Episode 1

Mike Volpe

Season 1

Why Lola’s CEO Mike Volpe is “Team First” over “Customer First”

Listen to C-suite leaders talk about how people strategy is good business strategy. In this episode, meet host Katelin Holloway, the former VP of People at Reddit. Our first guest is Mike Volpe, CEO of Lola, who talks about people-first philosophy, HubSpot, and leading marketing teams. This podcast is brought to you by Lattice.

[Music up]

“If the employees aren't happy and thriving, they can't build a great customer experience. The service people can't offer a great customer experience. You can't support your customers if it's built on this shaky foundation of employees.”

Welcome to ALL HANDS by Lattice, where we believe that People Strategy IS Business Strategy. I’m your host -- Katelin Holloway. For the last decade, I’ve been a People & Culture executive at some of the internet’s most beloved startups, but my fascination with building true people-first cultures started many, many years ago. From film to tech (and a few interesting layovers in between), the one common denominator remains: I am most passionate about enabling people through belonging to create beautiful, innovative products.

On All Hands, I talk with CEOs and other c-level leaders about how being a "people first" company is a strategic advantage. Join us while we chat with these top leaders about how a “people first” approach isn’t just good for people -- it’s good for business too.

[Music fades out]

Today on ALL HANDS we're chatting with Mike Volpe, CEO of Lola, a corporate travel platform. Mike is an active investor and advisor in the startup ecosystem. Before Lola, he led marketing teams for some of Silicon Valley's greatest tech sweethearts, like Cyber Reason, and most notably HubSpot, where he was a founding team member. Mike spent eight years growing HubSpot from five people to over a thousand employees, nabbing $175 million. in revenue, and eventually leading a very successful IPO. Mike, I am so thrilled to have you here on this episode of All Hands. 

Before I jump into the hard-hitting questions, I would love for our audience to get a little bit more info on you. So can you share a bit about yourself and your journey to becoming the CEO of Lola, please?

Mike Volpe: Yeah, sure. And thanks for having me. This is a great show and I'm really looking forward to the conversation. I've worked in tech for a long time. I lived out in San Francisco from, 1997 to 2001, and worked at a couple of startups back then. But more recently, I joined HubSpot beginning in 2007. As you mentioned, I was there, sort of a really long time. I had grown up kind of in the marketing world. I started one job in finance, but after that, switched to marketing and never looked back. I had kind of been a marketer for a long time. I ran marketing at HubSpot for a long time. Then from there, I joined, Cyber Reason, another startup, did marketing and actually got a little bit more involved in sales there, ran the SDR team and inside sales team, and things like that. Then Lola was just this amazing opportunity. So our founder is a guy named Paul English, who is co-founder of Kayak, and He had started, Lola and the company actually started as a consumer travel platform and then was pivoting into becoming a B2B, travel corporate travel platform. He and I had known each other a long time cause we're both entrepreneurial and in Boston and things like that. As they started to move more into corporate travel and becoming more B2B, he wanted to bring some more folks in the team that had more B2B experience. We started hanging out a little bit more and just realized we had really strong alignment around, people culture and sort of our vision for running a company and things like that. I joined Lola and not quite two years ago. It's been great since then, an awesome experience to work alongside Paul and to really have just that broader impact on the team and be able to spend more time on people-related issues, which frankly is the number one thing you worry about as a CEO.

Katelin Holloway:  Now I have a question for you about, becoming CEO. in most companies, the CEOs are typically the founder or the cofounder. What was it like stepping into the role of CEO and inheriting a culture that you didn't define from day one? That seems like an interesting challenge and opportunity.

Mike Volpe:  I think it was in many ways, much easier for me to join because it was a really unique situation that he, he was the driving force to bring me into the business so he was completely behind it. Most of the time that we spent before I joined was really around people and culture, more than anything else, frankly. We wanted to make sure we had good alignment there. We're not 100% the same because no two people are. But at the core, I think we both really believe that team is the most important thing. You have to put the team first. We've really codified that in like a number of different ways of how we've run the business. But that was something that we spent a lot of time on and just making sure we're really well aligned on that. 

Katelin Holloway:  I love that, cause it really is a relationship, right? It's a dynamic relationship and having that value set alignment from the very beginning sounds like it's very additive to the culture build.

