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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Ring That Gong Loud

Comments (62)

One of the companies I’m an investor in has a gong in the office. They bang it every time they sign up a new customer. They also have a virtual gong – an email that goes out to the entire company and board that starts with GONG: (Client Name). The salesperson who closed the deal gets to send the email out and write whatever he or she wants. Everyone in the company then piles on with Reply-All commentary.

It’s just awesome. I know many companies that ring bells or make some kind of other noise in the office when they close a sale. But it’s not very noisy if you have multiple offices, people on the road, or board members who don’t work out of your office.

Now, if you have a self-serve, high velocity model you may not want an email going out with every signup. So how about a daily gong at the end of the day that the system automatically emails out. I’ve written about email robots in the past – many of the companies I’m an investor in have an email robot that sends out the sales summary for the day at 12:01am the following day. The formats vary, but they are all short and consumable by all. No fancy graphs. No complicated analysis. Just raw data every day that informs everyone in the company how many new customers we got yesterday.

So ring that gong loudly. Take a page from my friends’ playbook and get that email out every time a new deal closes.

  • http://www.alearningaday.com Rohan

    It’s a simple concept – Celebrate small wins.

    Something we should do more and more..

    .. and more..

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Yup – it’s so easy to forget to celebrate the small stuff. And that’s some of the most important stuff to celebrate.

  • Anonymous

    Brad, I initiated the same practice when I started Bell Technology Group at 20111 Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino CA on Dec 1, 1994.  Having grown up in Kansas, I told my Mother about my search for the ideal “Gong”; she found a Farm Bell that month, which had been used to summon the ranch hands for lunch.  The seller told her that you could her the Bell for 3 miles, across the Kansas countryside. 

    Anyone that has worked for me since 1/1/94, or perhaps in an adjoining office, can tell you that “Bell’s Bell” it is a LOUD one:)  I will add a photo of “the Bell Bell” to this comment, later today.  Farm Bells definitely recommended here. 

    Steve Bell | StartupTrek.net

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Awesome! I can only imagine the fun of ringing the super loud bell.

      • Anonymous

        Isn’t is appropriate that Steve Bell would have a loud Revenue Bell?  I’m going to bring it to Boulder, next time I’m through there… probably next month.  Maybe i can demonstrate (hint: get out your ear plugs… :)

        Photo & VIdeo pending… I am doing business in Pleasanton, CA and “the Steve Bell Revenue Bell” is in my office in San Francisco, CA…

  • http://www.repeatablesale.com/ Scott Barnett

    I was never a big fan of “ringing the bell” – it made me feel like a hired gun that was going for the “kill”, vs. trying to build a long term relationship. Having said that, the part I love about your post is the virtual GONG that is sent out by the responsible sales rep and that everybody piles on with reply-to’s.  THAT is the right spirit IMHO – a sale is a team effort, and everybody should know and get to enjoy/celebrate that.  And the sales rep as the face of the company to that customer should be the one to send the initial email – not the VP Sales or CEO. I’ve worked at companies where the email pile on is enormous and hilarious, and I’ve worked at others where there was little to know replies.  I’m sure you can figure out which ones were more fun to work at! :-)

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      The more the merrier and the funnier they are the more energy!

  • http://twitter.com/ideaventura Adam Gering

    That’s awesome. Although you being a VC, I was expecting to read about the Gong being used a few minutes into a bad pitch!

    When I first came down to Costa Rica, an online gaming company I did programming for had sound effects integrated into their live customer support (chat) application. e.g. Cash Register sound on every deposit, another sound for every signup, “Incoming!” scream for every customer support request, etc… I liked it a lot actually, the sounds of business happening on your website feels very rewarding and motivating.

  • http://stevenhb.myopenid.com/ StevenHB

    I like this idea a lot.  Celebrate early and often.  Perhaps in the high volume, high velocity case, the gonging could be tied to milestone numbers (every 100, 1,000, 10,000 customers, or something like that – whatever makes sense for the organization).

