How to Foster a Culture of Innovation in a Startup

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How to Foster a Culture of Innovation in a Startup

How to Foster a Culture of Innovation in a Startup

Facing uncertainty can be challenging – being a business owner facing uncertainty is tougher.

Red Direction helps you [fast track and] grow your business – authentically, pragmatically, and resiliently.

Start your journey HERE!

Fast Track Your Business

Starting the conversation:

To disrupt an industry, your company must tap into clear communication, be vigilant about minimizing groupthink, and create a work environment that is sustainable for high-performance teams. Brett Barlow, CEO at Everee, candidly shares insights he’s learned and how recognizing the knowledge of collective mistakes avoids big setbacks.

Pressure can be amplified when you feel alone, and that comes from a lack of options. Empowered teams that feel their shared impact — and yet will take risk to reach the collective company goals — means that do-overs and pivots are part of the process, and that together you get up and try again.

In this program, you will learn how purpose-driven companies can disrupt industries; how embracing high-pressure situations are part of path forging and scaling; and how important it is to be consistent in the way your company makes decisions. Promoting wins, learning from the unexpected, and being willing to take risks builds a nimble team that is responsive to opportunity wherever it appears. Jess Dewell talks with Brett Barlow, CEO at Everee, about why it is BOLD to strive for high performance under pressure.

Host: Jess Dewell

Guest: Brett Barlow

What You Will Hear:

Purpose-driven businesses base every decision with their end goal in mind.

Clarity comes with what you think and what results you can obtain to assess and choose the next best action in your startup.

Timing matters (even though time is on your side) and requires courage, resourcefulness, and the ability to handle uncertainty.

Deep understanding of the purpose allows you to build teams that share the core beliefs, which are critical during high-pressure situations.

Work environment, and the team within it, matter; leadership must foster the team toward what high performance looks like in your (disruptive) startup.

Attention to the team’s risk response, diversity, experience create ways to minimize (or catch early) groupthink slowing you down.

Reflect on the internal and external pressures you face as they require you to show up differently.

Each person on the team feels their impact and is willing to take risks.

Keep getting up and trying again — seek out all the options (even when it seems like there are none).

Additionally, for the Fast Track Your Business Today Uncut conversation:

You hired each person to contribute, and their ideas come from what they know, what they see, and how they think your company can be better.

Be a humble leader, ask questions.

Mistakes may be just-in-time to show you what is needed to grow and succeed.

WE lead, yet as CEO, ‘the buck stops with me.’

The more experience you have within your company means you can use the power of collective mistakes (and the knowledge gained from them) to avoid big setbacks — tap into that resource!

Decision-making: use your history, recognize that everyone is doing their best, and do your part to keep communication timely and open.

Make it right when you fall short.

It is BOLD to figure out how to strive for high performance as a team under pressure.

Find out more about how to Fast Track Your Business.

How to Foster a Culture of Innovation in a Startup - Brett Barlow


Brett Barlow 00:00
You have what I call the self-esteem meter on your phone, which is a stock ticker. And it’s either go out per day like, they love me, or they hate me that can really adjust the way that you manage your business and you can become really short-term thinkers.

Welcome. This is the Bold Business Podcast. Your business has many directions it can travel. The one true direction of your company creates the journey for you to move toward a new, exciting level. We call this the Red Direction. In today’s program, we delve into one idea. The idea will support you as you work on ever-present situations, including how to stay competitive in a changing market, how to break through the business plateau, and how to anticipate the changing expectations of your stakeholders. Jess Dewell is your guide. Jess brings you a 20-year track record of business excellence, where strategy and operations overlap. Your Path comes from consistently working from the special place. Your unique True North. Now, here’s Jess.

Jess Dewell 01:03
Welcome to the Bold Business Podcast where we are talking to people like you in business solving problems providing solutions to make the world a better place in the places that we see the problems to solve. And this is no different with Brett Barlow, who is the CEO of Everee. Everything everywhere every day. I love this because we’re going to make his biodynamic now. So Brett, you decided the problem you’re solving is to provide payroll and business payments, that changes turns on its head payroll. How so?

