How 10 Colorado Tech Leaders Have Galvanized Teams Around Their Companies’ Missions

September 29, 2020

A company’s mission cannot be created overnight. Rather, it is cultivated carefully over many years. 

In order for leaders to establish a mission, they must go beyond core values. By bringing team members together and showing them how they contribute to the success of the company as a whole, leaders can foster a true mission-driven culture. And while this may sound easy, it takes practice — and passion — to achieve it. 

At tech companies across Colorado, supporting company missions means many different things for leaders. For some, it means establishing initiatives and leading companywide meetings. For others, it means making sure employees feel heard at all times and giving them one-on-one guidance. Regardless of the approach leaders take, one thing is clear: companies can bring their missions to life when their people band together, no matter the circumstances. 

Built In Colorado recently caught up with 10 tech leaders across the state to learn how they’ve successfully galvanized teams around their company’s mission. 


John Woody
Vice President of Talent and Culture

Boom Supersonic is an aviation startup that aims to make supersonic, sustainable flight mainstream. As vice president of talent and culture, John Woody plays a large role in cultivating the company’s mission to make travel faster, less expensive and more convenient. 


As a team leader, how do you translate your company mission into specific actions or goals for both the company and individual teams?

Our mission is a long-range goal that will take continuous effort by many people over a number of years, so we work backward in our strategy plan and break things down into what we call mission success events (MSEs). These represent the key tangible milestones along the way to success and include moments like achieving a successful wing test, joining the forward and aft fuselage together and rolling out a finished plane.

Every MSE has a captain and a specific cross-functional team — including folks from engineering, supply chain, manufacturing, marketing, etc. — that contribute to it. The company is updated on their progress weekly in all-hands meetings, and we celebrate these milestones together when they occur. It's created an incredible level of alignment within the company around the most important milestones, and it enables us to drive hard toward objectives and celebrate progress as it happens. 


What aspect of your company culture or values most reflects your company mission?

Safety is one of our fundamental values as a company, since we are building airplanes that will be safe enough for us, our friends, our family and our customers to fly on. Optimizing for that has to play out in everything we do, from our policies and procedures to our culture around decision-making and raising and resolving issues to our workplace environment. 

Culturally, we’ve connected every employee to the pilot’s experience flying our airplane. All employees, regardless of position, get time in our flight simulator to understand what it’s like for the pilot to fly the airplane. They each get to engage in questions regarding how good the visibility is, how well the flight controls work, how well laid out the instrumentation is and what the actual experience is like when your life is in the airplane’s hands. Visceral experiences like this allow every employee to get involved in what matters and makes them conscious of the fact that everything they do helps us achieve our safety objectives. 

Similarly, we’ve been really proud of our COVID-19 response as a company. Things like COVID testing our entire on-site, build-critical staff every two weeks shows our employees that we’re deeply committed to safety. 


What role do your team members play in building, strengthening or celebrating your company mission?

We have two cultural rituals that we find really help the community connect to the mission — the Blade and the Nut. One is to reward accomplishments. We know that in order to achieve our lofty goals, it’s going to take a lot of moments where incredible achievements have happened, people have gone above and beyond and teams have really come together. In our weekly all-hands, folks nominated by others in the community get a physical airplane part and are publicly celebrated by the entire company. We do this same thing for those involved in achieving our mission success events. 

The other is to celebrate accountability and adversity. When you’ve made a mistake, you can volunteer to take responsibility publicly and share your learnings and reflections, and we have an airplane part for this as well. We know our commercial jets will fly faster than anything that’s currently out there and will allow people both access to places they wouldn’t have gone before and more time with their loved ones, but this will only happen after Boom has achieved a lot of wins and learned from past mistakes along the way. These rituals help regularly reinforce that idea for everyone. 


Rob Phillips
Director of Training and Organizational Excellence

FRONTSTEPS’ resident engagement platform empowers communities to be safe, informed and efficient. As director of training and organizational excellence, Rob Phillips drives the company’s mission to transform how modern communities function. 


