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The Art of Data-Driven Decision Making (Ep. 29)

with Shuo Wang, CRO and Co-founder, Deel

Running a global, remote-first company isn’t easy.

You’re faced with a lot of decisions about what strategies will positively influence the company’s global culture, which is why it’s critical to be data-driven.

“Every time I make a big decision, I look at a lot of data and evaluate a lot of data points. Based on that, I’ll analyze and deliver a result and the strategy to the rest of the team. I think it is very important to have a game plan and the reasoning behind it,” says Shuo Wang, CRO and Co-Founder of Deel.



Shuo Wang_Deel

In this episode of LEARN, Shuo talks about Deel’s philosophy on hiring, leading, and building culture in a remote-first business. Along the way, they also talk about ways to make the most out of Slack, their messaging platform of choice, to form better relationships internally.

Key takeaways:

  • Returning to data will always help your strategies
  • Building a kudos channel can help teams work better together
  • Doing async tasks as much as possible will help increase productivity

Tune in on your go-to podcast app to discover how you can elevate your remote employee experience.

Timestamps

[08:04] The cultural rhythms of a remote-first company

[09:53] Enforcing values in a remote-first environment

[12:09] Mastering Slack when working remotely

[13:23] Building a great remote sales culture

[14:59] Creating a kudos channel

[21:38] Being a flat organization

[22:53] Becoming a better remote-first leader

[25:47] LEARN Rapid-fire round

Transcript

Shuo Wang: I am a very, analytical person. So everything, whenever I make a big decision, I would look at a lot of data and then. evaluate a lot of data points, and then based on that, and I'll analyze and deliver a result and a strategy to the rest of the team. I think it is very important to have a game plan and then to have a reasoning about the game plan that we're rolling out and why.

Ted Blosser: Welcome to the LEARN podcast, where we interview top leaders in tech and learn about how they're building the world's most innovative companies. I'm Ted Blosser, CEO and co-founder of WorkRamp, the world's first Learning Cloud platform. Our mission is to help professionals reach their full potential through learning, and the LEARN podcast is where we can learn from the best leaders at the top of their game.

Please subscribe, leave us a rating, and we hope you enjoy the episode.

Everyone, welcome back to the LEARN podcast. We have an amazing guest today. We have Shuo Wang, the co-founder and CRO at Deel. Shuo, thanks for joining us.

Shuo Wang: Thanks, Ted, for having me today. Thanks, everyone. Happy to be here, of course.

Ted Blosser: Well, I randomly met Shuo at, a Salesforce Ventures and Bessemer Ventures event. It was the Cloud 100. And, uh, when I met her, I said, you have to come on our podcast, and share more about the Deel story. And, uh, what we want to talk about is also, uh, how Deel is one of the best remote-first companies as well.

But before we jump into it, can you give us an elevator pitch on both Deel? And then after that, let's talk about an elevator pitch on yourself as well.

Shuo Wang: Sure, good morning, everyone. Thanks so much for having me here today. I am sure one co-founder and CRO at Deel. So what we do at the Deel is we're building an all-in-one HR platform for global teams. So, we help companies simplify every aspect of managing an international workforce from culture and onboarding to local payroll and compliance.

Do works for independent contractors and employees in more than 150 countries, compliantly. And then, we also have companies to set up, entities offices, and within a matter of minutes.

Ted Blosser: And then how about yourself? Tell us about your journey about getting to Deel and starting Deel.

Shuo Wang: I have a very technical background. So I studied, uh, uh, mechanical engineering, uh, focusing on, uh, robotics, uh, at MIT. And then, uh, after graduating from MIT I went back to Beijing, where I lived till the age of 16 and built my first company. So that company drove our robot and then moved back to San Francisco and then built Deel.

Ted Blosser: wow, that's amazing. Well, selling a company, uh, that young and then starting deal, we're also another Y Combinator alum, but you, you guys are way more successful. I will have to say that, one of the fastest companies to a hundred million error, if anybody doesn't know that, but all right, where I would love to start Is again, today we're going to focus on how to build an amazing remote-first company Deelis literally one of the best shining examples of that.

