Since late 2017, we’ve been helping The Receptionist hire amazing team members who want to stick around. In fact, we’ve been involved in the 12 most recent hires of the company’s 16-person team, and there is a 100% retention rate of those team members. We’re joined by Founder, President, and CEO of The Receptionist, Andy Alsop, who shares how they retain their great hires.
Focus on Values, Then Skills
The Receptionist, which offers one of the most widely used visitor management systems in the world, is driven by the core values of FABRIC (Fun, Authentic, Bold, Respectful, Innovative, and Collaborative) in all that they do as a team and with their customers. With the help of Scalability Solutions, the company’s leaders learned to really home in on those values right from the start of the hiring process. In doing so, candidates and the hiring team can learn quickly if someone will be a potential great fit or not.
The Receptionist has seen a lot of growth in its team over the last year and Andy looks forward to bringing on more great team members with the support of Scalability Solutions. We discuss how it’s critical to maintain intentionality and care as you continue to hire and scale your company. Leila and Andy share their thoughts and tips on how to hire for retention and find people who, as Andy says, want to “stay forever.”
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This Episode’s Transcription
Welcome to the Scalability Solutions Podcast, the show that explores how happy, successful teams are created and how to maintain phenomenal retention within your company. Join us for stories, insights, and client spotlights brought to you by Scalability Solutions, a team who believes you can love going to work every day.
On this episode of the Scalability Solutions Podcast, we’re joined by Andy Alsop, founder, president, and CEO of The Receptionist, a visitor management system that gives you peace of mind to know who is visiting your office, when and why. Scalability Solutions has been working with The Receptionist since late 2017, helping them bring on 12 of their 16 amazing team members. Driven by their core values and all that they do, Andy talks with us about how they’ve maintained 100% retention of their 12 most recent hires. He and Leila share their thoughts on hiring for retention, especially as a company scales, and how being focused on core values has helped them find and retain amazing team members who can provide their customers with amazing service and support. Enjoy the episode.
Well, we are so excited to be back on the podcast. Andy, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today.
Of course, I’m excited.
And Leila, welcome back to our show.
I’m excited as well. Thank you.
Okay. So today we are talking about retention. So Andy, tell us about the current retention of your team members that have been hired over the past few years since working with Scalability Solutions, and what have been some of the keys to keeping these great employees that you’ve found?
Well, let me see. So I’ve been thinking about this episode a lot because this is something that is really, really important to me. As I say on my careers page, I want every employee to enjoy the experience that they go through in the interview process, and then I want them to want to stay with a company pretty much forever. That’s a pretty tall order. Back in late 2017, we started actually working on something called traction, and I’ve talked about it a lot on our podcast over at The Receptionist or the FABRIC podcast, but basically what the traction methodology did, which is a methodology for running your company. It’s really, I think, changed ours significantly. First thing you have to do is work on what are your core values, and once you identify those core values, you have the opportunity to hire against those core values.
It was really about the same time that we begin that process when I was lucky enough to meet Leila and Scalability Solutions and what having those core values put in place meant that we were finding people who were aligned with what we wanted to be able to do. So I was able to take those core values and with Leila, and Leila really got them and understood them. Then as we began bringing in employees, there was almost a sea change from what we had previously. We, unfortunately, had made some poor hires before we hired Scalability Solutions, and I was really frustrated by that. So as a result of figuring out what our core values were and getting the right people into the company, we’re now at 16 people in the company and we have … 75% of our employees have come through the Scalability Solutions system.
Every one of those 75% are still with us and are extraordinarily happy. Not only happy but productive and are contributing, and that’s kind of extraordinary if you think about it. We’re not a huge company or anything, but you’d expect that maybe one or two out of 16 might not be full contributors. We have a full team that contributes to the company and every one of them at one point or another … not every one of them, but almost all of them have said, “This job has changed my life.” That is just something that sometimes even brings a tear to my eye because that means that they are fulfilled by what they’re doing. They enjoy being a part of the company and they’re staying. They have no reason to leave. They’ve found something that really makes them feel fulfilled while they’re do their job.
And guess what? They take incredible care of our customers. I don’t need to tell them to do that. They already do it themselves. That means that contributes to growth. So I know that was a little bit of a long answer, but that’s what the importance of retention is all about.
Yeah. I would just piggyback off that and say that the values alignment is so incredibly important, and having The Receptionist really living and breathing their values has helped us to be able to know exactly who is going to be that ideal fit longterm. It’s also, because they live and breathe their values, It’s also really easy to get the right candidates that are in alignment with those values very excited about the opportunity. So the ones that have the potential for retention, because we have such clarity and ways of communicating that, it’s easy to find those areas of alignment and attract and bring those people on.
