Kris Duggan is the CEO and Co-Founder of BetterWorks, an open and collaborative platform for easily setting, measuring and cross-functionally aligning goals. Prior to BetterWorks, Kris was the founding CEO of Badgeville. Kris led Badgeville from its bootstrap phase in 2010 to become one of the fastest growing enterprise software companies in under three years, raising $40M across three rounds of funding. He remains on the board of directors at Badgeville, and is an advisor for Alchemist Accelerator, Palantir, Addepar and RelateIQ. Kris is also an adjunct professor at Singularity University. Prior to Badgeville, he held sales leadership roles at Socialtext and WebEx.
Where does the motivation for BetterWorks come from?
The motivation behind BetterWorks began as I spoke with hundreds of Fortune 1000 leaders and discovered they shared similar frustrations around how to align goals across their enterprises and make sure they ladder up to overarching objectives. Those conversations, coupled with my personal experience of implementing and scaling a goal-setting system during explosive growth at Badgeville, inspired me to pursue BetterWorks along with co-Founders Di Wu and Paul Reeves.
What’s most exciting to you at this point in your career?
We have built an amazing team at BetterWorks, and I’m thrilled for our future. Every person at BetterWorks has such a passion for helping companies around the world achieve their goals. I’m excited about involvement from Kleiner Perkins Caulfield Byers (KPCB), John Doerr, Shona Brown, Gordon Bing and many other influential people even at the earliest stages of growing BetterWorks.
Your website talks about “Building a Legacy.” What legacy do you want to leave with BetterWorks? Do you use this legacy to inspire the people who work for you? If not, can you give me an example of when you inspired people with a vision?
We have a saying at BetterWorks — “become 1% better every day.” Mathematically speaking, if each of us becomes 1% better every day, by the end of the year we’ll be 37 times better. If you multiply this across an entire organization, and inspire a team who truly wants to get better at working and achieving their goals, the possibilities are endless. We want to be the company that makes it possible for organizations around the world to perform at their full potential, and I believe our team is living this legacy out now.
How would you describe your leadership philosophy?
I believe in openness, alignment and placing a large amount of focus on the right things. This is how I lead, and how I expect the leaders within BetterWorks to lead our team. It takes cross-functional coordination and frequent check-ins to create an open and aligned culture. We’re drinking our own champagne by using our goal setting platform to make sure this happens. We’re staying focused on helping organizations reach their full potential through goal achievement.
Tell me about how you’ve scaled. What was a defining moment or decision you made that put you that path to growth? In other words, how did you get your organization to where it’s at today, and what role have you played in that growth?
I was largely inspired by my Dad who started a company after a career as a Chemist. He saw the entrepreneurial opportunities that existed and even though he was trained as a Chemist, he turned into a very successful entrepreneur. Watching this development in his life was a huge defining moment for me. I aspire to let my employees experience these same sorts of moments day in and day out. I don’t want to put limits on the goals they set for themselves, or put a cap on future innovation and growth. Each individual comes with great ideas and aspirations to help BetterWorks succeed, and I’m there to support the team in that feat.
How do you invest in yourself to increase your relevance?
After I sold a previous company for several million, I decided that getting a sales job at WebEx would increase my relevance, even though it meant moving to a much lower salary. In a way, it seemed to the world I was taking major steps backwards, but in reality, it taught me how to sell a product and run a team.
What’s one piece of advice you have for entrepreneurs who are just starting to hire C-Level talent?
Choose to either focus on hiring experienced leaders, or up-and-comers. Both types of C-level executives require work to manage, but in different ways. Up-and-comers need guidance in areas where they might lack experience, and hiring experienced leaders can come with its fair share of politics and egos. Whichever route you take, know that you should be disciplined in coaching them to become better managers and better at their job every day.
How do you attract the best and brightest?
We apply the same philosophies we use to get new customers directly to the recruitment process. We don’t just post job listings. We reach out to qualified candidates across social networks, we have a referral program, we invite candidates to become part of our company culture. We do whatever it takes to get the best and the brightest because we know that’s how we’ll continue to grow and become better.
If you could go back to when you were just starting Better Works and give yourself one piece , what would you tell yourself?
I’d tell myself to set even more ambitious goals. Fortunately, since our company offers an easy way to set and manage goals, it was a no-brainer to align my personal goals, as well as our team goals, to the company vision. We had (and still have) huge goals, focused on a brilliant product and great experience. I remind myself all the time that I’ll continue to grow if I continue to set and meet ambitious goals.
Y Scouts is an executive search firm that unites exceptional organizations with exceptional leaders. This interview is part of our executive interview series, where we ask CEO’s a series of questions about their leadership philosophies and practices. Contact us if you’d like to recommend a CEO to interview, or if you’re looking for a leader to join your team.