affordable people-centric company perks

​Episode Aired on April 18, 2019

Amy Spurling, CEO and Co-Founder of Compt, provides companies with a modern take on personalizing employee benefits programs. Named Boston’s “CFO of the Year” by Boston Business Journal, Amy is no stranger to helping organizations of all sizes identify which benefits in the marketplace fulfill employee needs.

In this episode Amy reveals:

  • How to stand out and compete for highly skilled labor in today’s competitive labor market.
  • Importance of utilizing employee perks programs to create an engaged company culture.
  • Methods to make your perks programs personal and integrate into your employee’s lifestyles.

Show Transcript

Joe Mechlinski:: All right. Thank you for tuning in to today’s conversation that we just wrapped on. Amy and I had a chance to spend a bit of time with the CEO and founder of a company called Compt C-O-M-P-T.io. This is a really, really interesting solution in the HR space. More than that Amy is a seasoned entrepreneur. She has raised money six times. She sat in the seats of COO, CFO and now is the CEO and found of Compt. Really, really interesting story. Great conversation. Not only about what her company does for the HR and frankly the workplace, as we think about the future of work and all the thin solutions that we’re going to need to have to really create better connections with our employees and frankly just with the workplace. I think Compt is a really interesting one.

And then we also got into a bit of what her experience has been as an entrepreneur. As we think about the future of work and where the world is headed Amy and I thought had a really interesting discussion with Amy Spurling. So without further ado, Amy Spurling.

Amy, welcome to the Inevitable Future of Work Podcast. Thanks for being here.

 

Amy Spurling: Thanks so much. My pleasure.

 

Joe Mechlinski:: I am excited about this conversation. I know Amy Dufrane is excited about this conversation because we’ve been talking a lot about, not just the future of work, but all of the different things that technology should be doing to help really make better relationships happen at the workplace and not just relationships in the woo woo sense, but real meaningful, substantive ways of connecting better. And you and I’ve met probably now sometime last year through a mutual friend. I love what your company Compt C-O-M-P-T is up to. Why don’t you give us a little bit of background on the company and how you arrived at this really, really awesome solution.

 

Amy Spurling: Sure. My pleasure. My background came out of sitting in a CFO and a COO seat. I spent the first 15 years of my career in technology companies building and growing the companies sitting across that fiance and HR function. I started seeing this really big shift in the market about five years ago where the way we were compensating our employees was changing the dynamics and the different ingredients in compensation were changing and I didn’t have the tools to manage that.

 

So specifically looking at people stopped negotiating salaries. You can Google what your salary should be. There is enough data on the internet you can walk in for any given interview that you have and know the range you should have. That’s where companies are like, okay, we’ll pay market because everybody is cross checking themselves against everyone else and companies started getting into the all right, so how do we differentiate game and that’s when they started pulling in perks.

 

Perks started with flashy cool stuff that would grab headlines and grab attention. Things like yoga in the office or massage or dog walking. Whatever it was. But then it started escalating and creating a lot of business challenges. It’s really expensive. It’s evolved past that and there was nothing for that next evolution and so that’s the problem that we’re tackling at Compt. Because I think there is a really important piece to employee compensation that looks at lifestyle benefits as part of their overall compensation, but I don’t think that we’ve achieved that yet. That’s what we’re building at Compt is a way to make sure that you’ve got equitable distribution of this piece of compensation across your employee base and you’re doing it in a way that still fits within your financial constraints as a company.

 

Joe Mechlinski:: Interesting. How is this different from any of the big people management software programs out there today? And maybe Amy, you could jump in here. From my understanding there definitely are things out there that help track some of these things. But maybe I’m speaking out of school and I’m trying to tee you up here. What’s the real difference in Compt versus some of your, what might be considered competitors?

 

Amy Spurling: Sure. There’s two groups of competitors. There’s individual perks. So the people who do provide yoga on site or build out your gym or do food delivery. They’re doing a thing and HR is getting hit by these hundreds of times a week where it’s okay, I’m trying to decide as a head of HR am I going to prioritize doing some sort of a perk that relates to supporting new families and babies in my organization or am I going to do some sort of a perk that promotes continuous learning or mental health. All of these are great things. How am I actually supposed to prioritize those? So you’ve got the individual perks on one side.

