It is one thing to grow your company. It is another to help others do the same. In this special episode, Steve Farber shares with us his live interview with Burton Goldfield, the President and CEO of TriNet, at The Extreme Leadership Experience in San Diego, held last February 27, 2020. Here, Burton tells us his own story of growing his own company and moving with his passion for helping small companies thrive as well. He lets us get a peek behind the curtains of what goes on in a publicly-traded company and what it is like leading an organization of its size and level of influence. Central to everything Burton does, he shares how he moves with love, energy, audacity, and proof in terms of how he does business, leads his team, and creates an impact on the world. Listen in on this great conversation to dive into a Fortune 1000 CEO’s big passion for small companies.
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A Fortune 1000 CEO’s Big Passion For Small Companies With Burton Goldfield
We are about to have some fun. It’s not often that we get the chance to sit in a room with a high-powered CEO of a publicly-traded company to get a peek behind the curtains as to what goes on. What it takes to lead an organization of that size and that level of influence and accountability to places, for example, Wall Street, and at the same time, factor that into our discussion here about love, energy, audacity and proof. Burton Goldfield and I met a number of years ago. He is the President and CEO of TriNet, the aforementioned, the publicly-traded about a $4 billion company. If I’m not mistaken, this is the second $4 billion company that you’ve spearheaded. We don’t see that thing often.
Burton doesn’t strike to me as the stereotype of the typical engineer like I was talking about, but he is an engineer by training. He came out of IBM. He has been in the technology world for a long time, and is a phenomenal leader. He is an extreme leader in many ways. One of the reasons that I was excited to invite Burton to spend time and share his wisdom with us and allow us to pick his brain a little bit is because it’s unusual in my experience. I’ve worked with a lot of CEOs over the years. In my wanderings, it’s unusual to hear a CEO get so passionate about his customers and I’ve heard many great stories from Burton about his customers.
When I was writing Love is Damn Good Business, Burton was one of the first people I went to and I said, “Who of your customers do you think emulates what I’m writing about in this book?” He connected me with a couple of them who then became case studies in the book. He’s a fountainhead of knowledge and wisdom. He also happens to be funny and brilliant. We’re going to do things a little bit differently this time. I’m not going to stick Burton up here and put a microphone in his hand. We’re going to sit up here together. We’re going to have a conversation.
I’ve got a few questions for him and you are 100% invited to participate in that conversation anytime along the way when we’re chatting up here and he’s sharing his knowledge with us. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, emotional outbursts of any sort, they’re all welcome. The only thing that I’m going to ask is before you say anything, wave down a microphone and make sure you get a mic in your hand so we can memorialize you forever in our video. With that, would you please give a phenomenal welcome to our friend, Burton Goldfield.
It’s great to see you.
Let’s start with some of the basics. Can you tell us a little bit about your story?
First of all, I’d like to say I am an extreme fan of Steve’s. In 2004, he put a system around what I believed all my life. I call it planet circling the companies that I’m involved in. I liked the idea of architecture or a process, but I had always believed in the things that Steve talked about. I read the book and I went, “The characters are real. The story is a great story and the message is clean, easy to follow, and phenomenal.” I have no idea where we met, but I know it was right after the book came out. When he calls me, I come running because that’s what friendship is about. It’s phenomenal to be here.
To see all of you in the room, there is never been a more important time in my lifetime for leaders to step up and make changes. This is a crazy world and it does take the uncomfortable moments, the “Oh Shit” moments. It does take the motivation incentive to do something important. I’m born and raised in the inner city, Philadelphia, the most unlikely CEO you’ve ever met. I am an introvert. I’m an INTJ. Why do I stand up in front of audiences, investor conferences and the 3,000 people at TriNet? It’s because I have an unbelievable belief in two things. One is being part of a team is great. I love being part of something. Two is we’re all here to make a difference and hopefully a positive difference.'The world will be fine. We will figure it out together.' Click To Tweet
For me, it’s a sense of belonging and I was a computer programmer when I got out of college and that was in the ’70s. I was a terrible programmer, but there weren’t many of us out there, so I could easily get a job. My actual degree was Biomedical Engineering. I worked on the original, portable, cardiac monitor by the way of saying portable, it was the size of a toaster. That was portable back then, but it did serve a purpose the Holter monitor. I got out of college and was able to get a job quickly, not in biomedical because it was a new field. In fact, I was the first graduating class at Syracuse University programming computers.
