Every business has to balance the right perks and profitability. Today we look at the power of offering parental leave and the impact it has on company growth. Parental leave is more than just time off to adjust to having a new child joining a family. Our special guest is Debbie Millin, COO at Globalization Partners. This company was 6th in the 2016 Inc 5000 list. Globalization Partners helps companies scale and grow internationally through their systems. Debbie and I talk about parental leave in today’s world. We look at the reasons why it is essential if you want to create a place that attracts top talent.
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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.
Corporate life does not have to suck. I think we’ve all been in places where it does a little bit. We really wanted to build a company that is incredibly hardworking and focused and effective, but it’s also very human and very collaborative. So I think that it’s as you grow globally, especially, is something you need to maintain a focus on from the top of the organization in order for it to really be able to continue.
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 [0:44]
Many CEOs of companies get really nervous when they have female employees that are about to have babies. Well, it’s not just female employees that are having babies, you want to make sure you’re prepared for parental leave, no matter whether they’re female or male across the company. Because it’s the right thing to do. If you have a company that has employees, then you’ve got to prepare for these parental leave opportunities. Well, I say opportunity, because it’s not just a sentence for you to go through stress and struggle and frustration. When you are prepared for parental leave, you actually can use it as a catalyst for growth for your company. That really is about you creating a place where it’s more collaborative, where people understand what other people are doing. And someone could step in, if necessary. And that is the way fast-growth companies continue to grow, no matter whether it’s parental leave, or other issues that may arise because other people can step in are empowering these people in a unique, powerful way. Today, our guest is the COO of Globalization Partners, Debbie Millin, Debbie is the COO, she’s doing this interview a little bit different than normal because we would normally be talking to Nicole Sagan, who is the CEO, but she’s out on parentally.
Gene Hammett [1:58]
How do you prepare people across the company when they’re going to go out for parental leave? When you think about your business, you want to make sure that you’re looking down the road, not just at what’s going on right now, not just at the cup companies that are competing against you, not just your customers, not just your employees, but so many things. You just have to anticipate you have to be that visionary to say how do we prepare for the moment when something like this happens. And parental leave is one of those things that a lot of people don’t plan for. So this episode is just for you. If you want to make sure you’re leading your company to the right place. When you think about leadership, I want you to think about Growth Think Tank, if you have anyone you know of that wants to be a stronger leader, make sure you’re referring them to the podcast, Growth Think Tank, that’s this show where we interview founders, CEOs and their teams to help you grow faster. Make sure you do that every chance you get. We want to make sure you’re inviting the right people. It’s not about vanity numbers for us, we want to make sure that these people that want to grow, be better leaders are listening to the show, so they get the insights behind this. Now, here’s the interview with Debbie.
Gene Hammett [3:03]
Hi Debbie, how are you?
Debbie Millin [3:05]
Good. How are you doing?
Gene Hammett [3:06]
Fantastic. I’ve already let our audience know a little bit about you personally. And I’d love for you to let us know about globalization partners, what you really best at in this world?
Debbie Millin [3:17]
Sure. Well, first of all, thank you for having me, it’s great to be here. I’m happy to be here representing globalization partners. So we are an employer of record and our mission in life is to let companies hire anyone anywhere around the world, we have a legally compliant infrastructure in 187 countries around the world that allows companies to hire someone on our platform in a matter of days in some countries. So it eliminates the need to set up entities of back-office file taxes and all these countries. We take care of all of that so that our clients and customers can succeed faster and focus on their business.
Gene Hammett [3:54]
Well, you’ve grown really fast over the years. You’ve said in 2016, you were number six on the Inc list. And you’ve been one of the fastest-growing companies in Massachusetts as well as that about getting it?
Debbie Millin [4:06]
That is correct.
Gene Hammett [4:07]
I’m sure you’ve gotten many other awards beyond that. One of the things that I was really interested in talking to you, originally, we were supposed to be here with Nicole the CEO, but she’s out on maternity leave. And I just got really curious around, you know, how does a company prepare for a key employee, once the CEO or maybe anyone else to be able to step away for two months, three months, or even longer and still keep the growth going? So when you think about that, what are some of the things that you guys had to plan for?
