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Moz CEO Sarah Bird Shares Six Values that Create Exceptional Online Marketing Communities

By Alexis Getscher
Mar 14, 2016
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On Monday, March 7, nearly 100 tech professionals filled Bizible’s office to listen to Moz CEO Sarah Bird during Pipeline Marketing Playbooks.

She openly discussed her start as an attorney, the early days of Moz and her rise to CEO, along with the company’s core values and how those have shaped the Moz community.

Sarah started at Moz in 2007 as the company’s 8th employee and now oversees more than 35,000 customers and the world’s largest online marketing community, featuring over 500,000 marketers from around the globe.

Through Sarah’s candid discussion, attendees learned about the the ups and downs of start-up growth and how Moz made it through the rough times to build a bigger, better brand. Read on to discover how TAGFEE laid the framework for company growth and helped Moz build and shape a positive community.

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In the first year of Moz, the team met to brainstorm and write down what the company values should be. The original list included Quality, Respect and Transparent. Right away, they noticed the benefit the list provided. During hiring decisions, firing decisions and team meetings, Quality, Respect and Transparency were top of mind.

After a year it was apparent the benefits these values provided, but the team felt they could do better. At this point Moz was around 25 employees, so they did an audit and developed a new list.

Quality was removed. Sarah says they had to acknowledge that Moz was not a perfectionist organization. Rather than waiting until something was perfect to publish, the culture revolved more around “try it out and we’ll fix it.”

Respect was also removed. Although respect is a positive value, the team felt like it was something you’re forced to give and that didn’t send the full message they wanted.

Through this discussion, TAGFEE was born.

Transparent and Authentic

The goal at Moz is to be as open and honest as possible. They share the inner workings of the company, good or bad, and discuss mistakes as a way to learn and be better in the future.

This comes through in the Moz blog, where founder Rand Fishkin openly discussed company adversity as well as his own struggles with depression.

Sarah says it’s easy to want to jump to the expert stage and portray yourself and the company as knowing everything there is to know, but authenticity is about inviting people on the journey with you.

“It’s the difference between ‘I’m going to tell you what to do, and hey, let’s go together,’ you and me we’re working on the same stuff,” she says. “Try new things, be authentic, have a voice, be human.”

Generous

Moz is known for having some of the best employee benefits in the industry, including 150% match on charitable contributions and a yearly vacation stipend. But being generous extends outside the company walls as well.

The Moz website offers a number of tools and guides for individuals to educate themselves for free. The community also features a Q&A section with an indispensable amount of knowledge from marketing peers.

In addition to free educational resources, Moz also partners with a number of nonprofits including Girls Who Code, Techbridge and Returnship to give back to the community and empower individuals to pursue careers in tech.

“There is a myth in Seattle that technologists don’t care about social issues, that they don’t care about civic engagement, that they don’t care about communities,” she says. “I personally experience that to be wrong.”

Fun

Sarah says she is the one who insisted on adding Fun to the core values. When evaluating if someone is going to be a good fit at Moz, they ask themselves “does this person bring joy to their work?” In hindsight, she says she would have chosen the word optimistic or positive, because ‘fun’ sometimes has the connotation of being shallow.

“It’s not just fun, but it’s that belief that things can be better, to find something positive about that moment of failure,” she says.

It comes down to looking at mistakes as a way to grow and improve in the future.

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Empathetic

When the team chose to remove Respect, it was replaced with Empathetic because the word has a much deeper meaning. “If you really put yourself in that other person’s shoes, if you try to feel what they are feeling, more of the right stuff will happen,” Sarah says.

Moz has made it its mission to be respectful toward coworkers, customers and the community, while avoiding negativity, gossip and insults.

This has created an online community that is truly professional and includes discussions that are encouraging, with spirited disagreement that is never hateful. You can actually read the comments on the Moz blog and they are very proud of that fact.

Exceptional

The last value of TAGFEE, is Exceptional. It’s the belief that carving your own, new path is the best possible route. Don’t rely on traditional standards of how things should be done. Instead, challenge the norm, take chances and erase stereotypes.

Through this set of six values, Moz has redefined business and built a passionate community centered around helping each other.

Although the community has clear business value, operating from the platform of value and passion has, and will always be, the main goal.

“The only reason we have a good community, is because we have a good community. I respect that,” Sarah says. “It’s the people there that do amazing stuff. But the community creates its own value, it’s not us. I’ve been really mindful of that.”

Click here to watch a full video recording of the Pipeline Marketing Playbooks discussion.

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