Namely's New VP of Product: Q&A with Brian Crofts

Brian Crofts, Namely’s new VP of Product, has a motto that drives product innovation: think big, start small, scale fast. He believes uncovering and understanding client pain points allows him to build products that truly resonate. It’s this perspective that led him to innovate time and time again.

 

Brian joins Namely from Intuit, where he started his career in finance before finding his passion for product. He worked on new businesses for TurboTax and later led global expansion for QuickBooks, Intuit’s suite of accounting and payroll SaaS solutions for small businesses with 1.5M users.

 

The opportunity to innovate on a larger scale and positively impact the HR industry is what drove Brian to Namely. We sat with Brian during his second week here to learn more about him, his experience and his early vision for our product.

 

How would you describe yourself?

I wear a lot of different hats, but the most important two are the roles I play at home and at work. I’m a family guy and a product guy. First, I’m the father of four girls, and they never cease to amaze me and my wifeI love coming home to them everyday.

 

The other hat is that of a product leader. I’m always asking the question, “how do we build something that customers lovesomething that makes their life better?” That’s the heart of product and design for me. I also think a lot about my team. I want to create an environment where they can do the best work of their lives and have fun doing it.

 

But all of that is grounded in this innate curiosity I have always had. I’m the kind of person who’ll buy a new book before finishing the one on my nightstand because there are so many topics out there that spark my interest. I want to learn about people, culture, and technologyand how everything works together.

 

At Intuit, you worked on innovative products for backoffice operations in SMBs. What was the key to success?

Small businesses don’t start their business to do accounting. They are in business because they have a passion or vision they are trying to grow.

 

At Intuit, we measured ourselves against making a complicated process simple and saving time for our customers, which allowed them to focus on their business. Our mission there is to change customers’ lives so profoundly that they couldn’t imagine going back to the old way. That vision has always resonated with me.

 

What I took away from my time there was the importance of coming back to the core benefit you’re trying to deliver to your customerit allows you to connect your innovation methodology directly to their needs.

 

Why did you join Namely?

I had the good fortune of sitting next to Teresa, Namely’s CTO, on an airplane. We spent two hours in an engaging conversation about product and technology. A few months later, I was invited to NYC to meet the team.

 

In getting to know Namely, I really appreciated the combination of how we were approaching the problem and looking to distinguish ourselves through our solution. The HR technology space is a good place to innovate. An HR platform has many customers: the CEO, employees, HR...the list goes on. It’s an interesting meld of consumer and business applications. I love how many aspects there are, and that it transforms the way everyone in the company works.

 

I didn’t leave Intuit because I don’t like big companies. I joined Namely to help it become a big company. Scaling the product, the organization, and the culture at Namely is truly a great opportunity. I’m happy to be here.

 

What excites you most about Namely’s product?

I love how Namely was clearly built with the employee experience in mind. I imagine a day when the employee will influence which HR platform the employer will use. Take this scenario: an employee, who’s used Namely previously, starts a new job and says, “Oh, wait, you don’t use Namely here?” That day is coming sooner than people may think.

 

What role do you see for mobile?

It’s foundational. There shouldn’t be a debate about it. My early hypothesis is that mobile will be the best way to increase employee engagement with our core HR platform. We are learning what employees need, when they need it, and how they can access it through their personal phone. More to come here.

 

What are your first priorities as Namely’s new VP of Product?

It’s two-fold. First, I’ll be focused internally: investing time with my team and our technology team. I want to ensure we have the right innovation system, processes, and tools to thrive as product owners and designers.

 

Second, it’s spending time with our clients. Empathy is the key to success for any product person. Don’t just listen to their pain, but go on site and observe their pain. Understand their talent management process. Follow new employees as they complete onboarding. I plan to meet with and observe lots of clients to get that empathy because I can’t build products and services that people will love and admire if I can’t understand their pain first.

 

Where would you like to see Namely’s product in five years?

A company’s HR strategy is core to how they run their business. And every company runs their business differently, so it’s no surprise that companies have lots of different applications and tools to execute their HR strategy.

 

I want to continue to deliver exceptional value and experience through our core platform, which is benefits, payroll, and human capital management. The goal is to have everything work better together.

 

And then I want to focus on seamless integration with external HR solutions. We are building a truly open platform, so we can continue to connect with our growing partner ecosystem. The system will enable companies to build their own HR technology stack and use applications they already love in combination with Namely’s core platform.

 

This network-based approach is the right thing to do…and it’s the fastest way to create incredible value for all stakeholders in an advantaged way. That’s the problem I’ve come to solve for HR at Namely. Like I said, I’m a product guy!