Mark McClain has helped to create over $900 million in value for investors in the companies he's led.

His latest company, SailPoint, makes identity management software that protects companies against hackers -- think about the 2014 hack of Sony Pictures -- by among other things controlling how new employees get access to computing resources when they join a company and revoking those identities when they leave.

McClain joined Tivoli Systems as it went public -- and after IBM acquired it in 1996 for $743 million he ultimately ran its global marketing function. He also started and ran identity management software maker Waveset Technologies (Sun Microsystems bought it in 2003 for $150 million).

In 2005, McClain started SailPoint and by 2016 its revenues topped $100 million with bookings growing at 40% a year. It has 530 customers and 550 employees is considering an IPO in 2017.

How is that kind of startup success achieved?

If Glassdoor -- a site that tracks employee satisfaction -- is to be believed, part of the answer has to do with hiring great people and making them happy.

That's because McClain, CEO of  Austin, Texas-based identity management software provider, Sailpoint Technologies, is proud that his company has one of the highest Glassdoor ratings in the world -- including 100% approval from his employees.

Is there a link between SailPoint's growth and the high Glassroor ratings? If so, what's behind McClain's popularity with his people? And how can that help your company?

In my 2003 book, Value Leadership, I argued that organizations with the right values and principles for action can generate better outcomes for customers, employees, investors and communities.

As Enron proved, it's possible to say you have inspiring values and act in a way that mocks every word in your mission statement.

In short, companies have to walk the talk. Based on a July 18 interview with McClain, I think SailPoint does that.  

SailPoint's Values: 4-Is

SailPoint has four values -- integrity, individuals, impact and innovation -- that have helped the company grow and are used to encourage people to do the right things without the need to review every decision with top management.

Here's how SailPoint defines these 4-Is:

  • Integrity "means delivering on the commitments we make. We base our relationships with fellow employees, customers, partners, and investors on trust. every person who works in or with our company -- our customers, our partners, and to each other -- knows they can depend on us to do what we say we'll do," he explained. This matches the principle, Fulfill Your Commitments, in my book.
  • Individuals "refers to how much we value every person at SailPoint. We have learned that those who are confident in their abilities, yet humble enough to admit their shortcomings, make the best possible colleagues.  As a result, we attract and retain the smartest, most engaging, most talented people in the industry," said McClain. This mostly matches two principles -- Value Human Relationships and Fight Complacency -- in my book
  • Impact "means measuring and rewarding results, not activity. While we do our best to ensure that everyone on our team has the competence, skills and knowledge required to succeed, we expect people on our team to deliver those great results with a great attitude," explained McClain. 
  • Innovation "means developing creative solutions to real customer challenges that deliver significant, positive impact on the customer's bottom line. By combining an intimate knowledge of their businesses with our cutting-edge knowledge of technology, our customers view us as a critical, trusted partner," he said. This overlaps with my book's principle -- Experiment Frugally.

Turning Words Into Actions

SailPoint uses these values to hire and motivate its employees. As McClain said, "Developing cultural alignment starts with choosing the right players from the day you open for business. It's important to find people who already share the values and beliefs you want to live by in your organization."

Once those new hires are on board, they look to the leaders of their departments to model successful conduct. So SailPoint picks those executives with special care.

"Ultimately, this means we're trying to find people who fit at SailPoint. This starts with the leadership team who ultimately pass those values down to directors and managers. New hires will look to tenured employees to see what it means to be 'bought in' to a set of values," he said.

SailPoint also uses these values to identify and part ways with employees who don't fit.

This requires especially difficult decisions for some highly talented technical people.

"In technology, some of the most innovative, groundbreaking people can also be disruptive to our culture if they don't share our core values. If the competence issue can't be fixed by [giving the person a different job] or the employee has a poor attitude, [we urge the person to find outside opportunities]," he said. 

SailPoint's culture pushes individuals to take responsibility for achieving results and making decisions rather than complaining to their managers about problems.

SailPoint realizes that there is no point in hiring people if the CEO makes all the decisions. To make sure that does not happen, SailPoint's culture motivates "employees [to] think and act like owners, [take] personal responsibility for overall business performance, [and] and to make difficult tradeoffs when needed to ensure they aren't distracted from those goals," he said.

McClain realizes that people like public acknowledgement of their contributions. As he said, "We make it a point to recognize employees' individual good work and dedication to the company, through quarterly awards tied directly to our core values."

SailPoint's culture attracts and motivates talented employees -- which makes the company more productive. "We hire 'A' players who like to be empowered and to work with smart people. Creating an excitement about SailPoint [helps us hire] employees who are happy to work with other smart people and [to solve] intriguing problems for our customers," he said.

SailPoint's culture also helps it adapt to change. "No matter how effectively we plan and strategize, we are never able to anticipate the unexpected twists and turns that occur along the company's journey. The real value of a great culture is how it helps [us] to adapt to a [mistake we made] or an unforeseen market/competitor issue and get things back on the right track," he said

Growing at 40% with over $100 million in revenues, SailPoint articulates values that it uses to hire, fire, motivate, empower, and adapt to change.

Could your company do the same?

Published on: Jul 22, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.