As a team leader, how do you translate your company mission into specific actions or goals for both the company and individual teams?

At FRONTSTEPS, we take great pride in delivering technology that simplifies how people build, connect, operate and secure modern communities. Since COVID-19 changed our world, we have been focusing on enhancements that our teams can rally behind to further bring our mission to fruition. Software development efforts that improve the customer experience such as improved banking integrations for smooth and simple online payments and social distancing functionalities across our product suite are just a couple examples of how our employees’ work connects to our mission.


What aspect of your company culture or values most reflects your company mission?

“Innovate and fail forward” is one of our core values that can be felt across the company. Technology is driven by creative innovation and lessons learned over time, and we focus our innovative efforts based on our customer-centric approach. The days of handling paper checks for community association assessments are long gone. Our advanced payments and banking integrations allow our customers to efficiently pay online, all while keeping their safety and health a top priority. 


What role do your team members play in building, strengthening or celebrating your company mission?

My team designs and delivers training for all our employees as well as our customers. Since our product suite is ever-evolving, it is imperative that we keep everyone current and knowledgeable on enhancements to the products. We then demonstrate these new functionalities at companywide meetings to celebrate the wins and reinforce the connection to the company mission. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that we all desire the ability to connect with others. My team has recently invested time into creating new training resources that highlight this very functionality of our software so the communities that we service can connect and communicate effectively in today’s landscape.


Bob Hall
Chief Operating Officer

Outrider automates yard operations for logistics hubs, therefore helping large enterprises improve safety and increase efficiency. Chief Operating Officer Bob Hall furthers the company’s mission to drive the adoption of sustainable freight transportation by deploying zero-emission systems. 


As a team leader, how do you translate your company mission into specific actions or goals for both the company and individual teams?

To turn this lofty mission into specific, measurable objectives at the company, department and employee levels, we use OKRs. First, we established a companywide objective for our autonomous system to meet safety and performance objectives. Then, each department set objectives in order to reach this goal. The IT operations department decided they needed to put a forcefield around our autonomous vehicle, making it nearly impossible to hack. A key measure of their success is to meet all the requirements for one of the major international standards for information security.

The functional safety department had a parallel objective: to establish system requirements that ensure a human operator could exercise absolute control over the autonomous vehicle. This includes persistent internet access, robust vehicle controllers and emergency remote stop capabilities, among other features. This objective was also captured and paired with hard metrics for success.


What aspect of your company culture or values most reflects your company mission?

“Work is play” is one of our cultural pillars, and it directly ties to our mission of deploying zero-emission autonomous systems. “Work is play” means we love what we do, and we try to make our personal passions line up with our job responsibilities as much as possible. Our head of embedded software engineering loves building self-driving vehicles, many of which he shares using video tutorials via his YouTube channel, Code Makes It Go. Our senior scientist in operations research, who is focused on software simulations of our system, produces and hosts a podcast called Sim Talk in his spare time. Both team members have infectious enthusiasm for what they do and are subject matter experts.

People at Outrider have an abiding interest in and curiosity about their disciplines and have made both hobbies and careers out of them. During the hiring process, we look for people whose love and enthusiasm for their specialty is obvious, and we make every effort to build on this as they grow and develop at Outrider. We’re currently supporting our computer vision team’s efforts to contribute to the research community by publishing papers, which they’re developing largely in their personal time at major technical conferences. The team is very hungry for these opportunities because it’s a great blend of their personal and professional interests. 


What role do your team members play in building, strengthening or celebrating your company mission?

We all live and breathe our goal of accelerating the adoption of zero-emission technology. Our head of culture focuses on low-carbon-footprint cuisine, helps people find recipes that feature lean ingredients and identifies minimal packaging and waste along the way. In the office (and in our new home offices) we follow the eco-friendly practices conceived by our green practices committee including using composting bins and reusing 100 percent of the furniture from previous Outrider offices. We also offer free charging for the many employees who commute in their electric vehicles. Before COVID, one of our software testers biked to work from Denver each day in order to be invigorated when he walked in the door and to practice our low-carbon-footprint values.


