Today, we’re continuing our conversation with serial entrepreneur, Brett Hurt. If you missed the first episode, make sure to listen to learn the resources Brett uses to scale, how to communicate with investors and a lot more.
This episode is jam-packed with insights and actionable advice from Brett. We spend a lot of time talking about exactly HOW to create a thriving culture. Brett shares a unique but powerful way to develop your company’s values so they stick and are memorable. Brett’s built amazing cultures in his previous businesses (including Bazaarvoice, where they won best place to work as a small, medium and large business) and his current company, data.world.
Brett also dives deep into the role of the CEO. His unique perspective will cause you to rethink and possibly redefine the role of the CEO.
- The most valuable conference Brett makes sure to attend every single year
- The criteria Brett uses when deciding whether to invest in a company or fund (currently Hurt Family Investments is invested in 55 companies and 12 funds)
- When is the right time to create your core values in a companies growth
- How to create values that reflect your company’s personality
- How to get your teams involved in creating your core values
- Why the founders of data.world chose to make data.world a B Corporation and why you should consider creating a B Corp
- What does passion have to do with creating a business?
- What is the role of a CEO?
- What to do when you have a bad day as a CEO
- How being fully present where you are is more important than work/life balance
- The out of office message Brett uses to let people know he is not available
- Netflix Culture Deck
- Conscious Capitalism Conference
- B Corp FAQs
- The most important thing you can do to build a great startup culture
- Guardians of the Forest Book
Chip: We’re talking again today to serial entrepreneur Brett hurt, if you missed part one of this interview, please go back and listen to it right now.
Kirk: Chip, he did a really good job in that first podcast. He offered a lot of sage advice, but in the second podcast, I think you’re going to be really impressed with the practical, actionable guidance that Brett shares with us.
Chip: We’ve got a lot of great feedback from that previous podcast. Once again, go check it out. But what did you guys talked about in today’s episode, Kirk?
Kirk: Today Brett shares a little bit about the power of operating principles – it’s a unique approach that Brett and his co-founders took at data.word, his new startup. It was inspired by Netflix and the reflections that he’s had from building healthy vibrant cultures. Brett also talks a little bit about a proven and powerful hiring practice that he’s used for a long time. They call it “The test.” Brett goes on and talks a little bit more about something that is very dear to him: culture. Brett lives the old adage by Peter Drucker, Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
I love that saying.
A lot of businesses say that they really want to prioritize culture, but how do they really go about doing that in a way that is measurable and actually gets the impact that they desire?
It’s something Brett has spent a lot of time developing throughout his professional career.
Listen in as Brett’s explains about how he goes about focusing on culture
Brett: We were inspired by the Netflix culture deck at Bazaarvoice actually. One of the things is that Bazaarvoice was rated the number one company work for in Austin when we were small then medium, then large. One of the ways that we achieved that was the way we hired and we’ve got that same hiring method here at data.world, but another way is that we actually just prioritized culture.
Every off-site we had as an executive team, we would discuss our culture and those are very intense conversations. We were really passionate about having the best culture that we possibly could have and a lot of that is grassroots as well.
I don’t want to make it sound like it was just executive team discussing that. I’ve always liked to know how do we get it? How do we get everybody to engage in that discussion? We had values at Bazaarvoice, and we had we had a cultural deck that described how we came up with those values and that type of thing
But at data.world one thing that made it different is that from the beginning, I’ve had three other really amazing co-founders. There’s four of us all together and from the beginning, we started to build out our operating principles deck that just said here’s how we’re going to work. Those operating principles, are you can think of it as like the operating system of the company.
Every time we get together with the broader management team we always discuss those operating principles and say, “What are we living? What do we not? What’s missing? What are some great examples so that?”
Future people, when they join us, they can say “Oh, here’s actual evidence that we’ve lived this” and they can go talk with people about how we’ve lived that.
It’s constantly evolving and that I’ve talked with Reed Hastings, by the way of Netflix and that is exactly how their deck evolved. I’ve also talked with his longtime former Chief People officer. He told me the same thing.