The topic I want to go through first is around hiring a quick question for you. So can you give us the scale of, Deelright now in terms of employees, uh, that you have?

Shuo Wang: Yeah. So we have close a thou, 3000 people, across 110 different countries. So we are fully remote. We're probably the largest remote, uh, remote company, in the world right now. Yeah.

Ted Blosser: That's amazing. Okay. Three. Okay. So 3000 people, you probably have a lot of learnings around hiring. Can you give us your philosophy around hiring, especially when you can't meet these people in person, give us your philosophy on how do you find great talent while you're running a remote-first organization.

Shuo Wang: That's a great question. for deal, we fully believe in, talents, right? Because talents build the culture, build the foundation, build the company and how everyone can work together with everyone is definitely the key for us to scale and scale faster and execute faster. So what we do is that at the very early days of Deel.

Alex and me, we interviewed every single employee. So I think we interviewed our 1st of 400 employees, at least for myself. Right? And Alex still today, uh, interview, like, you know, a lot of, I sees that he is directly managing, for me, uh, for every single sales rep at the early days, I, I make sure that, you know, we are culturally aligned.

they are, um. faster learners as and then builders as well. And then, uh, 2 cultures that we're focused on at the Deelis number 1 Deelspeed which is fast at execution and then client first which, like, you know, we really care about our clients and then focus on giving them the best experience. I think a couple of things that we're looking for.

At the time of hiring and interviewing is, at least for me, for myself, when building my, uh, my, my, uh, the foundation of the sales team. I'm looking for whether the sales rep is analytical or not, and then whether, they're logical and then can explain a product very well. And then the third one is whether they.

what they're looking for is is aligned with skill culture and then how we, think our mission is set and how we can grow together and scale together. Yeah.

Ted Blosser: It's a great set of criteria. I always have this debate with our team internally on length of interviews. How many times should you see a candidate? How many people you should have on the panel? Should that be consistent? So there's all these different variables and I, I've been personally and we're, we're a remote first as well, too.

Not at your scale, but remote first. And we've always been tweaking. the interview panels and the interview rhythm with our, uh, candidates. Do you have any recommendations on what you found as the sweet spot for how to actually conduct the interviews? If you could maybe get one level deeper into how to actually run interviews.

Well, that would be great.

Shuo Wang: Yeah. Happy to share. So typically, uh, still today, I interview, take a sales team. For example, I interview, ICs, individual, uh, AEs, reps, as well as sales managers, uh, directors and sales leaders, right? So for directors and then, uh, sales leaders, I typically spend, uh, 30 to 45 minutes and then we have take home task.

And then for individual reps, web managers, I spend 15 minutes. To interview them, so during the 15 minutes, there are 3 things again that I'm looking for whether they're analytical, whether they will be able to explain me a concept or a product that they are selling what they used to sell very well.

And the number 3 is. what they're looking for is aligned with what you can provide them, right? it's three typical correct questions that I would ask them during the 15 minutes of my interview is number 1, what is their quota like? And what is their attainment? how is their attainment being calculated?

Right. So if a rep cannot explain their code out, or cannot explain what is their attainment. I, don't think they really care about their sales commissions, which is already a bad sign. And then if they can explain, uh, me, the comp structure, quota structure very well, that means they, understand that the data side of things.

which is very important. So that's number one, number two, uh, what I. Also ask is just ask them that, you know, whatever that they're selling today, what are the biggest pinpoint? What are the biggest value that the product can provide to their prospects? Yeah.

Ted Blosser: Have you seen people fail that often where they have, they struggle selling their own product

I think people are like sellers or reps are typically very good at selling, but it, it is just rather the reasoning is convincing or not. Yeah. Because I am a technical person, right? So like, uh, being logical, being convincing is what I'm looking for. So if you can sell a technical person where like, uh, a very,

Shuo Wang: Technical pros processing present that I, I think you'll be able to sell to everyone. Yeah. It just need to be convincing. That's it. Yeah.