Bronny Jacobsen
Head of People and Culture

Cin7 aims to simplify inventory management by connecting its customers to an ecosystem of suppliers, sales channels, marketplaces and apps. As head of people and culture, Bronny Jacobsen drives the company’s mission to help businesses reduce the cost, time and effort of selling products.


As a team leader, how do you translate your company mission into specific actions or goals for both the company and individual teams?

If 2020 has shown us anything, it’s that things change really quickly. At Cin7, we have a really clear, high-level mission, and we’ve found that drawing a specific focus regularly from that mission works well for us. So every six months, we debate together to decide what we think is the most important thing for our customers and our business in that time period.

Every team then works through the details of what that means for their priorities and direction, right down to the part each person plays. It’s a highly collaborative process and everybody understands how they contribute to the whole because their individual objectives link to it. That focus then infuses everything we do, from our sprints and recruitment to our one-on-ones and updates at weekly all-hands meetings. It’s easy to run a progress heat map, too, which is pretty exciting as the half unfolds and the map moves to fresh green. Seeing how your own efforts have a direct impact is massively satisfying and energizing, as is knowing that every person helped us get there.  


What aspect of your company culture or values most reflects your company mission?

Our business exists to help product businesses thrive, and our values shape how we choose to do that. One of those values is innovation, which as an idea might sound somewhat general or even a little cliché, but the process to unpack deeper meaning led us to the Cin7 concept of innovation to be “thinking outside in.” Our innovation is driven by our commitment to understand our customers and their businesses deeply and to ensure that whatever we do is relevant and optimized and hits the spot to move them forward effectively.

So in alignment with that thinking, we launched customer volunteer days as one of our initiatives to strengthen our “outside in” innovation. We give every team member two days a year to spend time on-site with customers, immersing them in the real-world environments where our software ends up. It’s great for our customers because they have “experts” on-site, but it’s brilliant for our team, too, as they get a really practical understanding of the problems they’re creating solutions for, along with a breadth of business insight. It’s just one of the innovation focuses we have to deepen communication, understanding and partnership with our customers.


What role do your team members play in building, strengthening or celebrating your company mission?

We recently reviewed our company values with our whole team. We examined and passionately contested each one for resonance and agreement and really upacked their deeper meanings. We wanted to do this together because it’s so important that people know their own personal values align with those held within their work environment.


Shannon Lynch
Senior Financial Advisor

Personal Capital is a digital wealth management company that offers a wide range of planning and analytical tools. Senior Financial Advisor Shannon Lynch drives the company’s mission to transform financial lives through technology and people. 


As a team leader, how do you translate your company mission into specific actions or goals for both the company and individual teams?

Fortunately, our mission statement is simple yet powerful. I believe that is why it resonates with our employees so well. That said, there is so much that goes into executing this effectively. By leveraging our technology and financial tools, we enable advisors to track how often they’re connecting with their clients and what goals are being set and suggest next steps to take those relationships even further. At their core, the goal of these interactions is simple: get in front of your clients, make it personal and add value. 


What aspect of your company culture or values most reflects your company mission?

“Do the right thing, always.” Personal Capital has been a fiduciary since day one, which means we are legally obligated to act in our clients’ best interests 100 percent of the time. Doing this requires honesty, transparency and genuine interactions. We suggest countless recommendations day to day that are in our clients’ best interest but may not support our measured metrics such as distributing months/years of living expenses to a lower-cost, high-yield vehicle to help navigate early retirement, or providing complimentary advice for aging parents or children on outside accounts not managed by Personal Capital.


What role do your team members play in building, strengthening or celebrating your company mission?

I am constantly impressed and grateful to be surrounded by colleagues who act with a similar moral compass. The caliber of people at Personal Capital helps make our culture so enjoyable and healthy. I can trust the advice and guidance of my peers when seeking help, and I continue to learn from the way they interact with their clients. Honestly, that support and collaboration can be difficult to find in competitive industries like financial services.


