Firmology’s SMB Tech Meet & Greet series takes an inside look at the technology available to business owners and entrepreneurs, straight from the founders who built them.
Name: David Hassell
Company Name: 15Five
Company One Liner: Know the pulse of your team: surface problems, celebrate wins, discover great ideas and stay tuned in to morale.
Location: San Francisco, CA
Tell us about yourself and your background:
I’ve been an entrepreneur since I graduated college and have co-founded and run a number of businesses including an Internet advertising technology company in New York, an adventure travel company for kiteboarders in Brazil, and a consulting practice helping entrepreneurs and their executive teams get clear on their mission, vision, values, strategy, focus, and execution.
What does your company do and what problem does it solve for small businesses?
Our mission with 15Five is to support companies in reaching their full potential. 15Five is a tool companies can use to help foster a great culture through open and transparent communication. We believe that when employees have the space to really be open and honest, and managers listen to their employees, it creates a level of trust and organizational health and performance that’s unsurpassed.
Most people are inundated with too much information and have less and less time to really engage with their employees. 15Five lets managers solicit quick, meaningful feedback on a regular basis that’s boiled down to just the essentials and that takes very little time to read, review, and respond. For a CEO, it’s almost like being able to do one on ones with every employee in the company every week, and get all of the key highlights delivered with zero time and effort.
How did you come up with the idea for your company?
This is an area that I’ve personally struggled with in the past. I’ve run two businesses prior to 15Five where I managed teams of people who were either remote, or, in once case, while I was living in Brazil, and struggled to keep tuned in to what was going on. I also ran a consulting company called Strategy Day where I worked with CEOs and executive teams on helping them determine the highest-leverage focuses to accelerate their companies toward their vision, and found that every single one of them had this challenge.
I was intrigued by Yvon Chouinard’s story, the man who first popularized 15Five in the ’80s. He was the founder of Patagonia and built his company around his lifestyle, going off to climb mountains and surf half the year. As an outdoor enthusiast myself (I love to ski and used to run an adventure travel company for kiteboarders in northeast Brazil), I was drawn to the concept of being able to stay connected to a team while being completely untethered from my desk.
What makes your company different from your competitors?
15Five is based on a core design value of elegant simplicity. We believe that simplicity can live on both sides of complexity. There’s the simple simple that anyone can do, and then there’s taking something that’s inherently complex and making it simple enough for anyone to do almost without thinking. For example, Apple did this with the iPhone.
We’ve taken an inherently complex process for most companies—one that as a result is done poorly in most organizations, if it’s done at all—and made the experience simple and beautiful. This is the first employee feedback system we know of that employees actually love to use as a result.
What are the most important considerations small businesses should have when choosing technology to help them power their business?
Computer technology has brought so many remarkable benefits to our lives and is now an essential component of how we communicate and work. We’re increasingly mobile and able to communicate with each other from mobile computers, tablets, and phones any time and from anywhere.
Many of these tools don’t enforce much structure (e.g. email or corporate social networks) and as a result often turn into an overwhelming stream of information. There are many great tools on the market that help companies manage better, like Basecamp and Asana, but 15Five is the only tool I know of that helps build cultures of leadership, listening, and open communication.
What other companies or entrepreneurs within the technology space do you admire and think small businesses should know about?
I’ve been a big fan of, and been influenced by, the guys’ at 37signals (makers of Basecamp and Highrise) contrarian view on company-building, venture capital, and product design.
I’m also a big fan of the work of the team at Digital Telepathy and their CEO Chuck Longanecker. They really “get” elegant design and are working on reinventing the way we all use the web.
Finally, I love companies like KISSMetrics (Hiten Shah) and HubSpot (Dharmesh Shah), both for their approach of being rock-star inbound marketers and for the products they provide to help software companies understand their users (KISSMetrics) and marketing their products effectively through an inbound marketing approach (HubSpot).
Anything else Firmology readers and small business owners should know? News? Upcoming features? Special deals?
We’ve got a phenomenal v2.0 release in the work that’s coming very soon. Happy to report back once we have a release date.
Firmology Readers: Let’s hear your thoughts!
1) Have a question or comment about 15Five? Drop David a note in the comments below.
2) What do you think of our SMB Tech Meet & Greet series thus far? Are there other questions we should be asking? Are any of the questions above unclear or could be asked in a better way? Let us know in the comments below or email us at [email protected]