Many challenges have arisen with the hybrid-work model caused by recent shifts in employee demands for flexibility. The hybrid-work model is not going away. This is a concept that is here to stay. Today’s guest is Vishal Sunak, Co-Founder & CEO at LinkSquares. Inc Magazine ranked his company #253 on the 2021 Inc 5000 list. LinkSquares is the first AI-powered end-to-end contract lifecycle management platform. Vishal discusses his strategies about his company’s hybrid-work model. Discover new strategies in aligning your people while working in a mixture of out-of-office and office.
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Vishal Sunak: The Transcript
About: As CEO, Vishal is responsible for developing strategies aimed at assisting both corporate legal and finance teams with the review of their contracts. He works to prevent his customers from having to read each contract one by one. He founded LinkSquares with the goal of building great products to improve how businesses operate. Prior to founding LinkSquares, he held positions in operations and product management at Backupify and InsightSquared. In 2020, Vishal was named an Ernest and Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist in recognition of his dedication to innovation and growth. Vishal has a B.S. in Engineering from Northeastern University and a M.S. from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
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.
Vishal Sunak: [00:00:00] What we began to realize was it was actually our younger employees that, were living in roommate situations and tight, tight corridors, living in the city of Boston, where they really didn’t expect to kind of be at home for this amount of time. And they were the ones that really appreciated having a work environment to come into, especially in the revenue function. Cause it’s so collaborative to be able to learn and listen to in a more senior seasoned sales reps Run our sales processes, that’s a big part of how we have trained people and how we have had so much success, which is really building an environment where people can learn and absorb really
Intro: Welcome to Grow 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 name is Gene Hammett I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett: Today’s work. Environments are a little bit different than what we’re used to. Now. We’ve had many, many months to get [00:01:00] used to the idea of working from home and, and how things are gonna get done with that. But in the future, we’re really embracing this. Hybrid model. And we wanna understand what does it take to optimize that hybrid work model? Because that’s exactly what you have to look at today. I feel very certain that many businesses, not all, but many businesses will have a hybrid work model that they embrace. So that they can attract top talent so that they can get work done and so that they can truly grow the company having the flexibility that a lot of workers demand and really are looking for above any, pay increases or anything like that, they want that flexibility. Now, not to say that the pay increases won’t be, a natural part of this because what we’re looking at right now is a work environment that is so few available workers and people are leaving workforces, but you wanna make sure you can attract those. And having this hybrid work model will help you do that. Today’s special guest is the co-founder of Link Square. There were number 281 on the ink list. They grew it over 1800%. In the last three years, they [00:02:00] hired over a hundred people in the last 10, 11 weeks. He said with over 200 employees currently, We have Vishal Sunak and Vishal. And I talk about what does it take to create that hybrid work model?
And what does the hybrid work model look like the inside of our work today? Now, one of the things that you will find is, we discuss asynchronous training, what that really means and why that makes an impact cross. A hybrid model. We also look at what has to change inside of leadership to lead in a hybrid work model fashion. All this episode is centered around optimizing the work, the people, the culture so that growth can happen. And hopefully, you’re in the right place because you want to be the leader so that you can understand the nuances. Of the hybrid work model. Today’s episode is all about you being, a leader that can activate growth. And if you’re curious about what your next step is, here’s my request or invitation. Let’s get on a phone and talk about what’s really going on inside your company. I’ve been doing this for over a decade now, and I’d love to be able to get to know you. I’d love to be able to serve you in some way. And so if you’re struggling with [00:03:00] something you’re frustrated. You don’t have to do this alone. You actually can have someone to talk to. In fact, that’s one of the biggest benefits. Of an executive coach is having someone to talk to that. Isn’t your board, isn’t your executive team, isn’t your investors, your significant other, you wanna make sure that you’re having these conversations on a regular basis? I know the benefit in my own life and my own business, and I know what it can do for you because I’ve done this so many times for others. So if you wanna figure out what’s next for you, what’s really getting in your way. Let’s have a conversation. That’s only way through this. You’re not gonna read a book to figure this out.
