LIVE from Nashville Entrepreneur Center: What We Can Learn from Nashville Startups
Darrin Murriner had seen enough of the mistrust, fear, and personal interest that riddles many corporations.
He saw it sink productivity and erode culture in the insurance, banking, and media industries. He saw it happen across risk consulting, internal auditing, and financial planning.
And he knew he wanted to change it. Drawing on experience that included time at multiple Fortune 500 companies, he wrote “Corporate Bravery: Eliminate Fear-Based Decision Making” to help large organizations shift from cultures of caution to ones that seek opportunity.
Then he kept going. Many people would have stopped their careers here, or opted to sustain. But then, not many people are as passionate about teamwork as Darrin Murriner, CEO and co-founder of Cloverleaf.
“We really want to change how the world works,” he says.
Cloverleaf aims to change how the world works by showing companies how to build their best teams. This vision flows from Darrin’s experience (and that of Cloverleaf’s co-founders) that most work happens through projects, and most projects fail. Consider the stats:
But how can that be when businesses are awash with software options promising streamlined processes and robust tools? Because most project software doesn’t focus on people and interactions, the two variables that arguably have the most impact on team function—or dysfunction.
Cloverleaf creates high-performing teams by mapping data such as personality, skills, and interests of each employee. It then visualizes that data so companies can run scenarios and see where each person best fits on which team. Because people tend to be at their happiest (and most productive) when given their best chance to succeed.
It’s the same approach Murriner uses when hiring and building his own teams. Every time he and Cloverleaf co-founder Kirsten Moorefield sit down in a group meeting, he thinks, “This is a team we’re going to war with.”
Want to feel that same level of confidence leading your own startup? Here are four things you can apply from Darrin’s story.
Murriner, who looks most at ease in a plaid button-down or knit cardigan, radiates a fatherly energy. It makes sense, then, that one of his first startup ventures came from being a family man.
Two years into his marriage, Murriner and his wife Peggy launched BabysitEase, an online portal that connects busy parents with qualified childcare providers. The company grew quickly thanks in large part to winning funding through the University of Cincinnati’s Fealy Bearcat Bridge Fund.
Yet, that experience does make Murriner the prototypical entrepreneur. Despite cultural tendency to see entrepreneurship as best suited to ambitious 20-somethings free of family commitments, the average age of startup founders is about 42; the average of entrepreneurs founding high-growth tech companies is 45.
No entrepreneurial journey looks the same, yet many of the same challenges appear along the way. With BabysitEase, Murriner confronted one of the most defining moments in an entrepreneur’s hero journey: pivoting.
When it became apparent that BabysitEase made more sense as lifestyle business than the venture-backed company he originally envisioned, Murriner had to lead the company in a new direction.
“Sometimes the ambition and the idea of what it could become, you have to let that die,” Murriner says. “That was probably the most challenging part of that venture.”
Murriner, like many other entrepreneurs, wants to disrupt established practices and replace them with something better. But overturning what’s established is often a herculean undertaking, even when the value is clear.
Cloverleaf’s founding demonstrates that as well as any statistic. Murriner and his eventual co-founders all worked together at a media company, and they noticed the same thing.
“All the work that we did was on teams. We saw teams overperform, we saw teams underperform,” he says. And from there, the questions started rolling, starting with the most important. “What are some of the key factors for success and failure in a team environment?”
They didn’t wait for their employer to have the same realization, nor do Cloverleaf’s leaders wait for the next question or next data point to fall to them. If the data they need doesn’t exist, they’re likely designing a workplace research study to capture it.
The typical orientation is often a technical experience that goes over codes of conduct, benefits, and similar materials. Murriner and Moorefield decided to take an opposite approach, one that went after emotional buy-in so employees would feel like team members from day one.
They save the paperwork for later, instead showing new hires the story of Cloverleaf. It starts with how the company was founded, then tours the successes and setbacks that brought the team to where it is today.
“[It gets] them to a point where they feel a lot of the same commitment and the struggles and successes we’ve had along the way,” Murriner says. “Consistently they’ve told us that had a really big impact on them.”
Hear Darrin Murriner’s story in his own words.