“How did they do that? How did they get there?” Companies succeed because of the people who run them – operating leaders who grow businesses to new heights and make decisions every day that can impact entire industries. Each month, our Operator Spotlight gives you the inside track from one of our incredible Operator LPs (Limited Partners) who are changing the game building and scaling some of the world’s most successful companies. Read on for lessons learned and mistakes made, perspectives from the top, practical advice, and ideas on what’s next.
This month we spoke with Dini Mehta, Chief Revenue Officer of people management software company Lattice, and now an Operating Partner here at Operator Collective as well. She’s passionate about building diverse teams and has tons of experience scaling go-to-market engines from Series A, all the way through the growth stage to unicorn+ status.
You just made an uncommon move, joining a VC (lucky us) as operating partner, while continuing on in a c-level operating role. What prompted you to make that change and how do you do it all?
DINI: Mallun! 🙂 In all seriousness — I have felt like an outsider most of my life, which has fueled a lot of my career decisions. For example, I’ve spent most of my career in tech sales and moved into people management to help others see sales as a viable career option. That drove me towards senior leadership, so I could reimagine how revenue orgs are built. Venture Capital has felt like a black box over the years. While I LOVE being an operator, I also get a lot of energy from working with founders and helping them scale companies! As I learned more about OpCo’s mission and the operating partner role, I knew I wanted in.
What kind of impact are you most excited to have at OpCo?
DINI: OpCo uniquely has the power to connect the best operators in Silicon Valley to passionate founders working towards a brighter future. I am excited to play a part in unlocking the collective magic of this community while also making the world of venture a bit more accessible to other operators like me!
You’ve rapidly moved up the revenue ranks within several hyper growth startups. As someone who’s teamed up with multiple tech founders along the way, what’s one piece of advice you’d share about the partnership between product development and go-to-market in a company’s early stages?
DINI: Prioritizing the right initiatives across the company and sequencing your GTM and technical team’s resources for sustainable growth. Typically when a company is in growth stage you are constantly building the plane as you fly it — scaling what’s working while laying the foundation for future bets (product, geo, vertical, segment) to stay in hyper growth year after year. A lot of companies tend to become siloed in their strategy and decisioning as they scale, leading to misaligned initiatives across departments. How, and when, you prioritize growth bets across GTM & Product can become your execution superpower.
What are a few critical elements to get rapid growth in a tough market to sell into like HR tech?
- The team you build is the company you build – hiring the right folks that are stage appropriate and making them successful is critical to build & stay in hyper growth, which should be the ultimate goal in the first 5-10 years of the business.
- Play the long game, stay focused on your mission & your customers – It’s easy to get distracted by what a competitor is doing, or by a huge contract that isn’t a great product fit today. Staying disciplined on your priorities, especially in the early days, will drive focus and improve your ability to execute effectively.
- Stay nimble – While you need to have a plan and stay focused, staying agile and making changes as things evolve is just as important, especially in a fast-moving market like HR tech.
You emphasize the importance of people over pipeline. Tell us about a time when you had to make that tradeoff. How did you influence other stakeholders to see the long game?
DINI: Two truths that help guide my decisions: 1) Everyone (even quota-carrying sales people) wants the same things out of work: community, growth and purpose. 2) If you take care of your people, your people will take care of your company. These are simple concepts to understand, but difficult to live up to.
One example where I faced the tradeoff was when we launched the quota relief program at Lattice in 2020. We had always offered unlimited PTO, but realized that quota-carrying AEs found it difficult to unplug and take advantage of our vacation policy. As a way to help folks take a real break from work and avoid burnout, we chose to give ramped AEs one month of quota relief every year. As a revenue leader with aggressive goals, taking ramped quota capacity off the field was an unorthodox move that technically sacrifices pipeline generation (for the relief months) to optimize for people’s well being. 12 months into this program, there has been no impact on performance and we’ve improved our team’s engagement levels. In fact, we’ve maintained less than 2% attrition rate as a department.
What was one of your first jobs and what’s one big lesson you learned?
DINI: I grew up in India and moved to the US at the age of 18 to go to the University of Kansas – Rock Chalk! My first job was working in a campus cafeteria kitchen. Spending 5 hours a day operating the fryer in the kitchen taught me the importance of hard work, and that showing up with a great attitude makes the biggest difference.
What’s your secret super power?
DINI: My ability to stay paranoid short-term while being fiercely optimistic long-term. As an immigrant that has moved countries, careers and industries, you learn to embrace uncertainty with optimism. A paranoid short-term lens has served me well in scaling companies.
What’s the best advice you’ve received – or given – about how to manage people?
DINI: Managing people is an art and a privilege that takes time to master. My 3 pieces of advice for new people managers:
- Meet people where they are, not where you want them to be.
- Coach people to their potential – especially for high performers.
- There are multiple paths to the same destination, and the best managers help their teams find the one that works best for them.