"Structure should always be adaptive. There's a lot of paradoxes or tensions in business, and one of them is to be able to coexist into two forms; structure and adaptation."
In this episode
In episode 23, Andrew Waitman reveals why leadership meetings need structure, but also flexibility.
Andrew Waitman is the CEO of Assent Compliance… the global leader in supply chain data management and one of Canada’s top growing companies.
Tune in to explore the concepts of agility and adaptability and why structure is such an important aspect of strategy, leadership and of course, team management.
We also explore why running leadership meetings with purpose comes with exploring the victories, insights and puzzles of business.
Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.
Andrew’s first manager and an interesting experience
The power of treating people well
COVID-19 is coming, it’s time to pivot
Changing the frequency of communication to create tight feedback loops
Bringing information closer to people through agile methodologies
Why do teams meet?
How Andrew uses thematic agenda and meetings to stay on track
Thinking of problems in your business, as puzzles
Why accountability is such an important thing in our lives and at work
The way we deliver metrics in business, comes back to accountability
Culture is both simple and incredibly complex
- Disunited Nations, written by Peter Zeihan
- Peter Zeihan’s talk at Upfront Summit 2020
- The Making of a Manager, by Julie Zhuo
- The Laws of Human Nature, by Robert Greene
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 2:11
Andrew, welcome to the show.
Andrew Waitman 2:12
Thanks a lot. appreciate you having me.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 2:15
Yeah, this is super fun. I’m glad to do this. Because I know every time we get together, and chat we have what I find are very fascinating discussions. Hopefully you think the same too. But I figured that a lot of people would enjoy hearing us talk about lots of Business and Management stuff. So excited to do this. You have obviously been at a bunch of different companies play different roles from venture to management to you know, obviously, scaling up a company from I think how many people were working at ascent when you first joined?
Andrew Waitman 2:54
Yeah, so it was kind of in the I would say Low, low to mid teens. Yeah. So it was you know, it existed they moved out of the pool house shortly so so that that’s a good proxy, actually, they literally had they were all in a house, and they called it we called it the pool house. Did you I don’t know if you’ve ever visited the pool house. But anyway, so they had just moved in to kind of an industrial office. And they were about just over a dozen
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 3:19
pool. And and I think there’s well over 500 people now, right?
Andrew Waitman 3:23
Yeah, so we’re 550 right now,
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 3:26
I guess. So to rewind a bit. I just wanted to start off from, you know, maybe going back to your earlier career, you know, just thinking about a manager or a boss or a leader that you had in the early days that you thought was really either really good or really bad and something that you learned from that experience.
Andrew Waitman 3:48
It’s funny, as soon as you say really bad. I have to tell you this story, because it’s now funny, but it wasn’t at the time. I was a coke Co Op student at Bell northern research, okay. And I was intimidated, because everybody will know the research was incredibly smart. And I was trying to learn a lot of terminologies You know, when you go into companies like Nortel and BNR, was the research arm, they have a whole vernacular. And I guess I said something that wasn’t quite correct. And this this actually happened, my boss, my manager, my boss, took the garbage can empty over my head and started banging on it in front of everybody asking me if I had a brain in there, okay. And I was like, mortified. But thinking myself, this is management. And I literally was thinking to myself, this is management doing this. And I’ll never ever, ever forget that and I will always remember.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 4:49
That’s the craziest story I’ve ever heard. I can’t believe that.
