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A Company Culture Based on Purpose and Passion Paves the Way to Innovation

By Kristen Frisa

From its inception, Procore has considered the bigger picture in its work. The company was shaped by its culture before any of the early team even managed to nail down its identity.

Steve Zahm President and COO of Procore, recently sat down with Thomas Strong President and CEO of CanBIM, a not-for-profit organization that serves as Canada’s business voice for the modern built environment. Over the course of the discussion, the two talked about the ways in which technology and innovation are impacting the building and infrastructure industry.

When Zahm first chose to work with the company’s founder back in its earliest days, he quickly realized there was more than just skill to consider in such a close partnership.

“Which is not to say Tooey doesn’t have skill; he has plenty of skill,” Zahm said of Procore founder Tooey Courtemanche. “It’s really about character, and it’s about the values that person holds, and whether you’re on the same page when it comes to the type of company that you want to build.”

There are different issues to consider: How each person wants to run the business and treat its employees, and what things will be prioritized. According to Zahm, “It’s very hard to define or pin down. It really consists of having a lot of conversations.”

Discovering Its Mission

Those undeclared values drove the company through the rocky beginnings until Procore found a solid product-market fit and secured some serious funding, about eight years after its inception. It wasn’t until it was clear the company was going to scale that the team really crystallized its vision to improve the lives of everyone in construction, Zahm said.

The values of openness, ownership, and optimism are something that we start explaining to new employees on the very first day.

“If you go all the way back to 2002 when Tooey was by himself, what he wanted to create was a company that could improve the lives of everyone in construction. I just don’t think he knew it at that point,” Zahm said.

Today, with over 2,000 employees spread around the globe, the vision guides the selection of new team members. Employees are constantly encouraged to speak up, call out changes that should be made, and suggest new directions.

“The values of openness, ownership, and optimism, or the three O’s as we call them, are something that we start explaining to new employees on the very first day of our five-day orientation process,” Zahm said.

Innovation Follows From a Passion To Do Well

Having a lofty target infuses passion and purpose into the work. It helps avoid the drudgery that many workers feel when heading out for work each Monday morning.

“Studies show that in the US at least, nearly 70% of employees are either neutrally or negatively engaged with their jobs,” Zahm said. It detracts from both the worker and the company as a whole. “Know that it’s your culture that drives your business. I’ve lived that experience. I’ve seen it happen.

“The vision to improve the lives of everyone in construction gives everyone a big audacious goal. That goal not only helps keep great employees, but it also helps keep great clients as customer service truly excels in that climate,” Zahm said. This approach also drives innovation with the team working toward finding out how to actually achieve the goal.

Innovation is further driven by asking product users how to make it better. “As we allowed the customer voice to dominate the conversations internally, more success followed,” Zahm said. Instead of just knowing you have the perfect technology and assuming you’re solving the problem perfectly, go out and ask the customers about their experiences.

Know that it’s your culture that drives your business. I’ve lived that experience. I’ve seen it happen.

“Please go talk to a hundred customers,” he said.

Procore has built this conversation into the Innovation Lab, where Procore techs look at user input the company has received through customer support or customer success and actually invites users to give insight into solving the challenges they’ve had with the products.

Where Innovation Leads

Going into the future, the urge to improve customers’ lives continues to drive innovation. Next on the docket is artificial intelligence technology.

“AI is where we’re seeing the biggest advances from a technology standpoint,” Zahm said, as AI can process reams of data in a much shorter time period. “AI can spot patterns that would be almost impossible to spot otherwise.”

Those patterns will help companies to benchmark their performance against other projects on the platform. “That capability, I think, is really exciting from a project management standpoint, from a financial management standpoint, from a quality and safety standpoint,” Zahm said.◾️

Kristen Frisa is an Ontario-based freelance writer and reporter specializing in construction tech, HVAC, and finance. Her work has been featured on Ontario Construction News and Canadian Design and Construction Report.

Originally published at on December 21, 2020.



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