Finding Your “Why"


Michael Metzger

Mr. Michael Metzger has been the Chief Executive Officer of Payscale, Inc. since 2004 and serves as its President. Mr. Metzger was with MAK Partners where he focused on the evaluation of early stage companies. Mr. Metzger served as Chief Executive Officer and President of Performant Inc., since joining it in 2000 and where Mr. Metzger managing all aspects of building and running it, which was sold to Mercury Interactive. He also served as Chief Operating Officer of Performant, Inc. Prior to his work at Performant, he served as Vice President Product and Services for WRQ where he co-authored the strategic plan and vision for it. Mr. Metzger also spent time at RealNetworks where he directed software product marketing efforts, started up the Real Broadcast Network, managed the product marketing for successful launches of RealAudio 3.0 and 4.0, and led the creation and development of an ASP stream hosting business for RealNetworks, which led to over $3M in revenue in the first full year. Earlier in his career, he held various positions at Microsoft, including International Product Manager, Lead Product Manager for MS Works and Group Manager Consumer Marketing. Mr. Metzger serves as a Director of PayScale Inc. Mr. Metzger holds an MBA in Industrial Administration from Carnegie Mellon University and a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Clarkson University.

Webinar Transcript

Woman: A lifetime technology leader, Mike Metzger joined PayScale in 2004 as Chief Executive Officer. Previously, he was the CEO and President of Performant and also held product leadership positions at RealNetworks and Microsoft. Mike holds an MBA in Industrial Administration from Carnegie Mellon University and a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Clarkson University. Please welcome to Elevate 2015, Mike Metzger.

Mike: Welcome to Elevate 2015, and I am hoping to share a little a bit with you about finding your why. My name is Mike Metzger. I am the CEO and President of Payscale. I have been with Payscale for about 10 years. My background is a combination of consumer packaged goods and technology, and I joined our company as employee number four. And I'm going attempt today to share with you a short story of how we, as a company, created or pursued and, ultimately, created our why. And I want to share that with you and why I actually think it's kind of interesting and important for every business to have a why.

Payscale is the largest database of employee compensation in the world. We run an online web survey. We get about on the ballpark of 10 million people a month that show up on our website. A portion of those people give, contribute to our dataset, give us very detailed data about themselves, their background, their education and how much they make. We turn around, take this information, put it through our proprietary engine, and make this information available both to individuals and to businesses from our website. We've got about 3500 subscribing business customers who purchase an annual membership from us in order to access data. And, ultimately, what we're able to do is we're able to help people understand how much should they be making in the market given their background, and skills set, and roles, and responsibilities, and we help companies figure out what they should be paying for individuals to get particular jobs done.

Our mission as a company is to help other companies design, communicate, and optimize their compensation strategies in a way that enable their both their businesses and teams to thrive. We think this is really important for us. It's the intersection of the two. Ultimately, it's the teams that make our company successful, and you've got to have a strategy and an approach that helps your teams be successful if your company is to be successful. So that's our mission. What I want to share with you is a story or narrative around how we created our why. And I'll start off with, first of all, the concept here we didn't create. This was created by Simon Sinek he calls it "The golden circle," and he has a really great 16 minute TED Talk and if you have a moment, you'll see the reference and the link at the bottom on the slide. If you have a moment it's totally worth listening. He talks about Apple Computer, the Wright brothers, and Martin Luther King and how they each...the unique thing about each of them was how they used their why to inspire their teams and inspire a nation and inspire legions of us who all own iPhones, iPods, and a range of incredible devices from Apple computers.

And what I want to describe to you is just a little bit of how we got there and why I think it's important for every company to through this and how you might think about doing the same thing. In Simon's model, in the Golden Circle, there are three components. There is the what, there is the how, and there is the why. All of these are super important but what you'll hear if you listen to Simon and what you'll hear from me is that of these three, the one that actually is the most important is the one in the middle and is the one is the hardest. And frankly, it's the one that is given the least amount of attention.

