Hello everyone. My name is Agata. I’m the Head of Marketing at Piktochart, the all-in-one visual communication tool and the organizer of The Business Storyteller Summit. I’m super happy to welcome David Abrams, who is my friend and who’ll be talking about ‘Hiring With a Company Story – The Importance of Your Business as a Product and Telling its Story’. David is the co-founder and CEO of Demio, a live communication platform built to help SaaS companies fuel growth through interactive onboarding education and marketing webinars. David has created, built, and consulted multiple SAS companies and is now solely focused on building the most powerful webinar platform designed for growth. He’s also the host of the SaaS Breakthrough podcast, which provides an inside look at what is working in marketing for SaaS companies today featuring top marketers. Welcome David and thanks for joining us.
Thank you so much for having me. Loved that intro, made me sound like a rockstar, but really appreciate the opportunity today to kind of talk through some of this stuff.
You are a rock star. I love your podcast and I recommend everyone who wants to learn more to listen to it because there are a lot of great stories out there as well, so it’s very fitting as well to the topic of the summit.
Yes. A lot of good stories, a lot of great marketers and really it’s just about featuring those stories of the marketer. I appreciate that, but yeah, lots to go through today so I’m excited to be here.
I also want to make sure that you will be able to share your slides and the first question is because it might not be so obvious to everyone. How storytelling can help with building a company culture as well because that’s also like the topic of your talk. Maybe you could elaborate a bit on this.
Yeah. I think it’s a great question. I know in this series so much of what we’re gonna talk about is storytelling probably from a marketing lead generation point of view. Bringing in leads. How do we tell that story? But to me, I think, your company is built on storytelling. Not every story is just for your target audience or to bring in those leads, but it’s really also for candidates, for your company, your team, maybe your board, the leadership of your company, investors. You’re always telling a story. When we talk about selling anything, selling a dream, selling a vision, that is storytelling. Everything you’re doing is through that kind of lens. So it’s absolutely critical to have storytelling built in to build culture and the framework of your culture.
I think culture is really just like what you live and breathe every day. You have to ask yourself like, why does this company exist? What values where you live by? I know there’s oftentimes when a company is built from like a money-making perspective only, but oftentimes those struggle when things get hard because there is no culture or framework or value system to fall back on when things get tough. I think that storytelling is a critical piece to everything you do. It’s certainly as an external device, but it’s also a very powerful internal device as well.
Totally makes sense. Also like the founder’s story probably as well, right? Like why did you actually create a company and what was your main trigger? What role does the development of company values play when building a company culture? I think it’s an important topic because very often I noticed that founders wonder like is it important for the values? Will anyone read the values and so on? So I think that that’s something interesting to talk about as well.
Yeah, I think we have like this stigma when we think about company values, we think about that like a large corporation with the sign up on the wall of just like the five words that are kind of just there to be there, but aren’t really lived, I think for smaller companies, it becomes a much more powerful and important piece of your company. For me as a founder, like me and my co-founder. The first thing that we did when we sat down when we decided to build this company was let’s build our values. Let’s make a document that outlines what our company values and beliefs are going to be. It’s really the north star for all your decision-making from that point forward from who do you hire to, what are you building to, how do you tell that story to, how do you want to do marketing?
Just everything tough that happens is going to be filtered through these values. It becomes just the foundation for everything you’re doing. A good way to kind of think about that is what values do you live by? Are there personal values that you have in your life? One of our values is simplicity and that comes from my co-founder. It had that very big belief system in his life. That was an important thing to him. And so we brought that into the company, which has become like the major framework for our product. Being a simple, easy-to-use product for how we are helping our target market, but really that was his value in his life that filtered into our company. That’s a really good way to start thinking about that. But I think the value system becomes, if you think about it, like the pillars that lift everything else up, and it has to be more than just words on paper. It has to be things that you truly believe in, something that’s important to you. And then something that when you fall back on something when you have a tough moment, you can look at that value system and be like this is going to help guide me to the right decision.
Yeah, that totally makes sense. I know that you also mentioned one of your values as well. I was wondering if you could tell us how your approach to creating company values at Demio looks like? I know that there are also founders of startups that are watching this who might be still in front of the process and haven’t created theirs, so it might help them.
