Our guest in this 29th interview episode with a unicorn start-up leader is the CEO of Mollie, Shane Happach.
Founded in 2004, Mollie makes it easier for small businesses and start-ups across Europe when it comes to connecting payment systems, banks and other providers of payment services. As one of Europe’s fastest-growing payment service providers, Mollie reached unicorn status in September 2020 and is now valued at $6.5 billion.
Shane Happach started his leadership journey in a quite un-entrepreneurial way, as he likes to point out. He joined as an early employee for Global Collect when the company only had 35 workers. By the time he left, the business had a staff of 500 people. When he arrived at Mollie, the job wasn’t about optimising, but rather building the business from top to bottom.
Unlike other successful startups where the CEO is also one of the founders, Shane came to Mollie after the company was already established as a unicorn. He had to find a way to complement with his skills the work that the founder and the rest of the leadership team had done for the company. Now both work efficiently to leverage each other’s expectation, having in their best interests the growth of the company. With Mollie being one of the most valuable start-ups in Europe, Shane says that this is a huge validation of their business model, but it is not the top measure of success that they look at. Happach has big plans for Mollie, he wants to expand their financial services and fit their product into the Western Europe market, and finally go pan-European. But ultimately, he says: “We don’t see any reason why this couldn’t be a global category business as well.”
There is not a book that can teach you as much as experience does. Happach mentions that a lot of what he has learned comes from making mistakes and figuring out what you don’t want to become and how you don’t want to lead. For him, most of the achievements feel like team accomplishments, rather than taking and giving individual credit. Living in different countries allowed him to draw on from the American leadership style, Dutch style and even Latin American style: “I would say I’m a mutt, but only the best of breed.”
Understanding the complexity of their product as a payment service provider is key to getting it right for their clients, says Happach. There is no merit in pronouncing yourself as an expert and closing your mind to new ideas. “It’s finding people that are really good at that and are willing to work at it incessantly in spite of personality differences, cultural differences, geographic and time zone differences that’s always, I think, every leader’s greatest challenge”, he points out.
“Be bold, be loved, be authentic” are Mollie’s values. Shane Happach says that the company wants to make sure people can express themselves in their work environment and feel there are opportunities to progress. The fact that the industry has developed over time does not mean that there will not continue to be disruptive developments, even if they have not yet occurred. “And those are likely to come from companies that allow people that kind of intellectual freedom”, says Mollie’s CEO.
Shane says that to successfully communicate your views you have to respect that people consume information differently and you also need to make the leadership team more approachable. You will find Happach walking around the hallways at Mollie and having a casual coffee with workers. He explains that he’s not hard to find because “there’s one coffee machine that serves at least 150 people”, and he drinks a lot of coffee.
The interview, as usual, was co-hosted with Russell Goldsmith of the csuite podcast.
We have distilled the most valuable, actionable insights from our first 15 interviews with leaders of unicorn companies and bottled them in our book ‘Growing without borders: The unicorn CEO guide to communication and culture’. You can download it here.
Russ: [00:00:01] Thanks for downloading the 29th in our series of episodes of the csuite podcast that we are recording in partnership with the European PR Agency,Tyto and their own Without Borders podcast, where we are interviewing leaders of unicorn companies to find out about the key issues, pain points and challenges that start-ups face and how they can address them with a strategic approach to marketing and communications. My name is Russell Goldsmith. My co-host for this episode is Tyto’s Senior Partner, Holly Justice. And today we are thrilled to be joined online from Amsterdam by Shane Happach, CEO of Mollie, one of Europe’s fastest growing payment service providers. Founded in 2004, the company reached unicorn status in September 2020 and is now valued at $6.5 billion dollars. Welcome to the show, Shane. Can we start by you giving us a bit of background to the company and also just talk us through the area of business that you are seeking to disrupt?
