Dharmesh Shah: Lessons from the Trenches in Scaling Culture

Dharmesh came back to BoS in 2013, to look at a very precious and poorly understood asset for software companies – culture. Whilst Dharmesh himself claims to not even like humans (a point that he made to Hubspot’s CEO, Brian Halligan) when responsibility for Hubspot culture ended up on his desk, he approaches the subject with the same analytical zeal that any technophile would – by looking at culture as a coding thing.

Key quote from Dharmesh about culture, often overlooked now that culture is definitely a ‘thing’ that companies are thinking more about.

“There is a fine line between hiring for culture fit and just toxic homogeneity.”

The culture in a company is a powerful thing and it doesn’t have to be an accidental by product: it can be a conscious choice, initiated by the founders and carried on by the team. So, let’s say you’re a founder: how do you decide what cultural choices to make?


Want more of these insightful talks?

At BoS we run events and publish highly-valued content for anyone building, running, or scaling a SaaS or software business.

Sign up for a weekly dose of latest actionable and useful content.

Unsubscribe any time. We will never sell your email address. It is yours.


Dharmesh: How’s everyone doing?

Audience: Good.

Dharmesh: I’ve been watching the Tweet strings. You guys have been getting the hashtags right and the right level of energy. It’s awesome. So, I’m Dharmesh. I usually start with a bunch of disclaimers. So, I’ll do that again. Which is, you know, we’re gonna talk about culture and people, which comes as a surprise to some that know me, because on the extravert to introvert scale, I’m squarely on the introvert side. I’m not sociopathic, I’m just antisocial. I’m completely fine. Completely fine with humans. Some of my favorite human, living things happen to be humans. As it turns out, that’s my wife and, and son. So I think this will be OK. It’s instant, I have a, I have a fascination with people in the abstract. It’s concrete cases that bother me sometimes. So for those of you that are Sox fans in the Boston area – go Sox. Thank you. it’s always for applause.

All right, so I work at a company called HubSpot, which essentially, we make marketing software, so I’m not gonna talk about what HubSpot does, because I never do. This is the one slide, this is my sixth time presenting, sixth consecutive time presenting at the Business of Software, and every single time, I’ve had a variation of this chart, essentially, up. And now I’m superstitious, which is like the one time I don’t do this, the curve gonna break and all hell will break loose. So I put this up for a couple of reasons. One is the company’s doing reasonably well. I’m a believer in Y-axis. I hate people that put growth charts up there and they don’t tell you what the Y-axis is because that makes absolutely no sense. It doesn’t tell us anything. So these are real numbers. The, the company will close out. So run, rate, revenue, this is what we call the recurring revenue portion of the company. The actual total revenue is a bit higher because we do have some services revenue. We’ll close this year out about 75 to 80 million, which is decent, over about 56 million last year, I think. So that’s been going pretty well. The thing’s that more interesting, this is a chart I’ve never shown, I don’t think, is the, the employee count growth since our inception, essentially. And, and we can talk about why there’s that little bump right there. It wasn’t just because I could fit the text in. That’s actual data. So although, I wouldn’t put that, I wouldn’t put that past me. Never let data get in the way of a good slide.

But, so the disclaimer I’m going to put out here right now is when we talk about people and culture – so, I’m used to talking about, like, economics and pricing and things like that. And, and that has its risk of platitudes, and when you talk about people and squishy stuff, the overall probability of platitudes goes up. So this is what I call, like, the duck-billed platitude. Like, 50%, well, that sounds like it could be something useful. And the other 50% is, like, well, that’s completely trite. And I’m trying to dance a line between those things. You’ll know what I’m talking about as we go through. It’s, like, wow, either that was, like, superbly profound or, like, completely trite. And it’s OK to feel both those things. As we’re going through, this is one of the things I love about the business of software, if you have a question or you wanna push back or something, you don’t have to hold it ’til the end, I have enough content to kind of get us through. Just interrupt me. Just raise your hand, ask the question, we’ll, we’ll take the question and we’ll, we’ll keep going.

So the first question is what’s culture? And in my mind, it’s not about free beer as much as it is about freedom. It’s not about ping-pong. Those are all kind of perks. Those are part of the kind of life of a company. But that’s not what culture is.

Speaking of ping-pong, I have to share this quick tangential story. It’ll take 30 seconds. So this is the new ping-pong table that I bought HubSpot, because I didn’t wanna go through the mechanics of purchasing and stuff like that, which we do have those processes now. It’s like someone, an engineering person came up to me and said, “Well, our old table is, like, broken and we need a new one.” I’m, like, “Send me an Amazon link. I’m in a meeting.” And so I ordered it and there it is. And it’s beautiful. It’s awesome.

So one of the things at HubSpot is, you know, we have this rotating desk thing which I’ve talked about before. So about maybe six odd months out of the year, I will have no desk because I was out of town the day the rotation program happened and I come back to the office and I ask people, like, “Where do I sit now?” And they, they don’t know. And so, and I’ve had various portions of my stuff scattered around. But anyway, so one of the things I do, I, I carry my backpack around. Which, I’m self-contained. So I have my power supply, my iPad and my notepad and things like that. But one of the things I carry around now is, is, is, is a ping-pong paddle in my bag of, like, traveling supplies because, you know, I could just be minding my own business, like, walking through the office and someone challenges me to a game of ping-pong. And this is not because I’m a professional. I am not. Because I’m a germophobic to some degree and we’re in flu season, so I’m, like, “I just want my own paddle.” Like this. Anyway, somewhat related to culture, but not really.

So a culture really is, the official definition is it’s a set of shared beliefs, values and, and practices. I, personally, prefer, like, the geekier version, which is essentially the operating system that powers your business. It’s the stuff underneath that kind of runs the business sense, that kind of term culture code and we’ll dig into that a little bit. And as it turns out, most startups really don’t, and most companies, but particularly startups, really don’t think much about culture. And there are a few reasons for this.

  • One of them is, culture – we got this. We’ve got Margarita Mondays, we’ve got a ping-pong table, we’ve got beer, we’ve got this whole culture thing figured out, don’t worry about it. That’s response one.
  • Response two is, create culture, like, design culture. That just sounds wrong. Like, culture should hap-, happen organically. It just happens, and if you try and force it, then you’re doing wrong. That’s response two.
  • Response three is, we’re putting a friggin’ dent in the universe. That’s our culture, mofo. Kind of that kind of thing.
  • But the most common response is actually this, which is, we’re busy building a business here, ain’t no one got time for culture. Right? It’s like my off trying to build product and listen to customers and respond to support issues and do all the things that software companies have to do in order to kind grow in scale. So that’s the most common, which is actually our reason.