I think I would just add one more thing to that, that it feels like, and you can correct me if I’m wrong here, Leila, but it’s a lot easier to sort of sift through the candidates because we’re very clear about our values and we’re focused on matching values, that we can just take the candidate pool and just quickly break them off into who’s actually going to be successful in the company and who isn’t.
That’s right. Yeah, we have online application questions that we ask and in every one of those answers, not just the one that is directly asking about the values, but all of those questions that we ask on the online application, we’re looking for values alignment, and it’s easy to know about the alignment before we’ve even spoken with them.
Part of what I love too about you two working together as companies is that you’re both aligned in your own values in terms of you want people to enjoy their work and you want it to be something that they get excited about and are passionate about. So I think that’s also probably why it’s a great fit that you are able to help The Receptionist hire such great employees and then really retain them. So Leila, obviously you focus on retention as part of the hiring process. How does one actually hire for retention? You’ve touched on it a little bit, but can you give us a little more detail?
Yeah, definitely. So it’s really important to go beyond the bullets in the job description. In other words, not just making sure that a candidate is a great candidate, but making sure that a candidate is a great candidate for The Receptionist, for that specific role, for their values, for their culture. That’s really important. It’s also helpful to know that the growth path that’s available aligns with the growth path that the candidate really wants and being really transparent in those conversations. The leadership matching is really important, so people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their managers. Now, fortunately every single manager at The Receptionist is pretty terrific, but still, different people have different styles. Some want proactive communication. Some only want to be notified about things if there’s an issue that absolutely couldn’t be resolved.
I’m speaking generally, not about The Receptionist, but making sure that the candidate and the hiring manager are going to be good matches for each other. Making sure that they’re set up for success in the role, meaning they have the skills and you can’t always tell just from a resume and their answers in an interview. We’ve all had experiences with people that looked great on paper and it sounded good, but then couldn’t do the job. So really vetting that out by testing their skills, and we do that with a simulation that mimics what they would experience on the job. It’s kind of a mutually beneficial vetting process where both parties, the candidate and The Receptionist, can get to know each other better in those skills.
Then last but not least, we don’t weed out people that have a history of moving from one job to another really quickly. If they have really great answers to the online application questions and it seems like there could be real alignment with values, we will absolutely still speak with them. But if they’ve got that history of moving on very quickly, we’re going to ask a lot of questions to get an understanding of why they joined and why they left those prior jobs to make sure that they wouldn’t have something similar at The Receptionist. So those are just some of the factors we think about.
I was just going to follow up with that because I think, for me, what’s maybe really made things clear for me is sort of the before and after. Before, when I was doing the hiring, I would have to sort through resumes and I could not for the life of me figure out, well, what’s the key element I should be looking for. So I would look at it and say, “Okay, well, this person has really good experience,” or, “This person has really good education or their skills seem to be really good,” and then I might fall in love with them. Then I bring them in for an interview. Then I would say, “Okay, I think they’re pretty good,” and I would also have a lot of fatigue having to go through all of those resumes. So I would say, “Okay, this one’s good. Let’s just hire this person.” Inevitably, what would end up happening is we would end up having to exit that person six, 12 months down the road.
I knew how expensive that was to us, for us go through the hiring process, train that person and then let them go. So now I think that the after when we’re hiring for retention is … and this wouldn’t probably be the same for all of our Scalability Solutions clients, but for us, we’re laser focused on that one piece about core value. Then we start to look at the skills and then we start looking at the other things, and then they’re doing all the screening for us, which means I don’t have to worry about the resume fatigue. I’m actually just being presented with candidates that makes sense. I have to credit our director of engineering and one of my co-founders too, Len Barry, because a while ago he said, “We really need to think about hiring sharp shooters,” and sharp shooters are people who are experts in what they do, and they can bring that expertise to us, and that’s what Scalability has been able to do and some other contractors as well who have really brought that as well.
And really allowed us to up our game as a company, because it means that we’re actually doing the things the right way, and we’re not doing the things we’re not really good at. So all of that goes back to the retention question again, because now we’re retaining people. In our hiring, every one of my directors who had to do all their hiring in the past, I would say, “No, no, no. We work with Scalability Solutions,” and there’s almost this air that they just let go and breathe and say, “You’re kidding me. I don’t have to look through 500 resumes myself? I don’t have to figure this all out.” They’re like, “We actually have this process.” That means they can go back to doing what they’re doing. So just kind of some more emphasis on how this is really changed us as a company or changed the way we are with a company. It’s remarkable how quickly we’re growing, but with people who are aligned.