Shane: [00:00:54] Sure. So, Mollie is the payment service provider, as you mentioned already? So the genesis of the company was to focus on making it easier for at the time start up and very small businesses in the Dutch market to connect to payment systems, banks and other providers of payment services. At the time that was incredibly cumbersome and now it’s merely very cumbersome for most. So, the company grew organically by word of mouth for a long period of time. And really, I always tell people that it’s sort of a company of two halves. The first half was the bootstrapped founder led version where it was reinvesting its own capital, and the second half where the growth got turbocharged was through taking an outside investment, which is very common in tech and in the fintech space, which only happens late 2018 or early 2019. So over that time, the product suite has expanded, the geography has expanded from just the Netherlands, first to Belgium, then to Germany, France and ultimately the UK. And successive funding rounds of investment rounds have allowed us to continue to invest, to grow the business in many different areas and predominantly product and engineering, but also in sales, marketing, and other aspects of being a little bit more visible in the market over the course of the last few years. As far as which industry really is seeking to disrupt, I think in general, online payments is still a maturing sector. It’s not what I would call a fully mature sector. There are a number of different players doing what we do. But still for our segment, which is predominantly small business, it becomes easier and easier for smaller companies to get access to more enterprise grade services. And that can only happen through companies like us really forcing the market open from what was traditionally a stronghold of banks and other more legacy tech players.
Hollie: [00:02:38] And Shane, could you tell us a little bit about your career history and how you came to be a company leader and maybe touch on your entrepreneurial journey?
Shane: [00:02:46] Sure. I just started my career in quite an un-entrepreneurial way. I went into investment banking out of university, and I did a few years for corporate finance for a larger organization, but I never really found that satisfying, wanted to have a higher impact job. So, I’ve been in payments now for 17 years. The first company I joined was even earlier stage than Mollie where it is when I joined this business. I joined a Dutch business actually called Global Collect, although I joined in the US market when that company was around 35 people total. So again, early employee, not a founding member of the founding team, but the entrepreneurial journey I went through with that company from 35 to 500 people I found really satisfying. And I also then went from there to a more mature company but was being taken out of a bank by private equity firm. So, a different kind of entrepreneurial journey, sort of shedding bank DNA and running as a stand-alone business. And that company went from a 1000 people to 58,000 by the time I left through a combination of organic growth, but also some heavy M&A activities along the way. And then I think coming back to Mollie, for me it was about getting closer to those scale up roots where every day brings a new challenge, but also you’re building things versus really optimizing what’s already there.
Hollie: [00:04:02] And now is probably quite a good point to bring up actually, Shane. But pretty much every interview that we’ve recorded in this series so far has been with the founder of the company that’s also the CEO. And now you were brought in as a CEO after Mollie established itself as a unicorn. So, it would be interesting to know how that relationship works with Mollie’s founder. Does it create different challenges to the role of a CEO that maybe we haven’t touched upon before with previous guests?
Shane: [00:04:31] I mean, it’s a good question. Obviously, I was a divisional CEO before this. So, this is my first true top job. So, I can’t comment on what that might be like compared to what I’ve done previously. I mean, I can say that it’s not uncommon for the founder’s role in any company to evolve over time. Even if they’re still in the position of CEO, they tend to be surrounded by people with different skills in different areas. So, most people don’t know, I was predated by another CEO. So, I didn’t succeed the founder directly. There was somebody in between him and me for a fair number of years actually. So that’s sort of interaction between founder in the organization and the company’s CEO was already sort of reasonably established by the time I came. Our founder in our case is still the majority shareholder of the business. So, he has a very big voice obviously, but I think we complement each other well. My career was largely in enterprise commercial functions, so account management, building sales teams, building sales process, etc. Whereas I think Adriaan’s career started in engineering, product and marketing. So, I think these are good complementary skill sets and we work together well to leverage each other’s expectation. Of course, our interests are aligned and I think both of us want the company to grow. He’s not gone on to found a competitor, where we’re at odds with one another. So, in that sense, it’s not something I try to overthink.
Russ: [00:05:51] I mentioned in the intro the company is now valued at $6.5 billion. That’s the result of your most recent funding, which was $800 million. So that actually makes you one of the most valuable start-ups in Europe. What we’re keen to look at is where the focus now is for the next 12 months. And where’s that investment going to be used for Mollie.
