In this episode of Rule Breaker Investing, Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner sits down with Kara Chambers and Lee Burbage, members of the Fool's People Team, to discuss one of the company's core values: Motley. They describe how it works, as well as the origin of the concept.
A Motley is a type of personal mantra or phrase that Fools adopt to describe themselves and their approach to their role at the company. Fellow Fools Adrienne Perryman, Lawrence Greenberg, Peter Varley, Eric Bleeker, Brandon Ragan, Cheryl Palting, Laura Cavanaugh, and Jen Elliott join in to share their Motleys and how they interpret them.
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on April 4, 2018.
David Gardner: And welcome back to Rule Breaker Investing and what a delight it is that you've joined us the first week of April. March was a really fun month for this podcast. We went over a couple of interviews with completely different, contrasting people.
You may remember Steven Pinker. I talked with him about his book Enlightenment Now. And then I also got to speak with Les McKeown, the longtime business pattern recognizer about predictably successful businesses that we're all trying to be part of. We also played the Market Cap Game Show with Matt Argersinger and closed it all out with last week's mailbag.
Welcome! Happy April! And this time it's time to bring back my friends Kara Chambers and Lee Burbage. Kara and Lee work on The Motley Fool's people team. And if you are -- and why not -- a longtime listener of this podcast, you'll remember that I have Kara and Lee back a couple of times a year to talk about something that matters a lot to us as businesspeople and investors, and yup, it counts for both.
And that is corporate culture, the experience that you have, that I have, on a daily basis going to work for the organizations that we do. We hope for a great purpose and with great outcome and results. We love to talk about culture; again, not just as Motley Fool employees, but as investors.
I look at the cultures of the companies that I'm thinking about investing in because after all, if I'm going to hold 10 years or more [far more than buying a product, a service, a competitive framework, a CEO], I think I'm buying the culture of the organization that you and I are putting our money into. So, culture, culture, culture. Kara, Lee, welcome!
Lee Burbage: Thank you so much for having us!
Kara Chambers: Thank you!
Gardner: We talked about what we would want to do this time and we started going to a keyword for The Motley Fool, and Kara, what word is that?
Gardner: That's right, motley. And motley is an important word for us because, of course, it was the ragtag garment worn by fools of yore. Back in Elizabethan times -- those crazy jesters and their clothing -- that was motley. That's what they wore. Kind of patchwork quilted garments. But for us at The Motley Fool, I've always thought of motley as... Well, let me think of it this way.
When you come to work for The Motley Fool, you are your own unique piece of stained glass. You have your own shape. You have your own hue. And when you join us at our company, or when somebody joins your company, dear listeners, they're adding their piece of stained glass to the window. We've, for years now, set that up and made that one of our core values. Lee, could you just briefly describe motley as a core value? What does it mean, here, at The Motley Fool?
Burbage: Well, maybe about 2010 I was asked to be part of a team by your producer, Rick Engdahl...
Burbage: ... and thank you, Rick ... for a group of Fools to get together and take a look at our existing core values at that time and just modernize them a little bit. Revamp. We had a lot of meetings, as you can imagine a process like that might go, and we realized we just couldn't quite get there. We couldn't quite get our perfect list of core values that represented everybody here and what we were doing.
And it dawned on us -- and that's to your point, David -- that everyone is a little different. Everyone brings something to the table. And so, we wanted something that could allow people to represent "Hey, I'm bought into the company core values, but I also bring something of my own and I want a way to express it."
Gardner: Kara, you and I were talking about this beforehand. There's a lot of talk, these days, about "fit" and looking for cultural fit, and I think that we've tried for that, some, but there's something more than just mere fit when you hire.
Chambers: Right. What we've talked about, now, is cultural contribution. Is how you add and bring yourself to our culture. Fitting in sounds homogenous and it sounds like you're just going to be like everyone else. What we realized -- in fact, the opposite of motley -- is conformity. What we're looking for is Fools to bring their whole self to work so each person brings something different, which is what you want. It will create a better company.
Gardner: And Kara, in particular you've brought together our show, this week, because what we wanted to do is show off what motley looks like. What it sounds like. How it works at our company and how it might at your organization, whoever you are. And so, Kara you have hand selected a motley group of Fools to talk about their motleys this week.
Chambers: Yes. We had some fun, too. Everybody is interpreted a little differently. For some of you it's things you say a lot and then you put that value behind your work. It's something that you love to do. It's a unique way of looking at your job. How you contribute. We tried to pick Fools that you may not hear from all the time and listen to how they approach their work.
Gardner: Thank you very much. And Lee, motley is a core value, here, at The Motley Fool. The idea of motley is that you are bringing something of yourself. Do you just want to double underline it before we have Adrienne Perryman join us with the first motley?
Gardner: But when somebody's saying, "What's your motley?" around Motley Fool headquarters, what are they asking of somebody else?
Burbage: It tells you a little bit about them. A little bit of something that you might not know already. We do try to make them fun and different, so as you walk around the office you'll typically see at each person's desk their name and their motley displayed. It could be a conversation starter to getting in and getting to know someone on a little bit of a deeper level.
Gardner: And so, to make it really clear, and then let's begin, motley is the core value that you bring to our company. [We have] five or six core values at The Motley Fool -- one of them is motley. And Adrienne Perryman, welcome!
Adrienne Perryman: Thank you very much!
Gardner: And we ask you and the other Fools we'll be talking to this hour what your motley is. What is the value that you bring, that you show off, that you bring to The Motley Fool every day? Adrienne, what is your motley?
Perryman: My motley is "we got this, yo."
Gardner: We got this, yo. Adrienne, what do you do at The Motley Fool?