 

The other side is the perk aggregators. These try and simplify the administrative process, but they’re basically a list of vendors. They’re not exciting for employees because it’s still things that may or may not relate to you. I was actually talking to a woman earlier today who works at ADP, big payroll provider, obviously. She was like, we have this marketplace where I can go and get all this money off of ski lift tickets at Killington. That’s not helpful. I go to Loon. So there’s nothing for me because it’s a perk. It’s a benefit that’s out there, but it doesn’t relate to my individual needs. That’s what the perk aggregators are doing. They’re creating these marketplaces of laundry lists of things that you could do as an employee, but employees it’s, noisy and employees are not engaging with it because it’s still not solving their individual needs.

 

Joe Mechlinski:: Interesting.

 

Amy Dufrane: When you are looking at organizations that have the diversity of generations, diversity of employees, what are you doing to help those companies because a lot of these perks are very expensive and when we look at the future of work… and a lot of organizations are not doing tangible things anymore. It’s not a lot of the things that you just mentioned but they’re trying to do more customized things for their employee base. Can you talk a little bit about that?

 

Amy Spurling: Sure. Yeah. We feel that, by the way. Across our team we’ve got four generations. We’re 60 percent female. We’re 40 percent people of color. We’ve got new parents. We’ve got people with no kids. We’re feeling that within even our own team where it’s like no two of us want the same exact thing and then you start adding in all the remote worker and the shift towards moving to more of a distributed work force. Everyone needs something different. The challenge is that companies are trying to solve for that personalization piece. That’s the name of the game. How do you personalize benefits to each individual employee?

 

Well, you can’t have a vendor per employee. That’s not scalable. It’s not sustainable. So how do you try and reach as many as possible. Some companies are trying to do it with perks stipends. So Microsoft has the get fit stipend. I think it’s like $800 a year to use on health and wellness. The challenge with that is a couple of things. One, you’re managing that through expense management software which was not designed for this. It doesn’t manage the taxes correctly. There is no Amy line item on a P&L where the finance team knows how much I’ve spent. How much I have left and is tracking that. It’s all being done manually which is massively time consuming for the finance team and not the general focus of what they’re supposed to be working on.

 

The other side of it is that, you’ve got the employee side, where it’s out of sight out of mind. If you’re not reminding employees of the things you’ve invested in it for them as a company you’re not getting the good will. You could add that money to their paycheck. Google’s done tons of studies about why this is a terrible idea because it ultimately doesn’t help with retention. You need to stay front and center with, hey, here are the three ways that we supported you in the last year. We sent you to a conference. We helped you get running shoes so you could get fit. We helped you with diaper delivery because you just had a kid. Whatever it is, it’s allowing for that happen and that reminder piece that stays front and center with the employees. That’s not happening with any of the programs that are happening out there today.

 

Amy Dufrane: And that’s where you come in.

 

Amy Spurling: That’s where we come in. That’s basically what we’ve built. On the company side I care about my budget. I care about how much money we’re spending. I need to make sure that it fits within our financial constraints and I want folks on my team happy and engaged and I want them spending money on things that relate to the culture I want to build. I don’t want to be a grab bag. If you’re a grab bag you do the keeping up with the Jones’s and you have to do what everybody else in town is doing.

 

I want to be able to focus my culture. Now, whether that’s health and wellness or family or travel or whatever it is, let the company decide and then let employees really personalize it to their individual needs where they can… health and wellness can mean different things to different people. Family means different things to different people. HR doesn’t want to be in the position of determining hey, you taking your parents out to dinner is okay, but you who are a pet parent you can’t have pet insurance. Or you who are taking care of elderly parents, yeah, we’re to going to count them as family. HR doesn’t want to get into that game. They just want you to be happy and support the family as you design it. And so this allows for that flexibility.