Debbie Millin [4:38]
So very early in our organization, we had, you know, maybe five or six people at the time, and we had several people that very early on went out on parental leave, and really had to I, in my opinion, it helps the company to grow faster. So I actually first started the company because one of the key folks was going on leave and you know Nicole asked me to come help grow from three people to five people. Because we needed to take the operationalize that person’s job and break it down into reasonable chunks to be managed in their absence. And it really helped us develop this mindset very early on about structuring the company in a way that allowed new people to come in to take the knowledge of the people who were there from the start. And you know, and to take that and operationalize it from a process perspective and a tool perspective and be able to structure the company and hire folks that could come in and really keep that going.
Debbie Millin [5:36]
We also, we also send out an article for new employees. That is, it’s about giving away your Legos. So basically, when you’re working in a startup, you have all of these different jobs, and you really, you know, you keep growing your Legos. And at some point, you have to give your Legos away so that you can go get the new ones. And it’s hard to do for some people, especially when you’re there at the beginning of the company. But it’s incredibly important to be able to rapidly grow that you should always be looking at who can come in and do this part of the job so I can go to the next part of the job.
Gene Hammett [6:09]
Well, it’s something I think every business has faced, whether they’ve had parental leave or maternity leave it at all, when you were planning for these things, maybe you’re coming in for someone else. What did it look like when you had to take over someone else’s job role?
Debbie Millin [6:26]
Well, I think the first thing you need to do is really, obviously sit down with that person and pull everything out of their head. I think, particularly for early-stage companies, it’s very common for somebody to say, I would say, okay, write down exactly how this should work. And to go through it myself, and then say, I don’t understand how to get from number two to number three. And the person says, Oh, well, that’s because you need to do this, this and this, you know, you have these innate things that just happen, that you really in order to scale me to make sure that the things that the people are just doing without even thinking about it. But those are the gaps you need to fill in. That’s how you can get to scale and move on to the next step.
Gene Hammett [7:06]
My mind is kind of racing around, how do you keep this? Do you keep this in different kinds of documents? Or is there one kind of repository, that you have all these kind of processes that you document?
Debbie Millin [7:17]
I think it varies, and it really depends on the stage of your company and what your company does, I think there are probably two big ways to do that. One is to have, you know, sort of the standard operating procedures and have this, you know, repository of documentation. But I think the better way to do it is to take those processes and automate them as best you possibly can with technology. The things that are, you know, that are repeated, really should be built into a system. And again, that varies depending on, you know, when you’re an early-stage company, you certainly don’t necessarily have a big development team that can work on those things. But as you’re growing, look for tools that are going to help you be able to scale and operationalize those sort of repetitive tasks, as well as sort of taking the special sauce and automate that as you can.
Gene Hammett [8:04]
I really love that insight behind No, you know how to actually keep those things. I want to switch gears just a little bit here and just maybe talk about Nicole going out? Is this the first time she’s been on maternity leave? Because I don’t personally know, Nicole? Is it?
Debbie Millin [8:19]
Yes, it’s her first.
Gene Hammett [8:21]
So, you know, it’s got to be a very difficult situation for a CEO to go, you know what, I’m not reachable for the next, let’s say three months. I don’t know what the plan is, but I’m just gonna kind of make that up. Did you guys have to do a lot of planning to make make sure that’s possible?
Debbie Millin [8:37]
Well, sure, there was definitely planning involved. But I think the bigger thing there is to be hiring really strong people at the sea level, certainly, but across all levels, to really be able to have those, you know, have that continued growth and, and the ability for people to sort of step up and out of the details. It is hard for you to know, Nikolas obviously, our founder and CEO, I am a founding member of the executive team. So I’ve been around for a really long time. And it is hard to let go of some things and step back. But you really need to be able to do that in order for the company to be able to grow and succeed. We did certainly plan things out in terms of sort of dividing, conquering some things, and getting some may be exciting, we accelerated a few things to get done while she was with us and could plan some of those things out. But she has done a wonderful job of building an entire company of just amazing people and has complete trust in all of us to do our jobs and keep everything moving forward.
Hold on for a second. Debbie just said hire strong people. When you have a fast-growth company. You want to make sure you’re hiring strong people. This means strong people at every level of the company, not just the executive level, not just at the middle management level, not just on the front lines, every level you can you want to hire strong people. Why is that because strong people are able to absorb some of the challenges They’re going on, they’re able to get past, the pettiness that happens? And sometimes organizations that are going fast, when you ask strong people to rise to the occasion, usually they’re able to do that. Others will make excuses. Hiring strong people means you have to really understand the culture that you’re building there have strong leadership if you have any questions about your own leadership, and how do you create a place, the strong people want to work with, make sure you reach out to me, firstname.lastname@example.org. Now back to Debbie.
