Chris Barbin is a serial entrepreneur and investor with more than 25 years of experience across a number of startups, companies, and enterprises. Chris joins the show today to talk with us about his work as a Venture Partner at GGV Capital, how he co-founded Appirio and stayed on as Chief Culture Officer when it was acquired from Wipro. Chris is an expert on company culture, team building and what it takes to scale a business. He also gives advice on building strong relationships when people work remotely, the upsides and downsides of being incredibly transparent, and how to create an environment where people feel safe to talk about the important stuff.
[3:27] Chris was born and raised outside of Boston and graduated from Bates College, of which he now sits on the Board of Trustees. He landed in Chicago and was in various tech and consulting gigs before he co-founded Appirio in 2006.
[8:26] While others were experiencing hardships in the economy around 2007, Appirio found that their company provided a value around organizations saving money moving to the cloud.
[11:49] Chris and the other founders of Appirio were in different cities when they founded the company, so they started with a mentality of creating great work from remote locations. They decided that instead of having a huge business office, they would connect to the right people using world-class processes and systems. They also started with a great amount of transparency where workers could see everything in a consumer-grade type of environment.
[15:21] Chris and the founders of Appirio grew in a distributed way and set their workers up with the tools that they needed for a great work environment at home.
[16:42] Remote culture can get much of the work done, but there still needs to be a level of in-person connectivity. Appirio put time into culture-building both virtually using Facetime, photos, and videos, and made the most of their quarterly in-person meetings.
[21:02] Appirio had an all-hands meeting every two weeks virtually, and senior leaders met once a week virtually and once a quarter in person. They also displayed their commitment to transparency through time for a Q&A, where any question was fair game.
[26:52] One of Chris’s biggest lessons was in growing your team from within, as compared to upgrading them from the outside in.
[31:34] The leadership team has a responsibility to not always engage in “happy talk,” but to really focus on making things better and pulling the bad things out so they can be talked about and solutions can be provided.
[35:52] After the acquisition from Wipro, Chris stayed on as Chief Culture Officer to help catalyze and stimulate the culture. With a number of 2,500 employees sitting inside of 180,000 employees in 55 countries, Chris and his team had their work cut out for them.
[42:40] Chris is also an operating partner at Thunderboss (a lakeside bar and grill in Green Lake, WI that he built and opened with his wife in 2018), as well as two tequila businesses — SipTequila.com (a premium tequila business focused on a direct to consumer model) and Compoveda (his own private label tequila).
“As a leader you can’t do everything, you have to put great people around you.” — @c_barbinClick to tweet