Perryman: I wear a number of different hats, here, at The Fool. I'm a member of the communications team. I also work with our CEO, Tom Gardner, on operations support and helping him run the company.
Gardner: Excellent. How long have you been at The Fool?
Perryman: Ten years.
Gardner: Congratulations and thank you!
Perryman: Thank you!
Gardner: So, we got this, yo. I mean, the first thing, Kara, that comes to mind is the word yo, don't you think? Like it could just be we got this. Let's start with yo.
Perryman: Well, I think it's just a fun way of expressing a collaboration, which is also another core value of ours. It's just a little flair at the end that brings my own special fun sauce to the mix
Gardner: So, the "we got this" part sounds like somebody who is a "can do" person.
Perryman: Yes, I would say so. And, also, I think an encourager of others, no matter what my job has been, here. I started as an executive assistant, helping other people achieve their goals and supporting them in a fun, collaborative, can-do way. Sometimes people, no matter if you're a Fool or not, just really need encouragement. Like if you're facing a big problem or challenge, I've always tried to be a partner to people in that way. That we -- you and I -- we've got this, yo! It's going to be fun. We're going to solve it together.
Gardner: It really does start with the word "we," and I probably should have started there, but that's such an excellent point, Adrienne. Do you have an example of where that motley has helped you or helped somebody else? I know it's how you roll on a day-to-day basis.
Perryman: I was thinking about this because I sort of anticipated this question. I did have a hard time thinking of a specific example, but what I did think about was whenever it's been thrown back to me. Whenever I've been facing a hard challenge, and somebody's looked at me and been like, "Adrienne, we've got this, yo!"
Perryman: Yes, or just that positive, "Don't worry! It's going to be fine! This is a tall mountain in front of us, but I'm going to help you get this done, Adrienne." It's having the tables turned on me a little bit. I was like, "Oh, it does work."
Gardner: And it's kind of great, Lee, because it does combine collaboration, which is a Motley Fool core value and optimism, which is also a Motley Fool core value, so I think Adrienne exemplifies, in her own chosen motley, The Motley Fool.
Burbage: Yes, we love that. We talk about our core values a lot, and never one without the other. They all work well together as I think our team does and the people that work here.
Gardner: We got this, yo.
Perryman: We got this.
Gardner: Thanks, Adrienne!
Perryman: Thanks for having me!
Gardner: Speaking of people who have been at The Motley Fool for a long time, I know our next guest very well but, Kara, who have you brought in next?
Chambers: We've brought in Lawrence Greenberg, our chief legal counsel, to tell us about his motley.
Gardner: Awesome. Lawrence, how long have you been at The Fool? Longer than I have.
Lawrence Greenberg: Almost. About 21 years.
Gardner: Tremendous. And so, since you and I have been around for a couple of decades, here, at The Motley Fool, you and I both remember that there was a time when we didn't have motleys. I'd like to think, Lawrence, we were still motley, but we didn't actually have motleys or core values, so it wasn't until maybe eight, nine, or 10 years ago that you had to think about what your value would be that you bring to work.
Greenberg: I think that's right, and actually I had a lot of help in thinking about what I brought from our copywriters.
Gardner: That's awesome, because that's kind of their job, isn't it in a way?
Gardner: And your job was to tell them not to do whatever they thought that they could do because you're our chief counsel. But somehow it all came together, and it worked.
Greenberg: I hope so. But I actually don't think that's right -- that my job is to tell them not to do what they want to do. My job is to help them figure out how to do what they're doing right.
Gardner: I completely agree.
Greenberg: And that fits with the nature of my motley which is, "Gordian."
Greenberg: That's correct.
Burbage: I would just like to throw in that David Gardner recently won the spelling bee at The Motley Fool.
Gardner: Thank you very much, Lee. That even might have been mentioned on this podcast once before...
Burbage: Oh, of course. Of course, it was.
Gardner: But we try to salt it in at least once every podcast. You're awesome, Lee. So, the Gordian knot, which I know is a phrase. Lawrence, I don't actually know the origin of it, but regardless, I want to know the origin of it for you. How did you settle on Gordian?
Greenberg: Well, in this conversation with one of our copywriters, we were talking about what our respective motleys were and trying to figure out ways to phrase them in ways that were not hideously boring. Surprisingly, a lot of people think that what lawyers do is not that interesting.
And what it really came down to is that my job is to take complicated problems, make them so that people can understand, and that we can solve them together, preferably successfully. And the Gordian knot, in Greek legend, was a hideously complicated knot that was brought to Alexander the Great with the prophecy that whoever could untie it would rule Asia. And Alexander, after struggling with it for a while, pulled out his sword and chopped the knot in half, which made it easier to unravel.
I rarely get to use knives in my work, but what I like to think that I do, and what I try to do, is arrive at problems typically when they are confusing, cut through the confusion, and allow us to make decisions, because actually much of business decision-making is not that complicated once you figure out what you're doing. And I would argue that much of investing is not super complicated once you figure out what you're looking at, what you understand, and are prepared to do over a long term.
Gardner: And that is both so thoughtful and so true. And Lawrence, I almost want to apologize to you for earlier putting you up as the guy who needs to tell the people no, because you've just done a much better job and your motley is what's enabled explaining exactly what you've done here for a couple of decades at The Motley Fool and done it so well.
Lawrence, has that always been your motley and/ or do you imagine that always being your motley?
Greenberg: My original motley was "judgment," because I thought that was what I was supposed to bring to the company, but I think this may always be my motley, because it really fits with my role and my personality. I like to look at hard problems, I like to try to make them easier and, I hope, to solve them.
Gardner: And there might even be some empire-building going on here, too, Alexander the Great notwithstanding. Lawrence, thank you very much!
