The Entrepreneur Podcast
The Entrepreneur Podcast

Episode · 2 years ago

27. Feedback: How to give it, take it, and when to ignore it with David Ciccarelli, Co-Founder of Voices.com

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

David Ciccarelli started his entrepreneurial journey when he opened his own independent studio. He ended up partnering with his first customer (now his wife), and building the world's largest library of voice talent: Voices.com.

Voices.com has grown exponentially since raising $18M USD from Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital and the organization is continuing on an aggressive growth trajectory with everyone rowing in the same direction.

In this episode, David does a deep dive into the importance of setting clear goals, how to write a one-sentence job description, how he sets up employees for success (and keeps them on track), and the specific process that Voices.com uses for performance reviews.

This is a playbook for onboarding new employees, and setting them up for success in a high-growth company.

You're listening to the Ivy Entrepreneur podcast from the Pierre L Morrisse at Institute for Entrepreneurship at the Ivy Business School. In this series I be entrepreneur and Ivy Faculty member Eric Jansson, will anchor the session all right here with David Cereli from voicescom. David, thanks for being on the PODCAST. Awesome, I'm hey, thanks for having me. Great to be here. Yeah, it's interesting still doing these podcasts remote. I always prefer the do them in person, but actually it's been sort of easier to schedule around a little bit more flexibility getting to schedule people in there at home so well, and and I'm sure you get a glimpse into everyone's homes as well too. That's probably pretty fun. I do. Yeah, I get to see everybody's Home Office. So a few reasons why I thought I'd be really interesting to chat with you. Want. I want to hear your founding story and share with the audience or founding story of VOICESCOM and to wanted to do a deeper dive into feedback, specifically how you set people up in the right way higher the right people and then give them feedback to, course, adjust as you need to, because I really give a really interesting system for doing that. So I want to dig into that with you. Our audience, however, is super interested in people's founding stories and we generally hear that people, you know, start businesses to either scratch their own itch, they have a super deep domain expertise or sort of stumble into entrepreneurship, and your story is an interesting combination of almost of all three and then some. So I thought I'd turned over to you just to share a little bit about your founding story. Yeah, I sure love to you. Thank you, and I mean it's my own story, so I feel like I can tell it well. You know, growing up I was always fascinating with sound and music production. You know, mom and dad put me through music lessons and even helped out actually at the local church for a while doing sound with the youth group. So there is that kind of thread weaving through my life. When I graduated from High School, I looked for a audio engineering or some kind of recording production program and came across one actually here in London Ontario, called the Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology, and it's there where I learned to record and add it and produce really sound for everything from music to sound for film and TV commercials. And when I graduated I actually opened up a small recording studio of my own and got my name in the local newspaper on my birthday and that's when I met Stephanie. Stephanie's now, of course, my wife and Co founder in voices. At the time she was a classically she was in the music major at Western University. She's a classically trained singer and she actually came into the studio to record her singing repertoire and we ended up hitting it off. But because of that same newspaper article, there were other small businesses locally that wanted a female voice talent to record some commercials and some phone system greetings, and I only knew one person in the city that would fulfill that dig and that was Stephanie. So I gave her a call. I said my pitch to her actually was do you think you could record this page of copy? I'll be the engineer and you be the vocal talent, and she agreed and we were in business together there and pursue that for a while and you know, we're pretty successful. You know, in a modest way here, you know, in London, and I should insert that, of course one thing led to another. We dated, got married and now have four kids. So I sometimes jokingly say that I married my first customer, which is which is not marital advice whatsoever, but nonetheless it's how it actually all happened. We did pursue that for quite a while, you know, for the next kind of year or so, again, myself as the engineer, Stephanie is the is the voice talent, and we put up a very, you know, pretty primitive website. We actually went down to the local public library, took out web design for dummies and hack together our own brochure style website. That really just promoted the recording studio and it wasn't long before other freelancers that hey, do you need somebody who speaks French or somebody who can speak Spanish, or do you need somebody just character voices or narrates those long documentaries or corporate training? And we always just said yes, we're like yeah, sure, we can list your name and here's a link to you. We're a little audio player. You could click play and listen to them. And concurrently, there were clients yet ad agencies and ball businesses that were just looking to get a voice overdone for number of different really use cases. But they would find the website and say, how do I get in touch with that person? And so that was the you know, the proverbial Aha moment right of like, oh well, what if we get out of the production business ourselves and instead let's be that facilitator, let's connect the buyer and service provider together and really build what's now known as a market place. These are very popular business models. They're, frankly, pretty hard to pull off. We did somewhat. You know, we were pursuing a passion both of us, Stephen, you in the kind of Arts and Performing Arts and music, and myself on the more tech and engineering side. And yet what we didn't realize what there was this global demand, that there was so many freelancers out there that didn't know how to either enter into the space. And then, likewise, not every production, let's call it, whether it's an advertisement, it didn't need a...

