How Sales Leaders are Meeting the Challenge of COVID19 and Work-From-Home with Snowflake, Clari and SeekOut

(Photo Clockwise, Soma, Tony, Scott and Kevin)

In this environment, Sales and Go-to-Market (GTM) for enterprise companies has changed, sometimes drastically. What we do know is that in the work-from-home environment, tight coordination and focus is even more important in selling and GTM. We spoke with sales leaders representing early, mid and later stage enterprise SaaS startups late last week about how they dealt with the onset of Covid19 and what has emerged as some best practices. See the summary of this below and listen to the podcast for more details on how these companies are continuing to build their business.

We spoke with

  1. Focus on your customers. Connect personally with each and every one. Be transparent and think outside the box in how you can help them. Being clear that a current contract might not work for the company anymore and figuring out how to work with them regardless, creates loyalty and value in the relationship.
  2. Build your internal competency. Tight sales teamwork is required, and you need the regular check-ins with your team and across teams to ensure everyone is working on the right things for customers and pipeline. Develop a regular cadence when the whole team comes together and for lower level check-ins – don’t forget the starting or younger employees who might need more support.
  3. Create a classification system for customers and prospects, from those feeling headwinds to tailwinds and adjust your approach and message appropriately.
  4. Introduce price flexibility or financial flexibility for customers who are undergoing stress. Again, being honest and transparent about your situation and wanting to understand the customer helps move these conversations along.
  5. To continue to build the funnel, double down on direct marketing, digital events and being creative. One great example was from Clari, which holds many regional in person dinner or lunch events. They held it digitally and offered attendees a dinner delivery.


Good afternoon, everyone. We all know this, but we live in unprecedented times now. Whether you call it work from home or shelter in place or social distancing, the COVID-19 situation has had a tremendous amount of impact in all facets of life, including how companies market and sell to their customers. And today, I’m excited to have a handful of sales leaders from three different companies representing early stage, mid stage and later stage startups, to talk to us about how their sales and go to market efforts, as well as teams have had to change significantly to doing business effectively in this new environment. Please join me in welcoming Kevin Knieriem, Scott Gudmundson and Tony Jackson. Before we get started, can each of you take maybe a minute to introduce yourself and briefly talk about the company that you’re a part of and what business you’re in? And let’s start with the Kevin.

Great, thank you, Soma. And thanks for the opportunity to join this call. Kevin Knieriem, I’m the Chief Revenue Officer at Clari. For those of you that don’t know who we are what we do, we help companies provide revenue confidence, and we’re a platform that brings together all of their revenue constituents in a common place. We think of revenue truly as a process and not an outcome. And we provide the instrumentation for sales reps, sales managers, sales leaders, and any really revenue participant to run the business. Our solution quite honestly has allowed us to really navigate COVID-19, understand the impact of business understand where we need to lean in. And we’re working really hard to help our customers go through that same analysis of their business. Thank you, Soma.

Scott let’s go with you next.

Yeah, thank you for having me. So, I’m Scott Gudmundson, Head of Sales at We are a SaaS-based platform that helps recruiters and sourcers find hard to find and diverse talent. We’re really on the forefront of educating the HR space on a technology stack. And really how we can fit into that stack and help bring multiple pieces of product together to really find that diverse and hard to find talent. And today, I’m representing the small business side of the conversation. So, thank you.

Awesome. Yeah, thanks for having me, Soma. Tony Jackson, I’m a Seattle native. I spent my entire career in software sales. Half of that’s been at early stage startups. So, I have an appreciation for what’s going on there. The other half has been kind of the pre-IPO through IPO journeys at Tableau Software, MongoDB, and Snowflake. For those that aren’t familiar with snowflake, we effectively help organizations get value out of data through internal analytics, building data products, monetizing data with third parties. And we do that through a completely differentiated Cloud Data Platform. Our company has been around since 2012, products in market since 2015. And we’ve been dubbed the fastest growing enterprise SAS company in history. So really excited to talk through what some of that means in terms of navigating COVID.

Fantastic, great to have you all join us today. Just to get started, I thought it’d be great if you guys could take a couple of minutes and set some context. And when I say context, it’d be great if you can walk me through what happened in your teams and in your company. In the first few weeks of when stay at home or work from home happened. Okay, and Tony, do you want to continue with that?

Yeah, absolutely. It was a fun time, I guess we’ll say. So, context setting. I had a two-day QBR scheduled on March 16, and 17th. And it was pretty elaborate. So I had leaders from all across the company and all across the country flying in, we had a day at our office in Bellevue scheduled and we actually had a day of workshops at your office in Madrona scheduled and, the entire thing was designed to be, collaborative with a lot of hands on workshops, and team building exercises, and completely come out of this thing, you know, singing Kumbaya, and we’re ready to go March 4th for the year. March 2nd rolls around and we start, this thing’s picking up steam and we say, hey, asking, should we make travel optional? That was a hard decision, on March 2, right? We do that and, of course, and March 16th rolls around and everybody was at home by themselves. And so, when you say the word scramble, that’s exactly what it was to convert a lot of investment in terms of a two-day, well thought out agenda, and try to convert that into a one-day remote, and try to drive some of the same outcomes was an incredibly challenging. I would say, the things that worked well, I made my intentions clear in terms of what I wanted in terms of outcomes of highly collaborative and participatory. I was impressed at how my team leaned in. Katie Drucker from Madrona participated in the full day remotely, which I’m really appreciative of, and I told her after the fact, that she was the MVP of our QBR. Because she brought a lot of, I’d say, industry and market insights that really shaped the way that we were thinking about going to market in our region. And then on an account level really gave us that board executive viewpoint about how different organizations might be thinking about COVID impacting them. That was a transformational exercise and just all of the conversation around that really inspired us to say hey, how do we be on the right side of history and get out in front of this thing? So, we decided to roll out a two week program where each one of our reps would call every single one of their customers, every prospect that they had an open opportunity with, to show them that we care about them both as a person and about their company and to listen and to learn, and to try to take what we’re learning and come back. And both, at an individual account level, how do we help them outside the context of Snowflake? And then what learnings can we share among our team? I’ve just been blown away by the results of that, but for our team and the response from our customers.

Awesome. Scott or Kevin, do you guys want to add something to this?

Yeah, happy to go next. Our board meeting was March 5th, and that was the last day I traveled. Our CEO was such a hard charger. If you know him, he actually went to London the next week, and we were just trying to get him home and thankfully got back before they shut down travel. That next week for us was really the transition week to okay, are we ready to work virtually? Fortunately, we had a couple things right. We had the right instrumentation. So, the biggest challenge area for us really wasn’t the field sellers, it was our SDR team. We’re used to working in pods, used to working together and that camaraderie and now a lot of these folks were really young folks who in some cases, were still living at home with their families. They were transitioning to TV tables next to their bed in their in their bedrooms, right? And so, we made sure that they were ready and engaged, but more importantly, still had that camaraderie and social engagement. And I’ve got to hand it to my rev dev team, is what we call our inside team, that they really brought that together quickly. What we found was with a lot of our events being canceled, that we could still drive top of funnel remotely and we’ve been trying to have a lot of fun and learnings on how do you best conduct a remote meeting. And we actually just today or this morning rolled out an internal enablement and in selling guide to help us sell and make our meetings with our customers and our prospects super impactful. We’ve also tried interesting things with our prospects and our customers. More of this format of social engagement over Zoom. So, I think, learnings for all of us, I think the hardest part of it has been the end to end Zooms that are on all day. And being able to find the one or two minutes you need to transition from one meeting to the next. So interesting times we feel like we’re taking on the challenge and quite honestly trying to learn from it and become better remote sellers.

Yeah, I would echo what Kevin said there a little bit, I think the first couple of weeks right as this unfolded was just a frantic pace for everybody. You’re just constantly on back to back, Zoom meetings, not a lot of time to get to the things you really need to do attend to. And so, it’s been nice to see our team particularly, and we’re a smaller group of just 30 in the whole company so, it’s a little different than some of the others, but it’s been nice for us to settle into a nice pace. Similar to Kevin, we had a technology stack, we did 90% of our selling remote already. So, we’ve seen fairly little impact from that standpoint. I think the area that we really needed to double down, and focus was the team, and really making sure that the team was connecting regularly. We started off just being so frantic that some of the people kind of got left off on their own little island. And it became clear really quick that we needed to get the teams together. So I think one of the biggest changes we’ve seen, is both at a company level getting together on a weekly basis, but then individual teams making sure that they’re meeting even two or three times a week sharing best practices, because the one thing that seems to be evolving in this is that what we thought two weeks ago isn’t even the same now. And so, it’s this constant evolution of trying to stay on top of what is the latest moves, what’s happening and how do we adjust to that. But I will say our CEO did a great job when this rolled out of really focusing us on a growth mindset and saying, okay, as opposed to being victims in the situation, how do we go take advantage of what presents itself? And how can we continue to be successful even though times are going to be challenging for the next while?

