Numbers don’t lie. Yet many leaders rely too much on metrics. This conversation will require an open mind if you are a leader of a traditional metrics-driven organization. We look at how a new growth system is needed if you want predictable growth. Today’s guest is Dennis Fois, CEO at Copper. Inc Magazine ranked his company #115 on the 2020 Inc 5000 list. Cooper has created a CRM system that integrates seamlessly with G Suite to ensure productive user experiences. Dennis shares why you must go beyond a metrics-driven organization to create a new growth system. He has a unique perspective on leadership. Discover a new way to go being a metrics-driven organization.
Don't miss an episode. Subscribe to Growth Think Tank.
Dennis Fois: The Transcript
About: Dennis Fois is the CEO at Copper. Copper is a new kind of collaboration CRM that’s designed to do all your busywork, so you can focus on building long-lasting business relationships.
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.
One thing that I’ve learned is that accountability, I usually take this to be like as the CEO of the company, the people who are accountable to me when you made me a promise, but it’s much more powerful. So people start to become accountable to each other publicly. And what you see that leaders, myself included, basically say, Man, man, man, I really messed that one up. Here’s what went wrong, I reviewed it, here’s what we’re going to do next month. So that that the culture really has helped us, too. As you’re onboarding new employees. As you’re adding new people to the mix, we add people fast, and also they self select.
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 Jean hammock, I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett [0:56]
You look at the numbers or business over and over again. Are you looking at them so intently hoping that they change and move and grow? Well, I know numbers are very important. There’s something beyond a metrics-driven organization. What we’re going to talk about today is what those things are. We have a very special interview today with the co-founder of copper copper is a CRM tool that plugs into the G Suite applications that you’re probably familiar with. But also what we’re going to talk about is a really powerful element. Our guest today is Dennis Fois. And he is got a unique perspective around what leadership is, he loves numbers just as much as I do, and probably you do as well. But he knows that there’s something behind that behind metrics-driven organizations, is a new growth system. And that is a real conversation today. What I like most about this is we get specific on what that is and how you develop as leaders to create these new systems, what you should be focusing on instead of just the numbers. Now, here’s the interview with Dennis.
Gene Hammett [2:02]
Hi Dennis, how are you?
Dennis Fois [2:03]
I am great, Gene, how are you?
Gene Hammett [2:05]
I’m fantastic. I’m excited to talk to you about what’s going on. And I’ve already let our audience know a little bit about you. But I’d love for you to give us a chance to understand Cooper.
Dennis Fois [2:15]
Yeah, thanks very much, Gene. So I’m Dennis, I’m the CEO of Copper. And it’s a Copper is a company, I mean, simply put, that is a G Suite system is the system for G Suite companies. And so what we mean with that is we’ve teams and companies that are working in a more collaborative way with their customers, and don’t just simply use a CRM for sales only, but really to run their businesses, they use copper. And this creates a very interesting way of running your business where you have a collaboration and CRM working together in in harmony.
Gene Hammett [2:51]
Well, I know I mispronounced that earlier. And because I wrote it down wrong, it’s completely my fault. When you started this business, what was the real kind of problem you’re trying to solve with Copper.
Dennis Fois [3:04]
So the business didn’t originally start out with this idea that the business pivoted a few times. You may have heard this a few times as you’re talking to a lot of founders. And we became clearer and clearer over time, but was clear as that that as a company, we wanted to build a different type of CRM system. So there was this idea that CRM as a category has not really evolved with the way in which we’re working today, it’s very much built towards how we used to work and treat everything as process optimization. You know, if you have your blueprint, if you have a process, and if everybody follows your process, you can get certain outcomes. And that starts to work increasingly serves more than business and it serves more businesses that look to find adherence and process optimization.
