Daniel Debow loves solving problems. In 2008, Debow co-founded Rypple to help businesses provide continuous feedback to employees, something he saw as crucial to job performance. The web-based platform, which was acquired by Salesforce in 2011 and is now known as Work.com, helps managers and employees improve performance through continuous coaching, real-time feedback, and recognition. I recently interviewed Debow, who is now senior vice president of Work.com, about the importance of giving and receiving feedback and why doing so is critical to job success.
How did you come up with the idea for Rypple?
Before I started Rypple with David Stein, I co-founded Workbrain, a company that grew to $100 million in revenue and 700 employees. Because I was young and new to most things I was doing, I was looking for feedback all the time. Plus, I am not always good at picking up on subtle social cues, so I got in the habit of asking people how I was performing. Even if it was difficult to hear the response, it was better to know.
At Workbrain, I started to see big problems with the existing process for getting and receiving feedback. The traditional performance review system was the worst of bureaucracy--even our human resources people hated it. The underlying philosophy was that people are bad, and the system tried to track what they were doing wrong. That was contrary to what I believe to be true. I believe in people and that people are, in general, good. In the right environment, people will do good things. I decided to find a better way, to create something that included not just negative feedback, but recognition.
How does the app help businesses?
The tool is geared toward use by business managers, as opposed to HR people. It produces tangible results. For instance, Hubspot reported a 12 percent increase in sales close rates after it began using Work.com. Other customers have reported a 40 to 60 percent increase in the number of people providing feedback. Other customers have told us that they are in better alignment around their goals. It’s hard to quantify the people side of things. With this application, you can track the results and see how it makes a difference.
What can happen if companies don't provide enough feedback?
Your employees may not live up to their full potential. In many cases, people come to you with a lot of potential and you can coach them to be amazing. If you aren’t giving them recognition and feedback on a regular basis, you're not helping them grow. You're also wasting a lot of time. What is the point of telling a sales rep that they're not performing six months after the fact? Active feedback helps people perform their best in real time.
How do you define success?
Feeling that I am learning and developing, and connected to the world around me. It's being with my wife and kids. It's being in control of my life and having a sense of meaning.
What drives you?
My purpose is to create a lifestyle, time, and place with my family, and a reputation for being a good person. I want to be a useful community person; that’s a big driver. I want to look back and say that I did something important and helped people. I am also pretty competitive and I like success. I'm always looking for the next challenge. I love setting goals and having a vision. I am also driven by disruption. Bernard Shaw once said, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” I like being unreasonable. I want to change the world. I love how a small idea can have a positive effect on millions of people.
What is your core talent? How are you using that talent to achieve success?
When I am excited about something and have a vision, I am able to excite people around me to be their best selves. The flip side of that is if I am down, I will bring people down. So I actively focus on being positive and keeping people motivated. I also have a talent for connecting ideas. Perhaps one of my best talents is finding great employees and helping them get aligned with the company vision. I did not write the code for our software; I found great people who were able to do it. That has been critical to the success of my companies.