CV #15 Call-Em-All: How they Turned the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team into a Formula for Success & So Much More
COMPANY AT A GLANCE
Founded: In the summer of 05’, Brad Herrmann (CEO), Hai Nguyen (VP of Engineering), and Stephen Barclay, joined forces to start Call-Em-All, a company that provides an automated calling and text messaging solution for organizations such as hospitals, non-profits, sports-teams, schools etc. (not the annoying political or marketing campaign kind). They wanted to build a company that develops meaningful experiences for customers and inspires employees to come to work happy.
Employees: 23 | Revenue: ~9 Million
Formula (the opposite of the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team): Trust Each Other, Embrace Ideas, Commit to the Plan, Hold Each Other Accountable, Focus on Results
Community: Call-Em-All encourages both individual and company-wide community engagement events. Currently they host and provide mentors for, “Coderdojo”, a weekly event for kids to learn coding. They also host “React JS” a monthly community meetup to “talk code” where typically 50-100 people attend.
LET THE TOUR BEGIN
I can’t tell you how excited I was to visit the Call-Em-All team. I’ve been lucky enough to know Call-Em-All founders, Brad Herrmann and Hai Nguyen for a year and a half through the Small Giants Community and they have an incredible partnership. Brad’s known as the “cheerleader” of the company. He has a huge personality, with a great sense of humor and lots of positive energy. Whereas, Hai is much more quiet and reserved, though equally thoughtful and intentional. And while I think the world of these guys, the best part of visiting their company, was that they weren’t there! (No offense to either, but with such a dynamic partnership, I was so curious to see what the culture was like without them), and guess what? It was a very special place. I got to experience Call-Em-All’s company culture through the eyes of employees, primarily, their second generation leadership team – Sabrina White, Director of Customer Experience, and Jay Tollerene, Director of Operations. I also had the opportunity to sit-in during an Open Book Management weekly huddle, and have lunch with team members. Here’s what I learned:
1. Turning the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team into a Formula for Success
Everyone on the Call-Em-All team—interns included—has to read Patrick Lencioni’s 5 Dsyfunctions of a Team. In short, this book is about the five major root causes of dysfunction in teams and the keys to overcoming them.
Inspired to create a highly functional team, Call-Em-All studied the five dysfunctions and thought deeply about how they could address them as a team. They “call-em-all-ized” their solution and came up with their formula, or code of conduct. The best part about this formula is that it 1) Acknowledges the most common challenges from the get-go, so team members are aware of them. 2) Normalizes and gives team members common language to address the five dysfunctions, whenever they arise. It’s not uncommon to hear team members say any of these phrases (below), especially the starred ones.
1. Absence of Trust --> Trust Each Other
Leave your ego at the door.
Thou shalt not judge.
Put yourself out there.
Our purpose unites us.
2. Fear of Conflict --> Embrace Healthy Conflict
Be genuine, authentic, and transparent.
It’s not you, it’s your idea.*
Great teams don’t hold back.
We celebrate passionate, unfiltered debate.*
Conflict strengthens relationships.
3. Lack of Commitment --> Commit to the Plan
Without clarity, there can be no commitment.
Understand your role.
Lingering bitterness is not tolerated.*
Stack hands and break.* Ex: At the end of Call-Em-All meetings, it's very common to hear team members ask, “Do we stack hands on this?" Or, in other words, are we all in? If it's a yes, they'll clap once to show their unity and end the meeting.
4. Avoidance of Accountability --> Hold Each Other Accountable
Push because you care.*
If it as easy, everyone would do it.
Likability does not replace accountability.*
Defensiveness loses championships. *
Your teammates are counting on you.
5. Inattention to Results --> Focus on Results
I am not successful until we are.
Success leads to better problems.*
2. Incorporating Feedback into Their Organization
Roughly 6 months ago, Call-Em-All did a team exercise where each person reflected on their perceived strengths, what they thought they added to the team, and their perceived obstacles, what they believed detracted from the team. Each person gave feedback about their co-worker’s strengths and detractions, and the person committed to a few things they wanted to work on. After the exercise, managers met with team members monthly to ask them how they felt about their progress and provide feedback on examples of where they could do better.
In addition to this team-wide exercise, each Call-Em-All team member shared their strengths and detractions more intimately with their smaller teams to hold each other accountable. Each team does it differently, but the idea is to internalize a culture of feedback. For example, in the customer service team, they share feedback monthly a as team, whereas in the developer team, they work hard to share feedback on the spot.