Dennis Fois [3:54]
The reality is that as this work world is becoming very much more complex and larger, where customers have empowerment, employees have empowerment, that idea of having a blueprint for absolutely everything is not working out. So well the idea of basically mass marketing customers and convert that last percent drive activity and convert that it’s not working so well anymore. And so what is what we’re seeing is that there was a disconnect between who the CRM was actually serving and what we simply put, the CRM was serving the business, not the end-user. And so users didn’t intelligent people that are not doing repeat work didn’t find it that useful for their day to day and so that’s why you always see an enterprise sales that’s the last stage was always up late updated last then, magically, these news work got over the line this because sales reps didn’t find that that use to manage their deals. And so we set out after a few iterations to figure out a way of creating a CRM that works for you in the first instance, so our master is basically the user. And it’s not just salespeople. It’s all So a customer success reps or creative people or the founder of the business. And we wanted to basically help you be more organized in how you’re running your business, by virtue of that the information in corporate is better is of higher quality, and therefore we can deliver better insights. And that’s how we eventually got there, I’m not gonna sit here pretend that this was kind of cooked up on our kitchen napkin.
Dennis Fois [5:23]
The next part for us was the integration with G Suite, what we believe is that productivity, collaboration and CRM are starting to come together, what you see is the teams are using collaboration tools, they’re using a sheets to work together on they might create flowcharts. And the reason why they’re doing it is they can’t, they can’t find that way of organizing their work in the CRM. And so what we want to do is bring those two worlds together. So you can just work where you want to work within your email, or in your documents, but at the same time, help you be more organized and give you a revenue visibility. Because I think the problem with productivity collaboration tools is they don’t give you revenue visibility. And we all have a business to run as much fun as it is to collaborate, we do want to see whether things are moving the needle and whether we are serving our customers well. And that’s what a CRM is actually very powerful. It’s just too rigid in the way we’ve been running it so far.
Now, hold on for a second, this has said that some employees are more engaged than others. And he’s starting to figure out why is that? Well, from my research, it’s when employees feel included into the different aspects of the business, they feel a higher degree of ownership, or they feel that that ownership is available to them. And it doesn’t have to be the financial kind, that’s, you know, options or actual percentage of shares and things like that. It can be the way they’re LED, the way they’re treated, the way they’re empowered, if you have that kind of leadership, you really do have a different sense of engagement, the back to Dennis.
Gene Hammett [6:56]
So to make sure that the audience hasn’t tuned out, but stays with us. We’re going to talk about, you know, creating the kind of company you’ve created the fast growth around 90 employees that right? Yeah, you’re you were at 19 million. You were number 115 on the Inc list, that level of growth. I’m sure you’ve learned something about leadership and styles that maybe even go against what a lot of people believe. So when I asked you this question, what within leadership really drives growth? What comes to mind first.
Dennis Fois [7:34]
That’s what comes to mind. First, to me is a shared mission and accountability. Those are probably the two biggest things that I think about. It’s the third time I’m CEO of a company, our previous company was a larger company that cooperates today, but increasingly, so I do feel that your ability to build shared accountability. But unchecked is the operative word here is a key driver for fosse gross, because she comes otherwise, keep up with it.
Gene Hammett [8:05]
So I think we got to define what shared accountability is. So how would you put that in context?
Dennis Fois [8:10]
Yeah. So I mean, it comes from a place of we start to think about this, why do certain people perform so much better? And why shouldn’t people more engaged than others? And so I was curious about this, as I looked, you know, you can talk to employees and say one employee is operating in a very stressful environment, but they seem to be highly engaged, very happy, high energy levels, and others might be struggling to get I think, do you want why is that they performing the same work? And the the, what I found is that there’s usually two reasons.
Dennis Fois [8:42]
One is how connected Are you really, to this overall mission and vision of the company? Do you really believe that you can make a dent in it and your own contribution is important part of that. So this belief, that it’s winnable, what you’re doing that you’re part of the winning journey, that accountability and wide share this, this is how you’re holding yourself to stand is what growth comes from right. So basically, are you being honest and dispassionate with yourself and your commitments that you’re making? And are you holding yourself to account to your colleagues? So I think the one thing that I’ve learned is that accountability, I used to say this to be like, as the CEO of the company, that people were accountable to me when you made me a promise, but as much more powerful, as more people start to become accountable to each other publicly. And what you see that leaders, myself included, basically say, Man, my man, I really messed that one up.