Andrew Waitman 4:54
I remember the guy’s name. It’s almost like getting beaten up in high school or grade school. You never forget Who did you know who did it and it was such a crazy incident that I just, it was almost surreal like I couldn’t believe like, I’m not dreaming Am I like did this really happen? And, and what it was he was a brilliant man. Gerard was his first name he was brilliant, okay, went on to have a brilliant technical career never did well, in what I would call people management as you could probably imagine. But on a more positive story. I was you know, when I think about that question, there was one individual who’s still in Ottawa. His name is Jen Kaminski. And I had joined the board turning Matthews asked me to join a board and, you know, Aydin, the first time you join a board, you think I’m joining a board of directors, right. And I knew nothing. When I joined Terry, I’d never been on a board of directors knew nothing about. I knew very little though. I couldn’t barely spell spell venture. Terry had hired me because it was an analyst who had written some nice things. There’s some trumpism here, but I’d written some nice things about Newbridge. And, and so, you know, I didn’t know Terry well, but anyway, he hires me puts me on a board even before I started officially, one of those boards was a company called Fastlane and Fastlane. There’s a lot, a lot of funny and fun stories, and it was a great success in the end. But one of the things that was required if you can believe this is we had to move the company from Ottawa to Halifax, you might ask like, Why on earth would you do that? But anyway, long story short, we had to and then I went to Terry because I went looking for a CEO in Halifax, and I couldn’t find a tech CEO. And so I’d found this guy, Jan Kaminsky, through my network. And long story short, we hired him. And I learned more from him about being a good board member and you think about that relationship. He’s the CEO, and I’m the investor. Okay. And the board member, okay, because this is Celtic house investing. But I learned more from Jan, during that, you know, 8678 years together. I was probably six years together because we sold it I guess, in 2001 2002. But I learned so much from him about how to be a helpful advisor. And just he he was and you might, you know, ask me, what did you learn? Well, he was just, he treated people so professionally, he treated people so well. To this day. He’s still a mentor to a lot of people. He’s still a mentor or a coach. He’s, I put him into several situations where you turn the companies around very different contexts. And he today runs one of the largest agro funds in Canada. So he runs the he Terra 20. I don’t know if you know that store, you know, colonnade investments, they have an agribusiness and so I don’t know if you know Jan, but he’s a he’s a great guy in in Ottawa.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 8:03
Yeah. It’s funny how those memories actually stick with you. It’s hard. Yeah, it’s hard to forget. I feel like that that probably the best on the bad boss story. The best bad boss story I’ve ever heard.
Andrew Waitman 8:16
Oh, yeah, I have not seen that since. Okay, so I was a victim of a rare crime. That’s so funny.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 8:22
Yeah. So just switching gears for a second. You know, I know you’re you’re an avid reader, you witness history. You learn a lot about that. And obviously, we are in you know, very interesting times. I’m just curious that, you know, when this when when we first learned about COVID. And when everything else started happening, what was your kind of leadership in or like crisis leadership and crisis playbook? And how did you guys play it? And what did you learn in the process?
Andrew Waitman 8:56
Yeah, so it’s interesting, because you have to kind of think about the different stages. So I was watching what was going on in Wu Han in January and fab as the CDC was, and as the who was, ironically, I, I bought masks in February, while you could like wear before anybody was flipped out. And I don’t know why I instinctively did it. But I just thought, you know, what, if, if, if it heads our way, at least I’ll have had masks. And then you know, a lot occurred. So my only point there was I was paying attention relatively early to the news. As soon as Italy started to look like they had an issue. I started to kind of go, ooh, we’re gonna have a problem. And, you know, it did annoy me like we’ll talk about how authorities but it did annoy me that travel did not seem to be curtailed. And and, you know, clearly the Chinese authorities were taking you know, fairly substantial We didn’t know about the 40% asymptomatic and we didn’t know about the, you know that it was quite infective infectious with proximity and duration. But back to your question about so once it was clear that we were having issues and if you’re a member, I think it was Sienna did have an infection from Austria, actually, we were already starting to move before the authorities were going to have a mandatory lockdown, we were already talking about working from home only. And we were fortunate like a lot of software, big businesses or digital businesses, knowledge based businesses, we move to that working from home without missing a beat. And, you know, somewhat surprisingly, so Okay, in the sense that, hey, everybody’s internet, their home is working, their laptops come home with them, they connect in the VPN work, the infrastructure work. So we were fortunate that that kind of very first move, which was, hey, we’re not going to work from the office anymore. We’re going to work from home. I was actually surprised. Now, back to your question about what do we do as an organization. So the first thing I did was I instituted daily meetings with the leadership, so that we could read very quickly where we had challenges. And so those daily meetings were, you know, everything from very, very pedestrian, you know, certain people couldn’t get those could do that. And so you’re solving very, very, very tactical, and then you’re