651: Recruiting & Retaining in a Fast Growing Company w/ Dave Keil

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

In this episode we talk to Dave Keil, CEO of QASymphony.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-keil-14a05118/

Wouldn't it be nice to have several fault leaders in your industry know and Love Your brand? Start a podcast, invite your industries thought leaders to be guests on your show and start reaping the benefits of having a network full of industry influencers. Learn more at sweet fish Mediacom. You're listening to the B to be growth show, podcast dedicated to helping be to be executives achieve explosive growth. What you're looking for techniques and strategies or tools and resources? You've come to the right place. I'm Jonathan Green and I'm James Carberry. Let's get it into the show. Welcome back to the B Tob Gross show. Today we are joined by Dave Kyle, David, the CEO at Qa symphony. Dave, welcome to the show right, it's rippy to be here. Thanks for having me well, thank you so much for being here, for sharing your expertise, in your wisdom with our listeners. We're going to be actually talking about recruiting and routining in a fast growing company, a fast paced growing company. I think this is going to be a some fantastic content. But before of course, we get into that, David, you can tell us a little about yourself and what you in the Qa symphony team are up to these days. Thank you for that. Qa Symphony is a fast company based in Atlanta to our Jeff. We've also got a development team in Saigon, Vietnam, and we've got a small sales team in London. So we have upwards of a hundred and twenty associates today. We've grown very quickly over the past four years. We've got eighty folks in Atlanta. When I joined about four years ago, we literally had four employees here. So we've been we've been growing nicely. Our focus is I'm providing and enterprise software solution to large organizations so that they can improve both the quality and speed of their software development testing process and we've got many very large, well established global two thousand organizations as clients of ours. Our website, Qui symphonycom, will give everybody a better sense of that. So that's the intro on the company. From a personal standpoint, I've been in the Technology Space Gosh over twenty five years. I've moved down to Atlanta and the S and have been able to run various technology businesses really since two thousand and four so if I tell people when I interview here, I'm not the smartest guy in in the company, but I'm the one that's made the most mistakes and I each time the fourth business I've run. Each time I do it I hopefully will make fewer mistakes. So we've been having fun. Toy Q symphony are success has been very fun for the team. We've grown our business revenue wise very nicely. We've been able to attract very established and wellknown investors and are well capitalized today and, you know, feel very good about what's the head for the company. That's fantastic.

Well, certainly congratulations on your momentum, on your success, and it also speaks volumes. Asked you why we were trying to bring you onto the show today to talk about this idea. I mean going from for employees to a hundred and twenty associates over four years, I mean you're bound to not only experience some growing pains, but you also you know yet you're doing something right. And when we were talking a little bit earlier, you mentioned that way, that in which you recruit, you weretaine. It can be in some ways a direct indicator of success. But you know, I don't want to I don't want to speak over you, Dave, kind of what what has been the basis for, you know, your success when it comes to recruiting and retaining, especially in this idea of trying to attract talent that are possibly five years out of school. Yeah, so, so we'll focus today on one element that's been, I think, especially helpful. But, you know, in general, I would say it's by experience, having made many mistakes not doing this, that I've realized over investing in in an individuals who have a long, long potential to grow ahead of their current capability set and and really overrecruit for talent has been a benefit to us. So we've we've implemented that early on here and have continued to reinforce that approach. Now what I what I want to talk about more specifically today deals with this concept of tour of duty and I am happy to jump into that, unless you've got any other questions. No, I think that's I think that's a great place to go. Yeah, so my brother Rob Lives in the West Coast and, as we all know, folks in the West Coast are more smarter about technology. So two years ago he recommended a book to me that was written by the founders of Linkedin and I was on a long flight actually after Vietnam, so I got to read the book in one sitting and I was immediately amazed with how true the stories in this book felt to me having, you know, again, been been in technology businesses for over the pest of twenty five plus years. And really the key theme that jumped out of me is in the book the Alliance. They highlighted how things have changed. The world is changed and you know, back ten twenty, you know, thirty years ago they were this concept of, you know, lifetime employment and when when employees joined a business, they felt that there was this real loyalty and that the company was going to take care of them and look out for them. And over time, for variety of reasons, that has changed significantly and today the book kind of outlines how, you know, the the employees don't feel that loyalty at all and in fact they feel often quite the opposite, that they have almost zero loyalty, that they feel very little job security and they spend a lot of their time looking out for for other opportunities, and there's really not a lot of open honesty. Very often in companies and that this...

