How do you build a culture of openness and collaboration as your company scales? Founder and CEO of Guru, Rick Nucci, and previously founder of Boomi, on track to IPO soon at $200m+ ARR, shares how to run all-hands meetings the right way.

Guru is about a decade old and provides AI-driven search for companies where employees can ask questions and find knowledge to do their job.

They recently did their 100th town hall and have learned a lot along the way. Now, Rick shares his wisdom so you can make your next town hall or company all-hands, as effective as possible.

Why Do Town Halls?

Guru started doing town halls when they were around 14 or 15 employees. They sat around on a couch talking about happenings in the organization. Even back then, there were three threads they prioritized and spent a fair amount of time on.

  1. Alignment
  2. Culture
  3. Transparency


If there’s a thing that connects the dots across teams, it’s alignment, especially when strategy spans multiple departments within a company. Reinforcement is a huge part of alignment; town halls are one technique to achieve that.


One of the core ways a culture manifests in a company is by writing down and defining those core values that will become the personality or behavior of your organization. What are the characteristics and traits you want in all employees? This only works by finding systemic rituals that reinforce and celebrate those core values.


This is big for Guru. Rick learned this at Boomi, the company he previously founded. Talking about good and bad news, changes, and strategy should all be rooted in context and transparency. People should go on the roller coaster with you instead of wondering what’s happening. If you don’t give your team a narrative, they’ll write their own.

What Town Halls Look Like At Guru

What does Guru actually do at town halls? They’re monthly, 90 minute recorded meetings. That might seem shockingly long, but Rick shared they rarely go to 90 minutes. It’s more of a placeholder in case something important is happening, or if they’re fielding a lot of questions.

Generally, town halls run under 45 minutes–quality over quantity. For the process, the VP of People Ops starts 1-2 weeks in advance and lays out a skeleton agenda in a private Slack channel, pulling in speakers and a mix of recurring and one-time segments.

Rick hosts them so he can talk directly to the whole team and be as accessible as possible. But he also recommends not hogging the mic. So, bring in other speakers, functional leaders, and ICs working on cool and exciting things. During town halls, you want to enable employees to ask questions live and have a place to share resources on the fly.

A Typical Town Hall Agenda

Think of it in two buckets:

  1. Recurring segments 
  2. One time segments

Those buckets include rituals like announcements, new hires, promotions, and celebrating employees living a core value. Others are the “voice of the customer,” which you can read more about below, where they play real conversations with customers.

They also field anonymous questions, talk about the road map once a quarter – looking to what’s ahead and reflecting back on accomplishments as well as areas for improvement. The goal is to model candor and vulnerability, so celebrating the wins and talking about the losses shows everyone that it’s ok to make mistakes at Guru and allows conversations around areas of growth.

The general approach to town halls for Guru is 40% reinforcement and 60% new content. Trying to connect the dots over and over with themes, strategies, goals, and why they matter is super intentional and necessary.

That’s the what, why, and how for town halls. Now, let’s look at the seven lessons learned after doing 100 town halls.

Lesson 1: Set the Mood

Rick completely controls the music at town halls, and it’s met with mixed results. But setting a vibe of energy and positivity while keeping it clean is important. Try to set the vibe so people walk away feeling energized.

At Guru, they intentionally do a virtual town hall. That means everyone is sitting in a room on a screen, participating. By doing virtual town halls, a distributed team can feel included. Everyone has the same experience.

Lesson 2: Set the Context

Guru always shows this slide first at every town hall. These are the various operational things they do throughout the year. It shows where they are today and recaps learnings from board meetings or off-site strategy sessions. By setting the context at the beginning of every town hall, people can ground themselves in where the company is at along its path.

Lesson 3: Values in Action

Values in action are one of Guru’s rituals in every town hall. Rick flashes up their core values, relentlessly reminding everyone of the five core values. When you see a teammate living a core value, it gets shared in Slack and has a workflow that routes it to the people team. This is a peer-driven way to manifest employees living a particular value.

Lesson 4: Voice of the Customer

In Guru’s world, every customer conversation is recorded. It’s a wonderful way to identify themes they want to talk about in town halls. If there’s a new feature release, they likely find customers talking about that capability, good or bad.

Town halls aren’t just a cheerleading session. You can spotlight a company, talk about their use of your product, identify themes, pull out quotes, etc. Then, you play the clips end-to-end, which usually lasts about five minutes. Guru loves sharing at least two to three stories at every town hall.

Lesson 5: Avoid Heavy Financials

Guru used to go into a lot of depth on company financials, but learned not to go too heavy, or people’s eyes glaze over. If you share financials, give them context. Transparency is essential in its goodness and things that aren’t so good. This establishes trust with employees. If you aren’t giving them the story, they may write their own narrative that isn’t true.

Lesson 6: Anonymous Questions

Allowing anonymous questions has been a huge positive for Guru. They spent a lot of time debating this because two of their core values are seeking and sharing knowledge and radical candor. Allowing anonymous questions means people can hide behind this anonymous forum.

The reality is there are a number of reasons someone might want an anonymous question, so allowing for them means the hard questions get asked rather than avoided.

Guru doesn’t field anonymous questions live. They’re usually deeper questions, and sometimes, they don’t need a mic to answer. You could answer them in an array of different formats (like in Guru’s weekly Knewsletter), but the most important part is you want to be thoughtful in how you respond. Overall, anonymous questions have been a net positive for Guru.

Lesson #7: Don’t Sugarcoat It

Many may have seen this radical candor framework. The idea is that it’s the best way to collaborate with your team internally by challenging them directly while caring for them personally. If you only challenge them directly, it shows up as obnoxious aggression. If you only care for them and do not challenge them directly, this is ruinous empathy. You’re not actually helping the person. You’re doing harm because you’re letting them think everything is fine when it’s not.

Guru does two trainings a year to practice speaking and collaborating with radical candor, but if you’re serious about this practice, you have to model it. A town hall is a great time to do that. People want the real deal when you’re talking to them. It’s ok to say things are hard and share the reality of the situation.

These are Guru’s seven lessons learned over the years and after 100 town halls, and they’ve worked well.

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