Recently I had the opportunity to interview Davide De Guz from Rebrandly for the ongoing series: CEOs Share Leadership Strategies To Improve Your Company’s Culture.

My name is Davide De Guz and I’m currently the founder at Rebrandly, which is a link management tool empowering users to put their brand’s name on the links they share online.

I’ve been working in the tech industry for over 20 years, but recently I’ve completed building a great international team for Rebrandly. I’m proud that we took the small, niche concept of branded links and have championed them. We are now a reference point for them and, recently, we’ve had some top brands sign up to use our tool, including Harvard, Lamborghini, Loreal and Heineken.

Krish Chopra: What are the 3 most important values that your company’s culture is based on?

Davide De Guz: Growth, transparency and creativity.

Obviously as a startup, we’re extremely focused on fast growth, but we also like to encourage creativity within the team as many of our best ideas and strategies have come out of brainstorm sessions.

As a brand, Rebrandly is all about helping marketers build trust online, so it’s important for us to be transparent with our customers, as well as internally. We keep the whole team updated on everything that is going on, whether it’s positive or negative. This is important when the whole team is invested in your company’s mission.

Krish: Managing millennials can often be a polarizing topic. Can you elaborate on your advice for managing the “millennial mindset?”

Davide: Don’t stop them from being creative. This is particularly important for millennials, I think. However, you also need to be clear and set precise boundaries for what they should work on. But within that let them be free to work toward your common cause.

Krish: What are your “5 Ways to Improve Your Company’s Culture” and why.

Davide: Over the past 20 years, I‘ve learned a lot about building a modern company culture. My main piece of advice is to make the option to work remotely available. There is lots of research out there that shows employees really value this, whatever stage of life they are at. It leaves them free to travel and work from wherever they are. Let employees choose if they would like to work remotely or from the office.

For Rebrandly, this also means we’ve built a team based on talent rather than location. Our team is spread across Europe, North Africa, India and the US. This makes our company diverse and having different points of view in the mix gives us an edge. It’s really a win-win.

This is central to Rebrandly’s culture and I would recommend it to any CEO. I would also suggest:

  • Define a main KPI for everyone in the company to strive toward, as well as a KPI for each department. For example, we all look at conversions as an indication of our overall progress. While the marketing team focuses on active registered users.
  • Carefully choose the right collaboration tools for your team and use one main communication channel where everyone can contribute and get involved in sharing information and content. All our team members use Slack and Trello, while our developers also use a range of other tools.
  • Be true to your brand within your company. Make sure your team understands the values of your brand, what it stands for and that everything they do feeds into this.
    Like I said, we try to foster our company values and when it comes to transparency, Rebrandly demonstrates this to our customers as well as within the team. Our tool allows marketers to create on-brand links that give users an indication of what they are clicking on and reassures them it won’t lead to spam. We use these links in everything we do, but we also try to lead by example in other ways. Our marketing strategy has this value at its heart. We encourage engagement from our audience and much of our content offers advice about how to build trust online.
  • Enforce and encourage a culture of teamwork within your workplace. Insist that everyone help each other and take advantage of each others strengths. This means all work will be high in quality and completed quickly.
    For example, our lead designer is mainly focused on creating our website and product. But if we need an infographic for some of our promotional content, he is the best person to do it. This saves time and means our content is top class, and he won’t be reluctant to reach out to the marketing team when he needs help or feedback.

Krish: Strong company culture is something that everyone likes to think they have but very few have it. Why do so many organizations struggle with creating strong, healthy work environments?

Davide: Because it is necessary to invest in culture and educating your team and, of course, many companies are distracted by other things. It’s difficult to prioritize culture because its a long-term investment and many companies focus on short-term goals.

Krish: What is one mistake you see a young start-up founders make in their culture or leadership practices?

Davide: Often, their main goal is to make money. But money should just be a tool and should be secondary to your company’s overall mission.
Start-up founders can undervalue their company’s culture and the importance of defining a mission when they’re focused on profits. They think this can be done later on. But a company is about more than just building and selling a product. It should be about accomplishing a mission, or achieving a dream. It should not be about money — money is the consequence of changing an industry or inventing ground-breaking technology.

Davide De Guz, CEO and Founder of Rebrandly

Krish: To add to the previous question, young CEOs often have a lot of pressure to perform and often wear many hats. What’s a simple time efficient strategy they can start doing today to improve their company’s culture?

Davide: Investing in company culture is easily put on the long finger and I think a lot of the time only companies with plentiful resources do this kind of long-term investment.
But there are some simple things that any company can do to facilitate a strong company culture. You just need a clear idea of your mission so you can communicate it to your team. It’s an easy way to nurture your culture without much investment, but it’s essential to do this from the start. The longer a company is established, the more difficult and resource heavy this becomes.

Krish: Success leaves clues. What has been your biggest influence in your leadership strategy and company culture?

Davide: The book ‘ZERO TO ONE’ by Peter Thiel has definitely had a big impact. It’s focus on startups and how to build the future really influenced my thinking and our culture at Rebrandly. Before that, ‘Blue Ocean Leadership’ was another influential read.
Why? Because, using examples in international business, these books explore why you shouldn’t just copy someone else’s business, but innovate and invent something that is unique so that you can be the leader of the market.
These books explain that if you are building something, the target should be to build something that is the best in your space. And, if possible, the best in the world. Even, if it is a small thing.
With this goal in your mind, you and your team are forced to work at an extremely high level. All the other important things, like collaboration and efficiency, come as a consequence of this style of work.
This is hugely influential on company culture. Aiming to be the best will create drive, while copying the competition won’t.

Krish: What advice do you have for employees that have bad bosses? How can they take control and improve a bad situation?

Davide: Often, the problem isn’t actually a bad boss, but rather that they aren’t working in the right place. But if the boss is the issue, the solution is still to take control by changing your job and finding a work environment that will allow you to do your best work.

Krish: Okay, we made it! Last question — what’s one unique hack you or your company does that has enhanced your work culture?

Davide: Our team is very distributed and is made up of people with different cultures, religion and languages etc. To keep us all in-sync and working toward the same mission, we have a channel in Slack where everyone can express themselves and all the team is updated on any company news.

The support, sales, marketing and development teams are all involved and contribute news on product updates, new features, media coverage and customer feedback — the list goes on. This fosters discussion and lets us know how we’re progressing on our mission journey.

A note to the readers: Improving company culture happens at any level in an organization. If you learned one thing in this interview, please share this with someone close to you.

A special thanks to Davide De Guz again!

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  • Krish Chopra

    2x entrepreneur and founder of NP Hub. Let’s discuss leadership, scaling, and relationships to serve communities that need more support! In ATL

    Krish Chopra is the founder of NPHub. He believes in two truths: everything is a learnable skill and real leadership involves caring for others. Krish’s mission is to better support underserved communities and he and his team are currently serving the nursing industry so students have more resources to graduate on-time. He’s also contributes to major publications such as Forbes, Fast Company, and Inc., and has been featured in a dozen more.