Hailee Haas
People Operations Specialist

Convercent helps organizations design, implement and measure effective compliance programs. People Operations Specialist Hailee Haas is instrumental in supporting the company’s mission to drive ethics to the center of business. 


As a team leader, how do you translate your company mission into specific actions or goals for both the company and individual teams?

We really highlight what our mission means from day one in our employee onboarding program. Our CEO, Patrick Quinlan, hosts the first onboarding session for all new hires, and he brings Convercent’s mission, vision and core values to life with the story of our founding, our first few years in business, and how our mission, vision, and values translate to the work we do with customers every day. These sessions always lead to engaging and honest conversations that empower our newest teammates to connect their new roles to the company and discover their unique purpose at Convercent. 


What aspect of your company culture or values most reflects your company mission?

As a provider of compliance solutions that empower whistleblowers and help ethics and compliance teams build a “speak up culture” at their companies, we try hard to foster a “speak up culture” here at Convercent as well. For us, that means we take the value “open and honest” very literally, always assuming positive intent and creating a welcoming environment for all our teammates to share their unique perspectives. This year, that aspect of our culture has meant facilitating vulnerable conversations and meaningful actions around racial justice in our community, as well as diversity, inclusion and belonging in our workplace. Those conversations are impacting the way we recruit, the way we design products and the way we interact as teammates.


What role do your team members play in building, strengthening or celebrating your company mission?

It starts with onboarding new hires and ensuring that they feel invested in their personal contribution to our mission. As part of our Convercent guide program, we match new hires with tenured staff outside of their department to serve as a resource. Whenever a new customer joins the Convercent family, the teammates involved in bringing them on board send companywide emails to celebrate the win and share how our solutions will help that new customer build a more ethical workplace.

We come together as a company once a quarter to celebrate each other and our accomplishments. We even have a quarterly internal award called the BASS (badass super squad) award, where employees can nominate a team (either a department or a cross-functional group) that they feel has worked together and stands out for collaboration, innovation and achievement. We celebrate the winners by sharing some of the anonymous feedback that is gathered during nominations! 


Keith Abbey
Vice President of Publisher Growth

Sovrn’s platform helps publishers grow, operate their business, understand their readership and manage consumer data. Vice President of Publisher Growth Keith Abbey furthers the company’s mission to help publishers do more of what they love — and less of what they don’t. 


As a team leader, how do you translate your company mission into specific actions or goals for both the company and individual teams?

As the publisher growth team, we have to embody our mission in every interaction in and outside of the organization. For us, the sales process is driven by our ability to learn from our publishers. We seek to first understand their challenges, goals, objectives, team structure and more, and then partner with them to help them grow. In order to truly understand our publishers, we need to be authentically curious and invested in them. Yes, we have sales targets and growth goals, but we know we cannot grow without the content creators, designers, tinkerers and enthusiasts that we help support.

All of the knowledge we gain talking to publishers, implementing our products and gathering feedback has to then make it back to the rest of the organization. We do this in a number of ways across all of our products, one of which is to have a biweekly global sales call. Everyone from our publisher growth teams — from LA to Germany — brings an opportunity and presents it to the group to gather feedback on how they can be successful. We invite our product managers and leaders, along with any others interested in joining, to sit in and help us out. While this can be a vulnerable position as a salesperson, we know that this feedback is crucial for our success as well as the success of our publishers. 


What aspect of your company culture or values most reflects your company mission?

I'm happy to say all of them. We value scrappiness by celebrating when people are able to go beyond what is available to them to help a publisher. Being candid is important for providing publishers with information that can help them, even if we can't, as well as sharing feedback internally. Having customer empathy allows us to see past what we want and focus on the needs of our publishers. Also, order thinking allows us to think and solve upstream. As I said before, though, learning is our key to success. We have to be invested in our publishers and incredibly curious about them and their needs.


What role do your team members play in building, strengthening or celebrating your company mission?

