Startup Therapy Podcast

Episode #128

Ryan Rutan: Welcome back to another episode of the startup therapy podcast. This is Ryan Rutan joined as always by Wil Schroder, my friend and partner and the Ceo and founder of startups dot com and I'm so excited about today's episode that I accidentally have stolen my wife's coffee in addition to having my own. So this should get interesting by the end, double fisting today.

Wil Schroter: Alright, so before we get into this next topic, I just want to let you know what we talk about here is like 1% of the conversation, you know, really, this conversation is going on all day long online at groups dot startups dot com where Ryan and I pretty much talk endlessly with founders about every one of these topics. So if by the end of this discussion, you like the topic and you want to dig into it a little bit more with Ryan and I just had two groups dot startups dot com and we'll pick it up from there,

Ryan Rutan: you'll know that we're doing these, these wonderful founder groups. Um and and then a lot has been coming out of these, um we've been referencing them more and more. Um and it's because it's simply, we're just in the middle of so much more of the action with, with the startups that we work with now and a common thread that keeps coming up, even at the earliest, earliest stages of the startups are issues around culture, right? Uh and typically not that it's like we have this blossoming awesome beautiful culture. It's not usually that right, it has happened, but that it's usually there's some cultural issues, Um, there's some dissension in the ranks, There's something amiss. Um, and the founders are coming and they're asking why and what do I do about it? So well, in your opinion, like where do these issues stem from?

Wil Schroter: It's us, right? And, and I think that's the part we have a tough time understanding as founders. You know, I think of it as like a big pond and we are the, what starts the ripple right in the middle were the rock that starts the ripple of everything that happens for a lot of us. We just don't understand the gravity of that, right? We don't understand that. All these little things that we do often unintentional, start to have this multiplying effect across the organization. And I think when we're frustrated about, you know, the politicking in the organization or frustrated about, you know, hey, why are people so overworked and they're stressed or all these different things. We don't understand that like this all maps back to us. And if if we don't set the tone, then it'll get, it'll get set in ways we don't intend. And that

Ryan Rutan: is a huge

Wil Schroter: problem. And if things are coming off the rails, we have to reset that, which is really hard to do and everyone's looking at us to fix it, you know what I mean? Yeah,

Ryan Rutan: exactly. Now I think you nailed it. So there's, there's sort of three scenarios, right? There's the one where were deliberately driving a good culture, there's the one where we're hopefully not deliberately, but accidentally driving a bad culture reflection of our own actions and then there's the one in the middle where we're not really doing anything and we're letting culture develop on its own and um, that ends up just being a very weedy garden, right? In most cases. So yeah, I think that those are the kind of the three main scenarios. I'm sure there are plenty of other ways that culture can either go great or go wrong. Um, but these are the three that we see most often.

Wil Schroter: Yeah. And where I start to see it, I think where we often see it internally. I think if we're talking about different parts of it, of our culture, I often see it early in internal politics. Right? And, and even if there's four people in the company, it doesn't take

Ryan Rutan: much, right,

Wil Schroter: where are we going to

Ryan Rutan: parties in America? And we've seen how, how wrong that can go

Wil Schroter: in. Our idea of conflict resolution is back channeling and it's, it's all of

Ryan Rutan: this, this kind of

Wil Schroter: um, yeah, right. It's all of this, um, infighting that we allow to go on or worse to what you're saying, we actually are the ones causing it to give an example if I'm at lunch with some coworkers and I start bad mouthing another coworker and I don't mean like in a horrible, horrible way. I

Ryan Rutan: mean even relatively

Wil Schroter: basic, right, wow, they really should have thought about this before. They did this kind of thing. Right? At the moment I say this, it's not even that big, like a big big of an accusation, but the moment I say it in front of others behind that person's back, I just gave permission and this is all everything we're talking about right now. I just gave permission for everyone at that table to

Ryan Rutan: do exactly the same.

