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Podcast Pit Stop: Sterling Snow on Success vs Significance

Posted by Arielle Walsh on May 20, 2022
Arielle Walsh
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What does a life of success and significance look like? In episode 45 of the B2B podcast, Pit Stops to Podium, Sterling Snow shares how to set standards in different aspects of our lives to become the person we want to be. Sterling is the Chief Revenue Officer at Divvy, a financial platform for businesses. Tune in and hear from Sterling about how living purposefully and being intentional about your goals and who you surround yourself with can shape your future. 

Take 20 minutes to listen and digest and then head back to the races! 🏁🏆

Pitstop Highlights

Who You Surround Yourself With 

Surround yourself with people that have high ambition and high humility. Often, who you surround yourself with is the person you become, and as you surround yourself with people with high ambition and high humility, you begin to possess those traits yourself. Ask yourself, “What type of person do I want to become?” and surround yourself with that person, inside and outside of work.

Maximizing Time/Talent

“The thing that I've seen in the people I admire the most in terms of maximizing their time and talent is they work backwards. They set very, very ambitious types of goals that are years out, right? And then they work backwards. I think that it's super easy to just get in the flow of life.”

Life is a timed event and we are all on the clock. Maximizing the most out of our time will allow us to find who we truly are, what we are passionate about, and pursue the impact we were meant to have. Set future goals, even if they’re ambitious, and use the most of your time to pursue those goals. 

Maintaining High Standards During Work

When setting up high standards, it’s important to be collaborative. During the interview process, don’t be afraid to talk about those standards. It helps to set the standard early on during the onboarding process and clearly defines the expectations of the company. 

Lastly, take the time to find the right talent. The right talent will naturally align with your company–you won’t have to force a fit.

Connect with Sterling: 

Full Transcript

Brendan: Hey everybody, Welcome to Pit Stops to Podium, the RevPartners podcast, where we talk to execs who competed and won in taking their companies from high growth to high scale. My name is Brendan Tolleson and I am the co-founder and CEO of RevPartners, and I'm delighted to have with me today Sterling Snow for this episode of Pit Stops to Podium. Welcome, Sterling. 

Sterling: Hey, Thanks for having me! 

Brendan: Absolutely. Sterling is the CRO of Divvy, a really fast growing technology company, but I'll give you the opportunity to share a little bit about who Divvy is. 

Sterling: Yeah so the easiest way to think about us is that we married expense management spend, management software and corporate credit cards. So if you're familiar with things like Expensify concur, plus your American Express corporate card program, we married those and made the software free and do that for businesses. Founded in 2016 by Blake Murray and Alex Beane and went crazy like very, very, very fast growth and was acquired seven, eight months ago by for 2 and 1/2 billion. So as far as we've been able to tell the fastest B2B exit of over $2 billion that we've found so really, really fun. Still still enjoying it. Lots of good learnings along the way, but that's us. 

Brendan: That's great. Yeah, it's quite a story, quite a ride. And I think it will be great for audience to hear a little bit about some of your insights in light of being a unicorn status and having that exit. So but the sterling, before we get into the big idea today, we do have a tradition here at Pitt stops, at podium, and that's to get to know our guest outside of work. So what are three fun facts that our audience should know about you? 

Sterling: Yeah, I'm an incredibly boring person, but I'll give it. I'll give it my best shot. These are fun, weird facts. I play basketball with a group of folks and I don't live particularly close to that group, so I have to get up at 4:30am to drive like an hour to play basketball. That's that's one of the facts. 

Brendan: Is it because you like basketball so much or you like this group so much? 

Sterling: It is. It is literally both of those things like I could find basketball closer and I love basketball, but it's the combination and a lot of us, we've been playing together now for seven, eight years. So it's like friend time plus exercise time and worth the drive. I guess that's great. 

Brendan: Well, this recording is happening during March Madness. So do you do you have a team that you're rooting for this tournament?  

