Do you want to discover how to drive growth? Leaders that are committed to growth know the importance of company foundational elements like mission, vision, and values. Today, we look at how to drive growth. My guest today is Greg Ott, CEO of Nav. This company was ranked #623 in the 2019 Inc 5000 list. Nav is a marketplace for loans – matching lenders with borrowers. Greg shares how to drive growth with effective company core values that are part of everyday work. If you want to learn how to drive growth, this is the episode for you.
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Greg Ott: The Transcript
Target Audience: Greg Ott is the Chief Executive Officer at Nav Inc. An established leader driving business growth through product strategy, market expansion, customer acquisition, and leading revenue-generating strategies. Build passionate high performance, high trust teams to deliver on objectives with the vision, execution, and accountability necessary to meet goals. Keep the customer at the center of everything, and use powerful insights and data as the driver for discontinuous growth.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
We saw a massive inefficiency in the ecosystem around small business lending. banks don’t actually serve Mainstreet small businesses, they don’t know where to go. They don’t know what they qualify for. But that’s not really understanding there’s a problem to be solved really isn’t the most important part of building a great company. It’s how do you enroll the organization to solve these problems on an ongoing, everyday basis? as the founder of a company, you can’t do it all yourself. It’s for you. It really is about the team. I always use the phrase that building a company is a team sport. But most effective teams just kind of work together really effectively. And that’s really where core values come into play.
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs of the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments. their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett [1:02]
What are the core factors of driving growth? Yes, you’ve got to have sales, you’ve got to have marketing effectiveness. You’ve got to have customer service, operations, product development, you’ve got to make a difference. But what are the underlying factors of that growth? When you think about your job as a leader, how you drive growth is really an important piece to this. And you’ve got to get the foundational elements, right? I’ve been working with hundreds of thousands of companies and leaders. And this I know over the years, is the foundations are what work. There are some fancy tricks out there. Maybe you can learn something and pull out of one or two books that you’ve read recently. But the foundations are what work specifically, mission, vision, and values. If you get those things right in your organization, a lot of the other things will take care of themselves.
Gene Hammett [1:56]
The problem is, most people think that those are soft, they aren’t really specific enough to really drive growth. So they focus on the metrics of growth. I don’t wanna go too far off on a rant. But I really believe that mission, vision, and values are important, and it’s how you drive growth. Today, we’re gonna talk about one piece of that plan. And that’s the values, your core values are so critical to how people relate to each other, how they approach the work, and how they get work done. Your core values are so important to your people and the business about how you relate to each other and how you get work done. That you can’t ignore the effectiveness of this when you do it, right. Today, we’re talking with the CEO of Nav. They’re a small business that helps businesses really understand how to get money matching lenders and borrowers. Today’s guest is Greg Ott, he’s the CEO of Na. Nav is a company that is a marketplace, if you will, between matching borrowers and lenders. We don’t talk much about this, but in today’s world of PPP, getting money for your business and understanding cash flow really important, and things have changed and they are different than they were about six months ago. When you think about your business, you want to make sure you have the right leadership in place. But also you wouldn’t think about having the right focus of core values. You’ve got to have all of these things working together in core values. Allow your people to make decisions when you’re not in the room. One of the things I really love about this interview is some of the details he shares about how they use it, for employee recognition and how people stay on track together, and how they shout out each other and allow how that really affects the growth of the company. Now, without further ado, here’s the interview with Greg.
Before we dive into the interview, I wanted to remind you that you can actually get a tool that I’ve been working with clients with for the last couple of years I’ve refined this tool has gone through several iterations. Now we have it completely automated, you can actually go online and fill out the leadership quiz. To get the leadership quiz. Just go to theleadershipquiz.com. That’s pretty easy, right? theleadershipquiz.com What you will get when you do that is you will answer a few questions, you will see where you rate based on the core principles of fast-growth companies. If you’re ready to grow your company or you want to see where you are, then make sure you go to theleadershipquiz.com inside it, you will get insight to where you are, understand where you want to improve. And you will get them mapped into the 10 areas that are most specific to fast-growth companies. Again, go to theleadershipquiz.com and you can get that right now.