Brett Barlow 01:40
Good businesses are built on a mission. And our purpose is rupt. The traditional payroll cycle. In my opinion, the, the traditional cycle is really letting Americans down. That’s evidenced by 68% of Americans living paycheck to paycheck. So if you think about that, as an employer, you’ve got essentially seven out of 10 of your workers that are in one way or another distracted concerned stressed, preoccupied with some sort of monetary or financial situation, there’s just a mismatch in timing in this antiquated two week or even monthly payroll cycle. And then employees who have been giving essentially an interest-free labor loan to companies working for two weeks and not being paid for until the end, should be able to access their dollars immediately. And so our mission is to pay people the wages they’ve earned as soon as they burn them.

Jess Dewell 02:39
And here is how important this is people. Only one of the reasons that we’re talking to this amazing guy, Brett Barlow, he has raised a 10 million series a financing round of April of 2020. And since has also tripled the revenue in the last 12 months for every tell me this, what’s one thing that comes to mind, as I say that that you are the most proud of and the most surprised by at the same time,

Brett Barlow 03:07
I joined as CEO of February 3 of 2020, which was about a month before the pandemic really just took a hold of us. We raised that Series A round on April 12 of 2020. So really at the height of when I don’t want to say panic, but just uncertainty, we’re able to raise that ground. So that was the surprised and proud of the team that we’ve been able to build around us is incredibly seasoned and committed and being a CEO can feel like a lonely place at times. Now, the people around me that have been through a rodeo before is incredibly helpful. It’s comforting in a way I have people that I can lean on. On top of that, we’ve signed some partnerships deals recently or in the last year over $45 million, which was essentially a nondilutive round of funding for us. That wouldn’t have happened without the product that we built, and being able to do that. But those are a couple of things. I’m really proud of our team and us being able to show the value in our product where other people are willing to invest in us.

Jess Dewell 04:21
We as people want to be part of something bigger than us. I agree. When you find people that are seasoned that can come together, was there a trick in that to recognize Oh, we all wanted to hitch our personal missions to this train.

Brett Barlow 04:39
It certainly is a commonality there because we were able to bring people in that did believe and do believe in the mission. One of the main reasons we were able to move quickly on that is Ron Ross, whose idea this, this whole thing was his our president and co-founder and I thought about people that we worked with in the past where we have seen them in stressful situations, or we’ve seen them kind of under the gun, because you learn a lot about people when things aren’t going well. And what we did was try to surround ourselves on this executive team with people that we had worked with before. So we knew them. So everybody on the executive team has either worked with me or Ron Ross in some previous capacity. And if I was an investor, honestly, I would look at that, I would look at that as a point to pay attention to as you’re investing in companies because it shows there’s trust there. It shows that there’s an ability to sort through things they’ve been through tough things in the past, and a willing to get back in the wagon again with people. And so I think that’s actually a real positive for us.

You’re listening to the Bold Business Podcast. We will return to the show soon. But first, I want to take a moment and give you a peek into what additional services and solutions you could access to Fast Track Your Business. This program was created to develop your capacity on demand by sharing insights, tips, as well as lessons learned by business leaders, unedited and uncut. And we don’t just stop there. There are three additional benefits to help you reach your growth goals. You will also have unlimited access to one, hearing tips and insights to develop yourself as a leader to get better results more often. Two, experiencing viewpoints from many different business leaders. Three, receiving frameworks to build core competencies and to more effectively focus on business growth and leadership. Altogether, The Fast Track Your Business program will allow you to face uncertainty, anytime, anywhere. You can access what will become your most versatile tool in your toolkit by going to FastTrackYou Now back to Jess.

Jess Dewell 06:52
One of the things I run across when I’m talking to leadership teams. And when they’re trying to figure out who would be the right person, or the right type of person for a key position in their organization. They seem to care more today about doing something they can’t do being brought in versus can we work together. Now I’m guessing you and Ron have had that experience over the course of time separately. And together, you faced that same dilemma. How did you shift into that secondary piece of this is what we care most about? Because we know where we’re going.

