We’re passionate about the world of work, and how we can make it better. To help satisfy our curiosity, we’ve launched an interview series where we pick the brains of experienced leaders, business owners, managers, and individual contributors to get their thoughts on how we can collectively build better.
Join us in our next instalment below as Amy Spurling, Founder and CEO of Compt, shares her insights on how to build a better world of work.
We’d love to get to know you a bit better, tell us a bit about your backstory.
My career path was definitely not linear. I have a BA from the University of Rochester, which is not often what people think of when they think of a tech company founder (I also have an MBA from the Simmons School of Management, which is more aligned with being a CEO). And I actually started in marketing after college.
What I liked about the field was the analytics and the ability to see and predict buyer behavior. I quickly realized that having access and a view into data was like having a crystal ball. I started exploring finance roles following business school and was rapidly hooked.
Over the course of the past 20 years I’ve supported six companies, serving as CFO three times and COO twice. Five of those companies have exited. I’ve closed over ten rounds of financing totaling more than $200M and managed two acquisitions to close. All of this led me to start my own company four and a half years ago. In fact, my experiences prior to founding Compt drives my belief that
Companies and employees can achieve so much more together when employees are fully supported.Amy Spurling
I feel grateful for all of the lessons I learned along the way—from raising money and navigating the world of venture, to being acquired, to growing and scaling teams.
One of the things that has always been front and center for me though was the need for a better compensation strategy that was more inclusive and fair. The wage gap in the US happens because of our approach to compensation. I believe, with the right tools, this can be eliminated so that everyone can be fairly compensated. We can move away from the workplace culture where the loudest voices are the only ones that get paid. Compt aims to be one of those tools.
If we were to ask a friend to describe your personality to us, what would they say?
I’ve been told I’m a “compassionate badass” (direct quote).
More appropriately, I’ve been described as formidable, but not in a dreadful or apprehensive way; rather, the “awe-inspiring” definition of the word.
What I take that to mean is that I’m driven and ambitious, but also very much guided by my principles.
I set out to build Compt as a tool for change—a tool that supports pay equity and access to company support for all employees.
Thinking back to your career journey, what’s an interesting story that stands out?
There isn’t one particular story that stands out when I think of my career journey as a whole. So many things have led to where I am right now.
I’ve spent the past 20 years working in tech companies. It was an accidental happenstance when I came out of business school, but one for which I’m very grateful. Through all of the companies I have worked with (6 prior to starting my own), I have seen so many approaches to building a successful company. I’ve helped raise capital, worked through acquisitions, and helped companies rapidly scale.
Through all of this, I saw so many ways to build, grow, and scale a company—and also so many ways that companies can do better. I got to see how the market was evolving, specifically around employee support and a company’s approach to hiring and retention.
There wasn’t a particular moment, rather a culmination of all the above that allowed me to see the opportunity to build a tool that could be truly inclusive for employees while still supporting the overburdened finance and HR teams who have been given the impossible task of trying to make everyone happy. I wanted to be on the forefront of creating a tool that truly supported all employees and made compensation much more equitable. That’s what led me to founding Compt.
What’s the most impactful lesson you've learned over your career thus far?
One of my very first managers told me this when I was 22 years old. I was taking on menial office housekeeping tasks despite being on the marketing team. She called me into her office and basically told me to cut it out (she was at the ripe old age of 27).
She noted that just because she is fantastic at vacuuming doesn’t mean she should be the person responsible for that office chore. It crystallized for me that focus is key. I need to pay attention to the things that are necessary to accomplish my goals and my team goals, and not be everything for everyone.
Thanks for giving us some insight into who you are! Let’s jump into things. When you hear the phrase “build a better world of work”, what comes to mind?
Balance and belonging immediately come to mind for me.
“Balance” because companies need to think about how they are building their teams, their products, and the environment in which their people work. If you are out of balance you can have a homogenous team, groupthink, products that only solve problems for one slice of humanity, and potentially burnt out people.
I also think about belonging.
It’s one thing to build a diverse team of individuals who are working on a common goal, it’s another to actually hear them and their perspectives.
You build a much better company and much better products if you really hear and incorporate a variety of perspectives across a team.Amy Spurling
You end up with something that supports a much broader customer base and you do it with a much happier team.
For you, what’s the main blocker you see as standing in the way of building a better world of work?
Companies need to listen to their people. Employees have virtually unlimited options for where they can work.
Coming off the past 2.5 years, people realize there is more to life than a long commute and working all hours of the day. People are actively searching for companies and roles that support their whole lives and take a more balanced approach.
Companies that are myopically focused on a return to work at all costs stand to lose incredible talent. Companies that want to operate like it’s 1995 will not survive.Amy Spurling
We have proven that change can happen rapidly and we can be more productive because of it. Companies need to understand that and support this new shift.
What’s one thing within our control that we can practically do to build a better world of work today? And, how do you recommend going about it?
We can build a better world of work by creating more equitable compensation for people. This does not mean that everyone gets paid the same amount, but we should not have pay gaps for the same roles within and among companies.
One way we can do that is to look at the compensation stack. Yes, 80% of our compensation is our salary and health insurance (for many roles), but it’s the last 20% where companies compete for talent. By making employee perks more inclusive and better reaching for everyone, we can provide more opportunities for people to level up.
Take, for instance, professional development perks. Sure, tuition reimbursement is great—if you want to get a college degree or a graduate degree AND it applies to your job. But what if you want to learn a tangential skill that doesn’t require a degree? What if you’re later in your career but have a few skills you want to pick up? What if you simply want to stay up on industry trends?
With an inclusive professional development stipend you can seamlessly provide opportunities to all employees regardless of where they are on their career journey.
Can you share one thing you’ve experienced, seen, or read about that is leading us towards a better world of work?
The US Women’s National Soccer team winning their battle for equal pay—this is huge news.
Many companies have pay gaps and disparities. It is really hard to root them out or to even know how much they exist as an employee. That the women of the USWNT saw this disparity and fought tirelessly for years is a testament to their will to make a change.
Equality will not be handed to us; we must fight for it and not give up until we have a workplace that is better for everyone.Amy Spurling
I’m curious, thinking about building a better world of work, is there a company and/or leader who stands out to you as someone we should follow? If so, what are they up to?
One of the leaders who I think is really approaching things differently is Henri Pierre-Jacques (and the whole team!) at Harlem Capital. They inspire me every day.
Yes, they are building a fantastic, big, profitable business, but it is the way they are doing it from which we could all learn some valuable lessons. They are true to their beliefs and values, and they aren’t shy about sharing them. They show time and time again that doing the right thing is not the opposite of building something great.
You can do both. And we should!
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