As the go-to-market team for publishers, we are a core piece of the feedback loop. We're typically one of the first teams to see and recognize common issues and themes, along with our publisher advancement team. We often work directly with the product team to bring new solutions to market as well as find new markets. And, as anyone who has sold anything before knows, you get a lot of “nos,” which is where we learn the most. 

One of the great ways that we celebrate that work at Sovrn is through our "publisher wall." In our HQ in Boulder, you can walk around and see our publisher names and logos pasted throughout the office. Each of these placards represents a story of how we solved a problem for that publisher, and when nominated, each person is able to share that story with the company. It is an opportunity for us to celebrate but also a time to learn. It still surprises me how often someone on our advancement, product, engineering, data science, legal or even platform team helped us solve that problem.


Danielle Probst
Senior Vice President of People Operations

Inspirato is a hospitality company that manages, staffs and maintains a collection of branded luxury vacation homes. As senior vice president of people operations, Danielle Probst helps the company fulfill its mission to inspire lasting memories and relationships by changing the way people experience the world. 


As a team leader, how do you translate your company mission into specific actions or goals for both the company and individual teams?

Because our mission is all about creating relationships and memories, I try to cultivate a sense of relationship-building in every aspect of our day-to-day work. As part of that, people operations created a department mission that has similar ties to the company mission. From managing employee relations to inspiring the growth and development of our employees, we try to lead with integrity and inspire moments that matter. 

One example is that, over the holiday season, we wanted to surprise and delight the employees. We had a minimal budget but wanted to create something incredibly meaningful. We decided to organize a companywide “card drive” of sorts. Each leader was given a set of special, custom-made Inspirato holiday cards with the names of their employees and was asked to write them a personalized note about why they appreciated that person. Our team collected these and distributed them with a tiny book of Steven Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” The response from the employee base was huge because we created something valuable that cultivated a lasting memory.

One way the company at large encourages the employees to feel our mission is through their familiarization (FAM) trip. This is an employee benefit where every employee can go to a destination and experience our product offering for themselves. Our primary purpose is to give people the opportunity to spend time with the people they love. It reminds them of the power of what we do, day in and day out. This testimonial brings real-life personal examples to what our mission really means!


What aspect of your company culture or values most reflects your company mission?

One of our core values at Inspirato is innovation. It’s important to reimagine and recreate in the travel industry. We know that no two travelers are alike and, therefore, no two vacations are alike. In an effort to create lasting memories, we always have to innovate new ways to experience the world. Our new subscription options demonstrate how our business is innovating to accommodate different consumers during an unparalleled time. Our club subscription offers people the option to have access to the portfolio and pay for their stays as they like. The pass subscription allows a more rigorous traveler to experience the world at their pace without paying nightly rates, taxes and fees. Both offer the option to cancel at any time. I love that our team is innovating on every level of the business to deliver the best to our employees and members alike.


What role do your team members play in building, strengthening or celebrating your company mission?

It’s such a pleasure to be in people operations because my team has the privilege to be at the center of all these things. Our focus is about our people and how we grow their careers, celebrate their success and help them create moments that matter. One way we celebrate this each year is through our wellness fair. Central to our values and our mission is the premise of people and relationships. Each year my team puts on this fair to help connect employees to taking care of themselves. Last year, we decided to do more than just biometric screenings and insurance providers meetings. We offered complimentary massages as well as food and prizes to make the experience memorable. I believe our employees know their well-being is important to us, and through activities like the wellness fair, we connect them back to our mission.


Olivia Marciniak
Travel Advisor Team Director

Evolve Vacation Rental aims to redefine vacation rental management by making it easier for homeowners to generate rental income and helping travelers book rentals. Travel Advisor Team Director Olivia Marciniak furthers the company’s mission to make vacation rental easy for everyone. 


As a team leader, how do you translate your company mission into specific actions or goals for both the company and individual teams?