Gene Hammett [10:29]
So give me two or three of the things that you feel have played such a critical role in building that strong executive team?
Debbie Millin [10:37]
Well, first and foremost, we’ve been focused on culture really, from the beginning of our, our company, one of our official sort of taglines is that we, corporate life does not have to suck. I think we’ve all been in places where it does a little bit, we really wanted to build a company that is incredibly hard-working and focused and effective, but it’s also very human and very collaborative. So I think that as you grow globally, especially, is something you need to maintain a focus on from the top of the organization in order for it to really be able to continue.
Debbie Millin [11:15]
And in terms of you know, our we have an incredibly strong C suite. And in terms of sort of bringing on finding the right people at the right time is always the trick, I think we have often erred on the side of getting someone a little early, I think I came in probably a little earlier than she necessarily needed to. But I think good companies, you know, companies that really are rapidly growing, have that ability to see ahead a little bit and get the right people in the door. So they’re actually busy. So you’re not playing catch up and filling those roles as soon as it’s possible for you to do so.
One more break here, Debbie just said focused on culture from the beginning, a lot of companies are growing fast, built it on a foundation of a strong culture, the people inside the business are hired in to fit that culture, and to have values that are similar to each other. I see this in a lot of early start startup fast-growth companies, they focus on culture much earlier than their peers. When you think about your business and leadership, you want to make sure you’re focused on the right culture. If you haven’t already accessed the core principles of fast growth leaders, make sure you go to genehammett.com/principles, those fast growth leaders that many of them have interviewed on the show really provided some insight for you to know what builds a strong culture, just go to genehammett.com/principles. Now back to the interview.
Gene Hammett [12:38]
Well, I really appreciate you looking at that perspective on your executive team. And it’s hard to talk about yourself and some of that. I want to also kind of include here as you you’ve been focusing on culture. You had mentioned before earlier, when we were kind of before we cut on the recorder, how important the values are of the company. And how many values do you have? I don’t need you to go through them. But how many? How many do you have?
Debbie Millin [13:03]
We have three or four really core values that underlie everything. And I won’t go through all of them. But I think at the core of it is that we are we’re focused on our customer at all times and in everything that we do. And I think that just builds that community together.
Gene Hammett [13:17]
Well, that takes me to one of the things that you said earlier. And your company’s actually known for this, but you focus on the triple bottom line, which is focused on employees focus on customers, and the shareholders give us a little bit of understanding of where that comes from.
Debbie Millin [13:33]
That comes directly from Nicole. And again, her philosophy of the entire company is built on, she really wants wanted to build a company where employees were valued and cared for, and that that flows directly into the support of our customers, we are, as I said, focused on our customers and how our customers will be impacted by everything we do and how we can continue to add value. And of course, we wanted it to be a profitable company. And, and again, we had all of this rapid growth, without investment for many, many years. It was very, we were famously bootstrapped. And we’re able to do that because we were focused on all three of those things.
Gene Hammett [14:12]
Well, when you think about it, you know where the company has now and how you’ve evolved, you’re able to, to have roles that can be absorbed by other employees. And that working relationship takes a little bit of a collaborative approach. From a leadership standpoint, what makes collaboration, you know, happen on a regular basis in your company.
Debbie Millin [14:33]
One of the things we talked about before was is trust. And it is something that does come up a whole lot, but it really is at the core of all of it, which is why it comes up all the time. You know, to trust that you’ve hired the right person and then to let them really do their job. And I think that is at the core of you know, any rapid growth company you need to get the right person in and I think one of the things I like to do, especially in an early-stage companies is talking about utility players. Meaning you need somebody who’s going to be able to wear lots of different hats because you don’t know how the company will actually evolve. And I think it’s important to have somebody who can do a broad range of things. And then as the company grows, that range often narrows a little bit into a specialty. But you need those people to be able to, to really help you grow and pivot as the company,
Gene Hammett [15:22]
I want to dive into this at a personal level with you, Debbie, and I’m not asking for your personal details here. But you know, what are ways you’ve evolved as a leader through fast growth, and some of the things you maybe had to let go of.