Brett Barlow 07:35
You’d have to be focused on the mission, if you don’t have a mission, or you made the point of feeling like you’re part of something bigger than yourself, then it all becomes about kind of that next paycheck. Now that should be coupled with people being treated fairly and with respect, compensation, but also their personal belief in doing. So if you don’t have those things, I think you’ll find attrition in a company. And that people just kind of bolt for just the next thing. In our mission, what we’ve done is we associated different roles with what we felt like were necessary for us to be successful. So we didn’t just go out and say, oh, you know, I’ve worked with XYZ person before they have to be on the team. It’s, we have a role, we have a need, we have an opportunity do we know someone who can come work less than hell? Now, there’s some risk to that. Always, most of our friend groups, in many ways are like us in whatever way you want to define that there’s a reason why they’re in your circle of community. If you get too much of that, you start getting groupthink. I think that we got a real value by hiring senior leaders that we’ve worked with in the past, but at the same time, I really value the diversity and inclusion that I think that we really focus on in our business or new ideas, different perspectives in problem-solving. And one of the benefits, I would say, if there is one out of the pandemic is that we became a virtual first company. So my entire career I’ve worked in an office, I earned my stripes. I was the first one in last one to leave, you know, just coming out hard-charging that way, not at the expense of others, but that’s just I was in an office. So this is the first time I’ve had that experience as a CEO. That was an adjustment for me. There’s a lot of trust that you give to people when they’re at home. Well, what I found is it’s allowed us to hire people outside of where we live. So I have hired people from Michigan, we have people that are in Texas, people that are in Portland, we’re hiring for skill first, but it just so happens that we have other ethnicities or gender equality, that’s been a huge benefit to us. I mean, there’s so many good people that don’t live where you live, be anywhere in the country. And that’s been a real benefit for us.

Jess Dewell 10:13
Let’s talk about pressure a little before doing all of the fundraising here for every what are the situations that you feel being reflective about, helped you prepare for what it takes to do that?

Brett Barlow 10:30
Well, my career has been primarily in go-to-market functions, product marketing, sales. And with those, there are inherent stresses that come in to a business of delivering product all the time, you know, your quarterly numbers for sales, marketing driving pipeline, and you know, there’s so there’s like tension and some pressure that comes along with that. I’ve been fortunate to be on leadership teams, where last two companies that I was at, were taken public. And once you go public, you have what I call the self-esteem meter on your phone, which is a stock ticker. And it’s either go out per day, like, they’d love me, oh, they hate me, that can really adjust the way that you manage your business. And you can become really short-term thinkers. Because you’re thinking like quarterly basis rather than a one-year to two-year basis, through 25 years, and various different stressful events, or high maybe visibility or impact situations. I felt like I was pretty prepared to take on this role, then I take on the CEO role, and I realized how little it actually no, it completely worked for its game. One of the things that I learned the most over my last three years as CEO here is empathy for the CEOs I’ve worked with in the past, where I may have disagreed with them or been critical of a decision. And I’m realizing now like, like, clearly didn’t have all of the information, they were trying to do the best that they could, there are some real empathy that I’ve gained.

Jess Dewell 12:09
And I think that’s huge. Because I recognize the power in going cool. There’s so much experience I can bring to the table as a creative person as an out-of-the-box thinker, as somebody who can laterally put things together and go, Oh, I’m resourceful, a little bit like MacGyver. But in business, in every episode, their original MacGyver, he would look a certain way, like, what are the things I need to pull for this moment right here? And there is a truth in the fact that you’re doing that more than once an episode once a week, you’re doing that potentially many times a day.

Brett Barlow 12:48
In a startup situation where you may not have all of the resources that you’ve had in past roles. You know, you have to have people that are multi-position players. And then as you get bigger, you start to specialize or pick a lane, so to speak with people a little bit more specialized, and you can go deeper. But I’m doing things now that I haven’t done in maybe 15 years. And it’s great. I love that because I love to build and there’s an excitement and every employee who is their own MacGyver in their way, like the company feels their impact with everything that they do with a larger company. So for example, I was a senior leader, Vice President at Hewlett Packard, that 10 years ago, you know, I thought I had arrived in a way and my dad thought man arrived because it was eat heard of Hewlett Packard, who opposed to other companies I worked at number one employee number was 198,000. I was probably one of 10 or 15,000, Vice Presidents really a rounding error, that impact on the business, bringing it back in the MacGyver example, every single person like It’s like throwing like a rock into a call late you feel it and you feel it for good and you feel for bad. I want like Iris, I want people who have an entrepreneurial not only ability but desire the instincts to take ownership to the business in their own way. They hustle. So in that sense, I value I would say street smarts over book smarts.

Jess Dewell 14:18
To your point. That’s actually what makes companies successful, not only if they’re a purpose and a mission that people agree to and work toward and understand and see the value of the change that they’re making by doing what they do. There’s also this element of well, until I have the experience, I don’t really know. I can be prepared. I can put it in my pocket. It goes in my tool belt, but I’m still MacGyvering it in the moment, a lot of the time, and I can appreciate what you’re sharing in that capacity of Yes. Education, understanding, recognizing patterns, all of that and to your point of street smarts, where did I actually find myself here. What do I do now that I have arrived?