...celebrity, it didn't need so many part of the screen actors guild, the Big Union in the United States. They just wanted somebody with a great voice, who had a excellent home recording studio that they could go on to a website and hire them, and so this was one of the earlier freelance websites. And that's really what voicescom is. It's a freelance website. It's market place that connects the voice buying client, as I said, AD agencies, video producers and so forth with that voice selling talent. And these are people who have a background and arts, maybe in radio, some kind of, you know, theater or live performance, and they're looking to pursue that as a career in voice acting. So that's kind of how it all came about. So way, way back, the first step that you took in opening your own studio. You'd always been interested in this. Why Open your own and not go work for somebody else right away? Because, like, there wasn't like an entrepreneurial decision down the road where this eventually it grew, but in the beginning you shows right away to do your own thing. So why not work for somebody else? I think that was partly my dad, to be honest with you. He actually encourage me. I debate actually at the time that we were having, as you know, father and son, was do I go to business school or because I wanted to compliment the engineering and business. I felt equally intrigued by both, and he actually encourage me and to say look, you can, you know, you can take out alone and go to business school and learn that way, or you can, you know, take more of the street smarts approach and just go figure it out and you're going to, you know, learn a ton either way. And for whatever reason, I mean I was a bit more of a I guess. So, you know, if I dare say so, a bit more kind of like the Hustler, like I'm going to just grind this thing out, you know, and there's just lots of incidence in my past where that was kind of more my, I guess, more my personality. You know, I stories of like selling pop out of my locker in high school for like a dollar apiece and I was always the Guy Coordinating like the hockey and baseball card shows and selling tables for ten dollars a piece. Like I'd coordinate a show or participate in the show, the garage sales with mom and dad when we're really much younger. So I kind of always had that not in not intuition, but I guess, like self motivation to just go. Well, this seems like it's an opportunity, let's just go pursue it. So there wasn't a whole lot of Dissad your right. I mean I did think about joining on like cruise line actually one point, to become like an audio engineer and something more adventure Ras. But I suppose there's very few things that I like the fact that there was no like real rule book. To be perfectly honest with you, I'm like, you know what, you can start your business if you think that there's an opportunity there. You know, as launchers your abiding by the laws and you know it's you can't really get it wrong. In a lot of ways it's often more about timing and you know, maybe the maybe there wasn't as big of a need in the market, but day to day you can't. You know, you just need to go spend your time and energy in the best place that you see fit. All right. So was your dad pushed you of it? Was He an entrepreneur? Did you have his own business? Key in a lot of ways, I'd say yes. He actually worked as an investment advisor for investor's group for years and in you know, as I say, in a lot of ways that's your your your your own you know, boss, you're young manager. Yeah, you're flying a flag of a larger kind of investment company. Yet at the same time you have to manage your own book of clients. You have to market to them, develop the relationships. Like I learned a ton, including, you know, stuffing envelopes for ten cents a piece and sending up mailers. So you just develop a great work ethic. But we always had ideas of just five, you know, they didn't necessarily turn into businesses, but we often just, I guess, noodle dawn ideas. My parents were very adverse to us having a skateboard when we were younger, so we actually invented what we call the blockboard, which was basically a skateboard with like blocks instead of wheels, so it didn't go anyway. Still like do all the tricks and stuff. It would like kick clips and it was pretty cool and of course all the other mothers thought these were like just genius because like no kids were breaking their arms, right, but you still got to do all the tricks in like just in the driveway stuff. So we always had ideas like that that we pursued and didn't see it necessarily as entrepreneurship, but I can looking back now, I know it was pretty rewarding to be able to have, you know, come from an environment like that, that a family that encourage their kids to take risks. Okay, fast forward to where you're at today, because a very different business from you and Stephanie running a sound studio and even beginning days of the market place. I want to set the context for why feedback is important, because this is a very different business than it was when you first got it going. So we're things out today with voicescom yeah, and then just in the last couple of years we were successful in raising our series a round of capital, and so you know, up to that point, you know you're really getting every business is going to need cash from to survive. Right. It's off referred to as like the oxygen. That's just like you need it to keep pushing forward. And cash is either going to come from cash from customers, which case you're actually selling something of value and they're rewarding you with their with their money, cash from debt, which case we actually borrowed financing over the years from various banks and...

