This post appears as part of our Driven profile series, spotlighting some of the hottest movers and shakers from all corners of the Boston tech and startup space.
Speak with Danielle du Toit, SVP of global customer success at Bullhorn, for just a few minutes and it’s clear her motivation comes straight from two sources: the people she works with and the impact they’re able to make.
Zimbabwe-native du Toit grew up in Rhodesia and spent her early adulthood studying and working in South Africa. In 2011, after reaching a point in her role at the time where she felt she could do her job “with [her] eyes closed,” she made a quick decision to move to New York City.
Fortunately, fate was on her side. While putting in her notice with her employer, she received a call for an interview with ExactTarget. Mere days later, du Toit touched down in NYC and that same week received a job offer for Director of Global Partnership Services at ExactTarget.
“It all happened pretty quickly,” du Toit reflects. “[Moving] was a career decision. I didn’t know anything about New York City and didn’t know anyone. I had traveled there just a few times.”
Luckily, the international leap paid off. In her first year with ExactTarget, the company went public. The following year, it was acquired by Salesforce and du Toit was promoted to Vice President, Global Services Center of Excellence.
The common denominator
There’s a theme here connecting the companies du Toit has worked for: great people and great culture.
“ExactTarget had an incredible CEO and an incredible culture. It was a fascinating journey,” she says, and refers to the company’s founder and former CEO Scott Dorsey as a “good human.”
“Salesforce was also an amazing company to work with,” she adds. “They’re as good as marketing to their employees as they are to external audiences. It was really exciting to be there.”
Salesforce’s people and culture are the reason why du Toit initially turned down meeting requests from her current company, Bullhorn. She met with Bullhorn CEO Art Papas and told him upfront she had no desire leave Salesforce.
Ultimately, though, du Toit decided Salesforce wasn’t the right fit. With over 10K employees, it was just too large.
“My natural inclination is to be part of a smaller organization where I can feel the impact I am making,” she explained.
“Salesforce was a great company but it was just too big,” she adds, noting she felt like “a drop in the ocean.”
That ability to take on a challenge and really have an impact is what convinced du Toit to depart Salesforce for Bullhorn in the end. Before joining, Papas was transparent with her. Instead of painting a perfect picture about the department she’d be leading, he explained the challenges it faced and how those obstacles had left its people feeling resigned.
“That was when I said, “I need to go do that,’” she says.
Putting people first
Today, du Toit leads 75 services professionals as SVP, Global Customer Success at Bullhorn. In her role, she’s transforming how the company sells to and services its clients, leading the charge by syncing customer success with sales to ensure her team better understands clients' needs right from the start.
She’s also putting into practice a “them not us” approach that’s impressively effective. The company saw over 100 percent average net retention in its customers last year.
“Our product is wonderful and I personally love it, but that’s not the way to sell long term,” she explains. “For a product to stick to a company, we have to understand [a client’s] world and paint a picture that uses our product to solve those problems.”
Along with these initiatives, du Toit’s helping Bullhorn navigate a period of hyper growth and continual change - an experience that can be daunting (to say the least) to many. The key to successfully scaling during change? du Toit says it’s all about guiding people on how to handle a problem, rather than giving them a templated process or answer.
“You have to train people to think,” she says. “Our brain is a muscle - not a storage device.
"People need to be nimble, autonomous, and have ownership and responsibility to make decisions. They have to say, “I haven’t encountered this problem but I know how to solve it because I’m good at solving problems,'" she added.
Communication is another key to navigating hypergrowth, du Toit says. She notes that it’s not about telling people where they’ll be or what they’ll be doing in 10 minutes, two days, or a year from now. It’s about ensuring everyone’s on the same page when it comes to overall direction.
Above all else, du Toit stresses that the focus must remain on building strong relationships - both with employees and clients.
“I have a fundamental belief that the happier your employees are, the better your business is,” du Toit says. “The same applies to clients. Happier clients are more likely to spend more, be happy about spending, and recommend Bullhorn to others. It’s about building a strong partnership.
When it comes to strong employer/employee relationships, du Toit advises leaders to go back to management 101.
“Never, ever, ever say you’re too busy to spend time with your people,” she says. “If you’re saying you’re too busy, you need to hit a large reset button. Your people are hugely important to your success and your company’s success.”
Want to learn more about Bullhorn? Check out its BIZZpage.
Image via fama PR