In our second edition, we dive into our recent interview with Mike Witte, CEO and co-founder of Workrise, a workforce management platform dedicated to powering the future of energy. Since its inception in 2013, the company has raised a whopping $750 million in funding and now employs over 600 people worldwide. Here are the top actionable takeaways that founders can learn from Mike’s experience building Workrise into the industry leader it is today.

#1: Operationalize your mission.

“We have used that mission, we have used those words to make other relatively big decisions over the last 12-18 months, from resource allocation to what we’re supporting, to what we’re not supporting. There’s been divestitures or assets that we’ve divested because we can point to that and say, look, this is not going to be able to connect to our mission. And while there’s some financial trade offs that we need to make, this is the rigor that we put into those words and this is what’s driving our path forward. And so we’re going to abide by that. And I think values are the same way. Values equally as important in just the behaviors that we’re able to operate off of. And bring a mission to life. And we talk about values all the time. We talk about values as a leadership team every month. And not just the words, though, the behaviors, the actions, what we want to incentivize employees, what we want to not incentivize when it comes to value. So there’s a number of ways to operationalize those. At the end of the day, if you’re really making decisions and putting your money where your mouth is on the words that are on the page, then it starts to feel real for everybody.”

Actionable takeaway: Establish a clear and inspiring mission for your company then use that mission as a guiding light, motivating your team to work together and make decisions that align with your overarching goals.

#2: Be prepared to pivot to survive. Then pivot again.

“With COVID we really had to shift into all of these new end markets. And what we did was take our core workforce offering and started to apply that to new industries. We were able to do that successfully in kind of that zero to one phase of being able to show growth and get a little bit of scale. But as we came kind of out of that COVID environment and really looked for more rapid growth or exponential growth in these markets, the fragmentation of the strategies was just too much. So while the moves that we made during COVID to diversify our revenue to get into new end markets. It was great for a time, but the cracks quickly started forming.”

Actionable takeaway: Be prepared to pivot, and adapt your business model, oftentimes multiple times in order to survive and thrive. Embrace change and be open to adjustments that can help your company stay competitive and better address customer needs.

#3: Don’t hesitate on big decisions.

“I can think of very few decisions where I’ve known a decision needed to be made which I look back and say, thank goodness I waited. Thank goodness I waited to make this. Whether that’s through data or whether that’s through the gut about what needs to be done, the quicker you act on that, the quicker you’re transparent about that, on the logic behind things, the easier it gets. I always say it’s not hard when it’s right, and when you’re making the right decisions, it’s easy.”

Actionable takeaway: Accelerate decision-making by focusing on gathering data and insights, involving your team in the process, and trusting your instincts. Embrace transparency in communicating the logic behind decisions, and obsess over your execution speed.

#4: Embrace radical transparency.

“What I’ve learned during any wartime that can also help navigate during peace time is that a bit more radical transparency with employees to be one of the most important things. It’s not necessarily something that we’ve always done well, but it’s something that we’ve learned. I’ve learned the impact of that. And at the end of the day, you’re thinking a lot about your employees and you’re thinking a lot about survival and making this work. And if you are more transparent with just the problems you’re facing, what’s going on with the business, then come to find your employees will step up to start to solve these problems. And I think that there’s often there can be a founder mindset about, I need to put this on my shoulders, I need to figure this out and believe the opposite to be true. Be transparent with your team, be transparent with your employees, and even as painful as radical as that might be, and you’ll see folks dive in and start solving the problems that you need.”

Actionable takeaway: Cultivate a culture of radical transparency within your company. Share your challenges, concerns, and critical updates openly with your team and investors.This approach encourages employees to take ownership, contribute their skills and ideas, and actively participate in problem-solving, fostering a stronger and more resilient organization.

#5: Let customers lead you into the future.

“Our mission is to serve our clients. So when you have that and know who you’re serving in this, you don’t have to know exactly what the next three to five years look like. Our clients know. Our clients will take us where they need to go and it’s our job to latch onto them and continuing to deliver technology that makes it easier and faster and safer for them to operate. So if you just focus on our clients, you don’t have to have all of it figured out.”

Actionable takeaway: Deeply understand your customers’ future needs and align your solution based on where they are headed. Engage with them regularly and proactively collaborate together.

#6: Go big with your TAM.

“This is a massive TAM that we play in. And so the opportunity size is huge. You’re talking about a trillion dollars being invested in energy projects over the next year. The subset of that, of where we really have the strongest presence, oil and gas, $250,000,000,000 to spend next year. And we’re connected with really the clients that are spending that and driving that. And so we’re talking hundreds of logos, not thousands that are putting out that type of opportunity. I think the size and magnitude of the space is obviously draws a lot of attention. But in addition to that it’s really for the most part an underserved market.”

Takeaway: Hunt for under-served markets with massive total addressable markets (TAMs). Develop a deep understanding of these markets, the potential clients, and their needs, and then build products to that solve their problems.

#7: Make your customer the hero.

“As somebody that kind of grew up in Texas, I grew up in this world, grew up in this environment, this industry is not bad people. These are friends, these are family, these are folks that are providing a service that the world needs right now, is going to need in the future. I think it’s something that it is a bit of a polarizing topic, especially among investors, among other founders and entrepreneurs. But to me I strongly believe that oil and gas is part of the present, it’s part of the future. And the great people out there that work in this industry will also be the people that radically inform what this energy transition looks like over the next 30 years.”

Takeaway: Evangelize and advocate for changes that drive your industry forward and create a better world for your customers to live in. Defend your industry and customers when they need you. This demonstrates you really care about them and have their best interest at heart. It also creates a network of allies who will support your mission.

Bonus Takeaway: Choose a co-founder you can evolve together with.

“Having a cofounder is not dissimilar to a marriage. You’re talking about somebody that you spend a ton of time together, and not just spending a ton of time together, but you’re spending time through different chapters of life and business, from being 5 folks in a room to 25 folks in a room to 500 folks across multiple rooms and multiple floors. Right? And so the evolution of that with a co founder is really just an invaluable experience, and you learn a lot from each other.”

Actionable takeaway: Invest in building and nurturing your relationship with your co-founder. Ensure you share a common vision and maintain open communication, as these factors will help you overcome challenges and make better decisions for your company’s future.