...institutions, which originally started as a thirtyzero loan and it was fifty, and then think ninety one, fifty, two, fifty five, five, hundred and two million. And each time, of course you're kind of paying off or paying out the earlier lenders. But I mean once it reached a two million I realize I'm doubtful that another in situation is going to come in and lend us two million dollars to continue. Yet we saw a lot of runway. So we actually ended up, as I say, taking on, which is the third source of cash, is cash from an equity partner where you're, you know, it's of course, selling a portion of your company to them and you really co owners together. So we were successful in raising eighteen million dollars us from Morgan Stanley expansion capital. So it's Morgan Stanley's their global investment bank and they have really a private equity group that's based out of San Francisco Silicon Valley. And with them, of course, came a board of directors, which we had didn't have up to that point, and I would say all of the management and governance professionalism that was installed at the same time or, you know, suddenly became required of us that it was no longer David and Stephanie Owning the company fifty we now had really professional investors that wanted to upskill our people are reporting, pack and so forth, and so part of the use of proceeds in that was that we were going to be growing our team, and so the team's just north of a hundred full time employees. And so over the years we've really learned how important it is to not only find the right people but to have proper performance expectations and performance management system. But that's probably the biggest thing that's that's changed is the need to mature and professionalize our organization. Yeah, and that comes especially when you get a investment partner like the one that you brought on. There's certain rigor that they would expect your team. So I want to break down your the feedback components. One of the critical pieces is hiring the right people, and you had a really great framework for how to think through, at least on your team. It seems to be a model that works for you. How do you think through hiring the right people? What's the framework that you used to figure that out? So we call it the three CS and it stands for curious, competitive and coachable, and I would even go in that order. And what we needed to find was something that was that I could communicate to other people that might either be doing initial interviews or even somebody in Nhr that's actually doing recruiting, and we needed some way to that serves as like a heuristic of like highly determining whether this person is a quote unquote, cultural fit, because if you just use the term cultural fit, frankly, too many companies use that as a way to actually introduce bias into whether they like the person or not and they can't really pinpoint why it is, and I think that does you're either missing out on really talented people that just aren't like you, and that's terrible, or, the flip side, is all you do or hire people who are just like you. They either look like you, they behave like you, they think like you, in which case there's literally no diversity of thought, there's no difference of opinions, there's no willingness to actually have constructive conversation. So right from the outset we tried to find some attributes that we felt were demonstrative of high performing people, and what we landed on where these three sees and so first off, as curiosity. And if someone's curious, you can throw them a problem and they can go solve the problem. They don't. They're actually they ask, you know, the five wise and they kind of go deep in terms of like root cause analysis. They might have a framework for trying to understand their often would want a reverse engineer a challenge, or maybe the reverse engineer like the solution and to understand why someone else did it. There's never the sense of like, okay, well, status quo, let's just, you know, rest out our laurel, so to speak, be happy with how it is. There's this desire to constantly improve. So I thought that was these are all things that we really liked about those who are curious and that might look like, you know, asking questions of you know, how do you go about solving a problem? Tell me about a difficult situation you have to navigate through, and I even use the words like Oh, I'm curious, why did you decide that? Or you know what, what was the alternative? Were you weighing three different options? Why did you go with this one versus the other one? And just trying to get to the thought process in during those interviews. Then that leads to competitiveness. And so those people who are competitive, it's not just that you have a background in sports, although that is a great kind of those lot of analogies between business and sports, but even someone who can often be competitive with themselves. You know, artists or musicians are highly competitive with themselves. You know, even even on a debate team. I mean most people have some goals that they're setting. So, you know, I would ask kind of we know, what is a goal that you have for yourself at the beginning of the year? You know, what have you achieved? What books have you read towards improving that goal? Like what do the again that tack Dicks, that you're actually showing that you're taking steps and just instead of just saying, Oh yeah, I'm going to beat the sales record, will really what have you done in you know, in your life up to this point? Where's the evidence that you are competitive and that you're a winner?...

And then recognizing that you're not going to make that all on your own, that somewhere along the way somebody's going to give you some advice. Nobody makes it on their own. They're going to be coached, and that coach could be just like I was mentioning off the top. You know, early on my father served as like a business coach and a mentor. But anyone's going to have somebody who's in that that that role of the guide that can shepherd them to help them make those decisions. And even now, actually, one of our board members is an executive coach. For me, I do a weekly oneone which I had just a few hours ago, and same, same story. You know, I present a challenge that I'm facing the week. How do they handle it in their career? What were the alternatives? Would have they seen that's worked and what hasn't? In I'm constantly trying to learn from other people's successes and mistakes. But I think that notion of someone being coachable and asking them like who is, who's a coach for you growing up, if you don't have a list of people that you can go like I've learned from these folks, to me that's either you either just believe, you really believe that you did it all on your own, which I'm concerned about that, because that means well, when your sales managers giving you advice on how things work, here and how it can how you can be most effective. If you're not receiving that, I think this is just going to be a really tough relationship going forward. And this isn't just in sales. I mean that's in every role, frankly, in the in the company. So we look for those three CE's. You've got a kind of a handful of questions around them, but it's it's not just saying are you curious? Yes, no, it's like I'm looking for the evidence that this has been a lifelong pattern that you've exhibited around curiosity, competitiveness and coachability. Cool, and did you have those sees before the your investment partners? Not Going to say force, but you know, introduced a little bit more rigger, or you introduce that Riggor with it at the invested partners? Like did you sit down and say, all right, we've raised money, now we need to come up with our three seas? When did that come into the process? We actually had it quite a while beforehand. However, what I recognized is I was one just given this advice, is that the CEO should do well. Really, it's not just the CEO, it's everyone should do only that which you can do, and I'll say that again. So for me, the CEO should do only that which the CEO can do. So that might mean interacting with investors, interacting with the board, interacting with media or being the leader in the company to deliver a tough message or a celebratory message. And I realize that I'm like, well, I probably should not be doing the first interview. Maybe I do this second or third interview prior to somebody joining. So I need to equip the rest of the kind of hiring manager and hiring process people involved in that. I need to equip them with the framework. And perhaps Eric, this is my my engineering bent to me of like how do I engineer myself out of this process? How do I give somebody else a framework that they can follow so that, you know, and we're that sense, evolved actually into you know, score car hiring score cards and so forth. It's definitely gotten a lot more rigid, as I think most things do, but at least having a few attributes, and I would encourage those who are building a team. You don't have to pick those three CS. You can have. I've heard of, you know, trust and humility and intellect is kind of being three out, like there's usually some commination of like what it is that you want to amplify in your culture as it grows. Go I like the engineering brain. How do how do I manufacture, engineer myself out of this process? Great, here's the framework. Now everybody can just do it that way. Okay, so that's the first step, is getting the right people on the bus and then you're the second part is making sure that they are set up in the right way. So you've made a decision that these people meet your criteria, they're a good fit for the through the team, they've gone through your interview process. How do you make sure that they're set up for success? It actually starts with the job description, which is a bit of a stodgy artifact in businesses, but yet at the same time there's a lot of freedom that can be relaid if somebody truly understands where my role starts and stops. And this isn't about having like artificial boundaries where it's you know, and it kind of invokes the like that's not my job attitude. We're not. We're not talking about that. We're seeing actually within this area, you have total free rating, you have total autonomy. You have ownership over the results within this area and you know that that could be a phase in the customer journey that you're responsible for. It could be security at you know. So whatever the area is, I like carving that out by being clear on the job description, keeping it to one page. And then we've actually even boiled that down to one line or one sentence job descriptions, and there's a few of them. You know, as a human resources manager, I recruit, I train and I retain high performing...

