Founder Shares

Hosted ByTrevor Schmidt

At Hutchison PLLC, we work with founders and entrepreneurs as they fight and grind and stress and push to bring their visions to reality. We are inspired by their incredible stories of success, of failure, of reworking and trying again.

We get to see this every day through our work, helping technology and life science companies start up, operate, get funded, and exit, but we want a chance to share some of these stories with you, our listener. So whether you already are an entrepreneur, have an idea that someday you want to start a business or are just fascinated by the stories of how a business goes from idea to success... or not such a success, this podcast is for you. 

Your character – not your personality – makes you a true leader, with Tilt365’s Pam Boney

In her first career as an executive in the hospitality industry, Pam Boney saw great leaders, poor leaders, and everything in between. So she started a project collecting the vices that she didn’t like and the virtues that she did like – both in herself and in others.  With her insight, she decided to make the “big corporate leap”, forgoing the safe salary for the scariness and excitement of entrepreneurship. And now, she’s running Tilt365, which provides strengths-based personality assessments to accelerate leadership agility and develop an organizational culture where people love to work.

Transcript

Trevor Schmidt: Hello, and welcome to the Founder Shares podcast. We’re so happy that you’ve chosen to spend some time with us. I’m your host, Trevor Schmidt. I’m an attorney at Hutchison, a law firm in Raleigh, North Carolina. We work with founders and entrepreneurs as they fight, grind, stress and push to bring their visions to reality. We are inspired by their incredible stories of success, failure, reworking and trying again.

Having an idea is one thing, but building a business from that idea? Well, that’s what this podcast is about, and we hope you’re inspired by these stories.

Today’s guest is Pam Boney, founder and CEO of Tilt 365, a company that provides personality and team assessments designed to grow an agile mindset & culture where people love to work.

I’ve been working with Pam for years, but one thing I didn’t know about her is even before the pandemic, she was a big fan of working remotely.

Pam Boney:  Dan and I, the Co-Founders of Tilt, we actually are often working from our sailboat. So, this whole remote environment, like we, we were trying to cook that up like 10 years ago. Like, “How can we work remote so we can work from the boat and nobody will know it?”

We’re both sailors and we lived down in Beaufort, North Carolina, which is a beautiful little sailing community. And so we’re kind of grateful to the ability to work, you know, in a tech environment and be able to work from anywhere.

Trevor Schmidt: Prior to working on Tilt from her boat, Pam had what she calls her first career –  operations in the hotel industry, where she held General Manager, VP, and executive roles for Embassy Suites, Hilton, and Summit Hospitality.

Pam Boney:  Yeah, so I got really interested in leadership and psychology. And how do you help people, you know, bring out the best in themselves and build a culture where it’s high-trust culture, high-integrity culture, a lot of, you know, personal responsibility?

Empowerment; got very interested in that really early on. And how do you do kind of the upside down organization that’s not hierarchical, but everyone is self-initiating and self-responsible? So, we built this amazing culture in that company, Embassy Suites. So it was promised hotels, and the early days of Hampton Inn.

And that was so fun for the first, so many years, but then I decided I got, you know, I wanted to spend all of my time developing people and helping teams build great culture. So, when I was around late thirties, I got interested in, I built this whole framework, and I used to call it the “Virtues Project.” But I built this whole framework of how do you help people be the best that they can be? And how do you build a culture where people are gonna really love where they work so that you can be really productive and innovative? So, eventually I went back to school at graduate school to study psychology and also got credentialed in executive coaching at the same time.

Trevor Schmidt: Kind of in this process when you were working in the hospitality industry, did you always have in the back of your mind that you someday wanted to start your own business or was that kind of a germination of this wanting to focus more on kind of implementing what you learned in kind of developing people?

Pam Boney: I think the entrepreneurial spirit lives kind of inside me in a way. I’ve, I’ve started a lot of different companies actually. You know, executive suite coaching was one of them. So, that was the coaching business. But I also bought a, most people don’t know this, I bought a B&B in Cameron Village and turned that around and into a profit-making organization and sold that after two years. That was while I was in grad school. So that was kind of a side project. And then I also started Tilt in 2009 after finishing grad school.

Trevor Schmidt: Okay. Well, tell me a little bit about executive suite coaching. What were you doing at executive suite coaching?

Pam Boney: Yeah. So I actually became a coach 20 years ago and this was before anybody even knew what that was. So when I left, we call it “the big corporate corporate leap,” you know, like I left the security of this big salary and I was working for a great leader. Like, didn’t have any good reason to leave except for it being a calling.

And I just felt the call. I just had to go. So I took that big leap. You know, it was scary at first I was like, “What have I done? This is crazy.” But I wanted to really crack the code on how do you do great coaching and also make money? Because people back then, the, the industry was so new.

Nobody knew what it was. When I left Hilton, they were saying, “What sport are you going to be coaching?” I was like, “No, no, no. I’m going to be a business coach, career coach.” So it wasn’t very easy to do it when nobody knew what it was. And so that part of it was kind of scary, but I had this goal, like, “I’m going to build a six figure business year one and accomplish that,” which is really rare.

