Season 3, Episode 8: Transcript
Veanne Smith: Hello and welcome to Atlanta business Impact Radio. We’re your host Veanne Smith and Sarah Lodato. We’re so excited to have our listeners join us for another episode of season 3 where our theme is focusing on innovation. Today we’re talking with Tim Visconti about the innovative ways companies can keep our much needed talent here in Atlanta. We’ll also get into some cutting-edge ideas and products that are expected to change the real estate business for good. Tim may not have been born in Atlanta he hails from Los Angeles but he knows his way around the Atlanta business world like a true local. Tim’s current role is senior manager of Global Talent Operations for alter source, has been building a cohesive team for three rapidly growing startups all while driving global talent acquisition into a measurable and pleasant experience.
Sarah Lodato: Tim has a passion for learning connecting the dots between talent and a career track and helping people find their confidence to change the world in a positive way. When he can’t be found trying out the newest local restaurant or playing his guitar you might find him volunteering his time and expertise to organizations such as Europe or the Millennial Advisory Board.
Veanne: Hey Tim it’s so great to have you here in the studio back in the office where you used to work upstairs from us at Rentpath we’ve missed you around here. So thanks for coming back and sitting with us today.
Tim Visconti: I appreciate it and that, missed you all too. Going from the views that you have around here comparatively to the new office space it’s always… It’s a nice start and thank you very much for having me.
Veanne: No it’s great you’ve got not too bad of a view in your new place. I’ve been up there and got lots of glass and visitors there too so but nothing like Buckhead I know.
Tim: Nothing like it.
Veanne: So we will jump in you and I haven’t had a chance to catch up really since you’ve been in your new role. So just to kind of get us started maybe you can tell us about what you’re doing now at Altisource.
Tim: Sure thing so Altisource is a vertically integrated real estate solutions organization. So everything from loan origination to refile, property management, rental and what we’re focusing on here recently which is going to be the major initiative for the next 24 to 36 months is building this uber-like platform with the owner’s dot.com technology set. What that really is in a nutshell is a way for you to buy, sell and transact your entire real estate experience all through your phone. It’s up and live we’ve got customers and roughly over 400 agents out in the field that are out there closing deals at this point and the idea is we’re looking to hire roughly 10,000 folks in the real estate space over the next three years. So we’ll be very…
Veanne: No wonder you’re there, 10,000?
Tim: Yeah and then the gray hair and their lines in the forehead will be following soon I promise you that. But now it’s very exciting and each kind of product iteration goes through our roadmap we have found that consumers are really looking for that all-in-one experience and it’s interesting and ironic at the same time that we started this as a purely way for consumers to save value. There’s a front-end value for them for leveraging our service but now that the more that they leverage the platform they want to start buying and doing their original loans or actually going through the negotiation process. So we’re starting to see that folks are much more trusting in an app or quarter-million, half-million dollar purchase than we ever anticipated. So the future is looking very bright for us.
Veanne: So it’s really disruptive then, so this app is really disrupting the space. Can you talk to what in your opinion the disruption is going to be or can we get to that?
Tim: Yes, a sure thing. So I mean we have our competitors out there that will go from providing leads to agents or they’ll provide a platform for that interactive kind of service, but what’s unique about Altisource is that they built a real estate company prior to investing in the consumer service. So owner’s big value prop is that if you become a consumer on the front end you’re going to have an option to take your entire real estate life cycle through this same company while providing discounts throughout the way. So if you decide to flip it into an investment property or you want to go full flip mode or hey you want to turn it into a short-term rental property, you don’t have to go through the mechanisms of negotiating through various organizations, you have it all right there for you.
And you have a billion dollar company backing at that’s… You’ve got plenty of investment opportunities for additional widgets and add-ons and for us really it’s almost like why would you not use the Altisource platform at this point. Now is it perfect? No, that’s the beauty part of innovation is that we’re learning more and more as we go through this process that now consumers want that unique experience, that seamless experience. And I got reference to Uber over and over and over again because that’s what we’re doing. We’re building a playbook to go into the 52 markets way that we’ve identified here the United States is being hot. We’re only an 8 right now, and over the next 12 to 18 months going back to the gray hair and the lines analogy and that’s what we’re here to do. And it’s a very exciting time for us here at Altisource and the owners group.
Veanne: Yeah very nice. Well congratulations on that and you’re the person to have so much activity I know you’ve done feats like that in the past. So very nice, good luck with all that.
Tim: I appreciate it. This is the biggest undertaking that we’ve gone through. And we’re all under the same assumption that it’s definitely a work, work type of life at this point but the beauty…
Veanne: [laughs] Work hard, work hard. [laughs]
Tim: Work hard, work hard. And we have an exceptional standard here, we hire to that standard but we found that if you provide folks with the right kind of organizational structures. The right incentives throughout the process and then you give them that big carrot of, “Hey there’s a multi-billion dollar opportunity under this already billion dollar wing,” it’s a very compelling offer to the marketplace.
Veanne: Yeah so…
Sarah: So who are these 10,000 people are you hiring within markets? Is this for the product itself?
Sarah: Hope you don’t mind sharing that.
Tim: So 10,000 that’s just real estate agents in general. I mean that is not including the 1500 hires we’re going to do a year-over-year based off of our standard metrics and does not include any future M&A or any opportunities for us to really expand in the marketplaces. We don’t run… Sincerely have a B2B offering at this point which we’re looking to drop in within the next six months. So if you add that scale on top of it you’re looking at being able to communicate from a bank to a consumer to a real estate agent all in one. And we have really no idea how to even measure market cap, because it’s… If you look at a top-line it’s 100 billion dollar marketplace. I… We will take 1%, we’ll run with it but no company really wants that 1%. We are going for the best.
