Any company can make giving back a part of its culture. Here’s how.

Companies everywhere have seen the benefits of integrating philanthropy into their business models – and for good reason. Cultures that give back are linked to higher levels of employee happiness, collaboration, and innovation, all of which are great for business. Another benefit? Values-based organizations stand the test of time. Recent data suggests these organizations are more resilient and built to withstand crises like pandemics, disasters, social unrest, and more – because in challenging times their values keep them anchored.

In the early days of philanthropy, social impact was kept separate from business practices. Today, there’s a more powerful model of philanthropy built on the belief that the business of business is to improve the state of the world. The two are interconnected; business today is about going beyond the paycheck and getting behind those social issues via technology, time, and money. 

Some leaders believe philanthropy is akin to frosting on a cake – a nice-to-have or once-a-year kind of thing. But that’s not enough. It’s a new business imperative to build giving back right into your corporate playbook. For those just getting started, here are 5 questions to ask yourself as you make giving back part of your company’s culture. 

Q1: Where should you start? 

Companies of every size can create measurable impact. In fact, our founders built giving back into Salesforce’s DNA before they even had anything to give. My suggestion is to start, as they did, with employee time. It’s the easiest resource to give – but keep in mind that this also means you have to give your employees the permission to take the time to volunteer. 

It’s likely that your employees are already involved in giving back; perhaps they help with a Girl Scout or Boy Scout troop, volunteer at their church, or organize drives and fundraisers. Think about how you can encourage those activities and integrate them into your culture. There are also some amazing organizations, like Pledge 1%, that offer tools and resources to help you create a structure and dedicated program, whether you want to give time, resources, equity, or something else. 

Q2: What’s your long-term plan? 

One of the biggest pitfalls I’ve noticed is when companies don’t commit for the long haul. Our CEO Marc Benioff talks about overestimating what you can achieve in one year, and underestimating what you can achieve in 10 years. For instance, when we made our commitments 20 years ago, it was hard to imagine a time where we’d donate 5 million volunteer hours or $400 million in grants like we have today. 

Another common mistake is “peanut buttering” across too many focus areas, or spreading yourself too thin. At Salesforce, we like to say if you focus on everything, you focus on nothing.  Building a long-term plan can help you maintain your focus and measure results. 

Q3: Is the leadership team truly bought in? 

A commitment to philanthropy must start at the top. Having a CEO and leadership team involved helps to shape the  program, while the employees are the ones who make it grow. I’m grateful to work for a CEO who’s really passionate about giving back, and this trickles down to the rest of the company.

When employees see the leadership team make philanthropy a priority, they’re empowered and encouraged to do the same. You’ll see greater outcomes and stronger engagement if this behavior is  being modeled at the highest level. 

Q4: How will you measure success?

Create focus. I suggest starting with one or two important areas, and then working backwards from there. What results do you want to see? Maybe you’ll start by tracking employee volunteer hours or dollars donated. Taking a data-driven approach increases your impact and garners greater participation with your employees because they’re sharing the goals and the success with you. 

Once you get past those initial metrics, you’ll want to think about impact: What do you want to achieve? What’s important to your company and the legacy you want to leave behind? 

Q5: Who will manage these efforts? 

I’m often asked at what point should companies consider making a full-time hire to support philanthropy. While companies may be able to get started by having a team of employees oversee the function, creating a role and providing dedicated resources signals, both internally and externally, that it’s a priority to the company. 

That creates a ripple effect – people will want to work at your company because they can see the dedication to giving back.

Impact is everyone’s job.

Philanthropy is not a competitive sport. There are no losers! I’ve been so inspired seeing companies come together around a shared goal and driving a double ROI – a return on investment AND impact. I’d love to hear your questions and experiences in building philanthropy and giving back into your company’s culture. You can find me on Twitter at @EbonyBeckwith

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more on our website or by connecting with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.


The great 2020 knowledge exchange

How much can you learn in a year? That depends on your mindset – but perhaps 2020’s unique challenges gave us an even greater knowledge exchange. We learned a tremendous amount from others, shared our own expertise, and expanded our minds in new ways. As we celebrate Operator Collective’s first birthday, let’s look back on all we learned. 

We started out with value learning

We kicked off the year by offering tips to build a thriving community from scratch and discussing how we brought so many first time investors into venture capital. We even threw back to the OG feminist movies that moved us. Inspiring topics – clearly we had no idea what was coming in the weeks ahead. 