Shane: [00:06:10] I guess I’d start by saying private company valuations are not something that we obsess over. It’s a huge validation of the business model and hopefully of the team and what the team is trying to achieve. But it’s not the primary measure of success that we look at. I think ultimately in the long run, of course, you want to create equity value for shareholders, but really the mission of the company was to become a complete player for SMBs online and then potentially ultimately also offline and to expand into other financial services and to try to take the product market fit in Western Europe and really first go pan-European. But ultimately, we don’t see any reason why this couldn’t be a global category business as well. And there are other category players in our space that have managed to become global. So, I think for us the investment capital is first and foremost in the product, but also in things that underpin the product. Running a payments business at high scale in this environment also involves constantly upgrading cybersecurity and other tech, constantly refreshing and modernizing the technology estate, and then ultimately becoming a distribution arm as widely as we possibly can through partners, through marketing activities and other. And those are quite capital intensive, which is good for us because I think it means that not every company can just spin up a Mollie competitor overnight.
Hollie: [00:07:31] And just coming back to the topic of leadership again for a moment, are there any individuals that have had a huge impact in your development as a leader? And if so, can you talk to us a bit about them and why they had such a big impact on you?
Shane: [00:07:46] I don’t think it’s one unique person. I think I’ve been very lucky to have been in a space that has gotten progressively more attractive and interesting to outside investor journalists, etc. I think when I started in payments, people still ask me if I was working in debt collection or if I worked for PayPal. So, I just think in general the business has become a lot more mainstream. And along the way I’ve been super privileged to work with other great teammates, interesting leaders of businesses, interesting investors, and also interesting customers. I think, as I said, the genesis of my career and trying to learn the payments business wasn’t trying to satisfy the needs of super well resourced, very sophisticated enterprise clients online. And I think that that taught me a lot. I think I’ve developed a ton of respect for the Google business, the Netflix business, and how those companies consume and work with payments and payment providers has really taught me what the standard needs to look like. And then, of course, in this job, my mission is to make that standard more accessible for smaller companies. So, I’d say I learned a lot from customers and the leadership front. I’ve seen good leaders and bad leaders like everybody. I think what’s resonated with me most is when it becomes clear that people are able to build a great team around them and really try very hard to deliver through the team and sort of deflect individual credit. So, I can think of a number of cases where it really felt like a team achievement versus the leader’s achievement sort of facilitated by the team. So, I’ve tried to bring that into my own leadership style, and ultimately, I think there’s no real substitute for a little bit of experience. I think a lot of what I’ve gained is just the accumulated wisdom of making mistakes and figuring out as much about how you don’t want to be and how you don’t want to lead as how you do want to lead. So, there isn’t one person whose book I recommend that everybody read, but it is really a collection of the British leadership style, the American style, the Dutch style, even the Latin American style. So, I would say I’m a mutt, but only the best of breed.
Russ: [00:09:56] You just mentioned mistakes there. Would you be willing to share any of the biggest ones?
Shane: [00:10:00] Oh, sure. I mean, look, everybody makes mistakes. And I think our industry is somewhat forgiving because there’s so many different outcomes you need to generate. It’s not like a consumer product where you launch it, and it flops or something. And it is there’s a number of different ways in which clients consume the service. Most of my mistakes involve over time, I’ve just involved, there’s a high degree of detail, management, and complexity about the product that we put forward. So, any time where I’ve underestimated that complexity or really not respected how many little things need to line up in order to get the right outcome for the client? I think that’s been dangerous. And also, as the leader where you’re funnelling investment to different areas, I mean, the temptation is always to say, let’s go front office first is higher sales force and drum up demand and then the rest of the product will catch up. And over time, I think what you realize is most of the successful players in our space have actually taken a back to front approach, which is if you build a great product, which is super operationally robust, very tech savvy and easy to consume, it sort of sells itself. So, I think that’s probably most of the mistakes I’ve made are not realizing just how powerful that equation can be. And so obviously we’re trying to learn from that here.
Hollie: [00:11:17] I imagine being a leader of a successful company, you are required to have some quite specific skill sets and be very good at them. But also, as well as that, you need an exceptional team behind you to support there, from your point of view, what would you say are your greatest strengths? But also, it would be interesting to hear a little bit about the wider Mollie management team and the strengths that they have.
