I had the pleasure of interviewing (Christian Jones, the Chief Operations Officer at Best Company. Christian has been able to work his way up from an internship at Best Company to a C-Suite level position in the same company. Within his 5 years of management experience, Christian has witnessed and played a part in Best Company’s rise to become one of the leading consumer review sites in the industry).
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
After serving a two-year service mission for my church, I returned home and received my graduate degree from Brigham Young University. I then went on to work at Domo, a company that specializes in creating business intelligence software. I worked at Domo for over a year before deciding to take a chance with a newer startup called BestCompany.com. I have been at BestCompany.com for the past 5 years, starting as an intern — building desks and changing light bulbs — slowly making my way up to my current position as Chief Operations Officer. I have learned a lot of valuable lessons over the years and I’m extremely grateful to my coworkers for participating in the environment of success that helped me thrive at BestCompany.com.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I once referred to a client by a nickname which I thought was his actual name. After hearing the nickname around the office for quite some time, I got so used to it to the point where I mistakenly used it in communication with that person in an email.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Best Company is named Best Company for two reasons: first, its employees truly believe in its mission and sincerely consider it the best company to work for. And second, it is a website that is dedicated to helping companies find the best company for their current needs. Whether a customer needs a reliable tax relief company or a trustworthy solar company, Best Company ranks companies according to customer reviews and a visible-to-public ranking system. In order to ensure trust with customers, Best Company does not pit companies against each, starting bidding wars for the number one spot — this is a practice too often followed in the consumer reviews industry; we aim to end that practice.
On one occasion years ago, some Best Company representatives met with a highly ranked and renowned company. Though the company had achieved a high level of success, it was not ranked #1 on Best Company. This led to a check being offered for $1 million, in order to move that company up to the #1 spot on bestcompany.com. At the time, Best Company’s revenues were barely higher than the amount offered — it would have made a big difference for our company. We declined that offer, stating that it isn’t the way we do business. Another offer was made for $1.5 million. We declined again. Our commitment to integrity will lead us to disrupt the consumer reviews industry.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
After having successfully established ourselves as a strong source for real, reliable customer reviews, our focus is now firmly set on expanding the number of industries we review. My challenge is to be able to find quality companies in new industries, create accurate and helpful content, attract real customer reviews, and then negotiate relationships between customers and companies. Our ultimate goal is to make BestCompany.com a household name by becoming the most trusted review site, period.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Give your interns and newer employees the opportunities to contribute to company processes and innovation. Ideas can and should come from all over the place. If you are only looking to management-level employees for company direction, you are limiting yourself on the quality of possible innovations in your company. Of course, you can’t use every idea that comes your way, but it is important to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable enough to chime in about the company’s mission and how to better serve customers. Since your employees are the backbone of the service you offer, you need to pay close attention to their contributions and ensure they have enough room to thrive in their position.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Landon Taylor, the CEO, and founder of BestCompany.com took a risk on me as an inexperienced college graduate and enabled me to grow in the company by giving me direct mentorship. Landon has been a stalwart example to me of leading by example. I often receive emails and text messages into the early hours of the morning. He a motor and an engine that never stops and has pushed me to give more of myself every day.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I sure hope I have. I truly believe in the mission that Best Company has to earn the trust of consumers. Every time I see a review on our site about how one company helped wipe out their debt or had their life saved by a quality medical alert system, I am reminded about how important my job is. Though businesses are usually in the game to make money, there are some that genuinely want to help people live better lives and I’m excited to be on the lookout for those companies.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became COO” and why?
1. The Importance of Networking
– In college, the importance of networking is touched on and even emphasized to a degree, but only in the context of getting a job. The truth is that nowadays networking doesn’t only get you a job, it can actually be your job. For example, the job of a content writer is to build his brand and the brand of whatever product he represents. If you reach a point where your name actually becomes your brand, you will have an easy time fulfilling your work responsibilities, wherever they may lay.
2. The Value of Knowledge
– When you are placed in a position of leadership, every eye immediately begins to look to you for information and direction. Though I have been able to make important contributions, I sometimes feel overwhelmed by what is expected of me. I don’t know if leadership is ever something you can fully prepare yourself for, but I know that learning more about my career path would have made my job a lot easier.
3. Balancing Family Life and Work Load
– After college, I figured I could pretty much handle any obstacle that came my way. And while I’ve at least survived the challenges I’ve faced, I haven’t always been able to deal with problems as I should have. I often find myself either spending too much time at work or focusing on my work responsibilities too little.
4. The Responsibility Is Difficult to Bare
– I knew that being a business leader would be hard, but I don’t think I was as prepared as I could have been for the responsibilities, especially during times of crisis. As a leader, when something goes wrong, I am to blame, even if one of my employees made the mistake — I am not complaining about it, I just know that I need to be responsible for the capabilities and performance of each employee. I remember the first time I had to let an employee go, I couldn’t sleep for days prior. Making difficult decisions that negatively impact the livelihood of the people you care about is without a doubt the part of my job that I care about the least.
5. There Are Factors You Can’t Control
– I love being able to measure performance and make changes that have an actual effect on my performance. Even before I became COO, I tormented myself over issues that I could not uncover, numbers that didn’t make sense, and revenue that was unexpectedly falling short. I have lost quite a bit of sleep on problems that, sadly, there wasn’t a solution. Whether it’s an issue with seasonality or some unknown factor, there are sometimes variables that remain outside of our ability to control — I have had to come to grips with this. I wish someone would have sat me down beforehand and told me that even though performance can be tracked and improved, not every outcome is possible to predict.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” – John D. Rockefeller
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂
Because I can’t decide between the two, I would have to say both John Stockton and Steve Young — they’re both my heroes. Even though they aren’t involved in the same business that I am, I think lunch with John Stockton and Steve Young would probably change my life in a big way. I’d probably be ready to die at that point.
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