The rest of my life was all about belonging to a team and feeling like that team was making a difference. In each case, I was unbelievably lucky because the companies I was involved with all grew and became important in the businesses they were involved in. Nobody should be lucky three times in a row. I spent fourteen years at one company I’m with this company for twelve years. A lot of people believe that I weighed out the naysayers. I’m there. I won’t let go as long as I believe that what we’re doing is important. I moved to California because I figured at that point in the ’70s, being in Philadelphia Programming Computers was not the core market.
I moved to Palo Alto, California and found myself wandering my neighborhood among the icons of the Times, including Steve Jobs and others that were starting to see what could be done in the world with computer software. I’ve been involved with three companies and one was a company that did software development tools called Rational Software. We sold it to IBM for $2.5 billion. One was Hyperion doing budgeting and planning, which was sold to IBM for almost $4.5 billion. We have this little company called TriNet that I started with 300 people. We were a little under $100 million. Now, we have 3,000 people and we’re doing $4 billion in revenue and I’m having more fun than I can ever imagine.
It’s a striking coincidence. That keeps going from one company to another that’s growing.
I know I’m a lucky guy. It’s not me, Steve. I am a good picker of companies. That’s the difference.
When you and I first connected, you were new to TriNet, the first time that we met face-to-face. It’s been amazing to see your growth. I remember when you went public and rang the bell, the whole thing. There was a time where I remember you guys had about 5,000 clients. Before you say anything more about that, give us a high-level overview of what TriNet does and the clients that you serve?
We support from an HR perspective 18,000 companies in the US. We do it for some of the most important companies in the country that are working hard to change the world. They’re mostly small to medium businesses and they’re growing quickly and we provide benefits. We provide HR, payroll, the software platforms and we become a partner to these companies to help them grow. We’re in specific verticals, including life sciences and technology, professional services, and others. It’s where we can truly help attract and retain the right people, where we can give advice on where to put different operations and ultimately be a part of the growth of those companies.
There are many of the well-known companies and hopefully many that will be known in the future. I was telling Steve, that I came in and visited one of the clients. It’s a few miles from here that is growing fish protein in a laboratory. Their vision is, “We will never kill another fish. We will not drag nets and ropes across the ocean. We will not have artificial farming of fish, but we will do it in factories with a level of purity and fish will become sustainable. It will become plentiful and it will be available worldwide.” If you don’t think that is a big vision, after I spent a few hours there, I could not sleep. I have the fortunate opportunity and I spend most of my time with my customers, people like Ralph Clark of ShotSpotter who do gunshot detection in the major cities.
I go over and they have these sensors that are the size of a dinner platter. They work off of a solar and a cellular network and you put eight in a mile territory. When a gunshot goes off in any city, the sound is slow enough that if three of these platters pick up the sound, they can not only tell you what street corner the gun was fired on, but they can tell you if it was the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd for. It’s being deployed around the world. I go over there and to Ralph’s dismay, I will take those sensors apart and I will look at the circuit boards. I will look at how he’s using the cellular technology.
I will generally destroy one of them when I’m there, but he will not stop me because I cut his paycheck. One way or another, he has to let me do it. Watching a company like that grow, they become public. They’re still a client of ours and their newest thing, which is what I believe the great people like the people in this room will end up doing is he’s taken the technology and put it in Kruger National Park in Africa to stop poaching. You can look him up if you ever hear him and I can go on and on but ultimately, the company that I have is a reflection of the entrepreneurs that are doing great things around the country and the world.
Are there any clients that you started working with? Small companies that are under the radar, as far as the public is concerned that we might know?
I was at CES in Vegas. If people are into technology, I would recommend someday you go out there. It is a toy show for me. I go there for three days, walk miles. I spent time with Jamie Siminoff who had Ring doorbells a little North of here in Santa Monica. Ring was our client with nine employees. They grew to over 1,000 and were purportedly sold for $1.8 billion to Amazon. I was there when the Ring doorbells couldn’t connect to the Wi-Fi network and the phone calls. What they were doing is and I learned because it took at that time nine weeks to get a new board made in China. They were building jumpers across the board. They figured out what the problem was and soldering jumpers to make the ring doorbells work at the time. There are many other companies like LivingSocial and the most famous is Netflix. Reed Hastings started Netflix with TriNet, NETGEAR, and Rally Software and it goes on and on.