Greenberg: Thank you!
Gardner: Kara, who have you brought in next?
Chambers: Peter Varley, a colleague. I invited you, here, because your motley is about something that isn't about your job, but something that you bring to our culture in your own way.
Peter Varley: Yes, my motley is "meet and greet." Technically, I'm hired here as a programmer for web development. I'm on the market tech team. I'm supporting our marketing efforts. But what I really enjoy at this company is all the wonderful people we have, here, and also at FoolFest, and so forth, getting to meet some of our members.
Gardner: Peter, yes, technically you are, I hope, a programmer because that is an important function that we need done here and do send a lot of marketing, here, at The Motley Fool and we want it to work. So, you are somebody who is known throughout the company. We're a company of 320. That's a lot larger than some of the companies that our listeners have and then a lot smaller than other companies that people work for. Peter, where did you come from before you came to The Motley Fool?
Varley: I worked at a company called Wall Street on Demand that was doing sites for various financial institutions. That was in Boulder, Colorado.
Gardner: And before that, I sense you weren't born in this country.
Varley: That's amazing you should mention that. Does my accent give it away? Yes, I'm from Australia, but we've been here, as of last week, I think, 23 years...
Varley: ... which is a long time, given that we only came for nine months.
Chambers: Peter, I was going to ask. I think you meet with every, single employee? Or attempt?
Varley: I've certainly tried to get to know all the new employees. There are some employees who have been around for a long time who I've not actually had lunch with, but certainly anyone who's new I try and get to know, and I've been doing that for a few years, now. I know almost everyone in the company reasonably well.
Gardner: And isn't that tremendous?
Burbage: And if I could expand your motley, slightly, I've seen you in the café having lunch with new Fools.
Varley: Yes, I had lunch with Jean today and tomorrow it's John.
Burbage: And oftentimes when I see you, you're not there with just that person, but it's even a bigger group.
Burbage: So, your meet and greet is even beyond just eating now.
Varley: The idea is when someone comes into a new company, it's obviously intimidating, and so if you can introduce that person to a bunch of other people it eases the transition for them and almost always there's some interesting stories that come out.
Gardner: Peter, let me ask since you have this perspective that we lack. Often, I'm told that Americans are very friendly and when we go abroad people say that Americans are. But that's the way that we think in America. We think Australians are. The real question is who's meeting and greeting best of all? Is it the Aussies, the Americans, or somebody else?
Varley: Oh, I have no idea. I never thought about that. I think Australians, in general, are pretty open. Interestingly, roughly one in four people in Australia were born outside the country, whereas for America it's roughly one in 10. I think Australians, in general, are fairly open to new things, and new people, and just new ideas.
Gardner: Peter Varley, thank you! I love your motley in that it's not only a descriptor -- an action term that you make happen -- but that you've personally greeted all the many Motley Fool employees that we've hired. And you're how many years, here, at The Motley Fool?
Varley: Coming up to 12. A long time.
Gardner: Tremendous. That is our great good fortune to have Peter Varley at The Motley Fool.
Varley: Thank you. I partly do it because it's fun, too. It's a benefit to me, but yes, it is a benefit to them, as well.
Gardner: It is Motley Hour. It's a motley hour and Lee Burbage, who have you brought in next?
Burbage: Well, I think we've been learning that motleys are fun. [They] cause you to ask more questions and learn about that person. I think our next guest -- his motley squares right in there. Welcome, Eric Bleeker!
Eric Bleeker: It's good to be here.
Gardner: Eric, what do you do at The Motley Fool?
Bleeker: It kind of ties in with my motley, which is "lead horses to water." I work on our marketing team in how we can package up so much of our great investing IP and present it in a way that really catches the attention of our members.
Gardner: Thank you, Eric. And the intellectual property -- the IP -- that we try to bring we always hope is market beating. But not just that, Eric. I know from a marketing standpoint what's important is that it be exciting or catch [one's] eye.
Bleeker: Yes. I got into this job in kind of a crazy way. We had been doing marketing the same way for a long time. At the time we had a trend that a lot of people were interested in. You're well familiar with it -- the Internet of Things.
Gardner: The Internet of Things? Yes, indeed.
Bleeker: I found this city at the tip of Finland above the Arctic Circle. Because Nokia had left, it had gone all-in on making their city a living laboratory for the idea. We said, "Why don't we just go up there? We'll take a trip and use that. It's one thing to have great investment-beating returns, but people want to hear stories that they're interested in, as well." We packaged up and it turned into a new job. I think I'm on year four or five of that, now.
Gardner: Awesome. Eric, how long have you been at The Motley Fool?
Bleeker: Nine years.
Gardner: Nine years. You were a horse eventually led to the marketing water in this company. How did you actually start at The Fool?
Bleeker: I started in our editorial side, so I was working on our technology. It was at a time when the smartphone boom was just happening, so an exciting time in the space. That led me to really go deep in following that trend through the years.
Gardner: Now let's talk about leading horses to water. Why is that your motley? Explain.
Bleeker: Well, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. We could say over and over again that we're very transparent [your scorecard on Stock Advisor or Rule Breakers and be able to show that to people]. Often it requires something more to be able to get them to take action.
So, that is just bringing out the excitement. Being able to meet people on their terms. Maybe someone wants investments, but they specifically want it along the lines that they've been hearing a lot about artificial intelligence. It's our job to package up the great IP, the picks we have, the research, and be able to present that to someone on their terms. That's really what my job is.
Gardner: How far north were you in Finland?
Bleeker: We made it across the Arctic Circle. I have plenty of pictures with reindeers. We went to an ice hotel that was fully controlled by internet-connected devices, so it was pretty cool.