having discussions around. Okay, this has happened. But now, what’s the priority? And how long is it going to be? And what do we need to think about doing differently? The interesting thing, and everybody knows, zoom stepped up, like the zoom infrastructure. It is amazing at and if you think about it, that zoom probably never anticipated, the whole world would jump on zoom all at once. And the fact that they could handle that in the cloud could handle that is just a token to the the, the what has happened in technology. Okay, like, obviously, it’s cloud foundational. Obviously, it’s elastic. And man, oh, man, it’s super impressive how well that they expanded. And I think the results showed they were up 150%, I think one has to realize that the infrastructure for digital companies was there. And then it’s, it’s mainly taking care of the people issues. Okay. So, you know, is, you know, is your team organized the way they need to be to feel safe first, you know, be connected with who they need to be connected to, and then just how everybody’s working together. So, as we move from dealing with the tactical issues, we started thinking about the strategic issues. So for example, proactively without any kind of agitation from our investor, or boards, we re vectored, our we reviewed our business plan, in the fog of uncertainty that COVID was going to create, we adjusted our assumptions. And, you know, I don’t know if you’re aware, but we did do a reduction. So we were at 600. And now now we’re down to 550. But we did that all in about six to eight weeks, and I was communicating daily, well, daily, initially, and then weekly with everybody in the company, so that everybody felt connected. And every single person leadership team went further to make sure that communication was constantly going on. So we adjusted our business plan, we made the changes, we communicated the changes, and I would say, you know, we’re constantly churn is a big topic, as you know, but more so in a covid context. And then, you know, what is your realistic growth? And we’ve, I think we’ve been very fortunate, you know, if you think about this city, can access is boomed as a result can access in supply chain, so they’ve boomed. They’ve been adding people Shopify has benefited enormously. So it’s clearly an environment where there are winners and losers. So the restaurants obviously hurting and a lot of the hospitality businesses are really hurting. But a lot of the digital businesses, if you have a diversified customer base, you tend to focus then on the verticals that are doing very well. And and you know, you’re you’re empathetic for your customers and your prospects that are being impacted. And so you kind of adjust and I think we’re fully like we’re almost a quarter through now. And the big thing, I think, the final point I’ll make is, is your cycles of adaptation just have to be tighter. So maybe your business was in a really good place and you were evaluating quarterly, we now look at things monthly, okay, we look at churn, we do analysis to try and understand. Okay, the first wave is through the first phase, but what’s going to happen in the next kind of steps of this unlocking and unsafety And prior to a vaccine,
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 15:01
yeah, and it’s really interesting, just from like a I mean, I love that this concept of just tighter feedback loops, you know, faster decision making, like being closer to the ground. It’s interesting, because I think that, you know, for companies that do well, in this kind of an environment, it’s much more about not necessarily like making a prediction, and then standing back and then just, you know, executing against that. It’s like constantly re evaluating and then re predicting, like, the next little bit and not assuming that, then, you know, you can’t even assume that the new normal is the permanent normal.
Andrew Waitman 15:38
No, you can’t. That’s correct. That’s correct. And so, you know, it’s interesting, because if you think about, I don’t know how familiar you may be very familiar with agile methodologies, but agile methodologies are fundamentally about bringing information closer to people. Okay? So communication constantly, that real transparency, and then iterating, to improvement iterating to improvement. Ironically, a sense embarked, both in engineering and in marketing, on more agile methodologies, coincidence, not driven by COVID, but coincident by COVID. But it actually helped us in the sense that we were moving to these what I would call rapid information adaptations late. So you’re expecting to do these two week sprints, you’re expecting, you know, tighter customer narratives. And so you’re not waiting for these longer timeframes. And to your point, I do think all business at some level, success is driven by rapid about adaptation and learning. And and did this work? Did it make us progress? Can we do more? Should we try something different, you know, and agile, fundamentally, is about and I think agile is becoming not just development methodologies, but also enterprise methodologies. And so I think COVID is a good time to make sure you’ve got great transparency, communication, and rather rapid adaptation.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 17:13
Hey, they’re just a quick pause on today’s episode to let you know that we really appreciate you helping us spread the word about the super managers podcast, if you’re enjoying what you’re hearing so far, dial into your podcast app of choice, whether that’s on Apple, or Android or Spotify. And just leave us a quick review. Now back to the interview. So I wanted to talk to you a little bit about the, you know, the way that you run your staff meetings, and, you know, obviously curious to know how they have changed as well. You have a very an IT, you know, from from what I understand has probably iterated over, over a long period of time. But you have this, you know, this VIP model, I would love for you to kind of tell us how how you run your staff meetings, and like what the and how that’s changed during this time.