Shane: [00:11:41] First and foremost, I think I still have a great curiosity for how the business works and how our industry works. So, it’s a very fast-moving dynamic industry, so probably a willingness to learn. But I’m still learning every day on the job rather than pronounce yourself an expert and sort of close your mind to new ideas and new ways of thinking, but then also really respect for the guts of it, the details. I’d like to think that by now I know enough about how our service is really put together to be valuable in a conversation with an engineer, an operations person, a finance person, a compliance person, etc. So, I’ve worked hard to build kind of a 360 understanding of how a payments business should work. What I would tell the team and what I’ve told the teams that I’ve led in the past is payments is one of those industries where there’s nowhere really to hide because everybody works on the customer outcome. There’s really no invisible team. Maybe you don’t sit directly in front of customer, but you contribute to their experience with the way they use the product. You’re not very remote from it, no matter what your job is. It’s very integrated. So really, I think regardless of what people’s specific skills are, of course you don’t want a team of all nuts-and-bolts bean counting specialists that have no empathy for customers. And then at the same token, you don’t want a bunch of people who are only creative types and don’t respect the details. But ultimately, the simplest way to describe it is ability to work cross functionally, which sounds so plain vanilla, but trust me, it’s so hard. It’s finding people that are really good at that and are willing to work at it incessantly in spite of personality differences, cultural differences, geographic and time zone differences that’s always, I think, every leader’s greatest challenge.
Russ: [00:13:30] A key part of these discussions that we’re having is on communications and culture. You kind of touched on this a little bit when you were talking about valuations and stuff of the business. And obviously this happened just slightly before you joined the business, but when the company became a unicorn, did that change the perception of it at all in any way?
Shane: [00:13:49] I think, of course, it’s a validation. And of course, when you’re a challenger or a smaller company in an industry which does and still is dominated to a degree by very large players, it’s nice for talent attraction and in general, I think for company morale to say, hey, someone is willing to recognize and value the work that we put in. So, it’s a thing to be proud of. Unfortunately, I think over the last five or six years, there’s been enough investor capital, enough enthusiasm in general for the fintech space that unicorn isn’t as rare as a unicorn should be in terms of seeing one in the wild right. It used to be there were five in Europe and now there’s 55 or something like that. But again, the external valuation attached to the business is not nearly as important as what the customer say, how the customers feel about what we’re doing for them. And I want to be very careful not to lose sight of that and if spend too much time celebrating that achievement, you take your eye off the ball for the next start-up company to come along and disrupt you, and then they’ll become the unicorn and we’ll be an also ran. I like to think that it’s good to stop, pause, take stock high five for a little bit, but it’s really right back to work after that.
Russ: [00:15:03] And so what has been at the heart of your strategy in terms of differentiating yourself?
Shane: [00:15:08] I think in the payments business, it’s not the same sort of intellectual property estate as maybe the pharmaceutical business or something like that. So, we’re not looking to pattern something that people, it’s impossible to copy. I think really what we’re trying to differentiate is on the average experience of the average client that would use our services, they are often overlooked or ignored by banks or incumbent providers. They’re viewed as less profitable, less interesting. It’s still a hard service for people to understand that aren’t native to the industry. So, if your real business is selling shoes on the Internet, you’re not meant to be a payments expert. So, making it easy, making it intuitive, trying to use plain speak. Whereas still giving these customers the feeling that they can be treated like a larger enterprise in terms of giving them some insight, some consultancy, some customer service and some degree of transparency. I think the SMB industry is also known for heavy handed tactics and the termination fees, strange price increases, sort of opaque charging structures, etc. So, a high NPS does not necessarily make us successful in its own right, but you can say that versus the broader basket of competitors, that’s one area in which we think we can do a better job. And then ultimately, if you can make the product also amazing on top of that, then that’s very, very hard for any company to do, regardless of what segment they serve.
Hollie: [00:16:35] And how would you describe the culture at Mollie and what have you guys done to nurture and develop that?