Angel investing is always a hot topic for investors (and those who want to be). First Susan Kimberlin told us everything we wanted to know about angel investing, but were too afraid to ask. Later we offered a legal checklist for angel investing, and Einat Meisel led us through the financial aspects

We shifted to pandemic learning

Then COVID-19 hit and our community immediately jumped in to help. Our Operator Collective core team shared their tried-and-true tips for working from home, while our LP base shared their favorite at-home activities, books, and podcasts to keep us all productive and sane. We learned to steady on from the amazing Dan Scheinman, while Iris Choi told us what companies should strive for in a down market. Jenny Sohn gave us her best 3 CFO tips to adapt your finances in a downturn, and Erica Schultz gave us 6 tips to keep building revenue and sales

Around that time we also launched The Challenge Series so our wildly experienced operator LPs could offer their support and advice to others in our community… but then we chose to cancel the final one in solidarity as the country struggled through multiple devastating racial and social injustices. (We’re grateful our amazing customer success leaders ended up answering our questions anyway – thank you, Christina Kosmowski and Nick Mehta.) 

We supported equality and social justice 

In light of those devastating social injustices, LP Merline Saintil offered 6 wise words to help you act against injustice. Then Lexi Reese and Bernard Coleman explained how voting helps us create the future we want to see. Behind the scenes, under Leyla Seka’s leadership, we created and launched Black Venture Institute, a curriculum-based program to bring more Black operators into venture capital, in partnership with BLCK VC and others. 

There were moments of good news, too. Three of our LPs published books within weeks of each other, and we celebrated the rise in women’s voices in publishing. Leyla Seka let us in on why it’s important to build a partner ecosystem and answered some of the questions she gets on the topic. The fabulous LaFawn Davis offered four tips to help you build an inclusive org

We love to lift up our operators

Through it all, we wanted to showcase some of our radically accomplished operator LPs, so we shined a light on HR leader Cindy Robbins, DEI leader Aubrey Blanche, executive recruiter Lynn Carter, partnerships leader Bonita Stewart, Chief Technical Officer Rathi Murthy, data and analytics queen Anita Lynch, engineering leader Yanbing Li, fashion mogul and activist Suzanne Lerner, founder and COO Michelle Zatlyn, executive producer Danielle Renfrew Behrens, and talent leader Michael Kieran

We also shared solid words of wisdom and operational advice from Leyla Seka, Ambrosia Vertesi, Tekedra Mawakana, Lexi Reese, Bonita Stewart, Erica Schultz, Li Fan, Dug Song, LaFawn Davis, Rathi Murthy, Monique Covington, Cindy Robbins, and Claire Hughes Johnson, plus a few words from me too. Whew! 

We shared our diligence

And along the way, of course, we made some investments! We are a venture fund, after all. Of all the investments we made this year, we were able to tell you more about our obsession with Guild Education, our uncomplicated love for DataGrail, and why our tie to Ironclad is simply binding. We showed you how to SetSail with a unique take on sales productivity, get smarter with Forethought AI, and check your productivity with Spekit. Need more? Find out how Textio helps your words matter, and learn how your sales team can Outreach, outlast, and outperform. Finally, we’re ready to introduce you to the Origin of financial wellness, as well as a new BFF for your CFO: Cube

How much will we learn next year? 

We learned a lot this year, but our number #1 lesson wasn’t from any of the great content above. We learned that our community is what keeps us going and grounded. We’re so thankful to have an amazing group of operator LPs who are not only radically accomplished, but also so happy to share their knowledge and support our #RiseTheTide mission.  

We barreled through our first year like a freight train. And as we look to 2021, our momentum is still going strong. We picked up and shared a huge amount of knowledge – but as always, this only gives us a baseline to beat next year. Onward!

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more on our website or by connecting with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

The secret behind our awesome venture community

Community is our everything. As we celebrate our first birthday and look back on a year marked by change and instability, it’s only natural to reflect on what we’re grateful for, and here at Operator Collective, that’s our community. Somehow we put together this bang-up group of LPs, 130+ of the most sought-after operators in Silicon Valley and beyond – 90% women, 40% people of color. How lucky are we, right?

But it wasn’t luck – Not at all. We were very intentional with how we wanted our community to look and engage. We sought an active and diverse group that would help us surface new founders, participate in our diligence efforts, and support our portfolio companies. As it turns out, this wasn’t just wishful thinking – Our LPs are unbelievably gracious with their time and expertise.