 

Joe Mechlinski:: One of the things that hits me when I first heard you pitch this was, certainly the HR space, I don’t think there’s anyone… Harvard Business Review writes articles about blowing up HR, kinda tongue in cheek. Anybody who’s spent a lot of time in HR wants to evolve it to something more strategic so that it’s got a little bit more high impact. And yet most organizations are still woefully behind in investing in the basics like for every 100 employees you have at least one HR manager.

 

Amy Spurling: Totally.

 

Joe Mechlinski:: So when you think about the use case and value proposition you’re taking back in, have you met any of this resistance in terms of like this is almost like a luxury as opposed to a basic, or tell us a little bit about the conversations that you’re having with people. Because it’s like I love it and we’re going into the deep, dark recesses of the organization that apparently still, they’re not woke yet to it. To like, hey you gotta figure this out and this would be yet another great solution. So what are you guys learning through these conversations?

 

Amy Spurling: Yeah. It’s kinda the opposite of what you just laid out. The HR folks are recognizing, especially the new school HR folks who are really keeping track of… they’re concerned about the retention. They’re not the police officer in the organization. That’s old school HR. That is really changed in most organizations, any growing or competitive organizations, that’s not HR anymore. They are trying to figure out what are the tools in my tool belt so that I’m not managing all these vendors.

Right now because of the way the structure that we have with either individual perk vendors or even the perk aggregators, they’re doing vendor management instead of doing the high level strategic HR work around how do we do continuous learning and continuous training for our teams? How do we make sure that we are managing compensation in a way? How are we making sure that we’re recruiting for diversity? That’s where they need to be spending their time and that’s the value they add to the organization. Not making sure that yoga shows up at 2:00 Thursday. That’s what’s happening, though. So they are dying for a tool like this because they don’t have funding to add an extra headcount. This takes their time from needing that extra headcount down to about 30 minutes a month.

 

Joe Mechlinski:: Wow.

 

Amy Spurling: So this is very manageable within a team. So it allows them to have this really broad base of benefits. Solve for that part of the equation without adding all this administration or cost. So the excitement within HR is palpable because it’s a way for them to get sign off by a CFO because it handles all the tax compliance. It’s not adding to their budget. It’s taking current budget and reallocating it and it’s putting a bunch of time back in their day so that they can actually focus on those strategic initiatives which are far more important to the organization.

 

Amy Dufrane: It’s key. And what you just said is… at HRCI we’ve done research on what the C-suite wants to see from HR and it is to be a more strategic business partner to help to look at the imperatives of the business and not make sure that there are blueberry muffins at the executive team meeting in the morning on Monday. That’s not what HR should or… they just shouldn’t be doing it. These are exactly the initiatives and products that can help HR to be more effective and to really be that business partner that the C-suite is looking for.

 

Amy Spurling: Totally. I think we’re seeing the shift in the market, too, where public companies are starting to look at Chief [inaudible 00:14:26] people Officers as board members which I think is so exciting because it’s mind boggling to me that there hasn’t been that seat at the table. I’ve been CFO and COO a bunch of times. HR’s always reported to me. Quite frankly, HR should have its own seat at the table and that’s something I’m finally seeing that shift where the level of talent and recognition of that talent is hitting a point where companies recognize if you don’t have people you don’t have a company. It doesn’t matter how great your product concept is. So how do we actually build and grow from that side and HR has to be leading that charge because that’s where that skillset is.

 

Joe Mechlinski:: I feel like that was-

 

Amy Dufrane: I could not-

 

Joe Mechlinski:: I know, Amy. Mic drop moment or what?

 

Amy Dufrane: I was like, yeah. I love it.

 

Joe Mechlinski:: I think the other thing as I’m hearing you talk about this, are you also finding is there a use case here for contractors, the economy, 1099s, as companies you’re seeing and we all are seeing this as it relates to the future of work that the world is moving to more of this independent model where people want to feel at least a perceived sense of control about the way in which they interact with their employer. Do you see an application or have you found an application of how this would be useful in that context?

 

Amy Spurling: I do get asked about that from a lot of companies. I think that’s a very careful line to walk. If you’re suddenly providing benefits to your contractors you start looking and acting a lot more like an employer and the department of labor is going to potentially view that as an employer employee relationship. So I’m not sure about the application in that specific sense.