Gene Hammett [4:42]
Hey, Greg, how are you?
Greg Ott [4:43]
Hey Gene, great to have you today.
Gene Hammett [4:45]
Well, I’m excited to have you on the podcast Growth ThinkTank is all for leaders that are really creating culture and leadership that allows companies to grow fast.
Greg Ott [4:56]
It sounds like a great topic.
Gene Hammett [4:58]
Well, I know that you have Been inside this for years now. I would love for you to tell us what Nav is just so we have a context?
Greg Ott [5:06]
Sure, I’m usually put Navs connects small business borrowers with lenders. So we’re an online platform that helps small business owners understand what they’re qualified for before they apply, and then connect them to the best lenders for their situation called a little bit of a comparison shopping engine for small business loans.
Gene Hammett [5:28]
Love that. I think a lot of small businesses out there have been looking at cash flow, especially through the apps. And I noticed it was on your homepage.
Greg Ott [5:36]
Absolutely. So we’ve facilitated well over 10,000 small businesses to get their PvP loans. It’s a critical program. It’s got its flaws, especially in the rollout, but at least it’s a little bit of a lifeline for some small business owners.
Gene Hammett [5:52]
Well, I know there’s probably a lot of questions the audience would want to know about this PvP, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about. Greg, my team and I have been doing some research on the company about why you’ve grown so fast. Just some of the top numbers, over 10 million in revenue in 2019, 114 employees, 623 on the Inc list. Those are about Right, right?
Greg Ott [6:17]
Yeah, that’s right. Keep all from going up from there,
Gene Hammett [6:21]
And they keep growing. When we were looking at why you grew so fast, you were able to identify that it really was about the core values. Tell us why core values are so important to the company?
Greg Ott [6:35]
Yeah, well, I think a lot of business visionaries can see prophecy problems that need to get solved. And we saw a massive inefficiency and ecosystem around small business lending. banks don’t actually serve mainstream small businesses. They don’t know where to go. They don’t know what to qualify for. But that’s not really understanding there’s a problem to be solved. Really isn’t the most important part of building a great company. It’s, it’s how do you enroll in an organization to solve these problems on an ongoing, everyday basis. As a founder of a company, you can’t do it all yourself. Steve, it really is about the team. I always use the phrase that building a company is a team sport. But the most effective teams just got to work together really effectively. And that’s really where our core values come into play. It’s, it helps align the why we do what we do with how we’re going to do the work and very importantly, how we’re going to work together. The bigger the team, the more points of view you have, the more opportunity there is for people to disagree. I think core values, the most powerful tool for people being comfortable and even psychologically safe. We talked about psychological psychological safety, people being uncomfortable, being comfortable disagreeing, and realize we’re all here though for the right reasons. At the end of the day, we’re all gonna treat each other well.
Hold on for a second. Greg just talked about business being a team sport. Do you feel like your team is completely aligned together? The truly working together as a team? Well, if you’re not, then you can’t blame anybody but yourself. It’d be really easy for you to want to blame them to get where they are, when would they be more mature? When would they really get their act together? I’m here to tell you that your job as a leader is to have the kind of conversations that allow people to align at a deeper level, not just at the surface, but truly be connected to the mission, into the what’s going on inside the organization, how you work together, how you communicate, how you think. All of those things are important and it drives the cues from leadership. My job here is not to be your friend but to be direct enough where you really understand that blaming others is a crutch, that you have to take responsibility or ownership if you will. The team sport aspect of people playing together as a team. Back to the interview.
Gene Hammett [9:06]
The sense of psychological safety. That’s a big study out of Google. I know you went to Stanford and got a mechanical engineering degree. Did you read much about that Aristotle study?
Greg Ott [9:18]
I did. That was especially very influential to me as well. And I apply some of those principles directly. In fact, when we do us, I bring together the executive team at least every six weeks, and I do a little bit of intersection from some of the books by Patrick Lencioni.
