Whitepages Tells It Like It Is

Overcommunication keeps the team humming
 
 

This story is featured in the July issue of Seattle Business magazine. Subscribe here to access the print edition.

Immediately after Leigh McMillan had coffee with then Whitepages Chief Executive Officer Rob Eleveid, he sent her all the company’s financial information.

She wasn’t even formally interviewing yet.

“I’ve worked for transparent companies in the past, but this was a new level for me,” says McMillan, who served as general manager of consumer business before replacing Eleveid as CEO of the Seattle-based identity verification company two years ago. “I’ve tried to maintain that. We share our financials, good and bad, with everybody in the company.”

McMillan, a longtime marketing executive, emphasizes diversity and inclusion at the company, whose employees range in age from 21 to 62. Whitepages has a “fun” committee that plans company celebrations, but McMillan mostly eschews formal recognition programs, opting instead to recognize employees for superior work in real time. 

The company’s Carepages group selects nonprofits to support, including Rainier Scholars and the Technology Access Foundation, and the company matches employee contributions up to $1,000 annually to a charity of choice. It continued to provide employees with free Friday lunches during the pandemic and also organized virtual happy hours. 

“I’ve been super-impressed with all the little extras that make a huge difference in a time like this,” wrote one employee in nominating the company for a 2020 Best Companies To Work For award. “I love the transparency of communication, and how the company invests in and cares about its employees.”

McMillan, though, is reluctant to take credit for the company’s positive culture. She credits Eleveid and previous leaders with establishing a culture she maintains she merely inherited. She says she learned early on in the pandemic that she and other leaders needed to become more thoughtful and deliberate in their communication because of the potential for misunderstanding in a remote work environment.

McMillan credits Mark Britton, founder and former chairman and CEO of online legal services marketplace Avvo, with shaping her inclusive and transparent management philosophy. McMillan spent more than five years there as chief marketing officer. 

“Mark was always very transparent about the financials, about customers that were upset, or customers that were happy,” McMillan recalls. “And he managed employees that way. If he was or wasn’t happy with you, it was no secret.”

Most of the company’s 40 employees in the United States — Whitepages employs about 10 software engineers in South America — cited the company’s detailed communication and focus on collaboration as reasons for its upbeat work environment.

“I love how my company focuses on the individual. They ask us what we want to do, what we want to focus on and then leadership provides that opportunity for us,” wrote one employee on the Best Companies nomination form. “They really want us to be happy and feel fulfilled."

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