...dynamic that the authors of the book pointed out even more acute in the technology space, where it's so competitive to bring on every team, you know, great talent. So I was really interested and energized by this theme because it really seemed to bring true with my experiences and as a result, I paid a lot of attention to and ultimately have implemented this concept of a tour of duty that the book outlines and, you know, a tour of duty at a high life. Encourage everybody to read the book the Alliance. There's even, if you want to cheat, there's even a powerpoint deck on their website that can give you kind of some of the key themes much quicker. But you know, it really highlights how to build trust and loyalty and a much more of a longer term win win between the employee and the employer. And what it outlines is that it's not realistic to think that you're going to keep an employee forever. But what is realistic is to come up with a a time frame. Let's call it two years, and that's two year time frame in this example would be the tour of duty time frame and develop kind of a ethical agreement with the employee employer where the employee outlines what he or she is looking to achieve and accomplish over this next two years and the employer is also outlining what they need from the employee in order for it to be successful on both ends, and that this this kind of win win tour of duty, you know, gets put in action, is documented, it's followed up on and it can result in a very positive way to at least maintain a higher degree of retention over that period of time. Now, after two years in this case, what what the hope would be is that as you're approaching this to your time frame, the employee employer which engage in the next tour of duty. But it is possible that a tour of duty might lead the employee to say, listen, I want to move out of marketing and into venture capital. And you know, in those cases, with the book outlines, is the employers better opposition the employee to achieve their goals and they're going to get a lot more out of it and it's going to be a much more laborative exit when they do leave, where they'll be a positive transition. And this the folks that leave will be good ambassadors for the company and help them in the future, and so all kinds of great things can happen in this scenario. And it doesn't mean the employ needs to stay forever, but it's an openness and it's an agreement that there should be alignment. That is something that that we've embraced. You or Qa symphony in a very effective way. Yeah, I think I'm really my my question was well, first, you know, it makes a lot of sense to manage those expectations on on both sides and so that, like you said, if you're aligned in those expectations, at the end of that tour of duty, if the employee takes off, if they if they pivot, if they do something else, you can be left with still a good feeling. We were able to collaborate,...

...we're able to help each other out. There's no hard feelings. It wasn't the expectation that you were going to be here forever or that I was going to have a job forever. I think. I think just having those expectations are great. Is it a would you say it's a very formal process when you're trying to establish the guidelines for these expectations for this tour of duty or is it? Is it a looser process where you kind of maybe go over some of the things but nothing's necessarily in writing? For us, and I think what what the book has outlined is a more formal process and that worked well for us. And specifically what I've asked the associate to do in preparation for our tour of duty meeting, which we've had every year, is document and put in writing exactly those things that they're looking to achieve over the next time frame of their tour and also to identify what they believe the employer is going to need from them in order for it to be again an alignment and that document will come to me a few days in advance. And and what I've done, because I really want to reinforce how important this is, is up blocked out several days and my calendar and let the employees know, hey, on these following three days, block out, you know, an hour and we're going to spend some time one on one and talk through this and then there's going to be some very specific action steps. And I initiated this in kind of this summertime, maybe fall up two thousand and sixteen and I didn't know how people would react to this, I figured I would try it. I was really quite pleased with the sister tremendous positive feedback that employees felt and what I've noticed is it was a huge benefit to me as well. I'll give you some examples I was able to learn from talking in this session from associates. Many associates had a desire to continue with the company but to pursue a different direction within the company and I necessarily would not necessarily had had a view of that. We had an employee as a very successful junior sales person and said, you know, listen, Dave, as we move and think about moving into other geographies, you know, I'd love to have an opportunity to take take a sales role in another country if that comes up. And six months later we were opening our London office and we sent this gentleman, Andrew, over to be one of our early, early, key people over in that office and jump start the office a year ago and with a tremendous win for him and it was a great win for us. We've had our our top customer success associate come to me in this process and say, you know, I love the company, I love what I'm doing, but I really have a passion to be a product manager and we worked with her and over a period of time she was also able to effect a positive transition and you know, her name is Judy and she became, has now become our most talented product manager. But also put in place the elements or a...