 

Where I do see this having a big impact is remote workers. So as companies do more and more a distributed work force and not everybody has to be in an office, you’re trying to create consistency. So even like… think big companies. Think amazing companies with amazing benefits like Google who’s like gold standard of you could have anything in Mountain View. That’s amazing. But if you’re in one of their small locations it doesn’t make sense for them to build out a gym, have a chef on site, have all these other things. How do you create a consistent environment and offering for those folks that aren’t in corporate headquarters. So I’m seeing the distributed workforce, whether it’s individual employees working remotely or smaller satellites, that’s where this has a huge impact in much larger organizations who want to create that equity and that consistency.

 

Amy Dufrane: I think here at HRCI we have several remote workers who are all over the United States. We do things at headquarters for our team and… we’re doing Weight Watchers. We just started that. I think part of that experience is having that camaraderie. You’re working with your teammates. You’re doing something together. But I think about our remote workers and it feels less equitable. It doesn’t feel like a team building experience. And so how can we build something so that people are getting the same experience, those who are remote. And I agree up in that gig space you’ve got to be really careful legally when you start dabbling into that.

 

Anyway. Love that. Very fascinating.

 

Amy Spurling: With the consistency piece, the classic example I use is the Friday lunch and learn. Where everybody is… there’s lunch in the office and everybody gets to do it and the remote workers dial in and they’re sitting there literally watching or listening to everyone else eat and they go nothing. That is a horrible experience. It’s like great I got nothing again. It’s a visible reminder to them. Whereas you could do something as a big company where you’re offering them a lifestyle spending account that is geared at some of those things so they can join in to where maybe they can lunch delivered to themselves so that they’re participating in it. Or maybe they get to use that funding instead of the gym on site that you have at your location, they’re getting to go and take classes or do whatever they want, but it’s in a way to where they feel like they’ve a consistent benefit with the folks that are in headquarters.

 

Joe Mechlinski:: That’s great. What’s been your sweet spot in terms of type of company that you found really good success or good feedback from so far?

 

Amy Spurling: It’s been interesting. It applies to a lot of… anybody in a competitive workforce, in a competitive labor market. We have little companies. We’re talking to 1,500 to several thousand person companies. Everyone is trying to solve for the same issue. They’re tackling it in different ways but it’s crossing industries. Our biggest source of inbound leads right now is construction companies, manufacturing companies, truck driving fleets. This isn’t a tech thing, where tech has made, has a bunch of cool toys and now they’re trying to solve a problem they created. It’s everybody who’s trying to figure out how do we compete for this labor that is highly skilled. There’s a gap in skilled labor. How are we solving for that? How are we maintaining a competitive nature to what we do?

 

And for folks who are focused on diversity and inclusion and trying to hire for that, they’re taking a hard look at what they’re offering and going, huh. Maybe the fact that we keep offering the same things and attracting the same people, maybe we need to change that up. How about if we start creating something that allows for more types of people to actually engage. That’s a conversation that has to happen as you have more generations at work, as you’re trying to add more genders to your environment, as you’re adding whatever it is. There needs to be a recognition that not everybody wants the classic stage one perk of beer and ping pong. That is very 15 years ago. We’ve gotta evolve past that if you want a different type of talent.

 

Amy Dufrane: An organization that has successfully implemented this into their workforce, how did they communicate that to people that they’re trying to recruit and retain? You have the traditional kind of recruitment. We have health insurance and we’ve got PTO. We give after ten years you get a car. What are the things… how does HR communicate this to really demonstrate the competitiveness of what they’re offering?

 

Amy Spurling: Sure. I think the recruiting side is different from the retention side. So those are two different communication strategies from what we’re seeing. On the recruiting side they may add it to their careers page. They’re talking about it as a way that they’re supporting diversity when they’re actually having the interviews and talking about that. So that they’re talking about the personalization of benefits and the way that they’re supporting all types of people in their environment. So it ends up being regardless of the base of employees you have you can promote something that’s different externally.