But I took my business skills. You know, from, that I had from the hotel industry and, you know, figured out the math, how I was going to do that. Then I started attracting so much business that I built a cadre of coaches. So I brought in others that I could refer business to and take a piece of the profit on those.

And they were, you know, in special niche areas that were things that I didn’t really want to do the coaching anyway. So. That was kind of fun. And I liked working with teams, so I didn’t want to work all by myself. I wanted to build a team around me. So I did that for a decade.

There’s a lot that I want to unpack there cause there’s a lot of just great little nuggets in there, but I want you to, I wanted to ask you how, how do you go about growing a business when the market isn’t really even aware that the business needs to be there? You say there really weren’t coaches and they didn’t know that they needed it. So how did you start convincing people that this is really something that you could add value to?

Yeah, so you know that, I guess that’s one of the things that I’ve, I’m pretty good at the same thing happened with embassy suites.

I was the Director of Sales there and when we opened, nobody had ever heard of that brand before. You know, so it, why I’m always doing that? I don’t really know but, and coaching, the way I approached it was technology was pretty underway. You know, everybody had email now and that was something new, believe it or not, not that long ago.

And with, with technology, everything, the speed had gotten so fast that people couldn’t keep up with it. And so I went to the competition. I went to a Marriott franchisee, talked to the COO and said, “You know how you don’t have time to develop people anymore because you’re so busy dealing with all the things coming in at you? What I want to do is spend all of my time developing your senior leaders. And I come from your competition. And so you get me for this “X” retainer for a year and I’ll develop five liters at a time.”

That ended up being like a five or six year contract. And it later ended  up being a Tilt customer as well. But that worked. So, just helping them, you know, realize you’ve got something that you want to do and I’m going to zero in on, and specialize on developing your leaders and people don’t have so much time to do that anymore.

Trevor Schmidt: And so am I correct in understanding your initial focus then was kind of within that hospitality industry and then you expanded from there?

Pam Boney: At first, anchor customer was. And then after that, I went into many different industries, but mostly in science and technology.

Trevor Schmidt: I, I kind of wanted to go back to something you said as well. You said you were in a really good position, kind of in the corporate world, didn’t really have a good reason to leave other than you felt that this was a calling. How do you, how do you take that step? Or how did you convince yourself that? “Yes, I really need to make that leap.”

Pam Boney: Yes. So, you know, when I call it a “calling,” I cared very much about, “Am I the best leader I can be?” And I knew what it was like to work for leaders that weren’t so good in the early years. You know, so I had some examples of like, “Oh, that’s, I don’t want to be that,” you know, so I had started this research, collecting, I called it the “Virtues Project,” like collecting the vices that I didn’t like and the virtues that I did like in myself and in others. And that was, you know, today, I know that’s qualitative research that fed into the research that I, that I’ve done.

But, those early years, I think I was really, I really cared a lot about, you know, “How good are you at leading?” It’s such an important thing. And I think it became, well, there was also another little story.

Like, I ended up not getting a promotion that I wanted early on in my twenties and when I went to find out why I didn’t get that promotion when I had been like, the top salesperson in the year that year, my leader told me, “Well, your personality profile says you’re going to always be an individual contributor, and you’ll never be a leader. And you need to read about your personality and then you’ll understand why I didn’t give you the management role to lead your colleagues.” so I was like, “What? What do you mean?” You know, so how could my personality profile get me the job, but then prevent me from getting promoted.

So, I had a lot of, of passing around like that wasn’t fair. And I felt like, “I’m not, I’m so much more than what that personality profile was all about.” So I went back and read it and I, I made it my mission to make him wrong. You know, that he said, “You’ll never be a leader. Go read your profile.” I said, “That is, that cannot be right.”

So I studied all of the Myers-Briggs personality types in my twenties and I, as I read them all and studied them all, I realized like, there’s a part of me in all of them.

Trevor Schmidt: Mhm.

Pam Boney: So my idea that we’re not a type. That we actually have all of these types inside of us. And there’s a whole team of personalities inside of each of us.

That’s the passion that fueled the, the mission for me. And made me very convicted to put a different kind of personality assessment in the world that would help people be able to start with their personality type and their knowledge of themselves, but then expand way beyond it. So that’s, that’s fueled everything.

Trevor Schmidt: I was going to say, it’s fascinating how setbacks at a given time in your life can kind of fuel your future growth or where you ultimately ended up going.

Pam Boney: Absolutely.

Trevor Schmidt: And, and it’s a good reminder that, you know, what seems like a horrible setback at one point in time could be the jumpstart to something great.

Pam Boney: Yeah. The things that are the hardest or sometimes the things we remember the most.

Trevor Schmidt: So what were some of the, the early challenges for you at executive suite coach and kind of beyond just building this marketplace and growing and customers? What were some other challenges you faced?

Pam Boney: You know, so most of the challenges I faced were actually after starting Tilt, the tech startup. Because I’m kind of a non-technical, you know, not a software developer myself; and was doing research on a scientific project that takes years and years.

