Leadership Series by Ali Parnian
Published August 15, 2018 in the Phoenix Business Journal
I had the opportunity to meet with Gregg Scoresby, CEO of CampusLogic at his newly expanded, modern headquarters in Chandler, Arizona. A high-growth company with a purpose to, "Help Schools Change Lives," its software solutions make student financial services easy, mobile and personalized for higher education institutions and their students. Read on for Scoresby’s thoughts on driving alignment.
How do you define alignment?
Alignment means everybody is moving in the same direction toward the same goal. That can be a challenge. At CampusLogic, we get everyone to focus on an annual goal that ties to our overall mission. A few years ago, we developed our ‘Mission to the Moon,’ creating a goal to have 500 schools as customers by 2020. That goal has been really powerful. By aligning around purpose, mission and values, we’ll meet this goal by the end of the year.
What does misalignment look like for you?
Misalignment appears when people start to optimize in groups, or for their own outcomes, instead of optimizing for the mission and the annual goal. Misalignment sees teams start to develop subcultures for the goals they are accomplishing.
Every group should have their own set of goals. But they need to be aligned with the overall mission of the company — not optimized for their own, specific area. Marketing can’t have good outcomes if sales isn’t hitting the numbers. Sales can’t hit its goals without being aligned to marketing. They need to work together. Marketing needs to tell the story of how our customers can achieve a 10X ROI; sales needs to consultatively sell around achieving that 10X ROI. To close the loop, our customer success team needs to ensure that a 10X ROI is actually realized by our customers.
Misalignment happens when employees are optimizing for their own outcomes — and not optimizing for the ultimate outcome of the customer or the mission of the company. When people are aligned around a common goal, you don’t see fighting. You see healthy debate around a common goal. If your interests are aligned, the debate isn’t personal; it’s held with the purpose of accomplishing a common goal. When everyone is on the same team, debate results in good outcomes.
How do you drive alignment? Get people on the same page?
At CampusLogic, our purpose and values are enduring — we’ve built our foundation around them. Our purpose is to, ‘help schools change lives,’ and we’re all aligned around that purpose. It’s emphasized at our biweekly company meetings. Our entire people-development (onboarding and training) process focuses on our values and purpose to ensure employees are on the same page.
Our annual planning process defines what ‘Wildly Important Goal’ (WIG) pushes us toward alignment. That WIG helps us achieve our mission, determine the sub-goals that need to happen, and define lag and lead measures to accomplish those goals. We also hold quarterly growth summits to track our progress toward our goals, and each team has daily and weekly standups that map to our top goals.
One powerful metric we use is Revenue-per-FTE. A lot of growth companies don’t focus on this metric, but we believe you need to constantly be expanding your revenue properly if you want to be healthy. Many growth companies just focus on top-line growth, and I think that’s a mistake. One little hiccup — and they won’t persist. We show our employees how we’ve been tracking to our goals in prior years. This transparency has been really healthy — showing people where we’ve been each year and where we are on our lead measures each quarter for the current year.
How do you manage employee goals?
A visualization dashboard pulling information from different sources helps us manage employee goals. Data is essential for alignment; to empower employees with fact-based, data-driven conversations that aren’t anecdotal. We set a quantifiable goal based on activity to get a result. If we don’t hit the activity level, we can see how it impacts the goal.
I have an overarching belief that every problem is a people problem. That doesn’t mean that people are the problem. It means that when you have the right people, you can solve any problem.
About 25–35% of my time is spent recruiting. It’s the single biggest lever point that a CEO has. I help build the team that builds all of the goodness. Our results are the function of the whole team’s efforts. Our developers have a people-first view, and we haven’t lost any of them in the last two years. A primary fit on values has been a huge driver for employee growth and satisfaction.
If you hire the right people — and you align the people around purpose, mission and values —most things take care of themselves. I firmly believe that. Building a successful company is just a series of problems and the extent to which you can solve those problems. Smart, data-driven and purpose-oriented people will enable most issues to be easily resolved.
Which area is more challenging, strategy, culture, or leadership?
Things are harder at different stages of a company. Take company-building for example. In the early stages, when we were trying to find product-market fit, we weren’t really worried about leadership development. We just wanted our product to work — and to get some customers.
Now, leadership development is top-of-mind at CampusLogic. We’re focused on getting the right people and aligning around leadership philosophy. We built a leadership model last year to develop a strong middle-leadership layer. It’s currently rolling out in our new leadership academy. The academy focuses on the attributes we feel CampusLogic leaders should have. It’s a combination of reading, self-study, practical application, and outside content.
Not having the right leadership for growth is a real limiter because leadership is an alignment lever. Alignment is pretty easy at a ten-person company because you can have one meeting and get aligned. At 100 people, it’s more challenging without a leadership level focused on amplifying the message all the time.
Purpose and value are the pillars of culture and the behaviors that support those values. These need to be architected early in a company’s evolution so they become part of every conversation — and part of a hiring strategy.
Every two weeks at our company meeting, we host a ‘Hot Seat.’ A random employee is selected to sit in front of everyone while coworkers come up and say what they love about that person. It’s a time for sharing specific examples. What I love about this exercise is that people start describing their peers in terms of the CampusLogic values. This is a sign, to me, that the culture is embedded in our organization.
If you could give advice to a reader who is struggling with aligning their organization what would it be?
Companies need to get complete clarity and commitment to purpose, values and goals. If they are struggling to get cultural alignment, it probably means they don't have alignment around purpose and values. If they are struggling to have everyone marching toward the same goals, it probably means they don’t have clarity around mission.
Favorite inspirational quote?
My family’s motto is, ‘Work Hard, Be Kind, and Remember Your Values.’ We say it all the time to our kids — and our kids repeat it back to us. This translates well to business. A lot of things just work when people are working hard, being kind, and living their purpose in the workplace.