Yeah, exactly. So some of these questions that I listed here are some really good ways to kind of build these value systems. There’s a lot of books out there too that kind of talk about this to give you some like templatized frameworks, stuff like that. But realistically, like for you to really live them, they’re going to have to be things that are important to you. That’s the critical piece. These are our values. Some of the things that we look at, I think, again, we ask ourselves what is going to be important for us. We thought about what values were going to be critical now that won’t reduce as the company grows. That kind of sounds confusing, but what are things that we can double down on that we know will always be a thing?
For us, an example of that would be we always knew that teamwork was going to be one of those things that no matter what size company you’re at is going to be a value system. That’s going to matter. We always knew simplicity was going to be one of those things, so we wanted to build that in. We could talk about that early on, but also at 500 people, we could have those same values. We really wanted to sit down and think about what did we want to represent as a company? Who did we want to be? What did we want this story to look like?
And then conversely, what didn’t we want to represent? What were the things that we didn’t like about past experiences, past companies, past jobs that we wanted to make sure that we could kind of learn from and be different from? So it really became like the values and belief systems, again, our pillars, but it also became a framework for our story and our marketing. The great thing about stuff like this is that these can evolve through time. It’s adaptive to what changes. You don’t have to say this is 100% set in stone.
So you don’t have to take too long to build this stuff. Write down the things that are important and then tweak them along the way. But remember that this is always going to be a critical piece of your company, so really think about it. Even if you are changing it, what are you trying to look to change? What is something that is critically important to you that you need to then maybe add on or build in?
In your case when you were creating the values, that was at the beginning of the company, so it was just you and your co-founder. There was a follow-up question as well. Do you think it makes sense as well to involve your employees in creating the company values? Or should it be led by the CEO or the founders?
I don’t think it has to be led by the CEO, but it should definitely be led by the leadership team. I think it’s definitely a discussable item with your employees, but ultimately I think the job of leadership is to have a north star and then your job is to rally everyone else there. Now you can always take feedback. I think leadership is about listening. Listening to the feedback of others, but someone else’s value system can’t necessarily be the thing that you lean on because ultimately if you’re the leader, the decision-maker, you’re going to need to be able to fall back on a value that you believe in deeply. Of course, those things can adapt and change that you can have a value system that you think about, but changes down the road. But I think ultimately it should be on a leadership team to make those values.
Do you actually share the values with your employees or in the recruiting process or it comes later like first when people join? How do you make sure that actually the people that you hire would fit the company values like the culture?
It’s definitely something we can talk about. I think for us, it’s something that we try to outline from our job posts to onboarding. Literally, in our interview series, we’d go through this and talk about it line by line. I read through our values. I read through our beliefs. I asked them what values you believe stand out to you? What are values or beliefs that are important to your life that you try to stand by? And we try to match those things up. But in our Notion, which is like our company Wiki, the first post in our Notion is the mission, the values, the beliefs. It’s something that I try to look at weekly. I want our team to constantly look at. I also try to reinforce it if there are moments to talk about. We can say this is a value of ours. This is why we’re making this decision. So it’s like that constant open loop of we want to be very transparent on our values and our beliefs. And then when things change, we talk about those as well, why they change what they changed and how that affects us.
Did you have a case that let’s say you had a very strong candidate in terms of the role fit? Like they were bringing a lot of experience, but ultimately you decided to not take that person, not to hire them because you notice that this fit in terms of the values was not there because of the lack of culture fit?
I think for us, cultural fit is almost more important than skill and experience fit. I say that because a lot of things can be taught. A lot of things can be learned from experience. I think values are things that don’t change in people. I think that cultural fit is something that’s so critically important because the sad truth is that one person that doesn’t fit your culture can radically change your culture or change your story or how your employees feel about your company, which is part of that story.
So you have to be very aware of the cultural fit of people in your company. I think when you’re going through values early on, you have to weigh that almost more heavily than the skillsets because you’ll find a lot of people with similar skill sets or maybe like different types of like maybe tactical knowledge that they had, but they’re all five years of experience or something like that. But the cultural systems, the cultural belief systems, the values they have will be the thing that like if one person is really driven and hungry and one person is a little bit more complacent, those are value systems that will radically change how that person reacts and works within your company.
