When everything is important, nothing is important.
That’s a key lesson that Jeffrey Meiler took away from his many years working as an executive for Barclaycard and Citigroup. When he launched Marlette Funding, the parent company of the online lending platform Best Egg, Meiler aimed to create a corporate culture where employees would never have any questions about what management saw as the company’s chief goals.
So, every quarter, he and the company’s management team host an all-hands meeting and outline to the Wilmington, Del., company’s 100-plus employees what the most important goal for the next 90 days will be.
“It may not be the case that everyone in the organization works on that item,” Meiler said. “But they know that it has to get done. And they’re aware of who is working on that, and who has to do what to get that done.”
He said that’s essential, because empowering those people to hit the quarterly goal becomes part of the mission for everyone in the company.
“From a prioritization standpoint, it’s clear what is most important,” he said. “When a given employee who doesn’t have direct responsibility for said initiative has something in their queue related to that, they appreciate the importance of it.”
That became vital in 2017, the year when “the rules, from an industry standpoint, changed,” according to Meiler.
“People from an equity investment standpoint weren’t so interested in growth. They suddenly decided it was important to make a profit.” To maintain Marlette’s flow of funding, Meiler said, “it became an imperative ... to show profits.”
So the word went out to employees that for the time being, efforts to grow the business would have to take a back seat to making certain that the existing business was profitable. According to Meiler, it was employees’ focus on the task that helped Best Egg rack up $11 million in GAAP profits last year, even as competitors were still posting operating losses in the tens of millions of dollars. And, he adds, the company still grew its business by 60% anyhow.
Quarterly goals aren’t always as all-encompassing as the drive to profitability. More recently, he said, one focus has been on changing the company’s funding balance between debt and equity.
“That had a group of five or seven people who were really core to it, but lots of people who were able to influence it from a distance,” he said.
Regardless of how many people are directly involved, Meiler said, the idea is the same.
“Be real clear about what’s most important; what the mission of the company is; and what the expected behaviors are. Hitting on those themes consistently and repetitively has really, really been helpful.”