Tim: But I mean there’s product, folks there is engineering. I mean there is standard operations management. We’ve grown by about 25 percent the local office here in Atlanta just this year. We’re in that beautiful space of hiring too fast, where we don’t have enough desks. I actually just gave up my desk this morning for a new hire I think I’ve had 7 desks in the past 6 months.
Sarah: That’s amazing. [laughs]
Tim: That’s part of it, I mean…
Sarah: That’s the fun of it.
Tim: But I don’t… We’ll worry about your output, we just got to get you a seat.
Tim: And for us it’s very exciting for us as we continue to move forward.
Sarah: That’s awesome. So let’s pull it back to how you’re going to pull this off. I’d love to hear how you got into talent acquisition, I’ve heard from Veanne that it’s a bit of an interesting one. So can you tell us kind of what the path was to…? From wherever, from LA to Altisource? [laughs]
Tim: Sure. Going in college much like most folks I had no idea what a recruiter was. To be honest with you as part of a career services division that I never went to until my senior year about 6 weeks before I was supposed to graduate, because I…
Veanne: If you are college student don’t take [crosstalk] [07:59] that advice, yeah.
Tim: Don’t listen to that, no. This is more of the plan of what not to do but as you move forward in that story, I was actually prepped to go to law school. I was a double major English and political science, I grew up on Perry Mason and Matlock and I just felt I was going to be a criminal defense attorney and I was going to save the world. I started working a restaurant and college during your 40-50 hour weeks and I got fortunate enough to actually start meeting a bunch of attorneys [inaudible] [08:06] and having that opportunity to have conversations with them. All while making pretty good money which was really exciting for us, like for a eighteen year old now. And what not to do invest your money kids.
Tim: Because even if you make it in tips monies they can’t really help your 401 K later. But as we were coming up on graduation there was an opportunity for me to buy into the restaurant. We were looking to build up a sister restaurant and we were making more money than we knew what to do with and at that point I was 21 I had already had all the degrees already been accepted to every law and is here we go, like here’s an opportunity for me to take a two-year risk and let’s see what actually happens. Now in retrospect 2007-2008 was probably not the best time to taking that risk especially when you go and do the high-end consumer goods and the high F&B business that we’re in. So went from 500/600 customers a month to 50 of them, almost in about an 18 month period, so…
Sarah: We all love that year 2008 didn’t we?
Tim: We did, we did.
Veanne: We are survivors we got through this.
Tim: Exactly, I got the battle scars too hold it, but the beauty of that is that I learned the probably the two most important lessons to my life. One you can love something passionately and work really hard for it and really isn’t work as long as you’re really putting yourself into it. The second bit is it really hurts to turn off a business that you wanted to be successful but it just doesn’t make any sense. So December 2009 I had to close the restaurant so we ran into it for the full two years and I actually got a call from a recruiter who was trying to hit their metrics that day. This was like an end of day call and they were really just trying to get a call and at that point I was like I don’t care what I’m doing I need to get a job because I’m a couple years out. And it was Randstad and jump in three hours into my first day and I’m making cold calls for Sequel Engineers had no idea what I was saying, my palms were sweating and I was having anxiety attacks.
Sarah: So they recruited you to be recruiter?
Tim: They recruited me to be a recruiter.
Tim: And then it just so happened that I found that beautiful intersection of helping people just like I was doing when I was in the restaurant business, but on the second fit is that I actually had a good amount of fun with it. Because there’s that psychology element where you’re building your networks and it’s something I had naturally kind of grown into. And lo and behold a couple years later I was running a team of 50 and off into my startup world. So sure we’ll get to those a little bit later but always had a penchant for trying to do something unique and something impactful and I got that opportunity with Randstad. So cheers to that great recruiter, his name was Mark I don’t think he’s still with Randstad but he got me on the right career path.
Sarah: You still got close to Emory, to Emory Law School, right? [laughs]
Tim: Yeah well, yeah they were really sending me back is like, “Are you sure you’re like three weeks from being a 1 hour, you really want to take this away,” but now at that point and even still my attorney friends that I have fun with and we go out and talk with every day I’m helping people. And theirs is much more scattered there’s a kind of back and forth so in the end all I think it ended up being the painfully wrong decision for a few two… Few years but that end up being the absolute right career path for me.
Sarah: Yeah that’s awesome.
Veanne: Well I’ve always felt like you and I were kindred spirits of sorts I didn’t never think I was going to be a recruiter either had no idea but landed in it and certainly loved it. But I think it boils down to I think you and I are both connectors. So I always tell people if I were to give myself a title I would be connector or master connector. I love doing that putting people together for the benefit of their lives and quality of life and that sort of thing. So anyway, so you and I are kind of from the same cloth, so to speak. So I’d love to hear your perspective on how you’ve invested in the network. How does taking time to get to know people really at a human level help you in building your network, what advice would you have for people? Because I think there is maybe it’s a passion, art maybe an interest but what’s your thoughts on that? Because I think a lot of people it doesn’t come naturally for.
Tim: It was completely unnatural for me even with all the experience and the restaurant business. Walking up to a stranger in the room full of strangers to strike up a conversation you know if it’s going to be valid or not, could be terrifying for many folks. I thankfully had a couple of mentors identified early, if there’s one kickoff advice it is people genuinely want to help you if you express interest in learning and growing and going underneath their way.
So finding some key folks that have been successful in your space and just having the humility to say, “Would you be my mentor. At least would you provide a couple hours maybe a year where we can just bounce ideas or have conversations.” That was something I kind of brought into the business but what really kind of set that apart was when you go to these events it is really about not trying to get to meet as many people as humanly possible but actually genuinely establishing a connection with those that you’re with. Because if you’re going around window shopping people figure that out pretty quickly like, “There’s no value for me here so I’m going to move on to my next hand shake.”