Burbage: I can remember hearing the story, recently, by your boss, Jeremy, who said, "I've got a photo of Eric. I don't know where he is or what he's holding, but I know something good is happening."
Gardner: Do you want to say what that is or was?
Bleeker: Last week we were around Silicon Valley and we were checking out the emerging self-driving car space. He probably saw at one point I was holding the brains of a self-driving car in my hands, which was a cool picture. [We were at] Nvidia's headquarters which has been, of course, a great recommendation.
Gardner: Yes, it has been an awesome stock, and Eric, I'm trying to picture it because I didn't see that picture [what the brains of a self-driving car look like]. I'm assuming it's a microchip. It's really hard to see? Or what is it?
Bleeker: It's tiny until they put it in their casing and then it's very large.
Gardner: Awesome. Eric Bleeker, thank you for leading! I hope as many foolish horses to water and making them drink and growing our company as you've been doing these last several years.
Bleeker: Great. Thanks, David!
Gardner: I see another longtime Fool in the house. Now, Kara, it strikes me that you've brought in a lot of people who have been here for a long time.
Chambers: It just dawned on me. This might be my recruiting class. I spent a good five or six years [my first career at The Fool] recruiting, and this might be my recruiting class.
Gardner: I love it.
Chambers: They're Fools I'm familiar with.
Gardner: One thing I'd like to say very briefly. There's a great book that my brother has read -- my brother Tom, who reads more than I do. Tom read a book, once, called The Loyalty Effect by Fred Reichheld. Fred is a Harvard Business School professor and has his own consulting firm. The point of The Loyalty Effect is that most good business folks can be summed up in about one sentence, so here's my shot. The more loyalty you can get -- from your employees, your customers, your partners, your suppliers, your board members, your community -- the more years you can add up of loyalty and [this is a great effect] the stronger an organization [for-profit or not-for-profit] will be. You're kind of showing off one of our strengths, Kara. Who's up next?
Chambers: Brandon Ragan. Brandon, we invited you in. I looked at your motley and it talked about your philosophy in your work. Do you want to talk a little bit about what you do here?
Brandon Ragan: Sure. I'm the tech lead on the site operations team. That's the formal way of saying what I do. What I actually do is build and maintain the servers that power the Fool.com website.
Gardner: Brandon, what is your motley?
Ragan: My motley, I think, fits into what my title is. It is "turtle power," and it probably needs some explanation.
Chambers: That's why you're here.
Gardner: Lee, I know you grew up in the state of Maryland and I think you've been a Maryland Terrapins fan.
Burbage: Yes, I'm a graduate of the University of Maryland.
Gardner: There we go. That's one kind of a turtle, but this is not the turtle you're talking about, Brandon.
Ragan: No, this is a mash-up of The Tortoise and the Hare and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles just mostly to make it cool.
Ragan: So, with The Tortoise and the Hare, as you know, the turtle wins the race. I think that fits very well with an operations-focused job because we are about making slow and steady progress. We're involved with the stability of the website, so it's important to stay on that steady pace.
Gardner: And what would a hare's approach to web ops look like?
Ragan: Maybe the website going down and crashing with no stability to the site.
Gardner: Because not enough time has been spent to build the stability in.
Ragan: Right, and probably poor decisions along the way. So, if you're trying to move too quickly and you cut corners, then you're making sacrifices for the reliability of the website.
Gardner: Brandon, do you score yourself? I'm pretty sure we do. Do we have like a "99% our site's working" kind of a metric? How do you think about that?
Ragan: Yes, we do track availability. We don't spend that much time on it, because if we do have site issues, we're more concerned about getting on the spot and solving the problem. We're not concerned about who did it or trying to track that down.
Gardner: And do you remember when you first heard the story of The Tortoise and the Hare? Did this make a powerful impression on you as a youngster?
Ragan: I don't know.
Burbage: It was more of the Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Gardner: That's probably where we should have gone, instead. Have you seen the most recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie?
Ragan: I have, but that's because I have a four-year-old daughter. I don't even know how she got caught on it, but just watching cartoons on TV. I literally watched it, probably, a hundred times in a matter of a month.
Gardner: Wow! That is fatherhood right there. I'm impressed. The last question for you, Brandon. The move into the cloud. That's something for us because as stock pickers at The Motley Fool, we've had some great picks because somebody like Tim Beyers on my Motley Fool Rule Breakers team about eight, nine, or 10 years ago started saying, "Hey, there's this thing coming called 'the cloud,' and that's important." How clouded is The Motley Fool, and what is your view of the cloud from here going forward?
Ragan: We are still mostly on-prem and this is because we have so much history behind us. When you run systems that are 20+ years old, it makes it a lot more challenging to get into the cloud space.
Gardner: That makes sense.
Ragan: Right now, one of our biggest projects is we are trying to make our applications more portable, so we could make the decision to move to the cloud if we wanted to, but right now we're just not positioned because we have so much legacy stuff.
Gardner: For example, discussion boards with millions of posts that go back a few decades...
Ragan: That is definitely one of them.
Gardner: It's not that easy to just port that all over to the cloud as opposed to if we were a mere start-up.
Burbage: One fun thing I know about Brandon is that because he's working with our servers, he's often spending time in our FoolMobile driving around. This is our Fool-branded van.
Gardner: You can't miss it. You know it's from The Motley Fool, that's for sure.
Burbage: And I think it's meant to break down frequently.
Ragan: It did break down on the highway, once.
Gardner: What is the vehicle?
Burbage: It's The FoolMobile.
Gardner: Make and model...
Burbage: You've got me.
Burbage: It's a white van with a huge jester on the side.
