Creative ideas are necessary for companies that are evolving quickly and innovating in their market. Creative ideas don’t come from just the good ideas. You have to have bad ideas too. I talked with Zvi Band, co-founder of Contactually, the CRM that provides unique features to enhance relationships. Zvi shared with me how bad ideas become creative ideas. He shared that some of those bad ideas are his. He wants his team to feel safe to contribute to the creative ideas of the company strategy. Discover how creative ideas are created and nurtured in today’s interview.
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Target Audience: Zvi Band is the co-founder & CEO of Contactually, the top CRM which empowers professionals in real estate, consulting, and other professional industries to build authentic relationships. Having founded Contactually in 2011, Zvi has led Contactually to $12M in venture backing, 75 employees, and tens of thousands of customers, including 8 of the top 20 real estate brokerages in the country.
Zvi Band: The Transcript
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
Listen to leaders in the trenches, your host today is Gene Hammett.
Gene Hammett: [00:04]
Hi, I’m Gene Hammett. I’m the host of leaders in the trenches. And my question for you today is this, have you ever been in a conference room with your team and you feel not a bad idea. I’m smiling here because there really is something that we’ll help you create a better team. And how do your bad ideas create a better team? Well, your team wants to feel safe to give their own bad ideas. They want to feel safe that they’re not going to be judged for saying something that might be stupid and you want them to throw out these ideas because some of them will be jumps and some of them will be terrible, most will be average, but you want them to continue to throw their ideas out there. Today I’m with Zvi Band. He is the former CEO of Contactually.
Gene Hammett: [00:51]
He is now the general manager of a CRM for a compass. And we talk about relationships, we talk about his book successes in your sphere. But we also talk about, you know, leadership and culture that leads to fast growth. And really, you know, one of the keys aspects of that that I loved the most, I open this question with is throwing out those bad ideas. So here we are with the interview with Zvi Band.
Gene Hammett: [01:17]
Hi Zvi, How are you?
Zvi Band: [01:19]
I am doing great, Gene. How are you today?
Gene Hammett: [01:23]
I’m fantastic. Got a little bit of a bloody lip. I don’t know if you can see it.
Zvi Band: [01:26]
Oh yeah, I guess you, I guess you had a more interesting weekend than I did.
Gene Hammett: [01:31]
I trained Brazilian Jujitsu so it can get a little bit rough.
Zvi Band: [01:39]
Hopefully, it’s worth it.
Gene Hammett: [01:40]
It was worth it cause I didn’t even realize it. It happened. I’ve already let our audience know a little bit about you, but I’d love for them to hear it from you. So tell us about what you’re focused on right now so that we can understand who you are.
Zvi Band: [01:53]
Yeah, absolutely. So, I previously was and have been for the past seven and half years, the founder and CEO of contextually, um, you know, that was a company, I’m very thankful enough was acquired by compass, uh, in February of 2019. Kind of throughout this, you know, one of my roles as the leader of contextually was to help kind of, you know, obviously coalesce all the information that we learned, you know, throughout our experience and be able to share that with a world. And you know, actually got, so coming out in May of 2019 we have a book successes in your sphere. It’s, which has been the result of four years of work, um, that really captures everything that we learned. So for me, at the end of the day, like I’m here to help professionals build and maintain personal, authentic relationships.
Gene Hammett: [02:39]
And the cornerstone of success in your sphere. It’s really just about the human to human relationships that we know are important. But we get so busy we sometimes we forget, uh, what would you like to add to that?
Zvi Band: [02:54]
Yeah, exactly. I think, you know, we all know that relationships are our best asset. We can all look back our past and identify certain points in our job and our career or even our lives that were forever changed, hopefully for the better because we knew the right people and had the right people in our corner. But with, if I were to ask you, well, what are you doing today right now to be able to nurture those relationships and make sure that the flywheel keeps spinning.
Zvi Band: [03:20]
Most of us aren’t necessarily sure what we, what we’re doing specifically. And so we all know that relationships are a longterm game and so successful in your sphere lays out those short term strategies to allow you to lay out those, to receive those longterm objectives.
Gene Hammett: [03:38]
You know, I wanna pull this into the technology that you created, you know, years ago, contextually, it’s got a unique fit feature that most of the other CRMs don’t have. And what I’m referring to is really the ability to group people so that you are continuously staying up on their radar. You have to do the work, you have to respond back to them, but you’re able, the system will notify you if you want to connect with someone every 30 days or every 90 days or whatever your frequency. Why did you come up with that feature?