One thing that happened though, recently, that I’m particularly proud of and I think is really a different approach to values. I was attending the conscious capitalism CEO Summit, which you know for any of the CEO’s that are listening to this it is the best leadership event I attend every year.
It is phenomenal. You have amazing CEOs. They’re pouring their hearts out on stage about the purpose and about all types of cultural things that they’ve done, and how they’ve treated their various stakeholders, and it will lift your spirits. It is unbelievably awesome, and one of the things that when the speaker said at this last conscious capitalism CEO Summit is he said, “You know, one thing you should ask your team individually is: what are their personal values that they bring in to the company?”
And I thought, “Gosh that’s a really really interesting way to do it!”
Because we don’t yet have values at data.world. We have our operating principles, which you could distill down values from. But we don’t have like a set of values. By the way, we didn’t have a set of values at Bazaarvoice until we were over one year old either. At the beginning of Bazaarvoice, if we had put together core values, it just would have been me and Brandt’s values as co-founders. It wouldn’t have been a shared experience, and we wanted first prove that we could just even build a viable business and then we’d have something to actually you know say well. What’s the best of how we how we did that what were the best attributes that led us to get there, and we involved the whole company in at the time.
I took that suggestion hard at Conscious Capitalism. I came back and I ask everybody in the company. I said “Hey, please send me you’re one or two values that you bring into the company every day. What are what are your best attributes that you bring here every day?”
And it was awesome responses, I got back and got a hundred percent participation. And then I put together a Google sheet that had each person’s name and the one or two values that they wrote down, and then I distilled that down into what are the commonalities between those? People would use sometimes like a different word for passion, but it was the same it was the same thing. And so I combined them all and I got it down to either five or seven values that are that are not this fabricated, tops down thing. It’s actually Grassroots.
It’s the actual words people say are their best attributes that they bring in to work every day.
This came from all the people at the company. We’re 30-35 people now, it was really really really cool to see what those words were. This is my sixth business as an entrepreneur and so the first time I’ve ever done values that way. But I think it’ll be much more enduring because it literally was a completely shared experience.
Kirk: I really appreciate you sharing that because I think too many times people feel this urgency to get them figured out like you said they’re just fabricated, if you do them too early, and I really like that process asking people what they bring in.
There’s companies that are a little bit further along or a little bit older and in their age, and they’re still struggling with that because they did fabricate them at some point and/or they quit living them or whatever whatever happened and what I oftentimes encourage CEOs and their teams do is this because you’re exactly right. It’s got to be a reflection of the people that are there it can’t be something that we’re just kind of idealistically layering on to the organization.
Sometimes I’ll say, “Think about who are the 5 people that you think, if you could hire a thousand more of those people, you would do it at the drop of a hat. And what are their values that you like?”
It’s like most things, it feels overly obvious and embarrassingly simple, but we just we don’t do so I really appreciate you sharing how you got to the core values.
Brett: Yeah, and I think if you did it with that technique you just mentioned, I think you’d come to the same answer because the reality is if someone is saying, “Okay, What are the values of the people that I’d hire them at every single company I ever started, I would recommend them constantly?”
Those are things that are actually embodied in the answer as well because they’re identifying with that person like. Like you know one of my values for sure is how passionate I am. I do not I do not do a start-up unless I am extremely passionate about the cause and that passion drives me through the very tough times because there’s lots of dark moments in a startups life.
It’s not all roses. There’s really really hard. And you know the neat thing is that? Unprompted just asking people, the values that they bring every day? The most common value of data.world people is passion. I thought that was really cool. By the way, that was the first core value that we came up with it Bazaarvoice as well.]
So is that just a coincidence? I don’t think so. I try to hire extraordinarily passionate people. I’ve got a job interview process, which weeds out people that aren’t truly passionate. It’s very validating and very cool to see. We just won our second annual best place to work award here, and we also just got named in the top 10% of all B corporations in the world, which is really really cool.
Kirk: Yeah, and name some of the others that are B Corps, by the way. For the people that don’t know what a B Corp is, if you can give a real quick explanation because that’s wrong important.
