Create A Living Brand

By Julia Capeloto

Do your employees know what their company stands for and what makes the brand different from competitors? Ask them. If the answer is no, you have some work to do.

Brand is more than just your company name and logo. Brand is what people think about when they think of your company — this includes customers and employees. Put simply, brand is how people talk about your company when you’re not in the room.

Brand is more than just marketing. We know that a strong brand leads to business growth and customer loyalty, but a strong brand also gives employees a sense of purpose and inspiration, and guides their behavior on the job.

Your sales team, for example, is a representation of your brand. The first time a customer may interact with your brand is when talking to a member of your sales team. But how is your sales team expected to hit their numbers if they don’t understand what the company stands for and how to properly represent it? Modeling the right behavior and developing customer experiences that create an emotional bond and connection with your brand is going to help your sales force hit and exceed their quotas.

How to Deploy a Living Brand

1) When clarifying or re-booting your brand, start by clearly defining your company’s culture, values, and beliefs, and how it comes together to manifest into the external brand expression, from marketing language to the visual impact of your logo.

2) Once you’ve done that hard work, you must communicate it clearly and explicitly to your employees. Start with training sessions to get everyone on board — what your company stands for, what you believe in, what’s the company’s personality is and how to represent the brand during customer interactions. New hires should receive materials on culture and brand in your onboarding materials.

3) Evaluate existing employee programs, incentives, and internal communications to determine if they on brand. Does your treatment of your employees reflect your company values? If they are not, change them. From top to bottom, your employee experience must empower your team to deliver on the brand promise and to bind everyone together as one company.

4) With clear values and beliefs that everyone understands, you can start evaluating people against them as part of your performance management process. You can also start including the values as criteria for recruiting to make sure that the new people you bring into the company are good cultural fits. And the best part — when your company brand is infused with purpose, employees are more likely to find meaning and fulfillment in their jobs, which leads to higher engagement and retention levels.

Your people are your most powerful assets. When your employees are happy, they are your best brand ambassadors. The business success of Zappos is proof that in order to build a strong external brand, you first need engaged and committed employees acting as your best brand ambassadors.

So go ahead — inspire your employees to be something great and build a brand that they can connect to and live.

Designing Your Document: Making Sense & Looking Awesome

This guest post from Inqune’s Senior Design Consultant Janine Eckhart explains why informational designers do a lot more than make your content “look pretty.”

We’ve got designer clothes. And designer fragrances, designer paint colors, and designer cars. “Designer” is so ubiquitous that doesn’t feel special anymore. Meant to indicate a level of luxury, “designer” often feels put on.

Amid all of this noise, design services may seem over-the-top, silly, or egotistical, but intentional, good design works in service of the message, putting it out in front, supporting it, and clarifying it with the lightest touch possible.

Making Sense

A designer for your presentation, your company’s brochure, or your new-hire onboarding paperwork is a second set of eyes. We catch errors you can’t see anymore because you are so familiar with the content; we make sure your message really is what you think it is. I love (I actually love) realizing that a client has sent me a table that should be bullet points, or the information in a paragraph is better suited to a table. Last, your great designer will make sure your project can be built on time and within your budget, because we exist in the real world.

Looking Awesome

The visual components —  the fonts and graphic assets, the shape and form of the paper, the file format, the aspect ratio — become the structural, nonverbal part of your message and a good designer is careful that everything on the page is in service of the message. To that end, it’s best if it all looks totally awesome. “Awesome” looks different for every project, and it’s our job to ask thoughtful questions to determine what awesome means to you and to align those preferences with the specific needs of the project.

Design Kickoff Questions 

  • Who is the audience? What do they know about your message already?
  • What format does this project need to take? Paper, digital, or both, for starters.
  • What assets do we have already? Are there branding guides, logos, colors, or images?
  • What’s the mood? Are we having any fun? We don’t have to have fun, but I sure like it when we do.

You are an expert in your field and in your message. Enlisting design services to make your message as clear and shiny as it can be will boost your signal above the noise.

8 Tips for Effective Communication of Employee Expectations

by Julia Capeloto

Startup Stock Photos

Do you know what’s expected of you at work?