We kind of started off down this path, ultimately, by trying to answer the kind of the classic interview question, board member question, venture capital question, which is what do you want your company to be when you grow up? Where do you guys want to be? What do you want to do? And typically, people or companies will answer this with, or will attempt to answer this, with a mission statement or vision statement or set of values, set of goals and a marketplace that they want to dominate. And I think the pivot, for me, or the linchpin in listening to Simon's description the Golden Circle is that, surprisingly, most of the times those things are more constraining and less grounding. And what do I mean by that? More constraining because they typically box you in and less grounding because they don't actually get at the nub of something which ultimately will inspire your team, inspire your employees, and inspire your customers.

Before I get into our story, let me start off with sharing with you how we answered these three questions. Our what is we sell competition data solution and services and you probably got that from my intro to the company. Our how is that we collect detailed data of individuals over the Internet to deliver best practice solutions to businesses with the SaaS software. But our why is that we believe transparent fact-based conversations between companies and employees generate the best outcomes and let both thrive. And this is really the essence of what we are trying to do in the market and frankly, the way we are trying to change the world. Keep this in mind as we step through some of these other components and, hopefully, it will all come together.

If you watch Simon's TED Talk, you'll see that he speaks to that getting the why right is the secret to inspiring. It's the secret to inspiring teams, the secret to inspiring customers, and it's the secret to inspiring people to follow you. And this matters particularly for technology because if you are familiar at all with crossing the chasm or any other kind standard technology diffusion models, you will know that for many new products and for many new markets that you have to get the early adopters first and that they are ultimately the gateway to getting broad market adoption. And the key here is that the early adopters rarely purchase a product to try something new based solely on rational thought. They do it based on an alignment between what they think you're doing or what they think you stand for and what they stand for. They do it because they believe in your belief and, ultimately, the things that you end up doing in the market are just an articulation of your beliefs.

What I think you'll get from watching Simon and what we certainly took away was that the secret to inspiring is having a very compelling, known why and the ability to communicate that. Let's get back to the general concept of the Golden Circle, the what, the how, and the why. I will take a minute talking about each one of these. So the what is what you make, what you sell. It's the outward articulation of your business, of your movement, of your program. And so, frankly, this tends to be what most people focus on. If you say to somebody you're sitting next to on an airplane, "Hey, what do you do?" They will say, "I am in the computer business." They'll say, "I am in the pharmaceutical business," or "I'm in the healthcare business." And that's very much a what. It's what they do. It's the articulation of what they put in the market. And it's important to have that, but it's not sufficient. And my guess is that when you're sitting next to them on an airplane, you don't particularly find it inspiring as well.

So the how is really how your company or program or your movement goes about delivering the what. And often, people think about this from a business perspective as your unique selling propositions. It's how you deliver your what, but you do it differently than your competitors. And this is clearly important. You got to understand what that is. It forms the cornerstone for a lot of your marketing communication. And it is a key component, but it's not sufficient. These two things together are not sufficient in terms of inspiring. Frankly, they tell everybody functionally what you do, and what you think, or what's different about you, but they don't give anybody the sparkle, the snap, the inspiration to jump on board. And frankly, what it ends up doing is you give everybody the framework with which they ought to compare you to all your competition, but you don't give them anything extra to believe in.

The last part of this, and I really feel like arguably the most important, is the why. And this is all around why do you show up at work? Why does your company come together every day of the week, five days a week to deliver what you're delivering? It's the why do you think you are going to make a different to your customer's life? Why do you think you are going to change the world? Why do you think it matters? And this is, in our view, the essence of it. And you've got to have this and you've got to have some clarity around it. You have to be able to communicate this with your team. You have to be able to be consistent with this in all your programs. Frankly, your HR policies, how you work with your customers? This, we think, is super critical.

Now, most companies will start off and will talk about themselves first in terms of the what and then sometimes in terms of the how, right? We build computers or we build cars and we do it with batteries or we do it with the best LCD screens. And most companies think about themselves from the what to the how and rarely do they get to the why. And again, if you listen to Simon, what he'll tell, and I think this really resonates for us as well, is that you have to actually flip that around. You have to start up with why and then talk about the how and then talk about the what. And inspiring companies and inspiring movements are all about starting with the why, which is the unifying kernel of why people are there. And then they talk about the how and what.