Dennis Fois [9:32]
Here’s what went wrong. I reviewed it, here’s what we’re going to do next month. And so that’s, that’s a culture really has helped us, too, as you’re onboarding new employees as you’re adding new people to mix to add people fast. And also they self select because some people don’t really want to work in an environment like that. That’s not for everyone. But what does happen real quick is that it’s very clear what type Place you’re in. And so it makes that it makes it much faster to have people working together as a team where you say, well, should we study and share information? That’s what I mean, which shared.
Gene Hammett [10:11]
Many times I talked to people about just your regular accountability is a set of external checks and balances. But what you really want is a sense of ownership. What does that mean for you across your company?
Dennis Fois [10:24]
Yeah, so this goes quite far here at copper. I think it all comes down to trust, right? And transparency. So but these Unfortunately, these words are often very much used everywhere. The question is, like, How real is it. And so what I think people need to see is that that ownership is there’s one standard for it. And so this applies to be the shift from the top down, especially, I think the CEO, needs to demonstrate that. And so what we do is we have shared goals at the company level. So we have okrs, that we set at the quarterly level, these are, these are okrs. At company and team level, we deliberately haven’t gone down to individual levels, because of the nature of our business that we want to the velocity so ferocious that we would really want to concentrate on teamwork and enforce that these goals we discuss every Friday, it takes us 30 minutes, the whole company on zoom on online wherever they are. And it’s basically five objectives that we have for this quarter particularly and that as drivers and accountable that basically we’ll talk one, two minutes or in 30 minutes, we go through the whole through those FIFO chaos, we go through the business scorecard, which is basically the financial KPIs. And we go through highlights that take us 25 to 30 minutes to do the whole business no more. And everybody, and it’s literally over 100 people on that, on that zoom or, or physically present.
Dennis Fois [11:52]
What happens now is that basically, people are committing to goals that are very challenging. So the nature of these okrs is they are very challenged, they’re unlikely to be fully realized, you know, anything, if you’re batting 70%, you’re doing well on those. So the The reality is, you’re going to fail, right in terms of if you set the bar 100%, you’re going to fail. And now you are talking to your team about what you’re doing. And so this is what creates this accountability at what’s happening. Are we improving? What happens if we’re how do we deal with failure? How do you communicate? Do you come up with a bunch of excuses? So they just basically say, actually, this week, I didn’t really advance that much, because I got sidelined by whatever. But here’s my plan for next week. And so that is what we have instrumented.
Dennis Fois [12:37]
So top-down, I also have goals. And I also report back to our team on those and I also regularly fail. So what people I guess see is that it’s part of like, there’s nothing special about that. It’s it’s accepted, it’s a cultural norm, that that’s what we do, what isn’t accepted, is to talk, to talk out, basically to try and avoid the difficult concepts. So if you’ve slept on something for two or three weeks, to not have a real conversation with the company and team about and and usually the questions that the team asks are pretty, pretty pointed. So you’re likely not to get away with it. And so what we’re starting to get in an environment where the accountability and ownership is expected from everyone. Failure is also accepted. And but lack of accountability is not.
Dennis just talked about cultural norms. I’m kind of curious, are you tuned in to what your cultural norms are? The positive ones and the negative ones? Are you really taking the time to look at the organization, how people communicate, how they collaborate, any kind of politics going on? What are the standards that you expect of others, how one on ones are done, and how teams are recognizing each other as they apply to the values of the organization, there’s a lot of areas where you could look at the cultural norms, but your job is to tune in to them. If you don’t have time, you’re really missing that opportunity to be the leader that your team deserves. Back to Dennis.
