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TCV Insights

Leadership Culture and Team - Essential Elements for Growth

Updated: Jun 27, 2022

By Doug Zeisel, TCV Growth Partner -

There are a variety of puzzle pieces that need to be assembled to create a sustainable growth company. These include access to growth capital, a receptive marketplace for the product or services to be sold and a compelling value proposition. But without people to create the products or deliver the services, people to sell the deliverables, and people to secure the financing, create the marketing strategies and empty the trash cans, there is no business. People are the most critical element for business success. Yet, often the human element of building a great business is ignored – to the detriment of the enterprise.

Building a team that can function under the pressure of ramping up sales and delivering an ever increasing number of top notch products or services is no easy task. In today’s tight labor market it is more difficult than ever. And retaining quality employees is also a challenge. Finding super stars is one thing, recruiting them and retaining them is another. Because today’s super stars are just as picky as the employer they are being courted by. This is true particularly in tech sales. While in the past, many people were just happy to land a job that paid well, in today’s labor market people considering changing employers do their homework and research what kind of company they might be working for. In addition to the usual ask about benefits, they want to know how they will be treated. They want to know about the prospects for advancement. And they want to know if they will be part of a team, not just a cog in the wheel.

It is critical for companies poised for growth to consider what kind of team they need, how key employees will interact and how they will be recognized and rewarded for achieving goals. This is all about creating a great corporate culture. How do you create a great corporate culture? The foundation for such a culture is found by answering a fundamental question. As Scott Weber and Nancy Burger point out in their inspiring SCALEUP Maryland presentation*, it all rests on the power of WHY. Why the company exists, why the leadership is inspired to grow the company and why the long term vision is relevant and important.

It all starts with leadership. Leadership at the top of the organization that imbues a sense of professionalism, a respect for each individual, a knowledge that the organization will operate ethically and with a sense of purpose, not only for the company but also for each individual. Someone has to create a long term vision for the company, determine a compelling mission statement and ensure that all stakeholders buy into the vision and mission of the company. This is (or should be) the responsibility of company’s senior most leader – the founder or CEO. This person then needs to ensure all sub level leaders from Sales and Marketing to Finance and Operations are onboard, instep and immersed in the overall corporate vision, mission and active in the furtherance of the organization's culture. These leaders then ensure their employees are in alignment and all pulling the oars in the same direction.

Why is this important? As a Certified Turnaround Professional I have seen dozens of situations where the senior leadership has either forgotten that good management is about basic principles or they never gave it a thought.The culture of these companies was toxic and as a result they ended up in serious trouble.I recall a manufacturing company in Florida whose President had a son and a daughter as key employees. They got perks and rewards that others did not. As a result, animosity resulted in sabotage with projects being underbid, projects taking too long to complete and manufacturing waste. Things did not turnaround until the President was fired and his children told to shape up or ship out. A meeting of all employees was undertaken with a clear purpose given (let’s all pitch in and save this company), and incentive programs introduced to reward accomplishment. The company was saved and later sold to a larger competitor. The best thing is that no employee lost their job except for the incompetent President and his son. I encountered many other similar situations where the CEO or President had no clue as to what was going on in the trenches and those in the trenches did not care about company’s welfare – it was all about getting their paycheck.

Sounds simple doesn’t it? But no, unless the senior most leader is that rare individual with natural leadership instincts, anyone aspiring to lead needs knowledge and experience to be effective. For example – ask yourself – are you a democratic leader, an autocratic leader or a collaborative leader? And just knowing how you instinctively lead does not mean you will execute well – it takes awareness and practice. Regardless of how a leader leads there are many nuances to master to becoming an effective leader who can create a great corporate culture. Aspects of great leadership include:

  • Clear communication – Drive purpose not function

  • Connect Purpose to performance with measurable KPI’s

  • Consistent behavior – Equal treatment, no favoritism

  • Active Listening – Encourage feedback; explain differences, all with the goal of empowering the employee to succeed and grow

  • Speaking truth without ambiguity – Don’t be afraid to admit mistakes, and don’t be afraid to hold people accountable in a healthy manner

  • Create an emotionally healthy culture – express empathy, humanity and give help when needed

  • Flexibility and adaptability – Again, listen to key managers and adapt key functions as needed

Remember, it is the leadership of the company that sets the tune to which the employees play. A cohesive team is dedicated to the success of the company.


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