Sterling: I'm a big, like Coach K fan when you talk about exceptional leaders. And so, man, I would just love if he could go out with a win, even though probably a little too Cinderella. But that's my what I'm rooting for. 

Brendan: OK, all right. Well, what are the two of facts that our audience should know? So I'm from a very small town that people kind of get a kick out of when I tell them the name of it, it's called Winnemucca, Winnemucca, Nevada. It's about two hours outside of Reno, you know, population of 10,000 folks. That's that's where I was born and raised, kind of fun. 

Brendan: And now you're in, you're in Utah right now.

Sterling: Now I'm in Utah and Utah is Utah is not New York or San Francisco, right? But but it's a lot different than Winnemucca, Nevada. It's great. And then last pack for me is that my wife and I are actually having our first baby in like 60 days. 

Brendan: Oh Wow. 

Sterling: Getting ready to be a first time dad here and freaking out a little bit about all the stuff. I don't know, but looking forward to it. 

Brendan: Do you have the house set up yet? 

Sterling: Got the house set up, But I will tell you, figuring out a name is like, I don't know how people do it, and I know you have three kids and you need to tell me how you pick names because I am, we're struggling. 

Brendan: I delegated that to my wife. That's how that worked. So nice. I don't know if it's the right strategy or not, but it worked for us. 

Sterling: I thought you would just like ruffle through all your CRM and like on a quick like query and find the best name.

Brendan: That's awesome. Well, Thanks for sharing a little bit about who you are outside of work. It's always fun to just get to know our people in that context because we are human beings. We're not just human doers, and I think it's actually a good transition to the topic that you are passionate about. And we talked a little bit about divvies success as it relates to building so quickly and selling the 2 plus billion mark. And so one of the big ideas that we're going to talk about today that you can speak to intimately is this whole concept of success versus significance. And I'd love for you to unpack really what that means to you and how you think about it, and we'll dive in some of the topics that relate to it. 

Sterling: Yeah, a lot of times those are two words that I think get super conflated and. They do often happen in parallel, like your success and your significance, those or the significance of a task and the success of it, they do happen in parallel a lot, but they're also very different things and they aren't always going to happen side by side. And so just understanding that you need to focus on the significance and the success is correlated and will happen. But but make sure you're not like putting the cart before the horse. So there's a couple, a couple of ideas. I think we're going to talk about that highlight the distinction between the two and how you can attack it. 

Brendan: Yeah like how when we were prepping for this, you talked about this whole concept of becoming and that's where the priority needs to lie. And so we think about how does the practical application of how to prioritize significance. There are a few areas that I think you can speak to. I think the first topic let's. Park on is around this idea of who you're surrounding yourself with, I think that's a really critical ingredient to it. So let's start there. 

Sterling: Yeah, for sure. We've all had we all have those relationships where we feel like you get energized from the interactions. And then we all have the relationships where it's like, Oh man, I don't I don't really want to go and have that conversation. It's really draining. And so you almost dread doing it. And I think about we're dealing with as a society, right? Burnout on kind of an unparalleled level. And I think in a lot of ways, we're just getting the surrounding ourselves with people wrong. For me, the formula that I've found that works for me, that's not necessarily right for everybody, but it's high, very high ambition and very high humility. That is the kind of person that I just get energized with. And, you know, I work 20 hours a day with that kind of a person, right? And hopefully I can be that kind of person to other folks. But I think that burnout comes from friction. Burnout comes from losing. Burnout comes from frustration. And so surrounding yourself with those people at work is a big way to take a dent out of that. And then relating back to the larger topic, if you're surrounding yourself with those kinds of people, that's who you're going to end up looking like and becoming like. So if you want to, if ambition and achievement and significance and success is high, you need that high ambition. But you also want a very high degree of humility so that people enjoy working with you and being on your team and being in the trenches with you. 