And I’ll talk you through the story of, of kind of cultured HubSpot. I’m gonna try and do this without being overly self-congratulatory as we go through, because that is not my intent. But I will share some tips of things we’ve learned along the way.

So for the first three years, I looked it up, in HubSpot history, we started in 2006, June of 2006, for the first three years, the word culture had never been spoken at HubSpot. And I know this because, unlike WordPress.com, we actually use e-mail. We, like, live on e-mails, crazy. So if, if, if the word had been spoken, it would have shown up in an e-mail within, like, 24-ish odd hours of someone having spoken it. So we didn’t talk about culture. Like, that word was never used in, in the annals HubSpot history in the first three years. And, and then a few things happened that caused us to kind of change that stance, that kind of contribute all around the same kind of 90-day timeframe. The first is my Co-Founder and CEO, Brian Halligan, joined what he calls a CEO group. And the reason I use air quotes is, it’s essentially group therapy for CEOs. Right? I mean, it’s where they kind of share their problems and issues and what’s going on and all that. Which I’m a completely big believer in, in group therapy and sharing issues and things like that. I do that kind of thing with, like, founders all the time. So that was one. And at, at this particular meeting in 2009 that, that Brian went to, the topic was culture. And he happened to be a group with, with the CEO of iRobot, the guys that the make the Rumba and stuff like that. Super smart guy. He’s in the Boston area. And he’s, like, “OK, so, Brian, what are you guys doing, you know, about culture?” He says, “Cuz we’re starting to grow.” We’re probably about 60, 70 people roughly around that time, I think. And Brian’s, like, he had the reaction, essentially, that I put up on the slide which is, “Culture? Ain’t no one got time for that. We’re off building this business. What’s this culture crap you’re talking about?” And so, over some amount of discussion, as they went around the CEOs, and it was a highfalutin crowd, Brian started to suspect that maybe culture was maybe something we should be thinking about.

And the first thing we did is we decided to get a sense for whether employees were happy at HubSpot or not. Like, do we have a functional working culture? And the way we would measure that is just do a survey. It’s like on a scale of 0 to 10, would you recommend people to work at HubSpot? Are you kind of happy here, essentially? And the answer is they were maniacally happy. Like, maniacally crazy happy. Which was the good news. The bad news was we had no idea why. And so, we asked them. It’s like, “OK, so what is it that causes you… Is the offices environment? Is it the charm and charisma of the CEO. Like, what is it that makes you so awesomely happy at HubSpot?” And the answer was disappointing, because the answer was recursive, it was, “I like working with the other people at HubSpot.” Like, that tells me friggin’ nothing that I can follow up on. And so Brian and I were having one of our kind of long Founder dinners that we tend to have, because there are no short Founder dinners. And, and for some reason, that is still completely not clear to me, I was volunteered, I think was volunteered. Like, “Dharmesh, you go figure this culture thing out. We’ve done the survey and whatever, go, go figure it out.” I’m like, “OK, well, I’ll just run surveys and we have a Wiki or whatever and all I really need to do is kind of scribe, because that’s what the original thing is like.

Figure out what it is that’s working in our culture so that we can maintain it.

That was the project. That was the task. I’m like, “OK, well, how hard could that be?” Right? It’s, like, I know how to run surveys. This is awesome. And it turned out that it was totally non-awesome, like, it could not be less awesome, actually. And I’ll talk through like some of the, the kind of trials and tribulations. But it was hard, like the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my professional career, which is mostly kind of startups, was this, essentially. And so, this is in 2009. And one of the first things I learned is there, there was no unicorn somewhere out there. And I’m like, OK, well, I’m a big reader. Like, surely someone out there has, like, documented most of what I need. I just need to be the curator of these really smart things intersect it with the data and what we believe or whatever, apply some sort of kind of filter and then out will come, you know, the culture, essentially. It didn’t quite turn out that way. And hence, my e-mail, this is a real e-mail. I copied that from 2009. Which is,

Brian, dude, it’s like, like this is hard. Maybe we should give this to someone that actually, like, likes people.

So that was, so that was interesting. So we’re going through and then, soon after that, like, I think within a month or so, I discover we collectively, at HubSpot discover the best document on company culture, in my humble opinion, ever produced. And I would say if you have, if you have time to read only one deck, one slide deck, or one document on company culture, and this like 100+ slides, 128 slides, I think, I would read this one. It’s the Netflix culture deck. How many people have read the Netflix culture deck? Awesome. You’re on the right path already. And the funny thing is… And so, this really kind of took us. Right. It’s like, like this, not that culture, but this process, this degree of candor, this kind of articulation of culture is awesome, you know, we need to do something like that. So, so we went down this journey. And I’ll talk you through it. By the way, if you have time since you’ve read through, for those of you that have read through, if you have time to read two culture decks with 100+ slides, essentially, read the Netflix deck twice, it’s that awesome.

All right. So, so, an observation, as we were going through kind of thinking about this stuff, and it comes out in the Netflix deck and then, you know, the Valve Employee Handbook comes out later, which is also a great document. And the observation was, you know, a bunch things around how people work had changed. But most companies had not really responded to this kind of shift in how we think about work, and work and life and things like that. So there was time when, you know, we work 9 to 5. Like just, like, nobody does that anymore. Right? It’s, nobody does that, let alone startups. And so, I was like, OK, well, we need to kind of somehow take what we think is the new reality of the world and somehow kind of build that into the culture so it, it’s real and it’s, it’s today and it’s contemporary. So that was part of the thing. So we shared our version of the HubSpot deck publicly, called it culturecode.com. And it’s worth a peek.

How many people have seen the culture code deck? A few of you, OK. It’s decent. I’ll, I’ll talk you through some of the things that we learned, both in creating of it and stuff that’s in there. So the, the question really is we’ll start off with I’ll make, I’ll try and make the case for why, why should you spend calories on culture. Like, you have a hundred things to do. HubSpot didn’t even spend time on, on culture, so why am I advocating that you spend calories on culture, which I am. And, and the reason is big data. No, I’m kidding. It’s like, you know. It’s like, now I’m officially going to be like the, the most cited, like, speaker on culture ever. It’s like Dharmesh said, “big data and culture.” It was, like, no more needs to be said, essentially. All right. So it has nothing to do with big data.

Creating Culture is Hard.  Killing Culture is Easy.

So I’m gonna talk you through the points in terms of what I think, why it’s important to think about culture and why you should take your energy. One is it’s true that it’s very, very hard to kind of code culture, to craft culture, to kind of create culture. The opposite of that is, is, is not true. Killing culture, primarily through neglect, is relatively easy to do. It doesn’t even take that much talent, actually. You can, you can kill culture relatively readily. Which brings me to the kind of 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, which I’m paraphrasing here, but if left alone, most things degrade to crap, including cables, code and culture. So that’s one of the reasons why you don’t want, even if you have semi-functional decent culture, which most startups probably start out with, left to its own devices, your culture will degrade to crap. That’s just the way it goes, I think.