So how were we able to do this? By making it a choice, not a chore. We made two important changes to the traditional venture fund model: 1) We built in functional breadth and redundancy, and 2) we did away with minimum time commitments.

We intentionally created a large community of LPs so if and when we need seasoned operations advice, we don’t have just one COO – we have a dozen. When we need technical advice, we don’t have just one CTO – we have six. So if one of our operators is overloaded and can’t handle a request, we have several others to ask, and we can always find one with contextual experience. Our LPs know they can step out if they get busy, which gives them the freedom to engage more. 

We’ve seen all kinds of successes from our large and varied community, but here are a few of our favorites. 

Our community makes us all stronger

When COVID-19 took hold and businesses everywhere floundered, our operator LPs went into overdrive, changing their strategies and operations to steer their businesses to stability. We asked them to share their expertise with our larger community and audience – and they didn’t hesitate. 

12 of our most respected LPs joined us for The Challenge Series, weekly webinars to let others know how top leaders were addressing the changes brought on by the pandemic. They answered our questions, tackled audience questions with glee, and even took time afterward to answer the questions we didn’t get to. They truly demonstrate our #RiseTheTide value – we’re all stronger together. 

Our community make us more innovative

Social justice reform took hold in new ways over the summer. As we checked in with our Black community members, we heard their frustration. Our LP Merline Saintil shared her words with us and we brainstormed ways to push for equity. Operator Collective is about action, and in hearing their words and ideas, we were inspired to create the Black Venture Institute, bringing in partners BLCK VC, Salesforce Ventures, and UC-Berkeley Haas to build a curriculum-based program designed to give Black operators the access and education they need to become angel or venture investors. 

After an intense amount of work, we launched the first cohort of 50 Black operators in November. Not only did the fellows blow us away with their energy and excitement, the speakers and panelists we invited to join were amazingly generous with their time and advice, too. 

Our community makes us a connector 

When we created Operator Collective, one of our goals was to build a naturally diverse network. We believed a diverse community would help us find and invest in more founders from underrepresented backgrounds – and it did. What we didn’t quite realize was how our community would become a natural connector for executive hires and board seats. 

We field frequent requests from our community wondering if we have someone to recommend for an open role. Companies and recruiters pick our brains to fill board seats. But what makes us particularly happy is that our matchmaking has resulted in several strong board placements and executive hires. 

We do we go from here? 

As they say, there’s strength in community. Certainly our community has become our strength this year, and we look forward to seeing how it grows even stronger and more connected in the years to come. Won’t you join us

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more on our website or by connecting with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Operator Collective by the numbers: Our first year in review 

One year ago we launched Operator Collective as a new model for venture investing. We dismantled the traditional fund structure and rebuilt it from the ground up to optimize for bringing in operators from diverse backgrounds. Pictures from Operator Summit and our launch party – both near the end of 2019 – show bright faces giddy with hope and anticipation. We had no idea what this year would bring, of course. No one did. 

The world has changed so much since those photos up there, but despite the once-unimaginable challenges 2020 brought, we steadied on. We set out determined to rise the tide in the venture ecosystem, create an access point for operators from underrepresented backgrounds, and bring our broad skill sets to support the next generation of game-changing tech founders. We stayed focused on investing in humble, lifelong learners from all backgrounds who share our belief that culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. We believed this would lead us to companies with better financial performance, especially in challenging times when the cracks are amplified

What we ended up with was a fund that included more than 130 operator LPs – 90% women, 40% people of color — who’ve built and scaled companies like Stripe, Zoom, and Salesforce. And what does an enterprise-focused fund with a diverse LP base look like one year after our public launch? I’m a data-driven person so I thought I’d share some numbers.

We leverage our community for deal flow

Every investment begins with deal flow, so let’s start there. We built Operator Collective to be a more collective approach to venture investing. Creating a collaborative model to serve as more of a flywheel than a traditional funnel would allow us to concentrate more time and energy on what is most sought after by our community: efficiently engaging busy operators.

First, we believed a diverse and active community of LPs would lead to a great number of warm and contextual intros to high potential founders. As it turns out, LPs are our #1 source of referrals. 

We also believed that if we built an operator-focused fund, other VCs would see the inherent value and refer deals to us, deals they were leading or in which they were considering investing. And VCs who are outside of Operator Collective referred our second highest number of deals.

Finally, founders are our next most significant source. We love it when our “customers” refer other customers – it’s the ultimate validation.