So up until that point though, my career in the hospitality industry was really easy and it seemed to come naturally and I rose very quickly and did very well. I was also, you know, young and full of energy. And the same thing with the coaching industry. Like, the first 10 years as a coach, like I really outdid all the numbers that most coaches would do.

And, so that was, that was easy. And coaching is still easy for me. So that’s kind of my sweet spot. Running a tech organization, you know,  like a tech startup, that’s where I’ve learned a lot. And when I say that, I mean, made lots of mistakes.

Trevor Schmidt: Exactly. That’s where the learning comes from, right?

Pam Boney: Yeah.

Trevor Schmidt: So, so tell us a little bit about what, what led to the pivot then from the coaching to Tilt 365?

Pam Boney: Yeah. So it was a common thread is, you know, that the science that I started Tilt on, started you know, 20 years earlier. So I had been collecting information and building and formulating this mental model of Tilt. And I went back to graduate school to do the scientific validation on the framework.

And so in 2009 I had just finished my graduate work. And the results were excellent from a scientific standpoint, the framework held up extremely nicely. And we showed a strong correlation between the measures of Tilt and teams that are creative, productive, and innovative. So, because the numbers were so good, it, it kind of compelled me to commercialize it.

Trevor Schmidt: Mhm.

Pam Boney: Up to that point, I had just taught  other coaches that were friends of mine how to use it to amp up their coaching, do really good coaching and had taught other coaches how to use it. But until then, I didn’t really, didn’t want to commercialize it for enterprise.

Trevor Schmidt: Mhm.

Pam Boney: So in 2009, that’s when I had enough scientific proof that this can work. Like the hypothesis was valid.

Trevor Schmidt: So maybe dig into that a little bit more. So what is it that Tilt does?

Pam Boney: So Tilt is a, is a visual framework that links personality to leadership and it’s based on 12 character strengths that if you develop all 12 of those character strengths, you can go way beyond personality. One of the things I say is you start with your personality, but it’s your character that defines your success or not; really shapes your destiny.

And my idea was that if you’re the kind of leader that has good well-rounded character in those, the, you know, it’s a positive psychology model, so it’s 12 character strengths, then you’re really building a culture with psychological safety and, and you must have that if you expect to be agile. And in the technology space, you have to be agile.

And what that means is that you have to be able to pivot quickly, you have to be able to be radically honest, you have to be able to handle radical honesty back. You have to be able to handle, you know, direct feedback and all of those things are built into the visual framework of Tilt.

So it helps people to quickly figure out, “This is where my strengths lie, this is where I fit the overall strategy.” And because it’s built for business, you remember it better and, and if you remember something better, you’re going to apply it better. Most personality assessments and, and leadership models are not very memorable. You know, they’re, they’re based on acronyms or–

Trevor Schmidt: Mhm.

Pam Boney: You know, things like that, that you can’t remember. Who you are, or what you are, or where you fit. So, I wanted to make it real and I wanted to make it simple enough on the surface so that people could recall it and use it. But under the surface, of course, you have to have really good science in order to support that.

Trevor Schmidt: And so what type of customers are you targeting or are there specific businesses or individuals that are kind of best suited for the services that Tilt offers?

Pam Boney: You know, really it’s for anyone, but we do niche ourselves. You know, we definitely are popular in tech, especially open source tech. Like red hat for example, was our earliest client and, and is still our biggest client today. So tech both like Microsoft, is a big client. Facebook in their early years was a very big client, but also science. So we’re really big in healthcare and science as well.

Trevor Schmidt: And so how do these businesses interact with you? Are you going in and training trainers? Are you going in and leading teams or, or just do you provide them with the materials and they kind of do, do things on their own?

Pam Boney: Yeah. So we provide assessments for growth and self knowledge. And in those 12 character strengths we were talking about, we go in and work with them strategically on culture. Mostly, we focus on teams and team leaders.  Our belief is that it’s hard to change culture, big culture,  it’s easy to change team climate.

All you have to do is change out the leader and the climate’s going to change within 90 days. So, climate and, and the team is where we focus. So, we have everything from startup teams to teams that are within big organizations. So, you know, really that’s where our focus is, is helping that, that team leader; providing a coach for them, we do workshops for them, and mostly provide assessments and certifications for them.

Trevor Schmidt: Okay. And you said a little bit ago that it was really, once you started to get into Tilt, that you started to run into some, some challenges. What were some of those challenges that you had to overcome?

Pam Boney: Yeah, so, you know, if I could do anything over again, I think I would trust myself more. Because in the early years, I, it feels like I kind of thought that other people might know more about how to go to market, how to do what we had to do more than, than I did. And what I would say is that that’s good, you know, to have advisors and have people helping you in their space. But, not to go wholesale with their idea about how you should do things.

Like, I think if I could go back, I know now today I look back and I was like, “I was right nine years ago, darn it.” Right? I should have trusted that more. Because I let us get distracted a couple of times with different strategies that other people thought we should do. And I think that cost us three or four years.

