Article

Bombas' CEO on Scaling

What Bombas CEO David Heath Learned About Scaling Processes

January 19, 2022

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Let’s be honest, processes can have a bad rep.

A flawed, repetitive, or unnecessary process can hinder productivity and kill employee morale.

Employees groan at the fact that there are too many unnecessary steps just to file an application. Or that people are required to email Debbie in HR so that she can email them a form that they have to fill out just to send it back to her. Rather than having the option to do simple things themselves.

But when done right, processes give employees a procedure to follow, ensuring accuracy and consistency. When processes are optimized and documented, no one has to worry about how to do something. The instructions on how to do the work in your business are crystal clear.

So, to get the right processes into your business, you need to change how your employees feel about processes. And Bombas co-founder and CEO David Heath is a great example of how leadership can help employees learn to love processes.

Because Bombas's processes are focused on giving their people autonomy and power. Over the last 8 years, the company's ranks have risen from 10 to 190 people. And the company has had low turnover. David attributes that retention to the fact that Bombas give their employees enough autonomy to truly empower them.

At Playbook 2021, we had the chance to talk to David about his company's success with getting their employees involved with their processes. Here's his advice for rethinking your current processes and how to change them to scale your business:

👉 Want more from Playbook 2021? Catch all the replays.

Process should help, not hinder

If you want to implement a new process, David thinks it’s essential to think about why you feel you need it. David asks himself “what’s the intent? What’s the reason behind it?” 

At his previous job, whenever David bought a coffee, he had to keep the receipt and tape it to a piece of printer paper. After attaching as many receipts as he could fit, David would then have to photocopy the paper and send it off to accounting, where it had to be manually recorded as an expense.

Employees would spend a couple of hours every month manually keeping track of their coffee expenses. It was an unnecessary process created because the company didn’t trust employees. 

So, not only was the process a waste of employees' time, but it also created a negative atmosphere for employees who didn't feel trusted or valued.

Because of that experience, David prioritizes knowing the “why”, AKA the reason, for a process before implementing it. The why is important because you want to avoid making a process for the process’ sake. Doing so will frustrate employees. And frustrated employees are more likely to leave a company for better opportunities.  

David Heath, CEO and co-founder of Bombas

A good process should help your business move more smoothly.

For example, Bombas makes socks and therefore, the company needs manufacturers. As business grew, Bombas needed more and more manufacturers. But having to explain Bombas' mission to each manufacturing partner was tedious.

So, the Bombas team created an onboarding process for their partners, listing their mission, quality standards, and how to make their product. So instead of starting from scratch with each manufacturer, they could provide all the vital information upfront with one straightforward process.

So, to make sure your processes are actually helping your business, conducting an audit is a good place to start. The repetitive info included in processes should be easy to share and understand.

And talk to your employees. They're the ones who are actually doing your processes daily. Gauge what processes might frustrate them and why. And then, once you've determined which processes need to change, make them as simple and effective as possible.

That way, you'll have processes in place that are actually working for your employees and your business.

Context over control

Good leaders always give employees the vital info that they need. And not the exact specifications on how to carry out their responsibilities

Let's say your company has a liaison for the manufacturing partners. They need to know when they should send out the onboarding information, whether they should be proactive in communication, and how they should report manufacturing data back to the company.

And that's what processes are for. To provide your manufacturing liaison the information they need to do their job correctly.

That being said, you don't need to control exactly how they do their job. You just need to make sure you provide context for why these tasks need to be done.

"Think about providing context, not control. Because control doesn't scale."
<blockquoteauthor>David Heath, CEO and co-founder of Bombas<blockquoteauthor>

For David, his company has scaled to the point where there are a lot of moving parts. Bombas needs processes to streamline information and make their employees' jobs easier. But the processes are also in place to give their employees autonomy over their jobs.

People generally don’t like being told what to do. Giving them context is about employees “retaining autonomy.” It eliminates the need for control or micromanaging.

