Every leadership book agrees on one fundamental idea. The values of the company must be front and center every day. You may hear them say “operationalize your values” or “living your values,” either way, they are essential. Today’s guest is Jeff Oskin, CEO at Forcivity. Inc Magazine ranked his company #359 on the 2021 Inc 5000 list. Forcivity is a full-service Salesforce Implementation and ISV partner, who can help you with anything from simple implementation to complex architecture. Jeff and I have a deep look at the values of the company and how they work to unite the team. When you have a values-driven organization, you have a more aligned group. Jeff believes wholeheartedly in the power of living the values of the company.
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Jeff Oskin: The Transcript
About: Jeff Oskin is an entrepreneurial Executive and CEO Coach who combines $50 million P&L experience in the high-tech industry and proven complex sales leadership within the software and services markets. Expert at turning around and growing struggling or fledgling operations highlighted by the fiscal turn-around of a $10M publicly-traded software company despite facing a challenging global economy.
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.
Jeff Oskin: It really comes down to, the values of the company. And in my opinion, the, as a company evolves, especially when it’s kind of first starting out, it’s largely on the backs of the entrepreneur or group of entrepreneurs. But invariably, if a company is going to succeed, it needs to expand and grow. And in order to expand and grow effectively, I believe fundamentally that values are the key. They’re the key to the culture of the company. They’re key to how you hire, how you run. Just all of the decisions that are made, that seemingly are, are tactical. In my mind, come down to the values you’ve identified.
Intro: Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs, the fastest-growing privately held company. 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: It’s without a doubt, the most popular topic I’ve had on my podcast is about values. The values of the company are really something that you’ve got to pay attention to. Fast growth leaders get it. And if you want to grow your company fast, do you want to continue growing it fast? We want to make sure you put the effort in, create a foundation of values that drive the company forward. The values of the company are so much more than just words that we put on walls or words that we have as aspirations. You want to make sure that you’re leading your company. You’re hiring people, exiting people all because of these values. The values become the boundaries at which you grow the company. They really provide the foundation of the culture and how people work together, how people engage and communicate the values of the company are the key to your success.
My job is helping you make it come alive. Today’s guest is the founder of Forcivity. His name is Jeff Oskin and Jeff and I talk about why values are the glue that binds the organization. We talk about how they use it specifically, so you can get some insight into what fast-growth companies do. His company is number 157 on Inc list in 2020. And you want to make sure that you’re learning for people that are growing faster than you. You want to create a place where values are understood by everyone. And in fact, he talks about it inside the episode of a recent survey debt that goes out to all of their employees and what came back. You won’t believe the answer to all this inside this episode, I want to help you become the leader that your company deserves. I wanna help you understand what your next steps are. If you want to reach out to me, I’d love to talk to you about what’s next for your leadership and growth strategies. Just go to GeneHammett.com. Schedule your call with me because I can help you figure out exactly what your next step is. If you’re not sure where you’re going and you want to have someone as a sounding board. I love to do that for you. My promise is not to sell you anything, offer you any solutions on that call other than to help you and serve you. I want to make sure that’s clear because a lot of people listening to this day don’t actually apply for these conversations. So I have a lot of space available for my audience.
This is the only place where I make this absolutely free to you. So if you’re listening to these conversations over and over, I’m talking to you directly. Just go to GeneHammett.com and schedule your call. Now here’s the interview with Jeff.
Jeff, how are you?
Jeff Oskin: Excellent, Gene. Good afternoon.
Gene Hammett: Well, I’m excited to talk to you about all things that grow your company. We have a very packed schedule here. Tell us a little bit about Forcivity.
Jeff Oskin: Sure Forcivity is a management and technology consulting firm. We really focus and specialize on helping organizations with their post-sale activities with a special focus on the Salesforce ecosystem.
Gene Hammett: Well, I love the Salesforce, impact it’s had across the company. Is this you would you set out to do, or was this a pivot?
Jeff Oskin: No, this is an evolution as with anything in, in a rapidly growing company, you, you try different things and you tinker. And, we landed about seven years ago on kind of Salesforce as a, at the 800-pound gorilla and growing. And, we decided to hitch your wagon to their car.
Gene Hammett: I don’t want to know the strategy if this is secret, but if they acquired you someday, would that be disappointing to you?
Jeff Oskin: No, I think, no, I think you’d be the stated objective is to become great at what we do to grow as fast as we can grow. And as a result, becoming attractive to somebody else, I think that’s the entrepreneurial dream to, to build something that somebody else values is willing to pay for it.
Gene Hammett: And at that point in time, you can have a choice of whether you keep it or whether you sell it.