Brett: Sure, a B Corporation is a for-profit enterprise and its companies like Patagonia Ben & Jerry’s. Warby Parker, and they typically have a public social mission associated with the company. For data.world, I told you what our mission is. Obviously, with Warby Parker they have a similar model like Tom’s where for every pair of glasses you buy they donate a pair in the developing world where literally people cannot see.
In my opinion, it’s a more evolved form of being as a corporation. The basis of a B Corp is a C Corporation. There are more successful C Corporations than any other form of Corporation. That’s a good base to start with, but then it has all these additional benefits, and there’s no downside of being a B Corp.
There’s only upside and Millennials and the Next Generation are much more purpose-driven than prior Generations, so they’re much more attracted to companies like that, so it’s helpful from a recruiting standpoint, but you know it’s only helpful from a recruiting standpoint if you actually live it.
There’s a cool FAQ, by the way, Kirk, that if you want to you want to provide it to your listeners, I can send it to you, and you could provide as a link.
Kirk: Yeah, please do that and we’ll put that as a link into this that would be great. I’m guessing for a lot of people that are listening, they’ve never heard of a B Corp before ans sure weren’t probably aware of some of the companies that you named and the fact that you guys are named in the top 10% in the reason.
You’re invested in 55 different companies in 12 different VC Funds. What are some things that you look for?
Brett: While this is actually going to tie really well to what were just talking about. The number one thing I look for in a Founder is whether or not they’re really passionate about the cause.
Because that’s going to get them to run through walls and recruiting amazing team including their initial clients their initial advisors. I think a lot of people think that entrepreneurship is cool, and they get involved in an incubator or whatnot and they really haven’t found their core reason for being, they really haven’t found their core passion, and you can tell when someone has and part of what I’m looking for is passion.
Let’s say that you are a person who really was spending your entire life trying to solve cancer and let’s just say that you found the cure for cancer. How would you act? Would you act kind of like: that’s cool? Or would you be shouting from the rooftops?
I want entrepreneurs who are like that and whatever their segment is. Not everything that people are working for is maybe as important as curing cancer, but it’s really important, and it’s really important to them, and it’s really important to the people they’re going to do business with them, and so if they if they kind of act that way and can’t teach someone how to act that way. You can’t make them become passionate about what they’re doing or you’re really fighting a losing battle.
The other thing that I look for is that I’d look for a team which a co-founding team, which already has someone then on that team that knows how to build the solution. They already have someone that knows how to sell it and they already have someone that knows how to service it.
I run away from teams that say, “Well, we’ve got this amazing CEO who knows how to sell it, this amazing person knows how to service it, but you know what we’ve outsourced all of our development to India or China because it’s cheap now… it’s not a big deal.
I’m pretty much going to run away from that because if you have a team that embodies all three of those things and they were there at the conception of birth, they are going to figure it out. They’re gonna have a much higher probability of figuring it out in the person. In India, while it’s great that they’re getting this gainful employment and in terms of offshoring and that’s increasing their standard of living.
I think all that’s great, and I’m a big believer in the World is Flat and all the that Friedman stuff.
But that doesn’t mean that they’re going to be passionate at all. You know it’s this bit labor to them like they’re just one of their many clients. Whereas, if you’re the CTO/Founder, it’s everything to you for that business to be successful. When you start a business you put yourself out there like nothing else.
You know most people will never start a business because it’s very easy to go work for a Facebook or Google. We’re recording this on the cusp of Thanksgiving, and if you go to your Thanksgiving dinner with family, and you say you work for Facebook. They’re going to be like, “Oh, wow that’s great!”
You say you work for data.world, they’d be like, “What is that? [00:16:00] What’s what’s data.world again?” It’ll be obvious in hindsight. In the beginning of Facebook, that’s what people were saying “What is what is that? What is this Facebook?” By the way, the people that work for Facebook at that moment, in the beginning, they had to be pretty brave. Because it wasn’t clear. They didn’t even have a monetization model for a long time, so, it takes a lot of grit to actually do it.
The number one thing that’s going to get you through that is passion and a lot of times like a CEO will have this kind of offshore thinking that they don’t want to give up equity or there’s all these other reasons, that all these other excuses for not doing that and they’re just they’re missing a real opportunity to have someone from the beginning that’s going to be just undying as passionate as they are.