Trying to control every little aspect of an employee's work can lead to irritation. Supervisors get irritated because they feel the employee isn’t following directions. While the employee will get irritated because they will feel like they are constantly making mistakes despite following directions.

Plus, no one likes to feel micromanaged. It can be uncomfortable feeling, like everything you do could be a potential mistake.

For David, context isn’t just presenting employees with circumstances where they can make their own decisions. Bombas's leadership share the company's ethics, their core values, and what's important to the organization. All of which help employees make decisions in line with the company's goals.

The more people, the more complexity, the harder it will be for managers to handle so many people and decisions. Delegating certain decisions frees up time for leaders. It also shows your employees that you trust them to do their job. Benefiting everyone.

Prioritize the process of sharing information

In the early days of any company, when employee count is low, the act of communication is simple and quick.

Let's say you want to announce your newest hires. With a team of 5 or 10 employees, all it takes are a few emails or an announcement on Slack. Fast and easy communication.

But as your business grows, you need to start thinking about how you are going to share information between leaders and the rest of the company. 

David practices transparency by using a process he calls “the blueprint exercise.” He has the heads of all departments outline their department goals for the next 3 years. Upon reviewing the goals, David can see what each department is prioritizing. 

He then refines each departments’ goals. So that each department's benchmarks are in line with how the company as a whole will achieve its key objectives. These new goals are then shared with everyone at the company.

The importance of transparency for companies can't be overstated. Sharing information keeps everyone aligned. And employees feel trusted with the knowledge of what's happening in the business behind-the-scenes.

David wants his employees to know how each department is operating and how they're all contributing to the company's goals. That way, the employees themselves know what they're working towards.

And because Bombas has a defined process for developing and sharing that information, employees know what to expect from their leadership. And as the company continues to scale, their process of sharing information will still work to reach their growing group of employees.

So, as you consider your own business's processes, ask yourself whether they're going to help your employees in the long run. Can your processes scale along with your business? Or are they going to hold you back from your growth?

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Thank you! Your submission has been received!
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Article

Bombas' CEO on Scaling

What Bombas CEO David Heath Learned About Scaling Processes

January 19, 2022

Jump to a section
Share it!
Sign up for our newsletter
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Let’s be honest, processes can have a bad rep.

A flawed, repetitive, or unnecessary process can hinder productivity and kill employee morale.

Employees groan at the fact that there are too many unnecessary steps just to file an application. Or that people are required to email Debbie in HR so that she can email them a form that they have to fill out just to send it back to her. Rather than having the option to do simple things themselves.

But when done right, processes give employees a procedure to follow, ensuring accuracy and consistency. When processes are optimized and documented, no one has to worry about how to do something. The instructions on how to do the work in your business are crystal clear.

So, to get the right processes into your business, you need to change how your employees feel about processes. And Bombas co-founder and CEO David Heath is a great example of how leadership can help employees learn to love processes.

Because Bombas's processes are focused on giving their people autonomy and power. Over the last 8 years, the company's ranks have risen from 10 to 190 people. And the company has had low turnover. David attributes that retention to the fact that Bombas give their employees enough autonomy to truly empower them.

At Playbook 2021, we had the chance to talk to David about his company's success with getting their employees involved with their processes. Here's his advice for rethinking your current processes and how to change them to scale your business:

👉 Want more from Playbook 2021? Catch all the replays.

Process should help, not hinder

If you want to implement a new process, David thinks it’s essential to think about why you feel you need it. David asks himself “what’s the intent? What’s the reason behind it?” 

At his previous job, whenever David bought a coffee, he had to keep the receipt and tape it to a piece of printer paper. After attaching as many receipts as he could fit, David would then have to photocopy the paper and send it off to accounting, where it had to be manually recorded as an expense.

Employees would spend a couple of hours every month manually keeping track of their coffee expenses. It was an unnecessary process created because the company didn’t trust employees. 

So, not only was the process a waste of employees' time, but it also created a negative atmosphere for employees who didn't feel trusted or valued.