By the way, I have strong opinions on just about everything and weak opinions are not worth, worth stating, so. The other reason is, is culture debt is insidious. So there’s, you know, we all know the notion of financial debt. Most of us in the software world know about technology debt. Right? Technology debt is you take is you take a shortcut now because that time savings is worth more than the pay rate you’re gonna have to pay. This is when you take a quick shortcut in the code. It’s like, yes, I know this is crappy code. Yes, I know this doesn’t scale to 1,000 servers, but I’m gonna do it right now because I need the time. So you’re balling or mortgaging against the future. And then you know that some point in the future, you’re going to have to kind of pay the price, including interest, in the same way you would have to pay back a financial loan. Right? There’s an interest rate attached.

My argument to you, going, is going to be when you take shortcuts on culture, which is primarily around people,

(a) the interest rate is exceptionally high, like, higher than financial debt, higher than technology debt, in a lot of cases. But what’s more troubling about it is that it’s actually hard to pay that debt off.

So if you have a body of code that is crappy, and I highlight all the code in my, like, I put a little hashtag crappy or a hashtag hack, essentially is the one I more commonly use, so I know to go back to that code that’s really, really crappy. And I can go back to that and say, “OK, I wrote this function. It turns out it matters now, so I’m gonna go back and re-factor and do things or whatever.” I can kind of pay off my past debt when time does become available. With culture, like, you hire someone and you take a shortcut on your culture, and then… So let’s say that was just a bad hire, bad culture fit, however – that sounds cliché – but whatever it is that made that person not a great hire for you. Even after you let that person go, which hopefully, you kind of recognize that and you have the discipline to let that person go, you haven’t paid off the culture debt. Because what’s happened, in the time that they were there is that anyone they came into contact with within the company, anyone that they helped interview, you sent this kind of signal out that this is sort of what we stand for. Not completely, it’s not a 180-degree turn, but it’s insidious. So elements of whatever that person kind of, it’s, like, “Oh, well, when you people joined.” It’s, like, “Yeah, I know. Well, but this guy’s a jerk. So that must be somewhat OK. I’m not gonna do it, I’m not a jerk myself. But it must be somewhat OK, we tolerate this, essentially.” And it’s really hard to weed out the stuff that’s in people’s head as a result of a bad culture hire. So it’s really hard to pay off that debt. If you don’t know that exists, it’s really hard to pay off. It’s a, it’s a troubling thing.

(b) The other reason to invest in culture is, essentially, it makes decisions easier.

Right. And this goes back to, I think the, you know, the Rails folks get some credit for the phrase, is “the more you can articulate about your culture in terms of the operating, so how stuff works at your company, the fewer and righter decisions will be made.” There are some decisions that won’t need to be made because they’re just de facto, well, this is how we operate. I don’t need to make a decision. It’s abundantly clear that this is the way it works here.” And then, so it takes the easy decisions and takes them away, and takes the hard decisions and makes them easy, if you do culture right, if you articulate it, it’s one of the reasons I advocate it.

Another reason to invest in culture is the “who” really, really matters.

This is a part of the trite clichéd stuff. And when I say “who” I don’t mean the band. Yep. At least one fan. That’s OK. I’m talking about the people that join the company because that going to define, essentially, your future destiny and what you want to do. So everyone says, every startup, every company says, we wanna hire the best possible awesomest people ever created ever. Everybody says that. Everybody thinks that. Everybody wants that. Then the second thing they’ll say is, “yeah, and we really care about culture and culture fit, like, we interview for that or whatever.” It’s like, “that’s awesome. So what is that culture?” And then, in some cases, they’ll be able to walk you through. It’s, like, “Oh, this, this, and this is, like.” OK, is it like, written down. Like, “Well, no.” It’s, like, “OK, well, so how do employees know?” it’s like, “Oh, we have this meeting and we talk about.” And I’m like, “that’s great. So you’re communicating. So you have a culture. You have these kind of ideas about you should operate and values and all that stuff and you communicate. That’s awesome. And what about people that don’t work here yet?” Because that’s actually over half the battle. What you want, if you do have an awesome culture, you want people that are on the outside looking in that might possibly want to work for your company that are the right fits, they need to somehow know what your culture is about. And that’s not possible unless you have it written down in some form, or at least communicate it, articulate it, manifest it in some form. So if you wanna increase the odds that you hire great people, which everyone is looking for, that happen to be a culture fit, which also most smart people are looking for, help the world figure that out so they can self-select properly. This is one of the reasons, even though it’s painful, this is one of the reasons to invest.

And speaking of recruiting, the way I think about culture, in a way, since I’m in the marketing business to some degree, is for the same reason we invest so many calories into product, is because it makes marketing easier. Right? Build an awesome product. People tell other people. You get the viral. Everything’s happening and there’s, like, rainbows and unicorns. Good stuff happens when you build a great product. And the better the product, the less marketing you have to do. Right? We all kind of, not that you won’t have to do any marketing, the better product, the easier the marketing. And we talk about, like, hiring and everybody’s growing and trying to find awesome people. We very rarely give that same degree of rigor investment to culture. And I think there’s a direct analog. The better your culture is, the better it’s communicated, the easier your recruiting will be. Period. It’s just like marketing. You know, like you can…So if you want to not have to deal with headhunters as much, if you don’t wanna go through the pain and agony of the things that people have to do in order to get to really, really good talent, invest in culture, just like you would invest in product, essentially.

Culture that produced the product is hard to copy

Another one is – and I’ve been in the software business for a long, long time – it has gotten easier, not easy, but easier to copy product. Certain classes of product. Now, if you’re building some video codec, something, enterprise security meets something like that. Anyway, if you’re doing that, some products are hard to copy. But in general, most products are relatively easy to copy to some degree. There’s a spectrum. The thing that’s not easy to copy is the culture that produced that product. That’s really, really hard. Right? And the hope is that part of what makes a product successful is not just the feature set that it has, but it’s the culture around it, it’s ecosystem around it. So you wanna invest in those things that are, essentially, a defense mechanism and gives you some amount of advantage, even though we know, now, that you can’t sustain competitive advantage indefinitely, but it’s still worth at least kind of hopping in. So I advocate investing in, in culture how you think about product. It’s hard to copy. I’m gonna wind down. And this one’s so clichéd, I’m not gonna spend that much time on it. It helps if people do really good work.

Why not create a culture you love?