Ted Blosser: I love your approach where it's not like, Hey, we don't need to spend hours and hours with someone that we have set criteria and we know what we're looking for. what I like to do, and that's, uh, I think a, great way to hire. What I'd like to do is switch over into what I call a cultural rhythm.

And so Reed Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, uh, he, he gave this podcast on how every company has its own. Unique cultural rhythm and, um, essentially activities they do internally. I'm curious, what are the cultural rhythms that deal, um, has either been running or has run in the past that you love to share more about?

Shuo Wang: I, uh, for Deel. Uh, we, uh, as I mentioned earlier, uh, two biggest things that we're looking for while we're focused on what the value of Deel is… Number one, Deel speed, which, uh, we execute fast and then we identify problems, we find solutions, and then we solve the problem fast. So, that's what we call you speed.

Another 1 is care. We care for our own people. We care for our clients. We care for the talents that we're sending payments to where usually salary to right? So, make sure that, you know, everyone is filling. Being taken care of by deal, and then we provide a really good services, make sure that they're compliant.

They always receive their salary on time all the time. And also, if they have any local logistic issues, taxes issues, We're there for them. We'll be able to help them. Right. So they get things like that could be very stressful. And as long as they understand rely on deal, I think I feel very accomplished.

Yeah, those are the 2 cultures that we emphasize a lot at the deal.

Ted Blosser: and in terms of reinforcing those two values, I'd love to see if you can get into specifics too, is, do you do, for example, monthly, all hands, weekly, all hands, what's like the meeting rhythm when you have a remote first culture? How do you, enforce those two values on an ongoing basis?

Kind of curious, about that.

Shuo Wang: yes, we do our hands every week and then remotely. And then every other week we focus on different topics. We create alignment on product. We create alignment on strategy and my co-founder and I. We often do ask me anything and so I, I do think that is very effective. But another thing is today we have, as I mentioned, we have towards like, you know, 3000 people across 110 countries that we're hiring talents from.

So, like, coordinate and then make sure that everyone joins the all hands is a little bit. Tough

So, I think. Uh, what's the most efficient that I identify is, uh, how the managers, how the founders, like, you know, apply those values into their day-to-day cadence where, like, if we are building a system, we're building processes to incentivize, to encourage our team to follow those two, two values.

Right? And then also, uh, we don't have a. Office Slack is our office, right? So we live on Slack totally reacted to like, you know, what is my response? Time for my team one night where they ask me anything. Uh, what is my help my support to them is when they ask me for my feedback and then ask me to solve something for them.

Right? And then if I am on top of their problems, if I am on top of helping them in a very fast way, like, you know, be able to answer them within minutes or even within like, you know, uh, hour or two. that shows that, you know, I really care about them and then that shows that how fast I am reacting to a lot of the requests out there.

So that will help my team to understand that, you know, Hey, this is the culture. This is the standard. This is the expectation. And then this is how I will need to apply

Ted Blosser: sounds like you live and breathe on Slack to run a global company across every different time zone. What's the one tip you would recommend to remote-first companies for Slack? Is it the response time you mentioned, or is there anything else where you're like, do this and you will be, golden, or you will be in, in a, in a really good spot from a Slack perspective?

Shuo Wang: I think, uh, always reply, uh, no matter, like, you know, if you cannot reply right now within seconds, that's okay, there's a very good feature. What's the new newest Slack is called save it for later. And the highlights as well. So I think, uh, by the end of the day, clean up your save it for later. I can list that will help the team a lot.

Yeah. So I do think it is really from, the founders or like, you know, from. The managers, how we react will, like, you know, form how the team react.

