After hundreds of interviews and my research with Founders and CEOs, I know the importance of living your core values when you want to create company growth. I can also say that many leaders believe they are living their core values because they have values printed on the walls at HQ or on their website. Let’s talk about living your core values with my guest today, Shawn Lipman, who is the CEO of Feedonomics. His company was ranked #95 in the 2019 Inc 5000 list. We look at living your core values in everything the company does.
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Shawn Lipman: The Transcript
Target Audience: Shawn Lipman is the CEO at Feedonomics with years of experience in finance, leadership, and general management. As an accomplished entrepreneur, Shawn has started and sold a diverse set of companies in technology, healthcare, real estate, and entertainment space. He is passionate about eCommerce and the role that technology can play in enabling successful online initiatives.
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.
The millennial generation is they are from our perspective, an exceptional there’s a lot of talk about, you know, the millennial generation is different, but they are different they’re motivated in accordance with what drives them, you can get phenomenal results out of it. And one of the things they want transparency, they want to know that they own something and they want to know that they constantly developing professionals.
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs of the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host, my name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett [0:43]
Today we’re going to talk about what really grows companies. And we’re not going to talk about technology. We’re not going to talk about the idea or the strategies. We’re going to talk much about the people. Today’s interview is really about the core foundation of what makes us who we are. What I believe is that when you are clear about the values that you live by you have a much higher chance to be happy to be able to create the success you want. And to be able to have the kind of relationships that you desire. Those values really are an important part of who we are and where we’re going. Now, it’s the same inside of companies, because companies that have core values I’ve seen operate at a higher level. They have more collaboration, more trust, they grow faster. When you have these values, and you really live by them. It provides something that you just can’t get by focusing on technology and strategy. Today’s guest is Sean Lippmann. Sean is a co-founder of Feedonomics. What we talked about today is living the core values, understanding that values are a central part of the culture and your leadership. But how do you go beyond just putting them on the wall?
Gene Hammett [2:01]
Well, you live by them, you hire by them, you lead by them, you fire by them. That’s what we talk about in today’s interview. He is the co-founder of feed omics, they were number 95. On the 2019 list over 7 million in revenues. They currently have over 150 employees, and they wouldn’t have been able to do it unless they had central values or principles that guided them. So today, we talked about living those values, and why it’s important and how you can do it too. Before we dive into the interview, I wanted to remind you that you can actually get a tool that I’ve been working with clients with for the last couple of years, I’ve refined this tool this gone through several iterations. Now we have it completely automated, you can actually go online and fill out the leadership quiz. To get the leadership quiz. Just go to theleadershipquiz.com that’s pretty easy, right? theleadershipquiz.com what you will get when you do that is you will answer a few questions. You will see where you rate based on the core principle. A fast-growth company. If you’re ready to grow your company or you want to see where you are, then make sure you go to theleadershipquiz.com inside it, you will get insight to where you are, understand where you want to improve. And you will get them mapped into the 10 areas that are most specific to fast-growth companies. Again, go to theleadershipquiz.com and you can get that right now. Now, here’s the interview with Shawn.
Gene Hammett [3:25]
Shawn, how are you?
Shawn Lipman [3:26]
I’m good. Thanks. How are you?
Gene Hammett [3:29]
I’m fantastic. I’ve already told our audience a little bit about you. But I’d love to hear about the company. So tell us about Feedonomics.
Shawn Lipman [3:37]
Well, we started actually as a digital marketing agency, my closest friend from university for now 30 plus years, more than 30 years and two young geniuses, Brian and Robert Roizen, who we were in our late 40s and they were in their early 20s. We came together and we were running a digital marketing agency together. And we solved a very, very large problem with technology and their technology geniuses. And we pivoted it out of the digital agency into what we not do, which is using Feedonomics as a technology platform for managing data feeds and product feeds in e-commerce and beyond.
Gene Hammett [4:25]
Love it. And you’ve got about 150 employees. Is that right?
Shawn Lipman [4:30]
Yeah, by the end of this year, I think we’re going to probably be over 200 so it’s been quite a wild ride.
Gene Hammett [4:36]
When I talked to you last week about what makes your company grow what really do drive fast growth. I mean, you were on the Inc list at number #95, over 7 million in revenue over 3,000% growth in three years. You had talked about the importance of values. Why are values, so important across the company?