Veanne: You can always tell the window shoppers too when you’re there, they are easy to spot.
Tim: Yeah and if you’d actually if you take that time and you’re consistent about what your messaging is and say, “I’m here to learn, I’m here to grow and clearly you have something I can learn and grow with.” that is something that most people will resonate with. No you know it’s not going to always 100% there is going to be the events that are duds, but I was fortunate and able to build enough of a network that even when I hit difficult times whether it was employment transition or difficult situations is that I had folks from various walks of life I could reach out to that we’re excited to have a conversation with me. And then it goes back and kind of the next stage in your careers you have to be able to you know set the elevator back down. I mean that’s really what it comes down to, that it’s not just all take you have to be able to give back. And it’s amazing I don’t know when the light switch happened when I went from someone asking for advice to people asking me for advice but they’ll take the words from my first mentor. Its network or no work, if you don’t know enough people in this industry…
Sarah: I like that.
Tim: Or enough… You’re not going to be able to move and you’re least as quickly as you want to. I know everyone’s focused these days is your career pathing, how can I get to that next level. You get to that next level when people recognize the value you bring and your expertise in your job and the more people that know that the more opportunities will come your way.
Sarah: I love that. I resonate that with that so well because I did not come from a tech background and so being the person in the room that like legitimately truly just had to learn everything, it puts you in a very vulnerable spot. And I think like growing up you always hear like your best opportunities for getting a job are your network, you have to network. And I think that a lot of people go into that thinking slamming their resumes, pushing out, you’re selling yourself versus like you said making those genuine connections that’s going to give you something for someone to actually stick to, right? I have a story I have a reason to connect with you again or that I just sort of appreciating those organic relationships. I think have always been the most valuable I guess when you come back.
Tim: Could not agree more, and there is something a lot of folks that they don’t do which is the necessary follow-up. I mean it doesn’t have to be a month-over-month thing I… And it sounds goofy I live and live and die by my Gmail calendar, but every month I’ve kind of pre-designated two to three folks that I have not connected with in a while to just reach out and shoot a text message, shoot an email to say, “Hey I’m thinking about you.”
LinkedIn is a tremendous Avenue for that but if you consistently follow up and show that interest you’re going to set yourself apart compared to most people in this industry going back to that window shopper mentality. But when you’re really trying to learn something like you… I jumped into technical recruiting without even having basic understanding of how to work my computer.
Tim: It was all going to be research and it was argument based. And now several years later I can help stand up apps and do different various levels of project management within that space but that wasn’t all me learning that was me listening to folks that have gone through these problems and at least being humble enough to say, “I’m not an expert on everything can you please help.”
Sarah: Right, yeah.
Veanne: Well, it’s interesting I’ve been thinking about humility as you’ve been talking and talking about being at events and working your network and sometimes I’ve found that you have to have some humility in your approach to this and also just looking around the room sometimes I really… Sometimes specifically target to get to know someone that puts me out of my comfort zone and maybe the person that’s not the one that you think you should be getting in your network but many times that’s the surprising… Most surprising ones. And if you take it with a genuine interest it’s amazing, the friendship that you might form. Many times again, just with the person that you wouldn’t even think that you would… So I kind of make it a game sometimes. It’s like, “Who’s is probably the most unlikely person that I want to meet today,” and I’ll go meet that person. And it takes some humility.
Sarah: And bravery.
Tim: And bravery, I wanted say it. It’s like that’s…
Veanne: Yeah maybe the person maybe the person you think, “They’re never going to want to talk to a little old me.”
Veanne: But if you’re genuine everybody wants to connect, we all want to connect at a human level, yeah.
Tim: And the fact is that most folks in that situation are just as nervous as you are. Like that’s the thing that was hardest for me to understand is that even when you’re being approached. I mean unless you’re just seasoned at this and it just doesn’t faze you, we’re all kind of on that same boat .But going back to the edge of your comfort zone, don’t remember exactly what you said, but on the edge of your comfort zone is where you actually find the opportunity to change. If you stick in your box the entire time, you know what’s going to happen, you know the result and you can go back home and flip on Netflix and nothing in your life has actually changed.
And this comes from someone who was naturally apprehensive in that situation and now I almost embraced like my younger brothers mentality. No I’m not the one jumping out of planes and doing all sorts of adrenaline things like he can do, but he really took that early on and you just really don’t know if you like something until you actually tried it. And I never thought I would be doing podcasts and speaking at events and doing panels it was something that was just so removed for me and then now it’s something I genuinely enjoy, so…
Sarah: So I’ve got a bit of a two-part question. It seems like Atlanta’s job market is really highly competitive right now especially with the tech industry booming here. I’d like to know from your perspective especially because you’ve been in a lot of different types of environments in the talent space, do you think the number of job openings are exceeding our talent pool? And then to piggyback off of that, do you have any career advice for folks who are in the job market and maybe are having a difficult time gaining traction? I’d love to hear some insider knowledge.
Tim: Sure so especially within IT, I mean you’re in the point percentile and unemployed I’m pretty sure that’s by choice. I mean at this point if you’ve got basic competencies and skill sets you can really do some… You can do some damage. And the way that salary is starting to mock that trend you’re starting to see that supply demand actually have an upward pressure on compensation which is a nice thing not for most people out there. [crosstalk] [19:36] Business owners could be a challenge.
Veanne: Unless you are a small business owner.