According to a recent Gallup poll, about 50% of people know what’s expected of them at work, across all job levels, including management roles.

When I first read that stat, the number seemed really low to me, so I took an informal poll of 20 people in my professional network across different levels and industries. And of the 20 people I spoke to, 65% know what’s expected of them at work. That number certainly feels better, but is still not great.

One quote from someone I spoke to really stuck out to me:
“I was hired for a specific role, but what I do has expanded so much, that I am not exactly sure anymore.”

This is a key theme I found from talking to people when expectations aren’t clear, which often has to do with either receiving a promotion at work, or with the company going through growth, a reorg or other transitional period.

When I think about my personal experience at previous jobs, I can certainly relate to feeling confused at times — either when my job description was poorly defined, or when my role organically changed due to business changes at the company but never had a conversation with my manager at the time about how my role was changing and why.

Unclear expectations can lead to frustration for all parties involved and affects entire team dynamics. It can increase conflict, decrease morale and damage company culture. As a result, time and money is often spent wasted on work, and employee engagement levels drop. Once engagement levels drop, performance and company loyalty are likely to drop as well. Nobody wants this.

So how can we be more clear on setting expectations?

Taking a look at job descriptions is a good place to start. It’s important to make sure that job descriptions match the work that employees are actually doing, and that they fit with the organizational structure set at the company. But job descriptions can only go so far in describing a role — the rest requires ongoing conversations and awareness between a manager and her employees.

Moving beyond the job description, here are some points to keep in mind as we work to set clear expectations and create a positive work environment.

  1. It’s a two way street. Both the employee and manager need to be proactive. Managers should tell employees directly what is expected of them, but if that isn’t happening, employees need to take destiny into their own hands, speak up and ask questions.
  2. Clear as crystal. Communicate expectations clearly so there is a shared understanding at the end of meetings with employees.
  3. A nod is not enough. Receive a verbal commitment from an employee at the end of a meeting to ensure she understands what is expected of her.
  4. Go beyond what IS expected. In addition to clearly communicating what is expected of employees, great managers also explain why the work is important to the team and company at large, and how the work should be done (e.g., standards to uphold).
  5. It’s ok to ask for help. Create an environment where people know it’s ok to raise their hand and speak up — whether they aren’t happy with their role, or feel confused, or have questions about what they are working on.
  6. Know what’s happening. It’s important for managers to know exactly what their employees are working on, so any adjustments can be made in real time.
  7. Spell out behaviors. For example, if it’s important for employees to be team players, define what “being a team player” means, provide examples and include the behavior in performance reviews.
  8. Don’t wait until formal performance review meetings. Engaged employees want frequent check-ins and want to hear ongoing feedback. Create a schedule that works for both the employee and manager — could be daily, weekly or monthly, depending upon the job. And in those meetings, great managers help set work priorities and performance goals.

The workplace is fluid and ever changing based on evolving business needs. The key to success is a high degree of alignment between the company, managers and employees.
Getting expectations right through ongoing conversations, makes your team more effective and helps people pivot in times of change. Setting clear expectations is a commitment — it takes time and requires planning. But the time you invest will have a big pay off in the end. Being clear on expectations, leads to happier employees, increased productivity and increased retention.



Fixing the First Day

by Kelly Ceynowa

Man adjusting tie in mirror

Last week the man who heads up the co-working space I use in my neighborhood asked me what I was working on. “I am building an onboarding program to help an experienced salesperson ramp up quickly.” Without hesitation he asked, “What does that mean?” We laughed. I tried again: “Can I have another chance? What was the first day of your previous job like?“ “Terrible!” he said. “I didn’t last long.” “Well,” I said, “I am working on making that day better.”

Inqune’s programs are designed to help your business by ramping new sales and services hires to get them to full quota or performance levels quickly. But they also send a message to your highly talented new hire: you are glad they are here. You are paying attention. You aren’t going to let them get lost in the shuffle: you need their best work, and you will help them to do it.

Being intentional about how someone starts, including how they are trained, matters. It also challenges you, the employer, to decide how you want to be perceived and what you can do to make that perception real. Learning programs are integrated into your new hire’s initial experience with your company.