Mike Volpe:  Yeah, that's right. I think that's really true. I also think that, again, we're not exactly the same and how we work with people and build teams and things like that. But we have really complementary skill sets and I think that's really a positive for the team because there's people that I think can relate better to Paul and just the way that he runs teams and does things, there's other people who that relate better to me, but we're close enough aligned that it works well across the entire company.

Katelin Holloway:  For me, for my opinion and how we build and grow culture, you kind of are hitting some of those cornerstones that are really critical. When I'm coaching and counseling founders, I show them a little diagram and there's in the middle of, there was like a little tiny person. I point to that and say, "okay, this is your customer. You have to be able to create something that people love. You have to actually be able to build it. Then you have to be able to sell it." They understand that, especially the product minded folks, they're like, 'yep, okay, cool. That's a sustainable business.' I say, "okay, now take this and this little person in the middle. Now that's your employee." Your employer brand and the way you build your culture is exactly the same as how you should be building product for your customer. So with your background being a CMO, moving into the CEO role, and then having that product minded person, it sounds like a really, really good balance and fit. Have you ever equated to building product, to building culture?

Mike Volpe:  Yes, for sure and in fact, that was the language that we specifically use at HubSpot, even in the early days. We really felt like when you think about the employees, the culture of the company is the product. The sales part of a company is the recruiting function and then there's also a marketing function, which, you know, most people would call like employment branding. And we wanted to excel at all of those things because we knew that being exceptional at attracting the most amazing talent was going to be something that's really, really important to us. We spent a lot of time, even before we had any formal HR, any formal people culture, like anything like that and ow that's a huge investment that HubSpot makes 

And then interestingly at Lola, we use some of that same language, but in some ways we even take it further because you talk about putting the customer at the center of the diagram. A lot of companies say, "Oh, they're customer first, they're customer first." We explicitly say, and this comes from Paul, that we're actually team first. Before customers were team number one, customers, number two, and shareholders and investors, number three. Some people were like, "Whoa, you're crazy. You have to be customer first." So we say, no. We say, if the employees aren't happy and thriving, they can't build a great customer experience. The service people can't offer a great customer experience. You can't support your customers if it's built in this shaky foundation of employees. We have 24/7 travel agents that you can text at any time. If they're not feeling like they're a meaningful part of the team and supported well by our company, they're not going to be offering an amazing service to those customers. Same thing for product and engineers and things like that. So we really talk about team being first and there's times where we have to put the team ahead of customers and those are hard choices to make. I think we do our best to make them in the right direction, which is always to favor the team, even if you lose a customer over it because for the long term it's the right thing to do.

Katelin Holloway:  No framework or philosophy is going to be 100% accurate all the time. Otherwise, we all would have the same playbook. So I think that having those frameworks really allows you and your team to make decisions when things are challenging.

Mike Volpe:  And we've had to do that! Like there's been a couple customers where, I mean, we have thousands and thousands and thousands of travelers every week that we're supporting. We've had instances where those travelers are rude or even in some cases, like abusive to our agents. And there's been times where we've had to call up and talk to one of our customers and say that "XYZ employee is no longer allowed to use Lola because..." and we can show them a chat transcript or something like that. This was inappropriate how they dealt with one of our employees. In one case, we lost a customer over it. In another case, the customer said, "Thank you for telling us this. We had heard some things about that employee's interaction with other employees here, but now we have strong proof and we're going to terminate the employee." So it cuts both ways and those are really, really hard decisions to make. But we always, again, if you put team first and that's your sort of algorithm for running your company, you have to run the company in that way.

Katelin Holloway:  That's amazing. I love those examples. How many employees does Lola actually have?

Mike Volpe:  We're about 80 people today.

Katelin Holloway:  So 80 full-timers. Are you centrally located? Are you distributed?

Mike Volpe:  We're mostly in Boston, probably 75 of those are 76 of them are in Boston. We have a few remote.

Katelin Holloway:  What do Lola employees call themselves?

Mike Volpe: We were just talking about this. I think Lolas was the winning one. But to be honest, we don't use that term enough. We probably should. We talk a lot about Lola team, and Lola pack, which coming from like the Wolf pack expression.

[Music up]

Katelin: I love examples like this…especially in this new world ---  for our audience listening at home, we are recording this amidst quarantine, lockdown, mass protests over racial injustice ---  I think that now more than ever, it's important for us to have that shared sense of identity and belonging. Mike says there’s no one way to create an identity -- what’s most important is that you follow your company culture, which in part, is made up of who you hire. 