You have this unique perspective because of the nature of your business. You’re passionate about your clients. It always pours out of you, but you also have this opportunity to look under the hood as it were and see what makes these companies tick? What makes them thrive and survive? The good HR system is helpful in that, which is what you provide but is there any commonality that you notice among these entrepreneurs and I’m not asking you to force-fit any a parallel to LEAP, but I’m curious if you have seen that. I know these principles are important to you in the way that you lead. Have you seen any of that play out among your clients, whether or not they use the language?
First and foremost, I want to leave you with the fact that don’t believe the press. The world will be fine. We will figure it out together. These 18,000 companies, many of them are passionately trying to solve the world’s problems. Forget what you read in the headline. It sells newspapers, but I am seeing a group of entrepreneurs and teams of people that are more passionate, moving quicker. A lot of it has to do with infrastructure like Amazon Cloud. When I was in programming, it took us eight weeks to set up a development environment. If we were going to set up a development environment, it was eight weeks of getting the hardware, adding the operating system, putting the testing tools on it, and getting it up and running. It takes eight minutes to set up an environment in the Amazon Cloud. You pick the language, configuration management solution and you’re up and running. The combination of technology and passion and what people are focused on I am incredibly optimistic. I boot up every morning, happy, optimistic and I believe we will solve these incredibly difficult problems that need to be solved.
When you talk about the culture of the companies in a lot of ways, people are more resilient because they’re being bombarded with so much information. It was a lot easier for me to hold an opinion when I had one source or two the Morning Inquirer and the Evening Bulletin now at Philadelphia, as opposed to what comes over the internet. I do believe that people are more sophisticated in consuming the knowledge to get stuff done. From a cultural standpoint, we help a lot of new CEOs recognize many of them engineers and first-generation Americans, how important that culture aspect? How important LEAP is to the overall company? LEAP works. There’s no question about it. I can tell you 100 stories. I can tell you what I’m doing with over 3,000 employees in 40 offices. I have to apply LEAP in a different way than I have in the past. I don’t know everybody in my company. They know me, but I don’t know them. It’s a different paradigm than when we had 300 people.
In the companies we’re serving, what I am finding is that the people are self-selecting for the passion of the business. You have to be connected to something bigger than yourself. You have to be. Nobody stays at a company anymore for the benefits. Nobody stays because of the salary and the people who try to fight that move every time. If you have not created a mission, vision and a product that is truly going to make a difference, I promise you to have a challenge, getting people regardless of the equity or what you provide them in free food. It doesn’t work. What I would say to you is that getting connected to the overall mission and culture of the company is number one in my mind. I believe that most of the CEOs I’m working with, understand that because it’s hard to get talent, everybody can get a job. It’s an awesome situation. Everybody can pick up and leave and yet, I don’t find many people who pick up and leave for an extra a few dollars a month or the free lunch. They pick up and leave because they liked the mission of the other company. I can tell you some great stories about that.
Let’s talk for a minute about your dynamics within TriNet. In the old days, you could much know everybody. Now, it’s a different game. As a leadership coaching of a publicly-traded company that is answerable to investors and Wall Street, how do you walk that line where you’re taking care of the street and you’re not losing your connection with thousands of employees?People are more resilient now because they're being bombarded with so much information. Click To Tweet
A lot of it is face-to-face contact. What Marty said was awesome. I learned so much from her. I’m going back with three new ideas but a lot of it is I leave here. I’m going to go to Florida, where we have a large organization. I’m going to go to New York, Boston. I’m not going to come home for a week and a half. I have an awesome wife of 38 years who puts up with my craziness. She’s like, “I’d rather have you home once every two weeks happy than have you here two weeks in a row miserable.” We cut a deal.
Parenthetically, what is your philosophy of travel? How many years have you traveled?
I have been traveling for 35 years.
What is your factoid, your baggage?
I haven’t checked a bag in 35 years, but I don’t believe in checking bags. As an engineer, I analyze the variables. When I get off a plane and people are shocked when they are shocked that their bag is not there and there’s a 17% chance of your bag not being there, why are you shocked? If you’re willing to lose your bag, check your bag, but don’t be surprised when it’s not there. I have decided that I want my bag every single time, which means sacrifices on what clothes I’m going to take. We were deciding how many sides do underwear have, but that’s not for now. To answer your question, there’s nothing like personal contact. You get people in the room, you talk. If I had my dream, it would be to wake up every morning, take everything out of my brain and put it in the heads of 3,000 people in my company.
