few levels below Doug Dennerline back at WebEx when we all worked there – small world!

4

WorkBoard is the surprise in this list. Their product is likely the weakest of the group (and certainly the least cool), and started out around tasks and apparently pivoted, but they have one saving grace – a partnership with Workday. I think Workday made a mistake in partnering here, but who knows – maybe they wanted to fill a very specific need. Workday’s approach to performance management is very traditional and even at Betterworks, we were able to engage Workday customers frequently with our solution as a compelling add-on. WorkBoard of late has seriously gotten onto the OKR bandwagon, copying a lot of Betterworks.

So summary and prediction time… here’s my take:

Strengths Gaps Kris’ Guesstimate Exit (what happens next)
Betterworks Product design and experience, deep goals feature set including integrations,  category innovator Less small business friendly, more for organizations >100 employees Purchased by SAP – SAP has the weakest goal setting of the large players and need some innovation to compete with Workday
Lattice Small business focus, easy to use Enterprise DNA Purchased by Asana or possibly Atlassian
Reflektive Focus on real-time feedback Goal setting Not sure
WorkBoard Partnership with Workday Product is the weakest of the group Purchased by Workday (Workday has weak performance management too)

You’ll notice I left out two major SaaS platform companies – Salesforce and Oracle.

Salesforce already bought Rypple a long time ago and had issues integrating it into their stack. Rypple was more about badging and recognition, but it had some cool features for goal setting and feedback. Salesforce renamed it to work.com, but ended up sunsetting the feature set after it unsuccessfully tried to reposition it as a sales incentive system to recognize salesreps for using the Salesforce system (and performing in their sales roles). Fun fact… Work.com actually just turned into a new service from Marc Benioff to enable remote, COVID-era work. I don’t think Marc will want to take a second pass at the goal setting world, however his focus on goal setting as a leader (V2MOM) is very well respected in the industry.

While Oracle needs more innovation in its business application stack, I don’t consider them to be a leader in this area and certainly in HR, I think they have been relegated to a deep follower behind Workday.  They may end up purchasing some capabilities in this category but my guess is it won’t be big news.

Should be a fun 12-24 months…. can’t wait to see what’s next in the industry!

 

 

My OKR Journey – Why Goals Matter

I was born into a goal-oriented family in Australia, the first of two children. When I was five years old, my dad took a job in the chemical industry and moved us to Houston, Texas, where he saw more opportunity. He started his own chemical firm, then sold it to a public company. Our dinner table talk was about work and ideas, building and creating–the challenges of running and leading a business. From a very young age, I was inspired to be an entrepreneur.

By age 29, I’d worked at more than half a dozen early-stage startups in and around Silicon Valley. I’d seen a few successes and my share of flat-lined failures, but all of them had one thing in common: a vague sense of direction. Companies in the Valley, it’s often said, succeed in spite of their management. They’re like rocket ships punching through the atmosphere into orbit, even with the drag of unfocused leadership. Which made me wonder: What if you combined a big market opportunity with disciplined execution? Wouldn’t you grow even faster?

For the flameouts, the ones that failed to achieve orbit or even make it off the launchpad, there was a common fatal flaw. When startups have poorly defined goals, they flail in too many directions at once. They waste precious calories without a plan to monetize their users into a sustainable profit stream. Meanwhile, their capital gets drained twice a month for their biggest expense: their people. Next thing you know, their seed funding is depleted. At cash zero day, they’re done.

I needed management experience in a larger, more established organization, even if it meant starting at the bottom. In 2003, I was hired as a sales rep at WebEx, a web-conferencing firm with 300 employees. I planned to put in three years and then leverage my seasoning into a successful startup.

I stayed three years and a half. I was named rep of the year, and then manager of the year, and by the time I left I was running the enterprise sales team. But my biggest takeaway from WebEx was something unexpected. My boss and the head of sales, a laser-focused leader named David Berman, came from ADP, the much larger payroll and benefits management company. He brought in a system called “Gs & Cs,” or goals and controls. Your goals were what you planned to achieve each quarter. Your “controls” (admittedly not the best word choice) were how you’d follow through to get there.