3. The First Week of On-Boarding is All About Culture
Call-Em-All’s first week on the job is all about understanding and integrating new team members into their company culture.
At the beginning of onboarding, new hires are given a “legend” which is a piece of paper with Call-Em-All’s key culture activities on the x axis, and a list of team members who can speak to each one on the y axis. “X” marks the spot for each person you can talk to about each key component of the company culture. The goal of the legend is to introduce new team members to everyone on the Call-Em-All team and learn about the culture through their experiences.
On-boarding begins by taking the book Small Giants, by Bo Burlingham, off of the shelf, and asking Brad or Hai about their involvement in the Small Giants Community—a community that identifies, connects, and develops purpose-driven business leaders.
From there, new hires familiarize, reflect, and reach out to someone on the Call-Em-All team for the following culture tools and tasks:
Call-Em-All’s Vision: read the vision and gain a deeper understanding of where Call-Em-All is heading.
Team Member Personal Visions: ask a team member about their personal vision. Start thinking about one you may want to write.
Call-Em-All-Manifesto what they believe as a company: read this, reflect on what sticks out most to you, talk with a team member about it, and then add your signature to the manifesto!
Core Values: read and reflect on the core values with a team member.
Formula (5 Dysfunctions of a Team): read and reflect on Call-Em-All’s formula.
Grab 5 Dysfunctions of a Team off the shelf and begin reading.
Purpose Statement: read and reflect on Call-Em-All’s purpose statement (a work in progress).
Office Life: talk with a team member about office and team life, which includes:
Homework: To go home early, rest up, and have an awesome rest of your day!
4. Compensation Philosophy: “I want you all to be millionaires and retire early!”
Team members shared with me that it’s not uncommon to hear CEO and Co-Founder, Brad Herrmann, tell them that he wants them all to be millionaires and retire early, which is why Call-Em-All offers financial education, transparency, amazing benefits, and a generous compensation philosophy.
While managers meet monthly with their direct reports for performance reviews, Brad and Hai are the ones who evaluate a team-member’s salary on a yearly basis. They start off by sharing their compensation approach, which sets the tone for the review:
“We want Call-Em-All team members to be paid well. We look at a person’s skills and experience in the overall job market, and we evaluate the value a person brings to the Call-Em-All team. By combining a healthy salary with generous benefits, we expect to pay significantly better than average. Our intent is to make the choice to work at Call-Em-All about more than just compensation, and instead, focus on the work we do, how we do it, and who we do it with.”
They also outline the goal of the compensation review and how to prepare:
Goal of Annual Compensation Review: To bring transparency and consistency to compensation approach and to learn about your personal and career goals.
How do you prepare? Come Prepared to Answer Questions Like This:
Are you content with your role?
Are you satisfied with your compensation?
What do you want to learn?
Where do you want to grow?
Do you have a dream role/work situation?
What is your ideal situation, 2, 5, or 10 years from now?
Are we giving you the training, help, and guidance you need?
Since regular feedback and one-on-one sessions take place throughout the year, Brad and Hai focus the conversation on their overall happiness, where they see their future, and how they can help them get there.
Finally, they do a benefits summary with team-members to show them how their benefits add up. They walk them through the cash compensation (Salary + quarterly bonus profit sharing), plus health insurance, retirement savings, and other benefits for a grand total, which can end up being as much as 15 - 30% of their salary.
They cover 100% medical costs
6% matching for 401k, no cap
Quarterly Profit sharing - based on company performance
Additional discretionary 401k contribution at end of year
Tech allowance, new phones/devices
Cell phone plan reimbursement
I heard firsthand from employees how much this meant to them to know that not only do they want them to be millionaires, but that their profit sharing and 401k investments are helping them to get there. They also really appreciate the transparency of the compensation philosophy and feel very well compensated for. Seeing all the numbers add up puts their overall financial well-being into perspective.
Call-Em-All is a very special place. They’ve thought a lot about the barriers to creating a strong culture and have intentionally built systems and normalized behaviors to combat them. It’s clear how deeply committed they are to preserving and growing their culture through their highly inclusive on-boarding experience to their strong compensation philosophy. In short, they truly care about their employees in the totality of their lives and have built an enduring culture that exists whether or not the founders are present.