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      One of my favorite companies does a huge party every time they hit a milestone like this. They’ve defined it using an equation I can’t remember, so this probably let’s them choose when they want to have the parties, but the parties are great!

  • Alexander Close

    Startups are so much about momentum – at least that’s what it feels like to me.  Anything that helps to motivate everyone, inspire the team, whatever works… to keep that ball rolling forward.  Can I buy a huge gong on etsy?

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Etsy / Ebay – plenty of options!

      • Alexander Close

        Winner!  -  http://bit.ly/zZmyln

  • Alexander Close

    Startups are so much about momentum – at least that’s what it feels like to me.  Anything that helps to motivate everyone, inspire the team, whatever works… to keep that ball rolling forward.  Can I buy a huge gong on etsy?

  • Andy Pruitt

    It’s quite effective. We’re an enterprise software company, and each new customer matters to us. When we were small (one elevator of employees), we’d pocket the first ~$30 or so of the deal revenue, shut down the office, and take the entire company to Dairy Queen. The salesperson would stand at the register and buy a sundae (sky’s the limit!) for every single employee, developers support everyone. (We did it once for every deal, and everyone still groans at the memory of the day we closed 3 deals!) Our business is heavily based on referrals, and the sale closed because the whole team had done a great job with existing clients.

    Now that we’re 70 something people, we’ve had to just settle for a gong. But plenty of folks still miss the ice cream :)

    Andy Pruitt | Backstop Solutions

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Love love love the ice cream thing.

  • http://jasoncrawford.org jasoncrawford

    Jeff Bezos: “We initially programmed a bell to ring every time we got an order.  And I’m very pleased to say that within the first 30 days of doing business that bell got annoying. So we had to turn it off. It was a great moment when we were examining every order that came into Amazon. And there was always a fear in placing the order. And the first order we got from a stranger, I remember there were a half dozen of us all gathered around after the bell rang when we examined the order. And I remember saying is that your mom? It’s not my mom! And thus it began.”

    http://mindgatemedia.com/lesson/jeff-bezos-talks-about-the-three-factors-to-success/

  • http://twitter.com/toddvernon Todd Vernon

    Transactional businesses that make money by the second do themselves a disservice by not having important statistics broadcast to their employees every minute on screens, tickers, emails, pigeon…  Everyone sees it..Everyone.  If numbers are bad they see that, if numbers are good they see that.  Everyone needs to see that.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Yup – and y’all did an AWESOME job of always putting the numbers front and center.

  • http://simplifilm.com Chris Johnson

    You know, I’d love MY little startup to be on the Gong-a-gong list.  In fact, something with an average ticket of $10k or so would be cool. 

    Sometimes this job gets lonely…

    • Anonymous

      I like that thought… I’m thinking that every online business needs an auto-Gong.   Here’s one that generates that average ticket of $5-10k… if you can get your hands on something totally unique… ask any eBay seller. 

      I built a small e-Commerce site in 2005 which would have been an ideal “Gong candidate”… for a local Tobacconist who had a sizable collection of “Estate Pipes” (unsmoked Pipes – they’re collectors items).  His wife suggested to him to start selling them, as the collection was valued at close to $2M.  

      So I built this site on a Windows server running ASP, and in no time we were getting orders for $2,000, $4,000, and up from all over the world.  I had real-time Geo-monitoring software so I could follow site visitors on a map, watch them navigate the site in real-time, to study the conversions.  

      One Sunday morning I woke up and a guy in Tokyo had purchased an $8,000 Estate pipe.  Some  kind of light bulb went off, and i said to myself:  “yep this online business, with global reach is definitely for me!”.  But the issue with online e-Commerce business models is the same as over on eBay… you need a corner on a unique inventory item.  I’ve played around with importing Scooters from China by the container load; info products; etc. But Marty’s pipes are ideal… they are unique and only Marty has the personal relationships with the top carvers in Europe and Asia.  I know another guy who’s an excellent woodworker, and he sells fine PENS (wooden pens) online… perfect. 