You’re not going to, you know, watch a video, even if I can create the best content in the world because you need something tailor-made for you to really understand what’s getting in your own way. And that’s the key to your own growth to that next level. Just go to Genehammett.com and schedule your call today. Now here’s the interview with Vishal,
Gene Hammett: Vishal, how are you?
Vishal Sunak: Hey Gene, how’s it going?
Gene Hammett: Fantastic. We’re having a great conversation here about hybrid work environments and what that really means in leadership. But before we get to it, tell us about link squares.
Vishal Sunak: Yeah, sure we’re in the, contract management industry, generally, B2B software, [00:04:00] that that’s the business model. And, we’re helping companies have a better relationship with their contracts and, and that happens both pre signature with how you assemble them and work collaboratively, to then how you store them and get insights about, what you’ve agreed to and, and save you a lot of time in reporting and understanding what you’ve agreed to in contracts. And. That’s one of the, the big innovations we’ve done, through artificial intelligence application to, legal contracts, essentially algorithm, reading a contract, telling you what’s inside it. And we do over a hundred pieces of data extracted. So that’s the business.
Gene Hammett: Are you guys looking into, what’s gonna happen with, blockchain and whatnot with contracts?
Vishal Sunak: Yeah, it’s definitely super interesting with smart contracts and, and authoring and, and logs and ledgers. And, and blockchain, private or public networks we’re, we’re really focused on, helping companies kind of more directly and more, more applicably to like what they’ve already agreed to in contracts and then helping them offer new ones in like a more effective way. But the blockchain stuff is super interesting.
Gene Hammett: Well, I’m glad we had a [00:05:00] chance to, to sit down and talk today. I’ve been thinking about, you know, what are we really gonna get out of this? And you have been through a tough time through, I guess, taking your typical work environment from one place to another. Give us an idea of what it was like before COVID happened and your work environment.
Vishal Sunak: Yeah, really, really energetic, awesome. In-person culture, where, getting together weekly to tell customer stories or sales deals, talk about them in front of the whole company and, and really have that in-office vibe where collaboration could happen anytime.
And, and you really felt the energy, in years past when we were all together, and then in March 2020, when everyone got the. The news of what was gonna happen to the world we, we made a big shift, firstly, to go a hundred percent remote and then kind of more recently to start creating a hybrid environment, to enable people to come back into the office.
Gene Hammett: Now, hybrid is something I like to think a lot of people are resisting. They, they either want everybody in the office again, or they’re okay with it being, you know, virtual. Why did you guys [00:06:00] decide, to really focus on hybrid?
Vishal Sunak: Yeah, we, we had kind of softly opened up with the city of Boston guidance where, where our headquarters is kind of like in Q4 last year. And when the newest guidance kind of came out of capacity and how to do it, we decided to run an experiment where we, advertise the office was open and kind of see what happened. And that’s really a big approach that we’ve been taking over the last call it three or four quarters, which is just. Kind of leaving ourselves open to kind of experimentation don’t make anything too bold in either direction.
But, what we began to realize was it was actually our younger employees that, were living in roommate situations and tight, tight corridors, living in the city of Boston, where they really didn’t expect to kind of be at home for this amount of time. And they’re the ones that really appreciated it. Having a work environment to come into, especially in the revenue functions. Cause it’s so collaborative to be able to learn and listen to in more senior seasoned sales reps, run our sales [00:07:00] processes. That’s a big part of how we have trained people and how we have had so much success, which is really building an environment where people can learn and up really quickly. And so given that there was high interest and high demand, On on coming into the office, we then kind of pursued from there through this year. And, and after we raised the series B, we really wanted to commit to, you know, getting a space where our teams could come in and, and really perform and, and work collaboratively. And it’s worked out fantastically
Gene Hammett: What we see inside the organization. I, I, what I’m hearing is we didn’t put anything, hard and stone that you have to do with this. You just let it evolve. But what would we see happening to create the same kind of culture that you have are known for?