And then a closing argument is whether you like it or not, as a founder or early team member, you’re going to have a culture. Whether you do it by design, whether it’s… You’re going to have one. Right? And I’m gonna advocate, well, if you’re gonna have one anyway, why not make it, make it a culture you love or a company you love? It’s, like, you have the chance to do that.

Developing Culture Code

So I’m gonna shift gears now. I’m gonna talk a little bit about the kind of process of manifesting code. I have talked to I, I, I’ve talked more about culture than I probably talked about marketing at this point, it’s weird, with lots of people. So I’ve become … Anyway, so we’re gonna dig into some of the pain around crafting culture and thinking about it. So I’m gonna walk you through the post-mortem. So we published our deck, this was the major update to the deck, earlier this year. That deck called culture code, you can go to culturecode.com, has now been viewed 990,000 times. To the best of my knowledge, it is the second most popular – popular in terms of red shared or however you measure – document ever created next to the Netflix culture deck, ever, essentially. Which I’m proud of – so that’s my self-congratulatory moment. So we’re gonna now move on.

Build culture like you build product and seek culture market fit

So when you’re thinking about – whether you do it in the form of a deck or a document or however you do it – one of the things you need to make sure of and would have thought I would have known this going into it, it should be a living, breathing, iterative document. It should not be just like, “OK, well, yes, we have our culture and here it is and so shall it be.” So I update the culture code deck roughly once every two to three weeks. And I’m still the scribe, so I get feedback and people tell me, this sucks, this sucks, this sucks. And I go back and try to kind of thread the needle. So, that’s one. I treat it like product.

And because you have to treat like product, seek culture market fit. In this case, the market, or the customer, are your current and future employees. Right? That’s the purpose. That’s the thing. That’s the problem it’s trying to solve. So essentially, the team, the employees, are hiring the culture to do a job. And, you know, putting in the frames of the earlier session. So that’s the way to think about it. We’ll talk a little bit more like that, because it’s product that’s never done. And this is a common mistake is that now that the body of literature that’s out there is growing around culture and ways to do that.

And so, GitHub’s got, like, there’s a bunch of companies that have this kind of next generation culture with different, you know, permutations on, on how they think about it but there are some definitely some common patterns. But the reality is if you have control over it, if you’re an entrepreneur and you’re just starting, don’t get overly bought into, like, this is what our culture should be. Make it whatever you want it to be. Like, you know, goal one is to create a company that you actually want to work for, like, show up in the office for or whatever. So it doesn’t matter that it matches Good Hub or WordPress or whoever, if it’s not the company you want. Cuz you don’t want to wake up one day and it’s like, “Oh, I have the absolute optimum culture, but I hate working here.” Essentially, that’s not, that would not be success.

The other thing is – and this gets talked about – we can kind of separate, and I’m not a cultural anthropologist or organizational behavior professor and never will be, but they haven’t been able to separate like values from culture. But one thing I do know, just at a high, high level of abstraction, is values are what should be constant. It’s, like, “OK, well, we will not kill kittens.” Or like, whatever it is that you truly, fundamentally believe in, those you should hold on to, those should stay constant. But culture itself, is actually a function. And the thing that goes into it is the reality of your current day, size, market conditions, competition, whatever it is, and the aspirations of where you want to head, those are two inputs into the function and out comes culture. And so, by definition, as your reality is changing, as what you’re aspiring to is changing, your culture can and should change. It’s not a static like, “Oh, we want…” Cuz this is the mistake folks make all the time. It’s, like, “OK, so we have this culture. We’re about 15 people now and we’re growing. Dharmesh, what do we do to preserve our culture?” Well, I don’t know. But first of all, the question is, well, what portions of that culture actually still make sense in today’s reality. What portion of that culture still makes sense in terms of what you’re aspiring to? And just don’t just hang onto that old culture. This one, we’ll talk about this cuz I’m gonna like talk about like the dark side of culture in just a little bit. But it needs to be flexible, essentially. It needs to be iterated on. It needs to change. So I think the biggest mistake startups make is they try to hold on to the “startup culture.” That’s not right. What you want is a culture that matches your reality that you helps you grow and helps you do the things that you’re trying to aspire to do, essentially.

All right. So some tips…

Tthings that kind of we found as a result of HubSpot culture. I’m not gonna spend too much time on it because it’s like borderline self-congratulatory and I don’t like that. But I wanna share it with you. HubSpot came out of MIT, so the first seven out of nine employees, all MIT MBAs, so we should have been doomed to failure from the beginning. And so, but one of the things that’s come out of that is relatively kind of academic-ish approach. So it’s not like open source, like a GitHub might be, but it’s very academic.

So open data, so everything’s shared in the company. Our default position is share the data. So financials, board deck, management meeting deck, commentary. I mean, unless it’s illegal to share it or unless it’s someone’s individual data, like comp, our default position is open, like share it. Like, you have to get approval. Never been asked, but to not share something, essentially.

Open debate, we love debate in the good academic sense. Right? Like, we’re up on whiteboards, like just flat out, just debating an issue. And open access, which is you, you can talk to anyone. And we have titles now so we kind of failed on that one. We didn’t have titles for the first year. We can talk about that if people are curious. But, so we started with that. That’s worked out really well.

So things I’m gonna walk you through is not the 120+ slide deck from HubSpot. It’s things that I think are even though each culture is unique, there are patterns that I think work, that I would gladly entertain a debate with you of these things I think should apply to most companies, that this is better than not. One of the reasons is I love this quote, which is “sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

So the more open you are, the more stuff that’s out there, the lower the chance is that you’re gonna make like stunningly stupid decisions. Stunningly stupid decisions happen behind closed doors because like, nobody’s, like, it didn’t seem stupid at the time, essentially. But if you’re out in the open on the Wiki, whatever it is, it’s amazing how like the rate stupid decisions goes down as the amount of sunlight goes up, the light on an issue.

The best people think out load, work in the open and defend their decisions

The other thing, and this is on the kind of product engineering side in terms of culture and looking for people. And I’ve known this for a while now, is, like, the best product people, the best engineers are the ones that actually welcome, welcome debate and like to argue and defend their position. The worst ones that are super smart, and even when they’re right, it’s, like, “Oh, why did we end up doing it this way? Or, what about this piece of like whatever?” It’s like, it’s that way because I said so and I’m smarter than you.” Like, that’s at the other end of the spectrum.

Now, obviously, that extreme doesn’t exist, but variations of that spectrum actually exist, where people are hesitant, and they have any number of rationalizations for why they’re not, like, debating and putting it out in the open. Some of which is well it’s just a waste of time or we’ve already talked about this or this person’s new, and it’s like, why, you know, why bother? Like, you know, we’ve already kind of come to consensus, but in my opinion, the best, best, best people are the ones that actually enjoy the debate. Enjoy being pushed on. Enjoy being probed on. Enjoy explaining the why of decisions. So that’s been really actually good.