Because of that experience, David prioritizes knowing the “why”, AKA the reason, for a process before implementing it. The why is important because you want to avoid making a process for the process’ sake. Doing so will frustrate employees. And frustrated employees are more likely to leave a company for better opportunities.  

David Heath, CEO and co-founder of Bombas

A good process should help your business move more smoothly.

For example, Bombas makes socks and therefore, the company needs manufacturers. As business grew, Bombas needed more and more manufacturers. But having to explain Bombas' mission to each manufacturing partner was tedious.

So, the Bombas team created an onboarding process for their partners, listing their mission, quality standards, and how to make their product. So instead of starting from scratch with each manufacturer, they could provide all the vital information upfront with one straightforward process.

So, to make sure your processes are actually helping your business, conducting an audit is a good place to start. The repetitive info included in processes should be easy to share and understand.

And talk to your employees. They're the ones who are actually doing your processes daily. Gauge what processes might frustrate them and why. And then, once you've determined which processes need to change, make them as simple and effective as possible.

That way, you'll have processes in place that are actually working for your employees and your business.

Context over control

Good leaders always give employees the vital info that they need. And not the exact specifications on how to carry out their responsibilities

Let's say your company has a liaison for the manufacturing partners. They need to know when they should send out the onboarding information, whether they should be proactive in communication, and how they should report manufacturing data back to the company.

And that's what processes are for. To provide your manufacturing liaison the information they need to do their job correctly.

That being said, you don't need to control exactly how they do their job. You just need to make sure you provide context for why these tasks need to be done.

"Think about providing context, not control. Because control doesn't scale."
<blockquoteauthor>David Heath, CEO and co-founder of Bombas<blockquoteauthor>

For David, his company has scaled to the point where there are a lot of moving parts. Bombas needs processes to streamline information and make their employees' jobs easier. But the processes are also in place to give their employees autonomy over their jobs.

People generally don’t like being told what to do. Giving them context is about employees “retaining autonomy.” It eliminates the need for control or micromanaging.

Trying to control every little aspect of an employee's work can lead to irritation. Supervisors get irritated because they feel the employee isn’t following directions. While the employee will get irritated because they will feel like they are constantly making mistakes despite following directions.

Plus, no one likes to feel micromanaged. It can be uncomfortable feeling, like everything you do could be a potential mistake.

For David, context isn’t just presenting employees with circumstances where they can make their own decisions. Bombas's leadership share the company's ethics, their core values, and what's important to the organization. All of which help employees make decisions in line with the company's goals.

The more people, the more complexity, the harder it will be for managers to handle so many people and decisions. Delegating certain decisions frees up time for leaders. It also shows your employees that you trust them to do their job. Benefiting everyone.

Prioritize the process of sharing information

In the early days of any company, when employee count is low, the act of communication is simple and quick.

Let's say you want to announce your newest hires. With a team of 5 or 10 employees, all it takes are a few emails or an announcement on Slack. Fast and easy communication.

But as your business grows, you need to start thinking about how you are going to share information between leaders and the rest of the company. 

David practices transparency by using a process he calls “the blueprint exercise.” He has the heads of all departments outline their department goals for the next 3 years. Upon reviewing the goals, David can see what each department is prioritizing. 

He then refines each departments’ goals. So that each department's benchmarks are in line with how the company as a whole will achieve its key objectives. These new goals are then shared with everyone at the company.

The importance of transparency for companies can't be overstated. Sharing information keeps everyone aligned. And employees feel trusted with the knowledge of what's happening in the business behind-the-scenes.

David wants his employees to know how each department is operating and how they're all contributing to the company's goals. That way, the employees themselves know what they're working towards.

And because Bombas has a defined process for developing and sharing that information, employees know what to expect from their leadership. And as the company continues to scale, their process of sharing information will still work to reach their growing group of employees.

So, as you consider your own business's processes, ask yourself whether they're going to help your employees in the long run. Can your processes scale along with your business? Or are they going to hold you back from your growth?

Article

Bombas' CEO on Scaling

What Bombas CEO David Heath Learned About Scaling Processes

January 19, 2022

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