Stuart McLeod quote on culture

Why Culture Is the Difference between Surviving and Thriving with Stuart McLeod

Stuart McLeod, Karbon Inc.In our most recent blog post, René Lacerte (CEO and Founder of shared with us how transparency and strong personal connections are essential to cultivating and maintaining a company culture that builds powerful leaders. (Read more.) This week, I had the great opportunity of interviewing Stuart McLeod, CEO and Founder of Karbon, Inc., another future-minded front runner in the technology and accounting industry.

Stuart started his first business 11 years ago and has had many successful ventures, including Paycycle, founded in 2009, which he sold to Xero in 2011. He then built the global Xero Payroll team that delivers payroll software across the US, AU, UK, and NZ markets. Stuart is now paving the way for smarter tools to improve how accountants collaborate with their colleagues and look after their clients.

Join us as Stuart speaks about how having a no-compromise mentality is fundamental to the health of your entire team.

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

SM: Culture sets the rhythm and the pace of a company. My first job was a pre-sales consultant at Oracle and for better or worse, they had a very strong, yet ingrained culture around sales and quarterly targets. They used their might with lawyers and contract negotiations as a means to retain customers and fend off competitors. I can’t speak for them now, but Xero’s culture too was felt warmly throughout the company and made it a special place to work.

Every company has some of the founder’s DNA in the culture. I’d like to think we’re establishing a hard working, yet enjoyable place to work where our goals include making a mark on the universe. To introduce a sailing metaphor, you can train for many things, but culture is the intangible that gets you through when the boat turns around or loses a rudder or hits a large object. It’s the difference between survival and thriving.

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

SM: The fundamentals are key. We are fortunate that we were able to grow to a reasonable sized company ~20 people reasonably quickly and use those people to establish our product and our company over about a 9-12 month period. Those foundations of practice, principles, and procedures get embedded in the founding members and hopefully will spread throughout the company as we expand later this year.

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

SM: No jerks allowed! Never compromise on culture because you think you might get a few extra lines of code or a feature out the door a few days earlier. The effect on the team members around a bad egg is not worth the sacrifice. Ever.

Culture contributors are those people that always talk in the positive sense. They see the better in people and they always go the extra mile to contribute to the greater good. They lead from the front, no matter their position in the organization. It’s a very hard skill to hire for, but once those types of people join you, you know straight away.

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?

SM: I deplore the idea of culture focussed roles or teams. As soon as you require a head of culture, the implication is that the good aspects of culture that you held in the past are being diminished or diluted. It’s like that person’s job is to plug the holes in the dam. We never want to do that.

We have a large focus on team, we do social outings together, and genuinely all like each other. We feel that our purpose is significant and that it’s more than a job and that is always a contributing factor to the way our product looks and feels and the way our employees behave.

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

SM: Be self aware. The actions of leaders, no matter how minor or major in any work environment are important. Leaders are never “off”. They don’t have the luxury of just lying in with a hangover or being late to meetings. It’s the simple things that count, every day, every hour. And you have to work at it. All the time.

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

SM: Be yourself. The culture is you and what you create. As Elon Musk said recently, “Everyone else is taken so just be you.”

If you want to learn more about how a company’s values shape its culture, join us again next week as Jim McGinnis, Vice President and Leader of the Accountant Segment for Intuit discusses how his company’s culture is rooted in integrity and what that looks like on a day-to-day basis.

Be a part of the conversation! Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to share your thoughts on what company culture means to you.

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