Criticize people in private. Criticize ideas in public.

The other thing, this was controversial. So we tried not to criticize people in public. We criticize them in private. It’s, like, “Oh, Joe, you did this thing. That was stupid.” We wouldn’t do that. I’m just shortening that – yeah. It would be slightly more nuanced than that. But ideas, themselves, should be criticized in public. And the reason for this is that the value that you get from criticizing ideas public, in public, is you send signals out to what… Like, if you train everyone else’s filter in terms of the kinds of things we look at and push at and probe at or whatever, so it kind of starts teaching the team their own mental filters about what success actually looks like. And if you criticize ideas in private, yeah, that one person will learn because, like, well, here are the reasons why we don’t this predicament. And so, maybe. Right? Because the organization is not always right. But we like kind of putting it out in public and that actually works. That would advocate something similar.

Embrace skeptics. Eject cynics.

This one’s the nuanced. So I’ll give the quick dictionary definition. Skeptics are the ones that doubt, but doubt contextually. It’s like you say this and my immediate reaction is, well, like, here, it won’t work because of this, this, this, and this, and this. And they’re skeptical. That’s great. Because that… To be skeptical, you’re usually analytical. That means you’re analyzing the problem. You’re seeing the angles. You’re like, “OK, here’s what…” So those people are awesome. Awesome. Awesome. The people that are not awesome – and this is the difference between a skeptic and a cynic – a cynic does not believe any good is actually possible, that it cannot be fixed. This is the dictionary definition, essentially. And I’m paraphrasing. So cynics basically say, yep, this, this, this, this is wrong and I know we’re never gonna fix it. Like, we’re just not gonna, like, the, the… So they have basically a fundamental in their fabric, and distrust of humankind and its ability to kind of break us. Like deep down inside, that’s what makes a cynic a cynic. And those people are a problem. They are a big ass problem. So, and it’s hard to separate the two. Like, you have will have skeptics that are skeptical every single time. And that’s OK for them to be skeptical every single… They’re the ones that are going to say no the fastest. And they’re very deliberate, analytical and very articulate often. And that’s OK to skeptical every single time, as long as somewhere in the back of your mind you’re like, the reason I’m doing this is because I have hope that we will fix these things. That’s why I take the time, whatever. Those are the people you actually want. The other one that’s worked really well for us try to minimize the number of rules. So as you grow, there’s this pull, this gravitational pull down by just bureaucracy and process and rules and regulations.

Want more of these insightful talks?

At BoS we run events and publish highly-valued content for anyone building, running, or scaling a SaaS or software business.

Sign up for a weekly dose of latest actionable and useful content.

Unsubscribe any time. We will never sell your email address. It is yours.

Don’t write rules.  Just right wrongs.

And so my advice here, my guidance would be try to minimize how many rules you actually write down. So instead of writing the rules of the process or whatever, just try to correct the problems as they come up. So that’s one. And the corollary to that and the reason you should do that is, you know, don’t penalize the many for the mistakes of the few. So every time I look at – and this has kind of come from the legal world – it’s like the reason some language exists and some regulation somewhere is because someone somewhere along the way screwed somebody, and they’re like, “Oh, we’re gonna put this language in now, and so that shall never ever happen again.” And that’s why legal docs end up being 8,000 pages long. And the reality is the thing to look at is (a) how painful was that mistake, number one. If it’s a $5,000 mistake, screw it. Write the check. How likely is it to happen again? Try to, like… But don’t worry too much. So many companies, so many cultures spend more time, the actual total cost of protecting against… The insurance policy costs more than the actual mistake would. That’s stupid. Like, don’t do that. So we, at HubSpot, our thing comes down to… And I’m gonna talk about the dark sides of all this shortly here. So our default position is – this is our policy on everything – social media, can I go buy drinks at a conference for someone? Don’t test this this week, please, you’re a relatively large group, is use good judgment.

So we have very few policies. This is our three-word policy. And this is the default policy on everything unless it exists somewhere else. And which very little actually does. So that’s our default position. And then I, I got the question, it was like, “OK, well, what does good judgment look like?” The answer is if you’re self… Like, this is the kind of hierarchy of good judgment is that you solve for the team instead of yourself. You solve for the company over the team. And the last one, which is the hardest, is solve for the customer over the company. That’s how you kind of distinguish. Like, if you sit down and try to make the tradeoffs, like, “Oh, we’re gonna go do this thing.” It’s like, OK, well… The argument people are very used to making is, like, this is how it helps the company. This is how it helps the company. And so the question we ask ourselves is, how does it help the customer? Cuz it’s not good enough for it to help the company, that’s not, that’s not the final thing, anyway.

Don’t just hire to delegate.  Hire to elevate.

This one I’m gonna spend just a tad amount of time on in terms of the things we’ve learned. So as you’re hiring, we’ve hired, in the last 12 months, 242 people in 12 months. We hire at the rate of somewhere between 20 and 30 a month right now. So if I miss two days at the office, there are like new people that I’ve never met, which happens all the time anyway. And so, the temptation as you’re hiring, as you’re growing at all – and this happens, it has happened at, and actually may be more common – is like, oh, we’ve got this thing. So my advice, generally to entrepreneurs has always been hold off on hiring as long as you possibly can. Like, it needs to be like, really, really, really painful. And as a result of that, what you end up doing is hiring someone to kind of push stuff off to you. It’s like, oh, I’m spending too much time doing X. The company would benefit if I did Y instead. And so, I’m going to go hire someone to do X. It’s a very logical line of reasoning, which is great. But the reality, though, is that what you should be become – Paul English actually is where I learned this. He’s the CTO of Kayak, and he goes way further than I do, is every person’s responsibility on a team is to do whatever it is that they do. And the second as important responsibility is to grow the mean of the team. Right. Either in terms of like, recruiting or making the people that are there already better.

So as you’re hiring, you need to… Like, so we try to do this – and it’s harder to do in other groups – but in engineering, we try to hire people that can teach us something. Like, hire people that can teach us something that we just don’t already know. It’s not just, like, oh, we need someone to maintain this particular part of the system, so we’re gonna hire this junior, junior developer. We try not to do that, not always, but try.

Measure employee happiness consistently

We’re big believers in measurement. That’s been very, very helpful. So we do, every 90 days, an internal survey. We’ve been doing it for years, essentially. measuring the happiness from that. It’s the same survey as the early one that we send out promote our score survey. So you want quantitative and qualitative data, so when we do the employee surveys. You know, so now it’s, you know, we’ll get a response rate of like 450, 500 people, I think, roughly in the last one that we did. And there’s comments. There’s qualitative data. Every one on the exec team reads every single comment, every single time. That’s like a requirement. There’s other things you can kind of skirt on. So we go through it and it’s, it’s and there’s not, never a single one that we don’t learn something about.