...employees. Or as a as a leader of public relations, you know, I strategize and leverage relationships and opportunities for visibility in the media and the general public. So whatever that might look like, I think you can get from like twenty bullets into a single sentence where people really understand this scope of what they're responsible for. Once that job descriptions in place, then there's kind of like the role, yes, the responsibilities. We usually well, we do identify. I go in to say two to three objectives, and you know really what that means is it's a metric of some kind. It's often it's you know, it can be done in terms of deliverables. It could be a score like a customer satisfaction score or a retention rate for employees. If you're in human resources, you know there's this there's going to be some type of quantitative element to that role. Because failing that again, it's not about you know, as a manager, saying you didn't do your job because you didn't hit the metric. It's actually I think it's we try to set it up as more of a challenge to say here's the objective, here's how your success is going to be measured, and then if we can chart it, that's fantastic. You see changes over time. It Spurs on other questions. So, you know, agreeing on how that's going to be measured and then actually what we do is we create a number of real time dash boards. They could be, you know, depending on kind of what the system is, but there's real time dash boards that are updated daily or, frankly, in real time, and then we go through monthly reporting sessions as well too. So there's a real strong, if you can hear between the words here, a real strong emphasis on performance that is more than just this kind of wishywashy I feel like I'm doing well. It's like no, it's again that's the proof points with data that really show that performance is happening. And do you, or just some does a manager write that one word job description or is that employeed develop it with the manager? We try to have the employee develop it on our own. There's a greater sense of ownership over that. If they need some help there can ask around, like to others, if there's people in similar role. But yeah, it's the one. You know, it goes both ways, but usually people try to write it on their own. Yeah, cool, all right, so they you've hired the right person. You set them up in the right way with the one page and then the one word job description and tied a specific metric or a few metrics that are going to let them know that they are either successful or not successful in that role. Next piece that I wanted to move to is how do you see whether so I guess the metric could be one way to see whether they're doing well or not, but I'm thinking, I guess I have a lot of experience with sales rolls, right or sales people, and the number might be. You know, I got an annual quota of a million dollars and break it down by quarter it's, you know, quartermillion dollars in q one. Well, if you hired someone January one, it's soon to take them a certain ramp time to actually get up to speed, to be able to hit their number. So you may have some grace period there. So how do you figure out whether someone is on track to deliver on ultimately, what they're at the company to do? HMM, and I love that you use this, this term ramp time, because I'd actually likewise. I heard that so much and I go, okay, well, fine, we're going to give somebody, let's call it what do we give them? Six months ramp time? And then you hear like, Oh, it takes a year for somebody to get up to speed them, like I'm I just kind of holding my breath for a year to see. I'm like, I felt I needed something more concrete. So I realize, you know, here's here's another one, and why kind of rules? A three frameworks which they just they haven't failed me yet, so I'll keep rolling with them. And this one is really in those first three days, I mean, my goodness, somebody applied for to join your company. You've interviewed them, they fought tooth and nail to get this job. They probably negotiated hard. You've determined that they're so far the right fit. In those first thirty days, we actually we have everybody right their own three thousand and sixty ninety day plan. In those first thirty days, and usually in the first thirty days, what an employee is most likely saying they want to do is just to learn right and kind of absorb all this information, absorb the culture, understand you know who the customers are about the company, like what's the competition like out there? They're trying to absorb its information and through that period what I'm looking for is a great attitude. So I go first thirty days you need to have the like. I mean talk about first impressions. You're probably this is going to be the time we're going to really see their them, that new employee, on their absolute best behavior. It's also in the middle of a crobationary period, so, like, you really better see them on their best behavior. So after that kind of attitude, that willingness, they're just getting the confidence to be able to take that next thirty days. So at the sixty day mark, now I'm looking for effort and really kind of applying that knowledge that they've learned in the first thirty days into something again, something to use the term, something tangible. Could be a deliverable, could be a presentation, it...