Shane: [00:16:43] I mean, every company has values, I would say, having worked in a number of businesses a lot of those values seem to blend into one another. So, ours are be bold, be loved, be authentic. So, I think that for me was different enough than what I’d experienced previously that I thought, it’s a good way to anchor around what the culture of the business should be. So really a customer-first mentality is a good way to try to build a culture. So, people should want to work here because they care about customers. Not necessarily because I don’t know if they come in as payment experts, although we need them, we need to find a way to make them into experts all the time. Being authentic, I think, that just makes the overall working environment more supportive. A good place to grow your career. I think, depending on your cohort, the younger generation or the newer to workforce or people that are in what’s called their first, second or third job, I think they have different expectations about what a company should be and should do. So, mission-driven or purpose-driven, because obviously we’re in the financial services space, we’re not necessarily in climate tech or something that’s a little bit easier to connect and more intuitive in that way. I think a lot about just trying to hire the right group of people that feel like they can express themselves well here, that there’s opportunities to progress and that there’s opportunity to work in a challenging environment, but one that is, as you said, nurturing or allows for freedom of expression and new ideas, too. I mean, just because the industry has developed over time doesn’t mean there won’t be disruptive developments, even if they haven’t happened yet. And those are likely to come from companies that allow people that kind of intellectual freedom.
Hollie: [00:18:22] And you mentioned just then challenging environments. There’s a lot of economic uncertainty around at the moment. How do you or how are you planning to adjust your communications approach to maintain the confidence that you’ve built up in the company?
Shane: [00:18:37] It’s a very challenging topic. There hasn’t been any handbook in the last two years called Leading Through a Pandemic. So just as I thought, I’d lined that that bit up the best I possibly could then. Now we’re going through a tough time. I mean, I’m old enough to have, remember, 2001 or 2008 different types of economic concern. This one seems to be unique in its own right. And it’s also very focused now on tech and tech companies and prioritizing profit over growth. All that can do is assume that people read the news because the news is prolific and everywhere. Second is to be open about where we’re at as a business, what we’re doing well and what we’re not. We are well capitalized, but we also tell people that we have a huge responsibility not to be foolish about that, and we need to adjust our expectations for growth and aggressiveness to match, I think, what the climate will support. If the GDP of small business is going to go backwards, I don’t think there’s anything that we can do magic can’t do magic. Our customers, if they’re suffering, we need to be prepared to kind of pull in and shelter with them a little bit. We still have plenty of things that we can do. We’re doing a lot, but in an era of moderated expectations on growth we just need to be responsible. So, I’m very transparent about that with people, especially people that if you join the workforce in the last ten years, you’ve only seen up.
Hollie: [00:20:09] And just thinking for a minute about internal communications. Can you share any approaches to internal communications at Mollie, that have worked really well for you guys?
Shane: [00:20:18] I think leading through the pandemic. So, in the beginning we were very focused on what’s the easiest way to reach people through remote means. So, I think we did a lot of remote check, and we did a higher frequency, lower duration just to avoid people felt too isolated. And now that we’re returning, I think more to a hybrid model, but people can get together in person. We had a first in-person company event a couple of months ago after two- and a-bit year hiatus. So that is an internal comms moment. And we really tried to maximize that because we’re only going to do it one time this year, and I think we got the most out of it. I think the other is we like for people to hear from the leadership team. We allow people to ask any question they want of the leadership team. We address those questions sometimes in the appropriate subgroup, but we’re not afraid to stand and take questions from the group. And I’m one of these guys that’s around a lot. So, I also do a little bit of old fashioned internal communication of management by walking around. We have no offices here, so open plan seating. There’s one coffee machine that serves at least 150 people and I drink a lot of coffee. So, you can just in general see and talk to me, which depending on what you’re used to and where you come from sometimes the CEO is like a mythical character that has a different lift to a different floor, to an office. Their door’s never opened. So, we’re in that sense, we’re very much a modern tech company. I’m not hard to find.
Russ: [00:21:52] Did you do anything special for that in person event?
Shane: [00:21:54] Anything was special compared to what people were used to. I mean, look, we did a mixture of content and fun rotating people around, finger painting together. To some respects, it’s really just about creating human connection. I don’t think there’s much of a substitute for that.
Russ: [00:22:10] How many people did you have there then out the team?
Shane: [00:22:12] I mean, we invited the whole company. I think we got a pretty high hit rate, minus a few vacations and outstanding commitments. So, it was at least 600. So, it was a big event. Yeah, but again, it still feels relatively small for me. I mean, I think an organization, even given the amount of hiring, it can still be a familiar place as long as you keep it flat enough and encourage people really to circulate, have dialog, don’t be afraid of one another and little things. We have a slack bot that pairs people for a random coffee every week. You can sign up if you want. So, I do that and people kind of like you really do that or is you just name in there you have a stunt double or something like, I’m like No, you know, I’ll really go for coffee with any random person in the business 15 minutes a week. I think anybody should be able to find that kind of time.
