Episode 041

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07/26/2018 | Episode 041 | 56:46

David Romine, AgileThought

David Romine talks all things Agile: philosophy, founding AgileThought, and scaling to where it is today

On this episode of SPx, Joe and Ashley host AgileThought CEO, David Romine. Since founding AgileThought in 2004, Romine and his partners have grown the business exponentially. Headquartered in Tampa, the company has expanded to Orlando, and most recently to Atlanta, Georgia. Romine talks endings and new beginnings in founding AgileThought out of the settled ashes of Arthur Anderson. He shares the importance of discerning one's professional strengths, shares the origins of AgileThought; talks agile methodology in all business aspects, and the role of self-awareness in work.

Key Insights

  • David Romine is the CEO and co-founder of AgileThought, an agile custom software development company located in Tampa.
  • The agile methodology that Agile Thought is built on a method of refining empirical processes.
  • Agile methodology "requires, and in fact benefits from the idea that you would at certain points along a process stop take a look at what’s happened. Whether it's environmental or contextual, or even just the outputs that you produce. And then react to that to define your next steps in the process."
  • The agile methodology found its footing in software and technical development, but now many organizations outside those realms are adopting the strategy. "Other industries are wanting to adopt Agile for non-technical work, for non-technical process. So we are doing a lot more of that type of consulting with other non-tech industries."
  • Important agile terms: Agile, Scrum, backlog: "Scrum is a backlog that’s managed by a product owner and then from an execution standpoint it executes according to sprints which can be anywhere from 2 to 3 to 4 to 5 weeks."
  • AgileThought typically works in three week sprints. "Each cycle you go through a sprint, then you go back and do what’s called a sprint review and a retrospective where you show the product back to the product owner and then the product owner can react."
  • Agile and software: "The reason Agile make a lot of sense in the software world nobody will be able to envisions a software as close to what it will end up being as in other industries."
  • "There are things that are going to inevitably happen along the way that will give you those little light bulbs those little ‘Aha’ moments."
  • Many new and startup businesses can benefit from incorporating Agile methods: "There are little agile moments that happen all along the way when you start a business and so I think any business that’s a startup will benefit from having these types of principles philosophies baked into how they operate."
  • "You could take the stance that there are no businesses that in certain areas of their business would not benefit from an agile way of thinking."
  • Applying agile methods while consulting has its challenges. Clients may struggle with some aspects: "We’ll be working with a client who has a background with a structured methodology and we’ll just sort of lay our way of doing agile into that and just find sort of that happy medium of how do we get you what you need in terms of visibility, reporting, control or otherwise, while allowing us to operate in the way we know is most effective."
  • AgileThought was the product of business colleagues coming together to form their own company, as Romine tells it, ". I actually met my current business partners, I met every single one of them in my first day of work, first job out of school at Arthur Anderson in Sarasota."
  • When Arthur Anderson went under in the early 2000's, the partners found work at PwC. A few years later, they struck out on their own.
  • Spending that time at PwC not only helped them develop their professional skills, but also "allowed time for the Anderson dust to settle, so a big part of our success as a business early on and still to this day, has to do with the networks of colleagues and internal customers as well as teammates and colleagues we built within Arthur Anderson."
  • On launching: "We put a lot of confidence in the fact that there’s nothing like being out on your own to drive you and yank whatever business development talent you may have out of you."
  • Jeff: Jeff is a well-rounded executive, not only is a great strategist, he’s also very good at supporting the implementation of strategy and making sure it aligns with our overall strategic objectives but he’s also our relationship guy with our most key accounts and he just does a lot of different things and so if you look at the breadth of impact and the breadth of kind of capability it makes sense to put it in a broader role.
  • John: "John has since started of what we call Agile Labs which is our internal software incubator he’s done a lot of great client work for us too. John is now out, he’s launched a new business now that we’re invested in over in Tampa called CoLabs."
  • Ryan: "Ryan is an extremely intelligent what I would consider an industry luminary. For a long time he was - he actually still is - considered locally a pretty deep thinker in the Agile world."
  • On self-awareness: "I think where people feel like they don’t have a place is when they don’t have that self-awareness to understand to know where they fit and to go seek out that. They are a puzzle piece and where does that puzzle piece fit that satisfies themselves but also the context around them too."

"What I thought was a big propensity towards technology, it wasn’t really about technology. It was really about building something."

AgileThought leadership Ryan Dorrell, David Romine, Jeff Alagood, and John Wagner. (Photo by Inc. 5000)

The changing American workplace, AgileThought, and design

The American workforce is changing rapidly – and the spaces in which we work matter more than they once did. The traditional 9 to 5 in a stuffy corporate office no longer appeals to millennial workers seeking a sense of belonging and purpose from their employer. While the tools we use in the workplace have drastically changed, many of the physical spaces in which we work have not kept up.

In a highly competitive hiring market, businesses with traditionally hierarchical office settings where spontaneous communications are stymied (think big corner offices and stale cubicles) are losing. Both young and old are beginning to prefer trendy co-working spaces and flexible, remote workspace options. But not every company can or should buy in to the remote working trend. Many businesses need teamwork and collaboration to succeed.

So how can companies keep the workplace alive? The answer is intentionality.

The Pointe, headquarters of AgileThought on Rocky Point,

Tech behemoths like Facebook, Google and Apple pioneered the creation of tech campuses that keep employees happy, while fostering an environment for growth and collaboration at the same time. But these tech giants aren’t the only ones innovating the workplace.