Debbie Millin [15:36]
I will give an example of our technology. So when we first started the company, we were looking at different technologies and doing the very typical builder build versus by, you know, assessment, and no one really had what we needed, because it was a very nascent industry. And so we decided that we would build our own proprietary platform, which we have done, I literally was, you know, are in very early days, you know, scoping things out and doing, you know, how should the functionality work and doing data entry when we need to do data entry.
Debbie Millin [16:08]
So I was, you know, it’s very, it’s very personal to me, and I’m very attached to it. But we got to a point where, of course, I cannot do things anymore, we had to continue to grow. So we, you know, one of my favorite examples is, you know, we brought in, we built a product management team. And at first, people were like, I’m not really sure what that is, what is it? We know, what is product management going to do? And I said, Just trust me, and basically operationalized my own brain, got, you know, some strong people in the door to take that and really understand the platform and, and go, and I am so impressed with what they have done and where we are. And that was, it’s hard for me to let go of something that you. I was so involved in it, but I knew that I had to in order for it to continue to grow and for the company to grow. And it allowed me to then move on and do other things with them.
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Gene Hammett [17:17]
Well, I appreciate you spending time with me today, I’m gonna give you one last question to kind of bring this home. The role of being CEO of a growing organization is not the easiest role in the world. You’re kind of that go between a visionary CEO usually, and sometimes you have to implement things that are on time lambs that aren’t your own. What have you learned about this relationship between CEO and CEO that has helped you guys work better together, as a company has evolved?
Debbie Millin [17:45]
I would have learned that I think I might be the luckiest person in the world. Because I have worked with a lot of CEOs. In my career, I’m pretty old, and one of the older people in the company. And Nicole is by far the best I’ve worked for. And I’m not just saying that you know, she’s gonna listen to this later or something, I think we really have developed a relationship where she is she is a brilliant business person, she sees the market, she sees exactly what we need to do and what our customers need. And I am able to sort of articulate that in converted into actually looking at logistics. It is, you know, it is hard.
Debbie Millin [18:22]
There are pressures on every company on every executive to get things done. I think our company does a really great job of balancing, I like to call it being realistically aggressive. We’re really driving, you know, forward and pushing the envelope. And our success is proof that that is that has worked. But we also need to know is that you know, when sometimes we also have to slow down to go faster and sort of get something adjusted and move forward. We famously, for one quarter early on in the company, we stopped selling for a quarter because we needed to do some changes operationally. And that was that’s pretty unheard of. But we really thought it was important for us to get that foundation solid and let our clients and our customers and our prospects know when we actually got great feedback on that. That they really appreciated that how focused we were on making sure that we were going to deliver what we said we do.
Gene Hammett [19:19]
Absolutely love talking to you here. Debbie really put her eyes on what maternity leave could be an actual place where the company can grow from or paternal leave. And I really appreciate you sharing all the ins and outs of what you guys have done at globalization partners. Thanks for being here.
Debbie Millin [19:37]
Thanks so much for having me.
Gene Hammett [19:39]
What a great interview with Debbie to talk about parental leave. It really is a very important topic that you want to make sure you’re prepared for in your organization. But one of the things she said right at the end as you know when they were growing fast that they had to stop selling for one quarter. I want to make sure we address that here. Sometimes you have to slow down to speed up. And this is an example of that.
Gene Hammett [20:00]
The story that she shared about slowing down and not selling for a quarter allows them to prepare their systems, their people and really servicing the customers building on the promise that they made when they actually signed up those customers. I say all this to you because I know how important it is sometimes to slow down to speed up. When you think about being a leader and growing your company, make sure you know that someone’s on your side. If you want some special insight around coaching, make sure you reach out to me just go to genehammett.com/trycoaching. You can get a free session with me and coaching. It’s not a sample. It’s not a taster.
Gene Hammett [20:38]
This is a deep session where we actually get to know each other. I serve you. We build a relationship. I’m not here to sell you something but I am here to serve you as an audience member of the show. If you want to reach out to someone to talk about some of the things going on, get really clear about it. Just go to genehammett.com/trying. When you think of leadership, you think of Growth Think Tank of as always leave with courage. We’ll see you next time.
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