Odds are your new hire learns more about your company and culture than you could tell them in that first week they come aboard. If they are as talented and accomplished as you think they are, they chose you. And they will decide whether to stay during their first two weeks on the job.

Take the time to ensure your new hire is getting up to speed in a manner that shows you value their learning and development, and increased revenue and growth will follow.

Katy the Intern: What I've Learned

by Katy Spalding

Last week, we said goodbye (for now!) to our first Inqune intern. She left us with this blog post. Best of luck in the new term, Katy, and thanks for your hard work this summer!iStock_000000421458_Small

When I began my Inqune internship two months ago, the extent of my knowledge covered superficial details about the Silicon Valley and a general comprehension of sales. Additionally, the time to decide on a career path as I approached my Junior year of college was looming darkly overhead, a feeling worsened by the fact that the Silicon Valley remained a cloudy mystery.

In the past few months, my knowledge and understanding of sales and modern day companies has increased in a manner that feels exponential. I have been taught the proper etiquette to practice in business correspondence and had the chance to interact with immensely successful people. I have received a crash course in Sales 101, learned a bit of the Sandler Method and became proficient in the basics of Salesforce software. I observed a day of FinancialForce’s onboarding bootcamp and gained crucial advice from listening to thriving FinancialForce Sales Representatives, which allowed me peer into the life of an entry level sales person.

Most importantly, I am now able to envision myself as an adult in the Silicon Valley. Alana has provided me with tastes of such a wide array of companies that I no longer feel as though I am walking blindly into the abyss that is my post-college career. This internship has given me a peek at what my life could be like in a few years which I find priceless and comforting. I have loved this summer internship and will be forever grateful for the chance to work at Inqune.





Two Simple Words

By Julia Capeloto

thank you words written on the sand of the beach

Two simple words make a big difference — “thank you.”

I was sitting in the nail salon last weekend, when I overheard two gals talking. One was telling the other that she just quit her job because she didn’t feel valued at work and no one on her team, including her manager, ever said “thank you.”

It got me thinking…

How often do I say “thank you” to colleagues?

How often do people tell me “thank you” while at work?

How often do you say “thank you?”

I did a little research, and according to The Wall Street Journal, the workplace ranks dead last among places people express gratitude, with only 10% of adults saying “thank you” to a colleague every day. Yikes.

Why does this happen? Are we too busy to stop and acknowledge hard work? Do we take people for granted on our team?

Psychologists have long argued that the pursuit of social worth—a sense of being valued by others—is a fundamental human motivation. In a series of experiments, researchers confirmed that thanking people for their efforts contributes to people’s sense that they are valuable team members, and people are therefore more willing to provide future contributions to help and benefit the group.

In essence, encouraging prosocial behavior, promotes cooperation, which can easily be applied to life at work. Saying a sincere “thank you” benefits you and the recipient. Those two simple words helps people to know that people in the office are aware of their work, and that their work has brought value to the company.

There is no financial cost to saying “thank you,” but not saying it could cost you money if people leave. Employees who feel appreciated are more productive and loyal. In addition, creating a culture of kindness helps to maintain workers’ emotional health and can lower stress at work.

I’m not trying to suggest that we say “thank you” all the time. But if you have an employee who you value, acknowledge their efforts when they are working hard, especially if your company is going through a transitional period. And make sure to be specific with what you are thanking someone for, letting the person know the impact of his or her contributions. It might just make the difference between someone feeling committed to their job, and someone with one foot out the door.




Newbie Post: Katy the Intern

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetby: Katy Spalding

This is the third week of my Learning and Development Summer Internship at Inqune, although three weeks seems disproportionate to the vast amount I’ve already learned. I was exposed to the business of Silicon Valley in small doses prior to this internship, however the “work world” remained an alluring mystery to me, a sentiment common among many undergraduate underclassmen. I am one of the lucky few that has had the privilege to undergo a more well rounded immersion into business life thanks to this summer internship.

Inqune is a small company that takes pride in creating training programs that drive growth in small to mid-sized cloud companies.

One thing I love about interning with Inqune is that we work with a few clients at a time, so I get a peek into at many different business cultures, whereas the typical internship would provide exposure to only one environment. I have loved getting to observe how the culture of a company seeps into every aspect of the business — from the aesthetics to the employees themselves.