The other thing that we’re doing that’s relatively needed, I’m not gonna spend too much time on this because it doesn’t apply to everyone. So we think about employee happiness, which has been very, very useful in terms of how to… Because this is, you know, the culture market fit kind of thing. We’re starting now thinking about candidates, kind of going, you know, further earlier in the, in the, in the experience.

So the thing we’re starting to do now is to, is to measure the happiness of candidates. So the question, some were the questions we asked everywhere else is on a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend someone to interview at HubSpot? This is before an offer is made or not made, essentially. Just the overall experience, was that a positive thing or not? Because if it’s not, that word spreads and it makes it harder for us to get awesome people. So this is a marketing kind of thing. Like, we wanna spread the word. And the only way to improve it is to actually know how good or bad it is. So that’s…

Audience: Dharmesh?

Dharmesh: Yes.

Audience: If the person says I’m not going to recommend HubSpot, will you still offer them the job?

Mark Littlewood: Can you repeat the question?

Dharmesh: What if someone says on a scale of 0 to 10, I would not recommend HubSpot as a place to interview? And the question is, would you hire that person? And remember, this is before they’ve actually experienced HubSpot and the low score is around the experience. That’s our problem, not their problem. Right. It’s like, “OK. Well, ideally, it’s, like, OK, well, tell us what’s wrong. Like, why did you give us a two or whatever it is and let’s figure out how to fix that?” We’re very, very good at like piling on the kind of fact-based, you know, versus delusion-based approaches to running a business. So it’s like, “OK, well, that…” There’s something wrong there. We’re very transparent. But we would hire that person, actually. And this is relatively new in terms of measure. And so, the other thing we’re doing as a flipside to that, to kind of close out that note, and this we’re already doing.

So we have a HubSpot Alumni Group now. And so, the people that leave HubSpot, we call them alumni. We think of them as alumni. Like, you graduated from HubSpot. There are people that tend to hang around and get PhDs at HubSpot, and that’s all fine. But there are people that move on. That’s a natural part of the process. And so, we think about the alumni much like a university would that says, OK, well, what’s the brand? How happy are the alumni? Are the recommending us? Are we getting… Like, all those things.

So we have a quarterly meeting completely organized by the alumni group, where one of the execs from HubSpot will show up and it’s open Q&A. You could ask us anything. You could ask us financials. Like, how are… Cuz they’re all pretty much shareholders. Everybody at HubSpot has options or equity in some form. And that’s been good. So we try and measure both sides of it to say, OK, well, we want HubSpot to be an awesome place to interview and an awesome place to work, and then, an awesome place to have worked when you’re out. So, for instance, if we the alumni happiness go down, that means the brand reputation of HubSpot, like in the world, itself, there’s a problem there, so we try and fix that.

Let’s skip by this solve for the customer thing.

Audience: Dharmesh.

Dharmesh: Yes.

Audience: Did I hear you correctly you do it every 90 days, a survey?

Dharmesh: Which one?

Audience: (inaudible 38:48)

Speaker 1: Yes, so we… Yes, we do. The question is do we do that survey every 90 days year round? So the answer is yes. So there… And I’ll walk you through a series of the surveys that we run. So we have, and we’ve been doing this for years, customer happiness, we do a survey every 90 days. Employee happiness, a survey every 90 days. Meeting happiness, for the company meeting, everything company meeting, essentially. It’s like on a scale of 0 to 10 would you have had this meeting again? And, and it’s weird. And we learn something every time. So we try to get on this kind of pace of regulars. And we’re not necessarily fixated on the actual number. We’re fixated on the trend. Like, yes, our meetings have sucked, but have they started sucking even more? You know, recently. Is there something that we should be doing? So the meetings have got, company meetings have gotten better. So now I’m gonna move – and this is probably a question here and then I’m gonna move to what I call the dark side.

Audience: Question, are employee surveys anonymous or are they with names?

Dharmesh: Yeah, the question is, are employee surveys anonymous. And the answer is yes, they’re anonymous. I have actually considered value of like, anonymity versus, like, defensibility. Like, one of the things that bugs me is not, not like, be defensive kind of thing, because that’s a negative thing. But if they were not anonymous, and we have, you know, the wiki where people can post comments non-anonymously, you know, something like a Facebook group might be but it’s internal to, to HubSpot, and, and there’s lots of value in someone like, stating a position. It’s like, “Oh, here’s what I think is broken, let’s comment, let’s say, on, on the employee NPS. And we have this, too. We have both.” But there’s a lot of value to knowing, like, the history behind a person and what they’ve said in the past, what their context is and then being able to… For someone, me and someone else, to be able push back. It’s like, “Yeah, but this…” And then you have this kind of rich discussion. Versus someone that’s like, “I give you a two because HubSpot sucks.” And it’s like, “OK. That doesn’t help unless you give me…” And they, and they do answer the why question, so we do get some qualitative data back. But right now, it is anonymous. Actually, all of these, except the customer survey’s not anonymous, it used to be and it’s not now, because when customers tell us we like to follow up and so do they. So it’s, it’s clear that’s…

The dark side of culture

So I’m gonna make one of the bigger mistakes. Professional speakers would never make this mistake, which is close on like, a down note. Which I’m going to do. So, you know, so this was the… So I’m gonna make this transition because I didn’t do it well. And I practiced this for dramatic effect. It’s like, so we’ve been talking about… You know, why not create a culture you love? And, and I did like, the PowerPoint thing like, myself, so like, a dark versus orange. Yeah, I was quite proud. And we’re gonna talk about the dark side of, of culture, and there is definitely a dark side. And there are all these minefields, so I’ve been, you know, since I guess 2009, I’ve been officially, you know, working on culture, talking about culture, thinking about culture, describing culture. And to walk you through some of them, there’s not enough time, actually, in the day to talk about all of them in depth. But you’ll kind of get a feel for the kinds of things.

So, when I first started the scribing process in 2009, I took on the project. It was, like, OK, well, we’re going to document HubSpot’s culture. We’re gonna try to figure it out through, like, surveys and I had like, you know, had to involve, like, meeting with carbon-based life forms on a one-to-one basis. I put myself through it and I met with people and talked about what they thought HubSpot was, what was working and not working about culture. Even when I proposed the idea of culture, I said, “Oh, we’re gonna try and like figure out what it is so we can write it down.” And I get flamed on a relatively regular basis on the HubSpot Wiki, there’s document. The most I’ve ever been flamed, ever, HubSpot or otherwise, was in reaction to when I first said we’re going to document our culture. And I will paraphrase the commentary. The commentary was where did we do wrong? This is the first step into the abyss. What’s next? We’re going to have posters on the wall with our values. This is not the company I thought it was. It’s like, “Oh, you’re killing me here.” And this, all I did was suggest, like, maybe we should, like, figure out what our culture is. Like, I don’t know. I’ve never done this before.