Zvi Band: [04:09]
Yeah, absolutely. And this is honestly a, one of our core values throughout Cuttack two was to be used first. And so we really tried to understand our audience, your leaders and entrepreneurs and business professionals, how they worked. And we initially thought that, you know, every relationship was roughly the same importance and that you want to stay with them in touch, you know, every so often kind of regardless of, you know, how of who they are. But what we learned is that you know, that like are, you know that the best professionals, we’re really good at structuring and prioritizing their relationships around the goals or trying to achieve, which means, you know, all past clients are aren’t the same. They have some their top past clients and lower to your past clients and they have some clients that they want to stay in touch with every three weeks.
Zvi Band: [04:58]
Some they stay in touch with every six months and that’s completely fine. And so what we learned is that in order to be able to help you figure out who do I need to talk to, when do I need to talk to them and what should I say? One of the fundamental things that people need to do is they need to be able to structure their relationships around their goals.
Gene Hammett: [05:18]
So you wrote this book on basically relationship building and this research, you said four years. What could you tell us that like counterintuitive to building relationships? That would be interesting.
Zvi Band: [05:34]
Yeah, absolutely. So I think there’s this common concern inside of like in most CRMs that you have kind of this garbage in, garbage out a problem that your CRM is only as good as you know, what you put into it. So people make sure that, oh no, only business relevant contacts go into my CRM and I automatically delete contacts that Yo don’t, aren’t business relevant to me.
Zvi Band: [05:58]
We ended up, again through research and really understanding how people work with their sphere, um, how to take a very different approach. So one of the things that we actually say that we start off with is saying, um, that no, you need to start off by aggregating everyone. You know, everyone you’ve ever talked to into one place because everyone has the potential to be relevant to your business, your career, your life in some way. Even if it was like a plumber that you exchange three emails with, they still have a place inside your database. That’s why, therefore, going back to your earlier question around, you know, buckets, you know, being able to bucket the people that are really important that you really want to focus on right now is really important. So we have this concept called everyone in the pool where you want to be able to have your database reflect everything that’s it, that’s ever been in your head at one point in time because imagine how powerful an asset that may be for your longterm career.
Gene Hammett: [06:55]
Growing a company of the pace you have done has caused you to have to hire a lot of people. Am I right?
Zvi Band: [07:03]
Gene Hammett: [07:05]
And have to build a culture based on um, you know, having a core purpose or mission and having strong values. Why are values so important as you’ve grown the company?
Zvi Band: [07:18]
I think values are important in two ways. One in two key ways. One, it helps you identify, um, the type of people that you want to hire. The important traits that you look for. That you know, if not, you know, if not like if not heated, may be detrimental to your company or detrimental to yo to your user and the overall mission of the business. But it also helps align that framework such that you know, your employees understand what’s an acceptable way of operating that you know, that everyone can subscribe to. That means that you can be able to turn your back or walk away or go on a sales trip or sales meeting and feel comfortable that decisions being made in your absence still reflect what would have been done if you are in the same room because they hated those same values.
Gene Hammett: [08:08]
Love that because that’s really one of the cores of having people is that they make their own decisions.
Zvi Band: [08:15]
Exactly. So you know, for example, one of our key values and of course, you know, the, our values evolved over the years is as anything should but one of the constant threads was there was always this focus on being user first. That our goal was not to be customer first, not employee first, but to actually be user first. And so that was, that was really key for us. And so I had every comfort that I could walk away and not be involved in every decision and that our team, whatever faced with a question of do we do what’s right for the user or for the customer or for the company or foreign investors, they would say, no, we’re going to make the decision here. That’s going to be best for the user. And so I had every confidence that our team always worry, was able to back up that decision.
Gene Hammett: [09:04]
You’ve heard a lot of people over the years, how do you hire to ensure that someone is aligned with the values that you have defined for the company?
Zvi Band: [09:14]
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, first off, I think one of the fundamental aspects we have to agree on is that you’re never going to be perfect. And if you, if you spend too, too much time needling on whether someone’s the right value fit, um, you know, that you’ve risked kind of, you’re losing them or you’ll never be able to make that decision. But what we found that worked pretty well for us is, you know, in our interview, we had scripted questions that would look for specific cases where they exhibited values that we cared about.