I’m witnessing a wide array of jobs and companies that I had no idea existed and I’m getting to see them up close. The Silicon Valley is an electrifying world that is pulsing with innovation, talent and enterprise. Its drive to foster groundbreaking ideas that undermine the stereotype of a bleak cubicle workday is immensely attractive. I am itching to delve into it further as I begin to choose my career path and I am grateful for the opportunities Inqune has provided for me so far.

Onboarding: Day 1

by Julia CapelotoNotecard1

Once, on the first day at a new job, I was asked to start my day at a client meeting off site. I hadn’t yet met the colleagues who I’d be working with on the project; I hadn’t even been in my new company’s office as an employee. It was painfully awkward to sit around a client’s meeting table with people “on my team” who I didn’t know. It was, maybe obviously, a terrible onboarding experience.

Starting a new job can be overwhelming, and first impressions can be hard to change. The last thing you want is a new hire spending their first day second-guessing their decision to join. 33% of new hires know whether they want to stay at their company long-term after being on the job for only one week or less, and 63% make the decision within the first month.

That is not a lot of time, and employee attrition is expensive. So as you build out an onboarding plan for your company, make sure to include a plan for Day 1, to guarantee your new hires have a good experience right off the bat. To get you started, here are some areas to consider:

Welcome aboard

Welcome your new hire as soon as she steps foot in the door. Don’t have your new hire waiting in the reception area wondering where to go and if she got her start date correct. This works best if you assign someone in advance to do the greeting.

Is this thing on?

Set up the workstation in advance. Walking your new hire to a clean desk with the company issued computer and necessary office supplies provided will make them feel expected and welcome. Make sure the computer is set up, working, and all needed software is installed. It’s also a good idea to check that the name in the email address is spelled correctly (Double-check if the name is unusual to you).

Buddy up

Assign a current employee to be a buddy to your new hire. The buddy can be in the same department as the new hire or in a different department. What matters most is that the buddy has some time to be available to your new hire for any questions while getting acclimated to the new job.

Walk this way

Have the buddy walk your new hire around the office, introducing her to peers and colleagues, and showing her the lay of the land— where to find supplies, how to book a conference room, etc.

Manager 1:1

Make sure the new hire’s manger is in the office on Day 1 and that the two have scheduled time together. While this sounds simple, it is often overlooked. With a multi-location company, the manager and employee might be in different offices, so if that’s the case, make sure the two have a conference call on the calendar. It is crucial that the manager and employee to start establishing a connection right away. This will help the new hire feel like her manager is actively guiding her career at the company from Day 1, as well as ensuring expectations are set.

Culture is king

Spend part of Day 1 with your new hire communicating the company’s core values, mission and brand. New hires won’t feel a connection to your company if they don’t understand the culture, and you want that connection to start immediately. Even better: have an attractive version of the company’s core values printed somewhere the new hire can see. Do your employees wear custom badges? Print your values on the badge.

Check it off

Keep a checklist of tasks that need to happen in advance of Day 1 and distribute to all the necessary people: recruiter, HR, IT, receptionist, manager, the team, etc. This ensures everyone knows their role and what’s expected of them to create a stellar first day for your new hire.

Making a good first impression on Day 1 with your new hires will set the tone for everything that follows. But remember, onboarding is not instant. Have a plan that allows for proper onboarding time, beyond the first day and week. By spreading out the orientation and onboarding material, it will be less overwhelming for your new hires, and they’ll have an easier time retaining all the information.

When you support your employees during their first week, month, quarter, and year, you help them to feel connected to the company, which in turn will increase your team’s productivity and lead to higher retention rates.

Julia Capeloto brings a holistic approach to employee engagement by integrating brand and health and fitness, with workplace learning and development programs. She is a San Francisco native and avid runner, holds a Bachelors degree in Psychology and Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles, and is also a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).

The Importance of Culture at Salesforce for Startups

Inqune co-founder Alana Kadden Ballon recently spoke with Mike Creaden at the Salesforce for Startups blog about the importance of corporate culture in startups. Check it out!