Shawn Lipman [4:58]
I’ll be honest with you, it does not value only important across the company, they’re, quite frankly, pretty important in life. Right? So there’s kind of this misconception that, you know, it’s kind of a really interesting or cool thing to have, like a culture or a set of values in order to drive some type of, you know, growth initiative. From my perspective, I come from a sporting background and also have got another culture-based company. And for me, it’s just, you have to have a foundation in life, you have to have a core set of values and principles, which really forms the glue that you hold anything in your life together, whether it’s your family, or teams or a company. And so from the very beginning, we aligned around a very, very defined set of principles, which we hold ourselves accountable to and then have held everybody who’s come to this company accountable to and quite frankly, I think that’s a big reason why we’ve been able to without any funding build a company we have.
Gene Hammett [6:03]
I am really surprised when I talked to founders just like yourself that don’t have a focus on values. They focus on technology and strategy and, and whatnot. And I’m like. Well, what are some of the challenges you have? And it always comes back to well, you know, we could do a better job of communicating. And I’m like, well, in that a core part of everything getting done in the business. So when you talk about operationalizing, the values, what does that mean to you?
Shawn Lipman [6:32]
It starts with recruiting. Look, we everybody. The technology is built by people, engineers, ourselves are made by people. accounting is done by people. Our fulfillment is everything we do is people-based, and our clients are people. And so if you’re not coalescing everybody around a common objective, a common set of values. How do you go in any kind of direction and so the way that we service our clients has to come internally, you can’t have one set of principles for how you’re going to serve your customers if you’re not doing that for your employees. And so it really starts with recruiting, ensuring that everybody understands that this stuff is really important. And then it’s living because you can have it all on the wall. But if you’re not active in it, and modeling behavior, nobody’s gonna follow you. So it really comes from, you know, from the top, you have to live your values.
Gene Hammett [7:31]
You said living the values, I don’t want to, you know, step past that without explaining what that is. I was in a big speech. It was probably over 1000 people and it was the first time I heard this operation values a couple of years ago, and it was through Brené Brown. Do you know bearnaise work?
Shawn Lipman [7:49]
Gene Hammett [7:50]
So she’s a fantastic speaker. She was she’s a keynote or and she’s got five best-selling books. And she had asked this audience know how many of you truly live by in our operationalize the values beyond just putting them on the wall, and only 18 people, I counted them. And they all happen to be together in one row. Turned out there was one company. So there was just it was such a small percentage of the people that were living the values. Give us an example of something you’ve done besides recruiting that you are living the values day in and day out with a company.
Shawn Lipman [8:26]
Well, we have some very fundamental principles, which we modeled actually off of a book called legacy by a guy named James Kirk. And it’s interesting because I was using it in rugby coaching to develop a culture within a sporting team. And really, the book speaks to how you leverage those principles, which are founded on the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team who have the longest, the most successful sporting team of all time, they have over 100 years and 90 plus win record. So the whole concept is what are the elements what’s the DNA that’s enabled to have sustainable excellence. And when you building a company really that’s what you want to do you want to build a culture of sustainable excellence. And so some of the principles are exceptionally simple, right? No egos servant leadership is a concept called cleaning the shade sweeping the shades, which is, in a context, the best players and the captains of the team after they play an international, they will sweep the changing rooms, nobody else cleans up often, they take ownership for the small things. And so these are the type of concepts that quite frankly, you can’t speak about. Did you get to actually model it right? You can’t tell other people that you guys have to have no egos, but then your leadership is walking around with egos. And then the other piece is ensuring that the people that you bring in, you know, you have companies which they need those, the game changes, right. And many times those people can be very good individually, but that can destroy your culture.
Shawn Lipman [10:03]
So it’s ensuring that you never ever acquiesce to the individual in advance of the whole. And really, those are the types of things we do, creating a learning environment, ensuring people asking the Y, creating a culture of curiosity. But you can’t if you don’t say it, and if you don’t create then all the premise behind it to teach people and to lead them. It’s not going to happen.
Shawn just talked about ownership. In fact, he’s mentioned it a few times already. I want to share with you some of the data from my research. When I looked at fast-growing companies and I talked to a lot of founders about these hundreds in fact 88% of them will say ownership is important or very important. It’s one of the top factors that really drive their success is getting people to fully buy-in go beyond responsibility beyond accountability even to take ownership of their work and the client experience. 88% What do you with that, where are you on that spectrum? How many people on your team have taken full ownership and not just the executive team? Everyone? Back to the interview with Shawn?