Zvi Band: [09:43]
So for example, going back to that value of being user first we asked most candidates about specific situations where they had a face, a choice between what’s best for the user or what’s best for the company. And they can go through that tussle and yeah, like we had some people who said, nope. And we chose the one that like we chose the outcome that would generate more revenue for the company. And that may not necessarily be the wrong answer because if bringing in more revenue allows you to better serve more customers and invest in r and d, Great. Like maybe there’s a case being there, but we want to make sure that people at least understand that decision, a framework and hopefully learned more towards, you know, the value that we care about.
Gene Hammett: [10:25]
When you bring them on. I really want to understand how you have empowered them to make those decisions for themselves or empower them to do the work when you’re not in the room.
Zvi Band: [10:40]
Yeah, totally. I mean, so there are a few aspects that have been really important. Of course, you know, everyone’s leadership style, your reflects, you know, the current state of the company, the leadership team, the leader themselves. Some aspects that worked really well for us. Um, one is to make sure everyone is aligned on the same goals, which you may not take for granted. But yeah, as we had, we made sure that every engineer understood the current annual recurring revenue of the company and what the, what the target annual recurring revenue was by the end of the quarter and at the month, end of the year, et Cetera. And we were always good at just, you know, every week or every day. We always kind of, we’re talking about how we’re tracking to our goals and how everything that we’re doing at any point in the company ladders up to the same ultimate goals.
Zvi Band: [11:29]
Another thing we did is, you know, we were very clear at laying out the constraints and being relentless, Rhonda enforcing them. So for example, for engineers, that means you enforcing quality standards that no, at no point are they ever going, supposed to sacrifice the quality of the work they’re doing to be able to hit a goal or to be able to achieve a certain goal. Um, and I think once everyone has the same goals and hat is the same and understands the constraints then you know our job as leaders is to really practice servant leadership. Stay out of their way and do whatever we can to support them. That meant that, you know, obviously there are certain things that we did that was helpful. You know, we’d always be focused on inspiring them. We’d speak, we paid close attention to the mood.
Zvi Band: [12:16]
One thing I always did is I always found myself intentionally being the dumbest guy in the room. I would openly ask questions to revoke discussion and let people justify their approach. And in general making sure that we were creating an environment where everyone felt really comfortable contributing.
Gene Hammett: [12:33]
So a lot of this aligns with the Google study on teams about people feeling psychologically safe to share their ideas. Also, Cisco, I wrote an article about that and did an interview with Francine Cassuto the CPO, they looked at 297 teams about, and a big part of that is what you just talked about, which was being, feeling safe to share their ideas. So when you are encouraging people to share their ideas, I mean, are you literally tossing out a bad idea and seeing what happens with that or how does that work?
Zvi Band: [13:08]
Absolutely. I have no problem getting up. Like if someone, if someone else in the team was presenting, I will ask questions, I will ask questions that I already know the answer to or throw out ideas that I know are bad. Just to be able to one, like, you know, get them, get them, get the presenter to feel comfortable and feel good. Like, all right, they can show their chair and kind of, you know, easy answers. But Hey, if the CEO is asking a question like this, while that my question is, you know, is, is totally fine. You know, being brought up, if the CEO has no problem throwing out crazy ideas that maybe I should feel comfortable throwing out crazy ideas. So, yeah, you know, I would always be openly asking questions to revoke discussions and letting people justify their approach. And I would always, you know, be the one, you know, even hackathons, you know, working on the craziest, weirdest idea. So everyone else felt like, well, maybe I can do the same thing too.
Gene Hammett: [14:01]
You know, I think about old school leadership where, you know, they’re expected to know all the answers and them, they hold themselves to this standard of I’ve got control, I’ve got, I know everything, but that really a huge mistake. And that you’re, you’re demonstrating, um, when an evolve leader I think does. Is there a mistake that you made in your journey that you could share with us about leadership or culture in a fast-growing company?
Zvi Band: [14:28]
Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, I’m assuming I’ve probably made more mistakes than right decisions. There are few want few ones that really come to mind. One is especially when, you know, as the, as the company grew, I had less involvement in bringing on individual contributors and more focus on bringing in leaders who care about them, over who bearing in leaders.
Zvi Band: [14:52]
And one of my mistakes was I brought in leaders who cared about company culture, but that didn’t necessarily always mean that they had a congruent culture, meaning that, for example, transparency. We had, we brought in some leaders that demanded that absolute total complete transparency, meaning that, you know, while we had anonymous surveys for certain use cases and certain times, um, they actually forcing know everything that my team has to do has to have zero on nobody that always has to be an author name. Um, that was kind of what that was kind of one aspect. Or we had times where we had two leaders who I recall very specifically, we’re building amazing team cultures. One of their primary tools to do that was to cultivate a US versus them attitude with the rest of the company so that, you know, their team loved being on their team but they didn’t like being part of the overall company.
Zvi Band: [15:51]
And so things like that that were kind of key leadership mistakes where I kind of, I consider those mistakes because I thought my head, hey, something’s not going right here. And I didn’t quite take quicker action on it because clearly, yes, as a leader you see so many things going wrong. The big question is what is, what is the right, you know, what is the right decision you’re making?
Gene Hammett: [16:13]
I appreciate you sharing that with us. When you are taking the company to the next level, what are you focusing on as it relates to cultural leadership so that you can continue that level of growth? And I know you, you’ve just had the acquisition recently, it’s very fresh. So what’s, what’s next for you?
Zvi Band: [16:30]
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, so thankfully, I’m still part of the Kentucky team now as part of compass overall. My role is I’m the general manager of CRM, but, uh, you know, the big thing for me is, uh, you know, our seven half years of learning the strategy around building relationships, uh, has been captured in a book that’s coming out in May. So now like, you know, it, it’s kind of freeing to say, hey, you know, there’s no business objective behind the book. I just purely had seen the incredible transformation value of relationships and my job is to be able to spread that well.
Gene Hammett: [17:09]
Give us, give us just one insight behind the book so that we could see if this is something we’re interested in as listeners.
Zvi Band: [17:17]
Yeah, absolutely. So if you believe that relationships are the most important asset, then the capital strategy, which is laid out in the book is really what we learn around the art and science behind it. And honestly, like one of the key insights that we learned is not necessarily any one particular strategy. Of course, yes there are, you know, hundreds kind of laid out in the book. But one of the biggest blockers is, are people doing it at all like Gene. And you and I both know that relationships are something that have paid dividends for us over a longer period of time. The problem is that, you know, as human beings, we fall victim with the tyranny of the urgent. Right. You know, my cell phone is the worst defender because you know, while I’ve, you know, been on this call with you for the past 30 minutes, right? I’ve probably gotten 15 push notifications and God knows how many emails and text messages and other things going on. And so we’re more and more wired these days to focus on what’s urgent.
Zvi Band: [18:16]
And so you’ll consistency the see in capital really lays out that hey, in order to be able to execute at all on our strategy, we didn’t make, we need to make sure we’re consistent on it. And so this sounds silly, but one of the most fundamentally valuable strategies that we’ve learned through just working with some of the best professionals, whether they’re real estate agents, are financial advisors or consultants or CEOs or Hollywood agents, is blocking time in your calendar three to four days a week where you take the phone off the hook, you don’t check incoming email, and you’ve spent all of your time proactively engaging with the people that are important and not responding to the people that are urgent. Does that make sense?
Gene Hammett: [19:01]
Totally makes sense. It’s something I’ve lived by and I’ve had a lot of people on the show and really compiled together some, some productivity tips and that’s one of the things that’s really blocking time out for those. There are really important projects and one of them should always be the people in our, in the business. So I’m glad you brought that up. I really appreciate you being here. Zvi where can our audience find you and connect with your work?
Zvi Band: [19:27]
Ah, yeah, absolutely. So you can easily just Google Z-V-I, B-A-N-D. Luckily there aren’t too many of them. The book is successes in your sphere. You can just, you know, do a quick search on Barnes and Noble or Amazon to be able to find it or I visit us successinyoursphere.com.
Gene Hammett: [19:43]
Thanks for being here and leaders in the trenches.
Zvi Band: [19:45]
Gene, thanks so much for having me.
Gene Hammett: [19:47]
All right. What a great interview. You’re thinking about how you’re going to continue to grow as a leader, keep your culture align. Then you’ve probably got questions about what you could do that I work with a lot of Inc5000 level companies. Many of them need 500 we study growth. We really look at what’s working, what’s not working. Some of the things are counterintuitive. If you’re curious about those things, I love to get to know you. Reach out to me at [email protected] and if you, all you have to do is put in their short message. We’ll either connect for a little bit on the phone. Maybe I’ll share some insight with you or I’ll share with you some content I’ve created, but I’m here to help you, so make sure you reach out to [email protected] this is my take your leaders in the trenches as always, lead with courage and I’ll see you next time.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
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