Trevor Schmidt: And in pursuing those strategies, was it just a different focus? Or was it a different way of kind of doing the character assessments? I mean, how did that kind of pull you in the wrong direction?

Pam Boney: Well, I guess too many times they would say, “This is the way that you’re gonna make it big or get it out there in the world.”

And, you know, none of those things ever really worked. And I think it, part of it might’ve been that a lot of the advice we were getting were people that were our age; that were boomers. And that saw the world from that boomer point of view. Not a bad thing, but you know, what we’ve realized is that we need to think like the consumer today. And so, there are four of us that were boomers on the team.

We tend to get reverse-mentoring from people that are working on our team that are in their twenties and thirties. We trust their expertise more than our own about how people want to consume things today. And I think I wanted to do that you know, years ago. We actually tried it before and came back to it again.

So that is the right strategy. And that, I think there are a lot of people in our, in our shoes that, you know, are kind of in their second career. Boomers, you know, have these great ideas for startups but I truly think that it’s hard for us to think like somebody who cut their teeth on technology.

Trevor Schmidt: Did you find that it was a big jump in working with teams kind of in the technology space compared to, you know, maybe in the services industry? Or are there enough, kind of overlap, between those that it was a pretty easy job?

Pam Boney: Well, because we are a tech startup, I learned from some experts how to build software. And, so I really thank the people who built our, our MVP in the early days. It was actually Relevance in Durham that built our first, first optimal release. And they actually taught me how to, how to do agile.

And actually that informed the Tilt framework. And we’ve actually, we actually realized that this idea, this framework that I had built actually produces the kind of climate you need for agile. So I do think agile is very special. The, the tech culture is really fast, really honest, really high responsibility. All the things that I thought were great culture in the hotel industry. So it just sharpened it up even more, I think.

Trevor Schmidt: Interesting. And so kind of, as you look back over what Tilt has done over these past number of years, what are some of the, the things that you’re most proud of?

Pam Boney: I would say I’m proud that I had the guts and the bravery to do this and get out here and take some chances. That’s not easy.

Sometimes I kid my clients, my coaching clients, you know, that are in big corporate world, I would say, you know, “Well, don’t underestimate the value of that big salary and those benefits, like, that’s pretty nice. Like, enjoy it while you can.” But I don’t miss it at all. Like if, you know, if surely, if I had stayed in that industry, I would have ridden the wave and  probably have a lot more money today than I do.

But it’s pretty awesome to have taken a chance. You know, stick it out through really hard times, really hard years, difficult mistakes, and then get up, dust off your knees, and keep going.

Trevor Schmidt: That kind of answers basically my next question. Because I was going to ask, you know, that some days, that security has got to look awfully, awfully tempting to kind of jump back into.

So how do you stay focused? How do you pick yourself up and dust yourself off and keep going with what seems frustrating or uncertain at the time?

Pam Boney: Well, I think, I think you can’t devote yourself to a person or a company or a, you know, something that is also changing. I think it’s really important to connect yourself with a mission. And the mission is really what gets you up the next day. It’s what makes you believe in a better world tomorrow, and that you have something to contribute to it. So, it’s being tenacious and passionate about your convictions I think that is the thing that, I would never go back to working for a big organization. I’ve never been tempted to do that in 20 years.

Trevor Schmidt: That’s fantastic. And would you say your, your, your mission or kind of your focus has shifted over time or has it been, you know, from the outset has stayed the same?

Pam Boney: I think it’s stayed the same consistently. It’s about building a culture where people can thrive. And if you’re really smart and you’ve worked in a culture like that, you never want to work in a dysfunctional culture again, or with a dysfunctional boss, or anything like that; politics. You really want to work with bright people who don’t get into “people drama” because that’s a waste of time. And indulging yourself with thoughts that create fear or produce unproductive interaction is kind of the thief of innovation.

So, you know, if we can reduce that in the world, even if it’s in a portion of the world, then I will feel like I’ve accomplished my legacy, and I also think that we have a lot of very complex problems that we have to solve in the world that were created by our generation and by the rapid pace of technology that we’ve gotten off track on you know, some important global issues.

And so, if we can help people who start startups produce ethical innovation, then that’s going to save us.

Trevor Schmidt: Mhm.

Pam Boney: But if we have innovation that is misused or is in the wrong hands from a leadership standpoint, that could be our demise. So it’s pretty big what we’re talking about here.

Trevor Schmidt: Absolutely. Well, and it, it kind of leads into, be cause you know, a lot of our listeners are, are going to either be current founders or people who are thinking about starting a,a business, you know, sometime in the future.

Pam Boney: Yeah.

Trevor Schmidt: And I know you work with a lot of companies to, to help them build their company cultures. Are there some things that a founder can really focus on early on in the process to set up their company culture to have that ethical vision like you talked about? How dothey start that process or even think about it really?

Pam Boney: Yeah. So, the most crucial element is having a mission that actually is going to make the world better in some way. And having a really strong conviction for that. Because you’re going to need that in order to get through everything that you’re going to mess up. And so that’s number one.  But I would say it’s, early on, it’s really important to get self knowledge.