 

So a lot of companies you start out homogenous. You pay for things for people you have. You add more people who like those things. You continue to be homogenous. This is a way to not pay anymore money but be able to add benefits for folks that you don’t necessarily have. So if your entire team was under that age of 30, single and one gender, now you can add in say you promote externally, hey, we have family care. We have elder care. So you can start attracting a different group of folks. So it depends on who you’re targeting and who you’re trying to recruit. You can target based on that.

 

For the retention side we do a couple of things. So one, we’re reminding employees of the amazing things our company’s invested in them for. So we’re doing basically a total reward statement off of the lifestyle benefits and we’re proactively sending that to employees so companies don’t have to manage that. We’re sending recommendations to employees of hey, here are some cool ways you could use your stipend this month. Here’s some, based on the categories that their company has chosen. So we’re doing that communication for the company.

 

Some of the companies are tying these different stipends to their cultural values which is pretty cool. So they’re using it as a way to reinforce that cultural aspect of the company. And then HR gets to be in a fun seat of hey, I saw this cool new thing and it also relates to what we do. Can blast that out to the team and the team can do it if they want, but you don’t have to set it up. You don’t have to pilot it. The consumers handle that and then they can still get reimbursed through comp. So it puts HR more in the idea generation stage instead of the vendor management piece. And that has been fantastic.

 

One of our companies that we went through beta with, they were doing fill out your HRA and you get $300. They kept poking and poking and poking the team. Just fill it out. We’ll give you $300 cash. They went through the whole thing. Nine percent of the team did it. It wouldn’t have taken them more than half an hour, but only nine percent of the team did. Which is pretty consistent with what I’ve seen. Any benefit you roll out, any perk you roll out you get maybe 10 percent utilization across the team.

 

But they rolled out Compt. They did much less money. They did $50 a quarter and what we’ve seen is that one, 100 percent of the team activated their account and then two, we’re seeing sustained rates of usage in the 65 to 75 percent rate versus the nine percent they were seeing for even more money. The team is excited about it. They’re showing off the running they bought. They’re talking about the books that they’re buying. It’s a totally different user experience. And that is really resonating with the teams.

 

Amy Dufrane: I have more of a technical HR question. Is it that you have the relationship with the health insurance vendor and you’re paying those bills on behalf of the organization or how does that work on the back end?

 

Amy Spurling: Sure. Sure. There’s no health insurance on our platform. We don’t do anything with health insurance or 401k. We’re strictly the voluntary benefits, fringe benefits, perks, lifestyle benefits, however you want to classify it.

Amy Dufrane: Got it. Okay.

 

Amy Spurling: The way we work is, there’s no vendors on the platform quite intentionally because the vendors could be limitless. It could be Adidas for shoes. It could be Loon for a ski mountain. It could be rent a Ferrari for the weekend. It could be literally limitless. The way it works technically is that company sets a budget, say $100 for a time period, monthly, quarterly, annual, whatever. It’s use it or lose it. They pick categories. So the company gets to determine the categories for the spend, health and wellness, travel, pets, family, whatever they’d like. And then they turn it over to the employees who get to see how much they have to spend, the timeframe to spend it and the categories the company selected.

 

From there it’s up to them to interpret what the category means. So going back to the family category example, maybe somebody wants to have a meal delivery for their parents, their aging parents. They take a picture of the receipt. They spent the money. They upload it. It gets reimbursed through payroll. So the financial transaction on the company side is happening through payroll. So it doesn’t have to go through finance. You don’t need to have that extra level of approval and review and for HR or whoever’s running payroll, it’s taking maybe 30 minutes a month to manage.

 

Amy Dufrane: That’s great. I just needed to understand the technicalities of it and how this works. I think that will help people to get how they can actually implement this and how they can use this within their organization.

 

Amy Spurling: Totally. It’s kind of like a lot of companies have that wiki page of 1,000 different discounts they have access to, whether it’s discount movie tickets or cars or whatever, but the employees have to log into each one of those individual things to get whatever the offer is. Instead of doing all of that, the way this works is employees log into one place. See what they have access to and then can go and spend those funds however they’d like and then they get reimbursed through payroll so you’re already handling the taxes correctly as well. We’ve got a way for companies to gross up the taxes if they would like to or they can shift the tax burden over to the employees, but we’re very transparent about that in the software for the employees as well because we think that’s important, too.