The knowledge is the power to bring that vision together. Without the knowledge and understanding, why did you do that? Why did you do this with the stock? Why did you say this to the street? I’m starting to do TED Talks because how do you start talking about equity and capitalization of companies to people who know nothing about it? You have to do it in short seminars. You can’t get to the punchline. How many of those 3,000 people will watch my TED Talk on equity and capitalization of accompanies? I’ll tell you next year. I’ll let you know whether that video was worth it, but we’ve set up a studio right in my office where I can do 8 to 10-minute talks on all the subjects that people want to hear about.
I’m going to make a guess on something here. You have 3,000 employees, let’s put the customer bucket aside. That’s 18,000 companies. That’s a challenge in and of itself. In the people that you’re leading within TriNet, my guess is that even though you may be over a number of years, you’ll have face-to-face contact with everybody. When you show up at a TriNet site, in an office or at a project, people notice that and they talk about it. The word spreads about Burton being the guy that shows up. Is that accurate?
I know we had a conversation I don’t know if this is fresh in your memory, but it stuck with me. I can’t remember the details. Something about you showing up for an office barbecue somewhere. Do you remember that story?
I show up for office barbecues in Reno and all over the country. It’s our annual party in Bradenton, Florida. I haven’t missed it in twelve years. By the way, I was on the road in Reno, Nevada. It was an amazing event to thank the families around our employees because they’re working hard. What we do is hard. For those of you in HR in the room know that you’re dealing with the human emotions and we’re dealing with 330,000 humans every single day. My challenge is we had an all-hands meeting. We had earnings and I do an all-hands meeting right after that broadcast live around the country to every office. We do a survey after every all-hands meeting. I rarely read the positive comments. I read the negative comments.
My goal is to have every single colleague in the company happy. My team thinks that’s a little bit insane, but in the end, I want to believe that you can create an environment and a culture where people feel safe, where they enjoy talking to each other. We already have a high rating on being aligned around the mission but if you’re around people who are nasty all day long, you can try to be connected to the mission, all you want but at the end of the day, you’re not happy. I try to build the next all-hands meeting on the comments from the audience and anonymous comments can be interesting, let’s say. You have to have thick skin. You have to, but that’s okay because I love the challenge. I love that part of the challenge.
If you’re taking this idea of cultivating love, for example, that’s a big part of who you are. It’s not anything that’s explicitly stated within TriNet and yet, it exists. One of the things you told me about that barbecue was one of the employees said to you, tell me if my memory is correct, you said you were standing around, talking at the barbecue in the parking lot of the office building and he said to you something like, “I can’t believe you’re here.”
CEOs get a bad rap. I don’t want anybody to cry for me. In the end, there is a little bit of people feeling like it’s incredible that the CEO is showing up. I feel like it’s disrespectful not to show up. It doesn’t make any sense. It never did. The best ideas come from people with the primary data so that I will tell you. One of the challenges I had, when we were acquired by a big company, was there were thirteen levels of management between me and the front lines and people were asking me to make decisions. I couldn’t make decisions because I didn’t have the primary data. What happens when an email gets passed up 6, 7, 8 levels before it gets to you is there is nothing real about the data in that memo by the time it gets to you.
I would go to the front lines, I would go into meetings. I didn’t copy the thirteen managers and I would get yelled at because I was not going to sit there and ask permission. Without the primary data, how do you make decisions? In companies, particularly bigger companies, it’s easy to do stupid things. What I tell my people is, “If something seems stupid here, it probably is. Don’t leave it alone. Trust your instincts on this one. Raise your hand, figure out a way to get it fixed.” You have to have that primary data. In a perfect world, you would want the people with the primary data to make all the decisions. It’s not somebody thirteen levels up. It’s not somebody in a room in a large city, in New York, making these decisions.