Wil Schroter: Exactly. That's how

Ryan Rutan: it starts,

Wil Schroter: right? Yeah. And yeah, and you don't, right,

Ryan Rutan: And it's not just about that individual, right? It's about whatever individual was in their mind that they had some gripe about now, they're going to turn that into it. Yeah, yeah. And, and unfortunately these, these things spiral out of control really, really quickly. Um, to the point around back channeling, I want, I want to focus on that one for a minute because back channel has always been a thing, right? It has always existed. But in remote work culture, which has become the reality for the vast majority of us,

Wil Schroter: right?

Ryan Rutan: Especially in startup land, right? There are very few startups who are like, nope, we're going to huddle together in an office, you know, safety be damned. Um, it's even worse, right? Because there used to be some at least subtle safeguards against this, right? Like, so, and so just walked into so, and so's office, right? So you sort of had this sense,

Wil Schroter: right? You know, you can

Ryan Rutan: see they're like, oh I know why they, they're in, they're complaining about me or they're in there talking about so and so you don't have that visibility anymore right between zoom and slack and whatever, there's far more anonymous communication, which one managed correctly can be really empowering can be really great, right? But when managed poorly, when it just turns into instant capability for back channeling. Right, Right. And I've talked about this in other episodes, you know, I've really mixed feelings about our ability to semi synchronously communicate. Um the the challenges posed for me is that people don't think as much before they compose something, right? The amount of thought that used to go into an email or before you picked up the phone and got on the phone with somebody, there was a significant amount of preparation for that, right? You thought about what you're gonna say, you kind of plot out your conversation, you're sort of sure about what you're gonna say and in a lot of cases you decided not to hit send or you decided not to dial the phone with slack. It's like, we're, I'm not picking on slack any, any of these semi synchronous chat platforms that we're now using to fire messages back and forth. There's a lot of times there's very little thought put into it, right? And particularly this comes about like little complaints, I've recently had to have this conversation with a couple of people. And I said like, hey, um, we need to have a chat about how you're feeling. I've just noticed that the last couple of times that you've, you've pinned me, it's, it's been, you know, it's been on the negative side I want, you know, are you okay? And they were like, yeah, yeah, absolutely. Like nothing, nothing, nothing at all. Like I just, I didn't notice and I just like scroll back up and like, well, these are the last three messages you sent me. So like it's just setting a pattern that like, there's something off like this just happened to be the three things that I sent, right? So we're making inferences based on very small bits of data and that can be really dangerous. And then particularly get into the, the instant capability of back channeling the lack of context, sometimes that lack of emotion. We talked about how flat this stuff is. This can lead to things going off the rails really fast, even if that wasn't the intention, right? And that's where it gets even more dangerous. Right? I think there was nothing meant by those messages that person wasn't feeling any particular way. It just happened to be the last three things they sent me, right? For whatever reason, in that moment they pinned me. Right? And yet I can look at that and go, oh, we've got a problem here. We need to go into crisis mode. Need to react, right? Complete false alarm. Right? Right. This is what this is the situation that we're in. And so I think we need to be extra mindful of how easy it is for these things to go wrong because of the context that we're in right now with things still being relatively remote due to covid um out of necessity or just out of decision. Now, a lot of people can go back to office and are deciding not to. Um, This is our reality, right? So we need to be very, very cognizant of how that impacts culture.

Wil Schroter: Well, the other side of it is we're talking like internal politics and back channeling. I think another thing that becomes toxic in the organization. You often see this in client facing groups, right, customer service roles or sales roles, et cetera. Where they start to demonize the client, right? The customer, right? Um Oh, that clients so shitty. And then everybody piles on, Right. How do you think that impacts the culture? Right? If we have a culture of being shitty, right? How does that get better? Right. And we've seen this time and time again, where if we allow it, if we say yes, that's okay too. You know, to basically make fun of a customer or kind of lash out at a customer behind their back, right? Our culture starts to interior and from, from a founder standpoint, it's not that we're encouraging it. We're allowing it and by allowing it, it's as good as encouraging it.