Ragan: It's amazing.
Gardner: Much more likely to be seen somewhere around the Washington, D.C. area than the state of Washington, for example. Brandon, thank you!
Ragan: Thank you!
Gardner: Kara, for our next guest, as she walked in, our part-time producer, our substitute awesome producer this week, Anne Henry said, "People are going to figure out about our next guest that she probably should have her own podcast."
Cheryl Palting: No way.
Gardner: We'll see about that. Kara, who do we have next?
Chambers: Cheryl Palting. Your motley is near and dear to my heart, and that's your role in our people team. Can you tell us a little about what you do and your motley?
Palting: Yes, of course. Thank you so much for having me, by the way. It's always so exciting to be on the podcast. My motley is "Fly, you Fools." For you Lord of the Rings fans out there, yes, I totally stole that. But it's a bit of a two-parter. The first part is the "fly." I love being able to help any Fool [new, tenured] succeed in any way I can.
Being on the people team is a big part of our job -- to make sure that we are allowing for Fools to do their best work, their most efficient work, and then also be their happiest. Any way I can do that, I will, whether it's outside of my team. On the recruiting team. For all of you who are interested in working at The Motley Fool, give us a shout-out. Let me know. I'll reach out and I'll tell you a little bit more about our company.
Gardner: It's our own stuff. We're allowed to plug it. I'm surrounded by awesome people team members, here, at The Motley Fool.
Palting: That's true.
Gardner: Cheryl, you just said if I were interested in getting to know more about The Motley Fool and maybe applying for work. How would I do that, having heard you say that?
Palting: Head over to Careers.Fool.com. You can read about our openings. You can read about our teams, here, at The Motley Fool, watch some videos, and get to know us a little bit better.
Burbage: Twitter. Instagram. The Motley Fool culture.
Palting: Of course. Lee being our head of people -- an amazing, fearless leader -- mentioned Twitter and Facebook. We have all sorts of social media websites out there, so just give us a quick search online and I'm sure you'll find us.
Gardner: Now Cheryl, are you a Lord of the Rings fan?
Palting: A huge fan.
Gardner: I assume you read the books before you saw the movie.
Palting: I did, and only because my family is also a big fan of Lord of the Rings. We're super into science fiction and utopias [not that Lord of the Rings is a utopia]. There are many fan theories out there, but I think earlier I mentioned there is a bit of a two-parter to my motley.
Gardner: Yes, you did the "fly" part.
Palting: Yes, I did the fly. "Fly, you Fools" I think is that second part. In the books and in the movies, you can see Gandalf saying, "Fly, you fools." And online there's this huge debate on what that means. Some people say that "Fly, you fools" was Gandalf [and this is a spoiler alert if you haven't read the books or watched the movies].
Gardner: It's OK.
Burbage: It's time.
Palting: It's time. It's been over 10 years, everyone. If you haven't seen or read the books, that's not my fault. I highly recommend it, though. So, there's a huge debate that "Fly, you fools," was Gandalf telling the Fellowship that they should take the eagles to Mordor so that they don't have to walk through...
Gardner: Oh! I just thought it meant leave. Like, get out of here.
Palting: Correct. So, he says, "Fly, you fools," and so some viewers and some readers were saying that was Gandalf saying take the eagles. The other part of the argument is he was just saying leave. Go. We're on this journey. Do your best work.
And I think of that part, that debate and that back and forth between two multiple views of what something means is really true to what we do, here, at The Motley Fool. I think when we are analyzing stocks or analyzing companies, just because we see the same information doesn't mean that we'll necessarily have the same opinion on something, and it's important to see both sides and understand that everyone's opinion is valid. It's just that motley of opinions allows us to make great business recommendations and decisions.
Gardner: And that is, indeed, the heart of motley and Cheryl, you understand that about as well as anybody here at our company. How long have you been at The Fool?
Palting: A little over four years.
Gardner: All right.
Palting: The best four years ever.
Gardner: So, you are a newb on this particular podcast...
Palting: I am totally a newb.
Gardner: ... which is great. But Cheryl, I think you recently got a little bit of acclaim [a little bit of publicity and recognition for what you do for new employees when they arrive at The Motley Fool]. Without bragging too much, what does a first day look like for a Motley Fool employee?
Palting: I always like to say this, but it's a huge collaborative effort between an entire team of Fools, including the hiring managers and the people who actually interviewed the new Fool. I think that experience starts all the way from that first application.
But when you're a new Fool and you're hired, and you've accepted, yay! Your first day is a lot of fun. We think you should do all that legal HR stuff even before you get here so there's no paperwork to be signed. That's done before your first day. You meet a ton of Fools.
You start off the day with a tour from Lee B., our head of people who's been here 20+ years, and he's telling you fun stories which leads into making sure that your tech is all set up. Making sure that you're familiar with the actual layout of the company. Sometimes we'll switch it up. We'll have you listen into People Team Q&A. Sometimes you'll go right into lunch. It really depends on what we think is best for that day.
After everything, lunch is on The Fool. You meet new people. You learn a little bit about Foolishness. You get payroll set up. Everyone loves to get paid -- money is great -- but at the end of the day, we want you to meet everyone, and that literally means meeting everyone by going around with a cart full of food and drinks [typically beer] so you're the most popular person in the office.
Gardner: You're just pushing a free beer cart around getting to know everyone at the company.
Palting: Yes, and for about an hour and a half you're saying, "Hi, my name is blank." At the end, obviously, we quiz you on all the names that you've learned thus far.
Gardner: Of course! Of course!
Palting: But that's how we want you to end your day and you end early. We always start on a Friday. We want to make sure that your first day is as stressless as possible.