[Music fades out]

Katelin Holloway:  I've heard in the past and talk a little bit about the four disciplines of people ops. Can you explain a little bit more about this? I'm so curious to learn more.

Mike Volpe:  This goes back to the example we were talking earlier of People Ops is almost like its own thing, its own company. Just like in a company, you have product and sales and marketing and customer success for your software. I think you have the same thing for culture and for the experience of your employees. I always talk to people that run the like people function within a business, as you know, they have these four different hats that they have to wear and one is the product and the product is the culture and the experience of those employees, the employee experience while they're there. Part of it is the marketing of that, which people would call employment branding. Part of it is the selling of that and getting people through a process, finding the right people, and then convincing them to join your company, which is really like a more of a sales function. 

Then there's also customer success, which is really tending to those employees and caring for them while they're within the company, so that the ones that are truly exceptional, you can get to stay with your company longer and longer. It's just exactly like a recurring revenue business where, you know, you need to build the product, you need to. Market it, you need to sell it, you need to retain those customers. It's completely analogous. Those are really the four hats that I'd like to talk about. When I'm out looking and talking to People people about, joining different organizations, or joining our team and things like that. I like to talk about those and I'd like to evaluate them that way too. I think each of them come from kind of a different standpoint. I think classically the person running the people function was more of sort of like an, like an HR business partner that had some expertise within certain aspects of that. I think there's a new sort of crop of like chief people officers that are much more on the culture building and employment branding side. I would put Katie Burke into that. Not that she cannot do all of it really well. I hired her at HubSpot initially in marketing and she sort of grew up as a part of the organization. And I think that her superpower really, what sets her apart from almost all other chief people officers is she's so strong on the culture and the employment branding, and she's really built that throughout our team. The other areas are certainly very strong as well, but I think that every, like chief people officer, has like a different area of strength, just like every head of sales or every head marketing has a different area of strength. If you think about those four different hats or four different functions within people operations, I think you can get a sense of like what the head of people that you need for your company right now, where would they be the strongest? Are they kind of a recruiter or are they kind of an employee experience person? Are they kind of a culture and employment branding person? I think they're all sort of slightly different in terms of what their best skills are.

Katelin Holloway: I think it's really great that you share that just because it's a very tactical way for not just a framework for thinking about it and building and guiding those programs and building and guiding those teams as you scale, but really as an evaluation tool. What do you need right now?  So do you currently have a Head of People at Lola?

Mike Volpe:  We do. We're a small organization, so she actually also runs our customer service team, but we do, yeah. It's kind of interesting because you wouldn't traditionally put those together, but I actually think it's interesting to have somebody take that same approach to caring for the customers, to also be thinking about caring for the employees. She's phenomenal. She's a great leader. Stacy Scott, and she does a great job for us.

Katelin Holloway:  Just what we were saying, I think you need a different skill set at every different stage of the business. And this sounds like you're in a very nurturing space, in terms of nurturing and growing and developing your culture and your team as well as your customers. I actually do think it makes sense. I think that's really cool. 

So when you think about your partnership with her, what does that look like for you? How much time are you dedicating to that relationship? Individually from a, what I would assume I'm a mentorship or guide, and then partnering to really execute some of those projects with her?

Mike Volpe:  It's a lot of time. Paul and I always talk about that the people related stuff is the most important thing that we do. Obviously it varies week to week and month to month, depending on what's going on. But Stacy and I spend a lot of time together. Sometimes it's her sort of bubbling up things that she's hearing about within a company of like, "this team over here might be having a harder time than normal, a little bit more challenge", or "these two teams might have a little bit more friction because this thing came up in a project", or things like that. Again, she's a little bit of my kind of like radar system of what I need to be aware of and places where maybe not directly intervene, but sort of, build a relationship here, or build a relationship there to kind of, help to guide things a little bit. So there's that aspect to it. There's the more deliberate aspects to it of hiring plans and what we really need from different roles, where we're really looking for things like that. Then there's obviously like the core cultural elements of it. Like when I first started, we were sort of in the midst of rethinking some of the culture, especially codifying it. I think it was one of those things where obviously the culture existed, but it wasn't as well codified in terms of being written down on a piece of paper so it could be something that we could hold people accountable to and things like that. So we spent a lot of time on that and then sort of, helping to communicate that within the whole organization afterwards.

Katelin: OK -- I'm going to shift gears a little bit. The name of our podcast is All Hands. So will you invite us into one of Lola's All Hands. If you want, we can do a before and after. From a Lola's perspective, what did your All Hands look like before we went into quarantine and what do they look like now?

Mike Volpe:  Yeah, it's interesting. So before, we did them monthly. We would publish a long, 40 plus slide deck, reporting out all the key metrics of the entire business. We would review maybe five to eight slides of that in the meeting. Plus we'd have like some product demos and like a couple of different important tidbits from different groups in the company. But not every single wood group would present every single month. I sort of get a super frustrated with those meetings that are like everyone's kind of listing out all the laundry list of things that they've done to justify why they're important to the company. We kind of hand select like a couple of highlights and then we take  questions. 

So that's roughly what it looked like. We try to be really open and transparent down to, we tell every employee how much cash we have, every dollar revenue we earn last month, how they compare us to sales goals, all those things. We tell them everything. I mean, there's charts and charts and charts, all the financial charts. Frankly, the same charts that I report out to our board of directors, we share with the company.

So we're really, really open. We found that the hour and a half meeting each month wasn't the right format anymore. We've shifted to weekly, 30 minutes. We just felt like more frequent touch points are more important. We sort of basically broken down that meeting that we had, which worked well in person for 90 minutes. We've broken it down into just 30 minutes segments each week. So at the beginning of the month, we do the numbers from last month. You know, the next week we'll do, it depends. But you're kind of like an AMA for 30 minutes. Then the week after, maybe we'll demo a few product things and have a little discussion around those, and the week after that, maybe we'll do some other sort of strategic thing, forward looking roadmap, whatever it is, and so we kind of broke it down. I'd say the other thing is that meeting is kind of like all business. The company meeting in person that we used to do was, was kinda half business, half pleasure. 

We often do it in the morning and have like a breakfast thing or sometimes it was mid day, we do like a lunch thing and small group lunches that we break people into afterwards. We tried to augment some of that kind of work from home stuff socially as well. We do like, you know, weekly happy hours, which a lot of people do but we've tried to augment that with like, one of them we did like trivia so we brought people on down into teams and we did kind of like a happy hour trivia thing. 

We're trying to do some things like that to really be together, even though we're apart. They work differently for different people, but we've tried to sort of, do some things to kind of bring the company together socially as well.

Katelin Holloway:  So transparency was something that was a mainstay for you before and you've retained, as we have moved into this, you know, quote unquote "new normal", why is transparency so important to you?

Mike Volpe:  I wasn't the only one, but I think all of us at HubSpot had had similar experiences, and that was something that we did at HubSpot. 

So from the early days, we shared all the metrics with everyone. We were sort of early on the internal company Wiki kind of train and posted everything there. We shared, again, all the numbers, all the employees, we shared board decks, like all those things. I think that really worked well. After that experience, I just never wanted to work at a company that would run things differently. I think people are sometimes worried about sharing so much information, but to me, I think you gain more trust with people from sharing even the bad news because people can handle more bad news than you give them credit for. If you share the bad news, like at the time that it's happening, and you share the good news, they can just take everything much more in stride. They're better off hearing it from you, from you walking in and saying, "Hey, here's what's going on this month. There's a couple things that aren't going well for us. Here's what we need to do about them, and I really need all of your help to go like attack these two problems. Otherwise it's going to be like a big deal for us. It's going to be something that we are going to need to worry about." You do that and people are like, "okay, I get that. It makes sense. Like let me help."

If they hear about it in the hallway from a friend who like, "Oh, I heard when I was walking by the board meeting that you know, this thing isn't going well and our churn rate is way up or whatever, and Oh boy, look, what do you think that means?" People tend to like exaggerate the effect of it. You get all this hallway gossip and chatter or whatever, or people aren't aligned . Like, "Oh no, they're not telling us the real deal. We don't trust them." And whatever. It just causes all these problems. Then you need to like communicate back out "Well, no, actually churn only went up by this much. It's not that big of a deal, but here's the things we need to do and here's why." You just need to kind of realign people. You're just better off just like telling them the right thing early and often.