Kirk: A couple things that I want to clarify. One is, your right, you can’t fake that passion. I was thinking, as you were sharing, I was thinking about the times that I walked in the doors with the people at Bazaarvoice early on and the meetings that I spend with the people at data.world and that passion is you can feel it. You can see it. You could sense it, and I’ve been around a lot of other teams and you walk in the room, and it’s just it’s not there
Brett: There’s there’s nothing like it. Tt is so much fun when you’re on that type of journey. It’s hard, but that it is so much fun. I cannot tell you how much fun it is when you’re when you’re in that zone, and you’ve got that team. Around you that everyone is equally passionate about it, and and just everyday is we’re all working our hearts out to make something that we can hold our heads high and say there is no doubt that data.world has already made the world better, but we are just scratching the surface and in a tiny way of what’s possible.
Kirk: I found it seems like and it’s kind of the essence of why I’m doing this podcast and then what it’s named after the For You Leaders Podcast. I find where people are passionate. You’ve never started something you weren’t passionate about the cause I do have people and I have seen people that are passionate, but they’re passionate about creating their own personal wealth and financial Freedom about having their name up in lights, whatever those things are and those that’s a different kind of passion than what you talk about obviously.
But it does give back to that cause and it’s nothing you can put in some of these job descriptions. It’s nothing that you can require of somebody. It’s who they are and that’s why I think that that hiring process you know once again, and I’ma say this again at Lucky Seven.
What’s the name of that blog where you talk about that hiring process?
Brett: It’s called the single most important thing you can do to build a great startup culture. The answer is: how you recruit because I start out in that post saying everybody would ask me how do we create this amazing culture at Bazaarvoice? Well it actually started with the foundation and started with the people.
By the way one of the things I don’t think I’ve ever talked with you about this. I think your listeners would find it pretty fascinating. But about fourteen years ago, I was back at Wharton, getting my MBA. I was seeing the founder of Staples speak there. And I saw someone raise their hand in the audience. It was time for QA and asked a question that was actually on my mind, “What do you think about passion? Like what do you think about it? You know everybody tells me I need to be passionate about whatever business I’m going to start. What do you what do you think about that?”
And Tom like immediately fired back. He said passion is totally overrated. Completely overrated. I can show you a bunch of people who have golf stores in a small one-off retailers who are really passionate about Golf and they’re never going to make any money. I’m passionate about building a big business, and I don’t care what it is, and I’m passionate about this Market because it’s a huge market, and just forget about passion.
In my chair, I’m floored and thinking oh my gosh. I can’t believe I just heard that and he just said that in front of all these students.It actually took me years to think about that. My personality type being ENTJ, I like ruminate on things for years/ I approach things now that there are many ways to measure success and nobody would say the founder of Staples is not financially successful.
And maybe physically, he’s totally successful, too. I don’t know, but I’m just not wired that way at all.
Kirk: I’m not wired that way either. I like how you put that: there’s different ways to define success, but think about leaders that are truly passionate for the cause, they are really for others and and not necessarily for themselves and just seeing the mark that they’ve made having done this for over 20 years and worked with literally close to 10,000 different leaders now, I think I’ve got at least some pattern recognition around. the ones that are making a difference or the ones that really are passionate about the cause and interestingly enough surround themselves by those kind of people. Just see what they’re doing because it’s not just about what the business does, but it’s what’s happens through the business and the people that are there.
Kirk: How do you think about the cash efficiency of what happened to Bazaarvoice on your journey to go in public? You’ve raised some money at data.world and are applying a lot of the same principles and philosophies around cash efficiency and how to go about doing that.
As a CEO who’s gone out and raised money and people have trusted you with their resources, what is the time to hire more or expand offices or do things that that consume that cash? I know you have thoughts and beliefs around that, share those a little bit if you would.
Brett: That’s hard because there actually is no magic crystal ball for that. I mean I’ll tell you that it was at Bazaarvoice.