Gene Hammett [14:12]
It does. And I see this a lot with the patterns in this. And that’s one reason why I do what I do is to see enough conversations with fast-growth companies to be able to look and see what’s going on this sense of transparency and having shared goals and having shared accountability. I really appreciate you being here. When we were before we turned on the recorder today you were talking about you know, venture capital has this perspective of the metrics that drive companies and and they really do over-index on that. From my perspective, they don’t really look at the processes and the people behind this. And you agree with that. Tell us a little bit about why that’s such an important piece to fast growth.
Dennis Fois [14:54]
Yeah, I think this is probably one of the most important Finding so as we grow, and as we use money to fuel our, our, our ventures to grow faster, there seems to be this ideology that there’s a playbook for everything, and that you have to look in a certain way. And you know, I’d love if that was true, the batting average of venture capitalists would be higher than it is today. And it’s in a very, very low single digits, as we all know. So the reality is a complete nonsense that you can literally go from product market fit to go to market fit, get your unit economics, right, get a CAC to LTV 1234 more cash in it, and off, you go and go to category leadership. It’s just total nonsense. And unfortunately, though, that most of the things that are written when we look at where we go next is the there’s truth in numbers, we owe conditions, how we grow up to look at the level of you know, we have got so many decisions to deal with, there’s something new every day, and there’s something peaceful about looking at your p&l looking at numbers, looking at unit economics, to see a path forward. And they are important, but they are extremely lagging all of those unit economics.
Dennis Fois [16:10]
Most of all, all of them, especially the financial ones are lagging indicators. And they’re pretty bad indicators of what the future might bring. I definitely as I said, this is kind of this is the third time I did that I used to be like a numbers guy, I would spot them the error in an Excel spreadsheet, even if the CFO had looked at I would take great pride in that. But now I spent all of my time actually up behind those I spent my time in like, let’s take hiring. Well, let’s take people we all have hiring grows of so we’ve we’ve just got a bunch of venture debt in, we’re scaling. And so now we are going to go add people into a sales organization through a marketing organization with the CST what tends to happen is that we that becomes a goal.
Dennis Fois [16:55]
So now all of a sudden, we have a hiring goal of hiring so many of these people here, we created a funnel for it. And so what I started to do is to start thinking, How good are we actually at hiring and enablement? So I started to say is how good Where are those people after month, one, two, and three that we’ve just hired in January? Or in December? Are they working out? I asked the managers, what’s your batting average? Now successful highest, we also hire asked managers that a spot of the interview process? How good are you at hiring? What do you give yourself out of 10? You’re last? How many people did you hire? And how did that work out? While I’m from them? If you if you changed your interview techniques, do you think it’s more hiring or more onboarding? And my hypothesis is actually that, unfortunately, nothing beats hiring. I don’t think you can beat good hiring. And so with all the enablement processes that we have, like onboarding, I don’t think you can ever beat hiring if you’re a fast-growing environment. And the reality is, let’s if you look at that, how bad are we are on that? How you know what, what instrumentation do we have to be better than all our competitors in the way we are sourcing our people. And if that takes longer if you don’t hit that 140 number, is that a bad thing?
Dennis Fois [18:17]
Like it’s, maybe the metric should really be retained and activated highest Othman three, that might be a much better way of looking at hiring them. Basically, we’ve hired a bunch of people off the streets. And now we’re capping yourself off the shoulder that on the shoulders that we’ve got 140 employees. But unfortunately, that’s what we celebrate, we celebrate, Oh, we got we passed the 200. Mark. Now we’re doing great. And so I feel that the metrics and the venture debt and the scaling really don’t help you to build a quality, quality, and sustainable business. It sets you up like a basic to start them go and get more of those, whatever they are.
Gene Hammett [19:03]
This reminds me of a conversation I had the other day with a prospect and we’re still kind of in the conversations and I wouldn’t let anyone know who it was anyway, but they have a retention problem. And we isolated it to the first year. And it was a $3 million problem. And I asked him, I said tell me just walk me through your hiring process. And he goes, Well, if they answer the questions, right, we’re in such need for people. We just give them a shot. And I was like, do you see how that could be wrong? Like when you’re watching the lagging indicators of it costing you 3 million? When you look at that leadership, Dennis, I mean, you’ve got a different perspective here focusing on something other than the metrics like you’ve already processed, you are a numbers person, you’ve got scorecards, but you are going beyond How do you encourage your frontline managers to accept that same kind of insight on the Your show?