Ted Blosser: Okay, cool. Set a great, just to reiterate, it's almost set a great example. Things like response times are key and then treat it like your, you would treat your email inboxes, try to clear it out by the end of every day. so you're responsive to people. I love it. Okay. I want to shift into a subset of culture, uh, for the team you run.

So you're the CRO, you run the go to market organization. I think a lot of people think about sales orgs as like the sales pit and you're all in person together and you're making cold calls and you can hear each other and understand how to sell. But in a remote first world, you don't have that, right?

You're selling alone in a room to buy yourself. Maybe you have a gone call recording. People can listen to afterward, but how are you building a great sales culture? Given you're in a remote first world, give us some tips on, on how to do that.

Shuo Wang: I am still exploring. Right. I'm still I'm trying to learn that every day be adaptive and then be iterative and understand that. Hey, what are some of the things that we try to really, identify with the team? I think that one of the things that we start to do is.

Build a kudos channel. So, every time we, see a good pitch or like, any reps build a really good, presentation template we would share in the kudos team and then make sure that, Hey, I understand, What is this deal? Why is why are we highlighting this deal?

And then why we give kudos to the team? I do think like, you know, that is very important to apply a lot of the learnings and then the experience to the rest of the team. Yeah.

Ted Blosser: Kudos channels that is that, kudos usually pulled out from the managers for their reps or are the reps themselves as a very organic bottom up where the reps themselves are sharing information about their deals. I'm curious, where's the point of entry into sharing, great sales practices?

Shuo Wang: Yeah, so at the very beginning is mainly the managers highlighting like, you know, Hey, we close this deal. This is how we close the deal. Who are the wraps on this deal? And then we give kudos to, and then right now I feel like, you know, a lot of their peers give kudos to other wraps. So, for example, we would have North America wraps.

Work together was a wrap and then they feel like, you know, they close this big Deel together and then they give kudos to each other or even like, you know, within the same region, a mid-market wrap helped us and be wrapped to close the deal. The S and B wrap would give kudos to the market wrap as well.

So we're really encouraged that incentive-wise, that the support internally and then the cross-regional, like, you know, teamwork. Kind of really bring a lot of value and efficiencies. Yeah.

[00:16:28] Ted Blosser: everyone want to interrupt our interview with Shuo Wang. We are talking about how to build an amazing remote-first company. One of the critical tools you need to build a remote-first culture is an LMS. If you're looking for LMS, look no further than WorkRamp. We are building the all-in-one Learning Cloud to train your employees, customers, and partners.

Check us out at www.workramp.com to learn more. Now back to the episode.

So we have the kudos channel. Is there anything else you would recommend in terms of tips, for building this sales culture, or even let's call it even managing a remote first sales team? Well, any other big tips?

Shuo Wang: I am a very, analytical person. So everything, every time when I make a big decision, I would, look at a lot of data and then. Uh, evaluate a lot of data points, and then based on that, and I'll analyze and then deliver a result and a strategy to to the rest of the team. I think it is very important that, To have a game plan and then to have a reasoning about the game plan that we're rolling out and why, because they are great. Right? But they, they also like, you know, have a lot of requests and then they consistently ask you a lot of questions about why. Right? So they need to be convinced so that they can sell and then they can come with other people.

So make them, Okay. Be convincing and then make them align with your strategy can really, uh, like, you know, create the team culture and then. To create the alignment internally so that, you know, we can be very efficient 1 hour. We wrote anything new or we make a big changes and decision moving forward.

Yeah.

Ted Blosser: when you say data, are you going natively on Salesforce or are you building additional tools on top of that to give you that, that purview, into the environment,

Shuo Wang: Yeah. Oh, wow. 2 is another another, big thing. Right? So for any sales team, because today running, uh, Very global sales team. We have about 600 sales reps and then, uh, and then we have different coverages. Americas, North America, as well as whole Europe, whole a pack, right?