...customer success team two years ago to ensure that they were, you know, well taken care of and that the transition with our customers was positive. We've had many examples where customer success folks have moved into training, sales people have moved in the customer success these people have moved into marketing, etc. And a lot of this has come together because I've got, you know, the visibility across the organization and I'm able to assess, you know, is this a reasonable request, is a company going to ultimately benefit and is the employee really committed to this? And what I've been able to do is have these very open conversations and and and very, very happy to tell you that in these sessions just been tremendous openness and candor and I've learned a lot. And then, ultimately, when we map bat kind of the next steps. I'm then able to hand the next steps off to their to their manager, to implement and and follow up with on a quarterly basis. And so that's, at a high level, how it's worked here were we rolled out, you know this, throughout two thousand and seventeen on a rolling basis and we're soon to initiate kind of the two thousand and eighteen cycles. So we'll be in our third year of of usage and everyone across the board has really embraced this in a big way. That's fantastic. I have I have just two to follow quesions and I think they're kind of related. Number number one, was there any difficulty for you in making that that mental switch from thinking about, okay, here's my here's my goal for the COP my goal for the company over the next you know, x years, fifty years, whatever it is, and and sort of reframing that to, you know, like here's what I need from this person in the next not fifty years, but in the next two years. Was that? Was that? was there difficulty in in like sort of training your brain to think like that, or did that come naturally after you just started practicing it? Well, I think a lot of this took some adjustment. You know that thinking around, you know, a longer term view and also the acknowledgement, and the book does a good job of this, there's an acknowledgement that ultimately these employees are going to do what they want to do. You know, it's a free country and that's one of the things that makes you know things great here. And so in an efficient market, if someone wants to become a product manager and we don't give them the opportunity, we're going to lose this employee. Yeah, and so it's taken some real soul searching. But what also, I think, a a general leap of faith to say, you know what it's going to be. Ultimately, while it maybe some short term pain, we as a company are going to be much more successful keeping these top associates, getting them engaged in an area that they're passionate about and as opposed to forcing them to stay somewhere where we may had some short term pain. So so it's taking that longer term view that we really put a lot of discipline in. That has...

...taken some time, it is really paid off for us. Got It and in kind of the the second part of that question. It's I mean it sounds like being very intentional, making the time to talk to these employees has been a huge part of that success and sort of fostering that open communication. was there any difficulty for you in getting ascertaining some of this information from the employees? You know, tell what's the quite a question that you asked. You know, where in the company would you feel most comfortable or kind of what does that conversation look like to have the most effective conversation with those employees? Yeah, it's great, great question. I you know, a lot of this was iterated as we went and I also would acknowledge that, you know, we're not a company as large as Linkedin, obviously, so they were elements in the book that pertaining to a larger organization with more options for their employees and sometimes a smaller one. So, like all things, you know, the things needed to be modified for our size. You know. That said, what I ended up finding was that that the conversations took one of three general paths. It was very common for someone to come in and really feel good about their role and like what they're doing and they simply wanted more advice and thoughts about how they could get better in their current role, and those were, you know, very positive but internally easier discussions and I would you know, many cases are recommend some books or recommend some training or encourage them to maybe spend time with a couple of other associates that I think they could benefit from, or even hook them up with some mentors outside the organization. In the second case, which was a very important case, is when employees who were really a strong said, you know what, I really would like to work on moving from job A to job, be, you know, working, going from computer from customer success the product manager or whatever. So those, those took some more time. We didn't solve the problem in the meeting. Really, what the meeting did was elevate this issue, talk through it, give me a chance to really ask him tough questions, invalidate that this was something the individual was committed to, and then we would put in a plan with their manager to work on a transition if it made sense. And those have result those who resulted in a lot of positive the third which is a little trickier, is when you hear from employee who who has a desire to do something that really is not going to happen realistically, whether it's a promotion to the next level or a move into management. And ultimately, while these were some tougher conversations, they ultimately benefited everybody because many, you know, fair handsful, of employees that really felt strongly about moving to another role and they were going to be better off knowing that that was not going to happen in Qa symphony so they could prepare to pursue their passion somewhere else. And if we did this in a very open and honest way again, we would be better off and the employe would better off. So I think the theme of honesty and just being openness on both sides ultimately paid off. But that's third that third path was a tricky or conversation. Yeah, I can imagine. I mean it takes a little bit more of a delicate touch when you have to come to this realization that's you know, there...