Ryan Rutan: That's it. That's it. And, and it's it's a tough decision, right? Because in that moment, right, the founder is the founder. You're sitting there and you're, you're hearing this and what your understanding is, there's there's not necessarily a bunch of pent up aggression around this individual client or something, right? Maybe, maybe there is. Maybe there is, maybe there isn't, but it's a bit of a steam valve, right? The intention of that person isn't to create a toxic environment where every time we say the word client, we have immediately form like a viking shield wall. Um, and and and bristle up, right? That's not their intent. They just need to let off some steam right back to the point around like the three slack messages that I got. Then I drew the line. I was like, oh, there's a problem here. Not necessarily. Right? But to your point, if we don't do something about it, it's as good as giving permission. It's as good as encouraging it. Um, but I think it's important to remember that there's a reason for that to begin with. And so let's map that back to to us as the founders and what it was that we did or didn't do to encourage like what, what is it you would have done to keep that from happening in the first place, right? Yeah, of course we can act in the moment it happens. But you know, you know, I both love prevention versus cure. So like what is it that we have to do as founders to make sure that and this is just one out of a million scenarios, right? So we don't need to go too too far into this. But like this is a good one and then this is one that hits home for me particularly. And I'm sure for you as well because we're not selling cars right in our business. We do what we do because we love founders, right? And so if we do come across a situation where somebody is talking ill of a client or something, you know, they're they're they're they're bashing an idea or whatever it is that hits me personally, right? Because I know I've been on the other side of that. I've been on the receiving end of that same type of thought or treatment. And so I take this really, really seriously. But so you know, what do you think we've done well as an organization to preempt that?

Wil Schroter: Well, I think early on it was recognizing that when we let it fester, it has so much consequence. Yeah. I think we talked about this in another episode about around toxic culture and often it resonates most with a single person. And by the way sometimes that's us, right? But what we found was let's say let's say a customer service manager and the customer service manager has started to create permission within the group to start to bash clients, right? And by way of that, maybe we've piled on in a case we only need to pile on wants to basically say, hey guys, it's it's good to do this or it's okay to do this. And so after that, after we've done that, we then have broadcast that to the entire customer service group that bashing our clients is just perfectly okay. And that's how it starts. And we don't we don't notice when it starts, but we notice when it festers, right? And that whole organization is talking sh it about clients all the time and they're sending memes and all this other bullshit. And you're like, well what happened? That's on us. Exactly. That's why

Ryan Rutan: I just I just just help the founder through a situation like this about three weeks ago where they had had exactly this situation occurred where all of a sudden there customer retention team had like this just absolutely toxic feeling about their their clients. The way they were talking about these are the people who are supposed to be retaining the client's, mind you, right? So this is a really, really bad place for this to occur. And as they started to dig in with the founder of what we discovered was that a lot of this had to do with the KPI s that they had set for this retention team. And there was sort of clients that we should retain and your KPI s are based on that like these people shouldn't leave and then there's some others where like it's okay if these folks leave because they weren't the right fit that, you know, that it was, they were, you know, more costs than right based on the mix of services that they had, they were gonna cost us more money, they're gonna make us or whatever. And so what they, what we realized was that in almost all cases they were simply using this aggressive language and, and, and this this vitriol as a way to justify edge cases that were close to the line. Right? So it was basically, um, we didn't retain this client, but here's why they sucked, they were awful. They were shitty people. We wouldn't want them around anyways, Right? And it was, it was because of the structure they've been placed in that they felt forced to do this to justify their actions. And so a couple of quick corrections and, and all of a sudden what happens three weeks later email yesterday from, from the founders saying this is cleared up like 80 90% already right? Just by changing the way we talked about the KPI S and what was necessary to justify letting a client go or not being penalized for for, for losing a retained client and all of a sudden things are better, right? And that map back to the founder because she was the one who had set the KPI S for that team. So it's like you said this often maps back to us. Um, but sometimes so circuitous lee that it takes a real deep dive to be able to see where it came from.

