Tony Byrne is now officially the senior vice president of business development, marketing, at MarketStar. He was involved in rolling out the new Values that we now live by. We asked him to share some of his experience with it, and here is what he said:
“This is the first time that I've been involved in an organization basically installing new values or updating their values and purpose. I have to say most of my career has been in really the start-up world. I know the values and the purpose of a startup are sometimes set in with its founder. In my experience working in smaller startups, it's been easier to keep the values aligned because the founders work in the organization. So, to be involved in a company of our size and on its tenure to be installing new values that are relevant to where the company came from, what it does, and where it wants to go in the future has been a very interesting project.
I was with a group of some of our leaders back in December 2019 when we were workshopping the new purpose and values. We started to socialize some of the values, and we did an offsite just before Christmas in 19, where we had an opportunity to experience some of the values, learn about them, understand them, and shape them a little bit. So, I definitely feel connected to the process of coming together on these values and indeed our purpose. It's been interesting to see how they're starting to take wings -- they are being applied by our folks in what they do and collectively what we try and achieve together. These values are daily driving our purpose.
Why A Value System Is Important
Why is it so important for us to have a value system to function as a company to reach our goals? Why is it so important to our leadership that that's something that stands in place and is constantly looked to and revisited and mastered?
These values have been worked and reworked and agonized over. But I think that's what needed to happen throughout this whole process. We really wanted to make sure that those values were truly the essence of what was already there in MarketStar. I've been through a few companies and had some experience with value structures, and typically those are already very well established. This is the first time that a company that I work for has gone through this sort of transformation, this metamorphosis, from an established value structure to something completely new. It was powerful to watch that the values were so well thought out. We wanted to make sure that the values were truly representative of what goes on at MarketStar.
I feel like for the first time a company really wants to show what it's all about and really walk the walk. It's so crucial that the values align with the true spirit of what a company is and does and what the people feel and what they do. Our Values are just so integral and so easy to correlate to everyday tasks that you perform in the company. So, it really feels like you do live the values every single day.
I have to say this morning I did go to a drive-thru Starbucks, and I'm not sure if the lady who gave me my latte really meant it when she said, “Hey, have a nice day.” I don't know if she meant it. Instilling a new value system, I think, is an opportunity for us all to leverage this collective shared wisdom between this organization. It gives us a frame of reference for how to make decisions, a frame of reference for how to act out in front of our customers, A frame of reference for what we do from a quality standpoint. I think a system of values and these particular values for me, give us a prism to look through in our day-to-day actions and align in a collective pursuit in terms of what the right outcome is in every situation.
One of the most valuable actions you can have as an organization or as an employee toward being successful is course correction. It’s having the ability to consistently evaluate and consistently improve based on some established level. And a strong, actionable value system allows you to constantly have something that you can always look back to and make sure you're on the right path.
Direct But Not Prescriptive
Something that is important to understand is that our values are direct, but not prescriptive. I think that's a very important piece of how to make a culture be stronger than what it is by designing and implementing a new set of values, on a purpose. So, I mean, it's interesting as I meet people in our organization or speak to people in our organization, both continents of the world that we operate in. It's interesting to hear the subtle differences around how people put some of these values into action and in what they do now, they're absolutely aligned as I said, but it's interesting how they make their own personal value within our values. I think they're written in a way that they can be digested and implemented on an individual basis. So, it's not a rule book. I mean, that's the important thing to say. That's from my findings of the way I see people acclimating and using these values.
Things That Make a Company Great
At MarketStar, we have an interesting alignment of a couple of things that make a company great. We've got a brand, we've got some heritage, we've got an amazing team that's been built up over years, but we've got a relatively new CEO with a new perspective. We've got a new owner who's extremely vested in back behind the organization. And those set of circumstances, I have to say as somebody who studies business and has been in business and loves business, that nucleus of special ingredients doesn't happen a lot. It doesn't happen anywhere. In fact, right now, I couldn't tell you of another company where I see the stars aligned in exactly that way.
Applying The Values
The nucleus of our company is in Utah, and it can often be difficult to make sure that teams outside of the area are connected and especially our Dublin team.
I'd be curious in, in your experience taking this from the process and the experience of getting to see how this was built, and then trying to actually create this environment with your own team, get them to adopt it, get them to believe in it and see what the merits and the fruits of it were. What was that experience like? What tactics did you use?
