Rene Lacerte, Bill.com quote

Building Powerful Leaders through Transparent Company Culture with René Lacerte

Rene Lacerte, Bill.comLast week, I kicked off our company culture blog post series by talking about why we at Two Roads believe team culture is our greatest asset and how having a strong one is essential because it impacts everything else we do. (Read more about Two Roads’ company culture.) I also revealed how excited I was to be interviewing several of today’s leaders in the technology and accounting industries, including this week’s interviewee: René Lacerte, CEO and Founder of Bill.com.

A fourth-generation entrepreneur, Lacerte founded Bill.com in April 2006 to eliminate paper and automate the mundane, tiresome financial processes and transactions that have plagued and distracted accountants, finance leaders and CEOs for decades. Today, Bill.com is the nation’s leading business payments network, enabling over 1,000,000 entities to pay and get paid millions of bills, worth more than $25 billion dollars.

Using technology to make life simpler has always been encoded in Lacerte’s DNA. Prior to Bill.com, he co-founded America’s #1 online payroll service, PayCycle, which was acquired by Intuit in 2009. Before PayCycle, Lacerte spent five years at Intuit, leading a variety of fast growth small business services.

A frequent industry speaker, blogger and guest columnist, Lacerte has been honored as one of Accounting Today’s Top 100 Most Influential People, was the Business Intelligence Group’s Executive of the Year, and won the 2013 Emergence Capital Award. Lacerte holds a MS in Industrial Engineering and a BA in Quantitative Economics from Stanford University.

Today, he and I will discuss how a transparent company culture has influenced how he manages his company and how staying true to a vision motivates and builds powerful leaders.

CR: Why is company culture such a big deal for you and your company?

RL: Culture is foundational to everything a company does. Humans are social animals and we work for more than money. We work to achieve something together as part of a team. That requires a strong vision/mission, but it also requires a strong culture. A strong culture brings in people that are connected to others in the organization. When we are connected to others, barriers break down, we challenge each other more, we gain energy from each other, and ultimately we perform better as a result. I have been building technology solutions for over 20 years and I have seen over and over again how cultures bring out the best in people and sometimes the worst when the culture is broken.

CR: How have you been able to maintain such a great culture during seasons of fast paced growth and lots of new faces?

RL: One of the key elements of our culture is transparency. We are transparent about our values and our results. We celebrate our values displaying them on the walls around the company and furthermore letting employees engage on what the values mean to them on the walls. We honor those in the company that uniquely represent our values each quarter. At company meetings and employee orientations, we engage on what our values mean to each of us. The work is never done and it is always enlightening.

CR: When hiring, how do you protect company culture by adding “culture contributors” as opposed to “culture killers”?

RL: We do not have a litmus test for this, but all managers think about culture when hiring. Our HR team is especially helpful as they do screening of recruits on a daily basis. That said, we sometimes get it wrong. The most important thing there is to move quickly. Managers are empowered to engage the employee and then if they determine he/she is not a fit, we are not afraid to admit that we made a mistake. In my experience, the sooner you address folks that don’t fit with the culture, the better it is for them and for the company.

CR: In a given week, tell us how you actively promote the culture you’ve helped create? How many hours do you spend weekly focusing on culture-impacting activities?

RL: During new hire meetings and recruiting I will specifically engage in conversations about our culture. The same is true in day-to-day meetings and our monthly company meetings. At our size, we now have a great HR team that spends time thinking about how to augment our daily experiences reinforcing our culture. From employee surveys, to fun activities, to 1×1 conversations, the HR team lays the foundation for us as we grow. My meetings with the HR leader always touch on culture and occur multiple times in a week. We will then often discuss elements of the culture in my weekly staff meeting. So all in all, I probably spend around 4-6 hours a week on culture, but the HR team spends many times that.

CR: With regards to company values and culture, what’s one piece of advice you’d give to a younger version of yourself?

RL: A culture has to help the leader of the company be a better leader. If it doesn’t, it has failed. So, my advice is to think about the things that are most important to you in how you work with others and then make sure the culture reflects that. In doing so, you get surrounded by people that are motivated by the same culture creating synergies in your leadership that you would never expect.

CR: What’s one simple, practical piece of advice for someone starting a business trying to create/promote company culture?

RL: My advice is to first define it and then keep yourself honest on whether or not you are supporting that culture every day. Think about the culture every day and ask yourself, “Is this what I want/need?”. If you ever answer no, then change it.

Join us next week as Stuart McLeod, CEO and Founder of Karbon, Inc. talks about how having a no-compromise mentality when maintaining good company culture is fundamental to the health of your entire team.

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