Yeah. I completely agree with you. I have noticed this as far in my experience that some people learn really fast, but it’s very difficult to change that basic sense, the culture, the individual culture as well. I’ve also recently seen one of your job posts and was really impressed. First of all, it was fun. It was very approachable and it was unique. It was not like a typical job post that you would see. Very different, like a more kind of like you would talk to the person or written like a blog post.
How and why did you decide to incorporate your company story in your job posts? You didn’t follow the standard way of creating job posts, but you wanted to create something that is like you that represents Demio.
Yeah. I think it’s a really good question. This is something that honestly we’ve been working on for years now. So the post you saw is like iteration number like 1.5 million. I don’t know, we’ve done it so many times. We really tried to learn from every hire we’ve made and just like do a little retrospective on each one. What can we learn? How do we get better at this? So much of what we do is as you saw on our beliefs in the last slide. Everything is product-focused. You can always iterate things, always iterate. That’s how we kind of think here. But when we go to do hiring, we really think about the candidate. What is the ideal role that we’re looking for? Who is this person? What are the requirements for this position? What’s our budget for this position? What would be the ultimate win? What would their day look like? Who would they report to? Really try to outline everything so we have the details.
There’s also to your point before in the last question, like qualities and values that are important to that person. Maybe we want someone who has more of an extroverted personality for that specific role or just has a specific value that we need. Are there specific experiences that are helpful? Are there cultural items that would be critical for this role? So just really trying to get a better perspective of who that person is. That helps you then fine-tune what do we want, what are we looking for, what would that role look like?
The idea behind candidates searches and job posts and all that kind of stuff is this is a moment of alignment, a moment of communication, where you can find people that are excited by the job that would be a good fit for it. Their values match what you’re looking for. It’s not always about a numbers game. It’s not about just bringing in a thousand new resumes. Even if you’ve got three new resumes, but they’re all great fits. It’s just like marketing, right? You would rather have really good solid leads that fit exactly your target market, rather than a thousand people coming in. None of them are really like MQL, SQL, stuff like that. So we really look at it like it’s a funnel itself, it’s an employee funnel. We want to qualify early. We want to filter people through our interview process until we find that perfect candidate.
So we do that with our job posts. You asked about the company story, and we decided to bring that in because we can kind of talk about who we are, what we want to do, our brand, and really get a lot of the early stuff out there, stuff that sometimes you have to try to sell on interview one or sell through communication. We really try to bring this in early. So we thought about what are candidates looking for when they’re looking at job posts? They’re asking what is your brand? Who is this company? They can see your website, but they really get an idea for what you stand for, why do I care about your brand, why would I want to work for this long term? Those are the questions you will ask them. Do your values match mine? Is this going to be a good fit for me and for you? Will the culture be a fit for me?
Those are like kind of the objection points like a lead would have in some marketing collateral. And so then we built out like a job post that we could basically build in our voice, our tone, our humor. The things that made Demio, Demio. The job post is a moment for you to shine. I think so many people when they get into HR, they just put up like you said that standard template post with here’s the requirements, here’s the needs, apply here. But this is a really exciting time. People are looking for alignment in their jobs. They want to be excited by where they’re going to work because they want to work there for a long time. It’s like an exciting point, so we really tried to build this out.
And so some of the key things that we put into this job post is fun emojis. We put in GIFs, images. We try to use very fun language. We talk early about who we are, what we do, but also the transparent story to your point, the founder story. How do we get here? Why are we the way that we are? We really just wanted to make sure that they got a feel and a taste for what it would look like. I can go a little bit more in-depth and kind of talk about how we broke down the job post too.
That would be great if you could show us the example. Treat that you mentioned as well the GIFs that you insert there or like images or emojis. I found it really fun like refreshing and different. I often feel that people are afraid and they think that job posts have to be serious. But on the other hand, many companies and startups also want to find creative, fun, and quirky people who can think out of the box. So why not make the recruiting process similar to the type of people you’re looking for because then you will attract them as well. I think maybe if you could show your examples so that the audience can see.
