Serial entrepreneur Ryan Westwood was invited to a recent Salt Lake business summit to deliver a keynote on how to scale a startup, a solid request for a guy who has grown his current business from nothing to 400 million dollars in annual revenue in seven years.
But instead of reeling off high-performance product strategies or key partnerships, he and his management team used to build Simplus, a company specializing in contracting processes for the Salesforce platform. is focused on what he believes is at the heart of that success. : building a corporate culture that celebrates diversity and inclusion.
“My philosophy is that culture eats strategy for breakfast,” Westwood told the audience at the Utah Business Outlook Summit in November. “If you have an inclusive culture where everyone feels like their ideas, their thoughts are valued and they are valued, you will be so much more successful than if you don’t.”
Westwood grew up on the east coast but attended college at Utah Valley University. He says his interest in business dates back to his childhood. Before launching Simplus in 2014 with his three partners, including his brother Isaac, he had founded or co-founded several companies. His focus on corporate culture is one that he says has crossed over from his previous efforts and continues to evolve.
“What we do well is bring people together, create a strong vision and execute that vision,” Westwood said. “And we do all of this in an environment where people enjoy working for us.”
“People should feel in their place”
Westwood also notes that emphasizing diversity and inclusion proves to be a powerful advantage when it comes to attracting talent, and especially in today’s highly competitive job market.
“We created this company by bringing the best talent we could find on the planet to live in or travel to Utah on a regular basis,” Westwood said. “But to do that, people had to feel like they belonged. People had to feel like they belonged and that we were inclusive and understood who they were.
And that message is one that aligns well with a growing body of research showing that employees, after weathering nearly two years of workplace convolutions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, are more focused than ever. on finding a work environment in which they feel recognized and supported. and where they can be authentic themselves.
A report released in October by Utah-based BambooHR found that one of the notable results of the pandemic-induced remote work assignment is that employees are spending more time evaluating what is working — and doesn’t work – when it comes to corporate culture, and its “causing many to question the norms that workplaces around the world have experienced for decades to inspire productivity and satisfaction.
Amid a record wave of quits across the country, the BambooHR survey found that more than a quarter of employees, 28%, have engaged in a job search effort in the past 18 months. One in five employees said a declining culture led them to seek new work, and 16% said their job searches were born out of fear that a new culture might await them after returning to in-person work environments.
Why Culture Matters
Bamboo’s Director of Human Resources, Cassie Whitlock, said employees looking for work are increasingly looking for companies that excel when it comes to investing in their internal work environment.
“More and more employees care about the company culture of potential employers and what kind of commitments they have made to diversity, equity and inclusion programs,” Whitlock said. “It plays a much bigger role in the job search decision process.”
Additionally, Whitlock said it’s critical for companies looking to build their talent pipelines to properly communicate their performance on diversity and inclusion efforts. And failure to do so, she said, could jeopardize overall financial performance.
“Being more open as an organization about how you prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion and sharing how you’re meeting goals is a must,” Whitlock said. “Having clarity is so important to an employer’s brand and to their bottom line.”
Westwood is certainly an advocate for the strong association between high overall company performance and high success in creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for employees. He noted that it’s common for business leaders – whose business educations have a strong focus on topics such as finance, technology and marketing – to be less comfortable addressing issues such as diversity, equity and inclusion.
A common sentiment among many business leaders, Westwood said, is “how are we going to generate profit from this stuff?”
But, during his presentation at the Outlook Summit, Westwood provided statistics that accurately reflect the importance of these “easy” issues when it comes to improving outcomes. He noted:
- More diversified companies have 19% higher revenues.
- Forty-three percent of companies with diverse boards achieve higher profits.
- Ethnicly diverse companies are 35% more likely to achieve above-average financial returns.
- Diverse teams are 87% more effective at decision making.
The success of Simplus
Simplus has been about to make money in its suite of consulting, training, and onboarding services for Salesforce customers.
In 2020, the company was acquired in a $250 million deal by India’s Infosys, having raised some $50 million in venture capital investment before that deal, and is now achieving annual revenues of $400 million. Infosys is a giant among global digital services and consulting firms, and it generated nearly $14 billion in revenue in fiscal 2021. As of the end of regular trading Friday, Infosys had a market capitalization of nearly of 100 billion dollars.
Although Westwood remained CEO, he said his internal entrepreneurial engine was still working and predicted he would eventually seek out the next big thing.
However, regardless of that next step, Westwood said he will continue his commitment to building businesses from a base of happy, recognized and included employees.
It was this observation and advice that he shared with Utah business leaders at the end of his recent conference in Salt Lake City.
“How many times do we make assumptions and completely calculate the person? Westwood asked. “My plea to you is to ask questions. To be more curious with your employees or colleagues rather than making assumptions about who they are.
“And I think you’ll become better people, create a better work environment, and Utah will win in business when we spend more time being inclusive and understanding each other rather than dividing us.”