Tim: Yea the SMBs are going to get hurt as these things are moving forward but you’re looking at a situation where five to six on average job openings for a software engineer opened up on a day to day basis if you roll that over a year it gets pretty intense. And you’re not finding that level of talent so from my staffing and recruiting perspective how you go about trying to differentiate yourself it really comes down to the brand. And it comes down to your message and it comes down to the integrity of the group that you have out there on the phone trying to build those networks and connections because everyone has a bad Tuesday. If they LinkedIn will say 73 of all candidates our passive I believe it is a hundred percent of all candidates are all passive because we’re all looking for that next great opportunity.
But the interesting thing is that recruiters are starting to get drowned out because we’re one of a thousand one of 10,000 that have reached out to them. So in order to really kind of be that thought and the people leader and be able to move folks towards your site, whether that is through integrated social campaigns or paid marketing or just pure you know boots on the ground networking, it’s a very difficult space to be in. And so from advice standpoint it starts with two things goes back to brand, but then the second bit is that you have to make sure that the candidate experience is designed to keep them engaged throughout the process. The number one complaint on recruiters is I never hear feedback if you can just establish a feedback mechanism for an organization you have already been… You’re better than most. There are certain ways through drip campaigns, we can get on with the email marketing stuff here later.
But if you can focus on making sure your brand is well known positively respected out there then the second bit on the other communication style you’d be great. But go back to your second part of your question especially with the candidates that are struggling the biggest thing is tenacity. I saw a wonderful post of someone who had just recently graduated and expressed her frustration about not being able to get a job offer because you went on six interviews. She had an MBA in HR she was trying to get an entry-level HR generalist role. And the next 30 to 40 comments or so we’re all from TA leaders talking about how she had focused on the positions that she knew within her network but never actually went out and met new people, never actually expanded. So they gave her a couple of different avenues. It was 72 hours later she commented on her own that she had four additional interviews and a week later she had a job offer.
Tim: So for those who were really trying to just go back to this box thing, you’re really going to have to step out of it and say there’s enough local meet ups there’s enough blogs, there’s enough ways of getting your name out there to the marketplace. But then going back to the recruiter relationship is that there are a lot of pretty good staffing firms here, there’s some really excellent ones as well. Build your network within them, even if they don’t have a position for you now just being part of the database and consistently following up and being active is a great way of getting ahead because most recruiters are drowned in emails day in day out.
They have a tough time being able to get through to everyone that they want to. So if you remain top of line and build your own personal network with those that should help. The last little bit, I’m going back to that tenacity is going to kind of get into this the same word. The moment you start getting frustrated take a step back, take a breather in and ask somebody what they would do. Ask a professional how they would do this. Have them look over your resume take it an outside opinion show that humility because in the end all most people want you to get the job, they really do. Whether there’s a commission on it or not. So just leveraging your network and the people around you to be able to get as much quality information out there as humanly possible. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile though, can’t help you because… Day one.
Tim: Get on there and even though if you don’t have enough quote and quote, experience, just make yourself digitally visible.
Sarah: I love the idea of making instead of sort of shying away from this pool of recruiters it’s like find the one that actually works really well for you because those firms and those organizations are truly building meaningful relationships with those employers in many instant, right. When we’re talking about really stand-up places that they could kind of be like your career coach, right. And even if we get the job here, right, and then five years later you need something else or whatever it might be like that’s sort of like… That could be just sort of your professional guide.
Which I think is different from a mentor relationship but equally I think is valuable probably as all of us shift spots in our careers and kind of look at things differently. I want to get back to the tech industry in Atlanta, right. Do we have…? Do you feel that we have enough education in Atlanta? Are we grooming our own talent enough here, I guess? Are they having to pull from outside and kind of get back to that? The first part of that question of do we have enough people here essentially for the demands of our tech industry?
Tim: I may take a little bit of a counterpoint on this. I believe we do, I believe there’s enough compelling reasons for the qualified folks to leave Atlanta right now. To hop into Silicon Valley one which is obviously and the Bay Area Silicon Valley two which is starting up in the LA the San Diego scene. There are so many compelling opportunities to actually get out of the state, but the interesting thing is that with the advent of ATV iron yard General Assembly you’re starting to see a second wave. And you look at that from just a population perspective but look at what Atlanta has done to be able to retain folks here. And that started with the movie industry and really kind of injecting a ton of capital through that and bringing in creative arts.
So you look at the BeltLine, you look at Old Fourth Ward, you look at all of these different areas that have now started to provide a very rustic and a very City like experience but at a third of the rent cost. So that is an incredible value for many students and I’ll give an example, no names here sorry I don’t want to ruin the salary for this gentleman but he was going out to San Francisco, I heard him directly out for when I was working at Randstad to go to SF. And his compensation was little over six figures he had never had a job before in his life, but when you take that out there and you scale that in San Francisco it would have been about ten grand less and he would have made with a sixty five seventy thousand dollar salary here in the Atlantic area. So the appeal is starting to wear off, now can…
Sarah: The appeal of leaving.
Tim: The appeal of leaving because you have all of these things that are within a year you know six hours from the beach or 45 minutes from an international airport. You’ve got a tremendous growing city like when I was coming back into town today I counted 11 high-rises that we’re getting built up just in Midtown that does not include Buckhead with the surroundings.
Veanne: Have you been the Buckhead lately?
Tim: Exactly I mean coming back here there’s a lot of things that I haven’t seen before and it’s only been a few months. So if you look at that from a growth…
Veanne: The landscape just north of us is totally different than when you were here.
Tim: I didn’t… I know I would lost to be honest with you for a second. So there’s enough value reasons here but the part is that companies are starting to recognize that you have to provide almost west coast value here to stay in Atlanta. Whether it’s a flexible work hours, the fruits on demand, you have a great little selection when you come in here as well. Like that’s very forward-thinking to what folks are actually looking for.