Culturally in Dublin, I would say we're quite Americanized, we're the furthest country to the West and in Europe and we speak English and we're probably the closest thing to the time zone, even though it's still a bit of a gap, but there are certain cultural differences. I would describe many Europeans and certainly the Irish, as, “We won't believe in something until we see it's worth believing in.” So sometimes I did feel that as we have gone through the process of rolling out the values. It's like I don't want to be saying these and acting like I'm living them until I see that they work on how they work for me or my customers or my team.
What I noticed was that our team here in Dublin started telling stories about how the values were applied, as opposed to just reminding each other what the values were. I think that's where I saw a gradual ascent of the value starting to take flight and being embedded into the psyche of the team. Now I'd be interested to see if that was similar in North America. I would say that where I could start to notice our teams kind of celebrating, here is an example of how I applied one particular value in a situation, whether it's a one-on-one or maybe something with a client. The share of that story was the evidence for me that the embedding was happening with the values.
I think most people would regard themselves as a hard worker and committed. So, one value that was easiest to acclimate to and understand was All In Every Day. It's probably by virtue of the industry that we're in. We have sales teams, we're a sales organization. So, sales culture can sometimes be described as hardworking, persevering, striving for success, striving against goals and targets. My personal opinion would be that the one that was easiest for our teams to understand and get and feel like that they're aligned to was All In Every Day
And then I think the teams, the individuals that we have on our teams that are more growth-minded and feel like they're on a constant learning journey started talking about Master of Our Craft and how that pursuit of becoming a master is a never-ending endeavor. I don't think that kind of value is duplicated anywhere else. At least in my experience, I think MarketStar does an incredible job of really putting forward the best effort to try and level up their teams professionally and personally, I really truly believe that.
I love the mindset that comes with Masters of Our Craft, because one very common thread between the most successful individuals and leaders that I've worked with in my career, is they are very vivacious learners. They're very curious people -- when they see a new obstacle, they want to figure out not only how to overcome it, but overcome it in the best way. They love talking about those opportunities. They love diving into those opportunities. They have a very healthy obsession in seeking those things out. That is what Masters of Our Craft speaks to. I think that the wording itself speaks so much because this easily could have just been, “Do Your Job Well”. I think it goes beyond that. It's much more of a mental and emotional improvement than just simply figuring out what the tasks are and performing them.
There's that personal element too. There's the, it's a dual meaning. I love how so many, if not all of our values can be construed in widely different ways. They're so versatile, but yet so easy to understand and apply to professional and personal lives. In some ways, if a value applies mostly in a personal manner to you, sometimes that can also translate to doing well professionally. If you can connect that value to a passion that you have, that also can do wonders.
When the values were first launched, which particular values resonated with you most, and now, a few months later after launch, is it still the main value that resonates with you or is there another?
I would say You Belong. In my experience, it is the most popular one when we gauge the reaction from the wider MarketStar audience. But it connects to me personally as well. I see how it benefits and reflects in so many other people. And that brings me joy when I see people openly discussing how comfortable they feel at a job, it gives me the warm and fuzzy’s.
Of all the values, I actually think that particular value might be the value that most makes us unique. There was one point that it stopped me in my tracks -- I was thinking it's almost non-business, but then I thought about it deeper and reflected on it more and realized yes, it's such an enhancer. It's so smart and so important on so many levels. We tend to put them in order with You Belong as the last one. And it made sense to me because if you live by all these other values, then you truly do belong at MarketStar.
I think it's really breathed new and a more effective life into what we do. The value that spoke to me the most was Creativity That Impacts. When I’ve stepped into any role it's been in some field or focus that I've actually never done before, or that I never had prior formal experience in. I feel like Creativity That Impacts, which encompasses problem-solving, has very much been the lifeblood of what I've done and tried to be successful with because I've had to find unique ways to fulfill tasks.
I try to find a balance of understanding how the industry goes about these things, but also embracing my own take on it. And that's actually a discussion that I had with one of our executives when they were sitting as my direct supervisor for a while. I shared that I wanted to get a better understanding of how the industry and the other people in the world who do what I do and get a better feel for how they go about their day. So that I'm more in line kind of with the industry standard.
Their basic response was that it's smart, but to proceed with caution because what makes you good at what you do is how you view it, how you go about it and how you figured it out. We like having Steve's flavor on what your output is. So, while it's good to have those continue to embrace that creativity. That's really what, in a sense, spoke to me and was something that I felt like I could take and run with it, it's ironic in that the value and my response to it was a You Belong type experience.