Andrew Waitman 18:09
Yeah, sure. And so I need to take a step, a little step back. And just to kind of, and I have to tell you a little funny story as well. So you have to remember when I first became a CEO, I had no operational experience. Okay. So my career was very individual contributor, including being a venture capitalist, when you’re managing partner of Celtic cows. You’re not operational. Okay, you’re running a fund. And you know, the maximum employees I think Celtic ever had was, like, 30 employees, okay. So really very, very, no operational experience. So I was a blank slate, in terms of my first CEO gig, which was pythian. And I remember, I got Pippin was 10 years old when I joined it. 10 years to kind of get to about $5 million. I remember, even before I had the official title, but Paul had asked me to kind of organize things. I had said, we need to meet, and we need to get people together and get them on the same page. That was just pure instinct. Okay. And Paul’s like, I think that’s a waste of time.
Like, Oh, okay. And I was like, I I think we need to meet but what he did, and he did this in a lot of ways is he forced me to, to think through why we were doing what we were doing from management tools and methodologies. So I actually produced what I thought was a brilliant slide on why do you meet? And I actually presented it to the leadership and went through and I talked about monologue, I talked about dialogue. I bought talked about shared context. I talked about how we’re going to resolve tactical issues. How are we going to talk about strategic, I talked about different functional groups, how they’re going to contribute, and in some ways, if you think of scrims, okay, you know, my instinct there was pure instinct. Okay, I you know, yes, I read a lot. Yes, I had an MBA book, but I never run tested and dirty. But I remember Paul’s like, that’s a waste of time to me. And I was like, really, that’s not how I thought about it. But when it caused me to do with to then justify and rationalize why we were spending time together. And so my construct which started at pythian, evolved at ascend was once a week, okay, I bring all together. And just to, you know, if you look at command and control, and you look at old school CEOs, they would do what I call a hub and spoke. So everybody would have to come talk to them, that and they were the power, they had all the information and nobody connected anywhere else. My personal view is that’s madness in a complex environment. Okay. So my instinct was that everybody should know what everybody else is working on what their priorities are, and what issues they’re getting into. And often they’re cross functional issues. So that was just instinctive. And then I formalized it. Now you ask that and so basically, once a week, in the case of pythian, it was Fridays, mornings, in the case of ascent, just different idiosyncratic behaviors. And, and there’s always influence of founders, Matt did not want to come to an 830 meeting. So they weren’t at 830, I was able to move them to nine, finally, but they started at 10. But anyway, so it was this idea that you get people together to, you know, talk tactically, and strategically, and so I have themes. So the first week is generally product and customer success, okay? Because those twos are inextricably linked. The second week is go to market. Okay. And then the third week has to do with strategic expertise. Oh, sorry, third week is finance. And then the fourth week is strategic, and you know, what’s going on in the industry and so on. So there have thematic ones and then obviously, you can change the agenda around sometimes we, we move to add certain agenda items, but it’s fundamentally it’s this concept that everybody on leadership should be aware of things that are going on, okay? And, and we should be collaborating and the risks that you run is it only monologue, and it’s important to, from the CEO perspective to get dialogue. So that’s point one, you asked about VIP, one of the things I needed to help with consistency of the meetings so that people could expect is some structure around what they’re going to present. And the victories insights and puzzles was just something I came up with, which helped everybody talk about their functional area, with some type of structure. I’m up to, I think, five or six slides of structure now. So we talk priorities, like what’s what’s top of their mind with their top projects, you know, this month, that’s one slide, we have a metric slide. So each functional group has a metric slide they present. But what that does is it gives, it’s just so you’re not all scatter graph presenting in different ways in different forms. There’s this victory, insights and puzzles. There’s, you know, there’s your strategy, we remind, I believe there’s a role for every executive, but the CEO become the chief reminder role. So you’re always reminding people what your strategy is, you’re always reminding people kind of what your priorities are. And, and yeah, so So, you know, that kind of gives you and I think victories or celebrations and insights is I want everybody to be thinking about what’s going on in their business. And puzzles is a polite way of putting there are always problems in a company. puzzles are fun to solve. And so puzzles are a way of articulating these are the issues we’re running into, and how can we work together to solve them and puzzles are fun,
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 23:34
it’s a very interesting approach in that, you know, I wonder how much of it is a function of the scale that you’re operating at. So this conceptually, this, this concept of actually having a different theme for every week of your staff meeting is very interesting. And, and it’s a clever approach to make sure that you are spending enough time on each area, but I assume that if people have, you know, things that need to be resolved, there is a format, like if your meeting anyway, that, you know, some of those puzzles can be brought up, regardless of what what week it is. Oh, for sure.