Vishal Sunak: Yeah. So we, we still believe in kind of getting together once a month, no matter what, as a company overall, and, and doing like an all-hands and a recap of, of how the company is performing and things that are important to me, and also give the ability for, questions anonymously to be asked of me and me to be able to answer them. And so what, what [00:08:00] we’re now seeing is a couple of really high surge days, inside the office where like Tuesdays and Thursdays, and sometimes Mondays, depending on what’s going on inside the business, we get more than a hundred people, 125 people actually come into the office. And, I see a lot of happiness, I think just generally inside the workforce, be it folks that don’t come to the office at all, or people that come every single day by their own choice. And, and into the people who come to a couple of days a week, right? There’s a, there’s a lot of happiness. There’s a lot of opportunities. And we still try to get everyone in the company together, at least a couple of times a year.
Gene Hammett: Vishal, a lot of the struggle that that leaders have with this cyber work environment is how do people transfer knowledge? How do they truly collaborate? Are you guys using technology in a special way or using videos to do something differently to, to really accelerate that?
Vishal Sunak: Yeah. We use an internal Wiki tool called Tetra another Boston-based company. And so that, that serves as like a really great knowledge repository, document everything. Has really been the kind of core mantra that we’ve been following. [00:09:00] Like we have to document it so that it can be consumed like asynchronously by the next kind of batch of hires that we may have. And so we’re now really focused on like onboarding of new employees. How do we kind of memorialize and create artifacts that can be reused even. Our own kind of training videos, like all of our management team and me included, we, we teach certain topics that are, are of interest, right? Like my CTO talks about the technology inside the company and how it all works.
And, and I, I give a course on, what does it mean to work at a SaaS company and. And how does it operate? And I teach you about the business model and now we like to record those and then we have them on deck as well, for even situations where we can’t do it. So, yeah, we’re kind of focusing on that more, having a, a really great kind of Wiki where you can just constantly keep posting things in there, central hub and people know how to get access to it. And then we built out. Or slack with some of those kinds of automated questions that can be answered, you know, common questions like what’s the office wifi and what’s our mailing address. And just being able to create channels in which people [00:10:00] can consume information asynchronously has been viewed.
Gene Hammett: Asynchronously is something that people didn’t think about before, because we were so close together and we were able to just, you know, yell at someone in, in, in an internal environment. But you guys have really doubled down on this. What impact is that having across the culture of, of them being able to, to self-serve themselves? Asynchronously?
Vishal Sunak: Yeah, not for everything. I’d say there’s still a lot of value in doing kind of one on one or one to many live pieces of training, but, it enables faster onboarding of employees coming, people that can get up. To speed much more efficiently and much more effectively but then also create enough kind of one to many live training sessions as well. So we’re not kind of pushing everything to being, watch a video on every topic, but still have kind of the interaction as well.
Commentary: Let’s dive in, in here for a second. We’ve been talking about how to create a hybrid work model. And this whole concept is, is really kind of complex. You know, it’s not just something you just do. You have to be really intentional about it. One thing that Vishal just mentioned was. Training. How do you structure training and how do you make it available [00:11:00] to people in an asynchronous world? Which really means being available to them on their own time so that they can consume it when they are up for it when they’re ready for it. And it’s there for the taking, it’s not something that has to be scheduled in a live class. Now, this is a model that will really help people, serve themselves and help them serve it on their own timeframe. One of the things I see people missing in this is they don’t put the right kind of training inside these modules, they’ve talked about the process, certainly how to get something done. They may talk about some of the foundational illness, the context of, of your work, but they’re not really getting into the deep elements of maybe the way you think about it, the, the mindset stuff and many companies aren’t getting into. How do you develop others around you? they really talk about how to, they don’t talk about some of these other things. Now, I find that when you have these different kinds of training and, and the deeper work, that’s where the real, connection is made with anyone. So you wanna make sure that any kind of, training that you’re putting together has some of the deeper work that’s happening of how they’re thinking, the mindset that unlocks whatever you’re training them on [00:12:00] one example might be. Around leadership. A lot of people struggle to give difficult conversations. Well, you have to understand what is getting in the way of a difficult conversation, really dive into it. It comes down to, they’re afraid of what people think about. It’s a really deep fear and it makes them uncomfortable. So they avoid these situations. So if you just train them on how to do something and you don’t address that deep element of this, you’re really missing that opportunity. And it probably won’t. Stick. My suggestion is do the deep work. You have to do the deep work yourself, but also include that inside these little training moments so that people get the thinking, right, so that they can receive the knowledge that’s in front of them. Back to the interview with Vishal,
Gene Hammett: I wanna switch gears here. We have been talking about the work environment, but I wanna look at the leadership of this. And I’m sure you’ve had to change your patterns. Your, executive team have had to change the way they’ve led a hybrid team. What have you guys learned on the shifts necessary in leadership?