...could be their first twenty five sales calls. How are the the initial situations where the creating value and adding value to the company. So I look for the for and usually in that next thirty days. So at the ninety day mark there's early results and so we go from attitude to effort that leads to results. If at any point that an employee is slipping behind getting frustrated, then we just try to reset that. And it isn't just about the first thirty days of employment at a company. You know, there might need to be that tough love conversation of performance improvement plan type thing, and our performance improvement plans follow that same ninety day window where it's like Hey, we've missed targets again. This isn't just about sales, this is about you know you've missed deliverables or deadlines and a consistent manner. The attitude seems to be kind of degrading because of that. I understand your frustrated. Do we want to work this through together? I'm, you know, giving you an opportunity here. You let me know if we want. Do we want to work on this together? Yes, Great. We got to start off by resetting the attitude and then through that period, you know, let's let's put in the effort and then finally, I know those results are going to come, because they've come with everybody else who seems to kind of follow that pattern, and it's completely what I love about that is the first two are completely in the control of an employee, whether they're new to the company or they're struggling, showing up every day in person or virtually, with the right attitude and then putting in the hard work, which is the effort, and the results will be there. I'm way more lenient and willing to kind of extend the grace, as you said, on the ninety days plus. If those first you know, if there's evidence of that attitude and effort that that results. I'm that can go out longer than thirty day and you know that not a day plus if needed, but the prerequisites are shown up with a great attitude and put in the effort. Cool, cool, I love I love that framework. I remember you you'd shared it with me before and it's something that really stood out and I feel like sometimes I'm on a little bit of a condensed time frame with it, you know, like there are employees, for example, in the summer, you bring on a summer student whe they're only there with you for for four weeks or so. So how do you figure take the same framework, but may be condensed in in time frame? But I love the idea of, you know, make sure that they've got the right attitude and then screen and make sure that they're putting in the right effort and ultimately, if you do those things right, then the results. You start measuring the results after those first two so I love that framework. How do you then make sure that they get ongoing feedback? So I want to and you could do it more more generally, like what's the framework that you use to make sure that employees are, course, adjusting as required? And then I'd love to dig into if and how that's changed, given that we, you know, managing primarily a remote workforce now. So I try to break this into two, two streams. One is in let's call it group settings, and the other one is one, not one on one, and there are certain messages that need to be delivered in a group where you're either, you know, recognizing and rewarding a great achievement or celebrating together. There's other times where are the message just needs to be given oneonone. So actually, you know, to answer the question, we've intentionally tried to advoices, tried to keep up a lot of the same cultural norms and practices around giving feedback, and so we have, for instance, a weekly leadership team meeting and virtually every kind of drew group or department's Functional area has their own team meetings as well. So that's kind of the the the direct team. Once a week we do a company wide all hands huddle, which is fifteen minutes and that goes over, you know, good news and numbers and celebrates wins for the whole company. And then also a quarterly rally, which is the longer kind of typical town hall, reviewing results and seeing and learning what the departments had been working on there with the previous quarter and then what's up for the next quarter. Those are the bigger group ones, but we compliment that with making one on one meetings routine, and I actually hold mine all on Fridays. I batch process them together and it's half an hour and I actually open it up by saying this is your time. We have a shared documents. We've evolved this over the years, but it's gone from a shared Google doc which is just add in the talking points did you want to cover that week, and it's just one long living document. That's moved to Google keep, which is more of like a task checklist type thing and we just cross off. It's not meant to manage projects. This is just where do we want to keep the talking points? And now we're on to ASSAUNA, which is more of a project management system, but we do, we literally do, call it for discussion and it's just talking points. So the key there is that, instead of the interruptions throughout the week of like important but not necessarily urgent, if you know what I'm saying. So we just try to add them to the talking points list for the upcoming one of ones. But I'm very discipline about holding those. I always say this is your time. If you don't want to cover anything that's on there and then that's fine. And sometimes, to be honest, the conversations just go in unexpected areas that someone's...

