Every business has a mission. The idea is to know how to use it strategically. There is power in aligning culture with mission, and it drives company growth. Today’s guest is Ben Hodson, Co-Founder & CEO at JobNimbus. Inc Magazine ranked his company #543 on the 2021 Inc 5000 list. JobNimbus is an all-in-one hub for roofing businesses. With JobNimbus, you can track sales, jobs, and tasks from a single, simplified interface. Ben gives his perspective on aligning culture with mission. We explore why this matters when you want to grow your company.
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Ben Hodson: The Transcript
About: Ben Hodsonis an entrepreneur, writer, musician, filmmaker, comic book artist, software developer, hiker, mountain-biker, surfer, rock climber, & Jeep enthusiast. After spending time as a touring musician and finishing degrees in business and software systems from the University of Washington, he co-founded his first company in 2000. That business, Venafi, was sold in 2020 to Thoma Bravo for $1.2 billion. After leaving the day-to-day operations of Venafi, went on to start nine companies with the most recent being JobNimbus, a software and growth solution for roofing and home exterior contractors. In January 2021, they received their first investment of $53 million from Mainsail Partners. On top of his business ventures, Ben is involved in a variety of creative projects. He has written comic books, such as the Jack Burton Adventures, Shutter, 8-Bit, and Blood and Glory. Ben’s short films, Shadow of the Mountain and Marooned, have won recognition at various international film festivals, and he recently published his first novel, Tales of the Macabre West.
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.
Ben Hodson: [00:00:00] When I see most people’s mission statements, I read them and they sound boring. They’re not very aspirational or inspirational, and they are impossible to remember. So my rule is like, really have something that you can rally around that everybody, even their first day at work, when they got a million things thrown at them can remember our mission is to make contractors heroes. It’s actually three words “Make Contractors Hero.” And we think of like the average construction contractor and what they’re doing and how cool of people they are. We love these customers. We want them to be the hero of their own journey. So we’re talking about these guys want to be the number one in their area, or they want to have more time to spend with their family, or they want to save their business because it’s falling apart and actually run a good business. All of these things we define as heroic for them and everything we do in the company is rallying around that one, singular mission.
Intro: Welcome 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 companies. I am the host. My [00:01:00] name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett: Being mission-driven is not new, but how do you align culture to the mission of the company? Well, that’s what our topic is today. The real reason behind this is because it’s good to have a mission that aligns people, but how do you actually do that across the organization through different rituals? Different ways of communicating what’s going on and creating this alignment. And how do you do it in today’s busy world? Well, that’s what we unpack today. We have co-founder of JobNimbus. They are a specialty company that creates platforms for roofing companies and other contractors really is amazing to see the growth that they’ve had. They were number 543 on the Inc list in 2021. And we have with us Ben Hodson. And Ben and I talk about the real reason why mission is such a critical aspect and the difference between mission and vision. We look at the values and the role that plays across the alignment of people. And we also look at how he uses [00:02:00] mission and vision together, aligning culture to the mission is the topic today. So get ready.
When you think about your own journey as a leader, are you absolutely clear about what’s next or is there something getting in the way, do you feel a little bit overwhelmed, burned out, maybe imposter syndrome is keeping you from being the leader that you really want to be. Maybe it’s, you’re not decisive or you’re not confident enough. I want to help you be the. That your team deserves. I want to help you figure out what extraordinary leadership really looks like and help you step into that. When you think about what’s next for you, you should have a clear plan, just like, you know, how to improve sales or marketing across your company, improving your own leaderships should be something, you know what your next step is.
My job is to help you do that. We have a little bit of space in our schedule to do this every once in a while. If you’re listening to this, you may think, you know, I’ll, I’ll check it later. Let me urge you to go ahead and schedule for something. Because it will really help you figure out what does it take for you to be the best leader you can be just go to GeneHammett.com and schedule your call. Inside that call, we will take a moment to look at what you’re really trying to create. What gets in the way, identify the blind spots. And give you a [00:03:00] plan to move forward. That is what I’m known for. I want to help you do that inside your business. It’s absolutely free. If you’re the right person who wants to lean into this, just go to GeneHammett.com and schedule your call.