Jeff Oskin: Absolutely.
Gene Hammett: Jeff, we came here to talk about what really drives the company, and I want to let you kind of have the floor here. We’ve done the research around this and kind of know what you think it is, but what are the core foundation elements that drive your company’s success?
Jeff Oskin: Yeah, I think Gene, it really comes down to, the values of the company. And, in my opinion, the, as a company evolves, especially when it’s kind of first starting out, it’s largely in the backs of the entrepreneur or group of entrepreneurs. But invariably, if a company is going to succeed, it needs to expand and grow. And in order to expand and grow effectively. I believe fundamentally that values are the key. They’re the key to the culture of the company. They’re key to how you hire, how you run. Just all of the decisions that are made, that seemingly are, are tactical. , in my mind, come down to the values you identify.
Gene Hammett: What would you say to companies that, you know, maybe they had some values at one point in time, but they got really busy with serving customers, hiring people all the day to day, and those values kind of just faded away. And they’re just something that was something they did. One time.
Jeff Oskin: I would say that in that case, they’re really marketing., spiel, they’re not real values. The values are your true north. They guide your decision-making. And if a company has gotten too busy, that to me tells me that one of its values is growing nothing wrong with that as a value, but let’s not get ourselves that what, just because it’s pasted on a wall somewhere, doesn’t mean make it a value.
Gene Hammett: So, what I’m hearing in there is that when you have values that you want to live them every day, you want to institutionalize them. I don’t know what word you use across the organization, but what I think is you just want to make sure you’re using them every day, some hiring, leading, managing, developing all the way through exiting what would you add to that?
Jeff Oskin: You’re spot on the word. The phrase that we often use is it’s the glue that binds us. Right. We’re all unique individuals, but at the end of the day, we are here for a common purpose and those values that underpin everything, we do, the underpin, our culture, they’re ultimately that glue it’s. It’s what makes us do what we do to the degree that we do it very well.
Gene Hammett: Give us an example of how you’re using them every day inside the organization. I don’t, I don’t know what specifically you can share, but what comes to mind?
Jeff Oskin: Our number one value is, we are here to exceed our customer’s expectations, right? Our goal is if we tell a customer that we can deliver something tomorrow if we can deliver it today. Why not deliver it today. Why not go above and beyond for those customers? They remember those sorts of experiences. I challenge people to think about in your personal life. Think about the companies you admire, you give business to you’ll go back time and time again. It’s largely because of the experience, if not entirely, because of the experience in interacting with that company. And flip that equation around. Think about the companies that frustrate you. Why do they frustrate you? My guess is it’s largely because of the experience that you have in dealing with them. And you really don’t want to have to deal with them some cases. Unfortunately, if we have to, we want to be a company that people want to do business with because of the experience they have.
Gene Hammett: That number one value is it’s a pretty important one. I think if you want to create value in your marketplace and now do you, does that mean others are not quite as important or that just something that you just said, number one, value.
Jeff Oskin: It’s just, is there, there are four. We, we fundamentally have four that kind of drive our thinking and our behavior, but you know, that in questionably is the top of the list because we think we hear the word customer. We think about, you know, those people that pay the bills. But we all have customers. My customers are employees. If I’m not doing my job, if I’m not communicating, if I’m not leading, missing their expectations as customers. So it’s imperative for me to make sure that as well as everybody in the company to know both your internal and your external customer because we all have them.
Commentator: Now hold on, Jeff just said something really interesting. He said, as a leader, my customers are the employees, which means he’s there to serve the employees to empower them, and to coach them to that next level. If you’re not doing that for your company and you don’t really understand what that means. We need to have a conversation about what leadership truly is because you want to make sure that you’re putting employees first as the leader, you want to make sure that your employees are putting the customers first. And the only way they can do that is if you get that sequence, right. I asked the impossible question across my podcast and with fast-growth companies from the Inc 5,000, the founders and CEOs will answer the question 94% of the time as employees and that question is. As a fast-growth leader, what’s more important. Your customers or employees, the leader knows that it’s always employees. I share this data with you because I want to make sure you are tuned in what does it take to keep your company growing fast? And I want to help you be the leader that your company deserves back to Jeff.
Gene Hammett: Inside meetings or inside day-to-day conversations, our value of something that brought up,
Jeff Oskin: I don’t think they’re necessarily brought up per se, but they are just naturally threaded throughout what we do. Give you another example of one. One of our other values is be honest and fair. Be trustworthy, just, you know, we make a mistake. We make a mistake readily admit you make a mistake. There’s no harm in making a mistake. Let’s learn from it. Right. , just treat people the way you want to be treated. And so that, you know, we don’t sit and say, well, let’s be fair and honest here. We just do it. And that naturally comes as part of internal, you know, internal team meetings, dialogue with customers, partners. What have you, it’s just fundamental to what we do.
