[Podcast] When Worlds Collide: Sprinklr on Merging Payroll and Equity

July 19, 2021 Shareworks Marketing

Bob Carella never intended to become an employee equity guru at Sprinklr.After graduating from Drew University in New Jersey, Carella joined the human resource management platform, ADP. As a client service consultant, his job was to keep his clients’ payroll operations running smoothly. He was there for the best part of a decade, learning all the nuances of payroll management for large enterprise clients.

Over the years, Carella climbed the ladder, rising from consultant to team leader to client service manager in ADP’s New Jersey office. By 2018, he had a team of 15 consultants working under him and dozens of Fortune 500 clients. He was doing what he enjoyed, at a company he loved, with a team he adored.

He didn’t know it at the time, but Carella was about to step outside of his comfort zone and into a new field.

Payroll, meet equity

Across the Hudson River in New York, there was a startup called Sprinklr. Founded in 2009 by Ragy Thomas, the customer experience management platform had grown quickly. One moment it was a scrappy startup operating out of Thomas’ garage. The next, it was a bona fide company with more than 1,000 employees and growing revenues.

It was an exciting stage in Sprinklr’s journey. It certainly wasn’t a startup anymore. The days of garage offices and ramen noodles for breakfast were long in the past. But it wasn’t the established enterprise player it is today, either.

To guide Sprinklr through its next phase of growth, the company had just recruited a new cohort of C-suite executives. Collectively, the leadership team recalibrated the company’s priorities. Going forward, it’d have two focuses and two focuses only. Number one, its employees. Number two, its customers.

Sprinklr’s CFO wanted a more streamlined financial experience for his colleagues. Instead of having separate teams for payroll and equity, he wanted one team, one leader and one point of contact for employees.

He tapped Carella to take on the challenge.

To Carella, a payroll expert, it was a strange request. As he explains, “payroll and equity are separate roles. Payroll is its own beast. Stock administration is handled by another function.”

But there are similarities and interdependencies. Carella says companies operate best when payroll and equity are aligned and cooperative. When information flows smoothly from one to the other, everything just works.

The more Carella thought about it, the more convinced he became that Sprinklr’s CFO was onto something. So in early-2018, he resigned, crossed the Hudson and began work building out his new hybrid role at Sprinklr.

From one-to-one to one-to-many

Like all good leaders, Carella opened his tenure by asking questions — lots of them. He wanted to know how Sprinklr’s equity plans worked, whether people understood it and where he could improve things. He leaned into his experience as a new employee, analyzing his own onboarding, searching for improvement opportunities.

After his first 90 days, Carella had a long list of action points — ways he could improve the Sprinklr employee experience. But he needed a way to reach people. Instead of reinventing the wheel, he thought back to what had worked at ADP — personal relationships.

He began reaching out, booking short, sharp five-minute calls with everyone who had time.

“Five minutes with you is all I need,” he laughs. “In five minutes, you'll learn everything you need to know about what the stock world's all about.”

He was right. Employees walked out of their meetings feeling inspired and engaged, ready to dig into their Shareworks account and work out what they actually owned.

But all the while, Sprinklr was growing. It was sprouting new offices and hiring new employees. Eventually, Carella realized his one-to-one strategy wasn’t going to scale. He needed to think bigger.

He took those conversations and transformed them into a presentation. Then he packed his bags and hit the road. He toured all of Sprinklr’s offices, running what he called Stock Roadshows. Instead of educating single people on Sprinklr’s equity plan, he’d present to a team or an entire office.

The roadshows were an instant hit. So much so that Carella became a cult-like figure within Sprinklr. He was Bob from Finance — or Bob_from finance if you want to contact him on Slack or Twitter. While others might have shied away from the moniker, Carella embraced it.

“I had fun with it,” he explains. “I threw an underscore on it so I could put it on all my handles — Twitter and TikTok and all that stuff. We're in an online world. It's not just social media. We’re touching base with everybody globally.” 

What you’ll learn from Sprinklr:

  • How Bob Carella leveraged his payroll skill-set to excel in equity administration: “It wasn't anything that I needed to have a lot of experience with. It was more about educating myself with “on the job” training, getting into the weeds, and using the methodical approach that I acquired in payroll.”
  • Why personal relationships form the bedrock of Carella’s work: “My focus was always my clients. When I was at ADP, I made it a priority to have a relationship with every one of my clients, even though a lot of people thought I was crazy. When I moved to Sprinklr, people still thought it was crazy but I wanted to have a relationship with every person in the company, because they were my new clients.”
  • Why widespread adoption of hybrid payroll-equity roles might take longer than expected: “When I bring this up to the stock administration world, they look at me and say, ‘Well, I'm not taking on payroll.’ When I bring it up with payroll leaders, they say, ‘Well, I'm not taking on the stock administration.’”
  • Where he sees the hybrid payroll-equity role excelling: “More often than not, problems come down to communication. It's not because one group ignores another, it's because the communication channels are broken. Hybrid roles allow us to integrate and sync. It makes communication a lot tighter between the payroll side and the stock administration side.”
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