The Importance of Culture

Culture shapes the everyday performance and decisions across all levels at your company. Deliberate planning with your leadership team on the physical setup, processes, values, and assumptions to reinforce collaboration and accountability.

5-24-2015 | Mike Kreaden

The following is an edited version of a conversation that I had with Alana about corporate culture and its effects on employee productivity and retention.  As a startup founder, corporate culture is one of those nebulous things that is hard to define, let alone create.  Alana had some great things to say about this.  Let us know what your thoughts are in this regard, so we can expand the dialog on this important startup topic.

Alana Kadden Ballon is founder and principal of Inqune, designs and builds sales programs that have enabled some of the fastest growing technology companies to scale their teams from one to hundreds of reps. Alana began delivering sales kickoffs, onboarding and ongoing development programs that drive revenue by reinforcing culture at and over the past three years has worked with dozens of clients including FinancialForce, SnapLogic, Silverline CRM, App Annie, Taulia, and Informatica Cloud.

Alana— When you are creating a startup, there are many things to optimize. Product. Processes. A qualified executive team, a well-connected board, supportive funders and your company culture.

Your company has a corporate culture whether you optimize it or not. Many assume that all startups have a similar “startup culture.” But truly, each company’s culture is unique.

Mike— So true, Alana. As you know, the Salesforce corporate culture is centered around “doing the right thing.”  From a business standpoint, this means being aligned with our primary value of Customer Success. This is more than just a stated value; it embodies everything we do.  If I’m in Engineering, I’m thinking about what I’m doing in regards to delivering quality code and features that will have an impact on productivity, ROI or just delighting the end user.  If I’m in a Customer-facing role, I know that I’m empowered to go above and beyond to service my customer.  If I need to, I know that I can walk up to Marc or Parker (our CEO and technical co-founder) and raise a concern or ask for help.

But “doing the right thing” transcends the work we do each day.  Salesforce is well regarded (beyond company performance or product awards) for pioneering the 1-1-1 model of integrated corporate philanthropy. In this model, Marc and Parker set aside 1% of founders equity into a 501(c)3 and created the Salesforce Foundation. Additionally, Salesforce provides free product to over 25,000 non-profits and instills a commitment of community service by allowing employees to donate 1% of their time to a nonprofit or charity of their choice. To date, we have volunteered over 920,000 hours. We partner closely with Pledge 1%, an organization founded by Salesforce Foundation, Atlassian and the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado, to help startups integrate the 1-1-1 model at an early stage.

I would argue that this personal empowerment is a cornerstone of the culture of Salesforce.  We are in business to do good – for our Customers and for the community.  This “higher order” way of looking at what we do is also good for the bottom line.  Delighted customers do not attrit and become advocates for you and your products.  Engaged customers (we involve our customers in community service projects as well) become part of the overall cultural dynamic in this way.  This helps to form common ground for deep relationships that go far beyond the last sale or service call.  A culture of good makes everyone feel like they working for something bigger than the bottom line. They are working on their sense of purpose in work and life.

Alana— Great point, Mike.  As you can see, you have the power to create, shape and change your corporate culture — and the choices you make will affect your revenue and results. Edgar Schein, former professor at MIT Sloan School of Management is renowned for creating a three-tier model to identify company culture. Looking through his lens, it’s easy to see why and how culture affects your revenue.

Here’s how:

Artifacts: Visible Organizational Structures & Processes

Collaboration & Best Practices

  • Can your in-person sales team listen in on each other’s calls or are they always in individual meeting rooms?
  • How easy is it for virtual teams to interact, and how do people respond to requests?
  • How easy is it to find information (sales presentations, competitive intelligence, scoping documentation?
  • Do you have an “open-door” policy? Are the doors open and are executives often in the office?
  • How often do remote employees see the rest of the team?

Making your team successful means removing hurdles and giving them the tools they need to do their job. People often learn best if they are repeatedly exposed to the information in their daily life. Overhearing a teammate’s sales pitch, quickly getting to marketing materials, and feeling free to give honest feedback increases individual performances and drive consistency across your team. Removing barriers to finding information allow people to focus on selling instead of wasting time and energy finding the tools needed to do the job.