That's very interesting. So, just as you talk about just Creativity That Impacts when I first heard that, and this is just an example right. Of how the values align us all, but we can all make our own personal meaning around it. Where I took direction from that particular value was really to try to install a mindset of being creatively focused around solving problems. And often the solution to a problem is just the way you're looking at the problem. When you feel something isn't right or something isn't working to be driven to try and change the perspective. By using that value here's a problem I'm going to apply this value to it. What's a creative way there too to inject some creativity into this particular challenge. Often the solution is just from the perspective or looking at something a little bit differently. That’s personally how I sort of acclimate and actually try and put that particular value to work. Most days, I wouldn't say I have a big problem every day, but when they come up, instead of saying, this is a problem, it becomes now for me personally, the challenge of how can I change my look at this problem to find out the solution and purposely be creative in the change of the perspective.
I'd love to hear your experience on the general startup experience. As you look back on it, and you think of this value structure, what are the strings that connect the principles that brought you to now, and the values that are impacting us today?
The boom in tech over the last 10 years or so has created this very romantic view of what it's like to start a company, to be a startup. I have to say often it's not actually that romantic. I found being a startup founder to be very frustrating because you can only grow at a certain rate. There are always things that you want to do without adequate team size or resources. I found it more frustrating sometimes than rewarding -- now it was a very rewarding experience. I'm so grateful that I was lucky enough to have had the good fortune to build a great team, which then led to becoming the MarketStar team in Dublin. As I look back, a lot of the values that we have probably were put in place as we started and grew, and then partnered with and became MarketStar.
I can certainly see how versions of these values or alignment with these values has created the success for our Dublin team as we grew from those stages. I think it's hard to be a startup and go through some of those gradual chapter changes. When you're five people, it's a chapter when you're 25 people, that's a chapter, when you get to a hundred people, the tone is different. It's very difficult, I think past 100 people to be so hands-on that then the natural culture can be in line with what you hope it would be. If you don't have something that's directive, that's shareable, that everyone can align with and understand. In terms of a purpose or mission or values that is probably one of the reasons startups either fail or never scale.
In that context of being a startup, I think the pieces that brought us luck and growth are very in line with each of our values. When we first started, I remember giving a pep talk to our small team five or six years ago, when we first started working with MarketStar. I told them this was a great break for our team. It could lead to amazing things, which it has. We just got to nail it. So everyone's gotta be All In, just full pedal to the metal. I think about Masters of Our Craft, then I think about All In Every Day, it was really what led to the start of a great partnership, which then became part of an acquisition and the growth of a global company together.
My parallel to this is when I first came to MarketStar, I was a part of a team that was newly launched. I was a part of one of our pilot groups and very much what you said really spoke to me in the moment. There is a lot of frustration and there is a lot of the analogy of throwing spaghetti at the wall. I remember the small sales team that I was on when we were doing this launch, we huddled one day and our manager would say, okay, we're going to try this thing. We may end up changing it in about a week, but let's try it for a week and then we'll come back. The very next day we'd come back together and say, never mind not a week, we're going to change it right now.
It's clearly not working. Then the next day we'd go, okay, this new thing might be working. Let's keep trying that. And then half a day will go by and someone will go, nevermind, it's failing. We gotta keep going. We felt like we kept getting to squares two and three, then go straight back to square one. But it continued to build that foundation. Very often when we're looking at the details of what makes these startups successful, these launch experiences successful, we find they come from those who focus on the people. Leaders Who Amplify really comes to mind, allowing them to help build the lifeblood of what that is to become.
What did you notice in the transition from startup to merger that helped you see, feel, and confirm that “You Belong” mentality that does exist - that you feel good and see the value in this change?
We had the benefit of having a very healthy partnership for a number of years before the acquisition. So actually, it's funny when the acquisition took place, we changed the name for our day-to-day activities, but the culture of our teams was already acclimated and aligned. I have to say, I didn't notice a huge jump in that acquisition, because I think that the embedding of the two companies' cultures really happened over a couple of years in a nice organic way. The people at MarketStar really are the difference and make MarketStar what iti is. I could see a lot of the values that we stand for today in action with how the folks in Utah embraced and partnered with our people in Dublin, allowing us the chance to ramp up and operate at a different scale.
We were always made to feel like we were connected, aligned, that we belonged in the room and the meetings and on the accounts with our clients. So when I woke up the next day post-acquisition, how was life different? Really it wasn't because what had blossomed over years was really an alignment and a shared purpose.
What to you - for Tony Byrne - is the seventh value?
The pursuit of success. One thing that's important to me is that I feel like I'm moving towards growth or getting better. You can think about our values and how all of them really touch on this particular point. But for me, the feeling of making progress towards that goal in my mind is success. I think that success on that seventh value is unlocked by living the six.