Today’s interview is with Claire Lew, CEO of Know Your Company, a software tool that helps business owners get to know their employees better and overcome company growing pains. Claire joins me today to talk about spinning out from Basecamp, the problem that Know Your Company solves, how they do what they do and the sort of impact that it has.
This interview follows on from my recent interview – Overcoming the barriers to delivering an excellent citizen experience – Interview with Ryan Hollenbeck and David Moody – and is number 233 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.
Highlights from my conversation with Claire:
- Know Your Company helps CEOs of companies with typically around 25-75 employees get to know their employees better and overcome company growing pains. However, their largest client has over 700 people.
- They do that by encouraging ongoing and transparent feedback from employees.
- Many CEOs (and dept heads and team leaders, for that matter) start to feel like they are losing touch with their employees and it is harder to get straight forward and truthful feedback once their numbers top 15-20 people.
- It’s all about understanding and staying staying on top of potential ‘blindspots’.
- They have a whole methodology about how to maintain an open and honest culture and help people still feel connected and fulfilled at work.
- Know Your Company was a spin out from Basecamp, who developed the solution once the co-founder & CEO of Basecamp, Jason Fried, started to feel managerial growing pains once they hit 30 employees.
- The internal solution worked so well that they turned it into a product and in 2014, Know Your Company, was spun out of Basecamp with Claire becoming the new CEO. Previously, Claire had been consulting with Basecamp via her own business, ClarityBox, which aimed to help CEOs uncover blindspots in their company and get to know their employees better.
- You can read the full back story here.
- Their entire product is based on the philosophy that you only get answers if you ask questions.
- The whole product is built around four different types of questions:
- Icebreakers – these are a means for people to get to know each other a bit better i.e. what’s your favourite book etc,
- Heartbeat – every Monday employees are asked about what they are working on in an effort to promote understanding and break down silos,
- The company question – every Wednesday employees are asked a different question focused on gauging opinion on a specific company issue i.e.
- Is there anyone in the company that you would like to apprentice under. Their research shows that 92% of respondents say yes to this.
- Are you afraid of anything in the company? Their research shows that 67% of all employees say they are afraid of something in the company.
- Have you seen anything out in the market that our competitors are doing that we should be paying attention to? Around 70% of employees have answered yes to this question.
- The social question – asked every Friday this question is all about building connections within and across teams.
- All questions are delivered by email so nobody has to login into a different system in order to participate.
- Also, employees have the option to share their answers publicly or only with the CEO but cannot do this anonymously.
- Claire believes the anonymous feedback is evil as it doesn’t engender trust.
- The software is accompanied by a backend that allows management to identify and track trends and see whole employee timelines etc.
- 99% of the time when a problem or issue is uncovered, the solution is to go and talk to that person.
- The solution provides over 300 standard questions as well as crowd sourced questions from CEO and employee users.
- The real barometer of success comes from whether the CEO wants to know their company better.
- There is an assumption that just because firms have most of their employees sat in the same office that they know what is going on.
- Know Your Company is the lubricant that makes the wheels of culture go round.
- Three of the biggest problems that Know Your Company solves are staff turnover, how employees feel about new change initiatives and how employees are feeling about rapid growth. Check out more success stories here.
- Want to learn how to build an open and honest company culture? If so, then check out two free resources:
- 1. The Knowledge Center, which is full of step by step guides, based on data and insights from the thousands of people that Know Your Company has helped. The guides cover things like: the most common leadership blindspots and how to avoid them and the best ways to ask for, receive and act on feedback.
- 2. Their 5-lesson email course on how to get honest employee feedback.
- Wow service/experience for Claire constitutes three things: 1. Brutal honestly with employees and customers, particularly around mistakes, 2. Being personal and 3. Doing something for a customer that they could do themselves.
- If you are in a firm with less than 150 people and want to improve your retention and culture then check out Know Your Company.
Claire lives in Chicago and is the CEO of Know Your Company.
Her mission in life is to help people become happier at work. She speaks internationally on how to create more open, honest workplace environments, and has been published in Harvard Business Review, Fortune, Inc, Forbes, among others.
People matter to her, most of all. She loves her family and friends and also enjoys painting, yoga, cooking, and any project that requires a pencil. Here’s what she’s been painting lately.
Check out Know Your Company, subscribe to their newsletter The Heartbeat, say Hi to her and the folks at Know Your Company on Twitter @cjlew23 and @KnowYourCompany, email her at claire@knowyourcompany and, finally, feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn here.