Andrew Waitman 24:09
Yeah, no, no, because this meeting is tends to be booked for three hours. Okay. So, we and we do I do try and do time management. But to your point, obviously, hot issues can bounce the agenda priority, okay. So if you suddenly have a really critical customer in a really hot situation, and that needs to be dealt with, that can be kicked right to the front of the agenda. And and, you know, is everybody doing, you know, Does everybody understand is does we know what we’re doing? Do we know who the quarterback is? all that sort of thing. So of course, you can adapt to the dynamics. But if the business is running operationally well, which in general, even even at modest size, right, you know, you know, a great business is a business that has no surprises, okay? That matters. St. Mt may sound counterintuitive, but a well run business understands what’s happening before that happens, and then just execute on it. Now, there is always chaos, okay, from customer chaos to employee J. Austin to so on. But, you know, in general, not withstanding COVID, you start to get into understanding how your business is going and having those thematic allows and allows your teams, your functional teams to plan, hey, we’re going to announce this, we’re going to share this with the company, we’re going to do a big presentation. So as an example, we hired a new Chief Product officer, he was four weeks in and he wanted to do kind of a presentation I said, that’s great. Your your first week coming up, beginning of June. So you can you know, and he needed more time than he was allocated. And I said, No, you got it, you want an hour, you’ve got an hour, and we just adjusted the agenda. But it does give everybody a knowledge of structure, okay, of how you’re going to organize that. But structure should always be adaptive. And in any organization. That’s kind of, if you start to get into the key attributes of great executives, it’s both this ability to find form, but to also be adaptive, right? There’s a lot of paradoxes or tensions in business, and one of them is to be able to coexist into kind of two forms structure and adaptation.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 26:21
And I’m curious, just, you know, from your management style perspective, how much talking are you doing during these meetings?
Andrew Waitman 26:27
Well, I so you know, and that’s, that’s a perception issue as well. So you should ask my leadership. Okay, so the agenda, so I have a slot? Okay. I sometimes not always, now, I sometimes will open up with the first 1520 minutes, what’s happened more and more is we have topics, okay, that needs to be dealt with. And so that gets into my topic. So last week, I didn’t have any formal presentation. And so I would say I just spoke for less than five, five minutes. And then I had some topics and I had some slides. And I said, we’ll, we’ll talk about these in a future. So the way we time structure and time structure is really important to make sure that you don’t overrun other people’s. So my job is to keep people fairly tight. So I would say, on average, and a three hour meeting, probably less than 15 minutes, the CEOs talking, you know, these meetings are very much for a monologue of other functions and dialogue of all functions. And so, you know, obviously, I weigh in when when we’re talking about things, but they’re certainly not co dominated at all.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 27:44
Right. And I, you know, one of the things that I think that you do really well, during these meetings and in general, and you know, you can kind of tell it by, hey, I only talk 15 minutes during a three hour meeting, it’s just this this concept of accountability. What are the things that you do to keep teams accountable?
