We sat down with Troy Johnson to find out why he joined the tiny company that grew up to be Slalom, what gets him excited to come to work each day, and how he measures our growth by human impact—not just revenue.
You’ve worn a lot of different hats in your years at Slalom. Tell us about your current role and your span of responsibility.
I have three main roles. One, I help open up new markets. I recently celebrated my 25th anniversary here and have been very active in expanding Slalom. Two, I work closely with our recruiting organization on a global scale. And, thirdly, I also work with the sales organization.
We have a ton going on at Slalom. It's a never-ending opportunity to grow this company.
You were one of our CEO Brad Jackson’s first hires. How did you get that job?
I was working for the Colorado Rockies in their sales organization. I called on Brad Jackson and tried my best to get him to sign up for season tickets or suites or promotional products with the Colorado Rockies, and I failed (the company was started with less than $50k in personal savings, so not a lot of money to invest in tickets yet!).
However, I got to know him in the sales cycle, and when he finally said no, he said, “Hey, Troy, if you're ever looking for another job, come find me. I think you did a good job.” So, a few months later, I stopped by to drop my resumé off, and we had a beer. The next day I had an offer, and I’ve been here ever since.
I remember Brad said, “If you join, you will have the opportunity to help build a 100M+ company.” Pretty bold considering at the time there were less than five employees. But the ability to build, grow, and make a difference in a company that had a big vision was very exciting. And today, we're a $1B+ company. A “$1B Startup” as we love to say—we are just beginning an incredible journey to take Slalom all over the world.
What’s your favorite Slalom core value?
“Inspire passion and adventure.” I've gotten to do so many things here—opening markets and starting up with new business concepts and failing at some things. I just love this idea that it's a passionate world here at Slalom, and there's all kinds of adventures, and adventurers!
Let’s talk about growth. What milestones are you most proud of and what are you looking toward in the future?
From the earliest days of Slalom, there's always been that next milestone. One of the big ones, even when we were very small, was to become a billion-dollar company, and it's really cool to see us achieve that.
But many years ago, we realized that revenue is just a way to keep score. It's not why we're here. It’s not what we're all about. What really gets me excited about growth is the people. For me, getting to a billion dollars meant we were going to hire our 5,000th employee. And today we're just about to hire our 7,000th employee. We're really trucking.
It also means we're working with over 1,000 of the world's leading companies, helping them envision and execute on their most important programs to help grow their companies. And we're doing great things with our partners like Salesforce and AWS—as well as the impact we make by getting involved in our local communities. So, while revenue was something we talked about a lot in the early days, today it's more about the impact we have across all our stakeholders.
As we look forward into the future, we want to run a really strong company financially, with a top- and bottom-line that's successful, but I think about becoming a 40,000-person company that's in not just three countries, but 10, 20, 30+ countries—really building our model so anyone in the world could work with us here at Slalom.
Finally, growth is not just about revenue. It's about growing new markets, new capabilities, growing leaders—growth really creates opportunity for all.
For me, the journey is probably more exciting than the actual finish line or any one milestone. Every day, I am growing, we are growing, and I'm excited about every step we take.
How do we keep our culture strong as we grow?
That is a question I get all the time when I tell people how fast we're growing as a company. We hired 2,300 people last year! It's incredible. And the one thing I love about our culture is our concept of being very intimate with our local businesses and connecting them together in a way that's focused on our people, and our clients, and our partners. I think that's very powerful.
The first thing is our core values. Those core values have got to be sacred, and I’m proud to say that, from what I can tell, our executives, our leaders, and everyone in the company cares deeply about them. They're embedded in our DNA and serve as our North Star.
The second thing is being intentional. We have a culture that's obsessed with our clients, while also equally committed to having every single person at Slalom love working here. Whether you're a senior executive or you're a consultant in the first year of your career—everyone is important. Describing our culture would include things like passion, growth, feedback, friendships, altruism, and caring not just for our clients or ourselves, but for Slalom as a whole. After all, Slalom is simply a group of people who love working together.
Culture has been the fuel that has propelled our success, so at all costs we need to make it sacred as we scale into an international company. But I also think culture is a little bit like love. You can talk about it too much. It's almost like if you're over-prescriptive trying to define or control it, it becomes artificial. I truly believe we can be a pioneer in becoming a large global company that has a people-first culture that's intimate and personal to every single employee.
How would you describe your leadership style?
You never stop learning how to be a better leader. Having a growth mindset is important. I always start with the premise that humility is important, and to lead is to really focus on helping those around you be more successful. I've also learned that a leadership team will take an organization further than any single leader can. Slalom’s ability to assemble a group of leaders who know how to challenge but complement each other is really special to see in action.
What advice do you have for new people at Slalom?
Think big. Be bold. Have fun. This is a company where your journey and what you want out of it is probably going to be a lot less top-down and prescriptive. We want people to be involved in creating the journey that will inspire them. We love when people challenge us and ask for big opportunities.
We work hard and love building Slalom, but we also have fun. After all, "Smile" is one of our core values. From our retreats to our events to the friendships that are built, I have fun every day at work.