I didn’t yet know it, but I was about to be schooled in the fundamentals of OKRs. Dave’s system built in clear expectations, open communication, measured outputs, and alignment up and down the line. Goals and controls were objectives and key results by another name. The core concepts were identical.

In traditional business environments, goals are set once a year as top-down mandates. They give short shrift to the what and ignore the how. With no upfront understanding of why an objective matters or how best to reach it, people’s tactics will be disorganized or flat-out wrong. Employees can be dancing as fast as they can—and still be out of step with the organizational band.

At WebEx, only management engaged in structured goal-setting. It wasn’t pushed to individual salespeople; it wasn’t super-transparent. We used old-world PowerPoint slides, making it cumbersome to share what we were doing. But Dave was brilliant at focusing the sales team with holistic thinking and concrete, collaborative goals. His system penetrated every function of our department, from hiring to leadership development, and went light years beyond basic sales quotas. Dave encouraged us to base our goals on inputs: “Open the healthcare sector market”; “Launch an upsell process for existing customers.” In turn, each objective was tied to several quantitative “controls,” which linked to output. That two-sided approach made all the difference.

Everybody could see that Dave was running a more accountable, goal-oriented operation than the rest of WebEx. We had tremendous internal buy-in and results to match. But with other departments resisting Dave’s approach, our sales organization became a silo in a sea of silos, with no strategic cross-alignment. We no longer spoke the same language. I’ll never forget when someone in marketing told me, “This is just a regular day for us. There’s nothing special about it.” It was the last day of the quarter, which sales treated like D-Day. I was shocked.

Dave’s system just seemed like common sense to me, and I took to it like a pit bull to a pork chop. Why wouldn’t you write down your goals and share them with everybody in the organization? Why wouldn’t you measure what you wanted to accomplish?

People can be really busy—with emails, conference calls, instant messages, meeting requests—without doing anything. They get lost in the weeds; they can’t see that they’re running in place. To determine who is really moving the performance needle, companies need reality checks. They need unfudgable data to measure the what and the how, to see who’s aligned with the big-picture objectives–and to keep them there. Is Charlie spinning his wheels? Is Susan grinding like crazy but counterproductively? What if they had tools to track progress? How much more productive and empowered would they be?

I find hard data exciting. (If I weren’t in technology, my dream job would be running a factory.) Granted, knowledge workers aren’t widgets on a conveyor belt. Still, there’s a lot we can learn from the operational side, where output isn’t up for interpretation. How many hours does the sales team need to invest for each customer success? How many marketing dollars do we need to support each salesperson? What do the numbers and ratios show us? Without data, management is guesswork–we’re left in the dark.

Thinking Like a CEO

After WebEx, I used a quarterly goal-setting cadence everywhere I went, from Palantir to Socialtext. In 2010, I co-founded a software company called Badgeville, which used gamification techniques to enhance customers’ brand loyalty. In my first stint as a CEO, I set quarterly goals from the start, even in our startup whirl for survival. I grafted them into every department, into every level. I wanted to guarantee that everyone knew the three to five things they were doing to have real impact on the company. (More than five goals spread people too thin, but one or two seemed too few, especially with higher-risk projects that might hit a wall mid-quarter.)

At successful startups, each individual contributor is enabled to think like an owner. I tried to nurture that mentality at Badgeville–not just with stock options, but with an accountable, teamfirst, high-freedom environment. As we taught people to create their own goals and find the best way to reach them, they stopped thinking like employees. They began asking big-picture questions: What am I working toward? What do I need to deliver for us? Owners feel that extra obligation in their bones, and it goes way beyond checking off a list of tasks.

Everybody at Badgeville was CEO of something, with full responsibility for their domain. Say you’re the CEO of product documentation; you own it. If you don’t set ambitious objectives, would the work get done? Probably, because products need to be documented at some point. But are you pushing to create a new process to make our publishing more efficient? Are you seeking a way to drive maximum value? Owners take those initiatives as their personal priorities.

Though Badgeville became the market leader in its space, our manual goal-setting process required too much effort. We were hamstrung by PowerPoint and Excel. People uploaded their goals on a Salesforce Chatter wall (a company intranet with employee profile pages), but soon forgot them. All the most important things they were supposed to be doing—gone! Then they’d remember two weeks before the end of the quarter and scramble to get everything done, with predictable inefficiency and slippage.

