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The Key to Company Culture, with Vidya Dinamani, Benji Koltai and Jerome Bonhomme

By July 31, 2019 No Comments

Audio Version

What is the key to company culture? Here to weigh in are three guests: Vidya Dinamani, Benji Koltai and Jerome Bonhomme. Vidya founded Product Rebels and AdAstra, Benji is the Co-Founder & CTO of  Galley Solutions, and Jerome is the CTO of American Specialty Health.

In addition to the topic of the key to company culture, we also talk about how to maintain a company culture in large and small companies alike. Also on today’s CTO Studio, we talk about restaurants and food supply.

Join us to hear those topics and more on the 65th editiono of CTO Studio.

In this episode, you’ll hear:

  • What has the term “cultural fit” become a catch-all for? (5:30)
  • How do you keep your culture consistent as you grow? (21:40)
  • What are the back house operations and how is Galley helping this part of a restaurant? (25:30)
  • Why having clear values for your company matters to your culture. (34:15)
  • What is the “now, later, and future” concept? (44:10)
  • And so much more!

We begin our episode with a discussion on what it takes to create more female leaders in the tech industry, which segues into a talk about culture as a whole within organizations.

Benji says the key to maintaining the right company culture is not hiring the right people – but firing the right people, and firing them quick enough. Because when someone applies for a job the employer chooses the requirements, but what if they chose the wrong ones? 

When he is hiring for people it isn’t so much about whether or not the person fulfills the majority of the job requirements, it’s about who they are as a person and what is their mindset. Do they have a growth mindset or a craftsman mindset? How do they approach problem solving? 

Those questions and their answers go much deeper than a typical interview, and he is willing to take chances on people who he may not necessarily otherwise all based on their answers.

Vidya chimes in with a story about a CEO she knows who tried to rebuild his culture. Now he has a great question he always asks people if they are lucky. That question is so powerful because it speaks to the person’s mindset and how they view the world.

If someone is optimistic about the world and themselves, and they feel lucky it will be apparent in how they answer the question. They’ll talk about the great things that have happened for them in their lives versus people who don’t feel lucky and see life as happening to them rather than for them. She thinks those kinds of questions help to understand who the person is we are hiring. Those questions help us find the right type of person and help us create the right kind of team.

Jerome says they are in the same mindset, despite being a 30-year old company.

They tend to recruit engineers that are younger in terms of their career, and perhaps less qualified for a few reasons. The first reason is they are looking for character: is the person hungry? Are they humble? Are they capable? 

They also know they can make up for years of experience with additional training, it is harder to find more senior people with the exact skill set they want. Instead, they find it easier to hire people with less experience and train them with the hard skills they want them to have. 

As a result, their engineer population has become more diverse. They have more females and people from all walks of life – all because their requirements are a bit different.

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From there, I ask Jerome to tell us more about his company: American Speciality Health.

They are a 30-year old company that started in the 1980s. The original intent being there are gentler ways to take care of your health aside from getting prescriptions and surgery from your doctor, things like physical therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic.

But those services are rarely if ever covered by insurance – and American Specialty Health became the first company to provide these to the American public. Today they cover about 15 different specialities through large health plans (like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Kaiser, Cigna, etc.).

But they have also evolved to cover things to encourage employees and their families to be healthier: exercise more, quit smoking, eat better, reduce and manage stress, eat better, lose weight, etc. That is where they spend most of their time now offering and managing these different specialities for their clients and their clients’ employees and families. 

As the CTO, his job is to scale the quality of relationship without one on one interactions. Instead of interacting with a coach or doctor, they are developing solutions where their members can interact with apps and devices. Those apps and devices are being designed to capture meaningful information and use that to provide personal and relevant recommendations for the client’s health.

I asked if he could clarify the relationship between his company, the insurance company and the service provider. His company’s solutions augment the insurance company programs that they then sell to an employer. So his company can be the differentiator between one health plan and another one because they provide free access to fitness centers (and rewards if the employees do go to those centers and use the facilities).

Also on today’s show, we talk about the importance of values, getting clear about why you’re hiring and firing people, and why our job as leaders is to ask interesting questions. It’s all here and much more on this edition of CTO Studio.

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