...really challenging working from home on their kids, you know, are, you know, all over them throughout the day. Both parents are trying to work at the same time. homeschooling is not effective. These are the kind of challenges that are real and we're hearing, and so we might come up with a flexible work schedule of like, look, you don't need to be in front of your computer for nine hundred twenty five. If really your kids are young and they're all asleep by eight o'clock, maybe we shift a couple hours into the evening. So we try to come up with solutions like that. But that's the kind of thing that's going to happen in a oneonone. You know, we will cover I usually just try to cover like a highlight and low light over the last week and kind of what are you looking forward to next week? It's the kind of environment where you're going to have that safe conversation. I'll even say in the safety of this conversation or in the privacy of this conversation. You know, is there any can I share something with you or, you know, is there anything you want to share? You sometimes have to explicitly state that just to give the other party a comfort. But whether the one on ones are happening weekly or some people kind of Bi weekly. The frequency can change. That's how up. That's that's important. I just think the that's flexible. I just think that they need to be consistent, that there's a time in a place and some type of predictability that the Hooy that you're working with, they're managing, knows when they can bring something up the next time. And so those are the one on ones, and then the more formal feedback would be a quarterly performance review. We're reviewing the quarterly objectives. You know if the targets have been mad or not. You know what's what's working. Why didn't that happen? I've actually got these five questions that I landed on, but the first one is, you know, is really what's your target and our what's your gap to target and how are we going to close that? So these are the type of questions that I've tried to share that I find myself asking. It can seem somewhat repetitive of Hey, we already know your targets. I see that we're trailing. Like what's your gap to target and what are the mitigating actions that we can in factors? What actions can we take to overcome that? It's surprising that now, like sometimes team members, like volunteers, like I know I'm trailing a bit. I made really good progress here on this other area I'm trailing and here's what I've already taken the initiative to take some steps where that so that when it comes time to that formal quarterly performance review, no one should be surprised. And how they ended the quarter. I mean you probably tracking that all the way through and we actually use a really simple system, which is meets expectations, exceeds expectations or does not meet expectations, which is really, did you complete the objectives you had that you set out for the quarter? And I'm talking like three to five at most. We try to make them as new miracle as possible, you know, smart goals, if you will, just so it's super clear that it's that there's a finish line and if it if it's really you know, we mentioned the million dollar annual Koda. Well then just set the quarterly you know, understand how are you pacing this quarter and if it's probably going to be a similar goal for the next quarter and other two hundred and fifty thousand sales, well then great, if you're you're meeting this quarter, just repeat that goal again for the next the next one. But overall, I've actually tried to make a point that these are very constructive and, I guess, encouraging conversations. You know, there's nothing to be feared here. I actually give the headline at the beginning. I say you got a great quarters is. I have you down on his in exceeds. I say that right off the bat, so there's not like this anxiety for, you know, twenty nine minutes before you drop it at the end. I've also gone the other way to say look, this was a really tough one. I unfortunately, I think we both would agree, and that it's fair to say this, that we didn't meet expectations this quarter. And here's why I think was the case. You let me know if I misunderstood the situation. Happy to revisit if you think that that's that's but here's here's what I saw and have that conversation. But the consistency through all of these, the team meetings, the one on one, you know, weekly, Bi weekly and then the quarterly. It's getting that frequency right in the different environments. I think is what creates a robust performance management in feedback system. Yeah, you've been really good about keeping, at least you share with me. Really good about religious almost a book keeping those one on ones. I found when I had a larger team, I'd schedule them back to back and then I you know, you get traveling or client meeting would come up or other priorities and I would end up, you know, you skip a one on one or you bump a one on one for one week and then your two weeks behind and I'd always felt like I was trying to play catch up when I did them with mind you, I had too many direct reports. But how many? How many people do you do that for on a Friday? On Friday it's eight, and so it's a pretty full day for sure. It's been as high as like twelve, and you're right, at a certain point it just gets to be and it's not just you. It could be the other person that's taking a week off or vacation or, you know, has to has to run an air and during that time, or doctors a point would have you. So life happens, for sure, and frankly that's why I like this talking points approach, because if, in the event that neither of us can meet, then it can be as simple...