Gardner: Always start on a Friday.
Palting: Always start on a Friday.
Gardner: Every time I hear this team [Lee, Kara, and Cheryl] talk about what it's like to get started at The Motley Fool, I remember my own first day at The Fool, which lacked all of these things, and I'm pretty sure we should have started on a Friday. We'd probably be a better company today had we done so. But, awesome. Thanks for joining us, Cheryl!
Palting: Thank you for having me!
Gardner: Fly, you fool. Speaking of relatively new Fools, but Fools of real consequence, Lee, who have you brought in next?
Burbage: Well, I was excited about this one because I think, like Adrienne, this is a motley that has sort of caught on and even other people are saying it. It's a catchphrase in the office. So, welcome to Laura Cavanaugh. Laura, maybe you can tell us a little bit about what you do, here, and your motley.
Laura Cavanaugh: Sure. I head up the business intelligence team here at The Fool, and we get to partner with all the teams across the company and help them make data-driven decision using reporting, analysis, A/B testing and modeling.
Gardner: And Laura, what is your motley?
Cavanaugh: My motley is "Data whoa!"
Gardner: Data whoa.
Cavanaugh: Yes. The inflection is important because it's W-H-O-A, not to be confused with "data woe," or W-O-E.
Gardner: Awesome. It definitely is a catchphrase here at The Motley Fool because I think the "whoa" part is that an insight has occurred. Talk us through that a little bit.
Cavanaugh: It's really a moment when we find a game-changing insight and a data set that makes a really big impact on our member experience, our prospective customer experience, and our business.
Gardner: Can you give an example of a data whoa in the last year or so?
Cavanaugh: Sure. One that's in progress right now is an experience we're testing called "Foolish Wisdom" to a portion of our members. We're sharing mindset and market commentary content. It's going well, over all, but when we dug into the data, we found that it's going particularly well for new members, which is really exciting. So, we're seeing signs that we're delivering value to our members and they're sticking around with us at a higher rate as a result.
Gardner: Now, it's probably an ongoing assumption among us four, and therefore I need to disabuse all the rest of us. We all think we know what A/ B testing is because we do it every day and Laura, you know it better than anybody at the company, probably. But I'm going to assume that not every Rule Breaker Investing listener knows what the phrase A/ B testing is. Could you just briefly explain that and how it leads to whoas?
Cavanaugh: Sure. We run experiments called A/ B tests across our site and our email experience where we develop something new and we serve it up to a portion of our members while the other portion gets the control experience. The norm. That way we're able to monitor the impact we're making on this brand new awesome thing that we built.
And we don't just accept the results at high level. We get to dig in, ask questions of the data, see who it's working for, who it's not working for, and that leads us into a new round of testing, which is really fun.
Gardner: And was this your major in college?
Cavanaugh: My major was actually business administration and a double major in studio art. I'm a numbers person, but I also really like telling stories with the data that can compel us into a new direction.
Gardner: And I know that you've spoken at some conferences. I think I hooked you up with one and I got a really nice thank you note from the conference organizer afterwards saying you were a star at the conference. You had everybody saying your motley at that conference, Laura. If I were interviewing the Laura Cavanaugh who is 10 years old and asking, "What do you want to be when you grow up and what do you think your motley would be," would you have been saying, "Data whoa?"
Cavanaugh: I think I always wanted to be a scientist. I was always kind of curious. I just randomly fell into this profession and it's been a wonderful experience, especially here at The Fool.
Gardner: Thank you, Laura! Kara, my question for you at this point is did you save the best for last?
Chambers: Quite possibly.
Gardner: Quite possibly. Who have you brought into the room?
Chambers: Our fellow people team [member] is Jen Elliott. Your motley is a metaphor for a skill that you have and that we very much need on our team.
Gardner: Jen Elliott, first of all, what you do at The Motley Fool and then what is your motley?
Jen Elliott: I do a few things at The Fool. I work on our compensation program. I do a little bit of organizational development with Lee and Kara, and then I also warm the bench for Annie and Cheryl, who you got to meet, if they ever need any backup on recruiting.
Gardner: Awesome. What is your motley?
Elliott: My motley is "Tupperware."
Gardner: All right. Lee Burbage, what's the first thing you think of when you hear the word Tupperware?
Burbage: Delicious. I'm going in there. I'm opening it up. It was so good last night. Even better today.
Gardner: Kara, what is your association with Tupperware?
Chambers: Cleaning out the fridge? Like, what is that that's in there?
Gardner: I'm in a different place, and I'm not even sure I'm right about this. I think of it like clubs or parties where you're helping sell it to others. I think that was how Tupperware started. But Jen Elliott, what does Tupperware mean to you and to The Motley Fool?
Elliott: Tupperware for me represents my mantra of a place for everything and everything in its place. Across The Fool I work with a lot of visionaries. A lot of folks who have big ideas, and I like to capture those big ideas and compartmentalize them. Put them into an actionable plan. Put some data behind them. Get a plan in place so that we can take those thought bubbles and have some follow-through and have an output at the end.
Gardner: What does a really effectively organized Tupperware-like organization look like?
Elliott: It depends on the scenario. I take a lot of notes, so every meeting I'm in, I'm documenting it. I'll send follow-throughs to say, "Here's what I've documented on my end. Here's what my to-do list is. Here's what I've got from you. Let me know if there's anything I missed."
It can be an annoying habit at times, but I'll be in a follow-up meeting and someone will say, "I think we covered this at one point," and I will pull up my computer and I'll say, "On August 31st at about 02:30 PM, we did note this, and here's what we decided at that time and here's what we've done to date." It's beneficial at times and sometimes maybe not, but...