And then then just, the culture difference and then the different regions and different. Company incentives, different pitching points, different customers and segments that we're covering. Like, you know, it's very hard to create like, you know, using one set of tools. We're using like, you know, enablement, one set of enablement tools to, to build, training programs and the culture and then the enablement.

Right. but we're trying our very best to keep Salesforce as aligned as possible. Yeah.

Ted Blosser: I couldn't even imagine, uh, just the currencies you're dealing with, uh, and how to even normalize that. So I bet you it's a super difficult. All right. I want to switch gears just slightly. So we talked about building a sales culture and the sales team needs great products to sell deals, been known to rapidly, build and release products because really you're only four years old right now.

2019 was when you were founded. And, again, one of the fastest companies, a hundred million ARR. So you had a lot of product innovation at the right time. So tell us what is your secret for the pace? A product innovation. You talked about speed as a cultural value earlier, but maybe if you could give us maybe a little more of the secret sauce on how do you move so fast when building products?

Shuo Wang: Alex is my co founder. He's a leading product. Right? And then, uh, Alex is a great product person. and then he moves very fast on products. And we're always shipping. We're always delivering new features, new products that benefits our clients. Right? I think the 1 thing that we did, Very well is client interviews. And then I remember at the very beginning of Y Combinator, uh, we spend the majority of our time interviewing our, batch and then, uh, a lot of funders, like, you know, give us really good feedback on what we can build and then then, uh, what is the product that they want can help them to hire internationally or send the, like, you know, salaries to.

Um, A lot of the international talents, right? So we interviewed around 200 companies, 400 people, and then still today, a lot of their feedback, from the early interviews, we're still building, right? And then, consistently, our team. Be very on top of, client request and then pro at, uh, feedback to our product team so that we can move very fast and then build the, features and the product align with our client

Ted Blosser: you have like a whole, um, research function or do you, do you have the PMs in or designers talk to customers? I'm curious, like what's the, I've seen companies who have multiple layers. I remember we had a, we had an employee who said, Hey, this is great at WorkRamp, we can actually talk to customers directly, as PMs, whereas previous companies had to go through multiple layers.

Curious who gets exposure to customers, to do those interviews, to rapidly innovate.

Shuo Wang: Yeah, I mean, mainly sales and then success team that talks with clients and then provide feedback to products. but if product team wants to travel with the client to correctly, we're open to it. Right? And then we just need to make sure that the client wants to travel with us and then that's it. We're a very open, and then flat organization.

Yeah.

Ted Blosser: it. Love it. Love it. when you say flat, do you, you don't need to get a specific number, but do you kind of, do you have a philosophy of. Being flatter in terms of, uh, scope of a span of control for all of your managers. Is that, is that a personal philosophy you try to drive is just to be flatter than most orgs, in general.

Shuo Wang: I think since I already spent so much time interviewing people, and I make sure that everyone joined to do is, like, self sufficient and then be able to to finish your project independently. I actually give a lot of freedom and then a lot of like, you know. independency, to, my direct reports, right?

So that I don't want to become the blocker. And then I believe they are very strong managers and then very strong talents and then they have great ideas and then I can help them to assign priorities and I can provide feedback and then. I can, like, you know, point out that, you know, Hey, what are some additional data points that we can evaluate?

Right? But the thing is, I trust them. I think they are the best talents, like, you know, for the company for the team. So they have the freedom and then to, to, to do whatever that is beneficial to their team. Yeah. Yeah.

Ted Blosser: I want to close you with one question, then we'll go into the, the learn a lightening round. Uh, the question I want to ask you is actually around people leadership in a remote first environment. If you had to give the audience one tip to being a better leader when you're running a remote-first company, what would that tip be?

Shuo Wang: Wow, that's that's a that's a hard question. Yeah. Give me some ideas. Like, what are you thinking about? Like, what's your actions? Yeah.

Ted Blosser: one tip I've had, or I've learned. Is over communication in remote first, because you think, Hey, you, you can present on a slide, like we just did our all hands the other day. And I thought everyone knew, um, this framework by heart. And like, I asked it in the chat as a trivia question, like no one knew it.