We love to invest in the unsexy 

We’ve made 10 core investments and 13 supporting investments. Our focus remains on early stage enterprise/b2b startups, with a preference for the unsexy – the often not-visible solutions that have the potential to transform industries in need of disruption. COVID has accelerated the digitization of the workplace, and we’re fortunate that 3 of our core investments are receiving pre-emptive follow-on rounds already.

Here’s how our first-year investments break out by sector:

  • 31% are in productivity platforms, like SetSail (revenue data analytics) and Spekit (digital enablement)   
  • 22% are in developer solutions, like Balsa (tools for builders) and Hex (data project sharing) 
  • 17% are in financial or insurtech solutions, like Fast (payments), Cube (FP&A planning), and AgentSync (insurance licensing) 
  • 17% are in workforce platforms, like Guild Education (re-skilling workers) and Textio (business communications) 
  • 13% are in regulatory and compliance solutions, like Ironclad (contract lifecycle management) and DataGrail (data privacy) 

We invest in founders from all backgrounds

Given our LP base, there’s often a presumption that we only invest in female founders or founders of color – but that’s not the case. We’ve always looked to invest in founders from all backgrounds. Studies show that funder diversity has a natural trickle-down effect on the companies and types of founders being funded, and our data supports that. 

Looking at our portfolio companies:  

  • 74% have a founder of color (48% Asian, 17% Latinx, and 9% Black)
  • 35% have a CEO of color (17% Asian, 9% Latinx, and 9% Black) 
  • 57% have a female founder, while 35% have a female CEO
  • 30% of our companies have a female CTO or technical co-founder
  • 13% of our companies were founded by an all-female team   

We anticipate and expect these numbers to bounce around over time, and we’re always striving to be deliberate at expanding to reach beyond our current immediate networks.

There’s no finish line in the fight for equal opportunity 

We are still in early days, and we have much work ahead of us. We’ve already been busy thinking ahead to where and how we can improve in the future, but as our first year comes to a close, we’re also taking a moment to reflect on what this collective has done so far. We set out to create a new kind of venture fund, one that brings together the most respected operators in the world to find, invest in, and support the next generation of amazing tech companies, and it’s working.

An enormous thank you to our operators, our founders, our collaborators, and of course our dedicated Operator Collective team for believing in our vision and joining us on this inaugural journey. We would not be where we are today without you. I can’t wait to see what this collective can accomplish together from here. Let’s do this! 

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more on our website or by connecting with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.


Operator Spotlight: Talent leader Michael Kieran

Looking for practical help and advice on an operational area that may be outside your realm? Each month we spotlight one of our talented operators, who’ll share their expertise and offer insights and ideas that may help improve your own operations. This month we spoke to Michael Kieran, Head of Talent at

As a Talent leader, you know this year’s intense challenges manifest differently in everyone. What are some ways your team at is supporting employees

MICHAEL: This year has definitely had challenges, but it’s also provided a lot of opportunities for companies, teams, and leaders to show how much they care about their people.  

I think that part – genuine care and concern, as well as taking accountability for the well being of your people – has to be the foundation of anything programmatic, and one of the things that came easy for us at Tray.   

For anyone leading people, I highly recommend Brene Brown’s “2 emotions that describe how you’re feeling today” question. On first glance, it may seem a touch saccharine or unnatural, but after starting a few 1:1s this way, it was amazing to see others skip the surface level reactions and actually take a moment for real introspection with real vulnerability. Most importantly, people began to speak in specifics about what they wanted to solve for in the coming weeks and where they needed support.

In addition to being a Head Of Talent, you’ve also been an Executive Recruiter. What key competencies do you think are critical for success in early-stage tech executives?

MICHAEL: I think early-stage tech executives have to love the build, and want the keys to drive their function in the best interests of the company. Those doing the hiring also have to give them the keys, have to trust that they will build their function the best way possible for the company.  

I always think about Larry David when we start an executive search. Here’s a guy that created Seinfeld, the most successful sitcom of all time — and after that extraordinary success, takes a few years off, but just has to come back and write another show, Curb Your Enthusiasm. That’s another wildly successful show he’s “ended” multiple times and then come back to. He has to get back to doing what he loves. That “Larry David Effect” is a competency worth measuring, and something we seek to understand with growth executives: Do they love the process, or the win?  

Culture addition over culture fit. As a recruiting leader, how do you evaluate this in the hiring process? Can it be measured?