Then just one last thing is a lot of times we would get a candidate who wants to be part of a big venture backed unicorn company. Well, we’re not that. We are a bootstrap company. Scalability Solution gets that. So we’re hiring to that, and if we find out that a candidate is saying, “I want to see us bringing in $300 million of venture capital, and I want to work a hundred hours a week and I want to do that,” that’s not who we are. So we weed those people out. Whereas before we were hiring people because we weren’t clear about it all, we’re like, “What’s going on? Why aren’t we 200 people? We were 20 people last week.” So I think all of that clarity has really helped and the results show it.
Yeah. Andy, you mentioned that you’re growing, which is fantastic, and you’re really working to scale the company. So Leila, when a company is scaling, what do they need to keep in mind as they hire their employees so that they all continue to be these amazing longterm fits and you don’t get into this panic of, “I just need to get someone in the position.” What do people need to keep in mind?
Yeah. Well, I would say for sure don’t lose the intentionality and care. A big reason that you’re having that growth is because you, The Receptionist, have not lost that intentionality and care. In hiring, you get that every interaction is a representation of the brand so every interaction that any team member has with a customer or a lead or whomever is going to represent The Receptionist. Because we’ve brought on people that align with your values of authenticity and respectfulness and collaboration and innovation and fun and boldness, they have given the customers and the leads such a great experience that that’s led to that really, really strong growth. So the first is continue to really have that intentionality and care like The Receptionist has, knowing that that’s taking that extra time in the higher is what’s actually going to lead to the most growth.
Then the other thing to keep in mind is the first few people that you hire are going to represent the culture that the company has when it scales. That is going to really play a lot into retention. So for example, a lot of companies will have their values on paper, but not live and breathe them like The Receptionist does. If The Receptionist was hiring people, if the first few hires were not fun and were not authentic, then the people that those hiring managers ended up bringing in wouldn’t be either, despite all of the emphasis on the website and podcasts and all of that, that they have. So making sure that every hire, specially those first few ones who are going to be making their own hires later on, really align with the values and the culture that you’re building is super important.
Yeah, and we’re obviously talking a lot about the people that we hire, but Andy, The Receptionist is so focused on radical support and amazing customer service. So how has your team member retention impacted your customer and prospect experiences?
I think that because of the … I always go back to … I have to just tell a little quick story because I’ve been an entrepreneur for 25 years or something like that. It’s been awhile. I heard people talking about values and all this other stuff, and it wasn’t actually, until I read this book Traction, that it talks about values and how the impact is on the rest of the company, and all of a sudden it switched for me. So I know that I’ll be talking a lot about values, but now we’re at the point we even have a podcast called FABRIC, which are our core values, representative of our core values. We are really focused on our values. So I’ve kind of done a 360 change to that, so that as we bring in new people, just like Leila’s talking about …
It took us a long time to find, for instance, our director of sales, Tom Foster. It was that intentionality that Leila was talking about that it is we weren’t ready to just make a hire for director of sales. Even though it was painful for the company, and I was running sales and not doing a great job at it, but being able to find somebody who could come in and then represent our values and then to have him bringing in his team, he’s now got the largest team in the company, almost half the company. Well, no, it’s about a third of the company, is he and his team. You wouldn’t believe the number of customers who send in comments and say, “I loved working with Kailey.” “Corey answered all of my questions.” “Andy,” we have another Andy, “Andy was so helpful to me,” or, “Quinn was just incredible.” I mean, all of it across the board, the customers are talking about the positive experience they have.
It’s hard sometimes for, I think, leaders to remember that people buy from people regardless, even when we’re talking about a $49 piece of software. If they come in for a chat or something else and they get their question answered, they get it authentically answered and they’re happy with it, they are going to be a higher potential buyer for us, as opposed to somebody else who gives an inauthentic answer and lies to them about what maybe the capabilities of the software are. It’s really hard for a really hard charging director of sales not to want to tell people, “Tell them whatever they need to say, just so we can make the sale. I’m under pressure to make quota.” Well, that’s not the way we operate. So if you bring people in, we actually encourage our salespeople as a result of all of this to say, “If we’re not a good fit, tell the customer we’re not a good fit.”
The surprising thing is either the customer says, “Well, hold on. I think we’re a fit because I love it working with you so much,” or, “I appreciate what you actually told me, that you told me it was maybe not the right fit for me. That that makes me feel good about your company.” So anyhow, I think the positive … and that goes across to our customer experience team the same way. So it has a huge impact. These are the people who are working with your customers. The director of sales, yeah, working with customers. Director of customer experience, CEO, occasionally working with the customer. But a lot of cases, they’re doing the managing. It’s the people on the front line who are actually working with your customers, they’re aligned with your core values and they feel strongly about the company, and they enjoy being with the company. They’re going to give the customer a great experience.
