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5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Team, With Cooper Harris, CEO of Klickly

An issue I’m loving digging into is poverty and its effects. According to Rutger Bregman’s TED talk last year, being poor decreases your…


An issue I’m loving digging into is poverty and its effects. According to Rutger Bregman’s TED talk last year, being poor decreases your IQ by 14 points. That’s taking you from a nice “superior intelligence” range to almost the bottom of the “normal” range. Or taking you from “average” range down to what the Stanford-Binet scale calls “Borderline impaired or delayed.” People are not poor because they’re less intelligent. Rather they’re less intelligent due to poverty. Bregman proposes an interesting idea (one that’s been talked about for a while, and successfully executed a number of times). Think about raising the IQ of the entire population by 14 points … what would it mean? More innovation, better decision-making, less crime, and less strain on our welfare and healthcares systems. It would save us a lot of money (it costs a lot to have a large poor population). Enter the idea of guaranteed basic income. People tend to react very strongly for, or against, this idea. But after some research, it does stand out as a very interesting — and not altogether implausible — idea.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Cooper Harris, Los Angeles-based entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Klickly, an impulse-payments platform. Emerging as a pivotal figure in the Los Angeles tech scene, Cooper has been nominated for Google’s “Young Innovator” award, L’Oreal’s “Digital Woman of the Year,” named by Adobe as a “Top Thought-Leader” at Cannes Lions, and by Comparably as a “Top CEO in LA”. Cooper is a contributor to Forbes and HuffPost and has been featured in Inc., Entrepreneur, Mashable and Women2.0 and more.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

At the age of 12, I decided to become an actress. (This isn’t how I’d typically recommend one become the CEO of a technology company, by the way 🙂 I was a very stubborn kid. So a performing-arts-boarding-school, top conservatory, and many shows later, I found myself graduating college with a dream agent in New York and my first role on a TV show!

After 4 years between LA and New York living the life my younger self dreamed of, in the midst of my last acting job that I was getting bored. So I simultaneously started my first company (on the sly) — a branded digital content studio.

While it was successful, it didn’t scratch the itch, so I started sneaking off on the weekends to attend Hackathons. I had only basic experience coding, but it was the community, the anticipation, the ability to create an entirely new baby “company” in limited time that excited me.

I ended up winning a number of these Hackathons. And I was hooked! This was the medium through which I could change the world. It was in this “problem-solving mindset” that we founded Klickly, a “smart” impulse-payments technology that enables purchases directly within ads and other digital interfaces.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Well, firstly, let’s be honest here — when you hear of a technologist named Cooper … well, let’s just say you don’t picture me. I’m about as far from a stereotypical tech founder as it gets.

This meant that — early on — I attended meetings with my team where I’d get invited to grab my boss a glass of water.

I always greatly enjoyed these moments … my very awesome COO (an imposing Australian of 6’4”) did as well — he would delight in apologizing profusely to me and running to grab me water. It always gave our hosts a moment’s pause.

During my time as CEO, I’ve also met the coolest people! I remember barely a year into Klickly, I found myself on Necker Island (Sir Richard Branson’s private island), with 12 of the best-known household names in tech. And yes, one of them might have the famous Marvel Iron Man movie character based on him 😉

Those moments are more frequent than you’d think. And I’m thrilled to be part of it this amazing ecosystem.

How do you synchronize large teams to effectively work together?

We rely on 3 things to make our fast-growing team effective, 1) awesome productivity tech, 2) snappy processes, and 3) in-person hours.

1. Tech: to keep tasks organized and team members accountable, we use a combo of 5 platforms. We use Slack for all real-time comms. We then integrate Slack with our Google Apps / G Suite (which we use for all docs/decks/spreadsheets tasks) and integrate into our customer-service platform, FreshDesk. Finally, we use Trello for our business roadmap and Jira for tech. As Suzanne Abate, founder of 100 Product Managers, will tell you in this article, the benefit of a project management tool (like Jira) is that it’s been designed specifically for software delivery (meaning it will provide features such as story points estimation, git integration, and analytics on important development metrics such as velocity and volatility).

2. Process: we are blessed with a very talented, ex-Bain COO (with Master’s and PhD studies in organizational psychology). A key learning: if you begin as a traditional seat-of-the-pants startup, you need to find yourself someone like him or face the consequences! All the tech tools in the world are useless if you don’t run a tight process around them. We’ve learned to put in consistent systems and stick to them, no matter what.

3. Face time: For us, face-time (real-life, in-person hours — not the app) is critical. That collective synergy and mind-share that happens when you have an office full of busy, motivated, enthusiastic people — nothing can take its place.


What is the top challenge when managing global teams in different geographical locations? Can you give an example or story?

It’s a tough task to manage a team in one location, much less 4! I remember in the early days, I would be up at 1:30am going over product sprints with my first remote workforce. They were surprised that I insisted on doing this nightly — I think they were used to working for people who checked in only at the end of each sprint — but I learned quickly that daily check ins were critical. If something went awry, it was too far gone by the end of the week.