The companies that are successful are shared leadership, where the people with the primary data make the decisions. If you can go into a meeting and you don’t know who the boss, the team and the VP is, I believe that’s a company that will be successful. Over the years, what I have found is the people who come to my office and say, “I’m a leader, promote me. I’ll take care of everything. Your problems will go away.” I say, “The interesting thing is I’m not that smart, but I have one definition of a leader and it’s having followers and you don’t have followers. You don’t meet my definition of a leader. You may be a thought leader or a hierarchical leader, but you are not a leader in the company.” Part of love is being able to bring that emotion out from every colleague, every teammate that allows the information to flow, that you can get the result that the team is looking for.
It’s creating that safe environment and growing a lot of vagus nerves. I’m curious about if you look at Wall Street, I’m guessing that they don’t come to you as a CEO often and say, “Tell us how the love is going on at TriNet?” They’re interested in the bottom line. Would it be fair to say they don’t care about that at all nor am I being cynical?
You’re not being cynical, but I look at that as an advantage, not a disadvantage. I’d look at it as an advantage because whether it’s the board, the investment community or analysts, they have a specific set of metrics. They don’t care how you dress people, what you ask them to do, deliver a result. The fact is with the LEAP, we can deliver a good result. I don’t go into these meetings with analysts and tell them, “You should read Steve Farber’s book. It’s going to change the life.” I could but what I do talk about is that the most important thing to me, a leading indicator of success is, who you’re hiring and how you’re training those people? What’s important to me is particularly in a growing company like ours is, can you attract great people who will take it to the next generation?
I know that’s an overgeneralization to say Wall Street, but it’s the best we can do. Does Wall Street understand the importance of what you’re saying? In other words, are they recognizing that the right culture is what leads to the right talent, which leads to the right results? Are they cutting right to the bottom line and that’s it?The best ideas come from people with the primary data. Click To Tweet
I haven’t had those conversations. What the conversations are, “Can you build an enduring company with sustainable results?” For me, I can build that culture to deliver results. I’m different than many CEOs. I enjoy talking to everybody, including the investors because the challenge with investors is the timeframe. It’s not the result. They want a big successful company. Whether I can do it every thirteen weeks that feels like every thirteen days, that’s where the conversation gets interesting because inevitably you don’t always have good quarters. In the same room with the same people, I go from being smart, to not so smart, but I know they have put a framework on it and they’re going to express their opinion. At one level, I’m in awe that they’re investing in me, this kid from Philly. On another level, I give them the vision of the company, but the culture itself is not something that I’ve spent a lot of time talking.
Ross, could you introduce yourself to everybody, please?
I’m Ross. How are you doing? I’m not recovering for anything, I promise. Burton, it’s a pleasure to meet you.
It’s nice to meet you.
I spent fourteen years in the Navy. I spent the years on ships. I spent years on shore duty. What I found in the Navy is, we’re a brotherhood or sisterhood. We are part of something that makes a difference every day and I loved that feeling. When I was all ships, there was nothing like it. I would have never left the Navy if I could have stayed forever. When I became a civilian in 1999, then and even now, it shocks me. It stuns me how the leadership of companies or the people in the company is more about in many instances, not at all. Not in the company I’m in now. The company I’m in is a revelation quite frankly in all my twenty years of being a civilian. In a lot of companies, people are always asking, “What’s in it for me,” as opposed to, “What’s in it for us and what’s in it for the customer?” I’ve worked for two companies since I’ve been a civilian that this is not the case, but all the rest of them, it is. From the top-down and the rest of the company, how do you and your companies get people to have the same mission and passion for the mission, moreover than, “What’s in it for me,” or “How do I do this one thing specifically?”
I share your feeling about being part of a team. That’s why I can never retire because they’re my family and my team. We have a little bit skewed view of the world. I’ll be honest with you because if they’re going to hire TriNet, they’re getting the best benefits in the world. They’re getting the best service. By virtue of them bringing us in, they all already recognize that their employees and colleagues are important. I do believe we get the best of the best to work with. If not, they’d say, “Fine. We don’t care what benefits we get, the HR support, and the systems you’re going to be using.”
I do think the companies we’re working with, some of them in the room, are phenomenal companies, to begin with. I do believe that most of the CEOs I was with are open-minded. They think I’m a little bit crazy and extreme like Steve is, but they take something from every one of the conversations. The last thing I’ll say is I believe the people in this room will be those next CEOs and will start companies and businesses. We’ll have heard all the discussions that are taking place in this room and others, but it’s not going to happen overnight. In the end, it’s about results. I don’t see Wall Street as the anti-culture. I see I have a job to do, to deliver the results to Wall Street. I believe I can do it through a great company that cares about its people who have a common vision and mission and who are connected to our customers.
