Darrin Murriner, CEO, Cloverleaf

Effective communication in the workplace is an integral part of company success. Darrin Murriner and Kirsten Morefield co-founded a company called Cloverleaf that is centered around improving that communication. We spoke to Murriner about the need for what his company does.

Tell us Cloverleaf’s origin story.

Murriner: Kirsten Morefield and I worked on a lot of cross-functional teams at a digital video agency prior to starting this business. One of the things that was really clear to us was that the success or failure of those projects was really dependent on the combination of people we put on the teams and how well they worked together.

Five of the top 10 ten reasons people are engaged or disengaged are related to relationships with their manager and their team members. That’s not a groundbreaking or shattering insight, of course. But since we had this very consistent delivery process, it highlighted the fact that how people work together is really the difference between a really big success for a company and just a ho hum entity.

You started looking at data-based ways to address this.

Murriner: There’s not a lot of technology that helps people be better together. There are tons of tools out there that help you manage projects better—like Slack or Microsoft Teams—but those are just extra communication channels. They’re not actually helping you be an effective communicator with the person on the other side of that conversation.

Something like a third of managers’ time is spent managing conflict. It all comes back to how we relate and how we communicate and collaborate with each other in the context of the organization.

Is collaboration more important today than it used to be?

Murriner: In the 1980s, 85% of the value of the S&P 500 was part assets like plant equipment inventory. Things that you can see and touch. Today that percentage is 10%. That means 90% of the value creation comes from people collaborating. ‘I’m taking my ideas and putting them with your ideas and the output of that process is what creates value for the organization.’

Also, as more younger people enter the workforce, they bring a different dynamic. They don’t pick up the phone and work through things. There are a lot of misunderstandings in the 120-character messages they’re sending to each other. It’s only exacerbating that situation.

A lot of managers are not prepared to teach those communication skills.

Murriner: Yes, many have had very little training in this department. Our tagline is coaching for everyone. It really comes back to having a coach. Generally you don’t get a coach involved until things have gotten bad. It’s a corrective action where you need someone from the outside to come in and intervene. Part of our focus is that we bring coaching to everyone in a proactive, rather than reactive, way. Kids are used to being coached their whole lives, but are then dropped into the workforce and they’re on their own. For us, it was how do we create scalable check technology that lets us bring coaching to the entire workplace not just the top 2% or the top 5% of leaders inside the organization.

How does your platform work?

Murriner: There are two parts. There is an app experience that helps you pull out insights about the combination of people who are working in a team, based on assessments. We use common assessments that everyone’s taken, like Myers-Briggs, StrengthsFinder, and Enneagram. Those are tools that people are familiar and comfortable with.

The second piece of it is through integrations with the tools that employees use every day. We integrate with whatever tools the team members are using, like email, Slack, and so on to push coaching content. For example, we can look through your work calendar and see that you have a meeting scheduled with another employee. We give coaching tips on how to best to communicate with that person, based on assessments we’ve done with them. It’s very customized.

Here’s a peak at how the platform works.

How’s the company’s progress been so far?

Murriner: We started in 2017 but didn’t launch the product until late 2018. Since that time we’ve gotten almost a million users. Something like 20,000 teams are using it. We’ve raised about $5 million in total, over that time period.

Why has your platform resonated so?

Murriner: People want to be better. Conflict and divisiveness only drags an experience down. One of the great things that we do is really demystify information that a person is likely to process. That way, they have a much greater chance of circumventing misunderstandings or and false assumptions.

When you talk to senior leaders in organizations, it’s about emotional intelligence. Anyone can be taught JavaScript or how to build Excel spreadsheets. But you need to have them know how to communicate first.

What’s great about having a company in Cincy?

Murriner: For me, it’s really about the talented group of people around here. We’re finding a lot of really great young talent coming out of the University of Cincinnati, Miami University, and Xavier University. We’ve regularly done internships and those interns have made significant contributions to building our product. Without them, we just wouldn’t be where we’re at today.