Now here’s the interview with Ben.
Ben, how are you?
Ben Hodson: Hey, good to talk to you, Gene.
Gene Hammett: Well, I’m excited about having the podcast. We were kind of talking about your guitar in the background, and then your not guitar art, but we’re going to have a great conversation today.
Ben Hodson: Awesome. Looking forward to it.
Gene Hammett: Before we dive into the real topic of this, we talked to a lot of fast-growth companies, but I’m gonna give you a chance to talk about JobNimbus, just to give us a frame for what it is, what you guys do, how you’re different.
Ben Hodson: Our customers are construction contractors in America, US and Canada, and they are mostly in the home exterior space. So think about roofing, siding, gutters, windows, and doors. These are people who are great at their trade, not as great at running their business. And that’s where JobNimbus comes in. There are too many homeowners are being let down by their contractor and we fixed that problem. We make it so you come across as the most professional and predictable contractor in the industry. [00:04:00] We are the number one software in roofing in America right now, and super high growth company, almost 200 employees now. And we were only about 85 last year at this time.
Gene Hammett: I’ve got a good kind of strategic partner. I could introduce you to a previous client of mine focuses on the marketing side of roofing company.
Ben Hodson: Oh, awesome. Yeah. I’d love to talk to them.
Gene Hammett: All right.
Ben Hodson: Maybe we already know them actually.
Gene Hammett: You might already know them, but we’ll, we’ll put that aside and you have been impressive with the growth you’ve had in this company, specifically the numbers 543 last year. I don’t get a chance to ask this much, same question, but how’d you feel when you found out that you were number 543 of all privately held companies in levels?
Ben Hodson: I thought it was amazing. I couldn’t believe we broke the top 1000. I know personally have quite a few CEOs and friends that are doing great and I was honored. It was the first time I’d ever gotten that high on that list. And I also thought, well, okay, this is the 10th company, one zero that I’ve done. And that sounds impressive. But also at the same time, it means there was a lot that didn’t work. Some are really good. I mean, one of my companies went through over a billion dollars, but I thought, okay, I’m taking [00:05:00] everything I’ve learned from all those companies and putting together. And I feel like JobNimbus the best version yet that I’ve done.
Gene Hammett: Well, we’re going to unpack some of that today. Ben, you are known for having a mission-driven company. So what is, what are we, what is that mission-driven aspect that you feel like has a driving force inside of the growth of your company?
Ben Hodson: Yeah, the first thing is when I see most people’s mission statements I read them and they sound boring. They’re not very aspirational or inspirational and they are impossible to remember. So my rule is like, really have something that you can rally around that everybody, even their first day at work, when they got a million things thrown at them can remember our mission is to make contractors heroes. It’s actually three words make contractors heroes. And we think of like the average construction contractor and what they’re doing and how cool of people they are. We love these customers. We want them to be the hero of their own journey. So we’re talking about these guys want to be the number one in their area, or they want to have more time to spend with their family, or they [00:06:00] want to save their business because it’s falling apart and actually run a good business. All of these things that we define as heroic for them everything we do in the company is rallying around that one singular mission.
Gene Hammett: Now that reminds me of StoryBrand.
Ben Hodson: Yeah, absolutely totally awesome book.
Gene Hammett: I loved the book too, and it helps to create the kind of place where people want to work this. And, and I’ve, I’ve heard this from different guests on the floor. You’re not really hiring someone. You’re inviting someone on the mission with you. Do you believe the same thing?