Gardner: That is very Tupperware of you.
Elliott: It is. I keep track of everything. It's a blessing and a curse.
Gardner: Speaking of keeping track of things, you don't you look like the Jen Elliott that you looked like maybe six months ago? Why is that?
Elliott: I don't know. You tell me, David.
Gardner: I think that you're pregnant.
Elliott: I am very pregnant. I'm ready to go.
Gardner: So, is there a Tupperware approach to pregnancy? I know that there are certainly some mothers [probably some expectant mothers listening right now]. How can I be more awesome as an expectant parent?
Elliott: Let go of the Tupperware. There is nothing that you can compartmentalize about children. I've got a 15-month-old at home right now, and I've had to let that part of my life go. I don't try to fit my child in any Tupperware. She lives her own life, and I'm trying to keep up. But at work, it's a nice break from that. I find I'm able to control a little bit more than I can at home.
Gardner: I know a lot of people listening are being compensated by somebody. Sometimes it's themselves because there's certainly some business owners listening, but a lot of us are taking a check from somebody else.
Jan, we didn't preplan this, so I don't know if you have a good, ready answer. I hope you do. What is a tip or two you might give to a fellow compensation executive or somebody who might be disappointed by their own compensation?
Elliott: I think having a really open and honest conversation that starts with you doing some research about your own market value. There's a lot of free resources online and hopefully the company that you work for has bought into a few paid salary surveys so that they can have great data at their disposal. I know we do at The Fool, because it's something that we take very seriously.
It's never a light topic. These are people's livelihoods. So, having some data behind your request to understand how you're being compensated now and how you're being valued. Here's the research I've done. And just having an open and honest conversation that hopefully doesn't start from a defensive point or an ultimatum. "I have this other offer. Meet it or I walk." Those generally don't go well.
I think having an open and honest conversation about what you are looking to achieve and helping everyone understand the value that you're delivering, because sometimes your impression of what you're delivering is not the same as your manager's. It's a series of conversations that when you do it right, I think everyone wins. I think everyone has a better understanding of what you're contributing, and everyone wins in that scenario.
Gardner: So, one of the biggest problems would be just not enough communication or not enough information.
Elliott: Absolutely. Not enough communication. It's a taboo topic. Sometimes people think when they talk about their comp it is seen negatively. You're being greedy, or you want more from the company, or you're being treated unfairly. Like I said, I love talking to people about their comp. I want them to be as comfortable as possible.
There's no judgments made about it. Let's talk about you and what you've got going on in your life. If there's another recruiter reaching out to you on LinkedIn, let's talk about it. You're probably an awesome person. That's why we want to keep you here. What can we do to have that move forward in perpetuity? Let's keep this relationship going. It's just a series of conversations and the more we have, the better.
Burbage: I would just add that I love your motley Tupperware. It probably represents some of your work, too. When I'm going into the fridge and grabbing those tacos from last night that are so amazing, I'm excited about the tacos; but I'm probably underappreciating what a good job the Tupperware does to hold all that deliciousness together. I think that's oftentimes your role. You're behind the scenes making things perfect. People love their cash-shaped tacos, but your Tupperware holds it all together.
Elliott: There is Tupperware made for tacos. There is Tupperware made for almost every food. I have Tupperware strictly for asparagus.
Burbage: Maybe it's too long for the podcast, but quickly. There was a Tupperware incident in the office, recently, with cupcake frosting that you were involved with?
Gardner: I think this has to come out.
Elliott: [You may have been delighted by Cheryl, who you met]. It's all a façade. She likes to bake cupcakes frequently. Again, the façade that she's a friendly person. And she brought them in a few weeks ago and the cupcake-to-icing ratio was so skewed, it was a huge disappointment.
Gardner: It sounds like too much icing?
Elliott: Too little icing.
Gardner: Too little icing.
Elliott: It was a sliver. You could see the cupcake through the icing.
Gardner: I see.
Elliott: So, being the honest person that I am [a core value], I let her know that I was displeased with her icing-to-cupcake ratio. I may have given her that feedback in front of a large group of people who then were not pleased with me. But Cheryl and I have a great relationship and I think it's only stronger, now, that I've shared that. But thank you, Lee. It's one of my greatest moments.
Burbage: Well, they do come in an amazing cupcake Tupperware container.
Chambers: There are three tiers, yes. And the next time Cheryl did that, she brought in varying tiers of cupcakes, so each tier had a different amount of icing for those who like less or more.
Gardner: Wow! And she is a pretty friendly person, even though Jen's trying to suggest otherwise. And that's a pretty good example. She brought in three different tiers of cupcakes. Icing-to-cupcake ratio cupcakes?
Chambers: She took the feedback.
Chambers: And I was the one who yelled at Jen in the meeting. I said, "Who would say that to Cheryl?" Just poor Jen.
Gardner: Without ending on a cupcake note, I want to go to a slightly more serious place, Jen, before we say goodbye to you. There's a lot of talk, certainly these days, about compensation when it comes to for men vs. for women. I'm conscious. We've got a couple of women around the table. A couple of men. I know it's a topic out there in the world at large. How do you think about it here at The Motley Fool, and do we have any tips or insights for people listening?
Elliott: If you're breathing -- if you have a pulse -- you have some unconscious bias built into you, and so even day-to-day, as you're doing your absolute best work, it's so important to look back on the data with the help of someone like Laura who's digging into our compensation data as we speak now.
When you're doing your best work and you think you're rewarding the right people for the right behaviors, you can look back at your data over time and see some areas where you think the data is skewed. I've got a man and a woman in the same role. One may be making more than the other and in your head you're thinking, "Well, it's because they have seven years of experience vs. five, or it's because they switched from this team and we're pacing their comp up."