Vishal Sunak: Number one priority is, is always, has been and continues to be keeping the workforce engaged and keeping them motivated [00:13:00] and making sure that we’re all on the same page constantly, which is really hard to do. Right? Our engineering and product teams, given the demands of the technical workforce. Everyone needs technical folks to come work at theirs. Software companies now. So we’ve, we’ve been kind of opened up to hiring folks in kind of areas that are not commutable to the Boston area, like Northern New Hampshire and Maine and, and Illinois and, and other states kind of in our time zone in the east coast time zone. And so it creates a challenge where you just spend a lot of time on the phone.
You spend a lot of time on zoom, even if I’m in the office. I. Still spend a lot of time on zoom still spend a lot of time on the phone and that’s really important and critical that you don’t let anyone kind of drift off just cuz they don’t live, you know, kind of co-located in the same city. How do you keep ’em engaged? How do you keep them motivated? And that comes really for me first. Which is like, what are we trying to focus on right now? Like everyone in the company should know, like, what are the big, important things that we’re doing as a company, every [00:14:00] quarter or a company every year. And then making sure that my direct reports, our management team has the same sort of motivation to drive that kind of importance of kind of goals that we’re trying to achieve further down as far down as we can in, into every individual tri everyone in the company is on the same page.
Gene Hammett: Are you using a framework around that, like OKRs or something else that allows you guys, to stay on the same focus?
Vishal Sunak: Yeah, we use, we use EOS preneur operating system, which has really been, game-changing for us. And I would highly recommend it to anyone kind of looking for a framework to, you know, help you better understand and manage the company overall. And so we’ve, we’ve been installing EOS for nine months and, and it’s been really kind of really effective in enabling to stay focused
Gene Hammett: back to your leadership. I, I find a lot of leaders get hung up on certain ways, the way they used to be. How have you kept yourself sharp and evolving through all this process?
Vishal Sunak: Yeah, I put a, I’m putting a lot of trust into my direct reports, right? I mean, that’s just like a philosophy for me as CEO that like, if I’m doing [00:15:00] my job correctly in a kind of a joke sense, I should wake up and there’s really nothing for me to do everything. And, and that’s how I know kind of like I’ve built out. The right group of leaders that work for me, who are all subject matter experts, right? Like, and then if I’m doing my job correctly, my job is to tell them what is important and remind them and continue to track all the things that we know are important that we’re trying to achieve as a company, but really spend a lot of time getting out of the way and enabling them with a lot of trusts, to be able to go and run.
Part of the business, but then come in when, when there are hard decisions to make, when there are strategic decisions to make, when they need coaching or cheerleading, that’s how I know I’m doing a great job as CEO and the company is actually running at the most efficient level that it can be is cause I spend most of my time getting out of the way, which is a really hard thing to do right now. We have 200 employees. It wasn’t always like that, I used to do every single job in the company from prospecting implementation, to onboarding. Support, building the product, working on the, and, and that’s part of the journey. I think as [00:16:00] CEO is you eventually try to hire experts in every department, give it all away.
Right. Which is great. Then I spend my time, like with our board of directors and thinking about the next time we’re gonna raise capital and think about kind of the next quarter’s priorities. Next year’s priorities. Right. If I could spend my time, I’m thinking about the future. That’s important too.