...as like hey, I checked Google keep or I checked the sauna or I checked your document and I see that the most important thing, it look like, that you wanted to cover was x. let me just give you a quick couple one lines about that, or let me send you a resource or let me intro you to somebody else. I try to just keep some of that stuff moving and it's okay if you don't get to everything on that list. It's a list, it's going to stay there. Sometimes reprioritize. We have a section called differ for indefinitely, which is just like we talked about it. We don't want to cross it off like it's done, but like boy, we don't need to keep seeing it there every single week. So there's there's different ways that you'll find. I think it's a real personal approach to how you're going to run these. But the consistency is the big one. Do you find are a lot of the actions on you or are most of the actions out of those one on ones on the people that you're doing the one on the ones with, or is it really just a brain dump, like a discussion and not act. I yeah, I love that term because I use that all too. I use it as a brain zomb. It's actually often in the moment, rather than sending an email midweek and going like hey, please research this thing. You know, are like, I think this is a big opportunity, and then there's this flirt like it's like literally, that's a distraction midweek. I tend to put it on there because I like that it serves as a holding pattern to let both of us just gell on it for, you know, a couple days till the moment week, and you'd actually be surprised, like a lot of entrepreneurs have so many ideas that they just need somewhere to put them. And that's kind of what it served as, is the brain dump ground. I'm like, who would I need to talk to you from our company that I think could take this further, and I'll just take a guess. Sometimes it even switches from like one person's list a somebody else's more often than on. Honestly, Eric is like we're like yeah, you know, you brought that up three weeks ago and I'm like, I did, like, yeah, we've already talked about that and like Oh, right, or we just go we determined in the moment go to indefinite because we're just not we don't see it, or just just cross it off and just cut it out entirely, and at least that way it's like it's almost it's an outlet. And for as many as those ideas, there's actually ideas that come up from, you know, your direct report, which can be hey, do you think that this is a good idea? Do you think there's an opportunity here? Have we done something that's with this before? I jokingly refer to myself as the company historian, so I'm often like, yeah, we actually did try that three years ago. Here's what worked and what didn't. If you're going to try again, I'm super supportive, but you might want to consider this angle that the next go around. And I tend to be answering a lot of those questions of like what has happened in the past. So it's, as you say, it's just a it's to prompt a discussion and they're nothing. There's this in a paragraph. This is like one line like you know, pricing strategies, you know, for subscription service or something like that and it's like how would you think about this, or like do you have a framework? Do you have some like mental rules or some mental model? I'm like, Oh yeah, there's this thing that I've come across and it's just to prop the conversation back and forth. Yeah, I love that idea. Almost like a parking lot I found. So I'm guilty of midweek. I used to be guilty of midweek messaging people on the team and sort of unaware right the I don't want to say burden, but when a senior executive messages team member, even if it's just a question, in passing, you think wow, that's a priority for them. I better get on it, so I'm going to drop what I'm doing and do this other thing, when maybe it was just it was often for me, you know, and I idea in passing that I just wanted to get out of my brain and put somewhere else. But then you send people working in ten different, twenty different directions. So I've as part of the onboarding, I found it super effective to say here's a parking lot. I'm going to put, you know, my weekly brain dump in the parking lot. Let's read. I actually need three or four days to to let that sit and let's revisit it. And often you'd come back to it three or four days later and go, well, that's a bad idea, like I'm glad you didn't get running on it, because that's like it sounded like a good idea, but it's actually not a good idea. So I'm glad we didn't do anything on it over the last two days. For sure, it's the words of the CEO way eight hundred pounds and it's just like this, like I think you're right. It's this burden of like wow, I better do something with this now, because by the time, if I'm ever asked about this again, I want to be able to say like Oh, yeah, I looked into it, and it's like next you know, somebody spent an hour to maybe start at a document. Oh was that really necessary? I mean I usually want to scope out, like how big of a problem is this, because that's what really ideas are solutions to problem. So before you know, I'm careful to like actually try to articulate these as problems to be solved, as opposed to just jumping to the solution, because often it's like Oh, we're actually solving that similar problem somewhere else, and so let's try to pull these two problems to gather. Maybe there's one solution that can cover both. Yeah, that's exactly it. It's a parking lot and most recently actually have been loving and we use Gmail and they have this scheduled send feature, so I can write emails in the evening and schedule them...

...to be, you know, sent out at eight am the next morning, and same thing with the weekend. I don't want to be people are already working approximately twenty to thirty percent more hours than they were when they were going into the office because everyone's working from home and it's like, well, what else am I going to do? So there's this you know, the time when someone's not working and they're just trying to spend some time with their kids, that their family, or go another with, you know, fresh air, be it summer winter. You need some mental break time, and so to honor that, I use this scheduled send and it just sends first thing Monday morning, and everyone knows that meal I might have been thinking over the weekend or just wanted to again get something out, whether it's in the parking lot or it's the scheduled sent shows up at Monday at m is just boo. There's a big list of emails all from me. I think that's it gets. Kind of speaks to this batch processing idea again along the lines of remote. So I've been to your office in London, Beautiful Office, big office, and you, I mean invested with the intention of having sort of a home base for everybody. So the move to remote are you what are the plans? Are you going to stay primarily remote, or is the plan to get people back in the office when you can? What do you how are you thinking through this? The way we were thinking about this is what has once been a approach to work that I found maybe borderline distasteful, of like, Oh, we couldn't possibly have our remote workforce. Mostly that was because we had never done it, and you know, there is a degree of ignorance there. I we were very early, in fact, at least within the community here, to move to a mandatory work from home and that there's a couple keys that we initiated. First off, everybody we had a we had our work from home readiness assessment on the Monday where everyone met with their team determine do you even have the technology at home? Chair, OFFICE COMPUTER CAMERA FOR VIDEO CALLS? And then by the end of the week it was mandatory work from home starting the next Monday. So we were pretty quick to move and since then we've, you know, run surveys. Do People like it? DO THEY NOT? A lot of people do enjoy working from home. That said, I'm not sure everyone prefers it so to go entirely work from home and like rip up the least. I think that's again an extreme. So there's somewhere between forty to fifty hours in the office and forty to fifty hours at home. It's some mix between that, right and whether that's a day in the office and for days at home or the inverse of that, or some combination thereof. We're going to try to create a flexible work plan for people that that kind of suits their their role, that suits their their needs. But, you know, companies, I think at this point you know again, regardless of size, this is going to be a competitive advantage for those organizations that are willing to embrace a remote work option for employees. Not that it has to be everyone, because a lot of people really enjoy, trust me, really enjoy coming together. Their colleagues are actually their closest friends. Ye, so we want to obviously still facilitate that and there's times I mentioned, like big team meetings or training or quarterly kickoffs. You need to bring people together, but to expect that everyone's going to be an all the time. I think that's unlikely. And by actually opening up the idea of being able to recruit and employ talk performers from around the country, around, you know, cross North America, maybe even around the world, I think suddenly there's a new cohort of people that are graduating every year that are maybe looking for the next change in their career that we just didn't have access to before. So we're seeing this as a as an opportunity currently rethinking of how we're going to work. But I would say the theme is a flexible working environment and it's not just you get to move your wood desk you sit in. It's a what is best suitable for you, because I think that's going to go a long way to actually driving the performance and retaining employees over the long run. Yep. Last one before we wrap up. Has it has the move to remote. Change your approach to any of those three areas of feedback, so hiring of the right people, the setting them up for success in the right way and sort of the ongoing sinc process has as the remote, I want to say remote first, but the remote mentality, change any of that for you? It hasn't changed in in fact, I would say it's it's actually underscored the importance of having structure, because what you hear that is most challenging for for people who are working remote is that there can be a bit of a lack of structure. Of I don't know if I'm doing the right thing. I'm it's now even harder to get a hold of my manager and you know I've read lots of art. So I think we've gone maybe on the other side, which is being intentional about upholding the cultural norms and practices that we've always had. And in the first couple weeks, honestly, it almost felt like there was just too many meetings,...

