Building a Better Greenhouse: How to Successfully Launch a New Team
In August 2016, we formally launched a partnerships team at Greenhouse Software, a 4 year old technology company that is transforming the way corporations think about talent acquisition and employee onboarding. Writing this follows months of work and a desire to provide tactical information and concrete examples for those looking to create change within their own organizations.
Every franchise needs an origin story
Rewind to late spring 2016 — after nine months as a Greenhouse Customer Success Manager, I was looking for a new challenge. During an informal sync with Dane Hurtubise, our VP of New Initiatives, he told me that he had decided to focus on building a partnerships team and wanted me to be one of its driving forces. We had worked together previously on a new product initiative at Greenhouse so he knew that we had complementary working styles and both felt confident that we could create something special if given the right resources.
Thanks to a suite of open APIs and a great product team, Greenhouse was quickly on its way to becoming a platform with over 100 third party product integrations. When Dane and I looked at these integrations, however, we saw so much more value, both in revenue and brand, that could be created. Now we just needed to formalize and present what that value actually was and get the buy-in that would be necessary to mitigate any concerns around budget and business disruption associated with launching a new internal team.
Every initiative needs a plan
Whether it’s a 200 or 20,000 employee organization, change management is hard. Dane and I knew this going in and created a strategy that we felt would best position us for success.
- Have a specific goal: Before anything else, we needed to define our goal and understand what success would look like. Our goal was to create a 3-person partnerships team that would be responsible for owning the external, non-customer business relationships of Greenhouse, specifically third party products, consultants, and resellers. By having an overarching goal, we were able to formulate a specific ask to senior leadership and ensure that the two of us remained consistent in messaging. Consistency is extremely important because any inconsistency would immediately have undercut our efforts to establish validity and confidence with key stakeholders. Having a goal also allowed us to stay focused and grounded, especially when there were setbacks and frustration — two almost unavoidable facets of change management.
- Formulate the ask: Having a specific goal leads to a specific ask. Our ask was to create two new roles, a Partner Program Manager and Partner Program Coordinator, and allocate budget for a new partnerships team. This had a wider structural impact and represented an overall opportunity cost of resources as the company backfilled my role as a Customer Success Manager and supported a new team.
- Fill in the detail: Once we had our ask, it was time to get to work on filling in the detail. Dane worked on building out what a team would look like, including responsibilities, career ladders, and budget; I built out a business and financial justification that we could present to the CEO and VP of Finance. This included fleshing out the opportunity in detail, both near-term and long-term, mapping the competitive landscape, building financial projections, quantifying KPIs, and understanding why Dane and I were best positioned to overcome the inherent challenges of a partnerships program. These details were delivered in a slide deck very similar to something that you may see a startup pitch to an investor.
- Work the room: Meetings are not the place to present new information. Days if not weeks before any meeting, you should have 1x1 informal conversations with the key stakeholders in the decision making process to talk through your rationale and justification. This ensures a much higher likelihood of success as it gives you the opportunity to adjust materials accordingly and reframe where necessary based on feedback. This is exactly what we did. In separate conversations with each key stakeholder, the CEO, VP of People, and VP of Finance, Dane was able to present a working draft of the deck that we would ultimately pitch in an official Go/No-Go meeting at the end of the summer. Two words in that sentence are purposely highlighted. The conversations were had separately with each stakeholder as that allowed us to isolate each person’s top priorities and foremost concerns. We called the deck a working draft as that provided us necessary flexibility to make changes before the formal meeting and put stakeholders at ease by removing finality until their concerns have been addressed.
- Make your pitch: At the end of the summer, we were ready to formally present to the CEO and VP of Finance. Given the stakeholder conversations that had been had in the weeks leading up to this formal meeting, the deck was finalized in a way that fit the time constraints of the meeting while still preemptively addressing concerns and justifying our ask in ways that we knew resonated with senior leadership. Ensuring that a pitch deck is structured in a way that fits the style of a meeting is an important detail and one that helps lead to a decision rather than more follow-up. We moved all of the pages and topics that we knew would not be covered due to time or interest constraints to an appendix. Having too many undiscussed, non-appendix pages can create the perception of incomplete information and the potential for a stalled decision. As important as the structure, knowing every detail of the pitch, especially the financial numbers, is absolutely crucial to help avoid continuous follow-up and to get to a decision point. We had multiple pages of financial projections and were able to confidently and quickly dive into the assumptions and rationale behind them. Not only did this keep the meeting moving forward towards a decision, it also showed our confidence and preparation — two things that senior leadership value and require when launching a new initiative.
From the spoiler alert preface, you probably have already guessed that our plan was successful and that we created the first ever partnerships team at Greenhouse. While we received final approval less than a week after that pitch meeting, the overall process was not nearly as swift (read: months). Having a goal and executing on our plan gave us confidence and focus throughout. We were able to assemble the perfect team, establish KPIs, interview and prime key stakeholders, build a structured pitch, and justify the business and financial need for the change. It is easy to feel overwhelmed and pessimistic in the midst of any type of change management, but having this type of game plan will help you persevere and achieve your goal.
As we are writing this series to provide tactical information for those looking to launch new initiatives in their own organization, our next entry will focus on what we did immediately after getting the green light from the CEO in order to establish ourselves both internally and externally.
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Thanks for reading!
David Sagalov is the Partnerships Manager at Greenhouse. Prior to joining Greenhouse, David earned his MBA from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley where his experience was focused around Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital. David began his career as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch in the Energy & Power Group before joining Jefferies where he eventually went on to lead the High Yield Research Technology vertical. He’s also earned a Bachelor’s in Business Administration, summa cum laude, with a dual concentration in finance and international business from The George Washington University, spending a year abroad at the London School of Economics. Connect with David on LinkedIn.