To know what is going to trigger you and what is going to create for example, bad partnerships.  It’s a person not having strong, internal self-respect and self-esteem, that creates the opportunity for, for people drama. So I would say, get to know who are you? Learn that it’s your character, not your personality that’s going to make the difference and help you go the long haul to victory and success.

And that if you don’t invest in that every single day, then you’re, you’re going to create a culture that’s dysfunctional. And you need to invest in everybody else knowing that too. So you know, a lot of, a lot of startups will say, “We’re going to create our values.” And the values can get you only so far, but sometimes values are not very sustainable.

Trevor Schmidt: Mhm.

Pam Boney: So, I think it’s the combination of figuring out who you are, your conviction, your mission, your competitive differentiation, and your learning about yourself that’s going to make the difference.

Trevor Schmidt: So, it seems to me at least, that some of what’s implicit in what you’re talking about is that individuals or teams can really change. So if I, if I get to know myself and I realized that I am an insecure person and I have these things that are contributing to kind of a bad environment, that’s something that’s, that’s not set in stone, but something that can actually change. So, I guess are there certain ways that people can work to change and improve those character traits?

Pam Boney: Yes. And that’s what we do. So, and it’s, it took me 30 years of research to find this sweet spot. So that’s exactly what we teach and it’s not that hard. For example, I’m working with one team and we did, you know, three two hour online workshops with a senior team this month. And they’re like, “Wow, I wish somebody had taught me that years ago.”

You know? So they’re really is something very special about what we teach and it’s the source of all conflict. And it took me a lot of years to find that, that thing. And so, what I’ve done is make it simple for people to learn and quickly apply.

Trevor Schmidt: And that works for both individuals and teams across the board? Or does it really come down to that, that team leader making a change and then that trickles down to their team?

Pam Boney: The team leader is responsible for the culture.

Trevor Schmidt: Mhm.

Pam Boney:  So if the team leader can conduct themselves as a great example,  and can, you know, nobody’s perfect, right? We also have to be able to self-correct. You know, being perfect is not fun. So we need to be, you know, educating the leader and providing coaching to the leader so they have a safe place to talk about these things. But they also are the ones who shape the behaviors that are okay and not okay within the culture. And that’s what’s going to either produce that culture where each of those individuals is going to be highly productive and generative, or not.

Trevor Schmidt: Right. So, what are some of the challenges in maintaining a company culture as it grows from maybe three closely knit founders to, you know, a team of fifty, a team of a hundred, a team of a thousand, how do you, how do you maintain that company culture that you so diligently set in the early days of your business?

Pam Boney: Yeah, so that’s all dependent on that first culture, I think. And you can look at a company that’s really gotten big. Like, you know, we did a lot of work with Facebook at the beginning, and Red Hat at the beginning and the culture of the company still has the personality of the founders.

Trevor Schmidt: Mhm.

Pam Boney: It lives on, you know, without them. So that fundamental personality is still there, but how do you shape the healthy interactions under that? And so as it grows, of course there’s greater risk for dysfunction because the more people you have in war, there’s the possibility that you’re going to bring somebody in, who triggers a lot of drama.

Trevor Schmidt: Mhm.

Pam Boney: So I think it’s hiring practices. We’re currently developing a new selection tool that measures exactly those 12 character strengths. So we always say like, “Hire for character and then the personality second.” You know, don’t profile on personality first. It’s really more crucial how they’re going to show up and, you know, be this person that is really solid from the inside out.

So we’re, we’re continuing to build new assessments that help select and develop and retain the top talent that are going to thrive in a culture where they love to work.

Trevor Schmidt:  Can you talk about that distinction a little bit for me? Between characters and personality or character and personality? Because I know you’ve mentioned it a couple of times.

Pam Boney: Yeah. So personality is the innate set of traits that you’re born with, that you inherited, you know, from your DNA and do you have any children?

Trevor Schmidt: Three kids.

Pam Boney: All right. So you have three kids that you know, like you can see their personality, like week one, right? Like, it’s there. So we all start with that. And some of us, you know, come from many years of being safe, you know? And being calm, like that’s what works for them. And then others come into the world like, you know, a bull in a china shop. And so we all kind of have this first DNA that we’re, you know, we inherit that is the personality. But of course , as parents, our job is to teach our kids to have character, you know, like delayed gratification and being patient and whatever it is that each kid needs. And they’re all different. You have three kids, they’re probably very different from each other.

Trevor Schmidt: They’re all different for sure.

Pam Boney: So it’s key to figure out what’s the personality and what is the balancing set of development traits for that specific personality? And we’ve grouped them into four main buckets of characteristics and a specific development that helps them not overuse their strengths too much and balances it out. And I think nature does this for us anyway. Like, you know, how many people have you asked, you know, who you’re married to or who your best friend is? They’re always the exact opposite of you.

Trevor Schmidt: Right.