Brendan: I like that a lot. The previous buzz, word or phrase would be like work life balance, and so I think you're kind of speaking into a little bit as it relates to the burnout concept, but may you unpack a little bit further for our team as well? 

Sterling: Yeah, totally. I because in this, this might not be popular at all. I think it has nothing to do with work-life balance. I've had times in like the Divvy journey where we were working like insane amounts of hours, but we were probably the most energized we've ever been. One thing I do on a weekly basis with all my direct reports and therefore all the departments is we have an emotional score 1 to 10. So if you're coming in at a five like it's don't have a lot in the tank emotionally, so to speak. But we've had times where we were really redlining from a work perspective. But the emotional scores were like eight nine Tens. And so it's a lot about the type of work you're doing and who you're doing it with. Not as much like am I getting, am I just having the right amount of hours because life's not like that, you know, you have three kids, and sometimes they require all of your attention for a period of time, right? And sometimes works crazy and you're going to go all in on it or you're really excited about something you're building or doing. And so it's not it's not really balance. It's more like doing the things that you want to be doing with the people you want to be doing them with. 

Brendan: Yeah, I like that, and I'm curious to see how this plays out for you in 60 days when you have a newborn, to be fun, to have that conversation, but certainly I really like those insights. I think it's a good transition into the next topic, which is getting into this whole concept of maximizing your time and talent. So we all have a finite amount of time. There's infinite work to do. So how do you think through what to prioritize and how to make sure you're making the largest impact with it? 

Sterling: Yeah, you said it very well. The phrase that I use is life like this is a timed event and we're all on the clock and the clock is constantly ticking. And you don't know exactly how much you have, but you can. You can make some assumptions and you need to maximize it, right? And so the idea that who you become, I'm not graded on the same absolute basis as you are, you are probably far more talented than me. So what I'm being graded against is getting as much out of my ability and my time as I can, and that's in all aspects of life. But we spend so much of our lives working on the things that we do professionally. So how do you do that? The analogy is when you have a bottle of toothpaste and you know, you squeeze it out, do you take the time to like, roll it and then squeeze it again? Do you actually get all of the toothpaste out of the canister and how do you do that with like life? And to me, the thing that I've seen in the people I admire the most in terms of maximizing their time and talent is they work backwards. They like set. They set very, very ambitious types of goals that are years out, right? And then they work backwards. I think that it's super easy to just get in the flow of life. You know, you wake up, you go to work, you stop, you watch your TV show, you hang out with your family, you go to a weekend. But the act of being purposeful and the act of planning, I think, is very crucial to actually getting the most out of your time on this earth, getting the most out of your talent on this Earth and becoming who you were meant to be and having the impact that you were meant to have. I like that it's one of those. The reality is it's something we could all control, and it's who is going to be intentional and who's not. And if you're willing to be intentional, then you're able to have that impact that you're describing, which let's say it's easy, but it doesn't. It's not exclusive. 

Brendan: So it's all skate If you want to do it. 

Sterling: Absolutely like it's you're right, it's not easy, but it is simple. And the people who I really admire like they are so purposeful that means you say no to things. That means you say Yes to things like it just dictates everything in a much different way. And it's and it's a proactive approach versus a reactive approach. So naturally, you get more out of it. 

Brendan: Well, I think it's a really good segue into the next topic. So we've talked about who do you surround yourself with? We talked about how to maximize your time and talent. And I think this gets into the purpose and intention a little bit more. But how do you set maintain high standards for yourself? So let's unpack that a little bit. 