But it's always helpful for us to have another set of eyes on it. To have a third party, like Laura, to come in and ask those questions because while we all think we know the story and we understand why, our goal is, obviously, to always pay equitably for the value our Fools are delivering and having a third party come in and circle with a red pen and say, "What about this area, here?" so that if there's an error we can correct it.
We're always constantly looking at our data to make sure that we are valuing the same roles, regardless of male or female. If they're introverts or extroverts. There's a whole spectrum of ways that we can view people differently. But are they delivering value? That's all we want to reward at The Fool.
Gardner: I can imagine Laura has produced, or will be, some more data whoas about compensation here at The Motley Fool. Jen, thanks a lot!
Now, I'm conscious. This is something that I'm not unconscious of. I'm conscious that we have somebody really knowledgeable about comp, here, Jen Elliott. If somebody listening at home would like to, as a fellow comp executive, get in touch with you, how would he or she do that?
Elliott: By email. My email is [email protected]. I love to talk to folks about compensation. It is a sticky topic and it's one that at the corporate level there's a lot of reasons to not share or share data, but if anyone is interested in just a general conversation or meeting up for coffee here in the D.C. area, I love to talk to people. It's a topic where the more you talk to people, the more you learn, and the more you grow. Not a huge benefit from keeping a lot of secrets. So, if someone is willing to talk to me, I'd love to share the practices we have at The Fool and learn what makes them do compensation great at their company.
Gardner: Jen, thanks for joining us!
Elliott: Thanks for having me!
Gardner: Well, we don't ever want to overstay our welcome on this podcast, so I think it's time to shut it down. I want to thank Kara Chambers and Lee Burbage for their outstanding help this week. Thank you, Kara and Lee!
Burbage: Thanks for having us!
Chambers: Thank you!
Gardner: Let me ask you both. If I wanted to learn more about the Motley Fool culture or if I wanted to reach out to the team for an insight or a connection, how would I get to know you both better?
Chambers: The hub for all this information is our site Culture.Fool.com. You can find our blog and a link to sign up for our tours. The first Friday of every month we do a tour. If you're in the D.C. area, you can sign up for that, so there's sign-ups on there. My personal Twitter is TMFKara. That's usually where I post work things.
Gardner: TMFKara on Twitter.
Burbage: And on all kinds of social media out there, if you just look for Motley Fool Culture on Instagram or Facebook, we have a great Fool, here, Lloyd [...]. He's constantly posting photos, stories, and examples of things that we're doing.
Gardner: How about one insight from each of us reflecting on this time and what we're trying to say to the world. Who's going first? Lee?
Burbage: Kara and I often get asked the question, "Hey. I hear you're doing something cool or innovative or that sounds fun, but I'm not sure that will work at my company." Or, "Wow, that sounds expensive." I think adding in some way for the people that you work with to express themselves -- something a little deeper in a way that's interesting and that causes you to ask questions and learn a little bit more about them -- is something that everybody can do, whether you're a small company or a big company, and at little to no cost. I would just say, "Hey, this is a fun one, guys. Get in the game."
Gardner: Kara, you know our core values as well as anybody, and one of them is "top it." Are you able to better what Lee just did? Can you top what Lee just put out there?
Chambers: I don't think I can top it. I can just build on it.
Burbage: This is my life most days, which is why I love Kara.
Chambers: It's something that preserves the individual we always talk about. We're 300 people. You hear about Dunbar's Number of 150. That's a community of people. Once you get bigger than that, it's hard to remember who the other people are.
Gardner: Ah, so wait. Dunbar?
Chambers: Dunbar's Number.
Gardner: So, the magic number is 150.
Chambers: Yes. It's probably the maximum number of people you can have in your community.
Gardner: And know their names.
Chambers: And know their names.
Gardner: So, once you hit 175, stuff starts breaking?
Chambers: It gets a little harder. It doesn't feel like community anymore. And so, you have to be proactive and do things to create your community. Honestly, we work with these people for seven or 10 years. I learned something new about every one of them today. So, anything that's a great conversation starter can help.
Gardner: I agree. And just thinking about The Motley Fool, as we close, we started as two brothers who knew each other pretty well; but once you start hiring a third person, and a fourth and fifth person, you start to realize not only can you be more awesome by diversifying and adding to your enterprise, but it will be even better than that if each of the people that you hire sees something in themselves as an opportunity to contribute in the culture and to add and grow the culture. Not just looking for cultural fits, which is important, but also cultural contributions.
It's been a pleasure, now, 25 years later [since it is our 24th anniversary at The Motley Fool] to have added so much motley and some of the few special people that we got to share with you today. There's a lot more behind that at this company, and I hope, and I know, in your workplace that you're valued, and I know that you benefit from hearing and learning from others.
That catchphrase, "what's your motley," you could just drop on anybody here at The Motley Fool if you come visit, It's a good elevator quick chat if you need something like that. You can use that in your organization, too. So, if you want to steal motley... Is this fair, Lee and Kara?
Gardner: If you want to plagiarize...
Burbage: It would make us proud.
Gardner: ...motley as one of your organization's core values, or take some of this, please feel free to do just that.
Next week I think we're going to dig back into the annals of Fool interviews of yore, and I'm talking old school, here. Pull out some of the fun moments from early Motley Fool radio shows. It's going to be an unusual and special edition of Rule Breaker Investing next week. Hope you'll tune in. In the meantime, Fool on!
As always, people on this program may have interest in the stocks they talk about, and The Motley Fool may have formal recommendations for or against, so don't buy or sell stocks based solely on what you hear. Learn more about Rule Breaker Investing at RBI.Fool.com.