Gene Hammett: Is there anything you do in the hiring process to make sure people are aligned with those values?
Jeff Oskin: For sure. So we, you know, we do some profiling for sure. I’ll give you another example of one. We have, one of our other values is be proactive and taking risks. What I mean by that, I want people, you know, as part of this company that are, that are willing to challenge the status quo. Not that I’m noxious way, right? Not to resist for the sake of resisting, but if you see an opportunity to improve something, you see an opportunity to do something different that might have a positive impact. The way we deliver to customers, the profitability of the company, whatever it might be. I’m much more inclined to bring people on board that aren’t afraid to try something. Even if it fails, it fails. No big deal learn from it, but don’t sit on your hands and do nothing because we won’t evolve and grow as a couple. That’s kind of the mindset of the organization. So we test for that. We challenge people to help us understand a time in their past when they were proactive when they took risks, what was the outcome of that good or bad, no harm and failing everybody fails.
Gene Hammett: That seems that you have a real focus on the entrepreneurial spirit across the company, not just at the founder level. Is that fair to say?
Jeff Oskin: It’s probably fair to say. You know, it’s part of evolving, you know, when the company first started, it was, you know, me and my shadow and my dog. Right. And you know, it, to me values become the extension for how you want the company to be run. What do you want the culture of the company to be? How you want the leaders that are not interacting with you every minute of every day to act, what is their mindset? How should, you know, what should their mindset be? And if they don’t have a clear understanding of the values that are important to me, how can I possibly expect them to create a culture where the company’s values are aligned with my values? So we have to have very clearly defined. The people buy into and it’s important, not just marketing speak.
Gene Hammett: I love that. I think in today’s world, you had mentioned to me, I think before we cut on the recorder, you’re in a hybrid work environment. That means a lot of your consultants and employees are across the world because they’re the best people at what they do. And they don’t necessarily live in the town at which you’re headquartered. The virtual environments require, I think even more of a focus on values because they’re doing work without anyone sitting there, anyone noticing how often they’re truly at their computer, and micromanagement just doesn’t work inside of today’s world because people just won’t stand for it from what I’ve seen. Great people won’t stand for it. But when you are running a hybrid company, the values become even more important. Would you agree?
Jeff Oskin: For all the craziness of the world and COVID and remote work and whatnot, that was, was just the way we operated anyway. And doing that requires again, I’ll go back to the glue that binds people together, right? If they don’t feel that they’re sitting in their home office, whatever 3000 miles away from me across the country. If they don’t feel part of something, our turnover is going to be sky highs and organization. Cause they’re going to just go to the next thing and they’re to, everybody wants to belong. Everybody wants to feel like they make a difference in contribute. And to me, that just starts with having everybody on the same page, relative to the values what’s important to the company. And then fundamentally giving them the freedom. He used to work micromanage. I despise bureaucracy, give people the freedom, give them the boundary. Give them the principles and give them the freedom and let them, they’re really smart people. Both of them go execute.
Commentator: Hold on for a second. One more thing. Jeff said everyone wants to belong. It’s true across your employees. They’re not just there to get a check and move on with their careers. You want to create a place where everyone feels like they belong to something bigger than just a job. If you can create that kind of culture and the values will be a big part of it. You can create a place where people have loyalty, they’ll refer their best friends. And the talent that you’re able to attract will be phenomenal all because you’ve been the leader that knows how to make people feel like they belong. If you know how to do those things through listening, through coaching, through empowering them through inclusion, through transparency, all of these are core factors that we talked about here on the podcast, but I want to make sure you understand your job is to make sure people feel like they belong back to Jeff.
Gene Hammett: Now I want to highlight for a second. I know in our research, our company was one number 157, over 2000% growth rate in a three-year period, has that attributed to the fast growth of the company and be attributed to even future growth?
Jeff Oskin: I don’t think there’s any question about that. It’s going to go back to values are the extension of, you know, the leaders, right? And as we grow, our management team is growing. You know, the staff under them is growing and we all again, need to have that same blue, that same set of values. So that when they’re off on their own executing, whatever it is, they need to execute. They got a frame of reference by which to make decisions on. Does everybody get it right all the time? Of course not. But that’s how we learn and grow. We, you know, we’ve got to get the framework. We’ve got to reinforce that framework all the time and in everything we do. And then people just go figure it out.