Making matters worse, our goals were pretty much invisible. If you cared enough, you could dig up your colleagues’ objectives and see how they were doing. But though our goals were nominally public, PowerPoint made it difficult to find them, or even to update our own progress. Slides were cluttered with tangles of goals and controls. Information got buried in sub-sub-folders. People can’t see what they can’t reach.

Like many companies, we tried to modify our goal setting process to meet our needs. We used traffic light symbols to indicate progress: green for on track; yellow for at risk; red for failing. But these gauges were subjective. Since “controls” weren’t pre-negotiated, an individual might say, “I’ve only made two of ten cold calls, but that feels yellow to me.” I had no way to tell whether the goals managed up to me were in sync with what people were managing down.

Organizations drift out of alignment for a lot of reasons: emotional, political, technical. Despite our best intentions, our goal-setting process wasn’t transparent or accountable. It definitely wasn’t agile. The process had transformative potential, but the facilitation was just too crude. It was like trimming your hedges with a sledgehammer. Swing as hard and as long as you liked, it was still the wrong tool for the job.

By 2013, when we reached 100 employees and three layers of direct reports, I knew we needed more structure and support. I scoured the web for a better goal-setting solution, but came up empty. The system was broken, and we seemed to be stuck.

Fitbit Epiphany

In our office was on the bay in Redwood City, a couple miles north of Palo Alto, I had a nice view of the water from my second-floor window. One fall day, a little after noon, I glanced into the outer office and noticed a bunch of empty desks. The place seemed half-deserted. I went to the window and looked outside. That’s when I saw them—20 or more of our people, in groups of two or three or four, walking around our building. Some forged ahead in straight lines. Others were milling sort of aimlessly. A few minutes later, in the hallway, I bumped into a middle-aged game designer named Steve Sims. Steve was terrifically likable and optimistic, with a special interest in the psychology of behavior. He wasn’t a fitness buff, just a regular guy.

I said, “Steve, what’s going on? Why is everybody out walking?” And he said, “Oh, I’m on the Fitbit thing.” He showed me the strap on his wrist. “I’ve decided that every day going forward, I’m walking 10,000 steps. You should try it!”

I’d heard that some or our people had set up a Fitbit step challenge, and then it slipped my mind. Fitbit sounded like a high-priced digital pedometer, and I didn’t see much point to it. But once I saw half our staff competing week to week in a friendly but spirited way, I got intrigued.

So I tried it, and it took me one day to get hooked. Fitbit was a lot more than a pedometer; it was a new social network. Soon colleagues were “cheering” or “nudging” me on a regular basis— more nudging at the start, when I barely logged 5,000 steps a day. But it was all in good humor, and I found it wildly engaging. I loved the continuous feedback, the clear and transparent measurements. Most of all, I got a kick out of my steady progress. Wow, I thought, this is really powerful.

If there was a genesis moment for BetterWorks, that was it. I’m about as competitive as the next entrepreneur. When I saw how much walking my colleagues were doing, I felt motivated to match them—I wanted to get healthier, too. The cheers and nudges, amplified on Facebook, egged me on. Within a week I was up to 10,000 steps a day, Fitbit’s default setting. I was checking my progress in steps and burned calories every hour. (Never underestimate the power of progress bars–it’s almost Pavlovian.)

A week or so later, I left on a business trip to London and Amsterdam and a few other cities. My meetings would be spread out around town, and I stopped taking taxis. I built to 18,000, 20,000, even 25,000 steps per day–a calorie bonfire! Five thousand miles away, Badgeville cheered me on over the network, spurring me to more success—a virtuous circle, for sure. (The exception was the person who accused me of strapping my Fitbit to a dog. For the record, it wasn’t true. My dog was at home.)

Back in the Bay Area, I felt disappointed whenever I fell short of 10,000 steps. I wasn’t reaching my potential. Worse, I was letting down my Fitbit cohort. We’d entered a kind of social contract; we’d grown mutually accountable. Encouraged by my colleagues to get back in the saddle, I lost 10 pounds and felt more vital at work. It’s well established that wellness enhances productivity. I’d noticed more laughing at Badgeville, more energy, an upbeat vibe. And I thought: How could a social platform make our goal system more transparent and compelling? Why wasn’t there a Fitbit to help people “win” at work?