Andrew Waitman 28:08
Yeah, so that’s an excellent question. And in fact, I would argue that accountability is probably one of the most important things in life. Okay. And what I mean, by that, we’ll get into the business thing, but, you know, why does Trump behave as badly as he does, because never in his entire life has been held accountable, partly because he’s always had money. Okay. And curbing poor behavior in society, and elsewhere, like what our cameras doing, cameras are actually evidence of accountability. Okay. And so accountability is probably the most important thing for not just business, but but life, you know, you hold your kids accountable. You hold, we need to hold our politicians accountable. You know, the lack of accountability of the republican supporting Trump is a good example of lack of accountability. So back to business metrics of the first way. Okay, quantitative measures, clear clarity of what our goals are, and how you measure those goals, what the outcomes that we’re trying to measure, and are we achieving those? Okay. And you and I could have a long podcast on how I have evolved in terms of, you know, hiring and firing executives, and how, in some ways, those executives, it should be self evident that they’re not performing. And I don’t like most of the time, I’m asking the executives, the leadership team, to come up with the metrics that measure their performance, okay. Like, it’s not something the CEO has to dream up on his own, he may add or add some color or suggest emphasis, but, you know, if you’re in the go to market, it’s relatively clear. Okay. You know, what the key metrics are, you know, the primary okrs like, there’s a lot of writing out there on what, how you want to articulate metrics, but KPIs okrs you know, whatever you want to call them, essentially, those primary metrics. They’re secondary. metrics, and there’s tertiary metrics and how you deliver those is part of accountability. But accountability has to do with, you know, quantitative things and qualitative things. So as an example, you know, it’s my responsibility, if we get in talking about culture, which we will, there’s an art to culture. And accountability is behavioral accountability. So if somebody is, you know, like, you know, if you’re, if your Chief Product officer is yelling at his team, when you’re not around, but never does it, when you’re around, that ripples back that everything washes back on the CEO shore eventually, okay? And, and every executive and every employee should know that, okay, that ultimately everything washes back, you know, somehow onto the CEO shore, and the accountability is beyond results, it’s about behaviors. And so are those behaviors conducive to the values that you are in a culture that you are, you know, supporting, and this is why a CEO plays such a critical role in every business, because ultimately, you’re the last arbiter, or, you know, Judge of behaviors, and actions and results, okay? And so my responsibility is to not only communicate the values, not only walk, talk, the talk, walk the talk, but then provide feedback to those executives, who and you know, it might be emphasizing good stuff. Okay, that was really good when you did that. But it’s also, you know, hey, you know, that that’s not what we want to do here. That’s not the behavior that we would want our team to do. And so accountability, Aydin, I think, is one of the executives most important, and how they do that is myriad and, and, and complex, but it does start with quantitative.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 31:54
Yeah, I love that. Just like yeah, I mean, you mentioned clarity, you mentioned ownership. So and and you mentioned having a part in actually determining what the metrics are that you’re going to measure his you know, obviously, if you’re the one determining all those things, and they’re not gonna own it, and it’s, it’s so much better if if your team actually comes up with those metrics.
Andrew Waitman 32:17
100%. And you know, the interesting thing about the digital industry, there’s so much benchmarking, okay, like SAS has benchmarks coming out of the, you know, like, you can go get any study, and the thing that fascinates me about SAS, that just enterprise SAS, but SAS in general, is you can go get benchmarks for, you know, $5 million companies, $50 million companies, $500 million companies. And so if you’re running customer success, what is logo churn look like? What is you know, this turn, and those are ultimately the top level aggregation of everything that’s being done, you will not be able to run a company successfully. If your NPS scores or Now you may need to drill in and figure out why your employee NPS scores or your customer NPS scores are crappy. But ultimately, quantitative measures are, you know, giving you a picture on this isn’t really going the direction we need to, right you want your you know, you want your arr going up, you want your you know, gross margin stable, you want your LTV to CAC to be improving, or if it’s going down, it’s a plan, okay? It’s an increased plan and investment, and then to be going up. So the thing about accountability is, there’s an art and a science, I call a company, a spreadsheet and a story. Okay, that’s what it is. The spreadsheet has to work. And the story has to work. And that’s really just saying that there’s an art and science to building a business. And a lot of people can do the quants stuff, okay. And there’s a lot of, you know, shared, where people struggle is getting the art part. Right. Okay. And when you get asked about culture, about leadership, these are all the qualitative challenges that leaders have, you know, getting cut what I call the perfect world, okay, and because it’s, it’s a complex world, people are complex, egos are complex skills are complex. And a great CEO brings together the art and the science, the story and the spreadsheet. And, and, and makes it works and adapts it constantly.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 34:27
And so I know we’re getting close to time here. So but I didn’t want to end this without talking a little bit about culture. I’m just curious, you know, you you were very early in the company. And you know, I assume when you’re that earlier, early, it’s easier to, I guess, create the culture or like have the culture form and and distill it, how do you continue like, what is the strategy to make sure that the culture continues to thrive now that you know the companies as big as It is and, and, and is growing.