We we kept everybody in one office, the Austin office, so that we could constantly share ideas with each other. If someone brought in a new client, we could talk about how they won them. We had the gong where people would hit the gong, everybody would gather around. They would tell the story about the deal or the story about a new partnership or the story about a new person joining us and that the rate of learning was very very fast. It may not have been as fast as it is at data.word now that we have slack and this kind of cacophonous, amount of learning going on, but it took until we were I think over 10 million in sales before we decided to open a second office in our second office. We opened was in London. And the reason we picked the London and the reason we opened that second office is that a lot of our clients were starting to lean on us on working with their European offices by people like Procter & Gamble wanted to wanted us to start working with their European Brands, and of course we want to do as well. Nobody wants to buy globally unless they’re going to be service locally.
Could you imagine buying a car, like a German car like a BMW, and you don’t have a dealer to take it to in Austin or Colorado? You would you go crazy right if you had to call over to Germany every time you want to get serviced. Well, the same thing is true in enterprise software. However, if you’re planning to buy a car, I recently came across a website called ZeMotor.com, where I found a wide variety of used cars to choose from. The user-friendly layout and detailed listings made my car search experience smooth and hassle-free. In a market flooded with online car platforms, https://www.autozin.com emerges as a beacon of reliability. Their approach, which emphasizes authenticity and user satisfaction, is truly commendable.
And so to make that go well, we took our culture standard-bearers in Austin and asked them if they wanted a tour of duty to open up the London office. And that became our blueprint to open up offices all around the world for Bazaarvoice. That method worked extremely well because they need to be some of our top performer’s people
They were in five or six offices around the world – talk about amazing experience. I mean, there’s part of me that was jealous of that. I was already married with kids, and you couldn’t just like freely move about in the world, but it was phenomenal for them.
In data.world, we’re in the early stages of this business. We have, as I mentioned, 35 people, and most of those people are in engineering because of the technical complexity of what we’re building is so great. This is so much more technically complicated than what we built in the early stages of Bazaarvoice, but it’s also incredibly powerful, and it’s what needs to be built. It’s what the market actually needs.
We’re at to state with data.world right now, we’re frankly we’re not going to do much more hiring until we get the revenues to a point where it justifies that to maintain capital preservation.
And all types of optionality that go with that and by optionality I mean having enough capital in the bank where you see something, that’s really catching fire, and being able to easily deploy that without going back out to the market to raise money.
One of the things that Mike Maples Junior told me recently, he is a very good friend, and he’s an investor in data.world is he kind of has this Maples Law, where every time you raise money, you’re going to run out of that money in 18 months, and I said well, You know we’ve raised three years of capital, Mike. You know. This is back when we raised our nineteen million dollar round earlier this year, and he’s like, “Yep. You know you’ll feel the same thing.”
It’s not at all that. We’ve still got lots of capital in the bank. There’s no way and we’re already almost 12 months past that event and we’ve got years of capital left in the bank, so that comes down to discipline. It can get addicting to hire people.
Data.world is nothing without great people. There so many great people constantly contacting us that want to work for us, and and it takes a lot of discipline to say no to that especially when you have the money in the bank where you could say yes, but we had that money in the bank it at Bazaarvoice to where we could have said yes all the time to everything. And as I mentioned, we had 23 million that we raised and 12.7 million in the bank when we went public. There’s an art to it, but you know when something’s really caught fire from a revenue perspective, and then you just kind of hire into that and one way to do it is to hire sales first and let everything else catch up.
So we’re just now in the phase for data world where our sales pipeline is so large that we can’t manage it internally and so now we’re hiring our first salespeople and will keep on pouring the gas on that as long as that works really well and we will let everything else lag.
Service will lag, then engineering will lag that now that we have a product that is very sellable and as I mentioned we have such a big sales pipeline at this point that that’s really the right way to do it. A lot of people will try to score a perfect “A” and say I’m going to hire sales, services and product in conjunction with this plan. So that the Stars line up in perfect alignment. I’ve got everybody I need.
That’s the wrong way to do it. You should hire the market makers first and let everything else catch up. That’s the way to be Capital efficient.