Commentary: Hold on for a second. Vishal just said something really interesting he wakes up each day with nothing to do that day. Now that doesn’t mean he doesn’t do anything. It just means he doesn’t have to do anything. He doesn’t have to be involved with the day-to-day running of the business. Now, how do you get there? Well, he had to learn to let go. And a lot of founders struggle with this because they actually came from a place where they had to wear every hat. They had to learn every function. They had to learn how everything worked together and they know how to do it better than most. And they resist letting go of that. One example of that is one of my clients. Was really good at marketing. And they knew that the company had gotten to 35 million, on his marketing acumen, if you will. And he knew that in order for it to scale beyond this, he would have to, trust more of others and he would have to develop them their skills. And he started doing that. The company [00:17:00] is over 70 million right now. The company is really, you know, firing on many different levels. And that leader, that specific leader learned to let go in a major way of the thing that he was best known for his area of genius, so that he could focus on the most valuable work in front of him and what really the company needed as it moved forward. And that’s what you have to do too. I say this because I know a lot of people, you know, will make justifications or they will make excuses that this is the way is this is the way it has to be. But I know that if you really thought about it, Five years from now, you wouldn’t be doing those same functions. You wouldn’t be in the same meetings that you’re in today. You would actually be leading from a different place. What you have to do is get yourself to do that today, as soon as possible. Not everything at once. I’m not crazy, but I want you to really understand that you’ve got to learn to let go because that’s what your employees want. They deserve. And they really want that space where they’re leveling up so that you can focus on the most valuable things in your company. This is the way it works. This is what I do best, and I’d love to help you with it too. If I can do anything, make sure you reach out to me. And, you can schedule [00:18:00] a call if you want genehammett.com, go to schedule your call. We’d love to talk to you about what’s going on right now, back to the interview with Vishal.
Gene Hammett: Now that you look back on the period of when you were doing all these different things, wearing many hats, as they say, what do you wish you would’ve let go of first and, and maybe not in the civic process, but just the way you were thinking, , so that you could be the CEO that you are today.
Vishal Sunak: Yeah, I, I would’ve been happy to kind of give away the sales entirely to, to someone else. And I mean, my co-founder and I basically did a million of annual recurring revenue sales before we gave it away to who is now my CRO, Steve. And I think it could have happened sooner, but I think we, we wanted to make sure that when in great revenue leaders, That we ourselves knew the process of how we got 50 customers or 60 customers or 70 customer hour. Many that was back then I could have given away a little faster. I think maybe we would’ve gotten into a million of ARR faster as well, but it, it was all part of the journey, you know, all part of the knowledge that we needed to gain ourselves as leaders in the company, as, as co-founders. [00:19:00]
Gene Hammett: Well, I think a lot of leaders and founders struggle with giving away this sooner and they look back and go, wow. You know, we, we held on a little bit too long and it was part of that journey. And, and really the point is you learn to let go. And when you learn to let go, you give a chance for others to grow. Have you seen that be the case in your company?
Vishal Sunak: Yeah, totally we, in my opinion, like you don’t have a company until you have, you know, functions that can support your workforce as well. Like we never really had an HR team until this year. And even just seeing the fact that we have dedicated people who are experts, who run our entire people organization and that whole side of the business, that creates opportunities where first of all, we follow a rule. If you don’t like something or you’re not good at it, then you shouldn’t do it. Right. That’s like, that’s an EOS principle is, is like, are you the right person to run this function? And the answer is absolutely not. I should not, I should not run the HR function. I’m nowhere close to an expert. I’m a two-degree engineer by training. So that, that has been pretty [00:20:00] transformational now, as we’ve.
Spun up kind of the supporting functions in the business like IT and people and operations, even though I love, I love setting up new computers though. I shouldn’t do it anymore. And I love diving in and doing technical analysis of our product and usage and, and revenue and all that stuff. But I know that you know, there are very few jobs that. Only I can do in the company that no one else can do. Right. And I have to say focus on those things cause no one else is gonna do those, like work with our board of directors. I’m the primary person, right? Think about raising capital again, I’m the primary person. But if I spend my time getting absorbed into things other things, right. Other things that I’m trying to be accountable for, then that’s gonna take away my focus from doing the things that only I know I have to do. Right. And there’s only 1% who can really do those things. So that’s kind of how I viewed it. And it creates a lot of opportunities and, and, you know, thankfully we’ve been able to raise a lot of capital and 40 million recently to be able to enable that. And, and that’s what exactly we’ve done, gone and hired 110 people in the last 10 weeks or [00:21:00] so. And, that creates a lot of great opportunities. People really come in and shine, and I’ve really appreciated that.