Wil Schroter: Right? I think look in our organization and you know, I'll point the camera at us in our organization on numerous occasions. We started to see this fester. We started to see that what I'd call a sewing circle of folks that would, you know, get together and kind of like undermine whatever decisions were made or just basically talking about other people and it sucked. And every time, you know, we try to do some course correction etcetera. And every time it kind of works. But you know what worked parting company with the people that were acting like that. And by way of that sending a message to the rest of the organization, we're actually not okay with it, right? We've talked about this before, but we, we,

Ryan Rutan: we literally wrote into our our employee handbook right? We don't work with jerks right? Like that's, it's literally stated as like one of the, and that's not just like in in in the body copy. That's one of the sections like

Wil Schroter: and we're serious

Ryan Rutan: about that. Um, you know, to your point parting company was usually the way that we, we actually fixed the problem. I think we were able to suppress it. Um, we were able to reduce it. Um, I think we've always been pretty good about trying to identify, like what is the true source of this first and seeing if we can address that right? Is there anything that we're doing that's, that's creating that, that's enabling that? And can we eliminate that? If it turns out that the source isn't one of the founders, then it was essentially, okay, what is the origin of this? And you know, oftentimes you talked about a sewing circle. Um, but in almost every sewing circle that we identified, there was also a ringleader, right? It emanated from one person. And then, you know, just like the high school lunch table, all of a sudden everybody's on the same page. Everybody's saying the same things. Everybody's dressing sit right? It's just tends to go that way right to become socially accepted and to stay in your circle, you, you adopt the tone and tenor of the loudest voice. And so in a lot of cases, that was the action that we had to take was identified the ringleader. And again, first try to address and I'd say that as an organization, we definitely air on the side of giving people the 2nd, 3rd and 4th chance. Um, and then when that didn't work parting company and it was always amazing how quickly that solved the problem. Not only because of the messages sent because I heard you say that and I absolutely agree that it does send a message, but sometimes just removing right that, that whatever that thing was that was creating that vibration in the first place all of a sudden the rest of the noise stopped too. And that was enough, right? It wasn't necessarily, that was like, oh, if I keep this up, I'm gonna get fired too. It was that person is no longer around. Therefore we no longer need to have these shitty conversations. We can just go back to being happy people who enjoy our jobs.

Wil Schroter: And I think we did a good job of looking at our own behaviors to and looking at what was driving that behavior. And like again, if we exude the same behavior, if you know at a lunch or at a dinner, you know, time out with folks, we start acting shitty as well and then we see them act shitty. You know, it's kind of like when you swear in front of your kids and then all of a sudden your kids start swearing right? Where do you think that came from? Right? Like, So I know

Ryan Rutan: when I, when I think about, you know precisely where that came from, it's not my wife.

Wil Schroter: And so when I think about it, I think, okay, um, let me start with me, what did I do wrong here, Right? And it's easy to say, oh they were shitty, But it's harder to say, well they got that from somewhere as well. And if it was even 1% me, let me fix that first, right? And then go across the organization. And so the toxic politics are definitely one big part of, of the startup culture and kind of how we let that develop and I think we need to take ownership. But another side of it is when we look across the organization and people are overworked, they're burnt out there mentally, just stressed as hell. Where do you think that comes from? Right, totally different aspects of the organization also on us. Right? Every time, Every time, you know, by the way, I just want to mention, if what we're talking about today sounds like the kind of discussion you wish you were having more often, you actually can, you know, we're online all day, every day working through

Ryan Rutan: exactly these

Wil Schroter: types of topics with founders, just like you. So any question you would have or maybe some problem you just want to work through, we're here and we love this stuff and we're easy to find, you know, head over to groups dot startups dot com and let's just start talking,