MICHAEL: We take a lot of pride in our structured hiring process that ultimately provides us with a data driven, fair evaluation of someone’s potential to succeed in the role they’re interviewing for. One of the areas we pay special attention to is desired soft skills, the subjective criteria in the hiring process.

Culture addition is a great example.  At Tray, we continue to lean on our values and pillars in how we get things done, interact with our customers, and show up for each other – and then reverse engineer those pillars into attributes, evaluation criteria. From there we create calibrated interview questions and high/low evidence indicators to determine if the candidate is a culture add.  

Another approach to move to culture addition over culture fit is, instead of a hiring team asking if the candidate is hiring a culture add, ask if they’re hiring a culture subtraction. That will steer hiring managers away from the typical subconscious bias that comes with ‘fit’ and allow them to get back to the real purpose of culture addition.

You recently took on some initiatives for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in your organization. What are some ways you’ve approached integrating these two People functions?

MICHAEL: From a Recruiting and Human Resources perspective, DEI has been a priority for some time and continues to evolve as a core focus across the technology industry.  

The problem with that is, like most areas of activism for good, you typically have an active, intentional group that makes up 5-10% of the population, another 5-10% that detracts from the cause, and a middle 80% that is not against that effort, but also not held accountable for any progress.  

In 2020 that 80% of employees in the tech industry had a realization that they need to be active, and accountable for progress in DEI in their respective organizations, and across technology to fix the problems we have today.

Our approach has been to leverage this interest by shifting the positioning of HR/Recruiting as owners of DEI. This helps us support the broader business as they work toward their team objectives of building a diverse and inclusive environment.

To support this, we launched a Diversity & Belonging council with a particular focus on avoiding the usual suspects that raise their hands for something like this. We worked hard to recruit a highly diverse group across gender, race, sexual orientation, department, geography, and more. Equally important, this council is diverse in the sense that some were brand new to this kind of effort, still learning about problems, biases, and potential solutions in order to better represent the 80% mentioned above.

Hiring a diverse executive team is key, but remains a huge challenge. Do you have any advice on how to think of diverse hiring on the executive team in the early days?

MICHAEL: It all starts with your why. Most early-stage tech companies are maniacally focused on getting to a “next” stage, which also means they’re especially focused on hiring the absolute best people that are willing to bet on their opportunity.  

Where most companies trip is that at their core they lack the understanding that building a homogenous executive team fundamentally limits their potential. As HBR notes, there’s a huge amount of evidence showing that diversity unlocks innovation and drives growth, which should only intensify efforts to ensure your executive staff embodies and embraces the power of differences.

Once the understanding is there and the purpose validated, the next step thing is to start thinking in cohorts, the executive hiring across the nest 12-18 months, versus “this role must be [insert specific underrepresented group here]”. The behaviors a micro approach to diversity drive are ugly and will deteriorate the intent to provide equal opportunity and with time erode any established purpose.  Instead, map out the growth of the team and set goals around the next 4-6 hires. 

From there, be intentional about a structured hiring process that evaluates the candidates future and their potential to succeed in the role versus their past and previous accomplishments.

While betting on growth experience across your future stages is important, it does perpetuate a cycle where there are no new entrants. If you are excellent at hiring, you can spot the person that hasn’t done it before, but very well could do it better than anyone ever has.

AOC often talks about the skills she picked up as a bartender, and others talk about what they learned working retail. What were one of those formative jobs for you?

MICHAEL: Selling Christmas cards door to door when I was 10. It was a crash course in selling and marketing a product you truly believe in, plus I raked it in. Best. Christmas. Ever.

What’s the one condiment you could never live without? 

MICHAEL: Is wine a condiment?

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more on our website or on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Your CFO’s new BFF: Meet Cube

The company: Cube

Cube is a next-generation FP&A (financial planning & analysis) platform that empowers finance professionals to deliver faster, more strategic insights that drive the business forward. Cube streamlines manual data transformation, reduces errors, and improves collaboration to help businesses make smarter decisions lickety-split – Think enterprise FP&A meets the flexibility of a spreadsheet. And unlike traditional enterprise offerings, the solution can go live in just days, without the need for external consultants.

The details

Automation has made its way into the CFO tech stack via tools like Expensify for expense reports, for invoicing, and Carta for equity management. But now Cube is changing the game by elevating the CFO’s vantage point. It untangles manual spreadsheets, taps key business systems for data, and brings it all together in a platform that gives CFOs clean visibility into the key insights of their businesses. CFOs can go from numbers to narrative in record time. 