[Music up]

Katelin: I completely agree with this approach. Some founders and leaders are anxious to share information with their employees, but in my experience, it only makes everyone feel more a part of the company. I remember when I worked at Pixar Animation, right before Disney bought us, the transparency between my supervisors and myself made me feel XYZ…..

Another thing that’s key in creating a positive company culture? Language. 

[Music fades out]

Katelin Holloway: When I was learning more about Lola, and I was learning more about you and your background, I learned a lot about how you use language. I suspect this is probably with your CMO background and I know that you didn't name Lola, but Lola's name, I think it's in your DNA, is derived from the words longitude and latitude. Is that right? I think that's so cool. Then everything that I read about you and, and the language that you use about Lola, you described things as buttery smooth, which I actually really, really like. Do you find that, that this language or other language really plays out in your culture? Do you use language like that internally or is that an external facing thing?

Mike Volpe:  Yeah, there's a lot of other language we use. I mean, even the way we talk about our internal culture. I mean, Paul and I, even though I lived in San Francisco while I'm Boston through and through, and Paul is as well. We're both like, like hardcore Boston people and one of the core tenants of our culture is to be wicked loving.

So you get this sort of like Boston wicked thing in there. It's not the same languages, buttery, smooth, but it's the same idea of really, you know, you could say kind or something like that as part of your culture, but we say wicked loving. And so the wicked loving thing, I think plays to that and to how we're both Boston people and it's a Boston company. But it also really plays to how big of a heart that I think both of us have. And I think there's just many aspects in terms of what wicked loving means to us as a cultural tenant. So, yeah, as a former marketer, like language is definitely important, both internally and externally.

Katelin Holloway:  That's amazing. I was actually going to ask about loving. That was another word that I've heard you use a lot. And most leaders and founders are, I mean, to be frank, they're petrified of emotion in the workplace, good, bad or otherwise. You describe a little bit about loving, but how do you really bring loving to life internally?

Mike Volpe:  For us, it's much more of a,"we're going to do the things that we have to do cause this is business, but we're going to take the extra effort to do it in a loving way." I'll give you an example that I'll sort of anonymize. Which is that there was someone where we had to do a sort of significant role change. You could imagine that that's a really hard conversation to have. I would say that in this instance, it was going to almost need to be, or normally it would be kind of a remote, either phone or maybe video kind of conversation, I figured out a way to do it in person. Even though it was like actually, like not at all convenient.

And I think it's little things like that or again, like that example that we talked about earlier, of the employees in our service team, taking more flack from a customer that they're working with than really they should. I think many companies would say "Oh, you know, we're so sorry that the customer said those things to you. We think you're great, don't worry about it. Sometimes customers are assholes," blah, blah, blah whatever, as opposed to telling that person, "no the harder thing to do is actually for us to go have a conversation with that company and tell them that that's not acceptable and we can't serve them anymore. We understand that if we lose their business, we're okay with that." That's much harder to do and the more loving thing, the more wicked loving thing to do for your employees is to have that conversation. Many times I think we sort of take the road that's harder if it's the right thing to do for the employee. It's a little bit sort of that servant leadership thing, but it's kind of a special take on it in some ways. Like it's really about, you go the extra mile in order to serve the employee and the culture of the team.

Katelin Holloway:  Yeah. I really hope that, that our listeners out there start to adopt a part of that because I think it's right. To your point, you say wicked loving, but it could manifest itself with other language like care or thoughtfulness or intentionality. I think that's really amazing. What are some of your other values? What other values do you have at Lola?

Mike Volpe:  We've really tried to boil it down to basically three. So the other two are, One is "All grit, no quit". Resilience is really, really important to us. I'm a big believer that startups fail only when you give up. It's important that we build a team that is just super resilient. Paul and I both in different ways in our lives have been through some stuff andI think it has made both of us better and stronger and more resilient people. That's something that we want as an important aspect of our culture, so all grit, no quit. Then the other one is another like super internal interesting language thing called "wombattitude". You're like, "what does that mean?"

We have a nickname for our customer service team, and they're the wombats. And there's really no reason for it, except for someone who was on the team, always wanted to be on a team that had a mascot or a team name. They learned that a group of wombats is called a wisdom. They're like, "well, there's so much wisdom in this room, on this team, we need to be the wombats," and it just stuck. And Wombattitude is really our being and embracing customer first because our wombats do an amazing job. We are the top rated corporate travel platform. We're not the biggest in the world yet, but we have the best ratings and a lot of that comes from the product, but a lot of it comes from our service and just how good our agents are. 