 

Amy Dufrane: Absolutely. For sure. No surprises, right. I like that when you produce the total rewards statement does that include the other, could you include the other benefits or is it just the benefits that run through Compt?

 

Amy Spurling: It’s just the benefits that run through Compt because we don’t have that other data right now. If we had an API into the company that’s definitely possible, though. It’s a matter of getting access to that data. If we have APIs into their payroll system we would certainly have salary and bonus information. The health insurance is usually another layer. So we haven’t built that yet, but that’s something that’s definitely possible.

Amy Dufrane: That’s great. This is super fascinating as we think about the future of work and how people can have a rewards package that is really geared towards those people that you’re trying to attract and retain.

 

Amy Spurling: Right. Exactly.

 

Joe Mechlinski:: Amy, just tell that guy that this is your first podcast. Why is he bothering you? I’ve been dying for the moment to bring that up. By the way this is awesome. Tell us about the future of the business. Where do you want to take this thing? What’s the vision that you’ve been thinking about as it relates the fit for this in the market?

 

Amy Spurling: I think there’s a bunch of ways. This is scratching the surface when you look at lifestyle benefits. Where I think ultimately compensation in general is going is to personalization. So think about a company is going to offer… we know we can only afford say $50,000 for a certain type of a role and we need to prove to the government because we are starting to go down that legislative path that we’re not discriminating. So we’re going to start having really solid salary bands. But within that $50,000 of compensation I don’t actually care as a company whether or not, if you don’t want health insurance but you do want more health and wellness benefits or you want salary that is at say 40k but you’d rather have some variables. Giving employees those dials, you can put guardrails on the dials so they can’t have zero in salary and 100 percent in health insurance or anything crazy like that, but allowing that flexibility I think is where compensation is going.

 

I think this is the first cornerstone for that is looking at the lifestyle benefits because that’s a mess right now. And so cleaning that up but seeing how that could apply across. Looking at whether you want less time off because you can’t take time off right now. You’ve got too many things at home to deal with, but you’d rather have more benefits around health and wellness because you still need to go and get a good recharge and clear your head. Or you want meal delivery because things are just so crazy, you need food delivered. Whatever it is. It’s putting that power back in the employees hands. I think that’s the dynamic that’s going to change in order to get skilled labor. Companies have to change up that dynamic.

 

There’s no longer this patriarchy of or parental oversight that happens within a company where it’s like oh, you’re lucky to have a job and you should be happy about that. Employees have a lot of power and they should have a lot of power and so that dynamic is changing to where there’s more level footing. I think that’s where this market’s moving is definitely towards personalization.

 

Joe Mechlinski:: That’s awesome. What’s an app that you use that’s certainly not a competitor to Compt, but I’m always in the mood to hear about is there something cool that you’re using it the HR space or for your workforce that’s maybe solving another problem?

 

Amy Spurling: Honestly, I feel like most the tools in the HR space need a massive overhaul. I do use ADP for payroll and that works really well. It’s pretty seamless. It’s a tried and true traditional product. But I haven’t seen… I would love to see something around performance management. There’s lots of stuff out there, but I haven’t found anything that is that amazing fit for managing this yet. That’s one space. The employee feedback space. There’s a lot of survey tools. Our team is small right now and so I can keep a pretty good pulse check on the team. But looking at that it’s like all right, so I do a survey. What am I doing with that data? Is that really the right data? And so honestly, I don’t have a lot of tools that I’m super excited about. Like I’m excited about the concepts and I see people talking about this. So I’m excited in the next couple of years to see what is coming up.

 

There is one cool company that I think is tackling an interesting aspect of the market. It’s called CultureHQ. They’re based in Boston. They’re tackling the space of community within companies. How do you make sure that you are a diverse and inclusive environment and sourcing all these great team activities and working together as a team in that way to where it’s not just falling on one person to soar something which creates a certain type of an environment. I do think they’re interesting. They’re early stages as well, but I think they’re onto a space in the market that is ripe for some innovation. That’s something that I’m certainly watching and I think is interesting.