Dennis Fois [20:00]
Yeah, it’s because I think it comes from I love the execution, I see I definitely see myself as chief executive officer, not in the nicest possible sense here. But I and so the, I think what often happens is people basically say it’s no numbers or something fluffy. And what we work with the team on it, there’s nothing fluffy, a bit about about being really solid on your processes on your day to day processes. And really working with your people. There’s nothing fluffy about having a really solid one-to-one. So having really great meetings, meetings that have very clear goals, very clear agenda on start on time, finish on time that evolve the conversation that you’ve all, there’s nothing fluffy about that. It’s hard as well, which conversations to have as a group, which one’s conversations and having smaller groups, which conversations to have one to one. And so I’m encouraging the team to have a level of precision and enjoyment out of the fact that that stuff is so much more important than the metrics, that if you do that, if you would spend 80%, you need to know your numbers, right?
Dennis Fois [21:11]
Otherwise, you’re busy for, but how long does it take you to know your numbers like, you know, if you spent a few hours a week on it, you know, your numbers, that it’s not that complicated, and it’s not as complicated as something seriously wrong in a business. So you need to be advanced, then they need to be simplified so that everybody can understand the numbers. Once you have you have a view, you can glance at it, you know your number. So if it takes you more than a few hours a week, it’s probably there’s something deeply wrong, you need to dig into it and fix it and get and get out of the way. So what I say to the team is basically be prepared to be meant to be prepared, be organized, have a crisp goal, let’s execute, but the level of orchestration that we now have behind the okrs, for instance, and how we report on those is, it feels like bigger company instrumentation, right.
Dennis Fois [21:58]
So we’re looking at company, we’re still a small company with fast-growing, but we’re very tight on projects, process retrospectives, what went wrong? Why did it go wrong? How could we have that goal, so wrong? And so there’s a lot of precision around that. And I think what people start to appreciate is how much actually goes into this box outside of these numbers, that people often and I think this is particularly important for younger people. And often in startups, we do hire those people, as they come into a company that they see there’s a whole world behind how to have a great one to one with your leader, how to figure out what you should do next? Do you have a plan? And what’s the difference between a goal and a plan? Right? Have you ever broken this? Are the steps done? Which, what are you looking to move to? Is that what you’re looking to move important in the grand scheme of things? Are you doing a lot of repetitive work? Why are you doing repetitive work, you shouldn’t be doing repetitive work. So for me, it really comes down to revealing the layers behind all of that and talking about execution more. and enjoying that.
Gene Hammett [23:13]
Well, I appreciate your perspective here. And I’m glad that we talked about this, how do we get the frontline to accept this new leadership kind of paradigms? Because that’s one of the hardest places for leaders to evolve to is how do we really connect with that frontline leadership? executive teams probably doing pretty well. But bringing on those new hires, except his new levels of leadership, so then it’s I appreciate you being here. And copper is, you know, in good hands, I really appreciate you sharing your wisdom.
Dennis Fois [23:46]
Thank you. Appreciate that.
Gene Hammett [23:48]
I love this interview because it really is akin to the work I’ve been doing. And it’s so deeply aligned around how do we go beyond traditional leadership, the numbers-driven organization, the ones that are driven on just strategy alone, aren’t working and growing as fast as those that have the right people in place and are leaving them in a way they feel a sense of ownership around what they’re doing in their job and their role inside the organization. That’s the core of what I do as a leadership coach. And if you have questions about your own leadership, your own company growth, make sure you reach out to me genehammett.com, as always lead with courage. We’ll see you next time.
A QUICK FAVOR
And lastly, please leave a rating and review for the Growth Think Tank on iTunes (or Stitcher) – it will help us in many ways, but it also inspires us to keep doing what we are doing here. Thank you in advance!
If you want more from us check out more interviews: