M.I.N.M: Weekly Company Powwow
Who: Joseph J. Esposito, president and CEO, Tribal Voice Inc.
Players: All 36 employees in the company’s California and Colorado offices
Frequency: Fridays at 9:30 a.m. PDT
Purpose: “To share ideas and to gain insights into how we can enhance our software.”
Why I never miss it: “I hear things I might not otherwise hear. This software emboldens people.”
At Tribal Voice Inc., a fast-growing software company based in Scotts Valley, California, there’s only one tribal law: Eat your own dog food! PowWow, Tribal Voice’s flagship product, enables Internet users to create, host, and manage their own online communities. More than 3 million people have downloaded the software.
What works for customers works for the company as well. Every Friday morning, Tribal Voice’s 36 employees connect to the company’s internal virtual community, code-named “dog food.” “As our own beta site, we learn about the software from our experiences and then package our insights for the customer,” says Joseph J. Esposito, 47, the company’s president and CEO.
The weekly powwow is a virtual (but formal) gathering, held via PowWow software. “It’s a meeting and a meta-meeting,” Esposito explains. As employees keep an eye on operational issues, they keep an eye on the meeting too: How, for example, does the software influence what happens?
Meet and watch. “As we move through the agenda, we study the meeting’s dynamics, as well as the software, with a kind of detachment. Everyone attends the powwow, so we can look at the software from lots of perspectives.”
Rotate the hosts. “The meeting has a different host each week, so we tend to learn new things. Our chief technology officer doesn’t type fast, so he couldn’t really host a meeting. That got us thinking: Maybe we have lots of customers who can’t type. How do we make this product work for them?”
“We use the chat-room mode in PowWow. It supports real-time communication among an unlimited number of participants. The host always sets the tone. One of our executives, a former U.S. Marine of the Year, likes his meetings to be structured, so he calls on people to answer questions. When I’m the host, my preference is to brainstorm, so the result is like a cubist painting. You might have several people speaking at once, and then everybody will stop to read, filter, and then respond. We make sure to limit each meeting to 30 minutes; otherwise, it would get downright chaotic.”