Pam Boney: And, you know, that’s nature’s way of helping us kind of complete our development path. So that’s what we’ve based it on is, let’s accelerate the way nature already does it. So that’s, that’s what we do. And character is choosing and being conscious about your behavior and taking the responsibility that I’ll always be developing myself and I’ll always be caring how, what my impact is on other people. Whereas people with personalities sometimes without character would say, “I am who I am so deal with it.”

Trevor Schmidt: Right.

Pam Boney: That’s the difference.

Trevor Schmidt: So do you have a side business in helping parents as well?

Pam Boney: You know, we get that all the time. Yes.

Trevor Schmidt: Or now, just a little parenting book. It’d be a little side gig. I appreciate it.

Pam Boney: Yeah, pretty much like, you know, that’s where all of our first experience of systems, family systems, is the family of origin. So the way we think about that, and what worked in our family is what we take into the work team.

Trevor Schmidt: Mhm.

Pam Boney: So it comes up a lot in our training.

Trevor Schmidt: Now, are there typical kind of company culture issues that you see repeated across a large majority of startups? Or is every business kind of unique as a different child? I guess.

Pam Boney: They’re all different and they’re all based on the personality of the founder, usually. So you, you will find, you know, one company that’s conflict averse. And it’s because the founder is. You know, like they can’t really say it straight. You know, like they give you feedback, but it’s kind of all wrapped up in pretty paper and a bow.

And so you don’t really know you got feedback. So nobody really listens to it. And then, you know, your conflict aversion and the overuse of that becomes a problem. So, there are four main pattern: stagnation is one, chaos is one, conflict aversion is one, and then kind of your dictator, dominant culture is one. You know, that’s results first and the heck with people.

So all four of those are on the Tilt framework. And, you know, so we, because each founder has  their preference, they usually shape the culture to be just like them. So, what we do is help them balance their strengths, and by developing some strength in the opposite quadrant or the opposite set of strengths, just like nature does, and this helps them to not overdo it at the expense of the culture.

Trevor Schmidt: So it sounds like it’s really important to get those founder teams right. And make sure you have the right partners early on.

Pam Boney: Yeah. Yeah. We, there’s a quote. We always say that, “The only ship that doesn’t sail is a partnership.” You have to be careful, like, who you partner with and you know, be very intentional about that and make sure that you’re partnering with somebody who has that good well-rounded character. And everything will be great. All relationships are that way.

Trevor Schmidt: Yeah, for sure. So you mentioned it earlier about how difficult it is to kind of change an entire company’s culture and that you focus more on kind of teams, but I guess that maybe answers my own question, but I was going to say, what are some signs that a company culture needs to change? And then how do you go about making that big shift? You know, I’m five, seven years into my business, I know something is wrong. How do I go about changing that?

Pam Boney: Yeah. Yeah. And you know, the stages of growth are an important thing. You know, we, we call it,  “intentional tilting.” There’s a certain set of patterns that should be happening of various growth stages.

Like in a growth stage, you want to be acquiring talent quickly and bringing them on board quickly and getting them oriented to the way the culture is quickly. Whereas when you mature into a big, huge organization, you know, it’s more about stability and you know, having internal startup teams that kind of keep you innovating.

Every single situation is slightly different. But how do you know when they, when you need some help? I would say that’s when some counterproductive behaviors are happening and everybody knows it. For example, what I said earlier, the conflict aversion. Like, we know in our company you know, we’re huge, but we know that everybody here is afraid to directly give feedback to someone else.

You know, so it kind of, they call it “political.” Or we keep changing, changing, changing gears. And so our, you know, we’ve got a lot of chaos and we’re not very stable, so there’s a lot of fear happening all the time. So the one common theme that’s always an indicator of the problem is that there are behaviors that are kind of silently underpinned by “ego fear.”

And ego fear comes in the form of, you know, fear of loss of power, fear of loss of status, fear of loss of relationship, and fear of loss of recognition. So those four things are, are usually present when you need help.

Trevor Schmidt: That’s super helpful. And I know for our listeners, they’re going to appreciate that advice as well. And I think it’s also encouraging to know that it’s something that can be changed. Again, that this is not, it’s not that the death and all of your business, you just need to make that shift. And this is how, how you go about it.

Pam Boney: The hard part is making yourself aware of it.

Trevor Schmidt: Mhm.

Pam Boney: You know? So the only, you know, most people that start startups are wicked smart, so they’re really intelligent, but, but they don’t spend their life trying to find the answer to this like I did. So, the fact that I tried to find the answer to people drama and why people don’t work well together and how we get counterproductive and how that steals all of our energy, if I can just spend one month teaching a team that, like, they’re off and running forever. They have the formula.

Trevor Schmidt: Right. So, you know, in our current climate with the pandemic and COVID-19, it’s created a number of different challenges for businesses across the economy. How, how has it impacted Tilt and the way you do your business?

Pam Boney: Yeah, so, well, the one thing it didn’t impact is we are virtual and we’ve been virtual for seven years, so that was easy. But of course, from a financial impact, our top technology revenue stream, which is our passive revenue that we make money while we sleep, that went a drop of 80% from February to March.

