Ready. Set. Change!

Kristen Yerardi- WordStreamCompanies are like kids. They grow, they get messy, they change, they make you laugh, and cry. Sometimes, all at the same time. Like kids, companies don’t stay the same, and eventually you just have to accept and embrace that. Kristen Yerardi, VP of Customer Success at WordStream, has grown her department from 4 to 45 since joining the founding executive team in 2010. Throughout her 15-plus years experience providing customers with excellence, Kristen has led teams of all shapes and sizes, so we asked her to join Exchange to share about HOW to embrace organizational change.

Spoiler alert: it’s all about adapting and evolving!

Listen, listen, and listen some more:

Kristen helps her team grow by showing empathy, sharing her personal experiences, and letting them learn from her mistakes. WordStream is known for its culture of transparency, so Kristen encourages each of her team members to be completely honest with her. She believes that a leader’s most crucial responsibility is listening in order to help the team make the best decisions. Have a “whatever happens within these four walls stays here” philosophy and allow your team to share openly what they need from you to do their jobs better.

Pass the baton:

You can never have too many direct reports, right? Turns out, you can from Kristen’s experience. She’s observed that truly effective  leaders can only meaningfully coach and support six to eight people at once. As your team grows, scale your leadership style by choosing your second-in-command, giving them a couple direct reports of their own so you can delegate more. Kristen takes the time to empower her team to be self-sufficient, providing them with growth opportunities that lead to higher levels of employee retention.

Go above and beyond:

Kristen’s job is to help WordStream grow, and that means growing with the company herself. To continue learning, Kristen says she constantly surrounds herself with people she can learn from, whether it be through an online forum (like LinkedIn), or by cultivating new mentor relationships with people she meets in the community. It’s all about  taking advantage of every opportunity you have to stretch your skills (and network)!

WordStreamWordStream Inc. is a provider of software and services that help search marketers maximize the performance of their PPC and SEO campaigns, driving traffic, leads, and sales for lower costs. Our easy-to-use PPC management software facilitates more effective paid search campaigns by increasing relevance and Quality Scores in Google AdWords, automating proven best practices, and delivering expert-level results in a fraction of the time.

Leadership Lessons: Ralph Folz

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folz__ralphLast week at Intelligent.ly Exchange, we had the good fortune to be joined by Ralph Folz, CEO of WordStream. Ralph got his bearings as a nerdy engineer, before getting bit by the entrepreneurship bug at age 26. As a leader, Ralph is genuine, honest, and deliberate about his strengths and limitations. He has a deep understanding of his communication style, and his sense of self-awareness and thoughtfulness make him an incredibly approachable executive. Wordstream was established just seven years ago, and has rapidly become one of the most respected high-growth search marketing software companies around. His secret? Embracing diversity, laser sharp focus, and goal simplification.

Hone Your Strengths

In Ralph’s words, “There are different flavors of people.” Leaders can maximize team success by targeting each team member’s specific “flavor” or strength. You can’t make employees into something they’re not; all you can do is hone in on what each person can bring to the table, celebrating the diversity of skill sets among your team. For all you Red Sox fans, Ralph described it like this: if you had nine Manny Ramirez’s in the field, you’d hit a million home runs, but you probably wouldn’t win.Ralph Folz Key Takeaways

Focus

No matter how large your company is or how quickly you’re scaling, maintaining a focus on your core values is critical. Ralph noted that clarity about your core values not only creates direction, but can also help frame difficult conversations. He humbly admitted that in fact, he isn’t perfect; owning that helps him create the right team. For so many startups, growth is hectic and not easily planned. Strongly aligned values keep teams rowing in the same direction, as the environment around them rapidly changes. Transparency and conviction in upholding the culture that makes your team unique are key to developing a thriving business.

It’s all about 1’s and 0’s

In a successful team like Ralph’s, all members have the same core values, so when problems arise, everyone is able to keep their eye on the common goals. At Wordstream, the executive team shares four core goals, which allows the team to approach conflict more objectively. Alignment of goals helps the team to embrace healthy conflict with rich debate before choosing the best course of action. Ralph is an engineer at heart, which means everything can be measured. He quantifies goals as simple 1’s and 0’s. I know what you’re thinking–really? We’re bringing math into this? Fret not! Ralph assured us that success can be determined objectively, with each person focusing on three simple, measurable goals. At the end of each quarter, goals can be defined as a 1 or 0–either they were achieved or they weren’t. If there are 0’s present, the goal needs to be defined more clearly. Clear goals and values drive decisions toward success and keep the team hungry for that sense of achievement.

His last snippet of advice: Have a mentor and a network. Overcommunicate.

Thank you, Ralph!

Rachel WaldmannRachel Waldmann
Content & Community Specialist
@rachelwaldmann