When I couldn’t find a good answer, I decided to create one.

Game-Changer

In September 2013, I left Badgeville and we incorporated BetterWorks. We had three people, two desks, and a shared office space. Plus one very ambitious mission: to help companies use collaborative goal-setting to drive engagement and performance.

Our first job was to size up the market: What was already out there? I found two cloudbased enterprise systems that built software for work processes, mainly in human resources. Both were trapped in HR org charts and old-world permissioning. Goals were private, non-collaborative, and driven exclusively from the top down. And there was no way to measure progress.

In the fourth quarter of 2013, my kickoff OKR for BetterWorks was to explore the market for a better goal-setting system. One key result was to “meet with 30 larger prospects to learn about goals and progress.” After more than 80 mostly cold calls, we got 37 meetings. We had met our objective; the market opportunity was real. There were so many companies that aspired to excel but knew they needed a better software platform. We brought on a handful of strategic customers as initial deployments to jump-start our company.

One day in November, I entered a small conference room at Kleiner Perkins. (I didn’t know it then, but it was the same room where Larry Page and Sergey Brin made their famous pitch, 14 years earlier.) I was booked to see Bing Gordon, the firm’s general partner and chief product officer. Before going into venture capital, Bing was a creative force at Electronic Arts, the number-one gaming company. Though he’d passed on investing in Badgeville, I had a feeling we’d work together one day. Thanks to Joe Lonsdale, the Palantir co-founder, BetterWorks had already raised $2 million of our $2.5 million seed round. I thought Kleiner might come in for a couple hundred thousand dollars, a small bet for them, if only for the option to invest more in the future. But that’s not why I wanted to meet with Bing. Mainly I wanted his take on our concept; he’s a guy who puts a fresh light on things.

“So show me what you’re working on,” Bing said. I launched into my pitch—Fitbit for the workplace—and took Bing on a spin of our prototype. Despite its limited functionality, the demo conveyed what we were about. It showed how users could create public, measurable goals and related “milestones,” then “check in” to record real-time progress and make sure the work stayed on track. Bing leaned in toward my laptop. Ten minutes in, he held up his hand and asked me to stop. “We need to show this to John Doerr,” he said.

Bing went next door and grabbed his partner, who took a seat on the couch. We’d never met, though I knew of John’s investments in Google and Amazon and other iconic companies. “Show him what you showed me,” Bing said. So I started again from the top. To be honest, I wasn’t familiar with the Andy Grove legacy or objectives and key results, per se. Our mission statement at BetterWorks was to modernize “goals” and “milestones.” But that didn’t faze John. (He probably figured he’d win me over to OKRs soon enough.) When I finished, he jumped to his feet and said, “Why didn’t we think of this?” Then he said, “I want you to come back tomorrow and meet with the rest of our team.”

That was more than I could have hoped for. The next day we convened in a larger room with ten people. I went longer, about 45 minutes. The partners asked some tough questions and thanked me for coming in. (They never give you an answer at the pitch meeting.) But later John called to meet the next morning at Il Fornaio in Palo Alto, where half of Silicon Valley has breakfast.

Kleiner Perkins is one of a handful of elite VC firms in the startup world. When you walk into Il Fornaio with a senior partner, all eyes are on you. I hadn’t worked with a top-tier outfit before, and it was heady stuff. John didn’t hold me in suspense. As soon as we ordered (medium poached eggs on toast for me, oatmeal and mixed berries for John), he said, “I’ve got some good news for you.” He slid a term sheet across the table. The first line blew me away: The amount that we’d like to invest is $15 million….

“We’re going all the way on your idea—we love it,” John said. “And Bing and I want to show you just how serious we are.” Even adjusting for inflation, it was John’s largest series A investment since Google. I was flattered and shocked, hardly knew what to say. John talked about his passion for OKRs, how he’d brought them to dozens of companies since leaving Intel. And how we could be the vehicle to drive adoption worldwide.

That was a game-changing moment for BetterWorks. Kleiner’s vote of confidence would finance two full years of operations. We could leapfrog the bootstrapping stage and think bigger than before: more engineers, a larger space. We’d also be facing new pressures. John didn’t have to tell me that he and his partners expected our company’s valuation to continue to grow. Ready or not, we were in the big leagues.

