Steven Benson is the Founder and CEO of Badger Maps, the #1 route planner for field salespeople. After receiving his MBA from Stanford, Steve’s career has been in field sales with companies like IBM, Autonomy, and Google – becoming Google Enterprise’s Top Performing Salesperson in the World in 2009. In 2012 Steve founded Badger Maps to help field salespeople be more successful. He has also been selected as one of the Top 40 Most Inspiring Leaders in Sales Lead Management.
My day-to-day activities usually involve meetings with my teams, calls or video chats with team members from our other offices in SLC and Spain, and focused time where I can work with no distractions.There are always a ton of things coming up every day and we have lots of projects going on at Badger. To stay on top of everything, I focus on getting the important things done – even when they’re not urgent. Unfortunately, there are also ‘urgent but not important’ things and ‘important and urgent’ things that constantly pop up
The way I carve off time to focus on getting the important things done is by working late at night when there aren’t any distractions. The other thing that has worked just as well for me is waking up early and working. In either case, the key is that the phone doesn’t ring, there are no meetings, and no one is grabbing me to take care of things that are urgent.
I also write down every night the most important things I want to do the next day, and then try to do those things before anything else. I like to put this as a recurring calendar entry because then anything I don’t do in a day can automatically roll over to the next day, and it blocks off a period of time for me to focus on those important things. There are a bunch of productivity apps that are great for this, too.
For me, it’s important to have half my day unscheduled. So many things come up that if I didn’t have unblocked time throughout the day, I wouldn’t be able to jump into the things that are really important to keeping the team moving efficiently.
What were your big challenges?
There have been a lot of challenges when starting and growing Badger Maps, but the toughest one was to build a great team. You need a team of great people to do great things, but it’s hard to hire people who have the expertise that you need to build a company. I’m sure this is more true in some industries than others, and it’s certainly true in our industry – software.
The challenges to building a great team starts with finding great co-founders. Bringing in great people, who are the right fit, with the right skills onto the team early on when you face insurmountable odds is one of the toughest parts of launching a business. After you lock in the core team, making your first few hires are critical in terms of shaping the culture and getting your future leaders in place. It takes way longer and it’s way harder to do well then I ever realized before I set out to do it.
Another challenge for me was, and still is, building a great culture and providing the best communication platforms while having a mobile workforce. It’s hard to create a sense of community with a dispersed workforce because people need to socialize in person to build trust and relationships. At Badger, we have offices across 3 continents but we do our best to have a cohesive culture.
How did you address them?
To foster a great culture and community at Badger, we have employees from different offices visit and work out of the other offices for extended periods of time. We are for example sending people from our Headquarters in San Francisco to our main office in Europe, in Spain for 1 to 3 months.
We encourage constant communication between the employees with tools like Slack and Google Hangouts but it’s still a challenge to constantly keep everyone involved and updated.
We also have a Foosball table in our office since it’s a great team building activity. We’ve found that when a team has a sport or an activity in common it’s invaluable and fosters a great and inclusive culture. It helps everyone get to know each other, deepens relationships, and gives people a way to blow off steam together. Foosball is a simple but surprisingly fun game, and anyone can play it as it cuts across gender, culture, and natural physical ability.
A team building event playing a popular sport like basketball has an uneven playing field. Even if one person is great at Foosball, and the other person has hardly played, it’s still fun, and the teams can be balanced in two on two pretty easily. The positive impact on team culture to have something that anyone can do together is hard to beat! All of the Badger offices have a Foosball table that people enjoy playing – often in a highly competitive manner. When people go to different offices, they all have this shared hobby in common.
What are some clear results since solving the problem?
What do you see as exciting opportunities in the future?
What advice do you have for others in your shoes?
My advice is to build a culture and business that people are really excited to work at. It’s important to create an environment where everybody feels welcomed and appreciated, and is happy with their position and career development. Providing a great workplace will help you avoid internal conflicts and miscommunications, overcome challenges with recruiting and hiring and increase employee retention.
Culture is an important concept because it makes or breaks the success of an organization. It can make a company great to work for or it can make it a chore to show up for work. Culture is hard to put your finger on, but if all the people who work at a company seem to have something in common, function as one unit, and seem to all be on the same team, then they probably have a strong culture.
You can try to gloss over a crappy work environment with higher pay and perks, but ultimately, people leave their jobs because their manager is bad or because the company has a crappy culture that sucks the life out of them. But it’s hard to fake, you have to have an authentic, genuinely awesome place to work to attract and retain top talent, and grow your business.