So that's the third aspect of our culture.

Katelin Holloway:  This is the fun thing for me, sitting on this side of the microphone is getting to listen to all of these incredible stories, the folklore, being able to explain that to a new hire. They can come in and even though they weren't here when wombats were invented, they can come in and have that sense of belonging and sense of identity and eventually adopt it as a part of their own. I just love these fun little stories. I think they're really cool. Thank you for sharing.

Really at the end of the day, our culture is that cornerstone and your culture really reveals itself in time of crisis. In this case, the crisis is not individually held by] each leader, by each company, by each CEO, the crisis is held globally. I'm just curious how you have seen your culture at Lola reveal itself over the last month as you know, we've been in lockdown or on quarantine for several weeks now. What have you been surprised by, or how has your culture showed up in a way that has been really revealing to you?

Mike Volpe:  I think it's been the bottoms up, things that have impressed me, made me smile, and make me feel proud to be part of this team. We're a corporate travel platform so we got hit exceptionally hard by this, and we did have to lay some folks off early on. We unfortunately had to do that virtually because there was no option to do it in person at the time because we were under, you know, work from home homeowners in the state of Massachusetts. And even that process, I won't get into details, it was like a difficult, complex process. I think we did the best we could to have as many of those conversations from the heart and in as much of a personal way as possible. Then the bottoms up aspect of it was, I got a lot of emails and slacks from the team that, zero to three days after that, asking how we were doing as a leadership team and saying that they knew that things were tough and that this was super hard and they wanted to make sure, like we were okay. They wanted to say that like while it was a tough thing to go through, that they understood it. They also said that we are, we heard that the way people were treated was really good and they appreciated that too. To get those notes from folks because obviously as a leader, that's a really, really tough thing to go through. but to get those notes from people on the team that they understood the complexity there and they understood that we did do our best to, while we had a hard decision to make, to do it in a wicked loving way as much as possible, um, was, was super gratifying and made me, again, like proud to sort of be part of this overall team.

It also goes back to that transparency we talked about earlier. I think if we hadn't been as transparent with all those folks every single month for the entire history of the company, that this would have kind of come out of nowhere more for them. But they see every single number. In fact, there's a bunch of numbers they see daily and they can see what's happening. They can see that, you know, travel was down 97%. Just because we were so open with them about exactly what we did, we didn't try to hide things. We sort of told them in real time what was going on. I think that that buys you a lot of trust and credibility. It sort of helps build that relationship. So again, it's a lot of the bottoms up stuff has been just great to see people really stepping up on their own and not sort of sitting back and sort of waiting to see, "well, what's the management team going to do to help us, you know, improve the culture and drive the culture while we're remote?" It's folks stepping up and filling the void, which has been amazing.

Katelin Holloway:  I really appreciate you sharing that, that I know that those decisions and those conversations are not easy. But really how you do it and the way in which you do  it, um, that, that is a thing that lasts forever with folks. I have seen, and we've heard, these stories of the return, right? Looking for those boomerang employees and you know, it hurts your heart. You put so much effort and energy into hiring and building a team, and then having to let folks go for something that's completely out of your control. I know it's challenging.  

Mike Volpe: And I think the more important than that even is, we've done everything we can to really help them be successful in wherever they end up next. I hope that those companies can become customers someday. Right? I mean, it is such a small world that it's one of those things that like karma really does come back in a variety of forms. It's gonna come back around to help you. And we at least try our best to do that, not that every single person is gonna always love us, but we try to do our best.

[Music up]

Katelin: I totally agree with Mike here. Employers AND employees' lives are changing very quickly --- and 2020 has put a spotlight on our leaders, our expectations of them, and where they may be falling short.  

[Music fades out]

Katelin Holloway:  So at the end of the day, tell me, how is people's strategy a strategic advantage for Lola, and why are you so committed to leading this company?

