The following post is by Rene Lacerte, who is the CEO and co-founder of Bill.com, the nation’s largest business payment network with over 500,000 members and more than $12 billion in annual payments. In 2014, his company was named one of the best places to work by the San Francisco Business Times.
Bill.com has attracted a talented and innovative team that is quickly building the nation's most efficient way for businesses to pay and get paid. In our neighborhood, we need to compete for talent with Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and dozens of other fast-growth companies with deep pockets. It's the world's most competitive market to hire top talent in. I won't and can't compete on budget. I compete on values. I've won the "Best Places to Work in the Bay Area" award before. It was back in 2006, when I was CEO of my first startup. I've learned a lot about company values and employee retention in the last eight years. Here are the four most important lessons I've learned.
1) Make Company Values a Big Deal
Every person who comes into the Bill.com office is first greeted by our company values. The sign is big and bold. I love our product and service and have learned that I must invest heavily on developing an innovative and collaborative team in order to build an award-winning, successful service. This starts by hiring the type of person we strive to be as a company: humble, fun, authentic, passionate, and dedicated. We look for those who live these values every day and won't hire them unless they do.
2) Promote Collaboration All Day, Every Day
We recently expanded into a new office in Palo Alto. For Bill.com, one of the core goals was to design our new work area to foster collaboration. The furniture and desks are arranged to encourage discussion and information exchange within and across teams. We found a location next to the Bay so we have the opportunity to get outside (to walk, run, or just get some fresh air). We have a fun break room stocked with nutritious options so our people can refuel with healthy choices during the day while catching up over lunch or playing a game of ping-pong or foosball.
3) Be Transparent
I sit in at an open desk by the door, right in the middle of the support and sales teams. We all sit in an open office environment, and all the conference rooms are glass. And we like it. The open environment is a reminder of the importance of transparency. When I share our financial information with the company, I frame it in the context of our strategies and goals. I don't just tell our team, Here are the numbers. I am transparent so they can take the information and use it to do their jobs better. In the Best Places to Work survey, our transparency is rated as one of the most important company attributes. People need to know the broader picture, not just how we're doing with short-term results. We share ideas, financial information, product plans. I manage my own calendar and any employee is free to get on my calendar anytime he/she wants.
4) Be Passionate--All Day, Every Day
I love my work. I learned from my dad and granddad (both serial entrepreneurs) that a passionate work style doesn't equate to flamboyant meetings or pressure-cooker style competition. Passion means vividly and vibrantly communicating and sharing the bigger picture of where we are going. It means rolling up your sleeves and digging in vigorously. At the core of every passionate employee is a fundamental understanding of where we are going. Sharing the long-term goals--and making sure everyone knows and shares in the company vision is essential.
I'll give you a personal example. All the people at our company come into the office every day to "simplify the doing in business." This means improving work processes for payables and receivables, reducing wasted time and paper, and constantly looking for ways to improve efficiency. Today we help our customers pay 10 million bills a year. Customers tell us that we save them 50 percent to 75 percent of the time it takes to pay and get paid. This equates to at least $25 a bill. That means we save our customers over $250 million in expenses by being more efficient. The number of bills we help our customers with is growing quickly, and in the next five years we aim to save our customers $10 billion by processing 400 million bills in the most efficient way possible.
People are passionate about work when they feel that they are making a tangible difference in the lives of others, when their work is part of something bigger than themselves. In Silicon Valley, the employment market is tight, but the talent is rich. Applying these principles has allowed me to attract top talent consistently throughout the organization. More importantly, once the talent is in the door, we get more done, have more fun, and innovate every day.