Gene Hammett [11:11]
Is there anything specific you could share with us that you do in meetings or you doing in your quarterly retreats or anything like that, that really reinforces the values?
Shawn Lipman [11:22]
You know the most important one was having peer ownership for it. Because the challenge you have when you have this very integrated philosophy about your principles is it can become white noise if it’s me telling everyone all the time. These are the principles. So everything we try and do is a credit foundation with people recognize that it’s important. We have everybody read the book, we speak about the principles, but in order to have them, Look at them, we have to have the PR people own them. And so we do things like peer facilitation, so we asked for volunteers and we get about 30 to 40 people who say I want to volunteer, and we assign them, five people. And every month to six weeks, they sit down and they do a facilitation meeting with their peers. And so they could be an entry-level, person straight out of college, facilitating a meeting with directors, speaking about the culture, maybe three or four principles, why is it important? How are we living them? How is it impacting our life? So that’s one. And then the other concept we have in the company is we have a rule that if anything, you need to escalate, whether it’s if you having a discussion about a process, or about something going on with you that you cannot get resolution with your senior, your supervisor, your manager, the rule is you have to escalate it to the next level. If you don’t get a resolution there, you have to escalate it all the way to me, because we don’t want anyone if we say we’re creating a learning environment and then people are finding that they’re not able to get at least proper resolution.
Shawn Lipman [13:06]
What happens is morale starts being impacted, and people stop asking why they stopped providing inputs. And so creating this freedom for people to know that they never have to stop is, I think, a very empowering thing in our company, and I think it’s very important beyond.
Gene Hammett [13:27]
Shawn, you said a few times the word ownership. And I will be honest with you, I did a deep study with founders, just like you didn’t record it. But I had 51 founders and I, and I asked this question, you know, how do you get people to take responsibility for big goals when you’re trying to grow the company, and I was corrected, all the founders said, we don’t want them to take responsibility. We want them to take ownership. We want them to feel it. And that feeling of ownership is really the key. A lot of people think it takes financial tools like a, you know, options or profit-sharing in that can work. But are you doing it like through your leadership and inspiring that feeling of ownership?
Shawn Lipman [14:12]
Yeah, I think we are, you know, when you look at the kind of the makeup of our employees, it’s a millennial generation, right? I think if you take me out of the mix, we’re probably our average age is 2627. And so when you look at the drivers for the, let’s call it the millennial generation, is there are from my perspective, an exceptional there’s a lot of talk about, you know, the millennial generation is, you know, is different, but they are different, but if they’re motivated in accordance with what drives them, you could get phenomenal results out of it. And one of that is they want transparency.
Shawn Lipman [14:51]
They want to know that they own something and they want to know that they’re constantly developing professionally and personally, not money. Of course, you got to pay people money. But that’s not what makes them come to work and be exceptional every day. And so it’s about creating an environment where we talking to them, we understanding how they doing, are they starting to get stagnant, because once they start getting stagnant, or they feel like they’re not progressing, or they have a career arc, they either get bored or they leave. And so our retention rate right now is probably around 95% in a high growth tech company, which is kind of crazy. And it’s not something we take for granted. And so the next step that we implemented is we actually just hired what we call it people empowerment manager, whose primary job is to ensure that all the things we say that we want to do, are actually happening because the one challenge you have is as you get older, bigger is that all of these concepts, it’s not that you don’t want to do them, but you get so busy, you just don’t do them very well. And so now what you’re trading is fragmentation. Some people get some of it and some people don’t. And we want to make sure that everybody in this company is getting that immersion in culture, philosophy and having a pathway to knowing that we are interested in their success.
Shawn Lipman [16:14]
Now, wait just a second. Sean just talked about millennials. I don’t know if you know this, but my wife, Amanda Hammond, is an expert in understanding millennials. And if you have millennials in your workforce, she would love to talk to you about this. Maybe you want to understand them, maybe you want to lead them to a higher level. One of the things she’s known for is this collision course this, where are you heading if you’re avoiding the millennial hiring. Now, a lot of people that are probably listening to this, don’t avoid it, but they’re probably perplexed around. How do you get more from this experience with them? How do you retain them? Because there’s a lot of issues going on. They’re not unlike yourself. So if you talk to Amanda, you’ll make sure you understand them a little bit better. She’s the millennial translator and
I just want to share that with you in case you had any issues or conversations that are necessary around millennials in the workplace. Back to the interview.
