What contributes to a human brand?

When I wake up each day, I get to help build a disruptive, human brand. For that, I consider myself exceptionally blessed.

I work at Lesson.ly, the easy training software company. Since my first conversation with our CEO, Max Yoder, I knew I was in for a ride. So I took the chance, I made the leap, and I joined the team.

On my first day, Max said, “I want to build a company that every employee will fight to work for, because that’s what they deserve.”

This sounded nice to me, but I didn’t immediately put a lot of stock into it. At that point in my life, I had experienced some fairly stagnant corporate environments, and I’d heard similar aspirations from people with a lot more years under their belt than Max, all of whom who had failed to achieve stellar corporate cultures and/or strong employee-retention rates.

I worried that, like those before him, Max’s good intentions would fall flat.

I am so glad I was wrong.

Lesson.ly is an extraordinary place to work. We all care. We all fight to work here.

And, after giving it some thought, I think I know why that is: I think it has to do with the fact that we don’t believe in the traditional, dehumanizing, financially-focused business culture. With the next three points, I will do my best to illustrate how.

1. Human Leadership

Lesson.ly’s leadership inspires us to be human.

Our board and investor group are all humble, not condescending; they have confidence and trust in us; and they are completely approachable. They help us with the big picture and they’re not too proud/busy/respected to dive into the weeds with us; people like that deserve applause, and I feel fortunate to have them as role models.

Also, it’s impossible to write this post without mentioning Max Yoder again. He is quite possibly the most human person on earth. His love for people oozes out of every pore as he drives our culture to the perfect balance of autonomy and accountability. We all get up every morning, ready to absolutely crush our jobs, knowing that Max has confidence in us to do so, and also knowing that if we fail, he is there to help up us get back up.

How to repeat:

  • Treat your employees how they want to be treated
  • Use Max’s method: Hire smart, conscientious people who are self aware; then, find out how your company can give them the life they’ve always wanted
  • Trust more

2. Human Communication

We communicate like fun-loving, passionate, rule-bending, inside-joke-having, real-life-living humans.

Whether we’re talking to each other on Voxer, discussing an important topic as a group in Flowdock, or brainstorming in person, we communicate with a mutual, noncompetitive respect. We are all in this battle together, fighting against outdated, high-walled, inefficient training software and processes. In this war, there is no room for caddy politics or self-importance. We are a community, a unified front, not just a groups of I’s. Culture doesn’t get much more human than that.

If you have visited our blog or received an email from us, you know that we don’t draw a line between internal and external communication with regard to being human. What you see on the outside is what you get on the inside. We make a conscious effort to make our humanity evident in every external interaction from a cold outbound sales call to the warmest meeting with a referral.

A few tangibles:

  • Keep your communication positive
  • Use Max’s catchphrase: “We will figure this out!”
  • Find the perfect animated gifs for every situation, and keep them handy

3. Human Product

Our product is built by humans and made for humans. The core job of our product is to help one or more humans give other humans the information and know-how they need to grow and thrive in their jobs.

The best part: our product actually does these things—that is, it works! I’ve helped a lot of companies sell stuff that I may or may not have cared about or believed in at all. This is not the case with Lesson.ly. When you use Lesson.ly, it just works. It solves our clients problems. Our days are not filled with folks who feel they’ve been cheated. In fact, we spend more time joking with our clients than we do troubleshooting, all because our product just works.

Getting to this point was not a fluke. The reason Lesson.ly just works is because we didn’t just throw something together for a quick buck. The original team talked to humans to find out what their problems were; then, they slowly but smartly built a product to fix those problems. And we didn’t stop there. Every single day, we seek out feedback from our human customers to continually improve our offerings.

Humanize your product:

  • Ask, then act
  • After you act, ask again; then, again
  • Focus on features that help; outlaw vanity features and nice-to-haves

Final Thoughts

You might have noticed that this post focuses solely on internal factors. This kind of behavior is strange for a marketer like me. Most marketers would focus on external logos, ads, and market metrics in a post about branding. I hope you can see now why this is: in Lesson.ly’s case, what happens behind the curtain is what makes the difference.

Since we have such a strong foundation inside, our organization’s culture, our autonomy, our humanness is evident to everyone who connects with us. That’s what people seek out, and that’s what people find here.

Oh, and I hope you’re jealous.

More than anything, I hope your jealousy leads you to change the culture you’re in—or remove yourself from it, if that’s the better option—because doing so will change your life.

Now, get after it and act like a human.

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