Episode 8 - Rick Nucci, Guru
Rick Nucci is the Co-Founder and CEO of Guru.
Rick brings twenty years of experience in creating category-leading software solutions and companies. Prior to Guru, Rick was the founder and chief technology officer of Boomi, which defined and led a new segment as the first-ever cloud integration platform-as-a-service. Boomi was acquired by Dell in 2010, where Rick went on to run the Boomi business for Dell as its general manager, helping grow the organization into the industry leader it is today. Rick frequently speaks at industry events about startups, SaaS and cloud computing. Rick holds a Bachelor of Science in Logistics, Materials, and Supply Chain Management from Penn State University.
In this talk, Rick discusses the importance of having complementary founder skills, his philosophy about culture, what to do when he doesn’t know what to do, and why he insists that people vent.
“Success is not a license for arrogance.”
[01:04] The quote resonates with Rick because he tends to admire people twice as much when they achieve something remarkable and how they show up and engage with the people around them. Rick associates his quote with people who tend to take themselves too seriously, a behavior style that isn’t compatible with him.
What Rick learned from the trials and errors of leadership
[02:55] Rick learned how he made mistakes and didn’t do the necessary actions as a leader. He realized that complementary founder skills were essential for being a leader, and bringing skills to the table was necessary for starting a company.
[04:03] One of the main factors that led Rick and his team to make all the decisions by themselves was that disagreements were good and normal for a company and that a team needs a tiebreaker and clarity about things. Most importantly, they need a path forward and make that upfront conversation.
Importance of Culture
[15:03] Many of Guru’s values came from transparency. It’s all about the relationship between transparency and trust. Ricks says that it is better to share bad news and be direct. Assume people are smart and thoughtful, assume people will not do inappropriate things with that transparent information you’re sharing with them.
[17:17] The dangers of people who walk in with high ego and with high ego often come an unwillingness to be comfortable saying you were wrong, being vulnerable, a debate-style where you want to be right versus debating because you want to get to the right answer. All these things are just toxic behaviors to a high-performing team.
[19:42] Every interview Guru does have a culture interview component which someone does not on the team that the person would be reporting to. The purpose of the culture interview is to revert the company values effectively into questions to test for behaviors that Guru values and thinks are important.
[20:20] Guru listens to its candidates if they make it all about themselves or recognize anything in a team environment. They are looking for someone who understands team effort.
Downsides to Guru’s Culture
[22:09] Culture can have a downside because there can be unintentional interpretations of company values. One example is Guru’s “Give First” policy, emphasizing giving back to their community. As the company is growing, you improve the community around you, and you don’t somehow extract from it and then give back later—it’s how you make things better along the way.
[25:50] It’s valuable when you give your team members feedback. That might not be good feedback or positive feedback. But as long as you’re delivering it with care, that’s phenomenal for the company.
[26:41] Managing conflicts in a company are all about showing up when the hard conversations start. You have to care about the person and be authentic about improving, getting better, and being successful.
Maintaining Guru’s Culture during the Pandemic
[28:02] Guru has an immensely thoughtful and effective team that puts the company culture and values at the center of what they do. Ricks says that you care about your culture and values when you make it clear, and when you hire people under that premise, they care too. It’s a significant reason why they chose to come and join your company. They bring ideas with them, and you can create something great.
The Change and Growth that Ricks has done as a Leader
[34:19] Rick wasn’t always confident. But as he grew, there were skills and knowledge that he understood and acquired. One of the things that gave him a learning curve was empowerment. He didn’t understand the value of being intentional about empowerment, how it is tied and connected to recruiting, and the type of people you want to bring into your company. He learned about it by building his team, where he shifted from showing up with answers to showing up with questions.
Experiencing Self-Doubt and Impostor Syndrome
[40:30] When Rick started his company in Philadelphia, they proved their market and product. They saw their competitors have much venture capital as they have. Rick then realized that his company was going toe to toe with competitors with a much higher reputation than they have. Eventually, Rick and his company won medals, which changed everything for the company.
[43:14] Rick got over self-doubt by having a decision-making framework or having the idea of reversible and irreversible decisions. He says that when you start thinking that way and recognize that the vast majority of decisions you make are quite reversible, it’s very freeing.
What Rick wished he knew before starting his journey
[45:46] During his first company, Rick would always attach himself and his sense of happiness and satisfaction to the company. He realized then that that was a huge mistake. Every startup journey is not the straight line it might sound like on a blog post, and it’s always the squiggly lines. It is essential to think about how you separate yourself from your company.
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