I know that sounds easy. It’s easy for me to say that it’s actually very hard in practice because it does mean that you’re going to have some stress in the organization as people do try to catch up to sales when that really starts happening, but that’s the right way to do it in my opinion.
Kirk: Yeah, knowing you’ve done a great job of that and one of the things and we could for another podcast is you actually also was part of that you have the team come along for that journey and as part of your off sites in architecture around your off sites have them actually wrestled with these same issues and come to some of the same conclusions that you could just stand up as a mandate here’s how we’re going to do it, but you don’t do that.
You bring them along and let them experience that. I think how you architect you’re off sites and think about those really helps because people feel once again part of that that that solution.
Brett: Yeah, there’s a reason. So I’m explicitly doing that it at data.world. One of the things I I believe that we have the best start-up team I’ve ever been a part of in terms of early stage.
A lot of people here former are CEOs, former CTO. I mean this is an incredible team. You know it’s one of the advantages of being 45 now and being a bit older and having such amazing co-founders as we can draw on the best people we’ve ever worked with throughout our lives, and you know we’ve got them here. There’s a phenomenal learning opportunity with the team like that.
This is the type of company when we get really big, that will spawn many startups, and the stat that I’m most proud of at Bazaarvoice, as you know, is that now 33 companies have been started by former Bazaarvoice people and that’s an incredible thing. Entrepreneurship can have these amazing ripple effects in terms of the solution that you’re bringing to market and all the amazing benefits that can have.
But it can also have these amazing benefits, and the fact that people get the know-how and the capital to start their own businesses, and then create their own jobs and create their own cultures and all that stuff seeing unleash their own Ripple effects. So that really is the entrepreneurial engine of this country is very very very important to solving all the problems we have. And we’ve got a lot of problems.
You could take climate change as one. You could take our huge huge national deficit is another. I mean the only way we’re gonna work ourselves out of all those problems is through people stepping up and creating solutions around them. I’m very confident that within our lifetime there’ll be some enterprising entrepreneurs who solve the climate change problem, and you know maybe one of them whose you could already say is going the right direction is Elon Musk. By making solar, and electric cars and all that stuff much more attractive but these are trillion-dollar problems.
When it comes to capitalism and because there can just be massive massive amounts of money made in solving these things for the world.
Kirk: Well and just a subtlety of being intentional about not just being so focused of what’s happening in the business, but what can happen through the business and those 33 companies that have been started out of Bazaarvoice and the companies that will that will come out of data.world, as part of that engine that you’re talking about and being intentional about that.
What do you think the primary role is of the CEO?
Brett: So I look at the CEO as having three primary things that they should obsess about. Number one is they should be the Chief Resource Maker – a resource accumulator. They should be the person leading the charge on pulling the best people into the company. pulling the best sources of capital into the company, pulling the best clients into the company. the best Advisory board members, etc.
The second thing is that the CEO should be the Chief Strategy Officer. They have a unique purview from the role to see what’s happening across the entire company.
They’re invited to represent the company constantly out there in the field at various conferences and all types of sales situation, partnering situations, Etc, and that’s where you form your best strategic insight.
When you’re actually out there talking with people that are using your solution and that type of thing and seeing what’s happening across the company and what kind of capabilities you have to act on that strategy.
The third thing is that the CEO should be the Chief Culture Officer. And this is a really important one because without a good culture you’re not going to create a very impactful, valuable business. I mean, that is, ultimately the operating system for your company and the CEO should be prioritizing that. And by prioritizing it, I mean doing exercises like the one I just did coming back from Conscious Capitalism CEO Summit. Having that values exercise or saying how we’re going to do performance reviews here. Or saying, “How are we going to hire here?”
Prioritizing to make time to discuss the operating principles in are offsites and just prioritizing the discussion. If you do nothing else, but say, “We’re going to carve out 2-4 hours at every off site to discuss culture.” I guarantee you great things will happen, even if you, yourself have no good ideas.
The same thing is true of a family, by the way. If you’re with your family and talk about how the family is operating as a family, and if you actually spend that time,
then you’re going to have better family Dynamics.