Gene Hammett: Well, I appreciate you walking us through this whole journey. I want to ask you one more question. You’ve been through probably many shifts or many, you know, breakthroughs in your own leadership. Can you look back and reflect on something that really helped you create the kind of leadership style that you have today that would give us some insight?
Vishal Sunak: Yeah I think with the B2B software journey with the B2B SaaS journey, especially if you’re kind of like a venture back, you have to really understand that you’re running three companies simultaneously, whether you know it or not, you’re running the company, which has a bunch of people. And those people are the ones that need, fair and equitable pay. They need career paths, how they can get promoted. They need all that infrastructure to make them succeed in the ability for them to do their job as me being their employer. That’s the first piece. The second piece is just. Running the company from the pure perspective of, you know, you are what the spreadsheets say you are at the end of the day, what your income statement says, what your balance sheet looks like, what your [00:22:00] email looks like.
So like that’s a big component of the job, right? That has changed the way I think about leadership as well. cause certain decisions. At the end of the day, if they impact the spreadsheets negatively, then that’s gonna impact our future also. Right. And then the third thing is really running the company as a, financial asset, right. We are an asset to a bunch of investors who borrowed money from other people who invested some of it into our company so that they can make a return. Right? Like, do you know that your, Plus stock on the New York stock exchange effectively, or an ETF or a cryptocurrency. We are the same thing. We’re a privately owned tech company and people have made investments. Right. And so I think the thing that I’ve really doubled down on now in the thinking is. We have to make decisions for three companies. Simultaneously every time we make a decision and framing it like, well, does this impact the way we are valued as an asset, does this impact the way that people are going to, you know, react to a decision?
And sometimes it, it crosses over. Sometimes [00:23:00] it’s very clean. You make a decision. For, you know, one, one focus area which could impact others, hopefully not negatively in a positive way and kind of get everyone in the company aligned to that. Right? Like align to that thinking and get my direct team aligned to that thinking. That’s a that’s the best way to kind of, you know, lead their company is also understanding. Do you understand the game that you’re actually playing?
Gene Hammett: Vishal. I really appreciate you sharing that journey. You have going to the CEO that you are working in this hybrid environment and leading the team through fast growth. Appreciate you being here.
Vishal Sunak: Yeah. Thanks for having me Gene really appreciates it.
Gene Hammett: It’s a chance for me to reflect back on what you just heard in this interview. I really, love to be able to interview people that are already sharp and really understand leadership in a really moving at a different level. That’s the reason why we have these interviews for you and you know, this hybrid environment hasn’t been easy for any of us. But I think embracing it and learning how to work with it and how to create those asynchronous, channels of communication and, and be a different type of leader learning to let go, is a big part of that. This hybrid environment, doesn’t matter how many employees you have your job is to let go and let [00:24:00] someone else to, you know, fill in underneath you and develop them and that as you move and focus on the bigger priorities and the bigger, valuable work that only you can do. And that’s exactly what we’ve seen here today.
So I really appreciate you listening into this. If you’re curious about your own journey and your role as being the CEO, playing at a higher level, really becoming with more energy and focus and passion so that you can develop and encourage your people. I’d love to talk to you about what’s next for you. All you have to do is go to genehammett.com schedule your call with me inside that call. We’ll get really clear about what’s getting in your way. What really pulls the energy from you and what gives you the energy to be the leader that your team deserves. Just go to genehammett.com. I’d love to talk to you and, help you become the leader that you want to be.
When you think about growth, when you think about leadership, think of Growth Think Tank. As always live with courage. We’ll see you next time.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
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