Great, I thought I want to take a few minutes and talk about, what are you doing in this environment with your current customer base? Tony just mentioned that he instituted a two-week program, where every account rep reached out to both existing customers, as well as customers in the pipeline to show that, hey, we are here to support you through this. We care about you. I thought that was a great best practice that Tony and his team followed. But in general, how are you thinking about taking care of your existing customers because that, to me, looks like priority number one. And that means, what does your customer success team need to do differently in this current environment? And as a sales leader, how are you thinking about success for your team and for your customer success team in this regard? And have you changed what you’re expecting out of your customer success team in the process? Sort of a bunch of questions but all related to how you are working with your customer success team and your sales team in taking care of your current customers and keeping them happy and successful through this tough time.

Our number one goal as a company right now is protect the base right and to rally around our customers. And one of the things that myself and my CEO have been doing is reaching out to our peers, whether you’re a CEO, CFO, or Head of Sales, and actually walking them through how we are using our own solution not to turn this into a Clari commercial, but using our own solution to navigate COVID-19 and as part of that, we actually come out with a lot of learnings that we’ve been able to help our customers implement. We’ve also been doing things like revenue assessments and health checks for our customers and getting much more focused on them. We have a pretty big rev dev team or inside sales team as well. And as we did this analysis of our installed base and our prospects, we kind of categorize them into headwind or tailwind companies those that are either flourishing, surviving, or are in a challenge. And based on that, we’ve sort of reoriented our focus in our message into those three buckets and so we’ve redeployed some of our rev dev team against our customers to help them better utilize Clari so at the sales rep level, at the manager level, and so trying to get the entire company around this customer first, when you don’t need your full gamut of SDR’s out there just prospecting.

Yeah, I think I can piggyback on that, I think I’m seeing the same where I think there’re some clear winners and losers in terms of impact in at least the short term, and certainly probably beyond. But being able to identify and categorize which companies fall into which bucket, I think that informs your strategy on how you can help them, our expectations haven’t really changed. And for us, just for context, we don’t have a customer success team, all of that falls into the field sales organization. And, based on the way our business works, which is a utilization and consumption-based service, we’re always very closely aligned with our customers, but I would say the nuances and emphasis on things like overcoming what’s going to happen in every organization is scrutiny on spend, right? And so, we’re being even more proactive about having value engineering, business value realization type conversations and documentation and framework for our customers. One of the things that we’re seeing on both sides is the companies that are being impacted from a personnel perspective and having to undergo layoffs. We’re helpful to them by figuring out, can we help plug gaps for them, while they’re, being short staffed and trying to operate more efficiently? And can we help some of their people land within some of the customer base that is growing and is hiring. And so, we’re adding value to the customers that are growing by connecting them with top talent that now is available that that probably wouldn’t have otherwise been. So those are some of the things again, I think, from our perspective, that we’re just people first, I think, is kind of the way that we’re approaching those situations.

For us being in the hiring space, obviously, directly impacted pretty quick. We’ve had an opportunity to be able to work with customers on individual basis to put them on pause from their subscription standpoint, work with them around just payment options, and do all of those things that are the right thing to do right now. And we’ve had the luxury of having very deep relationships with our customers. And so, they’ve appreciated being able to come to us and just have very, fact-based conversations and outcomes that are working for both of us. So that’s one thing that I say has helped us. The other thing is, we’ve been fortunate enough to have a really solid customer advisory board. So, we’ve been able to rally them A. check in on them and how they’re doing but B. get their feedback on things that we can be doing to help their businesses. And that’s been pretty valuable for us and just knowing how to move forward.

Switching focus from protecting the base like you said, Kevin, to starting to think about, hey, how do you move customers through the pipeline? You’ve got each of you have a pipeline of customers in varying stages. What are you doing to be able to move your customers through the pipeline and getting them to be a paid customer and close a deal? How are you thinking about the mechanics of sort of closing a customer? And one important question in that regard is, how are you thinking about price? Or in other words, are you thinking about price as a lever? Because everybody is sort of thinking about budgets every is cost conscious today. Are you sort of saying, hey, let’s use price as the lever for the first year, or at least in the short term, and maybe worry about not the right phrase a year from now, but let’s focus on closing the customer and getting the deal done? I would love to hear some thoughts on that.

Yeah, happy having to go again on this one. So obviously, like other companies, we’ve experienced headwinds, right, we’ve had customers budgets freeze, or be put on hold for a while in deals slipped from our Q1 into our Q2. I’m assuming we’re all seeing very similar things. And what I’ve noticed, as well as a lot of companies are still going through their replanning process, which means they’re kind of in this pause mode. And so, as we’ve talked about earlier, as we started to categorize companies based on where they fit and the things that they’re experiencing. From there, we’ve looked at flexibility in some cases, we just want to help and so we’ve done what we consider revenue assessments where we’ve hooked up our solution to their Salesforce instance and have been able to drive insights right away so that they can inform the changes to their operating plan. In others we’ve done, let’s just call it financial flexibility, to allow them to start with us and flexibility through the first year, not necessarily price reductions, if you will, but more just sort of flexibility based on constraints that they have from a budget and an OpEx spend scenario. So, we’re, we’re treating them each uniquely because every company is different. We don’t have a, let’s say, a cookie cutter COVID-19 offer, but we are really trying to lead with that revenue confidence and help these companies navigate.

Yeah, I would, I would echo those sentiments, I think especially the piece that every customer is in a unique circumstance. And so being really flexible around, what does this customer need and putting first how do we add value for them is kind of the approach that we’ve taken. I’ll take a different lens on the question, Soma, which is the thing that I’ve noticed is it forces really tight sales execution. It reinforces all the discipline around doing the right things around qualification and really being dialed in on understanding, what are the challenges that this customer is going through? What is the business impact that’s available to them? And how can our solution help them and then being really proactive about articulating that, demonstrating that, getting hands on with the product. There’s no room for laziness during these times from a Field Sales execution perspective,

I would just say you both you both talked at this, being able to classify your pipeline into the heavily impacted, the lightly impacted, and being able to really get down on the deal by deal level for us has been very important. There’s always a lot of deals in the pipeline, but every quarter comes down to a handful of deals that are going to make it or break it. And we found, classifying those deals and really focusing on the ones that have potential is where we’ve seen success. I would also say that a lot of the early prospecting and selling couple weeks back was, hey, people now have time to look at technology. And that quickly burned out, right? That message, if I see that again, I think I might scream. But people do have time right now to evaluate their technology stacks, in whatever vertical, whatever space you’re playing in. And I think that’s a really strong message to go to executives with is to say, hey, while people have a little time to breathe right now evaluating your technology stack and, and how it’s being used is a strong conversation to have with folks to get their attention to get some mindshare and then to potentially see if then you can apply what Tony said and strong sales discipline to actually get a deal closed.

And we all know that, hey, sales techniques and sales approaches can vary depending on who are target customer bases. Sometimes we are targeting small and medium businesses, mid-market customers, enterprise customers, sometimes we are dealing with inbound leads, sometimes we are looking at outbound leads. And each of these things are has a unique flavor and unique nuance for how we think about go to market, or sales approach kind of thing. To the extent that this kind of thinking applies to your business or to the customers that you target, are there any best practices for how you deal with, say, SMB customer versus an enterprise customer in this situation, any sort of best practices or learnings to be had here?

I think I’ll take that here, just right out of the gate. The SMB space right now is really tough. They’re definitely tightened up on budgets and everything else. So, in that instance, you’ve really got to be looking for what is their use case and their need and if there’s a fit, then continuing the conversation, if not putting things on pause, I think is the right thing to do. And particularly prospecting thing into that group right now is tough. But in the enterprise, people are still buying people are still needing to do business. And there’s a lot of opportunity there. And what we’re seeing work is we’re having conversations in sales right now, which are much more genuine than they’ve ever been with customers. we’re much more open and transparent in our conversations. And people are seeing that. And it’s resonating, because we’re just having honest dialogue back and forth about what people’s needs are and how we can serve them. And I found that that that’s been a big help for our sales team is just being very genuine and open and building deep relationships. That’s leading to success.

Yeah, I would add that I’m seeing the same thing. And I think if that if that genuine approach, and that transparency is being reciprocated. And then I think the key is, at more of an organizational level, how quickly can we iterate and share feedback across the team. So, I think that’s the internal aspect, how do you create that collaborative environment is really important. We’ve moved to a cadence of Monday morning calls focused on topics around, some of the things that we’re learning in dealings with customers. And then bringing in the right subject matter experts potentially, to present to us on how we might be able to help our customers. And then we’ve moved to a cadence in terms of our one on one meetings where every alternate week we do one on ones on Monday, from an AE perspective, and then on the sales engineering side, our counterparts. And then on the alternating weeks, we actually come together two on two where it’s a sales engineering manager and myself with the AE and their sales engineering counterpart. And that’s actually been really helpful at keeping people focused on the right things. And then on Fridays, we actually get together and we just spend probably two or three minutes on each person. What did you accomplish this week? What’s something that you learned and what’s something you either want to learn, focus on, or get better at in the following week, and just creating that framework or foundation to allow for the team to operate as a team, versus a bunch of individuals operating out of their houses has been really, really helpful. And I’ve seen a ton of benefit from it.