Sarah: Thanks for noticing.
Veanne: Thanks for noticing the fruit in our new wellness program.
Tim: Well there you go. I guess I’m paying compliments without even realizing.
Tim: But there’s enough here to keep it going. And if you look at the fact that Atlanta was recently named in the top ten growing cities for technology. I mean that is huge, I have not seen us anywhere near the top 20 we’ve been 23, 25, 28 for the better part of my career. Then all of a sudden with this investment that’s here you’re looking about a quarter million dollars a day right now just in VC money that’s going out in Atlanta. I mean that’s a fifth of what’s going out in San Francisco but it’s a start. And as long as you can capitalize that and keep the right folks here you’re going to start to see this calendly you a lot of these little local groups right there in Atlanta tech village. I leverage our technology every day and it’s awesome that I can ten miles from them, so…
Sarah: Yeah we use that… Some of our teams are using calendly as well that’s cool that we get to support our own you know…
Tim: And then all the other little good stuff comes in when tech is here, then good restaurants are here and then there’s you know good selections of different things to do and it just becomes this perpetuating cycle, so.
Veanne: I love to hear an optimistic view of the brain drain that we all feel like we’re experiencing here because we are seeing it, right? I mean what do you see some of those companies that they’ve got that brand that it’s hard to compete against and they get on the phone and they say like hey I’m picking you out because we need you out here. And then they throw so many wonderful things out in front so it’s good to hear somebody’s got an optimistic view that we have some great things going on here in Atlanta. And companies are doing some creative things to really stand out even if they don’t have maybe the names of some of those companies out on the west coast, right? But there’s a lot I think that we are doing here so it’s great to really take that optimistic view of that and not feel like we’re at a bad situation here because I think we’re doing great things in Atlanta.
Tim: It’s just tremendous and if you look at it there’s one thing that I want to ever talk with someone who’s getting ready to move out there. Because I spend 24 months in San Francisco…
Veanne: Yeah you did a lot of recruiting for out there.
Tim: And build startups. Like it’s just a different part of the world, it doesn’t even seem like it’s probably United States in a lot of ways. But when you’re stacking for software engineers making over two hundred a piece and one apartment just because they’re paying 70% on top of… You have government taxes and state local taxes and food, if there’s a value [inaudible] [29:24] economic. But then there’s also the very simple thing is that… I give this metaphor all the time with Amazon, there are seven hundred recruiters in Amazon alone. So when you look at that, that is a mammoth talk about brick in the wall like your value is you’re a person even though they have that tremendous bandwidth. They’ll give you a great compensation package so it gets you out to Seattle. You… If you get hit by a bus on the way to your first day at work they will keep going because they’re always going to be there. But you have the local groups here that you could be a part of a ten to fifteen, twenty, fifty person organization where you can see your value every day.
Veanne: Really be somebody.
Tim: Exactly. And Google it’s a million applications per role, is it really that great of a place? We don’t know. I mean there’s a lot of things that can show yea the got hover boards like all these fun things although you can do, but I’ve interviewed just as many Google people that will be coming out and telling me it wasn’t exactly what it was cranked up to be and they were looking to have that impact. So you have to value it, is it economic? Is it impact or are you really just trying to get out with a brand name? Just however you want to look at it but Atlanta has definitely stepped its game up in the past few years.
Veanne: Yea I think Sarah we talked about what is it about the millennial generation, do you want to talk about that a little bit, you know, kind of take of the angle of what millennial’s are looking for days?
Sarah: Sure, as a token millennial for those that you don’t know me.
Tim: I consider myself a graybeard Millennial, so I’m getting in there, and that micro generation that’s brought up, I don’t… I’m really to disagree if we’re breaking generations down into like three and a half year gaps, five year gaps or whatever.
Sarah: I’ve decided I’m just going to embrace the millennial piece. I’m perhaps on the older edge of some of them but I’m a parent of a millennial so does that count? I’m trying to act like a millennial.
Tim: She’s a Millennial at heart. She totally fits.
Sarah: You know, it’s funny because growing up and perhaps that’s because I’m coming from a family that you know my parents were not… my mum was not born here and you know my family, it’s a big immigrant family, I suppose. We always learned that like you have to fight, you know, you have to fight for jobs, right. Like, this is like it’s something you take really seriously and you respect it and it’s sort of this American Dream thing.
As I’m growing up, you know, what is it about the Millennial and now we’re so averse to the traditional nine-to-five. We do, we need the free food and the video games and the flex hours, “Hey, are you seeing Dewey, right?” Dewey, whoever else is encompassed in our generation. What do you think it is about that that’s kind of changing the landscape of what folks expect from an employer?
Tim: I think that it starts off really with the advent of technology in your palm and the instant gratification that you get from a day in and day out transaction. I mean, 11 years ago an iPhone didn’t exist. So if you look at it in terms of scale, that, that one experience shaped everything. I remember my Nokia and I could throw the thing up against a brick wall and play snake five seconds later and it was a tremendous phone.
Did it distract me and create that instant gratification, not as much but when you have everything at your disposal so quickly, that is a mentality shift. There’s two different little sections in that I believe. Those that did not get a job; during the recession that were struggling to get ones and took different jobs as to pay bills [crosstalk] [32:08] to get through.
Sarah: Or went straight to grad school.
Tim: Or went to grad school and then you come in and I think that there’s a little bit of a different perception there but some of the younger Millennials that came in when a robust job market came through, then you started to have this combination of, “I can do research and find out anything about every company within five seconds.” Your advance your glass doors and your [inaudible] [32:54] of everything.