But we wouldn’t face those pressures alone. A second page was attached to the term sheet: “Seven Kleiner Perkins Commitments to Help BetterWorks Win—Big!” It was a menu of how’s, in specific, measurable detail: “Recruit Great Talent,” “Open and Help Close Defining Accounts,” “Help Establish Market Leadership,” and so on. In less than 24 hours, they had drafted the ultimate OKR to grow our company.

In the Valley, lots of entrepreneurs shop term sheets around, to see what other firms might offer. But I wasn’t shopping this one. I knew I’d found the perfect partner.

Colin’s Home Run for OKRs

As a husband and father of two boys, I’ve encouraged my family to incorporate structured goal-setting into their own lives. Two summers ago, my older son, Colin, was 13 years old and struggling in transition from Little League to Babe Ruth ball, the next step up. He’s a great team player, thoughtful and considerate, with a high baseball IQ—he understands the mechanics of the game. But he was one of the younger kids on his squad, and didn’t yet have the core strength and coordination of some of his teammates. There’s a lot of uneven development at that age.

In Babe Ruth, they put the biggest, strongest athletes on the mound. There’s more scrutiny than in Little League, and real crowds. Colin’s strong fielding kept him in the lineup, but he wasn’t getting hits. All the players track their batting averages, and I could tell my son was frustrated when he couldn’t come through for his team.

As I’ve said, we’re a goal-friendly household. I set OKRs to spend more time with my family. My wife, Leah, has used them for home projects. Our younger son, Aidan, has set and met objectives to master the trumpet and make new friends. When assessing key results within the family, we use emoticons instead of a one-to-ten scoring format. At quarter’s end, we sit down together and rate our performance on each objective: smiley face, neutral face, sad face.

Early that summer, Colin declared a new goal, something he’d never yet done in organized ball: “I’m going to hit a homerun!” He came up with his own key results. Since he’d already tried extra batting practice and it hadn’t helped, Colin chose to focus on outputs over inputs.

Objective
Hit the ball over the fence.

Key Results
Hit the ball to the outfield; Hit the ball to the warning track; Hit the ball over the fence.

Maybe those incremental targets helped Colin relax at the plate. Maybe he stopped trying or swinging too hard. A game or two later, my son hit a fly ball to medium-right field. A game or two after that, he drove it to the warning track in left. While he didn’t celebrate those milestones (they were still outs, after all), he carefully checked each one into his iPhone. I could see his satisfaction in making progress and hitting his marks.

The payoff came mid-season. With two on and one out, Colin took a sweet, measured swing and rocketed the ball over the right-field wall. His home run didn’t clinch the pennant, or even the ballgame, but it was special to my son. He’d delivered on a challenging objective that he’d aspired to and planned for and charted. Tracking his performance—just as I’d built up my steps on Fitbit— made the achievement even more meaningful. Measuring made it more real.

For me, the best part was when Colin rounded third base. He threw his arms up in jubilation and shouted to the crowd, “I’m checking this in!” I cannot tell you what a gratifying moment that was for me. It showed how OKRs drive results for the team and the individual’s sense of purpose, all at once.

Betterworks wins Top 25 HR Apps of 2020

Congrats to the team at Betterworks for their big win. Its a great accomplishment! Product and design were always the focus from the founding team, and I am proud to have been part of the journey.

https://www.thesoftwarereport.com/the-25-best-hr-software-of-2020/

Betterworks provides HR software to align, develop and activate company workforces for business growth. Its technology replaces outdated annual review processes with powerful Continuous Performance Management programs. These programs enable managers to coordinate goal alignment, feedback, coaching and development conversations necessary to inspire and motivate the entire workforce. The Company was founded in 2013 and is located in Redwood City, CA. It announced a Series B investment in 2019 bringing its total funding to more than $65 million – key investors include Emergence Capital and Kleiner Perkins. The investment will be used to maintain the pace of product innovation and to capitalize on accelerated sales momentum within enterprise organizations.

Keep up the great work!