Andrew Waitman 35:01
Yeah. And you know, we could do a whole podcast together probably multiple ones on culture because at some level culture is very simple. It’s the behaviors of the people you hire. And another level, it’s incredibly complex. I do want to give one anecdote in both pythian, which was a services business, which I grew from five to 50 million. And then at a cent in the very early hire, in both cases that I was conscious about to affect culture was my HR folks. Okay, I met envisioning I know the exact woman that I had, it wasn’t Heidi, it was a woman named Julia. And then the very first hire very first hire, at a sense, was a woman named Patricia. And in both cases, they profoundly impacted the culture, not just because they were in HR, but because they were my right hand person in recruiting. And they helped me with the the values piece like is this person, and you know, you’ve seen some slides for me, Aydin, with regards to, you know, integrity, work ethic, passion, competence, obviously, is always important. But on the on the on the art side, who you bring into the company is critical. I think any executive, okay, who wants to build a great culture has to pay a lot of attention to the folks that you’re bringing in? How much energy do they have? How positively predisposed? Are they? How nice are they to other people, etc, etc, all those things matter? Now, to your question, that’s interesting, in a COVID environment, we’re all working from home, culture does get tougher, it really does. And that’s why we do need to get back into offices somewhat. But I would say culture is, you know, set by the CEO culture is set by the leadership culture is set by, you know, the, the, you know, success helps a lot like, like, it’s interesting, you can have micro cultures and companies that can get quite negative, but a highly positive company. And again, I’ll go back to connexus, and Shopify, two incredibly successful companies in the Ottawa context, if you go look at their glass door, which is some measure of culture, they’re both stunningly doing well, okay. And, and part of that is success creates its own culture. Okay. So, so, you know, I think size, yes, does matter, I think, you know, obviously, then you get micro cultures in the company. The reason to be blunt that I changed my Chief Product officer kind of five years in, because I had micro cultures in product and engineering that were not conducive to success. And so part of culture is Who are you changing in your leadership team and in the in the management structure to make sure that you’re getting the transparency that you’re getting the energy that you’re getting the clarity, okay, of everybody feeling part of a purposeful goal.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 38:09
That’s awesome. And, and a great way to end it at one final question. After folks out there looking to up level, you know, their leadership and management skills. If you had to recommend a book or two, what should they read?
Andrew Waitman 38:26
Yes. Aydin, I really, really thank you for this question. I always always love to recommend books. Okay. I’m super excited. And so this question which I thought you were gonna ask me I did prepare for so I just want to give you a couple
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 38:38
okay. That’s what I said one or two because I knew there wouldn’t be one.
Andrew Waitman 38:44
No, but this is what gets me energized. Okay, but I can give you a couple. Okay. The most important one that you have to read everybody every leader right now has to read. I mean, this Peter Zeihan, Zed E I H A N. disunited nation.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 38:58
Oh, wow, I haven’t read that. Okay.
Andrew Waitman 39:00
So absolutely must read the scramble of power in an uncovered world. He’s got some tremendous YouTube videos that need to be watched every single person listening on this podcast, please consume Peter z n. One of the brightest minds I have seen bringing together geopolitics, economics, energy, demographics, everything into what’s going on in our world today. number one. Number two, is anybody in business needs to understand people and and the laws of human nature. Okay, which is Robert Greene is a fabulous book to understand the laws of human nature. And if you’ll give me one more indulgence, just because of the topic, the making of a manager by Julie Xue, that Ah, you Oh, what to do when everyone looks to you. The making of the manager is a fantastic book written by somebody who went through the journey at I think It was Google. And she writes a candid, clear, almost Recipe Book of how to become a great manager.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 40:10
I love that I’m definitely going to start with this united nations have not read that yet. So I’m excited for that. That’ll be my weekend adventure. And don’t do go look up the YouTube videos. There’s some trends. So I’ve actually I’ll probably send them to you. They’re awesome. Well, thanks again, Andrew. This was great.
Andrew Waitman 40:24
Okay. Thank you, Aydin for giving me the opportunity. Take care.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 40:28
And that’s it for today. Thank you so much for tuning into this episode of the super managers podcast. You can find the show notes and transcript at www dot tanahoy dot app slash super managers. If you liked the content, be sure to rate review and subscribe so you can get notified when we post the next episode. And please tell your friends and fellow managers about it. It’d be awesome if you can help us spread the word about the show. See you next time.