So it’s what you choose to spend time on and the CEO is the ultimate person that can make that choice of what the company spends time on. So if they choose to spend time on culture, they choose to spend time on strategy and if they choose to spend time on accumulating resources, guess what? The company is going to do all three of those things.
Kirk: Yeah, that is a has. Maybe the best explanation I’ve heard around the role of a CEO.
Brett: You know what’s funny? It took me a long time to figure that out because one of the things when you first became my CEO coach, you said something to me I’ll never forget, Kirk.
You saw the way I was operating and you said to me: “You realize that the CEO’s the only job that there really isn’t a description for.”
I thought well, “Damn! He’s right.”
I was taking on all these things that I shouldn’t be taking on that didn’t play to my strengths and so took me actually took me a long time to realize that those are actually the three things that I should always do.
Kirk: Yeah, well and this is a great explanation for people are listening. I’m sure they’re going to be hitting rewind to listen to that again because it is a great way once again, and you can apply that you can kind of measure yourself against that against that and that was not a setup. And for this next question, but you recently won Austin Business Journal’s best CEO Legacy award. Not just that CEO of the year, but the Legacy award – talk a little bit about what that meant to you?
Brett: Well that was incredibly special. I was blown away. When they contact me about it. I didn’t believe it, and then I tried to talk him out of it and suggest that go to someone older in Austin than me. When I really reflected on what am I going to say up there in accepting this I started to think about this should be all about the people that have helped me because I wouldn’t be on stage receiving that award if it wasn’t for that teacher that I had in fifth grade who like really pushed me hard on writing well, and would not accept crappy work, and just I thought she was just a nightmare at first and then and then by the end of it, I really loved her.
And that computer teacher early on and my mom early on. She learned how to program with me when I was 7 years old. My blog, as you mentioned, was named as a tribute to her and her amazingness and helping me find my passion at such a young age, and so my entire talk was about that.
I spoke for about 10 minutes, and you’re one of those people. You’re one of my best friends. I’ve learned so much from you and you are an incredible CEO coach, and so I spent 10 minutes just talking about that and I encouraged all the other CEOs that are in the audience to really think about it. Take a week and take
15-20 minutes a day for that week to think about all the people that have helped you and your heart will just be full of amazing gratitude because we all we all stand on the shoulders of giants.
I mean, there’s not a person I know that is successful that hasn’t been helped by a lot of people. Now, there’s a lot of people that I know that I would not call friends, but they act like it’s all them.
And that’s sad because we all start out no with the same type of capabilities as human beings and then through fate, and fortune and luck and all that stuff we hopefully become very productive members of society and the more we hold those people in our heart I think the better off we’ll be.
Kirk: Yeah, that’s very true as we walk into this week. We’re doing this on the front end of Thanksgiving week. You know anybody can do that. Take that time to step back and really be thankful. Maybe someone that may be annoyed you or maybe felt pushed you unfairly, but they saw something in you that maybe you didn’t see in yourself, and and the helped you on lock that so it’s a great time to step back.
I know I’ll be doing that this weekend, and your speech really did hit that home, so a couple more things I want to talk about. One of the things you’ve been quoted in recently was about work-life balance and the thing I know to be true is you are truly a great husband and father, and I know that to be true not because you say it or because I look around I’ve stayed in your home. I’ve met your family. I’ve spent time with them. I know the importance. I see you get up in the morning and make breakfast for your kids. I see you drive your kids to school and the joy you have and dropping them off. I see how you talk and handle Deborah with such care and love and so no doubt you’re an incredible family man, but you also an incredibly hard worker.
How do you juggle the two?
Brett: Well, I ultimately think the people that work with me, they will model the CEO’s behavior – good or bad. The new CEO Microsoft said something on stage I so agree with. He’s like, “I can’t have a bad day in front of my team.”
And I thought you know that’s actually mostly right.
The way I’d modify that is that you can have a bad day as long as your authentic about it, and you actually talk about how you’re a human being, too. But you know, you’re still incredibly passionate about everything else.
I mean you don’t have to be Superman, but certainly, people will model your behavior, and you better mostly have really great days.