Withdrawn and Dismissed – Kris Duggan

<<<Updated May, 2019 (information added to bottom of article identified with bold sections)>>>

In July 2017, a former female employee of BetterWorks filed a harassment lawsuit against me and BetterWorks, the company I founded. At the time, it was highly publicized in the press as another example of Silicon Valley bad behavior towards women. This was the first time for me experiencing something like this in over 20 years of my professional life.

During this process, the board of directors hired a third-party independent investigator to investigate the claim.

The findings of the investigator were that “no harassment, no sexual harassment, nor any assault or sexual assault occurred”, “no discrimination occurred”, and “no company policies were violated.” Upwards of fifteen witnesses participated in the investigation.

I am relieved to say that after a very disruptive eight months, the lawsuit has been withdrawn and ultimately dismissed. I remained as CEO during this entire process and maintained full support from the Board of Directors.

People that know me know that I care deeply about women’s issues, and that I advocate for supporting as diverse and rich an environment for driving business results as possible. I spent many years, most recently at BetterWorks, creating an open, collaborative, diverse, inclusive, respectful, considerate, and flat organization. I am proud of so many aspects of BetterWorks, including the fact that 46% of our managers are female. This is roughly double the industry average. I deeply respect women, including my wife Leah. Leah and I have committed to raising our two sons to be inclusive and respectful of all people. We are proud to see them grow up in an age where equality and sensitivity to others is paramount.

Thank you to my friends and family that supported me during this difficult time. And thank you to the numerous and wonderful female leaders with whom I’ve had the extraordinary honor to work alongside.

I have decided to move on from BetterWorks as of late 2017, in order to allow the company to flourish with new leadership and eliminate any distractions. We have hired a fantastic new CEO that will be announcing soon [Doug Dennerline], whom I am very excited about.

<<< Added May, 2019 >>>

It’s been two years since the events at BetterWorks. I thought I’d share a few pieces of information from that experience.

Email to company on my last day:

Dear BetterWorkers,

Over the last 4 years, I have enjoyed getting to know you all so much. We have had ups and down, successes and challenges, wins and losses, and learned a lot together.

As a team, we built our entrepreneurial muscle. We know how hard it is to get something off the ground and build a legacy. We also know that it takes resilience, grit, hard work, commitment, courage, and perseverance (and some luck) to make it big.  Together, we have evolved from a stand-alone goals company into a leader in the Continuous Performance Management space, a large market opportunity that literally has opened up right in front of us over the last year.

Today, I am announcing that I am going to be moving on from an operational role at the company as of this week. We are in great hands with Doug as forthcoming CEO and I couldn’t be more excited about the future of BetterWorks. I know the distractions over the summer need to be fully put behind us, and I believe that my departure will be the final step in helping BetterWorks look forward to the future, and further advance our cause to becoming the massive success that I know we can be. 

For those that have been supportive to me and the company throughout this disruptive process, thank you for your kindness and support. It means a lot. To be falsely accused in such a public manner is an experience that I hope no one here has to go through. I have always tried to create a comfortable, flat, diverse, accessible, open, transparent, collaborative, and supportive environment for all. What I have learned from the current climate is that we all need to be compassionate towards each other, respectful, and empathetic. We also need to ensure that equality, diversity, and inclusiveness are topics that continue to receive serious attention.

I love BetterWorks and will be cheering every day from the sidelines. I have some exciting projects planned for 2018 so stay tuned for that but in the meantime, you’ll find me spearfishing, traveling as a family with Leah, Colin, and Aidan, and driving my race car to prepare for my next chapter! Onward!

Your friend and founder,

Kris

Reply from one of our female employees: (I received many notes like this, but this one particularly touched me)

Hi Kris,

I am saddened to hear this news, and also resonate with every line of this email. I wanted to reach out on a personal note to say a few things:

First, it pains me to see the public accusations. We’ve worked together for years and there has not been one moment where I’ve thought you’re guilty of sexual harassment. I think all of this is extremely unfair, and you don’t deserve what’s being said about you. I hate it.

Second, I want to thank you for everything you’ve done for me throughout my career. Much of the success I had at ___ was actually because of what I got to do for ___ when I was mid level in my career. The energy you bring to [our department] ended up fueling my success!! Some of the most fun and interesting projects I’ve worked on both at ___ and BetterWorks have been thanks in part to your support and belief in [department] as a function, and me as an individual. Even your support for me joining BetterWorks ultimately allowed ___ and me to move to the Bay Area, which was a dream of ours. Thank you for everything you’ve done for me.

