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Building an Employee-First Culture by Living Core Values

R. J. Talyor | CEO & Founder, Pattern89

R. J. Talyor likes to keep it real. He doesn’t pretend 2020 has been easy, and he tries to let his employees know that he has struggled through moments just like anyone else — so why not let loose a little during the workday?

“I try to actually get on [Zoom] with bedhead in front of our own internal team, just to demonstrate like ‘Hey, I’m living my life here, there’s a kid on my lap.’ I’m real, too. We’re all real. We’re all dealing with this crazy thing. And we’re also working.”

R. J. is the CEO and Founder of Pattern89, a startup that helps e-commerce retailers understand what paid social ads work and why.

In this episode of Human Resolve, R. J. discusses why a company culture molded by core values is crucial, how you can use it to recruit exceptional talent “representative of the country,” and what future workplaces may look like.

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Meet R. J. Talyor

R. J. Talyor is CEO and Founder of Pattern89, an AI platform for digital ads that analyzes ads across 2,900 different dimensions and compares billions of advertiser data points to predict which ads perform the best on social media.
 
A 15-year tech and startup veteran, Talyor led teams at ExactTarget and Salesforce prior to launching Pattern89. His leadership was instrumental when Salesforce acquired ExactTarget for $2.5 billion in 2013, where he became the vice president of mobile products.
 
Recognized as one of the Indianapolis Business Journal’s 40 Under 40, Talyor is a father of four, a national-champion swimmer and an amateur birdwatcher.

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R. J. Talyor

Show Notes

R. J. Talyor likes to keep it real. He doesn’t pretend 2020 has been easy, and he tries to let his employees know that he’s struggling just like anyone else — so why not let loose a little during the workday?

“From a remote work perspective, we’ve made a little bit of fun of it,” R. J. says. “We did ‘Pattern89 Cribs’ like the MTV show where people if they were interested, could volunteer to give us a tour of their home. I went first and I showed our disgusting, dirty toy pit basement where my four children just make forts, and Legos are everywhere. … [This has helped] drive some cultural connection when we can’t be connected in person.”

R. J. is the CEO and founder of Pattern89, a startup focused on helping e-commerce retailers understand what paid social ads work and why. Like most companies, his workforce went remote when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and he says that experience has led him to trust his team and stop worrying about people not getting their work done. 

This time has also led R. J. to reflect on the company’s five core values, which have guided him and other leaders since Pattern89’s inception. These values have also helped to create a workplace culture that R. J. is especially proud of after spending nine years at ExactTarget, where he was part of the world-renowned “orange” culture.

In this episode of Human Resolve, R. J. discusses why a company culture molded by core values is crucial, how you can use it to recruit exceptional talent, why having a workforce “representative of the country” is important to him (especially in the tech – and more specifically, artificial intelligence – space), what future workplaces may look like, and why hard work will always best talent.

“Proclaim something at the beginning, or if you’re not at the beginning, proclaim something anyway, and then you’ve got to do the hard work to live into it,” he says.

Notable Quotes

Value progress over perfection

“We’re OK with not pixel-perfect in the first or second rev. And then we’ll move to that as we figure out what works. … Perfect is the enemy of good.”

Hard work beats talent

“I have a great quote that I got in someone’s email signature: ‘Nothing is too complicated that cannot be simplified by hard work.’ … OK swimmers and excellent swimmers — they both have to do hard work. And there’s only so much talent — you can only get by with so much talent, and any person that’s played sports knows that. Your talent will take you so far and then you just have to do hard work. Startup land is hard work, and I’m really good at hard work. And when you put in hard work, you get a result.”

Building a team representative of customers

“As a white guy, I’m certainly the stereotype of tech, but our customers don’t look like me. We serve all sorts of customers globally and for us, we’re dealing in AI, which has inherent bias in it, and the only way that we’re going to win — and we knew this from the beginning — is that we needed to create a team that represents our customers.”

Core values are key to a great culture

“When I started Pattern89, we sat down and we wrote out our core values at the very beginning, and they’re five core values that have stayed consistent. I repeat them at every team meeting. At every team meeting, I start out with ‘Here are our core values’ and it’s kind of cheesy, but I’ve actually heard from the team that they like the repetitiveness of it. … Our core values are to do what’s in the best interest of the team, to honor transparency, to think about speed over completeness, building a company that represents the country and honoring experimentation without the fear of failure.”

Leaning into remote work and leading by example

“We actually went out west for five weeks this year to work remotely, and other team members at Pattern89 have done the same thing. While some people might be shy to say, ‘Hey, I’m traveling’ or ‘I’m out here’ or whatever, I actually was very forthright with it because I want the team to go and do stuff. … Talk about an easy way to make your company stand out from the rest — actually embrace that remote work. From a technology standpoint, as long as we can log on Zoom and you trust the employee, then that’s great.”

Trusting remote workers is essential

“I remember when we first went to remote — my parents were like ‘Well, how do you know if everyone’s working?’ [I was] like, ‘Listen, I don’t know, I just don’t.’ My head will explode if I try to figure out where people are. Again, I’ve had experiences in previous roles where a leader would literally call around trying to figure out where Mark is, where R. J. is and where this person is and that person is. That’s going to make you insane. You can either choose to trust people or not. … When you can’t find them because they had to step away and help their child with math homework or something like that, it’s a little maddening, but you just ultimately have to trust the team. Period.”

Don't take transitions personally

“I would tell myself to not take it so personally when someone’s not a fit or when someone decides to leave. It’s something I struggle with right now, still. Startup life is not for everybody, and our company is not for everybody. And some people have chosen to leave or don’t fit the company. I’ve personally struggled with that. Like literally sleepless nights about how that person’s going to be impacted, how it looks on me. Does it look bad on me if this person leaves the company? … It’s OK when someone doesn’t work out or chooses to exit the business — the world works out — versus assuming that you’re going to have 100% retention from the beginning.”

Diversity in all forms is a strength

“Building a company that represents the country is very important to me and to our company, and when we’re not living into that core value by recruiting underserved populations or when our balance gets off in terms of men and women on the team — like when we go to 60/40 instead of where we normally are, which is 50/50 — someone calls us out. So I was like, ‘Hey, we need to be recruiting more women.’ … Or ‘We need to be recruiting in circles outside of our own.’ … Having a team that is not only diverse, but also willing and wanting to share opinions in a transparent environment, we’ve avoided some business risk that some of our counterparts have not.”

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