 

Joe Mechlinski:: That’s cool. You should check out, and I think I’ve told you this before, but 15five, they have just made some major upgrades and the performance management side of it is amazing. We just rolled out a new version of OKRs this year. Everybody is tight and linked and connected. I’ve interviewed David a bunch of times. I do think that’s as close as it gets right now in the performance management space.

 

Amy Spurling: Awesome. I’ll check that out. That’s great.

 

Joe Mechlinski:: And another one that sounds like CultureHQ is Breezy that couple of our clients have used and are loving it in terms of applicant tracking. Again, a newer mold to what’s out there as it relates to the old school. But I’m with you. There’s definitely massive opportunity here.

 

My last question and then I’ll let Amy have the final last word with you, which is what’s the thing that scares you the most? You’ve done this, we didn’t get into your background, you said you were a COO and CFO, but you’ve gone through exits. You’ve raised money. You now are sitting in this new chair. I know you and I have talked about this and I know we’re supposed to be talking about the future of work, but I also think there’s a good corollary here of being the entrepreneur and sitting in that chair. So maybe talk a little bit about what that’s been like and a moment of vulnerability. What has been the most scary part of this for you?

 

Amy Spurling: The scary part for me has been making sure that I take the lives and the sustainability for my team very, very seriously. I have been part of building six different companies. I’ve seen things that have worked. I’ve seen things that haven’t worked. So I’m trying to pull together all those concepts. Making sure that we have a super diverse team because that’s how we’re going to build the most amazing product is having all these perspectives around the table. It’s really hard to do that when people tend to… you’ve got all kinds of biases in your network that you don’t even intend to have and you don’t realize they’re there. So making sure that we work really hard on that.

 

Making sure that we’re not working 80 hours a day. I don’t think human beings should work that many hours. So do a running an early stage company where my mandate to the team is no more than 40, 45 hours a week is hard. And it’s me smacking their hands off of computers because they’re super motivated and driven and I love that, but they need the mental recharge space. That is really hard is trying to build an early stage company where everyone is all on board and it’s amazing, but building in sustainability as well because that’s how we’re going to build a scalable company. Any company that requires you to work 80 hours a week on a very regular basis can’t scale. Human beings can’t do that. You’re going to rip through everybody. So it’s building that balance in from day one, is really hard.

 

That’s something I’m personally struggling with right now. I need to add some folks to the team because I am not living what I have been telling my team. I haven’t let them know that because I don’t want them to model my behavior. That is really, really hard and it’s ramped up over the last month. So it’s like get somebody else on the team and ramp it back down.

 

That’s the hard part, the raising money, the adding customers, the product piece. I’ve spent a lot of time in this space and I feel confident that we’re building something that addresses a need. That’s not scary to me. It’s a calculated risk. The raising money is the nature of the beast. I’ve raised a round a year for 15 years. It’ll happen again this year. 

 

It’s a slog, but it is what it is. The harder part is making sure that we’re building a team in a way that is scalable and adds the right people at the right time and is taking care of our people. I worry about my people than I worry about the product or the market or any of that. That to me is the biggest concern to me.

 

Joe Mechlinski:: So I lied. I have another one. Sorry, Amy. One more. Sorry to both of you for lying. The two things I want to tease out. Most people have heard of Basecamp but 37 signals who obviously the founder or the company that put out that product. They have an amazing philosophy about this.

 

Amy Spurling: Amazing. I love it. Huge fan of Jason’s.

 

Joe Mechlinski:: It sounds a lot like what you’re trying to do. Which is we care about achievement and how fast can you get it done so you’re not here, right, in very simplistic terms. And they’ve got three million customers and they’ve got people that work all over the world for them. They really have done a nice job with this.

 

Amy Spurling: They have.

 

Joe Mechlinski:: As much as you’ve raised a lot, you’ve gone through six times this journey, you and I also talked about this because of Shifts involvement in the startup scene. In our last cohort we had five of six companies that were female diverse founders and immediately the state of Maryland’s average probably went up by 500 percent. I’m leading the witness here a bit, but I do think before we let you run, talk a little bit about what you’ve experienced so that this is a conversation that people are ready to listen to and hear about what you’ve learned so far in raising money in this instance.