So, you know, from our best, happiest people, and this is the thing that kind of was, was hard, it’s hard. So, so one of the things you will deal with, I think this is actually universal, is that there’s this kind of systematic like, organ rejection for a culture or whatever it is. Like, oh, this defies definition, just the fact that we’re trying to do it makes it not a good thing. It’s, like, OK, well, anyway, so, lots and lots of criticism and biting scathing commentary on just the act of trying to document culture. So that’s one dark side.

This one we’ve talked about, so I’m not going to… It’s, it’s like, oh, well, now the culture, like, once we started to document, like, this is what it is, it’s the company it used to be, those kinds of things, we’ve spent a little bit of time on that. This one was a little bit… And it’s OK. So, so we have this culture deck now that is, as I mentioned, the second most widely written document, read document in, in, on the planet, as far as we know. And the internal reaction from HubSpot employees is, ‘Eh.’ I don’t know, I’m paraphrasing once again. But it was, and it was interesting. So I have, I have a, a culture therapist now. And we, and she’s actually the best culture therapist conceivable because she actually co-authored the Netflix culture deck. She’s awesome. She’s now on the HubSpot advisory board. And we do not talk by phone. We are pen pals. So I send her late night e-mails with, like, like as stuff is happening or whatever. It’s like, “Oh, like, the employee said this and” – you know, Patty, is her name. “Like, did you guys experience this? Or, you know…” And she is like the most direct person. If you read the Netflix culture deck, that’s essentially Patty. Like, just flat out, like, cut to the chase. And so, I’ve been asking her about, you know, some of these issues. And it’s actually relatively, relatively common. So once they published it and it became like this big wide thing, they had a similar, maybe, we haven’t measured so we don’t know quantitatively how different it was. But she’s like, the issue is that the reason for the mere response is the employees are already living it, if you’re doing it right. So it’s not that big of a deal to them. It’s a bigger deal to people that are on the outside. It’s like, “Oh, really? Companies run that way? I had no idea.” That sounds so right. And that’s why I’ll share that. I’ll Tweet this. I’ll send it to my head of HR. I’ll send it to my CEO. I’ll send it around the team also. And everybody’s like, look, but this, this, this, and this. Even though they don’t agree with everything, that’s why, is that the internal folks, it’s just their day-to-day reality to some degree, So, so that’s why.

Another dark side of culture and crafting culture, coding culture is what I call the federal versus state issue. So when you sit down as a group of people trying to, it’s, it’s a little bit, right, like writing, like, a little bit like writing a constitution. It’s, like, “OK, well, you know, we have this own little entity that we’re trying to form and here are the things that we believe.” And here are the right set, you know, HubSpotter gets, you know, by definition as a result of being a citizen of like a, a citizen of HubSpot. And, and the issue is you have to make really hard decisions and tradeoffs around what those actual inalienable rights are. Right? And so, for instance, and, and the reverse of this, so that’s what we would call federal law. Right? It’s like, that’s it. And there are things that’s, like, OK, well, that’s our law, but then we allow individual states, at least in the United States, I think it’s a relatively, relatively common model, to kind of override federal law, essentially. Right?

So, and it turns out at HubSpot we have very convincing state leadership. Very convincing state leadership. So the VPs – gotta love ’em – super analytical, very convincing, smart, they’ve grown up with the company because they’re all, they’ve been around forever and they’re like, “Yes, Dharmesh, I know that you believe this.” It’s like “Oh, well, we should be, it’s like the, well, you know, year without pants, you know, from Scott Burken kind of thing.” It’s like, oh, yeah, I know you believe that you should just be able to work from anywhere or whatever, but you know, our VP of engineering will come to us and say, “Well, Dharmesh, that’s just, that’s just sub-optimal.”

So we wanna do it differently in engineering. You know, we would like actually encourage people to kind of collate because we happen to be paying Cambridge prices. Why not make an office and like, have people come in or whatever. And so, we have to make this tricky balance of like, what are the things you’re not going to allow state override on? Because like, these are things we hold inviolate and those are hard decisions. And if you, if you compromise too much, you wind up with a document that’s like, one sentence long or something like that because there’s always good reasons. Well, always reasons, some of them not good, as to why a certain thing should be a certain way.

Autonomy to be awesome vs VPs are people too

All right, we’re gonna move on. We’re almost there. So one of the things, you know, core attendance we have is, you know, we, we let employees have the autonomy to be awesome. Right? We have no rules. Go off and take risks and do these things. We won’t penalize failure. We’ll actually penalize lack of failure because you haven’t tested or tried enough things yet. And so, this issue came back to me, which is, so this goes along with kind of federal versus state. And I asked Patty. It’s like, Patty, like, how do I deal with this, with this issue where, like, the VPs are kind of pushing back? It’s like, OK, it’s sub-optimal for all of my team to go off and do whatever the heck they want because that’s just not optimal. We have these teams to run. We have customers to support. We have product to build. We have all these things. And Patty’s message back to me was, “OK, so Dharmesh, you believe in, like, autonomy for the team, like for people that work that work at HubSpot.” I’m like, “Yeah, we like, we totally accept, we totally believe in that.” He’s like everybody should have autonomy. She’s like, VPs – I mean it’s because you trust them. Yes. Yes, we trust them. That’s why we hired. That’s why you give them autonomy. Well, if you trust them, then, then what about your leadership. Why should they be excluded from that trust? Why should they be excluded from having that autonomy? We picked them to lead these teams. If we don’t trust them to do right thing for the company, and do the right thing for the customer, why should they be excluded, essentially? So that’s kind of the balancing act.

Work life balance

The other one, this is an hour-long conversation itself, is around work life balance, or lack thereof. Something we’ve struggled with for our entire history. I think a lot of startups struggle with it. We actually talk about it and try to do things. I don’t know what the fix is yet. But that’s a dark thing. Then… So this one is, it’s interesting. So no, no company I have ever met has… So lots of people have an official, you know, don’t hire jerks. Don’t hire a-holes. That kind of… Like, and HubSpot has an official policy. We don’t have any policies. That’s one.