Ryan Rutan: yep, I remember, you know, you know, when we, we figured out a lot of things over time, right? But I remember passive aggressive jokes being kicked around when people would leave the office at, you know, five o'clock and like, oh, half day today nelson, right? Which harmless in its in its in its in its essence. And yet the message that that sends to that individual and the message that that sends to everybody else that heard that was, this is a behavior that is unacceptable. You shouldn't do this. Meanwhile, nelson's thinking we talked about this three days ago. Um, I have to take my, my, my wife for a prenatal visit right? Like I, this is what I'm supposed to be doing right now right? But without that context, nobody else knows that. Right? And so I think that you know this, this, it's easy to create a culture of overwork said differently. We've been working very hard over the last couple of years, uh, last couple, what is it six or seven now um to try to create a culture of work life blend work life balance, whatever you wanna call that. Um and, and that's hard to create, which is funny, right? You would, you would think that that would be easy, right? Giving people flexibility and freedom. Um is one thing getting them to exercise. It is totally different, right? And again, some of that goes back to us saying, we want you to be more flexible, We want you to have more freedom. We want you to have time off, we want you to take downtime. And then they hear that. But what they see is that it's been two years since you've taken a real vacation. It's been a year and a half since I've taken more than three days off in a row, right? Like, so we're saying one thing and then we're absolutely doing something else. And to their credit, our folks are smart enough to go, I probably better just reflect what they're doing that feels safer, Right? So again, it becomes a reflection of our own behaviors. And so when we start to see burnout, um, probably a great way of identifying founder burnout, right? Which were often not good at seeing before it exists, is to look at the organization and say organizationally, are we a bit burnt out? Because if we are, I'm probably at least three steps ahead on that spectrum. Right? And we just don't do that.

Wil Schroter: I think part of where that comes from is we want to be this hard charging grow fast, right? You know, the kind of organization and there's a lot of merit to a lot of that. But I don't think any of us, we say to ourselves, we want to be this hard charging organization, but wait a minute. That's gonna cost a lot from our people's, right? It's going to cost relationships and you know, for themselves. Um, it's going to cost their, their physical health or mental health or emotional health, all of these things. And if we were to say, do you want a culture that sacrifices all of that for the growth of the company. I don't think a lot of founders would say, Oh yeah, absolutely. Some would write to be fair Elon musk would write, he's perfectly okay with that. But I think,

Ryan Rutan: but

Wil Schroter: I think for a lot of founders, that's not really what we wanted to, to build, right? We wanted, we didn't want to build a culture at the expense of our staff. Right. And so I think if we are in hard charge and kill ourselves mode, we're basically saying everyone else has to be a hard charge and kill ourselves mode. And I did this for a long time. Right? I was, I was a guy who was the first person in the office, The last person to leave. Right? And I prided myself on that. But what message was I sending to everybody else? Let me be clear. I was sending a message that you have to work harder than I did. Nobody did by the way. So the message didn't work. But but I was sending that, I was, I was saying, um, if you're not here early, if you're not here late, you've done something wrong.

Ryan Rutan: We used to count dev output in terms of how many monster energy drinks were on their desk by the end of the day. Right? Like not.

Wil Schroter: I mean to be fair, we didn't really understand that this hard charging kind of kill yourself mentality ended in the part where we're killing every part of your life, right? And I regret, I genuinely regret having put that burden on everybody. And I just don't know that we were ever a better organization across any of the companies that I that I imposed it on for it. I just can't look back and say, oh we succeeded so much better because I drove everybody into the ground and and I don't think I realized that my actions, we're so incumbent on how everyone else was going to act accordingly. It's painful.