Yeah, so this is an actual real job post that we are opening. We’re looking for a creative marketer at Demio right now, anyone listening. This is kind of what we put together. And again, this iteration was rewritten a little bit after the last post. So we were constantly looking at what can we edit, what can we change in this? But to your point, this is about alignment. This is a creative marketer that we want to come in and we want to have that voice and tone. We want people that are attracted by that. So this whole thing is just about attraction to your message, your brand. It’s the storytelling process, right? So again, here we have like our early kind of intro. Now I put only snippets of this job post and it’s not the whole one. We can always link to it in like a show note or something like that.
But one of the things I think that we did also that I really like is in our job post similar to like a sales page or a marketing page, we put in testimonials. We put in testimonials of our actual team and ask them will you just give me a couple of words about what you like or don’t like about Demio? Part of the values that we have was that we’re very big on innovation and growth. We put a lot of effort and emphasis into making sure our team has opportunity and growth and all that kind of stuff. It’s really interesting to see in the testimonials that we have is that you can kind of see that feedback.
So we have five or six testimonials in there from our team, a transparent view. We get to tell our story and then we have the social proof to basically then back that up. It’s like we’re not telling a false narrative. We’re not just painting a marketing picture. There’s actual truth to what we’re doing. And so much of story is painting a picture. We also do things like what does the average day looks like in Demio? We try to paint that story, that picture of what would be your life, that future cast of being in the job. And really just trying to imagine yourself there, it’s just something that excites you, right?
We also then ask for some qualifications, some test processes, and this kind of stuff is really awesome too. Even though there’s a list of like eight questions that we ask for from people, what we hear back is that people are excited to do that because they recognize that we’re asking them to go above and beyond. We want them to showcase to us and we want to learn from them. It’s not just we’re looking at a resume or a piece of paper. We want to know about them. Why do they think we’re going to be a good fit? Tell us about a portfolio item that you think stood out to you? A campaign that you’ve done, explain it to us. I think one thing that’s always been great for us is we request a video. It’s not a required thing, but the video is so helpful. We can learn more about that person. They get to talk about themselves. We were always on video here at Demio, so that’s a great thing.
And this last extra bonus here we put on for like this creative marketer. Show us your creativity, show us something that’s kind of special and stand out. Why would you go above and beyond? These things kind of early do set the precedent for our story. Those are the things that we’re constantly doing inside of Demio. We’re talking about books and personality and the fun stuff, but also what are creative ideas that we can work with? That also creates this kind of qualification process early on. So again, it becomes a filtering through our HR process.
I think that even though you have these eight points where I would say that probably many companies would not get applicants if they had some many. I think the reason why you also still get people applying is that you already think from a bit different perspective. I feel that the problem is that still a lot of leaders think that we have a job so we offer something and we have a choice to choose from the candidates. That’s how they perceive it, but they don’t perceive it from this other perspective that the candidate also has a choice. You are not your only company looking for someone. Yes, obviously you get a lot of applicants, but if you want to get the best ones, you really need to be creative. You cannot do a standard thing.
It’s the same as what you expect from a candidate. You don’t want to have something standard. You want them to attract your attention and you should also attract the attention of the candidates. I think if you do something like inserting testimonials, you actually really show them that this is an amazing company. This is a place that cares about you as an employee as well. Then obviously they want to fill out these eight points because they will think that your company is much cooler than the other one that is looking for a creative marketer.
Absolutely. I mean, to your point, it’s like this is a relationship on both sides especially if your value systems aligned with that. Your company will only grow with the people that are in it. You’re just taking an idea to market and the people, your team is what helps you get there. So as a company, your job is to invest in your team as much as it is for them to invest in that company. It’s a synergistic kind of relationship.
How does hiring with a company story improved the whole recruiting process in your opinion?
Yeah, I think that the people that apply are much more aware of who we are and what we’re looking for. So that alignment, that communication comes out early. And I think maybe we reduce the amount of applicants, but that’s good. Because sometimes you put out job posts and we’ll get like 500 responses, which is great. But that’s a lot to filter through. If you’re looking for the very best, it’s hard to find that. But if you can already have alignment, you can already look at some of these questions or filtering that down to find the very best.