How it works

The Cube platform ingests all of a business’s vital data sources (e.g. ERP, CRM, HRIS, etc.), as well as forward-looking financial and operational models, and transforms them into a single source of truth that’s easy to access and manage. Powerful analytics give CFOs faster access to strategic insights, and deep spreadsheet integrations and intelligence means the platform is easy enough for anyone to use. 

Why you should pay attention

FP&A is strategic to the business – but it’s also still highly manual, time-consuming, and fraught with errors. This is an area that has historically been underserved and is ripe for disruption. Cube was founded and is led by Christina Ross, a former CFO herself who’s seen these challenges firsthand. Cube’s leadership team has been in the trenches, and they’re blazing a trail away from frustrating, manual, error-prone processes to a flexible, powerful, collaborative FP&A solution.  

Why we’re obsessed

Nearly 90% of companies are still using spreadsheets to manage all of their forward-looking planning, analysis, and reporting. The lion’s share of analyst time is spent on searching for and consolidating data. The model is broken: FP&A is desperately in need of a more collaborative approach. Built by finance for finance, Cube has both the innovation and leadership to drive that change. 

Get involved

Get faster, smarter, simpler financial planning and analysis; then get ready to make sharper, better, faster business decisions. Go on – Get Cube. Your CFO will thank you.

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more on our website or by connecting with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

4 things to consider as you design an inclusive org

As a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) leader for more than 15 years, I field questions all the time from founders looking for a magic solution to building diverse orgs. Fortunately or unfortunately, there isn’t one – it takes hard work, consistency, and intention.  

But as companies begin their journeys, it’s important to prioritize DEI initiatives from the start – and at the top. If you don’t see visible diversity at the top, it’s less likely that a greater range of people will want to join your company; they will not feel confident in their chances to advance. So that visible diversity is important – but it’s also important to take a step back and look at things in totality. Here are four strategies to consider as you design an inclusive org. 

1) Focus on behavior 

I often say that I can run around with sprinkles, rainbows and unicorns all day, but it’s an employee’s day-to-day that matters. So think about the kind of organization you want to create and the kind of behavior you want to see. Sit down and really think critically about it. Leaders and people managers must create a culture of inclusion and belonging – but how do they do that if they don’t know how? Give them the resources they need to build those inclusive spaces and look for opportunities for coaching, training, and crucial conversations along the way. 

It’s worth noting that psychological safety – not diversity – has emerged as the #1 foundation of a high performing team. Without psychological safety, diversity cannot thrive. Psychological safety means there’s an absence of fear, or of pushing against the status quo and offering new ideas. No one wants negative consequences, or to feel like their voice isn’t important. So focus first on creating an environment where people want to come – where they feel welcome, safe, and heard. 

2) Model inclusive leadership 

Your leaders have a big job beyond running the company: The behaviors they role model are what employees are watching out for. Representation matters, and if leadership roles are perceived as exclusive, employees and candidates will feel like they can’t grow there. So keep an eye on a range of representation numbers and metrics; visible diversity is important, but it’s also vital to include people from different backgrounds, age, and lifestyles. 

As you grow, take care to remove any bad actors. I do not say that lightly, but I stand by it. Sometimes as a company, you have to make tough choices, and we’ve all seen times when employees were given a little leeway if they’re killing it in sales or they’re a great performer. But bad behavior is poison to your organization, especially when you’re small. So you’ve really got to take a stand on that and role model the behavior that you’d like to see within your organization. 

3) Replace bias and barriers with flexibility 

As you build a company, take care to create policies and procedures that reflect the entire workforce. This means identifying and removing any bias and barriers. This isn’t just about gender or race; think about parents and caregivers currently struggling with our current reality. Don’t let your company policies leave them in the cold. 

You never know what someone has going on outside of work, or what kinds of pressures they face. So work hard to create an environment that’s flexible for everyone, no matter their circumstance. We’re all living through a state of trauma right now. Everybody has something, right? If it’s caregiving, civil unrest, the pandemic, economic uncertainty, or even Murder Hornets, we’re all dealing with the things. So create an environment that says: You are a tremendous asset to us and we value you. Create environments, policies and procedures that work for everybody. 

4) Commit to accessibility 

It’s an unfortunate truth that people with disabilities are often forgotten when it comes to technology, policies, and procedures. To build an inclusive org, you have to commit to accessibility – to making sure your work environment, your products, and everything else is accessible to everyone. 

