When we founded Xactly nearly a decade ago, we were on a mission to inspire our staff. Not only did we want to build a successful company, but we also wanted to create an organization that would completely transform the world of incentive compensation. Up until that point, there had never been a SaaS offering in the space. In fact, SaaS overall was a brand new concept. So not only were we asking customers to take a chance on an unknown newcomer, but to trust an entirely new form of tech delivery. Because customers in the SaaS world weren't locked into lengthy contracts or expensive software and implementations, they could simply leave if they didn't get what they were looking for. I knew that to accomplish all of this I would need to build a new kind of company; one with employees who were engaged, passionate, and dedicated to customer excellence.

It's my personal belief that at the heart of all great companies is a thriving culture--one that developed through shared mission and values, not from slides in the lobby or a 5-star chef. While these perks might be enjoyable, when the novelty wears off you're not any closer to having a motivated or engaged workforce that's excited to get out of bed everyday.

When we set our sights on locking down meaningful company values, my team and I came up with a list of 13 things that we believed encapsulated the company we wanted to be. You can never have too many values, right? Turns out you actually can. I would stop employees in the hallways and say, "What are our core values?" The question was almost always met with blank stares and nervous employees, who would more often than not start rattling off the Boy Scout oath--"trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind..."--before eventually trailing off and admitting they were unsure of the values. It taught me that if the employees couldn't even remember the core values, then there was no way they could be living them. They would only be core values when they became indispensible to the company's culture.

So we rethought the process and focused on the things we really wanted to stand for. What we landed on were four key values: Accountability, Customer Focus, Excellence, and Respect. When I got back to my desk to type out this list, I made the serendipitous discovery that, when rearranged, the initials of our values spelled out C.A.R.E. These were the values that stuck, and they have served as the foundation for our thriving culture. I've always thought of care as the fifth value, and it's inspired our philanthropic work in our communities from day one.

Now, whenever I pass an employee in the hall, even the brand new hires can easily recite our values. In fact, I am so sure they can that I once dared a customer prospect to ask anyone in the organization, in any department, what our core values are. Let's just say my employees did not disappoint.

There's a line in an old song that says, "you've got to stand for something, or you'll fall for anything." I believe that is true. Our company stands for Customer Focus, Accountability, Respect and Excellence. Everyone knows it. Everyone lives it. It's the foundation of our company, it's what makes us a great place to work, and in my mind, it's the cornerstone of our continued growth and success.