One-on-one with WorkBoard’s CEO
Deidre Paknad opens up about the ever-changing role of the CEO, key metrics, and more
WorkBoard has gone through explosive growth, tripling headcount in the last two years. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned harnessing and managing that kind of business growth in the middle of the pandemic?
I’ve found that two things made the most difference: The first is being very intentional in how we welcomed and enabled people to contribute to the mission; you can’t over-architect it...you can only come up short. The other is being authentic as a person first and leader second. That goes a very long way to building connections over distance; the pandemic is too long to keep up an inauthentic or disaffected style.
As a founder and CEO, how has your role changed, and what was hardest about making that change?
As we entered the next stage of the company, I shared what the next "version" of my role was at our annual kickoff meeting including how my time allocations would change, and what at this stage I would stop, start or keep doing. It’s answering different questions and solving different problems at each stage, and making sure I’m focused on true CEO questions and problems (not what the head of product or marketing or their teams can do well). Thinking through the next version of you in your job is cathartic actually. It's a great way to start the year.
What is hardest about each of these transitions on the journey is ensuring the things that bring you joy stay in your mix (for me it’s customer conversations) and that you’re clear and intentional on the places where you will remain engaged or your buy-in is needed. Your involvement can’t be hit and run or random as you get larger; the team has to know where and how you will participate so they can predict, prepare, and benefit from it.
What are the key metrics that you found useful to benchmark WorkBoard, and how have they had to evolve as the company grew?
Net dollar retention [the change in annual recurring revenue] has been our headlight metric for five years, even when it wasn’t quite so trendy. While it was well over 250% for a couple years, it’s 155% now. NDR is such a great single indicator of the value we create, the relationships, and the market itself. What has evolved a lot are the scope, breadth, and granularity of productivity and predictability measures in each function as we’ve added scale to allow us to get the best, earliest signals on growth and market share as teams get larger.
WorkBoard provides a solution to define, align, and measure the results that matter most in a given quarter for a given team. So naturally we have strong results rituals as we aim for our best possible outcomes each quarter, not our “safe” targets. On Mondays we calibrate by focusing on the results that need attention, and on Fridays we celebrate wins. We also have an “OKR Week” where every functional team shares the victories and challenges of the prior quarter and the objectives and results they’re pursuing in the current quarter. We allocate two days at the beginning of each quarter to ensure that during the remaining 89 days our 400 people are well equipped to make smart, fast decisions. And individual teams determine for themselves what needles to move and how far in a given quarter, based on company objectives and their local situation. Everyone can see every team’s measures of success. Purposeful improvement by every team every quarter is super powerful.