 

Amy Spurling: I’m an interesting A/B test for myself, quite frankly. I have all of my other six companies, I mean I’ve raised over 200 million dollars over those six companies with a founder CEO. All of my CEOs in my prior companies were first time founders. They didn’t have a track record. And it was a slog but we always raised. I have gone back through and of those six companies I took two through an exit. Four of them have exited and the last two are likely to exit this year. Nothing’s died. I’ve got a really good track record and I’ve raised more than most people in Boston.

 

But going back in through the VC circuit this time around was definitely different. I was asked different questions than I was the prior times. Even if it’s talking to the same exact person that I had talked to a year prior with a different company. Honestly, it was a wake up call to me. I know the statistics. I know how little money women raise. I know all of that. I honestly thought it would be different for me because I have been in that room. It’s different if you’re coming from marketing that is never pitched to a VC pharm and you’re learning how to pitch for the first time. I’m not learning how to pitch for the first time. I’ve been doing this my entire career. So that’s not the gating issue here that I’m getting discounted because I don’t know how to pitch. That is something I’m very good at.

 

But I am being asked different questions. The expectations of whether or not I can actually achieve what I’m setting out to achieve or whether I have enough domain expertise. That’s been very different. I had one VC tell I had too much experience in the space. I have never heard that statement ever said to a male founder, ever. So that was interesting. I managed to not roll my eyes so I counted that as a win. But that’s very different than any of my experiences in my prior companies.

 

It’s figuring out how we do it differently. I’m not going to change the market. I’m not going to change VCs. And there’s some amazing ones out there so it’s a matter of finding the folks who do get what we’re doing. The ones who do care about diversity and focusing on them rather than the folks who are trying to do the cookie cutter investment approach. It’s really figuring out who those folks are and honestly in my angel round it’s about 50-50 male and female as far as investors. I think that’s a good balance. It’s finding folks that really get what we do rather than going the tried and true approach. Those avenues aren’t going to be open to us, quite frankly.

 

Joe Mechlinski:: That’s awesome. All right. I will shut up this time. Amy.

Amy Dufrane: Fascinating way to ramp down our conversation. I think that being a person who was sitting in an HR seat for some time, I see the value in this product and I think that as our workforce is changing, as the workplace is changing, as people are looking for different things from their employer and from their work experience, they’re seeking things differently and I think this is a unique way for employers to differentiate themselves, to listen to what employees are wanting and looking for.

 

I participated in a event, I won’t call it a conference, but maybe some people would, but it was an event called UNLEASH and they have something like a Shark Tank where they bring in organizations that are doing things in the HR space and employee related issues and there was no one talking about this. So I think this is very unique. There was a lot focused on performance. There were a lot of startups focused on how do we make sure that we’re tracking people and connecting with people because we’re remote and how do we connect with people as leaders of our organizations? How do we check in with people and making sure that people are doing that?

 

Anyway. I think that this is fascinating and very much related to the future of work and where we’re going. One final question is what are you reading right now? What’s on your nightstand? What are you digging into right now that people might be interested in hearing about?

 

Amy Spurling: Right now I’m reading Good To Great, which I think most people have already read. I’m late to the game on that one. I have a very diverse reading set. I just finished a book called What is the What. It’s a book by Dave Eggers who was writing the story of one of the lost boys who came out of southern Sudan. That was really fascinating to hear his story and look through that. That was an absolutely excellent book. So I’d highly recommend that. Because I think that’s one a lot of folks probably haven’t read yet. But that was really, really good. So I’d highly recommend that.

 

Amy Dufrane: Excellent. Amy S. from Amy D and Joe M, thank you so much for joining us and for sharing your story and sharing more about Compt. We’re really excited to talk to you about what you’ve done in your career and super fascinating. As a reminder to people Compt is C-O-M-P-T. That’s the organization. If you’re looking for more about them. So Amy Spurling, thank you so much for joining us today. We appreciate it.

 

Amy Spurling: Thank you so much. It was my pleasure.

 

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