Gene Hammett: I want to switch gears a little bit on you because we’ve been talking about values and we’re still. This question is about values, but when you created them as most companies, they evolved, have you gone back and revisit them? And what frequency do you revisit the values to refresh them?
Jeff Oskin: Yeah. Interesting. So we just, we just went through an exercise, oh, probably two months ago, not even two months ago. We had an outside consultant, blindly, so completely anonymous, survey the. And, wanted to get their perspective, their own words of what are the values of the company. And in their own words, they may not have had exactly the phrase, but they were spot on to what our four values are. Everybody knew what they were, and everybody agreed with what they were. We wouldn’t have known if person “A” said, that’s a bunch of hogwash because it was completely blind. We had no idea who was saying what, but what felt really good about that exercise? Was that people get it. They not only get it, but they like it. They buy into them. They, it resonates with them. So, you know, that exercise to me says we got it right right now to the second part of the question, how frequently do we revisit them? We revisit them certainly as part of our annual planning process, but more so about every other year is kind of what the cadence that we’ve been going through just to really make sure we’ve got a pulse on what’s going on, on the company.
Gene Hammett: I know when a lot of leaders start out, they may do this themselves. Maybe it’s the first hire. Maybe it’s after they hire a few people. , they realize they’ve got a, they’re going to have these values to guide them. But now that you have an established team, you’ve got a leadership team that’s helping you guide the growth. If you were doing it today, would you include others into it? And who, how far would you reach down in the organization to include the reshaping of those values?
Jeff Oskin: Well, I was offered advice to, you know, somebody running a company today that doesn’t have them or needs to refine them. I would, I would reach as deep and as far into the organization as possible, I’d include as many people as possible. But with one big caveat, the values that they uncover from that exercise need to be in lockstep with the value of the leader or leaders. Because ultimately if there’s a disconnect, the leader or leaders is naturally going to go about executing based on their own personal values. And if the values of the team differ, that’s going to really rub some people the wrong way, unbeknownst to the leader or leaders. so you gotta really take a hard look at that. Why are they doing?
Gene Hammett: Love the fact that you talked about both of those things and just highlight them for anybody listening in the go, as deep as you can include others into it. It’s not just yours, but make sure they’re aligned with you because you’ve got to live with this forever and you’ll get frustrated if they’re not aligned with what you want. And this is one area where I think you don’t want to be swayed into something because of, you know, others are putting pressure on you.
Jeff Oskin: Totally agree.
Gene Hammett: Jeff, we’ve been talking about values. And I want to make sure that we haven’t missed something as it relates to this. And I know this is the glue that binds the company together, as you said, what else really drives the company forward? As far as growth?
Jeff Oskin: I think it’s, to me it’s an extension of the values and the culture of the company. Right? I think the culture is a by-product of the value. , people talk a lot about it, and I think rightfully so recognize that culture is important. You know, to me, culture is not defined as to whether you have free food on Fridays or a ping pong table or foosball table. Those are marketing gimmicks if they fit with your values. Great. But to me, culture is, is a little bit more ill-defined than that. It’s a little bit more of the feel you get and. I personally believe that those are directly as a result of the underpinning values that are in place in the company, those kinds of guy, you know, that mushy thing called culture. It’s critical. It’s critically important. , especially as a company wants to grow, you know, you’re going to go through growing pains and you know, how you handle those growing pains. To me is, is, you know, whether you’re gonna make it or break it.
Gene Hammett: Jeff, you put a spotlight on the importance of values, and really talking about how they are the bind or the glue really does help the organization thrive. Appreciate you being here and sharing your wisdom.
Jeff Oskin: Absolutely, Gene. My pleasure. Thank you.
Gene Hammett: So Jeff’s listening in here. As we wrap up today’s episode, I really love all things values. I’ve seen a lot of companies that him and about. I’ve worked with clients that were growing fast and they didn’t have that much focus on values, but they also didn’t have a strong management layer. They didn’t have a strong executive team yet, and they needed it to move forward. So if you’re feeling any pressure, take Jeff’s words to advice and, and really focus on how you create the values, but also how you live them, because the creation is not the, the real gift here is how you live them and create the boundaries as a leader and hire people. And move them through the organization when they are aligned to the values.
When you think about your own journey as a leader, I’d love for you to consider what’s next for you. If you have any questions, just reach out to GeneHammett.com. We have free content for you. If you want to have a conversation about what is really going to be the next thing that drives you forward, I’d love to help you find out what that is.
Just go to GeneHammett.com. When you think of growth and you think of leadership, think of Growth Think Tank. As always lead with courage. Will 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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