Right? Hey Kevin, you guys, like pretty much every other company on the planet now has gone through a recent process of replanning and reforecasting for the rest of the year, given everything that’s changing around us kind of thing, right? In that context, how do you think about changing compensation targets for your sales people, whether you’re adjusting the sales quota, whether it’s up or down kind of thing, so that you’ve had the right balance between doing what you think is right for the sales teams to keep them motivated and performing well, while still keeping the right business outcome in mind so that you are not on one end of the spectrum or the other. Can you share some of your thinking on that?

Yeah, a couple of things on that. One of the things we did was we really kind of focused our sellers, those that are purely acquisition and those that are taking care of the customer. We didn’t have that model before. Obviously, with growth and complexity, you kind of go to that model. And so, we’ve just implemented that. I’ll look at it from two areas, for those that are account managers, one of the things we’re focusing on, is there an opportunity to renew customers early. And as part of renewing early, can you expand? Can you understand their business scenario, maybe get creative? So, we spent on early renewals, right, to try and get a quarter plus out ahead of those, right, to secure the business, right. And so, we can focus on driving value versus negotiating the different point in time, For our sellers and their quota, yes, we’ve made a reduction, not a drastic one. Some of you have seen some of the studies that are floating out around there, I assume what revenue collective put out, quota adjustments have been from zero to 50% or 60%. So, we didn’t ones across the board based on territories that were in line with some of the top line adjustments we made to our targets for the year. We used our own solutions to try and figure out what that should be based on where we were seeing those opportunities that were pushing where they were going to within the year. What we wanted to do most importantly, was to continue to motivate our sellers, to get to feel like they had a fighting chance. And quite honestly, some of the additional things we added in their plans were new logo, right? It is just as important as protecting and surrounding and bear hugging your customers is making sure that you continue to grow me continue to bring new logos into the family.

So, I take a bit of a different approach just because we’re smaller, right, but for us, going back and analyzing the assumptions we put into the comp plan to begin with and saying do those assumptions still hold or do we need to evaluate a changing landscape. And luckily for us, those assumptions are for the most part holding. So, we’re in a wait and see mode right now on quotas and we’re going to assess at the half year, take a look and kind of see how things are coming along. But I think the most important thing from my perspective is analyzing your assumptions. And if there’s major changes, then you’ve got to address it, or you will have morale trouble real quick.

Yeah, I think adversity is such a, it just reveals what your culture is, right? And for us, we were in a unique circumstance, in part based on the performance of the company. But the message from us has been, we think we can hit our plan, and we’re still marching towards that. But it hasn’t swung so far on the pendulum such there are a lot of companies that are saying that it appears tone deaf, right, Snowflake I think the history here is that we actually last year revised our plan mid-year, from a quota perspective, not the corporate perspective. And so, knowing that as the company was overachieving, but based on the fact that we resegmented our business mid-year last year, and the company did the right thing, has built a foundation of trust where people all feel really good about, hey, we can march forward. And we know that if this turns out to not be attainable, based on circumstances outside of our control, we have a belief that the company will do the right thing.

Got it. I want to switch to one question that came in from the audience. This is a question from Gabriel, for Scott. Scott, as you were talking about this is an opportunity or there’s a good opportunity where companies, particularly SMBs, or enterprise, or whoever you are starting to think about no technology stacks. As a way to sort of say, hey, things are changing, some things work. Some things don’t work. Let me sort of take a step back and think about what technology stack I have, or I don’t have an What do I need to do kind of thing. The question specifically is the following. Do you think that people are already evaluating their tech stacks because they want to find ways to cut costs, or what do you think is the reason why this is happening?

I think, just based on my experience in the limited number of customers I’ve spoken with, and there’s two camps, or people who are doing well, and now is a time for them to evaluate, how can we continue? And how do we shore that up? And then there’s the second camp, which is definitely. there are a lot of reactive companies that have instantly said we need to reduce spend by 40%. And so, we’re seeing people come back and say, okay, who are our more expensive vendors? What is our usage looking like? And they’re starting to make decisions based on those things. And so, we’ve talked about that a little bit as a group here today, but you got to shore up your customer base, for sure. And make sure usage is there, but more importantly, when you’re going after and having these conversations depending on your product and where you’re set in the marketplace there’s at least for us a great advantage to go get share from some of the bigger players that for years have been it price increases. And the value has gone down a bit. And so, we see it as an opportunity as people are evaluating tech stacks to really get in and display share from some of the bigger players in the space.

Got it! Thanks, Scott. Here’s another question from the audience. The question is this. We are getting a lot of sales email responses such as, let’s revisit post forward. How are you navigating those situations without pushing everything out? Kevin or Tony, do one of you want to start and try to answer this?

Part of it depends on the persona of the person. So, for instance, if the persona is a Head of Sales, or CRO which is our typical, executive buyer, or CFO, we might come back with something creative says let us realize your budget frozen, realize you see value in our solution. Let us get you on it now in a creative way. If the persona is a sales manager or an operations director who is just starting to look, we’ll keep them engaged, we’ll keep them educated. But we’ll come back and revisit when we can actually start a real process with them. I think we were finding in this world we’re all working at home. At least on our side, it’s much easier for us to set meetings and get time with people. And we continue to actually overachieve on our goals in setting what we call our RS zeros. So, we’re still doing really well in creating demand, and setting meetings and having those meetings happen. And then it’s sort of a way of qualifying is this an opportunity or is this something that we just want to continue to nurture?

Okay, Kevin, I have a sub question that is there a way where you got to think about changing your positioning or the value proposition to make it more resonating with people and They say they’re going to either wait for six months or whatever it is kind of thing, as opposed to, let’s engage now and continue the conversation. That kind of thing.

Yeah, I think, obviously our offering is actually vital instrumentation now. So, we do, we have sort of pivoted our messaging to confidence, revenue, confidence and instrumentation and being able to help a company navigate, what is the impact this is having on the business? And how to, especially in a mobile world, where everyone is working virtually, how do you help kind of drive a consistent sales methodology and process across your entire sales organization? We really help companies do that. And so, our teams have really been enabled to continue to drive that. And obviously, we leverage challenger as part of our selling methodology and to challenge the status quo and to end in a way that we’re teaching so we’ve pivoted from what would be considered a pitch deck to a teach deck and trying to help educate our potential customers that we can help them through this environment, and it’s resonating.

That’s great. So, let me go to the next question. And this is a question that I also had, so I’m going to sort of frame my question and then sort of go to the specific question from the audience. Prior to a month ago, or a month and a half ago we were always looking at, conferences and events and other kinds of sort of physical, get togethers as a way to reach out to customers to get leads to increase our leads to get more people to the top of the funnel, and all that fun stuff, right? That’s not happening now. So, to me, this feels like a phenomenal opportunity to say, how do I double down on what I call digital marketing? How are you thinking about doubling down on digital marketing in this current environment? And the specific question is, can you give some specific examples of how you are successfully generating leads, especially now with physical boundaries?

Yeah, I’ll take that one because one of the characteristics I would say about Snowflake in the past Soma, was that world class field marketing and that is that is central to our strategy with respect to top of funnel and influencing existing pipeline. Kevin mentioned earlier, his company being well set up and I think Scott agreed, well set up to support remote and we’re the same way, we practice what we preach as a company at Snowflake. So, we’re all in the cloud, we’re a data-oriented company. So, the pivot for us was really, really quick. And I’m just so appreciative, our entire field marketing effort. It probably took about a week to do a 180 and pivot to a virtual marketing team, and the amount of webinars that we’re doing and the thought that’s being put to behind those webinars and the ability to take our partner ecosystem and them in and let them draft off us and then attach to some of the things that they’re doing has been nothing short of remarkable from our perspective and all of the statements that were made earlier in terms of people being at home, being able to look at things like this, there’s more time people are in less meetings, all of our digital footprint is going up every single week, and is already at record highs.

I think I throw out a couple learnings just on the smaller end, we really quick realize we weren’t spending enough on digital. And as the landscape has changed, some parts of digital have come down in cost. Others have gone up 5x. If you’re not paying attention to on the digital side, what your costs are looking like and what the rest of the market is doing. You may be spending the same amount of dollars and not getting any return right now and wondering why and those are all things you’ve got to be on top of. The other thing I just throw out real quick is just I think companies that are going to succeed through this, at least in the short term, have good outbound emotions. It’s taking that control of your own destiny and being able to know who your ideal customer profiles are, and sitting back and saying, Hey, have those ideal customer profiles changed in the last two weeks, three weeks, and then being able to. proactively go get in front of those folks. And obviously, that’s more for the enterprise sale, but I just throw that out there that digital is important, but I think success comes without bounding.

Yeah, I think as a company, we really spent the last eight months before COVID-19 getting our top of funnel in order. We weren’t great at it before that. A lot of it was the right leadership, the right instrumentation. And so when this happened, obviously, like everyone else, we canceled all of our paid events, but we also had to cancel the events that we were doing and we do a lot of in city networking events where we bring sales operations and revenue leaders together in an online sessions like this where we share best practices and we talk. So, we continued that process virtually, where we have these regional virtual dinners. And we’ll actually send to those that are attending a way for them to either get food delivered or wine if it’s at night. And what we found is there great networking sessions and usually on them, I’ll have a couple customers who will comment, and I’ll have prospects and they’ll start actually selling and I’ll just take a backseat, those have been really effective for us. Our SDRs have gotten amazingly creative. They will share a rejection email with the team and that team will craft the response email together and that typically will get a person to react. So, I’m just I’m seeing unbelievable creativity coming out of our inside sales machine, which has been super important. I think one of the most important things that I think all of us can do as leaders for our sellers is, we’re now in a remote world and in a moment remote world, you now become more transparent. Right? We all now in front of each other on zoom, and having sellers, quite honestly who are open to being critiqued or open to being transparent on how effective they are. Are they making the calls? Are they having the meetings? I know I was one of those people, when I came to Starbucks, I had to transform I couldn’t hide. just behind the phone anymore. And so, if you can get your sellers to transform where they can now use data, and this, they’re going to become much better in this environment. The SDRs are now going through that process on our side.

Great. Thank you. And for the for the last question before we get into rapid mode. This is a question from Brad. Are you seeing projects that were classified as priority in normal times needing to be repositioned as lifeboat projects in COVID-19 times to achieve funding?

Do you want to take a crack at this?

Yeah, I would say pretty commonly, I’d say that’s a that’s a, maybe a daily occurrence in our world. So, yeah, absolutely, I think there’s everything is being reprioritized. So, things that were at the top of the list are now getting shuffled to, the middle or the bottom or uncertain. And then there are some things that were not even on the list that are now the top priority issue for our customers. And I think that just goes back to the key theme of being able to be intimate enough with your customers and your prospects to be able to have those conversations and stay close in terms of cadence and communication and understand where are things today versus yesterday or this week versus last week is the key there.

Well, I would just say that the one of the things that I think that we’ve seen important and I don’t know if this is going to directly answer the question or not, but getting close with the customer, both where they’re at so going to the communities that they’re in and listening to them, talk to their peers about what they’re experiencing, working with the channel partners to understand what they’re experiencing and what they’re going through, and taking all of these different data points into your decision making. And really getting frontline, I think that’s become much more imperative, at least for us than it was three, four weeks ago.

As part of wrapping this up, we’ve got about a minute or so to go. I thought I would summarize some of the key things that I heard in this conversation. And one of the things that you guys all have said consistently is, this is the time to strengthen your relationships with customers, or with existing customers to protect the base with pipeline customers and inside your own sales and customer relationship teams. My phrase is, you cannot overcommunicate in this environment. So please think about communicating whether to the customers or with your teams, as much as you can and need to. The second thing is customers appreciate transparency, honesty and going above and beyond to help them through this time, it’s all about engendering customer loyalty. And the more you learn, and the more customers love what you do for them, and that they will be with you for the long term. Third thing is, every customer and company has individual challenges. So, you have to be flexible, somebody mentioned, hey, it’s not a price reduction, but price flexibility. And I thought that was a fantastic way to think about, hey, what, what kind of things that we can be doing, or we should be doing to work with our customers in this tough situation. The other thing is be creative in how you work with customers, from helping them with internal insights, to helping laid-off employees land somewhere, and anything else that you think they’re facing as key challenges. And I think both Kevin and Tony mentioned this, one of the things that we do is, particularly for customers that are both existing customers, and also customers in the pipeline, categorizing them as customers who’re having tailwind and customers are having headwinds. And being able to both flexibly and creatively work with the customers depending on what situation they’re in. I thought that was a fantastic sort of piece of wisdom to keep in mind as we navigate through this. And finally, from an internal perspective, use this time to tighten teamwork, analyze internal sales assumptions. And as they are changing, because things are still changing and fluid, be ready to adjust them as and when you see changes as opposed to waiting until after the fact. These are what I thought were some of the key pieces of information that came out of this conversation. So, thank you all again. Thanks, Kevin. Thanks to Tony. And Thanks, Scott, for taking time out, and I know you guys are all busy, but. taking time out to be able to share your journey, your experiences and your learnings in terms of how go to market teams and sales teams are navigating through this tough situation. All of you be safe and take care.


Thank you for joining Founded and Funded. If you enjoyed this podcast, please like and share it with your friends. Please stay tuned for more podcasts to come your way and send us your ideas. We’re always looking for new content ideas, especially during this work from home and transition, we hope, back to the office and back to work period of time.

Helping to Build a Platform Connecting Candidates and Companies in a COVID-19 World – Silver Linings

Plan C Is a Silver Lining in Cloud City

A few months ago we all had a pretty good Plan A, and those of us feeling extra clever had a good Plan B in our collective back pockets.

And then COVID-19 hit. Things are crazy right now for companies and all the good people that make up those companies. Nothing could have prepared us for the fall-out, and all of our Plan A’s and B’s are suddenly woefully inadequate.

Here at Madrona we’ve been working non-stop to support our portfolio company CEOs and HR leaders as they deal with the landfall of new challenges COVID-19 is causing. But it’s not enough, and I’ve been exploring what our greater role can be.

As an HR and TA leader in tech, I’m familiar with the typical open source google sheets typically passed around to communicate talent availabilities and vacancies. We are seeing the start of a mass global talent layoff, coupled with companies that are hiring like crazy. The current system for sharing this is not COVID 19-scalable.

A week ago I created a small task force, and we set out to build a platform to replace the google sheets (like this one that would be 100% free to the global tech community.

Our mission: To help those affected get back to work as soon as possible.

The team:

  • Madrona Venture Group (myself, Shannon Anderson and Matt Witt)—Seattle’s largest technology startup investor and the producers of the Founded and Funded podcast.
  • Chris Brownridge—who’s been providentially working on exactly the platform we need as a passion project. His Silver Lining platform is like the ultimate matchmaking app between employees and employers and was ready for scaling up to global proportions.
  • Jennie Ellis at Bandwidth (—Seattle’s most popular recruiting and workforce planning partner for startups. Jennie and Jill (see below) have expertize building and scaling massive teams and have worked through corporate layoffs as HR leaders.
  • Jill Domanico at Skytap—which provides businesses with the capability to run traditional workloads in the public cloud.

Our Plan:

Scale the Silver Lining platform as a not-for-profit, targeted solution that connects candidates and companies. 100% free to everyone. It’s designed so everyone can contribute and benefit. Whether that’s a company forced into layoffs, laid-off employees with great skills, or companies that are hiring and desperately need talent right now.

Why a New Platform Now?

Those of us on our task force are really busy right now. COVID-19 has created more work for us, not less. But we’ve all built careers by focusing on integrity, compassion, and teamwork. And we couldn’t just look away while our friends, neighbors, and casual connections risk losing everything.

We’ve experienced the powerful impact of positive collaboration. We’re curious and persistent learners. And we all believe that Silver Lining is not only a great solution to today’s challenges, but the right thing to do for the sake of our colleagues, entrepreneurs, and country.

How Does it Work?

Companies Who Are Hiring: Use Silver Lining for free. Create a profile and source/contact candidates. Create free unlimited postings and perhaps donate a few dollars to support the effort. (Any extra proceeds will be donated to the WHO Covid-19 Response Fund.) The updated talent dashboard allows for candidate searches by last employee, last job title, location, and job function.

Companies Who Are Laying Off: Use Silver Lining to confidentially submit names and emails of those affected by lay-offs. Once the names are submitted, each candidate will receive an email inviting them to opt in or out. Free of charge. We also have a sample email you can access to forward on to candidates so they know someone has submitted their name.

Companies in Both Scenarios: Use Silver Lining to source/contact candidates and submit names of those being laid off.

Candidates Seeking Work: Submit your profile and preference and then search for jobs. Share your resume, LinkedIn profile, experience level, ideal company size, and desired industry all for free.

Is It Working?

Yes. Candidates are already being approached for work they otherwise wouldn’t have heard of. Employers are discovering incredible talent with immediate availability and are actively interviewing.

We are initially focusing on the Seattle area, with expansions to all US based technology hubs and globally over the next week. Here’s where we’re at:

  • Nearly 2,000 active profiles from companies such as Sonder, Zipcar, Expedia, Bird, and Lyric, and these numbers are growing substantially by the day
  • Companies forced to lay off are submitting their employees to the platform and making a donation to support the service. (Remember, employees opt in before any information is shared on the site)
  • 140 companies have signed on to sourced and reach out to candidates
  • Over 500 live job posts from companies hiring

Are We Done?

No way! As we continue to develop Silver Lining, we are looking at other supportive initiatives for the community, in particular around career coaching, resume writing, and emotional support.

If you are interested in helping out, please contact [email protected].

If you’ve been affected by a layoff (as an employee or a company), check Silver Lining out here. Silver Lining will remain 100% free to use for candidates and employers.








Founded and Funded – Building a Distributed Workforce with Those Who Have Done It

What a change we have all experienced in these last few weeks. Everything has been shifting at an incredibly rapid pace and we have all had to adjust both our personal and professional lives. For those of us that can, we are primarily working at home, amongst our dogs, children and family. We have become very familiar with Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, Bluejeans, etc as we toggle between them. But is it working? Most likely, some things are and something aren’t, as we adjust to this new cadence

Recently, we were able to get a great group together to talk best practices in working and managing remotely. We had Carlos Vega, CEO of Tesorio, Barry Wark, CEO of Ovation and Kara Hamilton, Chief People and Cultural officer of Smartsheet. Together they talked about the challenges of keeping things on track in a remote environment. With big company goals, how do we ensure we are all marching towards them during this disruptive time? How do we help our teams be productive and effective? What tools have been most helpful? We turned this conversation into a pubic podcast which you can listen to below my summary of the recommendations.

The conversation was kicked off with the topic of the cadence of meetings and work – have they changed as we have transitioned from being physically together verses in our remote locations? Overall, the need for schedule and ‘showing up’ was emphasized, but this was combined with the understanding that this is an unusual time. Due to kids being home and schedules being disrupted, the group emphasized the need to have great trust in your team – not to micro-manage. But some specific tips that seem to help the day be more effective were:

  1. In the morning, act as if you are going to the office. Wear office appropriate attire, shower, get your coffee, etc. Have a concrete start to the day.
  2. For meetings turn your video on. It is important to see facial expressions and be present when a meeting is happening.
  3. Have a coffee or lunch virtually with a team member. By not being together in the office there are casual interactions that are missed.
  4. As a leader, have a standing time where you are on your video conferencing for a few hours and folks can ‘drop’ in.
  5. At the end of the day, have a transition. It used to be a commute – now maybe it is a walk outside.
  6. Create time in your calendar for thinking time. Block out time with no video meetings or other digital distractions

We also discussed the importance of tools that have been effective. What came out the most was regardless of the tool, the need for documentation was critically important. It is easier to have misunderstandings when virtual, so writing down everything from process to a decision is imperative. In regards to tools to enable all of that:

  1. Video Conferencing – Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google hangouts
  2. Collaboration – Slack, Smartsheet, Confluence, Notion
  3. Fun! – Donut (nudges different employees to meet each other)

Culture and Hiring is more challenging when working remotely. While we all work on culture even when we are together, much of it happens just through be present with each other and modeling it. This is much tougher in a digital environment. Some suggestions were

  1. Again – write it down! The values and goals to help communicate culture
  2. Remember you are still leading and living them by example even virtually.
  3. When not in a Covid crisis, bringing the company together multiple times a year is critical.
  4. If you feel you should get on a plane (not in this crisis period!) don’t hesitate – do it!
  5. Hiring – the job spec really to be written down and fully agreed to. Then in the virtual interview be more specific about what each person is interviewing for.
  6. OnBoarding – ensure that the new hires first day and week are full of intro meetings, virtual lunches. Also, sending swag or a care package that first week to the employee goes a long way.

Managing through this period is bringing new challenges to all of us. Clearly, just adjusting to the new economic environment and the health of our people are the first things to address. Hopefully the ideas above can help us handle them in a more constructive and productive way.


Hope Cochran

So guys, thanks for joining. And you know, clearly we’ve all had dramatic changes in our life changes that we could have never ever predicted. I was just on a call with another CEO. And we were just commenting on the fact that we do a lot of scenario planning, but this is one we could have never drummed up in our imaginations. So here we are. And it’s been major changes to both our personal and our professional lives. And you all have the difficult task of driving companies that are supposedly growing quickly and have big goals and ambitious deadlines. And so how do we keep those on track during this time? Now, I brought together three panelists who have dealt with this before this period, meaning working with remote workforces. And so we thought we could pull us all together I’ll talk about some best practices as to what we found to be effective during this period and building things from the ground up in this way. So we’ve got Barry Wark from Ovation on with us, Carlos Vega from Tesorio, on with us and Kara Hamilton from Smartsheet. And so I’ll just let them kick it off by introducing themselves and talking about how they built their companies. With this distributed workforce in mind from the ground up. Carlos, you want to kick it off?


Carlos Vega

Certainly, thank you for having us.


Carlos Vega

So, Carlos Vega, co founder and CEO of Tesorio. We’re a Series A stage company, Madrona letter A. And we’re very lucky to work with folks like Hope. And so our company you know, I’m originally from Panama. Probably not in San Francisco, I’m in Panama right now just don’t have a pretty Panama background. And my wife’s also from Panama. So I always knew that we would eventually move back. And so we started our company to be distributed. And so we are today based in have an office in Burlingame in the Bay Area. But we only have about eight or nine of our 31 employees there. Everyone else is distributed across the United States. And then we also have people in Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, and Uruguay and in Panama, so it’s a it’s been an exciting ride. I guess the one thing I’d say is that we have to be, you know, deliberate about how we do things more than they would happen if everyone was face to face. And yeah, and company background. In case you’re wondering, what we do is we help companies manage their cash flow actually. So manage their accounts receivable. Time their accounts payable strategically out so the high party vendors are getting paid that sort of thing. It’s a good time right now to be doing those things so I’m we’re trying to do it ourselves and eat our own dog food. So happy to be here and thanks for having me, Hope.


Hope Cochran

Yeah, I you know cash right now is King and I know that there was a webinar last week on that very topic. Carlos your product is right in the sweet spot of it so I’m sure it’s getting used widely and deeply by your customers at this moment. Carlos, can you just remind us how many employees Tesorio has currently?


Carlos Vega

Yes, we have 31 full time employees. We have also five contractors in Brazil and five contractors in Argentina as well.

Barry Wark

Thanks. Well, it’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you for inviting me. I’m Barry Wark. I’m the co-founder and CEO of Ovation. We’re a Series A clinical informatics company.


We’ve got 35 people now in 12 states and a dev team in Paraguay as well. And we, we operate in a very specific vertical, clinical diagnostic labs. There are some amazing world experts in this field in the US, but they’re not all in one place. And so we built ovation from the ground up as a distributed company, knowing that we were going to have to recruit that domain expertise, wherever it was. And we built some of that muscle originally. And it’s now I think, serving us pretty well.


Hope Cochran

Yeah. Are you is your company at all involved in helping out with the virus right now? Barry?


Barry Wark

Yeah, we’ve had a busy week. Yeah, we’ve got a number of labs that should be coming on this weekend with testing. We’re hoping to make a significant impact in the US testing capacity probably early next week.


Hope Cochran

That would be very well received. Thank you for that work. And how many employees are you currently?


Barry Wark

We’re currently 35 people


Hope Cochran

So Kara, you’re in a bit of a different stage with Smartsheet at but clearly very distributed as well as you guys build a product that helps distributed work. And just so the group knows Perez, the chief people officer and head of culture there at Smartsheet, which I think is definitely important aspect to this conversation.

Thank you Hope. Thanks. Thanks. Hello, everybody. Yes, I am the chief people and culture officer for Smartsheet. And we do provide a collaborative work management platform. So we are in the collaboration space, trying to best practice really with our own workforce. We have grown we are publicly traded now. We’ve grown from 30 people to 1600 in less than eight years, and Madrona was our first VC partner. So part of the family here. We have those 1600 employees are across Bellevue, Boston, Edinburgh, London and Sydney. And I would say we’ve grown from a very in office local to now a global company. And it’s the work has been. There’s technology work to do and tooling. And there’s also like a cultural, I think Barry mentioned this intention. And so I think they’re both equally important. growing into that.


Hope Cochran

So, yeah, that’ll be good to talk about. And let’s kick it off with just talking about what is the cadence of work, meaning, you know, when you come into an office, there’s kind of standard norms, you come in in the morning and you leave in the evening, whatever that looks like. How is that different in a virtual setting? Whoever wants to take it away.


Carlos Vega

Yeah, I’m happy to start unrelated to work it starts like with yourself Actually, I’m not all combed and shaved just because of this webinar. I actually do follow that routine as if I were going to the office. You know, I think people think remote work is great, I get to work in my PJs, but that there’s something like psychological about just preparing yourself and think you’re to work. So that’s, that’s pretty important the morning routine, and the other one which often gets forgotten, and I’m not good at it. But probably most co founders on this on this line are not going to do either is unplugging at the end of the day. You know, I can share what our teammates do.


Hope Cochran

I really struggle with that.


Carlos Vega

Yeah, yeah, I’m not I’m not the best example for that. But you know, our teammates Do you know, go for a walk or go for a run at the end of the day to simulate the commute, if you will, or you know, people just very explicitly changed our slack status or something like that. So yeah, so on that end, right? That’s a little bit on the personal side. And then on the work side, I think it all starts with a culture of trust, which is something we can talk about later. But that’s that’s the bit that creeps in the back of your mind like I was previously an investment banker. And at Lazard it’s all about FaceTime not the app, but you better be at your desk, you know, leaning forward with like, madly typing away in Excel all day and if the MD walks by and doesn’t see you there, you’re not working, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing. And so I’m not saying that’s exactly how I manage but, but that’s one of those things that really going completely on the other end is critical, which is making sure you trust your team otherwise you end up micromanaging so we can talk about that later, I’m sure. But over to someone else.


Hope Cochran

Barry What have you found similar? Yeah. Oh,


Kara Hamilton

I was just gonna say I think the culture of trust is so important and also a mutual understanding of priorities so that we’re all working on the right things. We have a lot of people leaders at Smartsheet that have employees on their team across many time zones. So also being intentional about when we’re going to check in so that people in all areas are feeling like they’re connecting during their work day. And I think that takes a lot of flexibility and intention from people leaders, to really set their teams up for that kind of healthy connection.


Barry Wark

Yeah, I think that I think that’s a really good jumping off point. We think a lot about trying to design our interactions and our work environment to leverage what’s great about distributed teams, but also substitute for what is lost when you’re not all in an office together. So one of the things that we find is we somewhat select in some cases for people who want to work from home because they have a child or a parent or some other dependent, that they are responsible for at, you know, odd times of the day. And that work from home schedule allows them to contribute, and, and maintain those other responsibilities. And so, you know, we don’t have a, you know, if you’re sitting at your desk 8am to 5pm kind of approach. It’s very much a, like I said, you have to trust people to be doing their work. And then we have intentionally scheduled sync up points, right, like standups or meetings. And, and, and on the flip side, trying not to spend all of our day on zoom in meetings, right? Something that we often rely on in office environments is we can have a coordination meeting, and then you get, you know, diffusion of knowledge from that meeting, just by people sort of walking around and talking to each other. You don’t get that in a distributed environment. And so we have to design for communicating what happens in those meetings without having to have you know, 1000 one-on-ones to train for that knowledge, and I’d say the last part of cadence that we think a little bit about is when are we actually going to meet up together in person. So we are very intentional about currently Ovation does three, all hands meetings a year, we do it in a location. And it’s, although there’s a little bit of business it’s very intentionally, mostly social and getting to know each other. And part of what Carlos was talking about trust is really hard to build over Slack and Zoom. It’s much easier to build in person, and then transfer that to the distributed environment.


Hope Cochran

Yeah, so you’re saying like three meetings a year or gathering zero of the company, Carlos, I feel like you’ve done a similar type pattern.


Carlos Vega

Yeah, that’s accurate. Yeah. So what we try to do at least one annual like everyone gets together, but then the different managers have the freedom to basically create all sides for specific purposes, right? So we have a pretty big project we’re working on with folks in different countries and different teams all together. So we all went to Nashville, right? Which was fun, but the point is really all coming together can really there are certain things which to be honest, are just better done in person. And coordinating those big projects and the timelines and hammering out the details. Sometimes is better to just bring together and so some of that budget from the bigger offices can be dedicated for people to selectively use and that’s part of that trust factor right? Like if a manager of a team or product owner initiative owner is saying like, Look, I think we need to do this and they have a strong argument for it and then going for it is something that’s powerful.


Hope Cochran

Yeah. So, Barry you touched on it briefly, but I thought we could dive more into it that kind of meeting cadences meaning, like meeting with your direct team, like do you have regular times that you try and coordinate every week? Or how do you approach that?


Barry Wark 13:30

So I personally do scheduled one on ones with all of my team. Again, because we don’t have that sort of passing in the hall interactions always. Most of our teams do team stand ups and then you know, scheduled one on ones. But we also have started doing we call them random coffees, and we, you know, spin a wheel each weekend and assign people to find some time just to sit down over zoom or or chat or something and have a coffee. And what we found is that that feels like


Barry Wark 14:11

it may be taking time that you’d want to be doing something else. What we found is that it’s actually reduced the number of meetings we have, by more than the total number of minutes that people are spending and I’m just because we get a little bit of that, that diffusion and synchronization of what’s going on in people’s lives that way.


Hope Cochran14:29

Got it. Um, so, yeah,


Carlos Vega14:35

I know you have a section on tools later.


Hope Cochran 14:37

Yeah, we’re just heading into that. So good segue.


Carlos Vega 14:39

Okay, I was just gonna share what Barry just shared is something that one of our engineers suggested too and Barry I’ll admit, I was also like, do we really need to do this like I think we could be doing other work so congrats on the foresight, but one of our engineers implemented a tool called donut which is kind of cool. And here’s a screenshot. It just basically automatically pairs people and you can opt into it. You just put it in slack. And they’ll automatically start pairing different random conversations automatically ask you like a cheeky question to icebreaker. And we’ll create the calendar invite and allow you ought to just connect. So a virtual way of doing what Barry had the foresight to do.


Hope Cochran 15:23

That’s interesting. So it’s kind of creating unlikely pairs and relationships that maybe you would have developed in the office because you ran into them. And yet, it’s, it’s giving you that nudge. Right. Yeah. So let’s talk about tools. Kara, let you pick it up, and what tools have you found effective prior to this time, and during this time


Kara Hamilton

Yeah, I think we have an approach of kind of a host of tools, looking at different teams, utilizing different things. So Zoom, absolutely, we’ve been able to use zoom to have very large and have meetings like this where you can almost do a town hall. And that feels really good. And we get a lot of participation. Sometimes I think we get more participation than a big in person meeting because it’s almost leveled. everyone is on the same plane. We Slack, we use workplace for internal comms and that provides a lot of area to socialize online. And Smartsheet of course, and then Google Chat. I think I’m between like Google Video and zoom, like back and forth throughout the day for different applications.


Hope Cochran 16:35

Okay, you have to tell us like the best use of Smartsheet during this time, as well.


Kara Hamilton

The best use of Smartsheet during this particular time is we have a we have a dashboard for our Covid-19 preparedness and so we’re able to keep that updated for our employee base so they can see what each offices we’re now all on complete work from home but as you we were working through this different offices. We’re in different statuses and then lots of links and information and intake if you had something to tell us about what was going on with you, that actually that whole kit is available to any of our customers and free to anybody who was in trial. So that’s like our one of our uses right now. That is been really, really helpful to us. And then just the general collaboration and sharing that we that we’ve always utilized. Smartsheet for.


Hope Cochran 17:37

That’s great. Barry, what have you guys utilized?


Barry Wark 17:39

So I think actually, our most important tool is just an attitude around written documentation. So we’re going to talk about culture I know. But but in a distributed team against it without that office diffusion, written documentation of what’s been decided and why so that people who are working independently can act independently sort of in the, in the right direction, we found has been really critical. Most of our team failure is centered around lack of documentation. So we use Confluence currently for that. But I think that it is just the attitude that meeting notes, get documented decisions get documented plans get documented. And, again, I think like these random coffee meetings, I feels like a big burden. But it ends up saving us a lot of time in the in the end. We’re also big zoom users and slack as well. So I think I think that’s kind of baseline now even in office companies. Yeah. in office teams.


Hope Cochran 18:44

So yeah, you referenced this rigor around writing everything down. I think that’s really interesting. Did you start that from the beginning?


Barry Wark 18:54

No, we didn’t. (laughing) But we had a couple of great conversations with distributed teams that were a little bit farther down the road from us. And one of the things that they told us was, by the time they hit, actually now the stage that we’re at, they didn’t have a lot of that, that documentation sort of hygiene in place. And it really ended up being a drag on their team’s ability to execute. So we got we got serious about that, I think in time, and it’s now it’s now one of the sort of driving forces of a lot of our rules of engagement and how we, how we document what we’re doing. We’re not perfect at it yet, but we’re working on it.


Hope Cochran 19:36

Yeah. Carlos, I feel like you guys have that rigor as well.


Carlos Vega 19:41

Yeah, just echoing with what Barry shared about writing everything down. So we use an app called notion, which we all joke around that my co-founder and he’s a CTO, that he’s a angel investor, because if he sees anything that is, sounds like a process, he will immediately ping you on slack and say you should put that in notion. And so this has basically everything right? It’s got home with like the Quick Links for everything related to, you know, quick resource things that the team might want. But everything you can see over here, I don’t think I can zoom in. But on the left, we’ve been organizing, keeping through everything, everything from sock to processes. Now we’ve got a founders only folder for ourselves, like the different payroll process, employee onboarding, and off boarding, like everything’s on there. And it’s kind of cool. It gets managed, like a little Asana chart or Kanban style for the different proxies. You can choose different things that you do. And then we also just, it’s pretty straightforward. Just have a Google Sheet with all the key initiatives. And then every week when we meet, you know, everyone has the initiative. We have a weekly meeting of the initiative owners every Monday. They go through and they update the status on things and we go through and update, you know, whether something’s been, you know, backlog completed, etc. And this just helps us track like how things are going and what’s what’s, you know how things are progressing that, that we borrowed from a book called The Great CEO Within, which is, you know, a lot of you probably got a Google Doc for it. It’s a good one that was pretty valuable. So yeah, those are two of the main tools, other things, just like, you know, little rules around the tools also matter, right. So in Slack really enforcing people to use group chats instead of going direct, right, actually threading in in Slack, instead of having a massive conversation in the group channel. Always having your video on during a meeting is also really something is pretty relevant. And then establishing rules about when to use Slack when we use email, when you text, when to call. That’s also pretty valuable. And to Barry’s point earlier, like, we reached out also to folks like, like the CFO, CEO of Automatic is their customer and he’s become a good friend. They’re very distributed. And so he told me, basically write everything down everything that you think you kind of logically understand. make it explicit. And so that, that summarize everything. It’s make everything that’s implicit, explicit, and just keep that in your brain and just do that, but that they’ll have the outputs.


Hope Cochran 22:38

For Notion Carlos is that a, like an enterprise license that you pay, or


Carlos Vega 22:45

I don’t remember, it’s not that expensive. It’s, uh, yeah, it was, I think, I don’t remember honestly. We set it up. It wasn’t like a big decision at all.


Hope Cochran 22:54

Yeah. And then the other thing you mentioned, which I know is just a little point, but I’m just always do video when you’re doing these chats. I have found in the past week, I’m so much more present when my videos on. I wish I had the discipline to be as present when it’s off, but somehow I’m finding that when it’s on, it’s a lot more effective. And so as long as I’m not fighting for bandwidth with my teenagers um, let’s switch over to culture. And you know, there’s there’s the logistical aspect of this. And then there’s the cultural aspect. Yeah, Barry…


Barry Wark 23:30

Kind of one more thing just on tools that I think we didn’t mention. Not super applicable at the moment. But I think one of the important tools for distributed teams are airplanes. We have the now written rule that if you think you maybe should just get on an airplane and go sit and talk with someone, you should already be on the airplane. And what we found is that that breaks down a lot of the barriers that were you know, people are confused over Slack. For a long time, when they could have just sat down and talked about it, we don’t get that in this moment. And it’s definitely something that we’re starting to solve for now, but it’s a tool to have in your tool belt once once it comes back.


Hope Cochran 24:13

Very good. On the cultural and hiring like the HR side, we’ve got the logistics, of recruiting, hiring Clearly, we don’t want to be slowing down that process as talent is so key to us. And then also just how do you instill your culture throughout the company? So to kind of two legs to this topic, and let’s just take the tactical first care I’d love your thoughts on you know, how do you do recruiting? How do you do onboarding? I’m here during this time when we’re outside of our normal habits.


Kara Hamilton 24:48

Yes, during this time, we have for the past, I think three weeks, we moved all of our interview loops to video and we made a very intentional decision to move everything to video because we didn’t want to introduce bias of people who were this were these were the days where we’re still accepting visitors of the office with you know, health screening questions and we didn’t want people to feel like they didn’t have that they were putting themselves at a disadvantage. So we moved everything to video, it’s gone surprisingly well, we have we arm our candidates with some tips and tricks for video we asked them to practice we have recruiting coordinators that are able to like what I mean is practice the technology to so they can feel comfortable that they’re going to get it right the first time because it’s so nerve wracking, right or you’re already coming in and trying to present your best self and then if you get flustered over technology that can feel really bad onboarding where we have been very much, you know, that’s our touch point with people I can’t say enough about the airplanes and the in person meetings that provides such a great foundation to then build your district distributed relationships on. So onboarding has always been a time where we welcome people to the office, we have new employee orientations. In each office, we’ve gone completely virtual, we’re shipping laptops. And we are doing video calls to do HR onboarding, as well as it onboarding. And then we have sets of videos, I think we’ll do our first set of live new employee orientations. with senior team like every month, I do a half hour talk with all new employees who’ve on boarded in the last month. And so we’re going to start doing that more virtually than we ever have before. So it’s really just can we, I think we, we learned that we can do it. And I’ve gotten feedback from people who’ve been hired in the last few weeks and they’ve I think they see the intent wholly, you know, so that’s appreciated that they were still able to start on time and that we’re definitely doing our best and we’re learning as well. We go, but it’s been positive.


Hope Cochran27:02

That’s great. And Barry and Carlos, you guys actively hiring and is it been awkward during this time or since you have set up this way already? Just continue as normal? And what does normal look like for you?


Barry Wark. 27:16

So we are we are still actively hiring. We did have at least some of our interview loops through Zoom already. Because our leadership team is distributed. And our team leaders are distributed. Everyone was always talking to at least a couple of folks on zoom. It has been there’s no question that having someone in person is a way to connect with them on a sort of non you know, not on the resume but just with them as a person. And we’re definitely still challenged to do that purely over zoom.


Hope Cochran 28:33

Carlos, you have a very rigorous like process before you start hiring.


Carlos Vega 28:41


Hope Cochran 28:42

I think that’s interesting.


Carlos Vega 28:44

Yeah. It’s, uh, yeah, it’s, it’s, uh, I guess it came from Mike Maples at Floodgate and it’s pretty basic on paper, but it’s like takes about an hour and it really helps out and yeah, it feeds into like one of the points I was gonna make hope Yes. Thanks for bringing that up is like, what we found is to just be really rigorous about the role. And then how you validate that the person fits that description, just by having a lot written down and making sure that everyone’s aligned who is going to interview right. And so my mic, called it a hiring kickoff. And basically, you go through. First off, you define who the hiring committee is for that role. And then you schedule an hour-long call with that hiring committee. And you all work through two sets of questions. The first set is, you know, what are we expect this person to do and what could they be prepared for not doing? And that second part of that question, just kind of, I don’t know, it leads to a lot of passionate conversation, which is really interesting. And it’s mind blowing like, 100% of the time, like, I think we’re super clear on the type of marketing person that the company needs at our stage, given what we’re trying to accomplish and trying to create a category and do all that. And everyone shows up with a different, completely different perspective, that if we hadn’t done that, we would have been trying to hire the wrong like each person, we try and hire someone. Right? And then the second part is, how do you validate that the person meets these criteria? And what types of questions are you going to ask like to confirm that? Right? And that’s where we think about the questions and the exercises and things like that.


Hope Cochran 30:33

And I think as you’re hiring in a distributed environment, having this definition becomes so much more important. I do want to we got a question on q&a that I think fits in well here on this topic, which I think is interesting just about you know, maybe if during this specific time care, maybe you can jump in what are we allowing employees to expense and how are we handling their kind of at home stuff.


Kara Hamilton 31:00

So we have so what we’re allowing right now as we sent people home is the allowance for monitors because I feel that I mean, I know my first few days fully at home, being on my laptop was just exhausting between being on video and trying to work and collaborate. So monitors I think are like an instant productivity hit and my neck felt much better as well. So having my key like so little items like that, but as we are in a standard like in in our normal practice, if we have someone that is fully remote at home, which we have about 150 employees that are working, what we call in the field, we provide up to $700 allowance for them to set up whatever they need for their office that might be a chair, it might be a standing desk if that’s what they prefer. So it’s really up to them on what they need beyond the current technology that we provide. And we’re exploring a few other things. But right now we’re just on monitors and our IT team is pretty stocked with external keyboards and mice and everything else, you might need extra power cords. I think it’s all the little things that once you get set up, you can feel a little bit more productive. So we’re still exploring it.


Hope Cochran 32:28

Yeah, that’s great. Barry, you’d mentioned you know, get on a plane anytime you can. Clearly right now, we’re not getting on planes. But what are some of the ongoing expenses that you say, this is fine.


Barry Wark 32:38

That’s a great question. So we have actually, in in sort of normal mode. We do have folks working in offices and we do have folks working truly from home. The folks that are, you know, in the field working from home, one of the things that we pay attention to is like internet bandwidth and You know, when we, when we sent folks home this past week, anyone that didn’t have enough Internet bandwidth to make zoom work effectively. We just, we just paid for it.


Barry Wark 33:21

And, you know, I think the question of, you know, what do people expense at home versus at an office? we’ve we’ve been lucky so far. And admittedly, we’re not a huge company yet, in head count. We’ve been lucky that the people on our team have been pretty, pretty, pretty conscientious of what would I be spending in an office that the office would be providing versus what do I have at home? And and we assume that we’re spending about the same amount on people, whether they’re in an office or in their own home. So if we’re, you know, eating snacks or food or something for an office would do the same thing for folks at home.


Hope Cochran 33:57

Do they expense it or do you give them some sort of allowance?


Barry Wark 34:00

We’re still letting them expense it again because we’re small enough that you know we can see what’s going on before it gets out of hand. Yeah and we’ve got reliable people maybe this speaks I think back to Chris’s idea of you know trust in a distributed team is pretty crucial give people the guidelines and assume that they’re gonna operate within those guidelines.


Barry Wark 34:21

I see psi Kara smiling, it’s probably we’re probably going down a different road eventually here.


Kara Hamilton 34:28

It is a show of trust and we are not doing that.


Kara Hamilton 34:33

So I’m torn in my own head of like, okay, should we be doing that we do send care packages to our field employees every once in a while. So because they do miss out on little like swag that we might pass out in the office. We always make sure to mail anything like that to our field employees, but I have not we’re I don’t think the CFO and really allow us to have a snack budget for them.


Hope Cochran 35:00

I know Jenny and I would agree.


Kara Hamilton 35:02

It was a no go. But I’m gonna do more care packages because that’s in my control. So,


Hope Cochran 35:09

Carlos, are you doing anything for your employees?


Carlos Vega 35:13

Yeah, so we give them two options when they start. And we can either so first off, we give everyone laptops when they start, right, that’s something we, you know, at our stage, you know, we weren’t doing till we were about 15 people, but then we decided that that it was important. So that’s not part of this but we also give people $1,000 budget to build a home office. If they’re going to build from work from home they can expense whatever they want, you know, keep horse monitors desk chairs, whatever. And the funny part is, you know, by adding the thousand bucks you know, there’s a cap but man people buy some pretty expensive chairs is what I’ve noticed. It’s kind of it’s kind of wild. But um, but yeah, then then we if you’re not going to work from home, we also give you We pay up to $400 a month of co-working space that the company will cover for you. And most almost all of them are below that. And then that that co working space budget also comes with a $400 kind of budget to buy some equipment. If you’re working from home or benchmark on bigger companies, what automatic does is they give you a, I think they upped it to either $2,500 or $5,000 for your home office, and they also automatically update your laptop every six years. Right? That’s something else they do. And the chair and the desk are not part of that $2,500 budget. Those are must haves. And so that’s on top of that, and you can spend whatever you want on the chair and the desk, which again, I didn’t know it was such a thing but engineers and you know, mechanical keyboards really cool chairs and really good desks. It is a it’s a thing.


Hope Cochran 37:03

Okay. Let’s talk about culture. How do we establish and maintain our culture when we’ve got people working in all different locations? Do you want me to share it? Go for it?


Kara Hamilton 37:12

Okay, um, I think I mentioned workplace before, which is a Facebook product and platform and I think workplaces enabled us to stay well connected across our locations across different kind of interest groups. So we have all company announcements, but we also have different we have a diversity inclusion group, we have Smartsheet for dogs, we have, you know, Smartsheet kids, we have all sorts of different interest areas and that’s enabled I think relationships to bloom, where you might not expect them like we really want to have a lot of cross team connection as well as insight you know, in team connection. So that helps That kind of those flows. And I think we also are very purpose driven organization. So our purpose is, we empower everyone to improve how they work. And then we have a set of values that go with that and evaluate that action playbook. And, and I think that foundation that we built helps us we talk a lot about how, how am I showing up for Smartsheet? How am I showing up for my teams? How am I showing up for our customers? That’s all built into our kind of into our vernacular, and it’s built into our hiring process as well. Where Yes, like, where we are looking for expertise and experience and, you know, what is someone going to bring to the team from that side? How are they going to what are they going to bring in terms of leadership, but also what are they going to bring in terms of cultural add and are they are we aligned in our values and how we’re going to show up which is not an easy thing to write, um, like, believe me, we, we are on the journey of how you really evaluate that. But we’ve really looked at those three pillars and we’re dedicated to, to figuring out and doing our best because we think that’s, I think that the values and our purpose have helped immensely. And they communicate constant communication over workplace. I mean, I’ve put out three or four videos in the last month, where we’re doing a lot of lots and lots of updates. I think that kind of thing. Like, if you pull my arm, I’m going to talk about our values, our purpose, how we’re showing up what’s going on with Covid. And we can’t we almost can’t say it enough, because people need to feel that they need to feel that we’re there.


Hope Cochran 40:05

Yeah. Follow on conversation. And I want the other to comment on the cultural aspect too, but is worth continually hearing that people’s mental health is it’s hard right? Now, you know, people are feeling lonely. They’re feeling scared. Yeah. And so during this particular crisis time, what are your communication patterns? Or how are you trying to help employees? And so Kara maybe you want to kick us off at to kind of address that, too.


Kara Hamilton 40:21

As I talked about the cultural, I think the first thing is to be real about it. So I sent out a pretty long email to our entire workforce, about what it means to show up and our values through like where we are now, and how we have to be creative and flexible and support each other. We have a lot of people whose children I mean, we have a lot of parents who have school aged children, and they are trying to work, take care of their kids do the homeschool, and all of that. So I think it’s a lot about trust in space, and saying, like, we are going to, we’re in it together. We’re going to do the most important things, and we’re here for you and then the mental health things is extremely important. I’m really glad you mentioned that. I feel very fortunate that we had already rolled out better help, which is a virtual mental health tool where you can have a virtual session with the counselor. And we also provide membership to one medical which has virtual appointments. So that’s more of the standard health care. But better help I is great. We’ve also done some mindfulness training we’re very like one of our community awareness programs is is mental health for all and trying to stop the stigma. So it was already in our culture of people being brave enough to share about that. And so we’re and we’re being very intentional. I mean, I’m on our dashboard is are all the links to better health and our EAP and reminding people that we, we know they’re under stress, I think part is just like we’re not going to not talk about it. We’re not going to pretend that People aren’t struggling and aren’t scared. They don’t have the answers either where they’re where their employer and we’re going to do our best to show up how we can.


Hope Cochran 42:14

Yeah. Barry, are you seeing these issues more? You know, acute right now versus in your normal day to day or how are you addressing them?


Barry Wark 42:23

Um, so we definitely have recognized that it’s easy to suffer in silence when you’re not in an office. Yeah, and the, the sort of passive status update when you see someone you know, shoulders slumped, or, you know, head on the desk on a project, you actually gain a lot of status updates that way in an office environment. So we knew already that it’s easy to lose that in a distributed team. You know what Carlos showed the visible status dashboards kind of thing is a really important tool. And that’s something that You know, we sort of doubled down on in this environment. The flip side of that is over communicating. Like Kara said, We are in a distributed team, you it’s important to over communicate what you think are sort of obvious decisions that have been made. And it’s because you don’t get that diffusion of those announcements through it through a group, you really have to actively think about how are we going to communicate every decision that’s made, so that people stay up to speed and feel like they’re part of the conversation. So those two things are maybe accentuated by the current environment. For us, I don’t want to call it lucky. But we’ve got a you know, 24/7 kind of purpose that’s driving us at the moment to get testing capacity and to help our labs that are at the sort of the tip of the spear for this effort. So we’re, I think, again, very motivated at the moment, we haven’t had folks feeling like they’re lonely and adrift, but It’s certainly something that can happen anytime in a distributed team. And so I think there’s an approach to being very proactive and open about, hey, we know that this is potentially challenging, is valuable, especially for folks when they join our company, if they haven’t been in a distributed team before we spend a lot of time getting them one on one, just, again, sort of random coffee sessions with folks that have done it a lot before. And we found that there’s really nothing more helpful than saying, I remember the first week working from home and it’s really easy to feel like you’re alone and adrift. And you know, here, here are a couple tips. And, you know, here’s how you can reach me if you’re if you need if you need an adult to talk to that kind of stuff.


Hope Cochran 44:42



Carlos Vega 44:43

Yes. So I say Yeah, I agree with, with what’s being shared, and I’ll share some things that have specifically changed that we kind of went through. Just like last week, right? There were some, I guess what I’ve what I’ve found is, I guess as a company, like We’re I’m extremely transparent about everything. And then as a company, they’ve come to expect that right? So we had our board meeting last week. So at our all hands this week, I walked through the board deck and presented it to the whole company in our own hands. And then that Ned led naturally the conversation around kind of, you know, what are we doing with everything around Covid-19. And I guess what’s been interesting for us is seeing, I guess, you know, very to what you’re mentioning, like if you’re in a room, there’s kind of you can sense everyone in the room the same way where right now I don’t know if everyone can see this in the Brady Bunch view. In in zoom right with the gallery. You can’t quite see everyone just exactly the same, right. And so, as I was overly I guess what I’ve found that as a remote or distributed kind of team is you have to not just explain the decision, but also explain your logic and how you’re thinking about it. Like what’s your framework, and so everyone’s come to joke here goes Carlos with another framework but it just like, at least now they know like why I’m thinking a certain way, right? And so even after going out of my way to explain Hey, look, no failing to prepare is preparing to fail. There’s, you know, the old Churchill way of like, you know, talk about hard talk, not just happy talk. David Sacks wrote a really good post about last week. You know, there’s explained all that share the articles talk about it, but then you still have the folks who’ve never lived through a downturn, which a lot of us have on our team, just start to get really nervous, even though you’re talking about stuff, super overly caveated. Like, hey, these are just things we’ve talked about things we talked about, it’s better to talk about it now. I’ll think about it together. Being together like the kindest, most empathetic things you can say, still character what you’re sharing, right? People are still very nervous, and that’s just like in one ear out the other end. And so going out of the way to reach out, right and so Some things I’ve done, you know, every Monday now I’m just like hanging out by myself until someone joins in zoom meeting, and anyone can join at the company and chat about whatever right like and it’s been pretty interesting. who joins or what people want to talk about. And then the other one…


Hope Cochran 47:19

That’s interesting, Carlos, so you just open up zoom and you’re just there and anyone can click in to talk to you?


Carlos Vega 47:24

It’s on my calendar. Yeah. And so people can go to my calendar and see it I send it out on the general channel in slack like Hey, remember I’m here I’ll be doing some work someone joins an office hours. Yeah, and then people would just show up and then like, managers are really important weapon right now to more asset not weapon in keeping in touch with those younger folks, or more anxious folks, or whatever it is, they know that the pulse of their, their team better than, than I do as a CEO and then giving you a heads up like So and so I was particularly nervous about that. And then I can vouch for that one on one, right and say, hey, let’s talk about this. Um, so I feel like we have a little bit of extra work right now because of the covert part of, like, extra degree of empathy. So, yeah, that’s, that’s a little bit of our experience, know some things that we could have done better. Some things that we’ve changed.


Unknown 48:22

Alright, you all thanks for joining me today. I really learned a lot and I’m learning a lot through this whole process. So I appreciate it. These conversations are helpful.


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