      As for the tobacconist, when Marty Pulver’s downtown San Francisco pipe and cigar store (the legendary “Sherlocks Haven” lease came up for renewal, he told Boston Properties to take a hike – he simply sells pipes online now.  

      A Gong would have added even more to the “Yes!” factor on that one.  Yep, every online business should go with some kind of Gong…

      -steve b. | StartupTrek.net

  • http://patrickfoley.com/about Patrick Foley

    I once visited an 800-person enterprise software company in Cleveland during their weekly Monday-morning all-company standup (itself a cool idea). The first order of business was for the president simply to read the names of all the new customers they signed up during the past week. It really showed me what was important to this company – their customers!

  • Rogercmcd

    A sign-up, a sale — at the end of the day this is what matters

  • Angie M.

    This is one of the things we didn’t do very well at an otherwise successful enterprise software start-up — we had large and complex deals with long sales cycles (6-9 months) and what seemed like total silence for months on end from the sales team. It caused a lot of needless uncertainty especially on the engineering team.

    It’s important  to socialize company benchmarks regularly and in a non-dramatic way (no ‘CEO calling all-hands that starts in 15 minutes’ type stuff). It helps keep everyone focused and instills the sense that you’re all on the same team — something that’s especially critical if you’re going through an explosive growth phase. I really like the idea of a daily (or weekly/monthly) email.

  • http://eastagile.com kenberger

    Great idea in concept– I’m not optimistic about it in reality. 

    Automating the gong, and having people expect it every day regardless of ups and downs is going to make it less special. Worst of all is that it’s a totally different emotional feeling from hearing that ring and envisioning the guy banging it with the huge smile of success on his face. My prediction is this method will decondition people. Nothing harmful, but minimized benefit.

    Daily emails can indeed be great, however: My group does them to summarize what the team has learned that day. We are an Agile dev shop, so this is part of our normal process. This works extremely well, as people have an incentive to cook up and explain new insights to raise their cred with the team.

  • http://about.me/brandonmarker Brandon Marker

    Such great reinforcement and reward. 

  • Anonymous

    Just talked about the fact that we weren’t doing this well enough in our office.  Thanks for the push.

    It is good to do this for existing clients as well.  I used to send out emails titled ‘Report from the Field’ whenever I heard a great success story that we were able to help our clients with.  Often those emails had the most impact on our (remote) salespeople who weren’t as aware of our ongoing successes as everyone else. 

    I need to start doing that again.

  • http://www.thestudyofsocial.com Matt Hixson

    I love the virtual aspect of it.  I worked at Tripwire for about 8 years.  When I first got there we each were given a cow bell.  The office in Portland housed the majority of the company.  We were on the whole floor but spread out around the courtyard in the center of the building.  When we got a sale over $20k the sales guy would ring the a big bell hung on the wall.  Then the people around the bell would ring their cow bell and it would start to spread to everyone around the building.  It was a very cool way have everyone feel connected and driven towards our goals.  This died off after a number of years as the company grew, which sucked.

  • http://twitter.com/Adriana_Herrera Adriana Herrera

    It’s the small successes that add up to the big milestones.  We’re in the process of growing our team.  As we meet KPI’s it’s important to celebrate.  I love the virtual gong idea. 

  • http://twitter.com/GetViable Get Viable

    First thing we did at the new co-working space at York Butter Factory in Melbourne. The price of ringing the bell is a case of beer for Wednesday Demo days ;-) but it’s really effective at breeding a culture of success and setting the bar higher and higher for the startups. Generates great excitement and cheers regularly. Love the Pivot Gong.

  • http://twitter.com/chrismoodycom Chris Moody

    One common misconception around a celebration event/notice is that it represents bragging on the part of the sales person that closed the deal.  

    We like to believe that this type of celebration represents an opportunity for the sales person to announce another win for the company.  The “gong” isn’t about the sales person (who probably has plenty of reasons to celebrate already).  Instead, the gong is reinforcement that the company is making progress.We tell our sales team to “bang it loud, bang it proud”.

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