Russ: [00:23:03] That’s great. You just mentioned the hiring there. Are you involved in in much of the hiring?
Shane: [00:23:08] Sometimes If I’m useful. Sometimes I’ve been involved in the committee to persuade somebody really talented to take a chance on us. There are people that work here that I’ve worked with before, directly or indirectly. Customers, former colleagues, etc. So that’s a nice way to get involved. I did build my own team and some degree the more extended team, so I definitely go where I’m needed. Do I interview every candidate? No. That would not have been sustainable at our pace of hiring from last year. But as we now mature and grow into ourselves, there’s opportunities maybe to do that differently next year. So, take a look at it as with everything you know, we’ll tune the knobs for 2023. We may do some different stuff.
Russ: [00:23:54] And switching from internal to external then. How do you view your role and as an external spokesperson and representative of the business? And what have you learned along the way?
Shane: [00:24:06] It’s a very good question. I think it’s tough. I would say it’s similar to business travel. It’s either too much or too little. It’s just one of those things where it feels very hard to get it right because you can’t not be visible in the industry to a degree because branding does matter, and it is a trust brand. People are trusting you with their money so that it’s nice if they can see that leadership of the company, are real people. And Mollie, to some people kind of came from out of nowhere. It’s just been around for a while, but its profile increased dramatically with the explosive growth during the pandemic. And sometimes it was about telling the story because we were not as well-known as some other companies that get to our level of external success. So I would say I sort of over indexed on it in the beginning as a new leader, in a newish business with new investors, etc. Now I think we try to spread it out a little bit within the team. We try to empower the local leadership who are really the local market experts speak the language. So, you know, while I can very well do an interview with a German language newspaper, it’s to me it’s more effective if we showcase our local credential by having other people that can join in and be the external face of the business. But there are some interesting interactions between our contemporaries, even my competitors. You know, there are some journalists I really respect in the space, there are some research analysts I really respect in the space. So, I do circulate, but I try not to make it so all-consuming that I’m not sitting behind the desk doing work.
Russ: [00:25:43] Is that something that that comes natural to you in terms of getting up, doing these interviews, doing talks at events? Or is it have you had to formulate a plan?
Shane: [00:25:53] I don’t mind. I’m one of these people that actually loves public speaking, and it must be something in the water where I grew up. But no, I do like it. Some environments are more productive than others. I think I prefer more open-ended Q&A or discussions, really standing up and broadcasting to people, I think we’ve all experimented over time with how much of that people can take before they kind of tune out. I like to promote our company, but I don’t like to be too salesy. So, I shy away a little bit from people saying, you know, please stand up and really give us a commercial on Mollie because I find that less yeah, less satisfying than more curated interactions with somebody who’s really thinking hard about how to make themselves successful.
Russ: [00:26:37] Where was that water? Where did you grow up?
Shane: [00:26:39] I was born in the US actually just outside Chicago, so but it’s a long time ago. I’ve lived most of my life as an adult outside the States. So, I have a wife from Mexico that I met in Geneva, my kids were born in London. So,
Hollie: [00:26:57] You seem to have taken all the elements of being an internal and external spokesperson in your stride. But in your journey what has been the biggest communications challenge that you’ve personally faced and what did you do to overcome it?
Shane: [00:27:10] You can never deploy a strategy that fits the whole organization. I always find that fascinating. Whether it’s all hands meetings or emails or slack or note cards on people’s desks, you really have to do multiple different things to try to reach the same audience. And sometimes it’s a bit unpredictable how people choose to engage. So, what I’ve learned is really just if you write the perfect newsletter and you send it every day to the same person for a week, you still might not get them to read it. But if you have the same content on a podcast that can use when they’re running or something. So, I think it’s just respecting the fact that people definitely consume information differently. And you need to be thoughtful about which channels, which mediums do people work on. The other thing I would say is we did this fascinating survey; this is from my last company which was do you understand the strategic goals of the business? and its anonymous survey. Unfortunately, as a leader, you really wish you could deanonymize. So, 75% of the people say, yeah, I understand the strategy and 25% don’t and you get together the leadership team and say that’s awful. Like one in four people don’t understand the strategy. So, I spent the whole year just I mean, we hammered it, hammered it down. We put again note cards on people’s desks. And it was an all-out comms assault for the year. And we surveyed the same body of people next year. It’s like, do you understand the strategy? It was like 80%. It’s a bit tongue in cheek, but it’s more like it’s just understanding that some people just require quite a lot of 360 view. And also, you need to be thoughtful about whether people that are in your organization are investing themselves in learning, growing, really trying to get what the company is trying to achieve. So it may be that I need to tell them better, and it may also be that we need to be very thoughtful about selection criteria and how we think about the people that work in the organization. Because for me, it’s an interesting comms challenge that I wouldn’t say have solved it but recognizing that it exists is already a by-product of having learned along the way.