Gene Hammett [9:35]
Greg Ott [9:36]
And that Google study, and we always start out every meeting with how are we feeling about psychological safety? Because of the executive team can be psychologically safe, well, then at least we can cascade it from there.
Gene Hammett [9:48]
I have a study where I include that as a part of it. And I know one of the answers is, what does safety have to do with business and leadership? And that’s the opposite end of the spectrum. It actually is something that uniques, you know, unites us together and we feel safe. That Aristotle study, one of the key things that came out of the actually interviewed the manager at Google that was mentioned in that study, one of the mentions, and he was talking about how do you use that in one on one meetings? When you think about this, the sense of psychological safety, how does that fit into the core values that you’ve defined for the company?
Greg Ott [10:30]
So we have five core values. They make up an acronym called rolled. Are you well, I Oh, and we’ll go through the rest of there, but it really is about we have one of our values the eye is about indivisible. I think psychological safety really fits into being indivisible. And respecting people is a core aspect of that. Which means that it’s okay to be wrong. It’s okay to ask Help. But at the end of the day, we’re all indivisible. We’re all on one team.
Gene Hammett [11:06]
I actually love the fact that some of your values are very clear. Like, they’re relentless. They’re actually behind you because you know that, and ownership, but then you have some others that are just a little bit like unruly. Like, some people go, Well, why is that? A part of the values?
Greg Ott [11:24]
Yeah, unruly is fun, because it’s really about never settling for the status quo. And what I call it, I call it a healthy dissatisfaction. And, you know, there’s got to be a sense of like, yeah, I solved the problem. I launched the product, I pushed out the campaign, but always challenge yourself a little bit like what could I have done better? And, and how, you know, is what we have good enough and never quite feeling like it’s good enough. So unruly is a little bit of being unsettled and never accepting the status quo.
Gene Hammett [11:57]
I do a lot of analysis of that. rituals of companies, what we do over and over again, and values are a big part of that. Is there anything that you can shed a light on what you do with the values consistently day in and day out? Whether started meetings or, you know, some kind of rhythm that you have that has worked for you?
Greg Ott [12:18]
Yeah, we really try to incorporate them into the daily operational flow of the company. And one of the things we do is we spend time on employee recognition, and we got shoutouts and a Slack channel. And then in our all hands, which, unfortunately, the crisis we’re doing all hands via zoom now, which is a whole separate topic, they’re actually a blast, and they’re fantastic in terms of creating connective tissue. But prior to that, we would bring, we would almost give as a bit of a contest for people to shout out their colleagues. And then we would choose the best shout outs and we get t-shirts and T-shirts would have one of the values on it. Every shout out to an employee is about one or more of the values that they represented through their action, that they really helped me through this. Or they did some great work on fixing these bugs. And that was totally legit defied, or they were relentless and worked until you know, one of the morning to solve this for a customer that you know, and suddenly get a refund, they get a T-shirt that actually says that we’re relentless on whether we’re legitimate. We just try and reinforce that over and over through the daily process of the company.
Hold on a second. Greg just talked about shout outs in slack. Do you know what that is? Well, one of the things I’ve seen that really works well if you want to align people together, is to have peer to peer recognition. A shout out is just a chance for people to recognize what others are doing, how they’re supporting themselves as teams, how they’re pitching in going above and beyond showing sincerity. The loyalty that is not normal inside the organization, those shout outs by their peers really can create more alignment and reinforce what you want more of, do you use it around the core values, you get double duty there because you’re operationalizing the values and you’re giving recognition at the same time, a shout out whether you slack or use any other channel is a great way to bind people together. Back to the interview.
Gene Hammett [14:26]
I’ve always thought there’s a huge value, Greg to having peers recognize peers, for things like values that you really want to make a part of the day today. And this shout out is something that you’ve seen do that have you what’s the impact specifically, you’ve seen peer to peer wise of people, holding people true to the values or calling out when they’re not being true?