...like everything was a video call. You probably lived through this yourself. And then now we're realizing hey, if you can why do a video call if you can send if you can do a quick audio call? Why do an audio call if you can send an email? And why send an email if you can just do a status update on a project management ticket. So we've tried to find the right balance of like what needs a meeting and what doesn't, but the the critical meetings around feedback, I mean we've hired people, you know, remotely, and we've run our first kind of round of performance reviews. We were halfway through a quarter, so we did the you know half halfway mark reminder of the quarter and revisiting the goals and we're just entering in kind of performance hourly performance review season. So these have been good practices that have actually created a sense of normalcy and predictability in an environment of uncertainty. Yeah, what what a great thing to have if you're suddenly not if you're someone who needs or crave of structure and you're suddenly not going into the office every day, having your online job description like this is the one thing that I'm responsible for and here's exactly how I'm going to be measured for it. It's like you can have you do a million things at home and not have anybody around, but it's almost like I would just tape it up on my office wall somewhere like reminder, this is this is the one thing. You know, this is the one most important thing. Think that clarity must be really helpful for people on your team. And last thing on this. One thing we actually did start up since coming, you know, kind of in the work from home situation, was we actually run more daily stand ups with the teams, where it used to be kind of once a week hour and a half long meeting. We actually felt that the repetition of meeting daily for fifteen minutes was more effective. And it's everybody on video and we actually call it our top one and so while there's the online job description, we go through around the world in fifteen minutes, everyone has basically sixty seconds to say what was my top one accomplishment from yesterday and what is the one thing I'm working on today? And that just creates intense focus for the next twenty four hour period. It's too easy to go, well, here's all the things going to do over the next month. It's like we're just trying to break things down into understanding what my goals are for the quarter. But then what am I doing today to take one more step towards that? So you can see I've you know, the the the theme and all of this of breaking feedback and kind of this sometimes seemingly like when do I do it and how do I do it, and just trying to break it into like really simple, like bitesize pieces that can be given often daily or weekly, and that is, I find, tremendously powerful and effective to actually getting the results that that you want. There's a lot of accountability that goes with it. There's a lot of comfort that goes with it, feeling of accomplishment every day talking about, yeah, yesterday I launched an email campaign or a newsletter, whatever it is, but there's a lot of a great sense of accomplishment with, you know, moving the whole company forward, playing your part and moving the company forward. Yeah, that's great. So for people that are curious, voicescom heck of a domain. So I guess they can find you a voicescom. That's the easiest way can. We're on twitter, just at at voices and on facebook there as well, or on Linkedin. So those are the kind of usual social websites you can find us on or follow a company or reach out to me. Available on all those platforms as well. And is there anything that the community can do for you? So you know good handful, couple thousand regular active listeners. Is there anything that we can be helpful to you with right now? Oh goodness, I wasn't expecting that. Well, I'm a huge fan of PODCASTS and I've always wanted to start my own, and so I actually just launched podcast called the voices experience, which is about me telling about my experience in starting the company, how I run it, the challenges. Some it relates to our industry, but mostly it's the kind of the business start up story and experience. So that's available to everyone, wherever you're listening to PODCAST, wherever you're listening now. I'm go check that at least the first couple episodes, I think are great for like an entrepreneur founder story. Cool, the voices pot the voices stories that. Yeah, the voice is experience. The voice is experience. All right, to hear a little bit more about the founding story. Well, I appreciate your time. You've been super generous. I think the topic of feedback is not one that we often cover in detail, especially for early stage founders or companies, and something that in my own entrepreneur experiences, I wish I would have had at least a simple framework to approach the right way early on. So thank you for sharing the Super Tactical bits that I think have really set voices up for success here for the next chapter. All pleasure is mine. I learned it the hard way and I'm glad to be able to pass that on to others and hopefully you find it valuable and put it to use perfect thanks, David. Appreciate it. Thanks. Guys, you've been listening to the Ivy Entrepreneur podcast. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player or visit IV dot ce, a...

...forward slash entrepreneurship. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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