Ben Hodson: Yeah, absolutely. I, we have a couple of new people starting today. And so I, on their first day this sounds crazy to a lot of CEOs, but I go, I don’t care if we have five people starting 20 people starting, or two people starting, I’m going to go meet with them. And their first hour, I’m going to tell them about what we’re doing as a company, what we’ve done to the impact we’re making and what our mission is, and where we’re going and tell them the founding story takes about an hour. Frankly, one of my businesses here. Is Andy Grove, who was the, you know, in Intel and really the innovator of Intel, a lot of the [00:07:00] business things that we do today, like, okay, ours and stuff came from work that Andy Grove did. And everybody that worked under Andy said that he leveled them up, made them better. That’s what I want to be as a leader. And one of the things that. That he did with every new employee group, even when the Intel was huge and was a hundred people, he would meet with them for their first hour and tell them about the company and make a direct connection with them. I think it’s so powerful.
Gene Hammett: I think that people feel like they want to automate that. They want to put a video out one and you know, it streamlines it and they don’t have to show up, but it’s certainly not the same thing watching the video it’s even worse than watching a movie. Because it’s never as fun as what you went to the movie for.
Ben Hodson: I totally agree. You know, the first four letters of culture are cult. Don’t tell anybody I told you that, but in some ways, you are trying to build this like group of people that believe certain things has certain rights and procedures and rituals. This is how you keep everybody bound together. You know, that aspect of creating this like really positive cult-like thing. [00:08:00] And one of the things you need is you need a cult leader. And so I want my new people coming in to fill a direct connection to lead and just get that through video as much.
Gene Hammett: Absolutely agree with the whole big topic today is aligning culture with the mission. And so when you think about this word alignment with, with culture, what are the key aspects of that, that we could kind of talk about today?
Ben Hodson: So a couple of things here, one, you’ve got to think about the mission first, but then let’s, let’s actually just go down the border here. There’s mission and vision, everybody kinda gets this confused, but in my mind, the way I separate them is the mission is what you’re trying to accomplish to make contractors heroes. And then the vision is the how, how are you actually going to do that? So like in JobNimbus case, we’d say we’re creating a platform that makes contractors more predictable, professional, and profitable. And if we do those three things, we think they’ll come across as the best contractor that homeowner more heroic. And so then you say, okay, everything we’re doing in the company, when we have customer service or we have sales. Or we have product features. We say, is it going to make them one of these three-peat? And if it’s not, [00:09:00] we shouldn’t be doing it because it’s not accomplishing in the mission. If it is then it’s much easier.
So you’ve got this filtering mechanism around the vision that helps to understand how to accomplish the mission. And then below that, we have our values. Now I will say if you’re a 10 person company or five-person company, probably don’t need to worry about values that much. It’s honestly, you’ll just have shared values just by the people you hired. And you’ll have a shared mission just because you’re so closely knit, but when you’re trying to scale and you’re getting a lot of people, there is no way to hurt all the cats into the box, unless every cat is walking into the box on their own.
Commentary: Ben just talked about not worrying about values. And I get that when you’re a smaller company, there’s a lot of things to worry about, but I will tell you from my perspective that even with as few as four employees or six employees, you want to make sure that you understand the values and that you’re hiring based on those values. And every person has a fit to the value. One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a leader is not hiring people with the same values as you, as the founders have. When you think about that, you want to make sure you start early. You don’t want to have to make changes [00:10:00] down the road. Now, when you get to have 20 employees and 50 employees, it is much more important to create the different structures and rituals around this. So it is important, I think, to start early in my 2 cents and experience of this. All right. So back to Ben now.
Gene Hammett: I love the fact that you went through the list of things. I use the same thing in my book when we talk about the foundations of, of a business and it really has, I think these are part of the system because they really do work and operate and you, where people go wrong, though. I think with the values is they’re not really living them. Do you guys put a lot of emphasis on the day-to-day aspects of the values?
Ben Hodson: Yes. One of my first job while it was still in college, I worked for a company that was very big and I don’t want to mention the name cause I don’t want to disparage them, great people, over there, but definitely would, did not fit my value system, you know, and it was very bureaucratic. It was very government-like over there and they gave me a sheet of paper on the first day that had, I think 25 values on there. I mean it read like double the size of the scout law or whatever, you know, helpful, courteous, [00:11:00] kind, brave thrifty. And you’re going okay. Interesting. I’m as a kid, I didn’t know anything. And as I’m going through the day, nobody mentions the values ever again. I’m there for two years. I never hear about out again. And I remember like my second week or one of the people I was working with the other boss in the other department lied and I knew it was a lie cause I just talked to him separately.