Gene Hammett [17:09]
I love that you talked about that. My wife is a millennial generation expert. She’s on our trip right now. She’s going to be working with one of the police forces in South Carolina.
Shawn Lipman [17:21]
Gene Hammett [17:21]
About how to how to connect and lead this next generation of leaders. When you talked about transparency, you know, it’s not just the millennials, like all of us want to be included. They want we to want that level of openness. Right?
Shawn Lipman [17:35]
It’s the same. Say the difference for our generation was it was never available to us. Right. It was very prescriptive management, top-down management.
Gene Hammett [17:46]
Shawn Lipman [17:47]
So it’s not like we didn’t want to be heard. We didn’t want to have all of the same things. Being an impactful feeling I just was pitch up, do your thing. And that’s not what drives successful businesses and when you look at some of the red like the visionary leaders from the 50s, the 60s, the 70s, great sporting coaches, great business leaders, they were doing this stuff before anyone was even writing books about it. Yeah, they were doing it. And that’s why they had such great success, building trust. But now obviously, you know, there’s much more awareness about it and much more talk about it. But the thing is, you can read all these great books about leadership and empowerment, but if you don’t actually love them, it’s just theoretical.
Gene Hammett [18:36]
I wrote an article years ago, where I was really excited about it because I just saw this everywhere where you’re learning is hurting you. People feel like they read a book and they’re like, Okay, I know that, but you’re not applying it. And that’s what you’re talking about. We understand we have values and principles that drive us, but we’re living it day in and day out. When you think about, you know, companies that don’t have that central framework for these values and principles, what would you say to a leader like that’s, that’s struggling with communication or something like that.
Shawn Lipman [19:09]
I’ll be honest with you, if there’s not real buy-in real by and I will say don’t do it. It’s worse, it would be better to then go, you know, create your structure and make sure you’ve got your systems in place, be prepared for the outcome, which is potentially employee retention challenges, potentially customer retention challenges. Some companies are able to really succeed without it, they’ve got a product, they hit it at the right time. They’re in the right space, and they potentially properly and well funded. But I don’t think that that’s a foundation for for sustainable performance. I think they can they can have their moment in the sun. But the other part of it is so it is not absolute buying from leadership. It will not be work, because people see through it.
Shawn Lipman [20:02]
And this becomes disingenuous. And it creates a major problem with trust. And this concept I want to just throw out that I read in a great book by Patrick Lencioni. I’m sure if you’ve heard he did, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and all of us have business fables. And it’s this concept of the pyramid of success where people always focused on the results, which is at the top. But everything is predicated on trust. And so if you establish an environment of trust, then you can have conflict, you can get commitment, accountability, and then you can have results. And so you have to build trust. The first two people have got to believe that what you’re saying is true.
Gene Hammett [20:45]
Well, I will say no one knows this yet, but we’re going to have Patrick Lencioni on the show coming up soon.
Shawn Lipman [20:50]
So is amazing.
Gene Hammett [20:52]
Yep. We just had John Maxwell. So that has a that hasn’t aired yet. But I guess when this comes out, it probably will have already aired. Well Shawn, I really appreciate you sharing your insights and your wisdom around values. And I do agree with you, it’s not something that we do as a recipe for our companies to grow, we must have them as individuals, I think we can even have them as families, you know, and, and allows us to, to really bind together and hold each other accountable to where we’re going together. So thank you for sharing all that here on the podcast.
Shawn Lipman [21:26]
It’s a pleasure, thanks for the opportunity.
Gene Hammett [21:28]
Wrapping up the interview was really powerful because I really love this stuff. I love this. And in fact, it’s a central part of my work. Not only do I help companies find their core values, but I help leaders themselves. And leaders are more clear about what their values are and how they must show up as the company evolves and moving to the next level. It is a central part of the work I do as a coach. And it really does, everything hangs together off that. Now if you want to know what your core values are as a personal leader, And you want to figure that out with me, I’d love to have a conversation with you. If you are feeling any kind of doubt or unsure of yourself or lack of courage or not really being intentional the way you want to, then let’s sit down and have a chat. I can help you figure out exactly what’s missing, and help you move forward. My name is Jean habit, you can find me at email@example.com is anything I can do for you. Make sure you reach out I’d love to help you share some resources and have a conversation just go to firstname.lastname@example.org for my email, as always lead with courage. We’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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