Get the buy in
Continuing to hire entrepreneurial-minded employees ensures Bills.com has the right team in place to grow successfully. But hiring is just one part of building an entrepreneurial culture. When building any team, you have to let your team members know what they are signing up for.
“Hiring is No. 1,” Stroh says. “No. 2 is training, getting people to embrace your culture from week one. The people that are joining you — they haven’t been along for the several-year ride that we have.
“You get people to self-select in or self-select out of your culture, and you want that to be a very conscious decision. You don’t want hiring to be mindless on either side, the new employee side or the company side.”
Today, Stroh visits the last session of every training class to share stories and history about the company and to talk to new employees about his vision for the future of Bills.com and their role in contributing to its success.
“The last message that I’ll leave with them is, ‘You guys in this room are hires 599 and 600 and 601. I’m standing in front of you as employee No. 1. … You guys, if you’re number 600 and 601, if you’re not smarter than us, better than us, care more than us, and don’t maintain and perpetuate that culture of entrepreneurism, which is looking for things to improve, we’re not getting better every day,’” Stroh says.
To get employees to buy in to a vision from the get-go, you have to help them really understand their role in its execution. You have to reinforce the importance of employees being entrepreneurial in their own right, whether it’s looking for things to make better or places where they can break things and fix them.
“The worst thing in a business is to have a bunch of employees with uncertainty about their role, the future of the company or about what they are supposed to be doing,” Stroh says. “It’s OK for the CEO to have ambiguity, but you have to be communicating certainty about where you are going.”
Align your goals
As your company’s work force grows, some of the intimacy that comes with having a tight-knit team of employees can get lost. In order to keep employees engaged in your vision, you have to find new ways to show them that you really care about them as individuals.
In the first months of Bills.com, Stroh was having pizza on the floor weekly with his handful of employees, using the time to talk about process changes, company updates, growth challenges or even just to chat about life and family. He was also closely connected to every one of the company’s clients and potential customers.
“As a bootstrap business, you don’t have layers and layers of management between you and the client,” Stroh says. “You, as the founder of the organization, are literally on the phone with your clients, on the phone with consumers, figuring out what do they value and how you can create a profitable business around that.”
Now, Bills.com has three corporate offices and 600 employees, and Stroh has had to find new ways to maintain effective communication and stay in touch with employee needs. Stroh still calls all his employees on their birthdays to thank them personally for their contributions and chat about their personal lives and individual challenges. He also continues to be very involved in talking to customers, finding out about their pain points, and seeking out opportunities to stay engaged in all levels of the business.
“Being a relatively young CEO, I’m really hands-on,” Stroh says. “I love to this day talking to clients. I love being in an interview and interviewing new employees. I love standing up in front of our employees and sharing with them our vision and values.”