I know more about a company now in five clicks and it would take me hours of research to do the old-school style. So, now as you start to kind of pick and choose. “Is this important to me, you know? What do I really want?” Well, it sounds great in a lot of ways for the free food and all of these things but in the end all I think people really just want to be valued and they want to see their work actually be meaningful on this but what has happened just because we have all these things at our fingertips, we’re saying why not us. Why can’t I work from home just like Amazon’s policy or XYZ Company’s policy? Or, why can’t I have lunches brought to me three times a week?
These are things that are being… that are being questioned. The problem is that especially with a lot of the companies with exceptional amounts of capital that are trying to be differentiating device for those top point one percent students coming out there; either you’re starting to see the trickle-down effect to everyone else, why not us?
Sarah: Right, the standard has just changed, and so it’s not even a question, you know.
Tim: So like, you know, my dad’s a great example. He got his thirty-year watch and I laugh because he’s one of the remaining folks with the pension. Like congratulations, I have no idea what that even means and I will never get one, so I’m going to be negotiating salary for the rest of my life because I don’t have it coming to me. And he’s had one job.
Sarah: That’s amazing.
Tim: And it’s just like this, it’s a very different dynamic on this end. I believe that there is and going back to the tech analogy and these other parts have kind of play into it, but I really think it’s at certain companies that we’re trying to have a competitive advantage set the bar so high and a lot of other companies are trying to get caught up.
I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing but I don’t… I don’t necessarily believe that a pool table makes culture. I don’t think ping pong actually has a value on this. Now do you want to get people interacting in a non-work environment to kind of build rapport? Absolutely. There are definitely ways of doing that. I just think it’s swung little bit too far in some ways.
Veanne: [34:30] On the old days, it was culture around the percolating coffee pot because it took a while to get your coffee but today with Keurig, we don’t… there’s not enough time necessary in the coffee pots, you got to do it around the ping pong table or the video game, right? It only takes what, 30 seconds to get a cup of coffee now.
Sarah: Exactly, yeah.
Veanne: Not enough time to build a culture around the coffee pot, yeah.
Tim: [34:45] And you have more conversations on Slack and HipChat, and all these different channels out there than you do action a day-to-day basis. So that is actually more of a going back to the tech, as I gauge, it’s completely changed how we communicate, how we embrace each other as in a sense of the world that’s just different and companies are going to have to find ways of being recognized as forward-thinking but also you got to be economically responsible for all small businesses.
There are SMBs that are trying to make it out there. It is a very tough market when someone could say, I’ll subsidize your lunch, I’ll subsidize your travel, and I’m going to pay you this salary. That’s… its competitive, but it goes back to brand and impact.
Sarah: Yeah, and I think that, you know, even sole tech, where we’ve been going through the exercise of sort of assessing like who do we want to bring on, right. Sometimes things like remote worker, necessary. Maybe your team is scattered, maybe there’s a reason part of your team has to be in this city and another you know part has to be in another, whatever it might be. A lot of those environments that are bringing in lunch every day, like, “You’re not leaving your desk all day,” you know, and perhaps that’s not what you want to be doing or perhaps you’re in a remote office location where they can’t get lunch very easily, so now that’s just actually a courtesy.
So assessing the types of things that you provide and the actual cultural impact, right. How is this affecting this person’s life? What, is this necessary? Is this meaningful, so that it’s not just throwing all these things and then it still doesn’t tie back to an identity in that office, that’s kind of a hard game you know of trying to assess, like, “How do we keep up but make it meaningful?”
Tim: I think you just hit a very important part that most people don’t really recognize is it doesn’t have to be a one size fits all. If you really just ask the person and get their own personal needs basis that is something that most companies don’t do, because we are worried especially for an HR perspective, we have to adhere to the baseline for everyone that’s available. But me personally, I’ve worked remote, I hated it. I got to be mixing it up with folks in a day and day… day by day basis, it’s something for me, I find a lot of value in. Some folks they never want to you know come into the office. I can I have enough technology now that I can measure productivity for whether you’re here or you’re not.
There’s enough out there to be able to do this but I really do embrace your point, that it is an individualistic decision on this standpoint. But going back to like that retention aspect, kind of just to peal it all back. It’s all about… it’s all about acquisition but acquisition is expensive and if you lose somebody after six months, then you’re just at a complete loss and you’ve lost up to 5x a person’s salary and it really hurts.
When you actually build in mechanisms and you focus on the most important and kind of life experience if you will and that is a work-life blend, you can really dramatically change your bottom line from an HR perspective but from a culture perspective, really uptick, either buy-in and productivity from everybody because if you just genuinely show an interest investing in their career path and their goals, asking them, checking in with them, that again kind of separates on a day to debate… on a day-in day-out basis and from all that… from the small business perspective it’s that, that is absolutely critical.
You’d, like, if you look at like GE. There used to be the dominant player and the management business program. You would go there, you get five years and you would come out and you’d be an executive on this and people are leaving GE after two years now because they’re recognizing that now the tiered program doesn’t necessarily work anymore because they get dropped into a bucket and they’re in for a bucket of 150 and then it keeps getting smaller as they work up but that personalization towards your own career path and your own needs, I mean that is a… that’s a big win that a lot of folks are starting to embrace.
Veanne: Well I think, you know, I can’t speak because I don’t know everything that goes on out there, but I think it’s… I think if it’s something really true here, then I think a lot of times companies just don’t take the time. There’s nobody in the organization that is taking the time at an individual level to really get to know the whole person. You know we go through work and it’s all work but you know if you can get to that personal level with somebody and really understand what is it you know what is their badge, what is it that they’re really trying to accomplish?