And one of the core values of number one was honesty. I said, okay, they’re not living them. They don’t talk about them. It was totally disconnected from the company. That is the opposite, what we’re looking for. So we have a bunch of like rituals that we go through in this company to reinforce the values on a weekly and daily basis. Got a huge list of them.
Gene Hammett: All right. Let’s run through up here though. Is what, which ones do you feel like are the most powerful across the organization.
Ben Hodson: A couple that are that work really, really well for us. One is I’ll just say people remember how they feel in the story, they heard much more than they remember procedures or models or anything like that or what they saw. So every single week we have a company all hands. I know that sounds crazy for most [00:12:00] people. This is very important to me. It’s very short. It’s very quick-paced state cadence of 30 minutes. And in that company being at the end of the meeting, we have somebody stand up and share a story about somebody else in the company, and it must be a story. And so for, for instance, one of our company values is self-driven people here at JobNimbus must be very self-driven and so you don’t get up there and say, Hey, I just want to talk about Gary. He’s very self-driven. So I just want to say he’s like super self-driven dude, and I love working with him. That’s not a story, right?
The story is, Hey, Gary was ran, ran up against some really hard deadline and there was a bunch of stuff going on, and here’s all the problems he went through and he overcame them. And then at the end, he pushed through and he made this happen, and here’s the result. And here’s what the successful outcome was or here’s what the failed outcome was. But we appreciate all the effort either way. It’s a beginning, middle, and end. And everybody remembers that. And everybody in the company goes. Yeah. I’m like that. That’s me. I’m self-driven like that. And they remember those stories. Super, super [00:13:00] important.
Gene Hammett: I’m going to ask you a question on that. Are you nominating someone before or are they getting up kind of spur of the moment? I can see the benefits of both, but how do you guys
Ben Hodson: When where smaller, say 40, 50 employees. Just get up and, and there was positives to that cause he got these schools for the moment, things that happened and very emotional, in some cases, the negatives were, there were a lot of people that were very introverted that would never say anything. And so you wouldn’t hear about them and some of the very open and boisterous people would be the ones that would always be sharing. Since then we’ve actually switched. We have RPX team has an outreach motion. Sorry, people experience what we call. I don’t like the word HR, HR was actually coined the first time HR was ever used believe it or not was the book 1984 by George Orwell in relationship to people as resources. I have no idea why we took that over in corporate America, but we don’t use that word here.
Gene Hammett: Let me pause it right there. Sometimes you get fun factor on the podcast. So thanks for sharing that. Ben.
Ben Hodson: You hear that, right?
Gene Hammett: You’re like you call it peak experience. I love this. Tell me more. [00:14:00] This group.
Ben Hodson: Yeah. So, people, experience is our quote-unquote HR team and under benefits employee needs. But one of the, their missions over there is to try to make sure that people have a direct connection, , with somebody in the company that is trying to help them understand their career path, what they’re, what they’re trying to do next, what struggles they’re going through and life. And of course, this PX team who knows every employee really well is then reaching out to them and saying, Hey, do you have I heard about this story from this other person? Do you have something to share about, would you be willing to share? And a lot of people are very introverted because they know this person, they feel like, oh, I totally want to do that. Even though. And so it gives everybody public speaking experience. And we’ve gotten a good group of people to go up and say it. So now it’s much more structured. We actually have it planned. Who’s going to get up there and who they’re going to do. And then we have a slide that shows the person’s picture, as they’re telling the story about them. And then everybody cheers or at the end, it’s very uplifting way to end the meeting.