Brett Barlow 15:04
Yeah, well, the education side of it is theory-based in many senses, or this is how it’s happened to other people. So that’s where I put the streetsmart. So it’s like how do you put the things you learned in school and not be so literal about?

It’s time to take a brief break from our show. Fast Track Your Business will improve your business results. This high-value program is an unbeatable value, to make it easy for you to act now. With your subscription, you have access to “Ask Jess Your Business Questions” and exclusive resources on key leadership topics. Subscribe now; visit And know that you are moving forward in the right direction. Let’s return to the Bold Business Podcast.

Jess Dewell 15:49
And you know, we’re talking about people who do well under pressure and your desire to have people that you understand a little bit about how they work under pressure. So now that you and Ron have your executive team in place, are there ways you have encouraged suggested or participate as your company grows, and you’re hiring more people to help instill what you have embedded, we need to know what’s happening under pressure. So we understand not only where to lean in, but where to support in our weaker areas.

Brett Barlow 16:22
The pandemic was actually a forcing function for us for some consistent type communication, it’s forced us to say, Okay, how are we going to communicate with the entire organization now that we’re virtual because we were in an office and when your office, it’s really easy to walk by and shoulder tap someone and say, Hey, can I talk to you for a moment or you run into them in a break room or go out to lunch or you know, any of those kinds of collision points that help with communication and culture and, and all those things. So it’s easier to sit to lead by example, in how we behave and how we address things when you’re a person. So that’s a challenge for being I guess we’re more flex than virtual light, can we have an office and you can go into it, but most people are 90%. But we got really tight on one on ones all the way through the business that are happening weekly, we agreed that we would have our executive team meetings in person because they were in Zoom for a year and a half, we all decided to meet in person. We have monthly all-hands meetings where we have different areas of the company present. And then we tried to have some been some organized fun together, whether it’s wine or movie or we floated a river last summer, how to dodgeball game, I mean, it’s not anything fancy, but it’s just you’re laughing families are there, and you feel that you’re not alone. There’s something with pressure and anxiety that I’ve really given a lot of thought about. And I think that it is even more prevalent, certainly was during the pandemic, but uh, you know, it’s still a thing. It’s real. It’s not as stigmatized as it used to be people can talk about it. I’m the oldest of seven kids. In many ways that is a, it’s analogous to an executive team or a company in a way, like there’s parents or parents that are kind of like the final decision maker. And then there’s different personalities in the kid that have different needs, wants, desires, ambitions, values, usually you share the same values, but say you’re on a road trip to Disneyland. Ultimately, somebody makes the decision where you’re going, but there could be various opinions about how you get there. I have a sister named Eliza, and she has streetsmart at booksmart gone to a lot of school, she’s very intuitive, knows people. And she defines anxiety as having a lack of options, though, when you start feeling pressure and anxiety within your position, oftentimes is because you feel like there’s only one endpoint and the direction that you’re going in right now is not working out. So the pressure builds like this isn’t working, this isn’t working. This is working that ceiling way. So if I as a leader, I’m able to say okay, we have a mission or vision or valuables. We’re trying to and x period of time trying to accomplish X goal by department. Each of you can decide the path that you want to take to get there. But I need you to meet me in 90 days and provide them with the ability to say, Okay, well I could do it this way. I could do it this way, not being prescriptive in the way that you’re leading the business. Because when I heard my sisters say that it really hit home with me like, Yeah, I mean, that really is a tangible thing. When you’re feeling stress, it’s because you’re feeling trying to trap or there’s no way out. But if you can provide options to the people in your company or they feel empowered to create their own offerings, doesn’t end all anxiety or depression. Sure, but I think it goes a long way in just helping people manage through it.

Jess Dewell 20:04
You are listening to the Bold Business Podcast. Now you know why I wanted to talk to Brett Barlow, the CEO of every for everywhere every day and everybody were there disrupting the payroll system with their new technology.

Thank you for joining us on the Bold Business Podcast. Your journey towards greater success continues with our Fast Track Your Business membership. By subscribing, you unlock the rest of this enlightening interview and gain access to a wealth of resources. These include invaluable tips, insights, and experiences shared by leading business figures, all curated to foster your entrepreneurial spirit and professional growth. So, DON’T DELAY. Visit fast track your business today dot com, and take your business journey to the next level. Special thanks to The SCOTT Treatment for production assistance.