I think to your point earlier, we have people that are really excited. We have people that go above and beyond who will follow up, will apply three or four times for different jobs. I think it’s just because they aligned with what we’re saying. They’re really excited by it. It does seem different. It does seem unique. They’ve got excitement from the story itself. So those things really do help in the recruiting process. And again, going back to the values, it’s all just building a story based on those values. The story of who you want, what you’re trying to do, what you’re trying to accomplish, why you’re trying to accomplish it.
I think if you can paint that story really well, they as a candidate can see themselves like where’s my part in this story. I can see myself in this story being part of that growth, being part of that ongoing business development. It’s not just like another job. I’m part of a story that’s exciting and it’s exciting to me. And so I think that’s been just absolutely critical for us to have this really nice recruiting process.
And once let’s say you found the perfect candidate and now it comes to the onboarding process, how do you align this new person, but also your whole team around your strategic narrative?
I think so much of that is like the interview process before even onboarding. What we try to do in our interviews is that we set up a longer interview cycle. We really try to learn more about who they are, their background, the operational needs of what they have. We really give a lot of time to talk about Demio, answer questions, be transparent. We try to do these first interviews with our team. So we don’t want to even have it being directly with like me or the founders yet till like the end. By getting to meet the team and asking different perspectives from different people, it becomes like a really great opportunity to just hear from people who aren’t maybe like the salesperson. It’s like going on a demo with a salesperson versus going on a demo with a customer success person, a support person, or a product person.
Their job is more around focusing on their role versus just trying to sell you into a package. The same thing with the interview series. If you get on with a hiring manager, maybe you kind of feel like you’re just talking to that hiring manager. They’re just trying to get someone in. So we try to bring in some other people. We go through some tests. We try to be very open and honest. We have an entire interview, whereas I mentioned before we just go through the values, we go through the culture, we go through the mission. We talk about the important values for you. We try to figure out what are the things or who are the companies that you’re following and the ideals that you want to stand behind.
We just make sure that’s a fit. I think that really does help kind of find that early alignment in that cultural fit. And then from an onboarding perspective, first of all, let me just back up for a second before we go on to onboarding. But I think using interviews to tell the story is really helpful. I mentioned about the questions and stuff like that, but if you can utilize in those interviews time to tell key examples like how do you handle a tough situation. You can ask this to that person too, like how do you handle a stressful day? What are things that you’re doing? How do you handle a tough situation? And then for us to reflect on how we do that too gives that story. It tells that story. So for us, a really tough situation, we were able to all come together. There was like a really good team has been shaped where everyone stepped up, everyone worked extra, everyone covered for each other. There was no anger, it was just about doubling down on the mission. That’s an example of how your culture is not just words on paper but transformed into part of the company.
For us, one of the things that we’ve been talking about lately is how we handled COVID. For us, there was a period of time when we got super busy with COVID, but we put a huge emphasis on work-life balance, mental health, and making sure that our team was taking care of that. That was a big value for us, work-life balance, making sure that our team didn’t get burned out, and stuff like that. So we started doing things like implementing a four-day workweek and more PTO days. We started paying for things like meditation and yoga apps and educational things to help offset a lot of the stress that was going on in this unknown period. It just became a good time to kind of talk about how the value systems became the cultural pieces of our company. I think that was just like a one really kind of exciting part about how that interview series can tell your story.
I’m glad you mentioned a four-day workweek because actually, Piktochart is going to implement the same thing. How is it going for you? Did you already implemented it or not yet?
So we’re not doing it like every week as a four-day workweek. We haven’t done that as an ongoing thing. What we’ve tried to do is have more emphasis on taking days off. So giving you extra PTO days for you to have the four-day workweek, where like trying to have a mandatory one per quarter, but we want people to take their PTO days. That’s a big thing is that you get PTO and then you might not take it. We want to have that understanding that just because you take a day off doesn’t mean that you’re weak or anything like that. That’s kind of like this bravado that a lot of people have. We want to make sure that our team is rested and feels good because when you feel good, you put in your best work. Are you guys doing a four-day workweek every week?
Well, we’ll start with every second week of it. We’ll see how it goes. It’s an experiment for not one.
I think it would be great. I think it’s just going to be a change of your mentality. Like on those four-day workweeks, it doesn’t make you more stressed to get more done. Kind of have to see how works.