By the way, that’s a lot different than most all-hands meetings. Which are usually in with company [00:15:00] questions. And what I’ve seen with company questions is sometimes those could go pretty weird or negative pretty fast. And so we do company questions, Q and A in the middle of the meeting for a few minutes. And then we jump into the content of the meeting and end with this really uplifting values-based story.
Gene Hammett: I call that kind of concept as a shout-out to have a totally formal name for it. One little question inside here. Are you doing just one or is it, is it two or three at the end of this meeting?
Ben Hodson: So we do just one, cause it usually takes two or three minutes and we’ve got other content for that meeting. Then quarterly, we have a quarterly, all hands celebration. This meeting’s an hour long. And inside of that, we celebrate the wins from the quarter. We talk about what we accomplished, where we went wrong. We’re very open on what things didn’t work that we’ve learned from the learnings that we had. And then we talk about what our goals are for the next quarter. And then most of that meeting is actually values award. So we have five values and we give out five awards per value, supply 25 people in the company. Of course, at our size, [00:16:00] that’s not a huge group. It’s about 15% of the people in the company will receive a reward. And then when they get the reward or award they’ll come up. They don’t have to come up with the person that was nominated. We’ll come up and tell a story. Hey, this person was very teen committed. That’s another one of our values. And here’s what they did to be so team committed. And it w it’s a beginning, middle, and end story again. And then they get awards and everybody classroom it’s so much positive energy. We recognize a lot of people.
So through that process, Throughout the entire year, even at almost 200 employees that we have right now, you’ll get a good group of people that will get some recognition of the company level.
Gene Hammett: Ben love, love, these stories, these aspects. We’re talking about aligning the culture to the mission. And I want to ask you, we went through the powerful ones. What are the unique ones? What do you think is unique about the values and what you guys celebrate them?
Ben Hodson: So, I mean, I think it’s pretty unique to have a weekly all-hands meeting. Yeah, let me talk about that a little bit because I think it really helps to solidify the values and the, and the mission. So, [00:17:00] first of all, we have a rotating group of topics that we hit. So let me just talk about the agenda of the meeting. Every meeting starts with a quick couple minutes on company number here’s what’s going right in the company. Here’s what’s going wrong right now. And I want everybody to know that this is a problem because every company has problems. That’s actually the fun of it Gene. Is that there’s always something going wrong that you got to work on. I love business because of that. Right. And anybody who tells you that everything’s going great is lying, even the best companies in the world have major issues. Right. So we share them with the company. Second step we go in and do a quick bit of an announcement. Try to keep it very short. Just things that everybody in the company needs to know.
And then we have a little bit of a Q and A session, and we’ll usually have a question pre-submitted since we’re big enough. Now it’s hard to do it all in a group. If some people remote, that sort of thing. And then the last are the 15 minutes after that, the bulk of the meeting, we rotate topics. So one week is called customer stories every month. And in that meeting we have Actual customers on video talking [00:18:00] about what we’ve done for them, what JobNimbus has done for them. We have employees get up and talk about customer stories of what impacts they’ve. They’ve seen this, this makes on that customer. I’m going to tell you about this customer and how we’ve helped their business and what they’ve grown too and all this stuff. I think it’s so uplifting. It’s so motivating. And then we end every meeting with the value story. The other topics that we hit, there’s another meeting that’s product focus. Since we’re a software company, we actually talk about here’s the things we just released, and here’s things that are coming out soon. So everybody in the company gets a sneak peek on the roadmap, even before customers do. Another one of our meetings is called a team highlights. So we’re big enough now that a lot of people don’t know each other in the company and we want to build connections.
So we have an actual department get up or a sub-part of that department. And talk about all of the people. And why, what kind of values they like show how they have our value and some fun, little facts about them. It’s super fun. There’s a lot of comedy in those meetings, but everybody feels like they get to know each other a lot better. And then we have a customer event once a month at our office where we actually bring [00:19:00] customers in and they spend time with us. We do training there, we play games with them. It’s really powerful. And so everybody in the company gets to interact with customers too.