Lastly, and kind of bridging the two above points, I actually see you as an ally. Even in the midst of a ridiculous accusation and media scrutiny, you’ve been supportive of my life priorities (being a mom while having a career) and have been nothing but supportive of my career advancement. You have built a diverse team and you invest tons of time and energy in people (myself included). That does not go unnoticed. I will always be thankful for your support, and that we’ve had the chance to together.

While I agree with your decision to leave given the circumstances, it brings tears to my eyes. I have loved working with you, appreciate you professionally and personally, and wish you nothing but the best.

And if there is anything I’ve learned in the year… your family is most important!!! You have an awesome family and I think investing your free time with them and doing the things you love will bring you infinitely more happiness than BetterWorks ever could.

If there is anything you ever need from me, we’re here. Thanks for everything.

Sincerely,

___

Letter from the Board of Directors

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to confirm the details of Kris Duggan’s separation from BetterWorks Systems, Inc. (the “Company”).

In July 2017, a former employee of the Company filed a lawsuit against Kris and the Company.

This lawsuit was based on a claim of harassment that the former employee had previously asserted against the Company in September 2016.  Following the complaint, the Board of Directors of the Company (the “Board”) promptly performed an outside investigation of the matter, including engaging an independent investigator to review the matter.  After a thorough review by the independent investigator, the Board concluded that there was no violation of the Company’s anti-harassment, anti-discrimination or any other policies, and no disciplinary action was taken against Kris.

The lawsuit and the allegations therein were heavily covered and amplified by the press at the time.  The Board disagreed with a number of the facts and characterizations presented in the lawsuit.  The lawsuit was subsequently dismissed in January 2018.

In an effort to move beyond the negative attention from the press, Kris stepped down from his role as the CEO in July 2017 and was critical to helping secure a new CEO for the Company.  Kris resigned from the Board in March 2018 in an effort to help the Company move forward.

It has been our pleasure to work with Kris over the last four years, we thank him for everything he’s done to contribute to the Company and wish him well in his future endeavors.

Very truly yours,

Doug Dennerline

On Behalf of the Board of Directors of BetterWorks Systems, Inc.

cc: Doug Dennerline, John Doerr, Shona Brown, Jason Green

Here is a copy of the actual letter: BetterWorks Board of Directors Letter

Wrapping a Year of Coaching (110 entrepreneurs and 81 companies!)

Earlier this year, I decided to provide a free, 45 minute coaching session to 100 entrepreneurs looking to grow their business. The spirit of this project was to give back to the tech community. When possible, I tried to help minority and women entrepreneurs, as they are generally underrepresented in the startup community and are likely in a position to benefit the most from helpful advice.

Here are some stats from the project:

  • 81 companies reached out to me
  • 71 of the meetings were scheduled and delivered
  • About 110 entrepreneurs participated in these calls (some companies had 2 or 3 attendees from the founding team, most calls were single entrepreneurs)
  • 60 comments were posted on my blog

Here are some learnings and observations from the project:

  • It’s actually quite time consuming to do all these coaching meetings! I averaged two of these per week throughout the project
  • Most entrepreneurs were very prepared about the topics they wanted to discuss
  • Most entrepreneurs found out about my service randomly, mostly on Linkedin
  • Several Alchemist Accelerator companies took advantage of the coaching, thank you Ravi and Danielle for promoting!
  • A few Pear.vc companies took advantage of the coaching, thank you Pejman and Mar!
  • 15% of the founders are female
  • 25-30% of the founders are minorities
  • 20% of the founders are overseas

My “guess” on these companies’ overall chances of success is as follows:

  • 10% are going to be very successful, I have already seen some of them in the press, making progress, growing, and receiving funding.
  • 10% are going to fail, very clearly – I did suggest on a few calls to either shut down the company/idea and/or shift to a completely new direction. Those conversations were a little uncomfortable because I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but thought it was best for the entrepreneur to hear the unfiltered, candid assessment.
  • 80% are in the middle, and look promising, but are still very delicate and anything can happen.