While our mission seems simple, simple does not always equate to easy. My team is responsible for reservations and helping our future guests find the perfect vacation rental for their trip. In order to make sure we can achieve this, we work hard on product and process improvements, but we always have fun along the way. As a leader, I think it is important to have weekly meetings in which we discuss our metrics and any process improvements that have been made along with accomplishments. The fun comes with our virtual “shoutout” box in which we can anonymously call out accomplishments made by our fellow team members.

One of the best ways to rally the team around our mission is by recognizing the impact that their work makes in our guests’ lives. We do this by featuring BBB reviews, in which a specific team member got a glowing report, or talk about how many travelers they were able to help create lifelong memories of using Evolve homes.


What aspect of your company culture or values most reflects your company mission?

We have 10 amazing values at Evolve, and I believe that all team members and leaders embody each and every one in some way. That being said, “care” and “have some fun along the way” are probably the travel advisor team’s favorite values. We publish a weekly newsletter in the form of an intranet site called the “Check-In” (pun intended). The Check-In features our accomplished metrics along with a spotlight on a team member for the week and a “pass the aux” section where people will provide a playlist of their favorite songs. Our CEO and co-founder was featured last week, and his music choices gave our teams the opportunity to feel more connected to him on a personal level. I even played a few of the playlists for my family while making dinner, and we ended up having an impromptu dance party.


What role do your team members play in building, strengthening or celebrating your company mission?

The travel advisor team strives for every interaction with a guest to be a memorable experience, whether it is talking to a mother who is planning a family gathering for a 60th birthday party or a group of 20-somethings planning their annual ski trip. We love to talk to our guests and find out the reason why they are traveling so we can make sure the home they are interested in is the right fit for their group.

We also work with travelers on their preferred mode of communication — email or phone. Sometimes, we have travelers that have one simple question and only want us to email them the answer. On the other hand, we have travelers who need some reassurance, as this is their first time renting a vacation home and they want to talk to someone on the phone. By making sure we meet the needs of each person, we’re able to fulfill our mission of making vacation rental easy for everyone.


JK Slyby
Head of Software Engineering

Fluid Truck Share’s peer-to-peer community truck sharing platform allows businesses and consumers to more easily rent vehicles. As head of software engineering, JK Slyby helps the company fulfill its mission to reimagine the way people utilize trucks as a resource while saving them time and money. 


As a team leader, how do you translate your company mission into specific actions or goals for both the company and individual teams?

In my experience, company missions can become harder to relate to as your company grows. As a software engineering manager, I find that relating our mission to specific actions or goals for my team is pretty straightforward.

At Fluid, our development team focuses on adding value for our users and monitoring those results so we know how we are impacting our mission. Resources matter at a startup. Every feature has to be justified, and we do that by getting feedback frequently from our customers. If the value-add of a requested feature is unclear, that request needs to be reworked or scrapped altogether.


What aspect of your company culture or values most reflects your company mission?

Of our five core values, I would say that innovation best reflects our mission. We define innovation as believing not in impossible things but in things that haven’t been done before. We question the status quo and push the limits of what is known. Innovation is what sets us apart from traditional truck rental and other vehicle sharing companies.

Our development team pushes the boundaries of what technology can offer our customers every day. Whether we’re building next-generation tools to help our lenders track and maintain their vehicles through our telematics system or responding to change in consumer preferences and market trends in the mobility space, we are integrating new technologies and reimagining truck utilization. 


What role do your team members play in building, strengthening or celebrating your company mission?

As a development team, our goal is to use technology to facilitate the sharing experience and make it all that it can be. When we receive feedback from customers and identify a need, we make it a priority to add those features into our system. We are also regular customers of the platform, so we feel challenges as well and work to be as responsive to our customers as we can.

We have several customers who manage drivers. At one point, they requested an interface for tracking the progress of their drivers throughout their reservations. After a few weeks of work, we were able to change the way our customers utilized their trucks by providing that interface. Recently, we overhauled our entire booking experience on the web to make it faster and easier for our users to get the vehicles they need, when they need them. As developers, if we aren’t strengthening Fluid’s mission by adding value to our platform, we aren’t doing our jobs.


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