They’re here to work but that’s the means to what they’re trying to accomplish outside the work, right. So if you can help them achieve their goals; it may be you know they’re saving money because their daughter wants to be an equestrian and how are they going to figure out how to spend $100,000 on a horse, right. It’s not about the job, it’s about the horse. You know or whatever, I mean, I don’t know if that’s a good example, that’s only what I could think of at the moment but you know, so if you can understand what is it that your employees are really trying to achieve and helping them get there, and they realize that you’re taking interest in them, I think that’s more important than the ping pong table.
Tim: I think you just said something so big too. It’s that every person depending on what stage in their life is going to need something different. When I was coming out of college, I’d love to have you know the beer in the fridge at 6 o’clock because hey, I’m still on that mode. Now that I’m later on in my career, I am valuing the fact that I have healthy food around me because I don’t need to be inundated with cake all day because…
Veanne: Your going to live long enough to see your grandchildren.
Tim: Exactly, I don’t need…
Veanne: You didn’t think about grandchildren when you’re in your twenties.
Tim: Grey hair, balding head, I don’t know, I don’t need all that with a big gut as well. It’s not that’s not a good long-term plan but the… if you look at it, like you said, just ask. You know, it’s fascinating how many people will tell you exactly what they want to do if you just give enough time and effort and that kind of sympathy and empathy because for millennials that are managing non-millennials, that is a very difficult thing to kind of make that adjustment.
But as long as you show that genuine interesting care, you can really bridge gaps and now half of my team is significantly older than I am, but the reality is, is I know every reason why they come to work. You know, they have a new deck they’re painting for, they got a new boat that’s coming down a line or home, “I’m just getting ready to be an empty-nester, please let me get through this last semester in college.”
That these are important things and provide those personal touch points going back to the networking theme. Is that show a genuine interest in the humility that you may not know everything, you can take that a long way in your career.
Veanne: Now this is totally tangential we’re all over the place here so I’m going to throw this out there, you know you don’t even have to… you know the cool thing about technology is, you don’t even as a manager and employer need to ask anybody about their personal life because if you go to Slack, it’s amazing what you learn about your employees like this morning I learned that one of our employees has an actress for a daughter and she’s on [crosstalk] [41:18] a show tonight.
Sarah: Going to be on a show tonight.
Veanne: I’m like, I had no idea.
Sarah: But I think…
Tim: Well, that’s awesome.
Veanne: Sometimes I learned the most about our employees via Slack because again technology is a place that we are, we’re vulnerable using any social platforms and whatnot and we are… we bare our souls, I think because people feel more comfortable doing that. So if you don’t have Slack, then you need to know your employees, get on Slack. I learned so much about our folks on that, you know.
Sarah: But we’ve created, I do think we’ve done a good job of creating, you know, helping them understand, you know, Veanne is on there commenting and things like that and encouraging people but we’re setting the stage for this is a safe place to talk about funny things; I’ve posted some great photos from the 90s of Veanne for our anniversary the other day.
Veanne: Thank you very much.
Tim: That didn’t seem very happy thank you very much by the way.
Sarah: Fantastic. That was the…
Veanne: It’s always the hair. We always… yeah it looked okay except the hair. [laughter] It’s usually the hair.
Sarah: But like you have to do that and you have to frequently ask and you do, you have to pay attention. Are they using this tool this way? How can we continue to encourage that then and just you know ask the question about the family frequently or whatever it might because those needs are even going to change in a couple of years, so.
Veanne: Well, shall we pivot a little bit?
Tim: Yeah, let’s pivot.
Veanne: All right, so…
Tim: That’s what we do here.
Veanne: I think that I know a little bit about you and getting involved in nonprofits and charity organizations, so I always love to hear that side of what you’re doing, so what have you done in that space in terms of maybe social activism, anything you’d like to share with us.
Tim: Sure thing, kind of starting off in the no particular order from an interest level but I was fortunate enough to get asked to join a year up kind of right along several years ago. I think it was in about the 10 to 12th months of my career and Europe is, it’ll bring a tear to my eye every time I go speak with those folks, disenfranchised high school kids that are just trying to get their GED and they go through this rigorous course. You miss one homework assignment, you miss one class and you’re out. Do you really get these hyper, dedicated high pays that are just trying to make their impact in the world and I had an opportunity to help cut through career coaching and resume training and it was you know something so early for me in my career that I was almost faulted a little disingenuous but the fact is they soaked up every word, they’ll follow you for years to come. I just had a conversation with the first Europe kid that I… it was like seven years ago, sent me a note he’s now a manager of quality assurance the local town… a local company town and that to me means more than any paycheck, means more than any accolade because that was a human-to-human connection.
So highly recommend a tremendous program and for all those who want to get involved, they could always use volunteers day in day out. From an impact perspective from the most, though, I’d say it was actually something that stood up at a previous organization at Rentpath; one of the big initiatives with our new CEO was we wanted to provide an avenue for the organization to give back for those in dire need, typically in homeless situations.
Now, day in and day out, there’s a half million folks here in Atlanta area that do not have a sustainable place to live and you know in a city population of a little of nothing, I think, 3 and half, 4 million, that’s a significant percentage and it really, it kind of it took, it took me a little bit to really process the fact that you know half of them are veterans and half of them are children, and it’s just one of those situation where you get, you know you get a little bit emotional about it but you… there’s opportunities to help. So we set up a group called Rentpath give back.
Now, we collected a hundred grand in cash in 35 days and that we donated one percent of our top-line revenue as well as one percent of our employee time. Kind of going after the [crosstalk] [45:06]
Veanne: One percent of revenue, wow.
