Meet Kashish Gupta, CEO of Hightouch
In the five years since
Gupta has created a winning formula for building and growing a vibrant tech company in an industry filled with stiff competition and high expectations. What is that formula? Even though that formula is complex, at the heart is people. By finding the right candidates, empowering them to create their own work culture, and providing guardrails as necessary, Gupta has made Hightouch a powerful entity for customer support and satisfaction.
Before mentoring or inspiring anyone, Gupta needed to find the right people. He understood that the needs of a company change as it grows. As such, an excellent manager who can wrangle hundreds of employees may not have a role in a start-up with a dozen people. With a complete understanding of where Hightouch began and where it could go, he used a two-pronged attack to fill his ranks. First, find the people with the right mindset, and then find the people who inspire others to excel.
“Whatever the customer needs is your job.”
It’s logical to assume that the most technically minded or scientifically gifted would be the best early hires. However, Gupta believed that engineers who focus on solving customer problems, as opposed to technology problems, would position Hightouch for success.
“In the early days, a lot of companies will paint a vision and help their engineers think about solving very technical problems. We never did that. We just said, ‘Whatever the customer needs is your job.’” Gupta was not shy to tell people who solely concentrated on technical issues that Hightouch may not be the best place for them.
Find Your North Stars
Gupta is clear that you don’t want the person with the best management skills to be the leader of your company. Instead, he finds the superstar individual contributors and elevates them to leadership positions. Gupta refers to them as “North Stars”. These leaders set the standard, drive the culture, and encourage others to act like them. One example he gave was
Identify the Culture Carriers
Once the best people were found, Gupta knew he needed to let them build their own environment where they could thrive. After all, he knew they had Hightouch’s vision at heart, and they would naturally get the most out of their team by leading by example. He called them his “beacons for success.”
Gupta said, “[Ernest] has grown so much in Hightouch, and he's a culture carrier. Why should I be the person to set culture within the engineering org, when he is what I want it to be like? So, I feel very good about the fact that we bring people in that have high slope and then let them define their org's culture and scale that out. That allows our engineering team to have a little bit of a different culture than our sales team.”
Everyone Owns Sales
The culture at Hightouch is one of collaboration and mutual success. Gupta mentioned, “Engineering is very sales-minded at Hightouch. Salespeople know that they can and should give the engineering team feedback, and that they can get action on that feedback to improve the product. Engineering knows that they're responsible for revenue goals. And because they know that, they depend on each other. They share information back and forth and collaborate much more deeply.” With a shared objective of helping as many of Hightouch’s customers as possible, Gupta’s team excels.
Learning to Say No
Gupta understands that the team can never outrun the limitations of manpower and time. Not being able to meet a goal is incredibly disappointing, especially when someone is both an overachiever and very passionate about that goal. This is the case for Gupta’s team, composed of very talented individuals dedicated to helping customers. He admitted, “We're really bad at saying no.” As CEO, he knew this problem needed his attention.
To get better at saying no, Gupta has encouraged the team to make prioritization decisions. “I always ask them to stack rank because they always want to say everything is important. No. Tell me what is more important and what is less important. Then I make them find the line.” This leads to conversations about sacrificing lower priorities to apply additional resources to higher priorities.
He asks, “What if you had twice as much time for item #1? Does that matter more than achieving priority #3?” Prioritization remains a challenge at Hightouch. As with any business, there is no simple “right” answer. But Gupta has no regrets about the decisions they’ve made so far, and their aggressive approach has contributed to growth.
Business + Tech + Connection
Through his skillful crafting of business, technology, and genuine human connection, Gupta has built a company that has shown its impressive power to scale in just a few short years. By applying gentle guidance where needed, but otherwise allowing his team to work independently, he’s built a self-propelling team that grows Hightouch by helping their customers solve problems. The right people with the right freedoms will keep his company moving steadily forward into the future.
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