Ryan Rutan: It is, it is. And I think that, you know, maturity is, is definitely a key part of this, right? I think that I'm going back to, to my, my early startups, certainly a lack of maturity across the board, like in in every sense of the work, right? I just, I had very little experience as most of us did when we first started doing this. Like how would you have startup experience until you've done a startup? Um, there's, there's not a class that teaches it at least not well. Um, so I was immature in so many ways in terms of my, my interactions in terms of my own behaviors. Um, what was going on in my, my personal life and and how that was perceived versus my, my work life. And I certainly did not understand how everybody else in the organization was looking up to me right? At some point, you do start to realize that there's a bit of stratification there and and I think you use this use this beautifully, which is that, you know, we, we are the cultural Northstar were the north star for a lot of things in the organization, right? But culture is a big one of those and I didn't realize in my mind I wasn't high enough in the sky to be a north star for anything, right? Because in my first startup, I had essentially hired a bunch of my friends and so we were all on the same level in my mind and yet in their minds because I was the one who had started this, I was the one who was signing paychecks. I was the one who was making the decisions. I was, I was at least a rank above and therefore setting the tone pace and tenor for the organization and, and of course now that's obvious and that is the way it should have been. However, had I realized the strength and power that my behavior is my actions or inactions had at that time, I probably would have behaved differently. Right? I was immature. I wasn't stupid. Um, I didn't know yet I was ignorant, um, but but not dumb, right? It was, I was acting in a way according to what I understood at the time. Had I known, had I been able to recognize the difference is I would have been able to act differently, right? And so I think this is, this is important to spread with early founders right now because it's a great chance for them to say, hey, I, you know, like to think of myself as a buddy with the rest of my team. But let's make sure that the rest of the team sees me that way and isn't going to immediately reflect all of my behavior is good and bad. Um, and, and if they are, let's make sure I skew to the good side, right? And that was just something that just took time to understand that I was being put on this pedestal for better for worse early on, definitely for worse. Um, but that was really, you know, where, where that stemmed from, right? And it created cultural issues that then had to be corrected. And again at a time where I was ill prepared to do so because of lack of maturity, lack of experience and having done it before.

Wil Schroter: You know, you use the word pedestal. I think I'd also add to that spotlight, the spotlight is on us, right? That are bad, Unfortunately, usually bad, right? In other words, if we're out there right, traveling the world and taking selfies of all these amazing places we're at while our staff is back at home. You know, grueling through all their ships, they're not going, you know, that's so awesome that you're working on your tan, right? I'm so glad, you know, you got to go to Greece right now, right? That's not the way they're thinking, right. It would sound nice. That's not the way they're thinking, here's what they're thinking, fuck you right here I am, I'm stuck in my office right, while you're doing whatever it is you're doing. And I gotta tell you, I've got 30 years of job history to prove it right. There was no version where like I showed up at the work in a Lamborghini and I was like, oh man, it's so good that you have a Lamborghini will let me work harder, right? Or when we were living in Beverly Hills, there's no version where they're like, oh my God, that's so cool that you got this cool house in Beverly Hills, I'm glad I'm in Ohio Killing myself, right?

Ryan Rutan: Like there's

Wil Schroter: a spotlight on it right now, I'll give the other side of it. I was talking to a founder friend who listens to the podcast. So uh I am talking about you right now. Uh I was talking to found a friend and I was saying, look, there's no version you've done really well. There's no version where that your staff is going to say to themselves, you've earned this, you know, you deserve to be doing what you're doing, you know, kind of traveling around the world type thing. Um they're going to look at it as funk you right, and is it right or wrong doesn't matter, right, truth is spotlights on you and whatever you do has implication, right? So part of this, everyone's burnt out. But you know what, you're really creating culturally resentment. That's awesome, right? Here's what you want. You want a bunch of people on the staff that are working hard. That absolutely resent you as a founder because you're living this, you know, amazing lifestyle while they're killing themselves, right? No version were them being overworked and their lack of mental well being works out well for, you know what I mean?