Greg Ott [14:49]
Yeah, that’s the beauty of it. It goes both ways. Right? And you see the people we also reward the people who give praise. And you start seeing those people who Take pride in being one of the recognizers of other people. I have a personal phrase I use when I’m recruiting I just look for is hungry, humble, and smart. And that doesn’t quit. That just happens not necessarily the same as our values. But I look for humility, I look for humility and leaders. And so part of what’s nice about the shout out is you don’t have to toot your own horn, that we recognize the people who spend time tooting The horn on behalf of other people. And then it becomes a bit of a self-managing platform is when people aren’t operating within those values. You don’t need to have a manager or an executive get involved or HR get involved, right? The organism starts to self-correct. They point out that Hey, man, that wasn’t cool what you did or you know, hey, we’re all working late, why can’t you and it so it helps reinforce even correct some of the bad data.
Gene Hammett [16:01]
I’ve seen those things work across many organizations, you have put a lot of focus on values. Is there this come from someplace? Or is it just something that you wanted to create when you got into a real leadership role?
Greg Ott [16:17]
Yeah, I think, you know, I’ve had the fortune of working for a lot of different sized companies. I’ve worked for three fortune 500 companies. I’ve done three startups. And I just said, What’s that? What gets you energized on that Monday morning? There’s nothing like the Sunday night dread. There’s a name for it, of like, Oh, crap, I gotta go to work tomorrow. Right. So what were the best experiences I’ve had, how do I just build a company around that? And so much, but it wasn’t about what is the nature of the work you have to do. It’s what’s the environment you work with your work in, and that’s the people and the way things get done. I’ve been in companies where you know, it was all you know, Highly pedigreed, you know, big titles, people, and it’s extremely competitive and cutthroat. And that was just what you signed up for. It was an upper out system. And I’m like, I’m competitive by nature. And so I did well, and I thrived in that. But I just realized how many people don’t thrive in that where people really thrive is when they do their best work around equally talented and equally motivated people. And so what attracted me to move from I was with a large company. I was with Intuit prior to this, and I was attracted to get back to a start up because I just wanted to build the type of company I’ve always wanted to work for. And you can only really do that when you start small. You got to put the values in place early.
Gene Hammett [17:44]
I want to put the rest of our focus here on the value that has at the end down there ownership. Where did it come for you? And why did it have to be a part of these values?
Greg Ott [17:56]
Yeah, I think if if if there’s to individual and ownership and ownership is so much about. You can wrap so many the other ones in there, it’s about taking pride in your work. It’s about never settling. It’s about realizing that, you know, building a company is a team sport, all those things come together. But then recognizing that you’re, you’re the end benefit of it is for yourself. And I think one of the interesting things in terms of values-driven companies is a lot of them can get on the track of being almost more like a nonprofit, right? Where you have to somehow find that intersection of we’ve got to be a profitable company, we’ve got to continue to grow and have growth aspirations, and at the same time, have this value of doing things right and treating each other well. And so, ownership kind of visible to me, the value that starts to bridge the two because I want people who want to win.
Greg Ott [18:58]
I want people who want to be Want NAB to have a wildly successful IPO at some point in the future. And to reap the benefits of that. So they need to feel connected to the rewards of the company grow as much as feeling connected to the way we operate. And reinforcing ownership is really part of that. So we do that through not only through values but through equity, through transparency on the company performance. We share the financial return the good the bad. I’m, I’m trying to be transparent and vulnerable as a leader. So that it is part of them feeling ownership, I tell them to look, I need your help. You guys are owners of the company, I need your own to help me because I’m trying to figure out Should we go this way or should we go that way? And being able to share that to the company is really recognizing them as owners.
Gene Hammett [19:55]
Some people miss understand that ownership thing because I think You could you can take something really too far you can care too much. It’s really dangerous when you care about the work more than your people do. It’s really caring. It’s really important when you don’t have people taking a negative view of that work ownership. Sometimes ownership creates silos. And it really is, it takes it away from that team effect that you’ve been talking about. What are you doing to make sure that it’s taken in the right way? And so that people understand that it really is a team effort, but they’re individually coming in with ownership instead of trying to blame others?