Sterling: This is a really interesting one for me because I have failed here like many, many times. I used to just try and get really talented people to come and be on the team, right? Because I knew you were smart. I knew you were good and you'd come in and then we would figure out that the thing that I was building, the standards that I was setting weren't the ones that you wanted to chase. And I cannot give you that desire, nor should I. Like that's going to lead to some of the stuff we talked about earlier burnout, frustration, misalignment, all that stuff. So what I've learned about setting and maintaining high standards is be very, very collaborative when you're setting those. So if you're interviewing somebody, for example, talk about it what your vision is, say, hey, we want to be a company that grows 200% year over year. That's that's a wildly hard thing that a lot's going to go into that. Does that excite you or does that make you nervous? Or does that set off yellow flags or red flags? Because you can start to can start to set the standard with them, and if they're getting excited by it, they're saying, oh, heck yeah, that's exactly the kind of environment that I'm looking at, you know, fast paced and go and take the hill type mentality. Well, then it's going to be much easier for you to hold each other to those standards. Hey, remember when we said we wanted to grow 200% year over year? It's not me trying to hold you to a standard that you didn't agree to or even really care about. So that's really the only way I've found out how to do it. If you compare it to a sports team, it's like if our goal is to win a championship, that means it's easier for me to hold you accountable to being in the gym, to doing the workouts, to showing up and practicing hard. But if that wasn't your goal, if you're. Goal was just to have a nice career and to make a few bucks. You're not going to really care about putting in the extra effort. So it's really about accurately describing the standards and getting the buy in and making that a collaborative process, because then you get to hold each other accountable to it and push each other towards it. 

Brendan: Yeah, it's creating clarity and setting the expectations. That's something that Kevin Gaither on the podcast a few months ago and Kevin used to be the VP of sales at ZipRecruiter. And so he talked about how to recruit and retain sales, talent and a lot of what you just described of one of the core elements that people sometimes neglect is clearly defined expectations. And when there's an alignment between the employer and employee, there's no room for ambiguity. And to your point, it drives that accountability that oftentimes is hard to do because no one really knows how they're being measured and what's expected of them. 

Sterling: Yeah, and you talked about earlier, just like the finite amount of time we have. Life's too short to do something to get like misaligned like that. There is a company, I promise, that will want you to be like your version of yourself. And that might not be a hard charging go and grow a bunch. That might be something very different, but just take the time to like, find that. And as people who are leaders take the time to explain that and attract the right team so that you're not constantly like grading on each other, you know? 

Brendan: Yeah, I like that. And I think there's the underlying theme of, you know, we've talked a little bit about intentionality being proactive, but there's also this relational component here because it's a rising tide lifts all boats concept of especially when you have a big, ambitious goal that you talked about. It requires more than just and which I like that you've just described as there's a whole kind of back to the first point of who are you surround yourself with because that's ultimately a dictate who you're becoming. And what is going to what your life is really going to look like from a significant standpoint because we weren't meant to live in isolation both personally and from a professional standpoint. So this has been a good reminder for me. Sterling, as we wrap up, I have benefited from this tremendously. Thank you for your insights. If our audience wants to engage with you or learn more about Divvy, what would you recommend? 

Sterling: Yeah, so pretty active on both Twitter and LinkedIn, SterlingMSnow on Twitter and Sterling snow on LinkedIn. Pretty active. Both places there. And then we're hiring a ton. Also, you can just go check out the website, get and take a look at us in what we're doing. 

Brendan: Great well, sterling, any before we close any last thoughts or comments as we wrap up. I really enjoyed the conversation. And I think that what we did was we said, hey, focus on the things that are significant and you will see success just to be purposeful and intentional about what that actually looks like for you. What is significant to you? That's a highly variable question. So enjoyed it. And Thanks for having me. 

Brendan: I like it. You got into leading and lagging indicators in my world. So in your world, too. So when you prioritize the right things, other areas follow. So certainly Thanks so much. We really appreciate your time, your insight, and we'll talk soon. 

Sterling: Yeah, take care. Thanks 


Pit Stops to Podium: A RevPartners Podcast

On the RevPartners Podcast, we talk to executives who have competed and won, accelerating their companies from High Growth to High Scale. Hosted by RevPartners Co-founder and CEO, Brendan Tolleson. Take some quick notes from each week's "Crew Chief" and then head back to the races!

Learn more