Thanks for sharing that. I was also wondering because you have your own brand story and you have people across different departments sharing this brand story as well. How do you make sure that everyone is aligned and if they communicate with your customers or if they go on LinkedIn or if they do some networking and they talk with people at a conference, everyone shares the same type of story and they know what the company stands for? How do you ensure that?
Well, I think that is very similar to how like a marketing message is created. You want everyone on your team to understand the value of your products, the marketing message that you explain. Like anything, you got to do this through multiple iterations through, first of all, feedback loops I’ll say. For us, we do quarterly, all-hands meetings, getting everyone together. The first thing that I do at every single meeting is talk about our values, our mission, and our purpose. I really like go through those. Even if you’ve been here for five years, you’re seeing the same stuff, because it’s just about reiterating this stuff over and over and over. I try to have feedback loops when we get to utilize a value in a decision-making process or some part of the company culture.
Like we’ll talk about, “Hey guys, just to remind this is one of our values. This is why we’re doing this.” So it’s the constant reminders of what those things are. It’s always talking about them. And again, I said this before, but like when a new person comes in from an onboarding perspective, we have an onboarding letter that goes out with some of our voice and tone of the brand. We have a welcome email and we talk about some of those values in the welcome email. Orientation on the first day we go through the mission and values again. We go through a welcoming to meeting with the team and everyone gets to kind of talk about themselves. We have training with team members and setting expectations, but all of this is built again through that company story. The internal part of that is just now from a leadership perspective and you have to tell the marketing message and what our products going to be doing next.
We talk about sales numbers and all that stuff, but we also really talk about the reinforcing of our values. We try to find the coachable moments. We try to talk about moments to live those values. And again, we try to tweak those values because it is a product. Your business is a product, just like your consumer-facing product. It’s constantly iterating. It’s constantly growing. Things changed in the world. Environmental things change. The business might pivot. The marketing might pivot. But those values and stuff may also have to change based on what’s happening externally.
Yeah. I think it’s good. You mentioned as well what is happening externally because I think an important aspect of the business story, it’s also the voice of the customer and talking with your customer and kind of incorporating it in your story. Do you do this as well at Demio? Do you on a regular basis talk with your customers? I’m not talking just about customer support because obviously, they do it as part of their job.
Yeah, we definitely do. We have a couple of blog posts out there, but my co-founder and I think since the beginning of the company has done almost 4,000 personal demos with customers. We do that on a weekly basis where we’re doing like live kind of like presale calls, but like not in a salesy way, just kind of learning from our customers. We have product calls, customer calls that we do. We also again have that customer support stuff and we definitely get on a lot of demos and calls there. All the way through that pipeline, we have different moments. We try to check-in six months in, one year in from the customers as well. Luckily we have a really good customer success kind of process with live chat, so that becomes a really good feedback loop for us too.
We do monthly reports on a lot of the feedback that we get. We also have Slack integrations where when we get positive feedback from our customers and those positive stories, those go into Slack into a celebrations channel. So we get to see a lot of that kind of positive feedback loop. I think one of the things that we’ve done really well too from a positive feedback loop perspective is we save all of the positive things that we see on the support desk and on a weekly basis, we put them into a report so that everyone can see like all the positive praise from people over the past week. And so all those things become little pieces of that customer voice and that customer tone.
These are great ideas. I love it that both of you are still involved and you have done so many demos as well and that you stay on top of it and you don’t think that this is the job of the customer support, but you as the founders. Thank you so much, David, for being with us here today and for sharing your experience and talking about how you at Demio created the values. I know you have also prepared some offers for the attendees.
I think just talking about Demio if you guys are interested in seeing how those values that we talked about today. I know a lot of what we talk about today with employees, candidates, HR, stuff like that, operational stuff. But I think it’s interesting when you check out what we’re doing at Demio to see how that’s translated. You see in our belief, in our values around simplicity or around like the fun stuff. Come check out Demio where we have a 14-day free trial, no credit card required. Just sign up, check it out, and you’ll see how we’ve translated that. You can talk to our support team and see if they are living some of those values and beliefs as you check it out. I just appreciate everyone listening. I hope there were one or two takeaways here that we were able to offer you.
Definitely for me and I’m sure for the audience as well. Thank you so much, David.
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