I am going to do everything I can to never be that poser he talks about. If I’m going to ask them to do something, I’m getting on the same plane. If I’m going to work three weekends in a row, or if they’re going to work three weekends in a row, I’m not going to be somewhere else. I think that there’s a future because it comes down to humanity. It’s what you said. I’ve never met you before, but after your first few comments, we’re brothers. There’s no question. We get jazzed over the same thing. I go to work and I am worried every day that I can live up to the expectations of my team and that’s tough but that’s when you feel like you’re part of something bigger than yourself.
I have a good friend who passed away who was in the military and we used to have incredible conversations about leadership and I’m happy to talk to you over lunch. He taught me so much. I have friends that are extreme rock climbers, Todd Skinner, who also passed away. We used to have these conversations. He would even laugh. He goes, “I get notes from all over the world to join my rock-climbing team. They tell me how great rock climbers they are. I don’t want good rock climbers. I’m already a good rock climber. I want people who know good jokes. I want people who don’t smell bad after fourteen days in a hanging tent. That’s what I want in my team. I already can figure out the route up the rock.”
We have another question. Introduce yourself, Jason.
My name is Jason. With 18,000 companies, that’s a lot of CEOs and upper management. How do you coach them when they hit the OS moment?
To be honest, Jason, we’re getting started on giving them the infrastructure and the basics of how to build their companies, how to compensate fairly, give them the employee handbooks and the ideas that they need to build on. I would say I’m deeply involved in 200 of them, but that’s a drop in the bucket out of the 18,000. I wish we could scale that to all 18,000. I’ve been personal friends when they’re with us and when they’re not with us like Jamie. Everything from helping them develop their sales compensation plans to figuring out, what they should do or what they should look for in attracting and retaining people?
I believe that core values and motivation are the sole two things you should hire for that you can teach knowledge, skills, and experience. People look at me like I’m crazy. In my early days, we took COBOL programmers and made them C++ programmers. We were told to fire all the COBOL programmers and bring in C++ programmers. We retrain people. Why? It’s hard to find people with the right core values and motivation. I wish we could do more. I don’t believe that we’re doing deep penetration into helping these CEOs solve all of their problems. We’re a part of the solution and as they get bigger and their needs get greater, there’s more visibility and more help offered.
My name is Tim Bussey and I am a CFO at ZAG Technical Services an IT consulting firm in Silicon Valley. I want to point out a couple of things. I’m here because I had the good fortune to meet and work with Claudine when she had her last real job. We spent several hours together in my office while I would mostly listen to her crazy ideas about what she wanted to do next in life, which she is now doing and no coincidence sitting over there with a big team from Vox, who is one of her first clients. At one time Claudine was talking about this conference and as she usually does, I thought it was Claudine talking. She was trying to get me to come here and I looked at the brochure. I saw that Burton was also part of the program, which was in my opinion, made it an absolute must-attend event because I can honestly say these are two of my all-time favorite people and, absolute consummate professionals.
The reason I know Burton is because in my previous job, I was COO for a nonprofit in Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley Education Foundation. Burton was a board member there. Steve, you mentioned that the notion about being present, board members and nonprofits do so in a lot of different ways sometimes they write checks, they get their name on the website, whatever. Burton was the show-up guy. Burton would come to events that we had that were at the craziest times. One of our initiatives at this nonprofit was education technology in the classroom. We would run these Shark Tank-like pitch games and it’d be great to have world-class CEOs as part of the judges. Burton would, of course, show up.
I remember one time he came. The event was at Google in Mountain View at 5:00 on a Wednesday. Burton is there. He commuted across the Bay Area from their offices, which is about the worst commute in the Bay Area. He shows up right on schedule at 5:00. When we’re done a couple of hours later, as usual I say, “Thank you, Burton.” He looks at me and says, “Tim, when you need me, you let me know where and when.” He says so with such authenticity that I know he’s always the guy who’s going to show up when you need him. That’s in addition to doing all the things that you mentioned already, Steve, that he’s got to do on a day-to-day basis. Further to TriNet, it wasn’t just Burton showing up, Burton would also dedicate his senior people to come to our nonprofit and teach us how to do other business-y things. I want to add to the way you characterize TriNet a great corporate but also a great nonprofit partner as well, mostly because of that guy sitting next to you.