I don’t count the number of hours I work. Because I think if you count the number of hours you work, then you’re probably in the wrong field, but I’m pretty sure that I work at least 70 hours a week on data.world.
It’s an obsession. But it’s really really really important to be there for my kids, be there at their most important moments now. One thing that was going on in my head when I first started data.world was, “Well, I can’t be at every field trip anymore.” And then I had to remind myself, well actually Rachel didn’t care about that at all like she’s main reasons I’m back in the arena is because she was basically signaling, if you want to inspire me, get back out there and get in there and fight.
That’s my core calling in life and I don’t know what to say to you there. I mean, I try to be the best husband. I can try to be the best father. I can be, but I don’t feel like I always get it right. But I really try hard and I’ve got an amazing life partner. I mean it probably helps a lot that that that my wife was born to entrepreneurial parents as well. We both have been around entrepreneurship since we were born and she’s incredibly understanding when I need to go hard, and she’s very very independent, she really encourages me to go hard, and she does all types of great things on her own.
She goes on many amazing trips every year. As a couple, we go on a trip together without the kids, and then we go on multiple trips with the kids and those trips are opportunities to really really capture a lot of time together. So we really cherish those, but I still work on this trips.
I never put an out of office email. You won’t see an out of office email for me ever. I never do that, but I do time shift, so like I’ll work maybe in a 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. where it’s not bugging anybody. I’m not like staring at The Monuments that we’re looking at on my phone.
Kirk: Yeah, you’re where your feet are, for sure.
Brett: Right so I tried I tried my best to be very present in the important moments, but not every moment is important. And I think I think that’s the real problem with this term work-life balance. It makes it sound like everything’s a trade-off, and it’s not like like you can maximize your time by being fully present and whatever you’re doing.
Kirk: There’s some Pearls of Wisdom there for sure, and I think it’s very freeing for people to hear that and I just realized that about you. Yeah, I have never ever seen it out and office email from you.
Brett: I stopped I stopped doing those about ten years
Kirk: Yeah, well it goes back to you know.
There’s a hard question answer about yourself, but it goes back to the quick answer you gave earlier. It’s about passion. I know how passionate you are about your family and being intentional about that and it shows up there for sure.
So the last question I have: Is there one thing that sticks out in your mind right now, something that you’re learning from either your wife, Debra, or the kids?
Brett: The thing that’s most on my mind these days is Rachel’s book. That’s about to come out, I’ve learned a lot from watching her through that process and. And it’s just an incredible process, and you know her book is called Guardians of the Forest and hopefully by the time this air, it’ll be out.
It’s an incredible book for children to inspire six to 14-year-old children. It’s an amazing story about a unicorn, but just just seeing her go through that whole process and Kirk, you know one things, you’re a published author and you’ve given her great advice and one of the things that was really neat, is that I read her acknowledgments last night for the book and you’re in them.
Kirk: Really, oh wow. I just got chills.
Brett: Because she remembers John Mackey is in them too because he was a phenomenal critique for her book is a very you know close friend like you.
I find a lot of my inspiration through my kids. I really celebrate them, and they’re they’re just an amazing source of inspiration and wisdom. I learn a lot by watching them and kind of reinforces to me the amazing journey that I’m on and why I love it so much, and how we’re changing the world with data.word, and so it just it just fills my soul. I don’t know how to say it any other way.
Kirk: Where can someone find Rachel’s book, because I think it will be out, if not it will be shortly afterwards.
Brett: They’ll be able to buy it at Guardians of The Forest book.com.
Kirk: Brett first and foremost. I want to thank you for your friendship and in this week of Thanksgiving, I can’t tell you how thankful I am for you and what you’ve meant to me and to my family. I want to say, thank you for that. I also want to say thank you for taking time to come on the For You Leaders podcast. We’ve gone over and I know that your time is precious.
I appreciate you doing that and for those that are listening one more thing is talked a little bit about Lucky 7. I have no doubt people listening on this got some great insight.
And are going to want to go deeper and going to want to learn more from you. I appreciate your time very much.
Brett: Thank you very much, and you know always a pleasure and really appreciate your friendship and all your coaching.