And so for Payscale, our why is all about helping companies and teams have fact-based conversations so that they, frankly, can eliminate that at any point of contention and turn it into a point of mutual agreement and synergy that allows them to go forward and be incredibly productive and achieve their goals and objectives. I challenge you to think about this first to not only come up with the why but be able to think about how that should come first in all your conversations with your teams and employees.

Let's talk a little about a couple things that, as you think about the why, you may want keep this in mind. The first is that people don't buy what you make. Of course, they end up buying your thing, but they follow or they buy based on their belief and what you believe. The same is true for your teams, your people, at least, the employees that you can find that stayed in your company are there because they ultimately believe in what you do and why you are doing it. And your most loyal team and your most loyal customers are's important what you do or how you do it, but they're there are because they believe in what you're doing. And that is super critical. And ultimately, this all adds up to loyalty and, frankly, early customer adoption.

What you want to be able to try to answer is what you, as a company believe, and ultimately why you think that belief is going change the world or why it's going to change a fundamental experience for your customer. What this is is the passion around your business, the piece that you get passionate around. It's how your company is going to make the world a better place of your movement is going to make a word a better place. And ultimately, why does this matter? You have to have a why that not only is understandable but means something. What it's not, it's not your mission statement. It's actually not focused on market need, which is very functional. It's not focused on capital functionality. Those are important, but ultimately, if you've done a good job with your why, these things within or sitting under the umbrella of your why...but you need to start off with why in order to create the right [inaudible 00:15:41].

Why should you even think about going through this because it takes a little bit of time and, frankly, it's kind of messy. For us, we started off and spent some time looking at a variety of things. I'll talk about that in a minute, but from a team and a company perspective, ultimately, a why statement, a well-articulated why statement provides your team with a rally cry. And it provides it with this important reference or touchstone that they can use to evaluate almost everything they do in all their strategies, all their programs because if it doesn't fit with that why, you really ought to ask does it make sense to being with? This provides a framework within which you can hang your values, your mission, your strategy and, frankly, evaluate future opportunities. If you look at our why, there isn't anything in our why that says we can't go into markets in the future unless they don't help companies and employees communicate in a factual way in order to help organizations and their teams thrive and succeed. And that's a pretty broad why. We happen to believe that the kernel in our why is that data informs and empowers those conversations and is critical.

How did we do it? Frankly, we spent a lot time working on core values and mission statements. We had conversations around what problems we were trying to solve. And what was interesting about it is we probably spent a year to two years working on all these different sets of things, and we still kind of felt like there was a hole or it didn't come together in as tight a fashion as possible. And for me, when I watched this TED Talk, the penny dropped because the piece that was missing for us was the unifying why. And once we got our why into place, all the rest of these things either fit or were tuned and then fit in. And so arguably, it's a little bit messy a process and arguably, you'll have a conversation about all the elements as you're doing it, but I would challenge you to make sure you talk about core values, make sure you talk about vision, etc. But make sure you answer the why before you lock anything down.

I think the why, ultimately, probably the biggest short-term impact for us was on our team. And the people align, and particularly in our markets today where everybody has the ability to look at 200 or 300 jobs, people align with organizations and ideas that resonate for them. That they feel inspired by. And I think it's important if you are going to be competitive and retain the loyalty of your teams, they have to know why they are there. And you have to help them fit into why it makes sense to be part of your company and what's the bigger purpose that you're serving. It's a critical component, I think, of how people align and associate and, frankly, it's a piece of the equation that when they're at a cocktail party or sitting on the airplane and somebody says, "What do you do?" What I want them to be saying is, "Hey, I'm at a company and we're all about helping companies and employees have fact-based conversations so they can both thrive." That is being inspired by what your company does. And that is what keeps teams around. So that's why I think it matters. And it will be worth your time trying to create a why for your business. So that's our short story. Hopefully, you found it helpful. Do check out Simon's TED Talk if you get the chance. I appreciate your time this morning. Thanks.