Greg Ott [20:39]
Yeah, I think it is. It is tough it is. I have them interesting, no canoes. No, as a company will one big ship was not a series of adjacent canoes. And so just try to reinforce that we can’t fall into these ruts of silos. One of the common ruts that I think a lot of companies fall into is departments and the silos I think there’s a human nature almost toward gravitating towards tribes. I mean, this tribe, so you’re the other tribe. And so I just talked about that openly. Let’s not be in canoes, let’s not form tribes. A lot of tribes become, I’m in this department. I’m in the marketing department and you’re not, or I’m in the engineering department in your enough. organizationally, we have a pretty somewhat of a deliberate approach to having a matrix structure where there are engineers who work ultimately towards the head of marketing. And there are marketers who work for a salesperson and trying to help people realize that that’s about us really thinking about an operating like, like a team. Jason from the work side, we also just want people to get to know each other.
Greg Ott [21:45]
So we have a lot of activities, clubs, games, at lunchtime, in a normal office environment. There’s board games all over the place, and we try to encourage that we try and encourage social activity. really pushing across those traditional functional boundaries. So people don’t think about, you know, all that happens is I win. So I when they think about we win, and how am I contributing to that, because I actually like the person I’m working with.
Gene Hammett [22:15]
Well, I want to switch gears one final time, Greg, you’ve really, you know, opened our eyes, a little bit about values in the company, but your own journey as a leader, you’ve probably had defining moments where you’ve had to let go of a previous version of yourself. You’ve had to let go of maybe some of the day to day can you think about that and share one area where you really had to let go to be able to elevate or expand to the next level?
Greg Ott [22:43]
Yeah, I think you know, I’m a journey. There’s a point where you start to realize and get comfortable with, not everybody’s gonna be like you. People can see the exact same thing but have a different interpretation. And people can be driven can be very hungry. But that doesn’t mean they’re gonna. They’re going to process things away from the way I process them. So I started I was pretty competitive and really driven and I just wanted everyone to be driven like that I wanted people to be data-driven. I wanted people to be able to articulate clearly, certain things about their strategies and their visions. And I think as I matured as a leader, it was much more about accepting people in the organization for both their strengths and the flaws and sometimes the flaws what I what my prior self was seen as a flaw is really an opportunity to compliment somebody with another skill set and another person and so that was I think that was part of my journey and growth as a leader is really just you know, how do you recognize the best in people not just focus on what’s what, what would you don’t like about them?
Gene Hammett [23:54]
Beautifully said, Greg, thanks for sharing your journey here on Growth Think Tank and her During the wisdom, about, you know, creating teams and cultures that want to grow fast, and it’s been a pleasure,
Greg Ott [24:07]
Gene, my pleasure, thanks for having me.
Gene Hammett [24:09]
Great interview here on the podcast, I really am empowered to know that I’m working with people who believe in putting people first developing those employees and having the right foundational elements that allow that to happen. Your core values are how you drive growth. Believe it or not, I believe it’s one of the most critical elements to something simple that you can do day in and day out, that allow people to align together optimize their work. I want to remind you that when you’re looking at your journey of leadership, you don’t have to do it alone. You can actually lean on others. You may have a peer network that you can lean on to maybe you have a board of directors, or maybe you just need someone to listen to you. One of the things I love to do as a coach is just listening to my clients, help them understand what they can’t see for themselves. maybe ask pointed questions that allow them to challenge their beliefs, those beliefs, allow them to excel their own growth expand as a leader, and activate their team in a new way.
Gene Hammett [25:11]
Why am I telling you this is because I love what I do. I love being that sounding board that guidance, allowing my clients to get really clear about where they’re going and how they’re going to get there. Maybe shifting their confidence, shifting their focus just a little bit so that they know how to move forward. Sometimes it’s the smallest changes that we find to make the most difference. My job is to help you as a leader grow and expand. I can do anything to help you do that. Make sure you reach out to me, [email protected]. That’s my email address. I’d love to connect with you. Maybe it’s just to ask a few questions. Get to know you’re listening in right now. And you’ve gone this far. Maybe you listen to several episodes, and maybe it’s time to reach out. [email protected] as always leads with encouragement. Well, see you next time.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
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