Culture Factor 2.0

Increasing your ROI from Connectivity of your Workforce

Episode Summary

Jeff Rich is the President of Corebridge Software, which is a SaaS-model enterprise software for small and medium sized businesses. CoreBridge currently has customers in 56 countries and employees in 7 different countries. He joined CoreBridge as President of Global Operations in 2018.

Episode Notes

linkedin.com/in/jeff-rich-mba-cfe-392534a3

http://www.companytribes.com

linkedin.com/in/hollyshannon1

linkedin.com/in/pauljonescg

http://www.corebridge.net

 

 

Episode Transcription

Holly Shannon 

Today we have Jeff Rich, the President of CoreBridge software. It is a SaaS model enterprise software for small and medium-sized businesses. CoreBridge currently has customers in 56 countries and employees in seven different countries. Jeff joined CoreBridge as President of Global Operations in 2018. And today, he joins us virtually on The Culture Factor. Welcome, Jeff.

 

Jeff Rich 

Hey, thank you. Glad to be with you.

 

Paul Jones 

Jeff, it's so good to have you on The Culture Factor. And I'm excited to get into this with you. We've had some great conversations. Before we really kind of jump in. I think for our listeners, it's important to know a little bit about your workforce and where your workforce is located globally. So could you talk with us a little bit about corporate employees and where everyone is?

 

Jeff Rich 

Yeah, absolutely. We have about 110 employees worldwide, as Holly mentioned in seven different countries, including everywhere from as nearby as Canada to Brazil and Taiwan. One and the Philippines and a few other places around the world. So that's always the challenge is trying to, you know, manage people in different time zones in different places around the world.

 

Paul Jones 

So when we talk about remote work, I mean, you guys have been doing this from the very beginning, right?

 

Jeff Rich 

We have with one exception, we have one brick and mortar facility in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and had about 20 to 25 employees there previously, but everyone else is working remotely. So with the COVID-19, it wasn't a big switch for us. Some of those in the office there, after a while began working remotely. And that worked out just fine. And so for us, it hasn't been too big of a change.

 

Paul Jones 

Yeah, that's great. I'm sure we're going to get into some great insights about the magic managing remote teams. So Jeff, you have this workforce that's all over the world. You've got people in the Philippines, you have people in Canada, so you even have different cultures as part of your workforce. What were some of the things that happened during COVID that may have made you think about culture differently? 

Jeff Rich 

Yeah, well, we realized early on that it was impacting different people in different ways. And as COVID swept the world, kind of from East to West, it was interesting to watch how it affected us because the Philippines for example, it impacted them significantly early on in the process, and maybe we'll get a chance to talk about that a little bit more. But we had to really be on our game because as it was affecting some of our employees, we had to react to that. And then as it began to affect others, we had to react accordingly. And try to learn from what we learned early on, to apply to those that were impacting a little bit later. I think that the take-home message was that we just really had to increase our level of communication and be sensitive to the challenges that they were facing, and then adapt it accordingly, as dictated by some of the guidelines put in place by various countries and communities, so that we could help protect our employees but yet still maintain our workflow at the same time.

 

Holly Shannon 

You are a global company, and when we spoke before, you had a lot of independent silos based on how you operated previously COVID has actually been a catalyst to going from a global company to becoming a global community. Could you share with us and for our listeners, because we were privy to it earlier? And it's such a great story about your team in the Philippines, there was a sort of a specific thing that happened with one of the people there. And it that was also COVID was the catalyst to it. But then it was a catalyst to becoming a global community at corporate. Can you share that with everybody?

 

Jeff Rich 

Yeah, sure. Thank you. You know, as you mentioned, we have to kind of handle things in different ways in a global community. And let me first provide maybe a little bit of context behind our structure in order to kind of help answer that question a little more clearly. Like many tech companies, we have a technical support team and a marketing and sales team and a training team and historically, we've tended to operate in those silos as you spoke about, with some connection too but that little interaction with the other departments or teams but COVID has really forced us to reevaluate how we operate and how we could maybe augment our culture to create more unity and collaboration. And that's really where the example of our team in the Philippines comes into play. We have a tremendous group of employees, almost predominantly developers who represent over a quarter of our workforce and who live in or around the Cebu Philippines area. 

Well, during the height of the pandemic one of our employees noticed that there were a number of migrant workers from outlying areas who had come into the city to work but then found themselves trapped, unable to return home due to travel restrictions and border closures So recognizing this issue this need, our employee began providing meals out of his own pocket to this group of nearly 100 migrant workers. Once the rest of the development team heard what was going on, they wanted to contribute to, and shortly thereafter, news spread throughout our entire company. And literally within a matter of days, a fairly significant amount of funds were collected to support the effort which, which lasted for a few weeks before restrictions were finally loosened and the workers were able to return to their home cities. But as you can imagine, it was a really unifying experience not only for our development team there, but really throughout the organization and we realized that we needed to create and maintain a venue or for these types of experiences or stories, you know to be shared and talked about more and ironically, recognizing the need for increased communication due to COVID. We just implemented our first ever total company, webinar, or conference call. And now this recent experience in the Philippines gave us great material for our next one where we were able to have that actual employee, from the Philippines, talk to the entire company about what he had done, how everyone's contributions were used, and even share some pictures of their efforts there. It was awesome. It was a great experience and a great cultural lesson for us regarding how we can support each other and stay connected.