Trevor Schmidt: Wow.

Pam Boney: That’s huge. So big impact, you know, nothing you could have predicted just like for everyone. So we had to kind of figure out how to get creative. We know that people are very resilient and that we know a lot about brain plasticity and how, when something like this happens, everybody’s fears are shaken up for a short period of time. But we knew within four to six months that people would adapt.

And once they calm down, they’ll start thinking about developing their teams again. So, we just kind of hunkered down. We tried to practice what we preach and keep our heads about us and stay internally strong. And we got organized and did our very best to shift from selling to serving.

Trevor Schmidt: Mhm.

Pam Boney: So, we took a lot of coaching clients to make up the difference, which is a service revenue, which is harder to deliver, but we felt like that’s what the world needed. So, we spent a lot of time connecting with all of our customers and how do we help keep them calm during the storm and help them to adapt more quickly.

So we just busied ourself doing that, and getting organized and actually being creative about how’s the world going to change in terms of people development, and how can we take a couple of all of our workshops and compress them down to shorter online experiences. So, we’re delivering those now. So we’re recovering, you know, like, we’re doing much better. But, we didn’t miss too much of a beat. You know, we, we were a little worried for about a month.

Trevor Schmidt: Right.

Pam Boney: And then we started of course, getting worried about all of our friends and hospitality and calling and supporting them because that industry has been devastated and you know, it’s an industry that I was familiar with. So.

Trevor Schmidt: Yep. Absolutely. So what is some advice that you’ve been sharing with your clients and customers who maybe for the first time find themselves in remote environments and cutoff from their colleagues? I mean, when you talk about company culture, how do you maintain that when you don’t see your company anymore, you don’t see your colleagues anymore?

Pam Boney: Yeah. You know, so I would encourage them by saying we’ve been remote for seven years and we would never go back because we’re so much more productive. But we’ve figured out how to connect with each other in different ways.

So of course we use Slack. So we interact on that all the time. We use Zoom which is really, you know, like we’re doing today. And, so we have a really great way of working with each other and we just, we’re so productive. We have no commute time. We, you know, quickly, back and forth shift between work and personal work and personal.

We all trust each other. We are all self-initiating and highly responsible individuals on our team. You know, so we’re highly productive this way. And because of that, like, we try to help other people who are used to working in a physical environment with each other and tell them all of the positives.

It’s just, the reason that they’ve been kind of freaking out is because it’s not the norm, and their brain is moved into a controlled state instead of an automated state. And whenever you’re learning something new, you’re not going to be as good at it. It feels awkward. But eventually once you learn it, it’s easy.

So, we hope and really have our fingers crossed that big companies that are actually not very friendly about working remotely, are the ones that are going to realize that actually there’s some real positives to this. Because we’ve seen a lot of big organizations that kind of had old-school thinking about it.

And immediately we’re thinking, “Well, how do we trust anybody to work?” They’re not believing in the best of what is human, you know, when they say things like that. And so, you know, just hire great people who wouldn’t slough off, right? Like, hire the right people and don’t worry about it.

Trevor Schmidt: I was going to say, I heard that in your comments. You know, we hired intentional, mature people who are going to be self-motivated whether or not they’re remote. It seems to beg the question, “If I’m really worried about the people who are working remotely, maybe I didn’t hire right in the first place.”

Pam Boney: Absolutely. And let me say this too. Our last two hires are both in their twenties and probably some of the best talent we’ve ever hired and they found us wanting a remote role.

So, the fact that we had advertised a role where we work as a distributed remote team was one of their points of seeking a job. You know, that, that was important. And they have both been tremendous additions to our team. And they’ve been with us all year through this. So, yeah, I think it’s an advantage.

Trevor Schmidt: So what do you see as kind of the big shift coming up? Do you see this, kind of remote work, living on beyond our current quarantine or?

Pam Boney: Well, I think we’d be wise to prepare to work this way for a long time. I do coach a lot in the science field, so I know a lot about what’s happening in the science end of this.

So this won’t be the last time that we’re facing this sort of thing. Many people predicted this would happen. So, I think what’s probably gonna happen is we’re going to figure out how to blend it. We’re all going to appreciate being together more, I think, when we’re able to one day.

But it’s probably permanent that we kind of see germs everywhere we look now. You know, so I think that’s going to be indelibly marked in our thinking as we interact, you know. I don’t know, the handshake might turn to “Live long and prosper,” you know?

Trevor Schmidt: Exactly.

Pam Boney: Something like that. But I hope it’s actually forced many companies to kind of realize that there are great advantages to working this way and many savings as well.

Trevor Schmidt: Yeah. I mean, I do see a lot of the advantages in that and I hear you talk about them too. Do you see anything? That is a downside that people will have to kind of consciously address.

Pam Boney: Yeah. I think that what we miss is the three or four times a year that where we get together at our startup accelerator where we go whiteboard together and strategy. Then we’d go to lunch and, you know, we go to dinner and, you know, there’s lots of conversation about where do we go next? And, you know, so I think team building, the planning, the strategy is easier to do when you’re together and have a visual whiteboard in front of you. So I think we will miss that if we can’t go back and do that.

