Fran Craig was awarded the tenth spot on this year’s Top 50 SaaS CEOs of 2018. What astounded us at The SaaS Report was the large number of employees and colleagues, 97 in total, that took the time to write deeply meaningful commentary about who Fran Craig is as a person and leader. To say the least, it inspired us to do more and be more. Although Unanet is not nearly the size of some of the other companies represented on the list, there is something very special happening at the company. And something tells us it has a whole lot to do with Fran.
“A role model on how to think bottom up, not top down. Years ago, her org chart was written upside down, believing that the employees make the company. She is approachable as a mentor. She gives generously back to the community and promotes volunteerism. I don't believe there is one current employee who doesn't respect and truly love Fran as our leader.” - Unanet colleague
We asked Fran a few questions.
What has been the key to developing a highly productive and collaborative work environment?
Many strategies contribute to a highly productive and collaborative work environment. Start with a mission and vision supported by the shared values that incorporate bright people creating innovative software. Ensure everyone participates in the rewards. Separate bonuses drive people apart so better to focus on one bonus for all based upon their base salaries. Make sure that everyone feels they are building the company and that they have authority as well as responsibility. Communications is most important in every way and when it stops, the organization will falter.
Can you tell us about the experiences you had that helped shape your leadership style?
I worked for large companies including AT&T, GTE, and DHL as well as small companies including Advanced Computer Techniques, Carnegie Mellon University, and Maximus. I liked the entrepreneurial, risk taking experiences of the smaller more agile companies. I found that the performance reviews of the large companies were threatening and not helpful. I started Personal Development Interviews at Computer Strategies which morphed into Unanet. These are quarterly meetings of the team lead and the team member focusing on quarterly objectives, position activities, and developmental forecast. Numeric scoring of individuals is eliminated. In the last several years, Deloitte and Accenture converted to my model!
We have a lot of “voting” going on for decisions although once in a while I will make a decision that not every one is happy with although many have been beneficial in the long run.
How do you get the most out of your people?
When your team is creative and innovative, they will work hard and smart to see that their ideas are carried through. Unanet is not a sweat shop and we make sure people realize that. A number of working parents work part time. In general, people can work from home (all the time, when they are remote) and come into the office on the hours that meet their home schedules and traffic needs. This is a great benefit for people to set their own hours.
Is there one piece of advice you could give to the upcoming generation of aspiring tech CEOs?
One needs to learn that while you may be the best developer, the best engineer, the best accounting person, there is a need to grow into another level of action. The tech CEO needs to learn to peel off functions and give them to the growing teams that are forming. The tech CEO needs to decide to be a CEO and work on high level budgets, communication in and out of the organization, deciding what business we are in and ensuring the organization and all teams are effective and efficient.
What was the toughest professional challenge you have faced and how did you manage through it?
Terminating people is always the toughest challenge. You worry about what the rest of the employees will think; you worry about what the customers will think; you worry about the lost corporate knowledge and how to replace it. So, always involve good human capital practices.