  • Is it okay to disagree? How are disagreements resolved? Allowing your ideas to be challenged sends a message that the team has enough confidence in the product, the market and each other to tackle challenges and let the best ideas rise to the top.
  • Is it safe to say “I don’t understand”? If your reps don’t understand and can’t get clarification, they won’t be able to share it with customers.
  • Do sales reps feel comfortable honestly forecasting, even if that number is $0? Making room for your reps to tell the truth about what is happening in sales cycles allows you to make fast and effective changes. If reps are projecting (to avoid repeating “forecast/forecasting”) forecasting deals that aren’t going to happen and not disclosing the unknowns, you can’t make your number.
  • What happens when team members make mistakes? How risk-tolerant are your business processes? Some risk tolerance is important because it will allow you to reach the limits of innovation and not play it too safe, too much risk tolerance

Espoused Values: Strategies, Goals, Vision

Do you have stated goals, vision, values and strategy?

  • This can never be done too early. Make sure that you have executive alignment between different divisions so that you can work as one team.
  • Does each segment understand how they fit into the overall picture of organizational success and how they work with other groups to achieve that success?
  • Does your company vision actually encompass what your business does? Do your values reflect the ways you do business? Are all current business segments addressed in the overall business strategy?
  • Do all employees know your corporate goals, vision, values and strategy? What roles do these statements play in everyday decision-making across the organization?
  • Do any of your processes or office spaces contradict your vision and values? These friction points could be keeping your company from achieving its full potential.

Assumptions and Beliefs: Unstated & Unconscious Beliefs, Thoughts and Feelings

This is the trickiest to forge: It can’t be directly controlled by changing processes, physical setup, technologies, making plans or announcing direction.

By uncovering these unstated assumptions, you can determine if any changes need to be made. They should be shifted through sincere course adjustments by leadership (espoused values) backed up by tangible changes in policy, compensation, employee development initiative and other meaningful structural shifts (artifacts).

To uncover these core assumptions and beliefs, ask yourself and your team these questions:

  • Why do I work here? Would I consider leaving? Why or why not?
  • What would happen if I made a big mistake at work? Whom would I talk to? How would they react?
  • What would happen if the company were to fail? What would that look like? How & when would the decision be made to change direction? By whom?

Culture shapes the everyday performance and decisions across all levels at your company. Deliberate planning with your leadership team on the physical setup, processes, values, and assumptions that reinforce collaboration and accountability sets you up to maximize success.

If you’d like to learn more about Pledge 1%, you can start with the Salesforce for Startups program website.

Your 2016 Sales Kickoff

Last month, Inqune began working on a client’s 2016 Sales Kickoff Event.

Feel like you’re already behind? Never fear! Summer is the perfect time to start thinking about how you will recognize and motivate your team in the coming year.

Especially if your team is small, your SKO may not have stages, lights, keynote speeches and breakout sessions. You don’t need large travel budgets, elaborate accommodations or all of the other things that might seem wildly out of reach. Even with a team as small as three or four, without the glitz of a large event, a sales kickoff can set an important tone for your sales team’s year.

You don’t need to fly everyone somewhere tropical for a week– though you certainly can. Inspire a small team and help them bond by doing these four things.

  1. Fire them up. Show your team how big an opportunity you have, why your company will own the market and why they are the best team to make that happen.
  2. Get on the same page. Communicate your strategy and align it with what your team can achieve this year. This will make sure they focus on the right targets using the right messaging and resources. Get everyone marching in the same direction.
  3. Thank AND reward them. They have been working hard and they will continue to work hard for the organization. Recognize top achievers, celebrate wins and laud team members who contributed to the organization. Show them how handsomely they will be rewarded for future performance.
  4. Have fun. Make your team something people want to be part of. Give them time to trade stories, tell jokes and discuss strategies. On sales kickoff surveys, networking is consistently ranked the most valuable part of the event.

Don’t be afraid to keep it simple: It can be an afternoon meeting and a festive night out. Use the time to set the tone and expectations; think about how you will measure success, hold yourself accountable and make changes as you go.

Establishing great sales kickoffs are part of building your company sales culture. Ready to get started? Let us help! Contact us today.