But we’re figuring out how to do white boarding and, and figuring out how to do card sorts and all these different experiences that we do with teams. We have figured out how to do it online.  And they’re kind of having fun with it. So, I think also another thing that’ll change permanently is that were all kind of equal now. You know?

Like, the people who had the biggest struggles are the ones going into the big office and they’re like important and like, “Oh my gosh, like now I’m just like everybody else. And I have my dog and the barking and my kids are doing their homework and I need to help.” And, you know, it’s kind of been a very big equalizer for us.

Trevor Schmidt: Yeah, that’s an interesting point because even what you just mentioned, but also kind of almost on a geographic level. All of a sudden we have, it doesn’t matter where you’re at. We can all do the same work. We can all collaborate together and we can all just–

Pam Boney: Yep.

Trevor Schmidt: –Whether I’m next door to you or across the country from you, we’re still on the Zoom call, so.

Pam Boney: Yeah. And we can kind of be imperfect now. You know? Like we don’t have to be like, “Put on that dress shirt.” It’s okay that a kid comes running in the room. We don’t have to be embarrassed about that. It’s kind of made us all a little more playful and–

Trevor Schmidt: Yep.

Pam Boney: –Humorous and I think that there’ve been some good things about that.

Trevor Schmidt: I certainly hope that that aspect of it survives kind of beyond, I would definitely like to see that. So, you know, we are the Founder Shares podcast, and I always like to ask our guests, if, you know, if there’s one piece of advice or a couple of pieces of advice that you would like to share with our listeners, what would it be?

Pam Boney: Probably the most important thing I could say to other founders would be make sure that you have very strong convictions about what it is that you’re doing, a very important mission that’s going to carry you through, and make sure that everybody that you hire has very strong convictions to that same mission.

Because you’re gonna need it. It’s the thing that gives you hope about a better world. Make sure that it’s sustainable and scalable and all of those good things or it’s not going to be worth it. And don’t get attracted to the money aspect of it because that can be kind of an insatiable thing  you know, never gets realized. Like you, you’ve got to believe in what you’re doing and that it matters. And I would say, be careful who comes in your world too, that they really do reflect and are an example of what it is that you’re trying to bring to the world.

Trevor Schmidt: That’s great. And, and so what’s next for Tilt? Where do you see the next five years going for Tilt?

Pam Boney: You know, we’re just going to keep having fun. I love my team, you know, we had to really work hard to keep everybody employed this year, made some sacrifices, and it’s a great team. We’re definitely going to stay together. We’re definitely, you know, going after this.

We’re shifting to a subscription model next year, which is really fun and different for us from the model that we’ve had in the past. So it’s time for us to do that. And we kind of feel like that the time is that people are very divided and polarized and our model is all about coming together and appreciating the differences in each other.

So we kind of feel like the, the whole thing is an integration of those different polarities and was, so we almost feel like the future is actually the time that we were made for. So, our future is now.   And we really want to help make that better in the world.

Trevor Schmidt: I was going to say, if you can do anything to reduce the polarity in the, in the world and the country right now, I mean more power to you because I’d love to see it.

Pam Boney: Yeah. That’s, that’s what the Tilt model is about. It’s about integrative and understanding polarities and “both/and,” instead of “either/or.”

Trevor Schmidt: Yeah, well, we need it. So we need to come together a little bit more.

Pam Boney: Yeah, definitely.

Trevor Schmidt: So Pam, it sounds like there’s a lot of great things that you could offer. You know, some of the startups that are listening or people who are running other businesses, is there a way for people to get in touch with you? Or what’s the best way for people to, to contact you if they want to learn more about Tilt?

Pam Boney: Yes, you can write to me, pam@tilt365.com, or you can write to sam@tilt365.com. And we’re actually cooking up a free version of the subscription model for our fellows startup founders so that they get this right from the very beginning and don’t have to pay for it at the beginning. We want to grow with them. So, that’s one of the things that we’re thinking of right now.

Trevor Schmidt: Well, that’s great. I hope a lot of people reach out to you, Pam. I thank you so much for your time. I’ve really enjoyed our conversation and thanks for all you’re doing.

Pam Boney: Thank you so much, Trevor. It’s been a pleasure working with you over the years.

Trevor Schmidt: Well, likewise. I appreciate it. That was Pam Boney, CEO of Tilt 365. And if you want to know more about why companies such as the Miami Heat, Facebook, Microsoft, Red Hat, and Clif Bar choose Tilt, head on over to Tilt365.com You can start by visiting hutchlaw.com. We have the capacity to help you out with just about any legal need your company may be facing, and we are passionate about the innovation economy and ready to support you on your entrepreneurial journey.

This show was edited and produced by Earfluence.

I’m Trevor Schmidt, and we’ll talk to you next time on the Founder Shares podcast!

Full Episode Transcript

Hosted by Trevor Schmidt, Founder Shares is brought to you by Hutchison PLLC, and is edited and produced by Earfluence.

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