Tim: The Salesforce mentality was behind it. It was kind of like the 1%, 1%, 1%, and we saw tremendous success from that. I mean, you’re talking about employee engagement, we asked folks that are actually wanting to help out day in and day out but then you actually found so many employees that were actually impacted by homelessness at one point in time. And you just see this like absolute connection where they’ll, you know, paint houses for 12 hours a day and not even think a lick about it because they’re actually changing the world, and that’s something that changed me. I’m really happy that all the source here as well we embrace Habitat for Humanity, we build between three and five homes a year so we dedicated about 12 hours or so of employee time to be able to help, yeah, help get those homes constructed.
I’m more the project type, you stick a hammer in my hand, I’m going to have a bunch of blue fingers, so I’ll just throw it out there. You know, give me a lawnmower and I’m good to go but it’s something that I’ve always really kind of got behind because, you know, going back to that my business closing. Like, I actually had to call a family member to help pay that night and that was one of the most humiliating kind of conversations going from business owner 21 to asking for a loan from your brother and that’s always kind of been how I approached it is that, you’re always a couple of bad things happening away from being in a tough situation, you need people to kind of kick that door open for you and say, “Hey, welcome back.” They’re willing to give the effort and the time, then it’s something we are, then I’m a big fan of, so those are a few of the ones that I’m doing and really just looking for more. I mean, as much as times can be crunched on this time, I get no value, great, no greater value than by helping somebody else.
Veanne: Thanks for sharing, that’s really nice, yeah.
Tim: Thank you for asking. That’s the good stuff.
Veanne: I hear lots of great things about Europe, so something I want to look at in more details, actually.
Tim: Please do.
Sarah: That’s awesome. Alright, so before we let you go, we got to play a quick little game of two truths and [crosstalk] [46:54]
Tim: I feel a little nervous about this.
Sarah: And a piece of fiction here.
Tim: It’s not about me, right?
Sarah: It’s not about you. We’re just going to get your brain gears working here. So this season as you know, our overarching theme is innovation, so we try to get creative here with our game and we found three news stories where people are coming up with innovative ideas, experiments, inventions, things. Two of them are real and one is not, so we want to see if you can spot the fake. Are you ready?
Tim: Let’s do it.
Sarah: All right. So, idea number one. Kentucky Fried Chicken is stepping into unchartered marketing territory later this month when it teams up with the high-altitude balloon manufacturer Worldview to launch a chicken sandwich into space. That’s number one.
Veanne: That’s number one.
Sarah: Chew on that one for a second. [inaudible] [48:13] [laughs]
Veanne: That was good Sarah.
Tim: Are they going to eat the chicken sandwich in space?
Sarah: I don’t know, Well.
Veanne: Why would you want to be launching the chicken sandwich in space, mh-hmm.
Sarah: Number two, engineering students?
Tim: Poor chicken sandwich.
Sarah: Engineering students in Michigan have created the largest Rubik’s Cube weighing 1,500 pounds. The cube is bolted to the ground on campus but is still fully functional, so you could actually solve the 1500 pound Rubik’s cube. And then number three is at a gadgets convection in El Paso last month, a former police officer introduced a theft proof phone case. If your thumbprint does not match that of the owner, the case will produce an electrified shock until the device has been laid down flat for 30 seconds. All right, what do you think Tim, can you spot the fake?
Tim: Oh, so we got space chicken, we’ve got shock you type of phone covers, then I have MIT with my Rubik’s Cube, this almost seems like a trap because first one is MIT Rubik’s cube all day. They’ve been building robotics to be able to solve those things in less than a second. So I’m saying that’s one’s going to happen and the industry I believe would recognize, I mean an Elon Musk with the chicken sandwich up into space. So my last one would be the shock bone case being the one that’s a little bit tough because, wow. I mean, gosh, if your phone’s getting stolen, you know what they get a second-degree burn but that’s one of my guys, so option three would be the one that is not actual.
Sarah: You’re right.
Veanne: You remind me of the contestants on the wall, have you watch the wall?
Veanne: That’s how the contestants, they think through it and how is, you know, it’s interesting to hear, that’s great. I love that you… I’m glad that you showed your work to Tim, that was good.
Sarah: Yeah, exactly. You have full credit.
Veanne: You walked through it, that is correct. Full credit.
Tim: I’m still trying to figure out how they’re going to eat the chicken sandwich in space.
Veanne: Too good, that’s a lot of fun and well, we’ve had fun here today with you Tim. We always like to give you the chance for the listeners if they want to learn more about you or what you’re doing at Alta Source, if they’re looking for a job, how would they best reach out to you?
Tim: So best way to reach out to me is direct via email Timothy.firstname.lastname@example.org, but if you check out altisource.com/careerpage, you’ll see anything and everything we have up there, and the biggest thing I want everyone to listen to, at least hopefully take with you, is that we are focused on a retention base recruiting model and through and through every part of what we’re doing is to try to keep the smartest people here in Atlanta and to try to keep them coming to us as full-time and temporary employees. So while we’re growing as fast as we can and while we’re making mistakes doing that, the long-term goal is to try to be a go-to destination here in Atlanta area, so I want to thank you for your time, thank you for the invitation and thank you for the brain teaser.
Veanne: Yeah, good luck with everything, you’ll do fantastic. So thanks, great to have you here.
Tim: I appreciate it.
Sarah: The Atlanta Business Impact Radio is a project developed by Sol tech, a software consultancy located in Atlanta, Georgia. Our host Veanne Smith co-founded the firm 18 years ago with her husband Tim Smith and together as they strive to bring education to the community about technology leaders to improve the path to innovation for all. For more information about the podcasts and learn about the work we do at Sol Tech, visit Soltech.net or find episodes of the podcast on iTunes. Also, if you’re interested in joining us as a guest for an upcoming show, send us an email at email@example.com. Thanks for listening, stay tuned to more insight into the tech community on our next episode