Ryan Rutan: No, no, it isn't. And it's, it's uh, it's a tough line, right? It's a fine line because, you know, we've talked about this a lot founder Self care is also really important. So you do need those things, right? You you do need, uh, okay, maybe you don't need the Lamborghini. Although I would, I would argue it probably saved you hours of commuting time every year, just based on the speed, right? Um, but you do need those, those grease moments. You do need those, those, those getaways. You do need to work on that tan sometimes because you're still a human and you need to maintain that founder well being because again, it's a reflection. The rest of the company. Um, I think where it breaks is where if you're setting the expectation that I get to do this and the rest of you need to keep just nose to the grindstone. That's a really bad message, right? And so again, this is where I think we've tried to create an environment over the last half decade more. Um, Around saying, look, you do need to take your time off. We want you to go on vacation. We want you to have downtime if you need a personal day, take a personal day, by all means, what we don't want is the 25% version of you dragging ass into the office or to your laptop every day simply because you're burnt out.

Wil Schroter: You know, it's interesting though, because you're talking about being true to who you are. And yet I think when we think about the culture, if we can't allow people to be true to who they are, which by the way, is a new thing. We've talked about that before too. Like, you know, being able to come to the workplace and be vulnerable and be open and not be ashamed of who you are, especially in the era of covid where it's like, yeah, there are kids running behind me, guess what? I have kids like part of my life and they're here. Um, I think that for for us as founders, the more we start to open up, the more we allow other people in the organization to follow suit. And I think, I think there's a strong cost to not doing that, I think, and we talked about this on previous episodes, I think at which point we make it so that other people can't, you know, kind of open up and be themselves. It costs us because they're not, they're not willing to admit failures, They're not willing to to admit their insecurities, which means we can't address it. It's a huge issue.

Ryan Rutan: It is, it is. And and and to your point, this is a fairly new phenomenon where it's, it's even, you know, allowed, right? If you look back at what company culture meant, Uh, 15 years ago, probably not even that far back, but let's go back 15 or 20 years. I remember making trips to Cincinnati and I could literally spot and guess who worked for PNG at the time? Because there was literally a haircut and a dress style and away you talked and a place you went for lunch, it was so ingrained. And so the idea of company culture at that time was homogeneous city, right? Creating a company culture meant homogenizing, right? Thank goodness. We're at a point now where strong company culture is built on on diversity and and and and acceptance, right? But this is still a very new thing. It's the right thing, but it's still a very new thing. And so people have been trained to not be vulnerable. They've been trained to not show their true selves because that put them at danger in these other cultures, right? Had I tried to go to work for PNG and been my true self, it would have been the shortest tenured employee in their history, I think, right? I'm like, I look bad in the flat top, right? And I'm not getting that haircut. Uh So like I think that it's it's still going to take a significant amount of time. Um, but to your point, it's still maps back to the founder, right? Being true to who you are and and being vulnerable and showing that. But doing it in a way that also makes other people comfortable to show their true selves. Because where this can go awry again is that people assume that what they need to do is simply reflect you why? Because that's what they've been trained to do if they've been in the workforce for more than five years, five years ago, this is what you had to do, right? You just reflected the rest of the culture. This is what the culture is. So therefore I must be like this to fit in here so that I can maintain my position here, right? So yes, we have to be our true selves. Um, we have to do it in a way that leaves room for other people to be their true selves, regardless of how different that is from our true selves as the founder. Not easy. By the way