 

Holly Shannon 

That's amazing, Jeff, that you truly have, maybe inadvertently to COVID ended up with a more connected workforce, but it's great that you are putting tools in place now, to maximize. What on that to maximize on what you've learned. Can you share it? I mean, obviously, that there's an intrinsic ROI there. Is there a quantifiable ROI from that?

 

Jeff Rich 

Yeah, I think there has to be, you know, to me that question, almost borders on the rhetorical. I absolutely believe that with few exceptions, you increase ROI commensurate with the level of connectivity of the workforce. I've seen it time and time again. And now that said, some may have differing opinions on the metrics and procedures by which that ROI is quantified in a given industry, right. But conceptually, there's no doubt in my mind that there's a distinct connection. And I think, I think one of the reasons why is that it becomes less about the individual and really more about the needs of the team or organization as a whole. Employees feel this sense of concern or even accountability for the success of their peers above and beyond just that of their own, at least, that's what I've experienced. And as I was thinking about this concept previously, it reminded me of a quote, attributed to Ken Blanchard, who said that none of us is as smart as all of us. And I totally believe that's true of this workforce connectivity concept and the value that can be attained when an employee truly feels part of a greater team or perfect purpose. In fact, one quick example, if I may, that comes to mind to support this is that I had a direct report a number of years ago, and he was a solid employee. He was in good standing and was really respected by his peers. But unfortunately, his wife developed cancer and he had to take another job that allowed him to be able to work closer to home and not travel as frequently as he was traveling with us. So it was a positive and voluntary parting. But I'll never forget one line that he included as a part of his official resignation letter, and I kept it. And he said, I truly loved working for my boss. And with our team, I always felt like doing my very best because I didn't want to disappoint Jeff or my peers. And I thought about that, you know, ever since then, and I don't share that to pat myself on the back in any way, but rather to make the point that in an environment where employees feel valued and part of a greater purpose, they're motivated, more committed to work hard and ultimately have more success by doing things for reasons other than the money, position or prestige. I just think that's a good concept in and more recently, even in the last couple of months, as we in our organization have put into place some of these types of processes to improve our connectivity and communication with our people, across individual departments in our entire company, our profits have steadily improved. Admittedly, part of it's due to different efficiencies that we've put in place because of COVID. But I firmly believe that a portion of it can definitely be attributable to a more connected workforce. We've seen it firsthand.

 

Paul Jones 

That's such great insights, Jeff, and thanks for sharing a lot of that. You know, when you think about it, you're at work, you spend the majority of your life at work. So the relationships that you build there matter, I love your stories. I think it totally makes sense because those are the people that you a lot of times you're going to be spending a lot more time with them than even your own family in some instances. And so the relationships you build at work are different and relationships that need to be maintained. It makes sense that if your team has clarity and if you have connection and communication inside your organization, it seems like people feel a lot more part of a movement. And it's that movement or that feeling of being part of a tribe. That helps that increases loyalty and increases motivation and everything else that you're talking about.

 

Jeff Rich 

Yeah, they really become your extended family and to the degree you can create this sense of group accountability and commitment to one another, really helps that that ROI come through in lots of different ways.

 

Holly Shannon 

You know, I hate to be the person who asks this question, but the economy has forced a lot of layoffs. Is your team working leaner now? And is that been part of what has affected your efficiency Because you said that your profits have increased due to efficiencies. 

 

Jeff Rich 

you know, yeah, you know, it's a reality that I think a lot of us have had to face right over the last few months. And we definitely are working leaner, like most organizations, the effects of COVID on the economy have necessitated a real detailed analysis of business operations across the board. And as a result, we, too, have streamlined some areas. We've consolidated some functions and roles and, and when we've had some natural attrition, we've tried to find ways to absorb those responsibilities rather than immediately hire a replacement. But I think that's generally a good model to follow, especially during lean or otherwise challenging times. And we've definitely experienced that. Interestingly, just prior to COVID. We met with another local tech company. And we had heard that they recently laid off a number of employees. And so we were interested to investigate whether they were in a position to be acquired or whether we might be able to integrate their offering some way into our current system. And what we found was quite actually quite different from what we expected. Not only were they not looking to be acquired due to some financial issue, but they were also performing exceptionally well. And what they told us was they had simply implemented a different business strategy that allowed them to accomplish more with less. And as a result, their revenue and profits were up and their payroll and other overhead were down, which, as we all know, is a nice combination. Right? Well, that was really intriguing to us. And so since then, and now emphasized by the advent of COVID. We've been trying to implement a similar philosophy in our organization, and although we've not felt a need to conduct a significant layoff as they did and as others have, we definitely try to accomplish more with less. And we hope that will continue. Because if you think about it, whether in a state of expansion or contraction, these principles still apply, right? 