There are millions and billions of people worldwide with disabilities. In fact, most of us either do or will have a disability at some point in our lifetime. So you’d never want to create a space where someone cannot access your services or your product, or where an employee or candidate couldn’t work and thrive there. Accessibility ensures that everything works for everyone. It’s not like if you change things to be accessible, then people without disabilities can’t also access it. So these changes shouldn’t feel like a burden – It’s more of making a space and a product that works for everyone.

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more on our website or by connecting with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.


Operator spotlight: Executive producer Danielle Renfrew Behrens

Looking for practical help and advice on an operational area that may be outside your realm? Each month we spotlight one of our talented operators, who’ll share their expertise and offer insights and ideas that may help improve your own operations. This month we spoke to Danielle Renfrew Behrens, President of Animal Pictures, shortly before the debut of her latest project, Sarah Cooper: Everything’s Fine.

You recently landed a Netflix comedy special, which you’re executive producing alongside Natasha Lyonne and Maya Rudolph. What’s so exciting about this crew? 

DANIELLE: You have to bring your best game when you’re working with geniuses. We all came to the table with different life experiences and points of view, but we all share common philosophy – life is too short to work on anything we don’t believe in. It has to be something we all find meaningful. I understand that’s a luxury, but hopefully we’ve earned it after being in the industry for 2+ decades. It’s very refreshing to have that as a guiding principal of a company, and Sarah Cooper: Everything’s Fine really encapsulated that spirit.

You’ve been a Hollywood founder and operator for some time now. How has the landscape changed for women over the last few years? 

DANIELLE: Early in my career, I was often the only woman in a room. That’s changed now. The optimistic side of me thinks that’s because there are significantly more female execs in positions of power – yet the pessimistic side of me thinks big companies have simply caught on that a meeting with all white men is a bad look. They are including women and POC, but that doesn’t necessarily mean those people are decision makers.

How can the film industry do a better job of being inclusive?

DANIELLE: For a start, everyone can be more mindful when casting and crewing up. Over the last 6 months or so, there’s been a real uptick in buyers’ appetites for projects by and about BIPOC. I hope that continues and isn’t just a short-term reaction to the current political climate.

Why is it important for Hollywood to tackle the issues surrounding thing like politics, race, and gender

DANIELLE: Film and TV give people a window into the experiences of others – a way to learn about other communities and cultures that they might not otherwise understand. I think it was Roger Ebert who said “film is a machine that generates empathy.” And there was just an article in the LA Times highlighting a study about how watching shows with immigrant characters inspired viewers to be more socially active.

I think there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with being the one to put a mirror up to the world or to show people (especially kids) what’s possible. Representation truly matters.

What’s one amazing insight no one knows about the film industry?   

DANIELLE: It is not glamorous! You see people looking so fancy and made up on the red carpet (pre-COVID, of course). As a kid, I thought that looked so fun, but now when I see how much time goes into getting hair- and makeup-ready, it doesn’t look fun at all.

AOC often talks about the skills she picked up as a bartender, and others talk about what they learned working retail. What were some of those formative jobs for you?

DANIELLE: My first job was as an intern for Dorothy Fadiman, an Academy Award nominated documentary filmmaker based in the Bay Area. After my internship, she offered me a job as the grassroots outreach coordinator for a documentary film series about the history or reproductive rights. 

I still use every skill I learned during that time, from formatting business letters to team building.

What’s the one condiment you could never live without? 

DANIELLE: Oh, that’s easy: Tamari!

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more on our website or by connecting with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.


Team productivity? Check it, then Spekit.

The company: Spekit

Spekit is the top-rated enablement and adoption solution that helps employees work self-sufficiently and smarter in the cloud.

The details

Spekit keeps your teams in sync, drives adoption of your tools, and boosts productivity by embedding your training right within any application for self-guided learning. This makes your knowledge and enablement resources available contextually from any workflow – including email, Slack, and other team productivity tools.

How it works

Spekit creates an intuitive, user-friendly interface that consolidates knowledge, policies, and playbooks from across your organization into a centralized platform. Extensions (from Chrome, Edge, Slack, Outlook, Salesforce Lightning, and more) then allow you to integrate it across applications, surfacing your definitions, processes, and enablement resources in real time, wherever you and your team need them. As you roll out new processes or resources, Spekit keeps everyone aligned by sending in-app alerts to notify your team, right where they’re working. It even helps you measure training engagement and performance with powerful analytics.