Wil Schroter: I look, I think part of that is just admitting people make mistakes, right? For the longest time. I was totally unwilling to say to the organization that I made mistakes and I made plenty of mistakes, right? And what happens, we talked about this where if I'm not willing to make a mistake and own up to it and be vulnerable about it, no one else is and where is that a problem? It means everybody else is basically covering up their stuff. So I can't address anything. We didn't launch on time. No one's willing to admit why. Right? Right. And and so what happens? I can't figure out how to address it. And once I started saying to the organization, hey, like here's where I made a colossal mistake. Like wait, I can admit that stuff like yeah, you can because we all make mistakes like this is part of what what this entire culture is about, right? When we start to do that, when we start to allow people permission in latitude to make mistakes to be vulnerable, who they are and kind of where their headspace is at. It allows us to one relate to each other, but second to confer with each other and say, oh, okay. I get why, why you're thinking that you're, you're feeling that and I can go address it. You know what I mean? Yeah, yeah. And

Ryan Rutan: I think it's super important because when when these things just become obstacles did there's nothing we can do about it right to your point. If anything, if everything just gets hidden or swept behind the rug or we have a culture of, you know, cover each other's back so that, you know, nobody really knows what's going on. So nobody can get in trouble. Like what trouble? And at the end of the day we're in, we're not, you know, and then again, I use accountants as an example of the time, I feel bad about this, but we're not a C P a firm, right? Where a mistake shouldn't be made because it's it's a technical job and you've gone through plenty of years of training, like the numbers are what they are, don't make mistakes, but like we're building something that never existed before. A startup is essentially a collections of miss a collection of mistakes that get corrected to the point where sometimes you make money, right, right. That's what this is. We have, we are just constantly making mistakes and then, and then correcting for them. Um if we can address the core of where the mistakes come from now, some mistakes are unavoidable. You have to try before, you know, whether it's right or wrong, then there are things like just not getting things done on time or not. Getting things done at all, that's probably a different issue. Um and it needs to be addressed, but we have to understand what the root cause of that is. And if people aren't comfortable enough to say, like, look, I keep pushing this deadline back because I'm really scared about my competency level in this category and I don't want to make a big mistake here. That's a conversation that needs to be had, right, right? Talks about like, look, I'm okay that you don't know yet. And I'm willing to risk and we're willing to try and it's okay. So we're gonna, we're gonna move forward that or you might say actually that's, I'm glad you brought that up. Let's find somebody who knows more about this. Let's do that. Or if it's simply like my kids went back to school last week and I've constantly been shuffling myself between zoom meetings. That that might be me. I might be I might be talking about myself right now. Um, that's a different issue, right? And that's a short lived one, right? It's an adjustment period. But if you don't know that you just see somebody all of a sudden slipping on deadlines or whatever. Um, and and they're making excuses for it instead of just being vulnerable and saying like, look, I'm just, I'm just struggling right now to find the time to get everything done different issue. We can address that in a lot of ways. Can we throw somebody at you to help? Can we shift your deadlines? Is this impacting somebody else's deadline? If so, let's address that, right? But again, got to come from a place of honesty. It's gotta come from a place of vulnerability. Um, and like circling all the way back. We've said this 100 times probably already today. That starts with us, right? It's a reflection of how we treat those things and how open and honest we are about these things,

Wil Schroter: right? And so, so here's what I would say, as founders were in a position where we can have so much impact across the culture and the organization. Unfortunately, it can be for good or evil in left unchecked left unchecked, it goes evil fast. We only get to a good place in culture with a deliberate set of actions, which when we look at ourselves and we say, what is every action that I take and how does that affect everyone else being, being very self aware in this process? Only then can we truly build the kind of culture that we want to build for the long term, and it's truly healthy for everybody on the team. Alright, so that was fun, but let's actually keep this conversation going. You've heard what we think about this, but you know, Ryan and I would really like to hear what you think and we're online, like all day long, pretty much talking about every startup topic you could think of from fundraising, the customer acquisition to just really how to get all of this crazy startup stuff out of your head. And there's tons of other founders, just like you, they're weighing in on these topics, so you'll get a chance to just hang out and meet some really smart founders were also super, super easy to find. You head over to groups dot startups dot com and let Ryan and I hear what's on your mind, let's get to know each other a little bit and let's just start having more of these conversations.

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