That’s right, and they wouldn’t stick around if Tom and Jessica and all the other managers weren’t living and breathing what they bought into. When they went through the hiring process, they were told, “Hey, we are really authentic and we’re really fun,” and because you’ve got such leaders that are giving them what they were sold, they stick around and then they become more invested. When customers are talking to them because they’ve been around, they get the product so deeply and they really, really care about it, and they really, really care about the customer that they’re talking to. That just comes through. You can just see that in your online reviews.
I mean, I just want to follow up to that as well. There are in the interview process, I don’t know how many people have said, “I don’t know if I believe that this is actually real.” Right? They hear the podcast, they read things online and then they say, “I’m not sure that this is real. I don’t know if I believe you.” When I’m not in the room, because they don’t want to hear from the CEO saying how great a company we are because I have a desire to tell people that. So they wait until we’re out of the room and they talk to the other employees, like, “Is this real? Is this actually the way it is?”
Then within a couple of weeks of being in the company, they say, “I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so part of the team so quickly.” I think all of it goes back to that intentionality and what we work so hard to create.
Yeah. The two of you have definitely worked together with your companies to find amazing people who are not just good on paper, but good in action, who worked together within the team at The Receptionist and they’re sticking around, which is amazing. Leila, any final thoughts from you about retention of team members, and then Andy, we’ll get your final thoughts.
Just like we said, just to recap, don’t lose that intentionality. The leadership being really caring. I just wanted to real quick give an example. When the coronavirus hit, The Receptionist said, “Hey, anybody that wants to drive home to shelter in place with families in other states, we’re going to cover the costs of your car and meals and hotels.” That kind of thing really makes a big difference. They’ve got incredible benefits. All of those things show that they’re as invested in the team as they’d like the team to be invested in them. There’s a growth path. We’ve seen several promotions happen and then that values alignment.
Thanks. Andy, any final thoughts from you about retention of team members that our listeners might find helpful?
Well, I think this is an interesting one because when I first started working with Leila, she said, “We’re going to do this thing called a simulation.” I was like, “A simulation? What are you talking about?” Honestly, when I first heard it maybe back on the day when I heard about core values, I was like, “Simulation? Is this really going to be that important?” I have to say I’m a convert on this one because what happened was I didn’t realize … Well, actually, if I look back, a lot of the hires that I had made that didn’t work out on paper and during the interview would tell me about the skills they have. Then I basically trusted what they said.
Then when we got to the first day of work, let’s say, it’s, “I just want to make sure, can you put together the spreadsheet for me because I really need to get …” Maybe it’s somebody who works in our finance team or whatever. Then they send me a spreadsheet back. They don’t know how to do formulas. Everything’s been plugged in and they’ve hand typed it in, and all of a sudden I realize, “Oh, this person doesn’t have the skills that I thought they had and they said they had.”
The simulation actually does that because we figure out what are the key characteristics and skills they need to have, then we actually test them on them in the simulation. There are people who bombed the simulation and thankfully probably for them and for us, we don’t bring them in and they would probably be a better fit in a different position or whatever else it might be. But it meant we didn’t take that extremely expensive step to bring somebody in who wasn’t going to be able to fulfill the job. I have to say that everybody who is on the team now that’s come through Scalability Solutions basically passed the simulation phase with flying colors and bam, they hit the ground running. We were never like, “Whoa man, wow. We thought this person could do this.” That’s really huge to retention because we’re not focusing on firing and replacing. We’re focusing on making that person better and then continuing to grow that person into their position, which is where you want your time and your money and your energy to go.
That’s right, and that’s just so much fun. It’s been pretty amazing to see. I’ve been doing simulations with my own hires, and then in the context of this business with my clients hires for, I don’t know, 15, 20 years, something like that. I’ve never had a case where there was misalignment between what you see in a simulation and what you see on the job.
Well, we definitely love the power of the simulation and that it has helped The Receptionist find and maintain these fantastic hires. Andy, thank you so much for coming on today and sharing more about your team and how Scalability Solutions has helped you retain these fantastic team members.
You’re welcome. I’m always happy to talk about this. As you can tell, I’m kind of passionate about this, so it’s great.
Leila, as always, thank you.
Thank you. This was so much fun.
We’re so glad that Andy Alsop from The Receptionist could join us today to share all about his amazing retention rate and how he’s going about doing that along with the help of Scalability Solutions. If you’d like to learn more about how you can hire and retain amazing team members as well, visit us at scalability-solutions.com and don’t forget to sign up for a free consultation.