For example, in our company, we're on the verge of a fairly significant upgrade to one of our current products and it will broaden the breadth of our current customer base, which theoretically, will necessitate an expansion but I hope we'll have learned from this most recent and ongoing experience and that as we expand, we'll do so wisely. You know, maintaining that process of efficiency as we grow, that will be our goal. 

 

Paul Jones 

the timings sounds like it's pretty perfect. These situations like COVID cause us to look differently at our business and cause our employees to look differently in our business as well. And that seems to be what you've really capitalized on. Going back to your comment on teams and unity. This is a great opportunity to rethink almost everything. To look at what's happening inside of your business and give your team permission to rethink how they work and who they work with. And so it kind of comes back to for you, you had this organization that was really siloed. You've got this new upgraded product that you're about to release. You want to increase efficiencies, you don't want to lay off your team. You're becoming more transparent. What’s the sense that you're getting inside your organization now? What's the culture feeling like, compared to pre-COVID?

 

Jeff Rich 

Yeah, it's really interesting. And what you're saying has been so true for us. Sometimes I think we almost need an excuse to get out of the rut that we're in and, and look for that innovation and that creativity and sometimes the benefits the ROI come unexpectedly as you pursue some of those opportunities you mentioned. We've talked about that and whether we are going to return to those or if we've learned enough to try to bridge some of the connectivity between those silos. And I'm often asked that question. In fact, you and I were talking about it. Not too long ago, Paul and I talked about this as well as to whether we're going to do that. And it's an interesting question, you know, right, because the nature of our business, like many others, dictates that some degree of siloed organization and workflow take place it so that you can stay focused and productive around a particular a particular job function, right. You can't completely disregard silos, at least operationally. But I think that we've learned over the last few months, that we can't afford to get caught up in what I call the silo syndrome where departments work so independently that we lose the value, and the productivity and the efficiencies that could otherwise be gained by things like better communication, and cross-functional training and collaboration that can take place in an organization that really has the potential to not only benefit them operationally, but creates and fosters this culture that we've been talking about of inclusiveness and loyalty that can help a company thrive during times of prosperity, and, and, on the contrary, effectively cope during times of challenge like many are experiencing right now. I know that with our company, we still have a lot of work to do, for sure. And we're committed to doing it, but I feel like we've been forced to learn a few lessons along the way. And I think we're pretty confident that we'll be a better company in the end. If we see a dedicated effort to these types of culturally connecting principles.

 

Paul Jones 

Wow, I love that perspective. And I don't think that you're alone, Jeff. And I love that you're willing to say these are the lessons that we learned. And that connection is something we see as it's important, and we don't want to let it go. I think a lot of executives and a lot of companies are having that realization as a result of going through this whole thing.

 

Jeff Rich 

Well, I think what you said right there, Paul is key is that you actually have to do something we get. It's like going to a workshop or a meeting, right? And you hear all these great ideas and you're shaking your head going, Yeah, that's an awesome idea. We're going to do that. And then you as soon as you walk out the door, or out of the ballroom or wherever you're at, things just automatically fall back to what you're used to doing. And so I think what we've learned more than anything to this process, as we've come across some of these lessons is we've got to take those lessons and document them and put them in play within our organization so that we don't lose out on the real value that they provide.

 

Holly Shannon 

You know, Jeff, silos is such a strong word. I feel like it gets used very often. And I feel like the word silos can sometimes trigger cultural issues. And I feel as though from what you've described, you've moved away from silos and more towards independent work. I think it's important, you know, like you said, a department needs to do what a department needs to do, right. They need to be able to focus but I think allowing for independent work, allows people to be creative, you know, within their wheelhouse. And because you have opened the door to to more of a community spirit, I feel like that has opened the door for them to put their hand out and try and collaborate. And that's where you've broken down the silos without losing the benefit of independent work. 

Jeff Rich 

It's such a great point. And it's something that I haven't really articulate as well as you just did, it's so true as we've tried to provide opportunities for these independent departments to contribute to the greater organization. It's not only we learn from them, but it’s also motivated them to continue to share and to reach out, cross-functionally more than maybe they would have otherwise considered doing and so I think as an executive team, now that's our challenge as leaders is to continue to foster that and encourage that so that it will continue and it won't just be a flashing up in the pan during. It'll be something that we can take with us for many months and years to come.

 

Holly Shannon 

It sounds like you have a great team and they're headed by somebody who really cares. So I think they are in good hands with you.

 

 

 

Paul Jones 

I'm excited to see what you do. I'm excited to see I love your perspective. I, I feel really motivated. I'm like, Yes. Let's get these lessons that we've learned. And let's make sure that we change. I was having a conversation with diversity and inclusion executive the other day, and that was her biggest question is, how do we capitalize on this momentum, this change that's happening right now? How do we make sure that we keep it going into the future so like you said, it's not a flash in the pan. So we'll have to follow up with you on a LinkedIn post or something you have to keep us up to date on all the innovations that you and your teams are doing as you decouple the silos that exist in the organization and keep your community connected. Thank you. 

Jeff Rich 

You have my commitment to do just that.