I was like, wait, I've been talking about this for three months, every week for three months and no one knows it still. Um, so that was one I learned personally is like.

It's just harder to pay attention on Zoom, just in general, in terms of absorbing information. So I'm more curious if you have, uh, something like that, that you've picked up, you're like, you have to nail this as a founder, a leader, or a leader of a, I think he says 600 reps, 600 rep org. I'm curious if you have any big tips.

Shuo Wang: during remote culture, what does remote setup? You automatically just take on a lot of Zoom meetings with your team internally. And then, because it's easy, people just. Go to your calendar and then book a 30-minute or a 45-minute one and then try what's your right? And then, but the thing is, a lot of the time, the meetings could be very time-consuming and then it may not be as productive as it looks like.

I’m very encouraged by my team also other leaders just to do a lot of, async and then build a really good reporting strategy. And then also, like, you know, a lot of dashboards and the data reports, especially during sales. Right? So it is very important. What is your pipeline? Like, you know, did we close this Deelor not?

And then what is coming next? And then what is your high-time planning? Did we hire this? Like, you know, up to against the headcount plan or not, it's very, it's very, like, you know, straightforward. Right. And then I do think for effective communication, greater reporting, and then alignment is better than, zoom meetings, 45 minutes Yeah.

Ted Blosser: It's a lot like, um, I believe Shopify did it with their, with their, I think it's Shopify, always confusing with Shopify I think it's Shopify with their, with reducing meetings on their calendar, but it sounds like you're very pro. Hey, conserve your time, make sure every meeting is impactful, and then what can be a sink, move it a sink, and or report on it really easily.

So, okay. Love that. All right. I'm going to go to learn rapid-fire round. Uh, this is where I'm going to ask you just a few questions in the theme of learning and love to get your one or two line answer to each. So the first question is what is your greatest source? Of learning right now, things like a book, blog, et cetera, that you're learning the most from right now.

Shuo Wang: I learned a lot from my managers.

Ted Blosser: Learning from people on your team even though you're the co founder, it can teach you more as well. So I love that. All right. How about big piece of career advice beyond selling a company at 16? I don't know what age you sold. You said he started at 16,

Shuo Wang: no, I started my sales career at the age of 16. I helped my mom to sell, but I moved to the States at the age of 16.

Ted Blosser: But my main point was you've had a great career. You're running an amazing company. What would you give as a tip to aspiring CROs? What, what tip would you get career-wise?

Shuo Wang: Data data data be analytical as as much analytical as you can be, like, you know, always leverage good data to make to make a good decisions.

Ted Blosser: Love that be data-driven. All right. Last question I'm going to ask you is if you had more time or all the time in the world, if you weren't running deal, what's the area you would love to learn? More about,

Shuo Wang: because I studied the robotics, right? So, and then I always, trying to understand that, you know, if we can, uh, record human memories, every single piece of human memories, right? And then digitize those members into like a really good data and build models.

And then based on input parameters, and then what happened to tag today, may be able to apply to what sure is going to do in the future. Right? So in a way, if we can build the models and then record all human memories, we should be able to like, you know, predict future, especially like, you know, a lot of historical data, a lot of events happened that impacts huge.

Social happenings were movement or historical changes. I think there should be a predictive model that predicts what's going to happen in the future. So that's that's something that I'm, I'm always very interested

Ted Blosser: have you watched us show Westworld? Have you ever seen that show?

Shuo Wang: yeah,

Ted Blosser: it's a lot like that, right?

Just remind you, remind, I think season three, you're reminding me of that, but that's, that's amazing to hear. And, uh, some of the stuff I think they're doing at Neuralink is, is. Getting close to that, but that's very cool.

Shuo, thanks so much for sharing more about how to run a, uh, amazing remote-first company, you are leading the charge, on it with Deel. And it's so great learning from you today.

Shuo Wang: Thanks.