Russ: [00:29:23] Shane, this final question is kind of linked, I guess, to what you were just saying there. But it’s something we’ve asked everyone who’s been on this series, and that’s if you could go back in time and speak to your old younger self, that’s all the way back to Chicago. But what guidance would you give yourself about communications?
Shane: [00:29:41] I would say it’s if I look back on how I was when I was younger, I really wanted to surround myself with and found myself able to work with only people that were very much like me. I think most people, as they’re growing in their career, they struggle to understand that it takes different personality types, and you really need to create a room full of people of different styles in order to get really the best out of the business. So that can be everything from hiring a team of people that are too much like you. Not creating an opportunity for passionate debate, not allowing for necessarily for opposing points of view and in general, kind of almost forcing your style on people, which I think is quite common, particularly when if you’re ambitious or if you’re viewed to be somebody who’s working hard a bit of that gets tolerated early on. But I did get some very good advice, I think in my early thirties from people that said, look, you could really go far if you could sort this bit out, if you could recognize this and you could alter what my former CEO called your situational leadership ability, then you could be the CEO of a company one day. So, I didn’t name who gave me that advice. I didn’t ask his permission. I would say that was valuable. And I listened and hopefully others would agree.
Russ: [00:31:07] That’s a great answer. Shane Happach, thank you so much for joining us today. Really enjoyed it.
Shane: [00:31:12] Appreciate it.
Russ: [00:31:14] Hollie. Thoughts on what Shane had to share with us?
Hollie: [00:31:17] One of the things that I thought was great, that kind of he subtly or probably without even realizing weaved through the whole conversation we just had was his approach to leadership. And I think he summarized it really nicely in that last question you just asked him, Russ, and how he learned to adapt and evolve his leadership style to enable him to get the most out of his team. And I thought that the things that it feels like were really important to him from a leadership perspective were always being curious and always being flexible to be, communicate and be there with the team however they want you to be. And I can see that probably gets a lot out of the company as a result of that. And it was clearly more than just an answer to a question because it came up time and time again in the discussion.
Russ: [00:32:03] Yeah, definitely. Brilliant. Okay. Well, that’s it for another episode. So, if you want to find out more about Mollie, their website is simply Mollie.com. We’d obviously love to hear your comments on today’s chat. You can do that by sharing them on our Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, or Twitter feeds, or you can do it in the comments of the YouTube version of this podcast. Those are all linked from the top of our website at csuitepodcast.com, where you’ll also find all our previous shows and supporting show notes, plus links to where you can follow us for automatic downloads of each episode via the likes of Spotify and Apple. And if you’ve liked what you heard, please do give us a positive rating and review. We’re of course, available on all podcast apps. Just search for the csuite podcast and hit, follow or subscribe. And don’t forget, you can also subscribe to the Without Borders podcast from our partners at Tyto. All the details for that are on their website. So just head to Tytopr.com and click on the podcast link in the top nav bar. Whilst you’re there, you can also download a copy of Growing Without Borders, the Unicorn CEO Guide to Communication and Culture. It’s a great overview of the first 15 of our unicorn interviews. Obviously, if you are a unicorn leader yourself and you’d like to be part of this series, please do get in touch via the contact form on the website at csuitepodcast.com – it may not be you, it may be one of your colleagues, but do give us a shout. Of course, anyone can get in touch with any feedback you may have. And finally, you can also reach me directly via Twitter using at Russ Goldsmith or you can find me on LinkedIn. But for now, thanks for listening and goodbye.
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