Why you should pay attention

In a work-from-home world where employees are constantly context-switching between their dozens of workflows and applications and change is constant, the old LMS or webinar-approach to training drains resources and kills productivity. Employees rarely retain that crucial knowledge when presented in such a disjointed way. 

With Spekit, learning is reinforced right where work happens, making it easy to share, communicate, and train in real-time. Spekit’s Salesforce integration is the #1 choice on G2 and the AppExchange for Salesforce documentation, training, and change communication. It’s loved by scaling technology companies like Hippo, Docsend, and Mural, along with large enterprises like Southwest Airlines, JLL, and Wolters Kluwer. You don’t need coding skills or a technical background to use the integration features. Changes will automatically sync, you can document quickly by adding images and videos, and Spekit will then intelligently embed your training to maximize efficiency. 

Don’t have time to create your own training? That’s ok, too. Spekit has partnered with vendors and industry experts on the most popular tools to provide you with customizable training content to get you started. Think: Salesforce, Outreach, Linkedin SalesNavigator, and more.

Why we’re obsessed

Spekit is changing the way we train and enable employees by allowing them to learn at their own pace, track their progress, and reinforce learning in existing workflows. Co-Founders Melanie Fellay and Zari Zahra have created a much-needed modern way for companies to create consistent learning and training experiences – and savvy companies are here for it.   

Get involved

Utilize your digital companion to accelerate learning on the go! Check out Spekit and help your teams become more efficient.

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more on our website or by connecting with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

How do you build a thriving partner ecosystem?

I worked on the Salesforce AppExchange for almost 10 years, overseeing its growth into the tremendous partnership powerhouse it is today. It was a wild experience — one I’m very proud of — and years later I’m still peppered with questions on how we did it, what benefits we realized, what made it successful, and what challenges we faced along the way. Here are some of those answers. 

What is an ecosystem?

In enterprise SaaS technology, an ecosystem is a group of products that integrate and work well together. The products enhance one another, offering additional value to the end user. The parent companies are partners in a mutually beneficial relationship.

What are the benefits of building an ecosystem? 

Ecosystems signify that your company is on a solid growth trajectory. Done well, an ecosystem leads to additional revenue, product expansion, market expansion, and valuable partnerships. Ecosystem partnerships can also lead to acquisitions, additional funding, new partnerships, and a whole host of other things that make your company stronger. 

When should companies start thinking about partnerships and ecosystems? 

Immediately. Your company is probably in several partner relationships already, whether you know it or not, so it’s wise to put a strategy in place as soon as possible. Think about what value you’re looking to achieve, as well as what value you have to offer; then build a roadmap for how you see your partner relationships working in 1, 5, and 10 years. 

What type of a team do you need to build a partner ecosystem?

Team is a good word for it — because the day-to-day functionality of an ecosystem is often overlooked. It takes a *major* effort not only to build your ecosystem, but to keep it running smoothly. So it’s not just a product team, it’s not just a support team, and it’s not just a marketing team. You either need a super-person who can do all that stuff or a super-group of people. Very few companies think about building out the support function of an ecosystem because it sounds expensive, but it’s absolutely necessary.

What’s important to consider as teams think about partnerships and growth? 

Ecosystem partnerships are relationships that can really last, but it’s important to make sure you position your company in a way that you can pivot both how and when you need to. Just because a particular relationship works for you today doesn’t mean it will work for you in the future, so be careful to allow yourself the freedom to evolve. This can be as simple as added language in your contract, but it’s something to think about as you build a strategy. 

How should younger companies approach their partnership strategies?

One angle is to think about building a cluster. You can’t be partners with everyone, so think about a couple of apps that surround yours and make it a suite that becomes supremely powerful for the user; then build partnerships with them in a way that lifts all of you. It can’t always work that way, but that’s definitely a strategy smaller companies should consider — Who are the other two companies that make us a powerhouse cluster? 

How do you not pick favorites inside the ecosystem but still build growth?

This is tough. Once you’ve got options in your ecosystem, customers will start asking, “Which one should I get?” But you cannot make recommendations. Again, you are building a democracy in the middle of a kingdom — Yes, you have to accomplish your sales objectives, but it’s vital to remain impartial while doing so.

What’s one thing companies underplan for in an ecosystem?

Channel conflict. Companies building an ecosystem always think it’s never going to get “that bad” or cause channel problems, but issues will arise. What you’re building here is basically an indirect sales team or an indirect sales channel — so you need to consider the impact this will have on your direct sales team and how their incentives align.  

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more on our website or on Twitter and LinkedIn.