Nowadays, while most of our tech team is here in the U.S. (read my note about face time, above), we do have team members who work in Europe. To manage them effectively, we have high-performing PMs on our team who make sure that we stay in constant communication via Slack, Jira, and collaborative docs in GSuite.

Quick, consistent iterations will win out over infrequent check-ins. You may feel you’re saving time by skipping the daily (or nightly!) overview, but believe me, consistent check-ins will save you a ton of time and money in the long haul.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

At Klickly, we have a system called PD chats. We “borrowed” this from Bain, courtesy of our COO, an ex-Bain consultant. In a “PD” chat, a team member will have an informal 20-minute chat with their direct report. We do these chats during a walk to get coffee or a beachside stroll (one benefit of being HQ-ed on the beach :).

These off-the-books chats serve as a platform for the team member to flag any frustrations, personal issues, or other items with the manager. It allows them to be heard.

It also offers a major opportunity. We encourage each team member to really use these chats as an opportunity to grow by having them ask their manager 3 questions:

  • Over the past weeks, where do I shine/what do you enjoy about working with me?
  • What should I change/what do you find frustrating about working with me?
  • When might I have wowed you with the quality of my work?

When employees are “heard”, know where they stand, and can see their current job as a valuable training opportunity for becoming a rockstar team member (aka professional growth), they’ll be empowered to shine.

Most times when people quit their jobs they actually “quit their managers”. What are your thoughts on retaining talent today?

Get unique! Don’t be the generic company desperately trying to compete with Google’s everything-but-the-kitchen-sink perks. You won’t win. Find something more niche. And more important.

Everyone has something that makes them tick. And by the way, it’s unrealistic to think it will be your company. Put in the time — via PD chats or another method — to understand what this passion is for each of your team members. As a fictional example, if I know Sarah the engineer is into crypto, put her on an “extra 10%” team to scope out your impending ICO. Or if Adam the director of growth loves public speaking, help him become a thought-leader in his nche.

The more you can honor that spark of passion in each person, the more you can make sure your company is a key value-add piece to employees’ long-term plans and goals. When you’re a pivotal stepping stone in achieving their dreams, they’re not likely to want to walk away.


Based on your personal experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Team”. (Please share a story or example for each, Ideally an example from your experience)

  1. Be someone people want to work for. I’ve heard an anecdote that when Mark Zuckerberg is hiring, he asks himself the question “Would I want to work for this person.” I think this self-reflection is a great exercise for all managers. When I asked myself this question, I realized I wanted to be a better coach and I invested in coaching certain team members in their roles.
  2. Have strong consistent processes in place. It’s hard to instill consistent processes in a young company because it always feels like things are on fire. But running around addressing the next biggest fire means the team is doing ad-hoc, “urgent” tasks, not long-term “important” tasks. Consistent processes will let you focus where Stephen Covey says is the sweet spot: on those longer-term, “important” goals that allow your company to thrive not just survive.
  3. Don’t let it be personal. It’s hard to do, but try to be a manager that doesn’t take things personally. Specifically, if certain people in your team rub you the wrong way, either coach them up in a positive manner or (if they still suck at their job) take the right steps to let them go. Bad managers complain about their talent. Good managers make the talent better (or find a replacement).
  4. Coach holistically. Many managers try to increase performance by telling team members what they do poorly. Other managers encourage good results with praise. Choosing one of these methods alone isn’t enough — your team will grow fastest if they can see both sides of the coin: tell them where they shine, and also where they have room to improve.
  5. Fire yourself 🙂 Your job as the CEO or manager is to rally a stellar team around you. As the CEO, you can’t be an expert in every division of your company, nor should you try. You should find specialists in each area to push your product to the next level. Look at where you’re spending the most time and then hire a subject matter expert to take it over (aka fire yourself!) Bottomline: if you are the most expert person in your company on any one area, you need to keep hiring.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

An issue I’m loving digging into is poverty and its effects. According to Rutger Bregman’s TED talk last year, being poor decreases your IQ by 14 points. That’s taking you from a nice “superior intelligence” range to almost the bottom of the “normal” range. Or taking you from “average” range down to what the Stanford-Binet scale calls “Borderline impaired or delayed.”

People are not poor because they’re less intelligent. Rather they’re less intelligent due to poverty.

Bregman proposes an interesting idea (one that’s been talked about for a while, and successfully executed a number of times). Think about raising the IQ of the entire population by 14 points … what would it mean? More innovation, better decision-making, less crime, and less strain on our welfare and healthcares systems. It would save us a lot of money (it costs a lot to have a large poor population).

Enter the idea of guaranteed basic income. People tend to react very strongly for, or against, this idea. But after some research, it does stand out as a very interesting — and not altogether implausible — idea. Have a listen to this interesting TED talk mentioned above.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I’ve always loved Goethe. His quote, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it! Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it,” has become a great truth in my life.

By some luck and much grace, I’ve already had the 2 dream careers I wanted! In a very short span of time. I have to believe a good part is due to my simply taking bold steps forward. Without those steps I would not have considered starting my own company.

Goethe’s words are echoed in my favorite quote of Thoreau: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.”

Originally published at medium.com

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