...may not be a great fit here, but knowing that is is ultimate, like you said, is ultimately beneficial for both parties. So makes a lot of sense. Dave, one of the things that we've been asking our guests, especially in two thousand and eighteen, especially with the the CEOS that have we've been fortunate enough to feature on the show. What is your legacy that, at the end of the day, you're looking to leave behind, whether that is with q a symphony, whether that's just, you know, professionally in general, whether it's personally or even a blending of these all, what is what would you say is the legacy you would like to leave behind? Yeah, thank you. So I guess there's there's two parts of this. I've been really lucky in like career to have a few mentors who have been hugely impactful to my learning in my success, and so I've made a commitment to, you know, pay it forward and in return that and become a mentor in a meaningful way. And one of the avenues that's enable me to do that as I was recently selected to join this group called endeavor. You can look at Endeavor Dot Org. It's a global organization that really focuses on great companies that are scaling and has a very broad of powerful network on a global basis that I've embraced. And the view with an endeavor is that once your company reaches a high level of success, you will go back into the network and being mentoror to other companies and the cycle will continue and extend, so that that is something that I'm passionate about. In addition, and are along with that, really getting back to the city of Atlanta that's been so positive in my career over the past twenty five years and providing that leadership and mentorship to others here so that we can continue to advance Atlanta as a terrific technology town, which is an area where we've made a lot of progress, and I think leaving, leaving q a symphony one day as one of the, you know, great Atlanta technology companies and then being able to give back as a mentor here will be very meaningful to me. That's fantastic. Well, Dave, thank you again so much for coming on sharing your thoughts with ourt with our listeners. This been some tremendous content. I know I'm I mean I was rivetted. I think that our listeners are going to get a lot out of this too. And if any of our listeners are interested in following up with you after today's episode, they want to find out more about, you know, recruiting and retaining. They want to talk to you about the tour duty. They want to find out more about Qa symphony. What's the best way for them to go about doing that? Sure I would. I would encourage everybody that once again touch with me to reach out to me. BEA email. It's Dade K E il at Qa symphonycom Dave Kyle like q a symphonycom and I look forward to hearing from from others than helping where I can. That's fantastic. Dave. Again, thank you so much for your time today. It was it was an absolute pleasure having you on the show. Thanks for having me. Enjoyed it. There are lots of ways...

...to build a community and we've chosen to build the BEDB growth community through this podcast. But because of the way podcasts work, it's really hard to engage with our listeners and without engagement it's tough to build a great community. So here's what we've decided to do. We're organizing small dinners across the country with our listeners and guests. No sales pitches, no agenda, just great conversations with likeminded people. Will Talk Business, we'll talk family, will talk goals and dreams, will build friendships. So if you'd like to be a part of a BEDB growth dinner, in a city near you, go to be, to be growth dinnerscom. That's be to be growth dinnerscom. Thank you so much for listening, until next time.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (1773)