I did receive permission from these companies to record the calls, and I am now thinking about creating a new blog with specific observations and learnings (where we redact the company name). Let me share the high level topics that folks were most interested in:

  • How to negotiate a better position and salary
  • Finding market fit
  • Deal coaching on our first big deal
  • Deal coaching on our first pilot
  • Going upmarket to the enterprise
  • Growing sales team, how to be a sales manager
  • From traction and repeat usage growth to revenue
  • Funding, sales, generalities
  • Discuss hiring VP of Sales & COO
  • Sales and product market fit
  • Increasing pipeline for mid-market and enterprise accounts
  • How to grow the sales team in a measured way
  • Selling the company or financing it
  • Go-to-market on vertical vs horizontal
  • Venture capital strategies and tactics
  • Building your executive team, scaling your company from 10 to 100 employees
  • How to address challenges around people? How to scale services business?
  • Obtaining product market fit
  • Pricing for our platform
  • Pitch feedback, business model
  • How to create a clear plan for developing and growing a company
  • How best to approach structuring your core team
  • Need some advice figuring out what I need to do (scaling teams, scaling myself, where to focus)
  • Getting your first 10 customers
  • Building a startup in the HR space; market differentiation and positioning
  • Career advice with companies/organizations doing good for women and minorities
  • Positioning for fundraising
  • Pricing packaging, selling strategies, growing company, investment consideration since we are bootstrapped
  • Establishing a consulting business and how to get those first clients
  • Getting your first 10 customers. Pricing and packaging. Hiring your first few salespeople. Raising seed round capital. Navigating the long sales cycles in HR. Early-stage oriented
  • Gaining your first sale, going from great demo –> closing the deal
  • Moving from B2C towards B2B
  • Going from 10 to 100 customers, hiring the first few sales people, building the executive & advisory team
  • Getting our first 10 customers
  • Transitioning company from B2C to B2B, assets of the B2C company have made it possible to build a B2B solution
  • Getting our first set of quality customers
  • Scale, go-to-market in the US, fundraising

Thank you Miranda for helping me keep all these meetings organized! It was quite an effort to stay on top of all of this! Nice way to wrap up 2018!

P.S. I am taking a little break from coaching for now, and focusing on my own startup.

Kris Duggan Quoted in The Atlantic

Ranked #33 Most Influential Australian Entrepreneur

Thanks to the infamous folks at Richtopia, I managed to appear on a list of top Australian entrepreneurs.

Now, I think the ranking algorithm may be a little suspect, but I’m happy to join the ranks of the Atlassian fellows (Michael and Scott, true world-class entrepreneurs), and also the likes of Murdoch.

Edit: Let’s put the list in perspective. According to the Australia Small Businss Audit of 2017, there are 3% of households with a start-up founder (“founder of a nascent firm”). And there are approximately 8M households in Australia, representing about 240,000 entrepreneurs in this market. #33 ain’t bad!

top-100-australian-entrepreneurs-power-list-badge-richtopia.png

Mention on intelligenthq.com

Yours truly on Sales Qualia podcast

I recently had the chance to sit down with Scott Sambucci from SalesQualia on his Startup Selling Podcast to chat a bit about how startup founders be more effective and intentional in their sales approach, not to mention how to avoid some of the mistakes that I’ve made and seen countless others make over the years.

We talked about:

  • Negotiation tactics – how to get your prospects to tell you what needs to happen to get the deal done
  • Designing a pricing strategy that means no churn
  • How much Startup CEO’s need to sell before they should even consider hiring their first sales person

We also discuss some highlights from my career including: starting my own companies, raising a $100M+ in capital, what I’ve learned from interviewing over 1,000 sales people and how to manage sales teams with large targets. #nopressure

This was a fun conversation and there’s are a ton of value shared throughout the episode – so if you’re a sales oriented founder – or if you’re not – hopefully this episode will convince you of the importance of putting as much effort into your selling as you do into building you product.

You can listen to the podcast on the SalesQualia website here.

You can also follow The Startup Selling Podcast on iTunes where you can find our episode, along with a lot of other episodes that offer great sales advice:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-sales-podcast/id1044359904?mt=2

Check it out and let me know what you learned and what kind of questions it brought up for you so we can start our own discussion…

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