Commentary: Ben, just talked about sharing customer stories. Now I’ve found that if you want to create a place where people understand the impact that you’re making and really demonstrate the mission that you’re on, you want to make sure that those customer stories are shared. Here are the specifics behind that. I like to call these micro-stories. You want to train your employees to tell three-sentence stories about the impact that your service or product is making across the organization. The best way to do that, in the beginning, is for you to pull it out of them. Repeat it back in the short micro version three-sentence format. Then over time, you can invite others to share that short story and really guide them to create it in these micro-story formats of three sentences, and then allow you to be able to have them share that across the organization. Maybe share it with new customers, maybe share it with new partners that they have about the impact we’re making. And the real key thing here is they don’t use the same story over and over, encourage them to find new [00:20:00] stories every day. So it was, they introduced themselves instead of just saying what you do. You can actually share a story that people will remember and know the impact and really ask questions about how you’re doing that across the organization. That’s the kind of stories that make a difference. Customer stories can really help you create more alignment across the company. That’s just a way I use it inside my coaching with my clients. And you can use it too. Back to Ben.
Gene Hammett: Well, I want to give you just a chance to go a little bit in that customer thing. It’s I think that’s a really interesting, unique element once a month. What I heard, what’s the real purpose behind this, and what’s the impact it’s having with the teams.
Ben Hodson: So we think of our culture is kind of back to that book you were talking about. It’s like a hero’s journey, both for our customers becoming heroes and also our employees. When you come to JobNimbus. You should be changed by the experience. You should be a better person when you leave this company when your journey is over and you should’ve been in level up-leveled up by the experience here at JobNimbus. I think of the same thing with customers. And so we think about their hero’s journey, say, okay, you’re using the software and you’re at this certain level, Bob and you’re doing great in your business. We have this event [00:21:00] called the crew. And the reason we call it, the crew is because we’re in construction. And a lot of people called their people that work under them crews, right. They go and put on roofs or whatever. And so this is a job that you’re the crew of JobNimbus, you’re a special people, kind of like a marquee customer event and customers fly into our office. We actually have a good training facility here. We have a roof that we set up in the office. We’ve got siding and gutters and things you can actually get on in the office. And our learning lab and use our software. Like you’re in the office there.
We do training with the customers. We do some fun events, mixer events. We get to know them and every customer leaves a feeling, a massive connection to the company. I mean, I don’t think we’ve ever had one person ever churn after they’ve been included in the crew event, average about 40 to 50 customers come perfect. And we do one a month.
Gene Hammett: I really impressed with what you guys are doing as far as how you’re aligning people to the mission of this. It’s, this is the reason I have people like you on this so I can learn so the audience can learn and lean into, to these different, [00:22:00] unique things. So, Ben, I really appreciate you being here. I know we can keep going on and on and on. I love talking to you, but we’ve got to close this out and really appreciate you sharing your wisdom and part of your journey.
Ben Hodson: I’m glad to be here, Gene. Thanks.
Gene Hammett: Now I want to reflect to you a little bit about what I heard inside, inside today’s episode with Ben. It really is about you understanding how important the mission is first, but how do you integrate it into the business? I don’t know if you picked up on this, but the PX team that the what was it?
Ben Hodson: People experience.
Gene Hammett: People experience actually has a mission to, and actually, you talked about another team. They’re going to share their mission. So each individual team has different missions as they serve the other customers around the organization and then how they serve customers through this customer event. All of these things are intentional experiences to allow people to align to the mission. And this happens when leaders see the value of people.
Now, when you think about your own journey of leadership, hopefully, you’re tuned in to how you can improve. And some of these new ideas, part of the reason why I do this. Is gotta talk to talk to some great smart [00:23:00] people like Ben, but also get to work with people just like you.
So if you’re curious about how to move forward as a leader to grow your company without working more hours without more stress, make sure you reach out to me at GeneHammett.com and schedule your call. Love to support you to grow as a leader. And this is what I live.
When you think about growth, we think about leadership. Think of Growth Think Tank as always Lead with courage. Well, 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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