But the reality is, although no one plans for it, they almost always – oh, sorry – they almost always, they almost always show up. Right? And, and the reason they show up is, is there’s, like, there’s different, there’s a spectrum of jerkiness. There are people that are like jerks all the time. Right? So you go out to dinner with them or like, like, they’re just jerks. They’re jerks to the servers. They’re jerks, like, they’re just jerks. Those are easy to deal with. It’s like, “You, jerk, like, you know, trapdoor, out.” You know, we’re not gonna deal with you. The ones that are problematic are the ones that are contextually jerks. Cuz then you have to figure out in what context does this person become a jerk and how far will they go?

So, and the thing that is hard to separate sometimes and the reason, they’re like, well why not go off and now that we know, fire all the jerks. Right? Like that would be a relatively easy, probably popular decision. But the reality is it’s, it’s a fine line sometimes. Like so, so, there are some people that are just flat out like, just direct. They’re just direct. They’re not, they’re not, so the difference in my mind between the jerk you don’t wanna have and the jerk that you might tolerate is the one that’s actually solving for the right thing. Right? And solving for the right thing is they’re not doing it out of their own selfish interests, they’re not doing it to belittle people, they’re not doing it to be toxic to the team, it’s just because that’s the way they’re wired, and they’re open and direct about it, and that can come off as being a jerk. We all know these kinds of people. We all know them. And there are some schools of thought that says, oh, that’s, even those, like, we shouldn’t do it because it’s toxic. I might actually buy into that, but I’m just saying there’s a spectrum and they wind up and this is why, essentially.

Some will join because of how much you succeeded, not how

All right, so winding down. This is the other issue, is like, people that end up joining your team as you’re growing, they care more about how much you’ve succeeded versus the how you succeeded, the why you succeeded, those people will be a problem. They often tend to be cynics in disguise as they come in, so be careful of those.

Compromise is essential

We’ve talked about this. You know, there, there have been people, that’s like, “Oh, well, we don’t compromise on hiring.” Like, heck, yes, you do. You do. Everybody does. Come on. The question is, what do you compromise on. Right? There’s no, there are tradeoffs. There’s always decisions to make and it’s always around the kinds of things or people that you’ll say no to, the things that you won’t allow. Won’t allow in, what do you believe in.

Culture fit/toxic homogeneity

And this is the last, last slide. And I saved the best for last, in terms of dark side of culture. There is a fine line between we hire for culture fit and just toxic homogeneity. There’s a fine line between “Oh, like this is, like, this is what culture is and we know it’s gonna be problematic or whatever” and then you end up hiring people just like you. Just like… And you repeat it and they hire people just like them. And you wind up with this completely dysfunctional homogeneity, this mass and goo that’s hard to unwind. And so, the, the message here is just be mindful of the fact.

And so, the closing argument to why you should write your culture, so before you’re allowed to say we hire for culture fit, you should be mandated to define what that culture is, so you don’t just use it as a way to discriminate, just don’t use it as a way to have this homogenous team that happens to be easy because everybody’s just like you. That’s my, that’s my time. Thank you.

And we’ll take questions. Yes.

Want more of these insightful talks?

At BoS we run events and publish highly-valued content for anyone building, running, or scaling a SaaS or software business.

Sign up for a weekly dose of latest actionable and useful content.

Unsubscribe any time. We will never sell your email address. It is yours.

Audience: Thanks for the talk. Why’d you guys flatline at 300 even though revenue was still climbing?

Dharmesh: Yeah. So we were hiring. Most of the hiring that we were doing at the time was sales and marketing. We had this epiphany that the product sort of sucked, and that if we were going to continue to grow in skill, I’ve talked about this in prior BoS talks, so we made the decision not to hire any more sales and marketing people until the product got to at least great on our scale, like seven and a half-ish on scale 0 to 10. And so that was why. So we just had this flat, like, no more hiring until, in sales and marketing until we fix that problem, essentially. That’s the only way to send a message to the team that we were serious about it. We’ll go here and then back there. Ok. That’s fine. I’ll repeat it.

Audience: So you talked about titles. At one time they weren’t needed.

Dharmesh: So the question is about titles. The reason, I’ll give you the short version. Fought it, fought it, fought it for years. No titles. It’s stupid. We won’t put them on business cards. When you introduced yourself, you didn’t ever mention your title at HubSpot. You’d just say, I work in marketing or I work in sales or I’d say I work in development, which I do. And the issue that came back was, there is a world outside of HubSpot and as it turns out, some people thought that someday they may work in that world and that world needs titles as a classification mechanism, essentially, so it was, we thought the arguments made sense, so we did it.

Audience: Real quick. I wanna know if you can give an example of a reason that you fire a person for bad culture fit. If you can define a little bit more what that was, whether it was they were an extrovert or something.

Dharmesh: Yeah. It’s not that. So the question is… The common, essentially, is… So we do 360-degree reviews at HubSpot, so where like, anyone can review anyone else. And we’re doing more of that. And it’s starting to get extreme in terms of the amount of data we’re collecting. But it’s selfishness is the number one cause. It’s, like, you’re really, really smart but we don’t think you care about your team enough or the company enough or the customers enough, and all the things that you’re doing, we just doubt that you’re actually doing it for the right causes or whatever. That was one. And that’s so core to it, just like, we just don’t like that and you get egos kind of mixed up into that, essentially, but we try to. All right. I’ll be floating around the conference for the rest of the… You won’t be able to get rid of me. So thanks for your time. This was fun.

Dharmesh Shah
Dharmesh Shah

Dharmesh Shah

Dharmesh Shah is co-founder and CTO of HubSpot, the NYSE listed inbound marketing platform with a market cap of over $7 billion and $590 million revenue in past year.

Prior to founding HubSpot in 2006, Dharmesh was founder and CEO of Pyramid Digital Solutions, which was acquired by SunGard Data Systems in 2005. Dharmesh is an active member of the Boston-area entrepreneurial community, an angel investor in over 60 startups, and writes about startups, inbound marketing, and company culture. Dharmesh holds a BS in Computer Science from UAB and an MS from MIT but learned everything he knows about the software business from his regular attendance at Business of Software Conference since the very first one!

More from Dharmesh.

Next Events

BoS USA 2023

BoS USA 2024 🇺🇸

23-25 Sept 2024 at Raleigh, NC

Learn how great software companies are built to help you build long-term, profitable, sustainable businesses.

The Road to Exit 🌐

Starts on June 2024
A BoS Mastermind Group
facilitated by Mr Joe Leech

Uncovering your Growth Levers 🌐

05 June 2024 2PM BST
A FREE BoS Hangout
with Matt Lerner via Zoom

Want more of these insightful talks?

At BoS we run events and publish highly-valued content for anyone building, running, or scaling a SaaS or software business.

Sign up for a weekly dose of latest actionable and useful content.

Unsubscribe any time. We will never sell your email address. It is yours.