Mike Volpe:  Especially if you don't have even if you have a physical product, but especially if you don't have a physical product and you don't have like a patent or a monopoly, your ability to deliver an amazing customer experience, including product and service to your customers, is the thing that's going to make you successful as a company and that is 100% reliant upon your team. I just don't see how you can be effective as a company today unless you have the world's most amazing people. Especially in a business like ours where we have so many of our employees directly talking to our customers so frequently. The product that they use all day long is also built by people too. It's like at the end of the day, when you keep boiling things down, it really is all about the people. The people are going to be the thing that makes the difference. That really should be your number one priority. It's sort of obvious when you say it that way, but it's funny, if people look at their calendars, how much time do they spend on people stuff? It's usually like a minority and they're doing all these other things. What people say and sort of how they act is often not aligned to there.

Katelin Holloway:  You're speaking my language, man. I love it. Okay. I'm gonna move into the rapid fire questions. I want you to try to answer them as quickly as possible. Totally don't overthink it. I'm going to give you three softballs and then three deeper ones. Are you ready?

Mike Volpe:  Sure I guess.

Katelin Holloway:  First one, is a hot dog sandwich?

Mike Volpe:  No.

Katelin Holloway:  Zoom or phone call?

Mike Volpe:  Zoom.

Katelin Holloway:  Okay. Did Carol Baskin kill her husband?

Mike Volpe:  My opinion, yes.

Katelin Holloway: This is not a recor- Well, it is a recorded line. So good. Okay. That was the warm up.

Now last three, they won't be so easy, but I think you got this. Company culture, family or sports team?

Mike Volpe:  Family.

Katelin Holloway:  What is your favorite interview question and why?

Mike Volpe:  What's been the hardest thing you've had to overcome in your career? I like that question because it's super open so people who haven't had as much traditional job or school experience can still answer it in interesting ways. It gives them an opportunity to really showcase something interesting about themselves, but it also gets to that, we have that all grit, no quit sort of resilience, quality of our culture. And it gives you an opportunity to kind of understand that aspect of a candidate.

Katelin Holloway:  Sure. That's a really good one. I like that one. Now my last question is actually my favorite interview question when I'm interviewing potential future employers. When was the last time you wanted something so badly it physically hurt?

Mike Volpe:  This is maybe not a good answer, but the honest answer is, I am a really even keeled and kind of patient person. I'm the like, "okay, I need to climb Mount Everest. Here are the 4,000 things that I need in order to make that happen. Let's just do the first one. Let's do the second one. Let's do the third one,". So I don't have that sort of overaggressive, get frustrated and things like hurt because I can't like get there fast enough. I'm a like, "no, we're going to chop this tree down. It might be four feet thick, but just take the ax, take a chunk, take another chunk, take another. Then you'll eventually get there" kind of person. 

Katelin Holloway:  Nice. Well, that's a great answer. I mean, that's the beauty of half these questions, right, is there is no right answer. Awesome. Well, Mike, I so appreciate our time together today. It's been really, really fun getting to know you, getting to know more about Lola. It sounds like company I would love to work for and I'm sure many others, will as well. Is there any last parting words or anything you want to share with the audience here?

Mike Volpe: This has been a lot of, a lot of fun as a conversation. And, uh, you know, if people want to find me, if you got tips on team building, a culture building and things like that, probably the easiest way is Twitter. I'm @MVolpe on Twitter, and I'd love to hear any comments people have about the show and what's right and what's wrong about or say. I'm pretty open person and open to feedback, so I'd love to hear any, any good or bad stuff people have to say.


Katelin Holloway VO:

Amazing. Well, thank you so much for sharing your/Lola’s story with me and our listeners. Your dedication and transparency shows us the importance of putting people first, especially in times of uncertainty. I will encourage you to keep leading with your head, your heart, and stay wicked loving.

And to you, the listener! Thanks so much for joining me on this week’s episode of All Hands, brought to you by Lattice. I’m your host, Katelin Holloway. 

This episode was produced by Pod People: Rachael King, Eliza Lambert, and Samantha Gattsek. Special thanks to Annette Cardwell. Learn more about how Lattice can help your business stay people focused at Lattice DOT com or find us on Twitter @LatticeHQ. Don’t forget to subscribe to All Hands, wherever you get your podcasts.

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About the Guest

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Mike Volpe

Mike Volpe is the CEO at Lola.com, the corporate travel SaaS platform that helps companies stop wasting time and start saving money on their business travel program. He has been asked to speak at numerous conferences on sales, marketing and growth, as well as people operations, leadership, hiring and culture and is a strong advocate for building great teams with a wide range of talent.

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