What do you like about Steve?Brand recognition is a critical part of getting your message out there. Click To Tweet
I’m Dan. I’m also a TriNet shareholder. I want to see this thing go through the roof, but how do we do it with a company without a ton of name recognition? I was happy to see the People Matter campaign on YouTube.
How has that’s worked in Gracie and yourself to these companies? Are there any more ideas to get your name out there from a social responsibility standpoint?
It is a challenge and we are a small company believe it or not at $4 billion, it’s a challenge to get brand recognition. We are trying to do that with our People Matter campaign. We’ve had the support of Annie Leibovitz who did the photography, and we are working hard to get that top of mind in CEOs so that those people say, “Let me talk to them. That’s all you try to do.” This year, you’ll see additional investment in brand recognition. I have the right person for it. I’ll tell you a quick story. I hired somebody out of Disney and I said, “I want the brand recognition and the brand identity of Walt Disney Company.” We’re sitting at a lunch and he says, “Sure, no problem.” I said, “Really?” He said, “Yeah, my ad budget is $250 million a year and it took me eleven years. I need about $3 billion and you will be a household name.” I convinced them to come, which was one of my bestselling jobs in my entire life. I started giving him a few dollars. I said, “What’s it going to cost me for a taste? How am I going to get this going?” It’s been mostly a bootstrap operation, but to answer your question specifically, I believe the brand recognition is a critical part of getting our message out there and we will do more.
As we bring this conversation in for a landing, I want to preface, I have a question for you. Let me say, there’s a beautiful full-circle thing going on in this room because as Burton has mentioned that he has some clients in this room. The Leapgen, our sponsor is a TriNet client. There’s some beautiful symmetry to that somehow. Also, I want to say how grateful I am and I’ll say it on behalf of everybody in this room, how grateful we are that given your schedule in running that company and all the travel that you do, that you’re spending the entire day with us. It’d be lovely if you could spend all three days. The fact that you’re here for an entire day is wonderful. It’s a testament to who you are.
What I would love to close this session with is, we are all in this room. We have won already. There’s nothing anybody in this room has to prove to anybody. We are the luckiest people in the world. If you start from that baseline, it frees you up. You don’t have to prove anything to yourself, mothers, families, and spouses, by virtue of that we’re having these conversations that you’re here for these couple of days. You have to understand how extraordinary it is. The opportunity to come down here it was like, Tim was saying. There wasn’t a question of Steve’s calls. I’m here. Meeting all of you is a true honor for me.
The problem is everybody forgets the fact of how incredibly lucky we are. I wake up grateful every morning. I wouldn’t trade places with anybody. I spent the holiday with my wife and I’m 65. We’re talking about, “What are we going to do for the next ten years?” We started laughing and she said, “You have your health. You can’t wait to get to work every morning. I’m happy, you’re happy. We’re going to do the same damn thing we did for the last ten years.” That’s where we came out of the conversation. It’s a true story that we had some downtime where we didn’t travel and our kids did Christmas. It was awesome.
Thank you so much, Burton.
It’s great. Thank you. It’s great to see you.
About Burton Goldfield
Since 2008, Burton M. Goldfield has served as president, CEO and board member of TriNet. With more than 25 years of experience in sales, operational, and technology leadership roles, he is known for driving product innovation and business growth.
Burton has transformed the company into a leading cloud-based HR provider and professional employer organization. TriNet’s net revenue has more than quadrupled during his tenure. To expand TriNet’s market reach and strengthen the company’s ability to serve more clients than ever before, Burton led the company’s efforts to acquire Gevity, AccordHR, SOI, ExpenseCloud and Ambrose. One of the outcomes of TriNet’s growth was an initial public offering in March 2014 followed by a secondary offering in September 2014. TriNet is traded on the NYSE under the ticker symbol TNET.
Prior to TriNet, Burton was CEO at Ketera Technologies, a Santa Clara-based SaaS provider to FORTUNE 2000 companies. Before that, Burton served as senior vice president, Worldwide Field Operations at Hyperion Solutions Corporation and vice president of Worldwide Sales for IBM Corporation’s Rational Software division.
Burton earned a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from Syracuse University and an M.B.A. from Villanova University.
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