AgileThought, a local custom software and consulting company, has firmly rooted its methodology into its physical space. The AgileThought headquarters sits on the tip of Rocky Point in Tampa, and there provides employees with panoramic views of the bay.

A strong employee culture permeates the fabric of the office. There are no C-suite offices; those were knocked out when AgileThought moved in. The intentionally open floor plan creates a sense of collaboration. In one specific project area, desks are clumped together in cross-functional working groups (each with its own name, chosen by the members), and sticky-notes cover the walls with tasks to be completed by team members.

In other areas, open seating is encouraged at desk space or in the dining areas. The walls themselves are whiteboards, used to sketch out plans for the week, and most interior walls are transparent, movable, and collapsible. The walls shift to create open workspaces, or close up into conference rooms or offices for Agile-specific meetings like sprint planning, retrospective reviews or small group work.

AgileThought employees in sprint planning.

According to a Harvard Business Review study, well-designed workplaces that encourage communication, chance encounters and collaboration – like AgileThought – win out both in the battle for talent and the bottom line.

“Chance encounters and unplanned interactions between knowledge workers, both inside and outside the organization, improves performance,” wrote the study’s authors.

And that assertion isn’t based on anecdotal evidence. According to the study, “when a salesperson increased interactions with coworkers on other teams – that is, increased exploration – by 10 percent, his or her sales also grew by 10 percent.”

They know this, because they tested it. A pharmaceutical company profiled in the study intentionally redesigned the office by rearranging the kitchen and coffee stations in its office. Instead of having one coffee machine for every six employees, the company invested in larger coffee stations to cover more employees (120 employees to each station), to increase the chances of socialization and interaction.

Leadership of Agile Thought: (left to right) Ryan Dorrell, David Romine, Jeff Alagood and John Wagner.

“In the quarter after the coffee-and-cafeteria switch,” the study cites, “sales rose by 20 percent, or $200 million, quickly justifying the capital investment in the redesign.”

AgileThought is a local example of a company which follows the principle of intentionality in its workspace, and has scaled the company as a result. Since its founding in 2004, the company has grown at a breakneck speed. In 2011, the company grew 100 percent year over year. In 2018, it was named to the Inc. 5000 list for the 11th consecutive time. Most recently, it expanded operations into Atlanta and Orlando.

Over the last three years, AgileThought has attained 169 percent revenue growth. It has also been named by various publications, including Fortune, Inc., and Florida Trend, as one of the “50 Best Workplaces for New College Grads,” “20 Great Workplaces in Tech,” and one of the “Best Companies to Work For.

"In an Agile mindset really every decision is a good one, because it either worked out or you learned something."

Table of Contents
(0:00 – 0:34) Introduction
(0:35 – 2:19) Introduction: Agile Thought
(2:20 – 5:50) Agile Processes and Philosophies
(5:51 – 8:22) Concept of Agile: Agile Methodology
(8:23 – 12:14) Concept of Agile: Principles and methods
(12:15 – 15:36) Agile contracting and Standardisation
(15:37 – 17:53) Origin story Pt 1: Foundation
(17:54 – 18:44) Origin story Pt 2: Move to PWC
(18:45 – 23:26) Origin story Pt 3: Personal Story
(23:27 – 26:47) Origin story Pt 4: Jeff’s Joining
(26:48 – 30:30) Origin story Pt 5: Work load introspection
(30:31 – 31:22) Looking back
(31:23 – 33:02) Lessons Learnt
(33:03 – 34:51) Origin Story Pt 6: Ryan
(34:52 – 43:05) Self Awareness
(43:06 – 47:02) Meaning of an entrepreneur
(47:03 – 54:07) Self-driven mindset
(54:08 – 56:10) Shout Outs
(56:11 – 56:43) Conclusion

Full Transcript:

Joe: Joining us on SPX today is David Romine the CEO of AgileThought. Welcome sir.

David: Thank you, thanks for having me

Joe: Well first, Ashley…

David: Is here…

Joe: Is here, after breaking multiple traffic laws.

David: Right.

Joe: To get here, because she didn’t realize we moved the time up 15 minutes.

David: Was that my fault? The time?

Joe: Well it was the hard stop that pushed us forward a little bit and my lack of communication with Ashley that put us in this law breaking situation…

David: Which is the Business Journal’s fault, actually.

Ashley: I would have had you pay the ticket.

Joe: The SPx listeners know that we typically don’t do the bio stuff but specifically with what your company does. I would like to do a little intro with what Agile is, both from a tactical standpoint and from a mindset standpoint, so people have heard it and know what happens and some companies can kind of get their mind around what it is.

David: I always go back to when I initially started learning about Agile years ago I came across an interesting explanation, which is that if you go all the way to the real academic side of it to the textbooks literally and I’m sure I’m getting this wrong in terms of the overall breadth of what’s considered process control, the descriptions of different categories of process. And there’s at least two major categories. There’s defined process and empirical process. Defined process is where you build process out and it runs the same way every time. That’s typically manufacturing processes, things that can be automated very easily. Empirical process is a little bit different in that it requires, and in fact benefits from the idea that you would at certain points along a process stop take a look at what’s happened whether its environmental or contextual or even just the outputs that you produce and then react to that to define your next steps in the process. To me that’s the best explanation of not only Agile but how it differs from a lot of traditional processes. I think in our industry being an industry that’s still relatively young, I think it’s getting a little bit of grey hair… But starting out I think our industry said well I think we need a process, we need processes, to go about what we do, in terms of developing software. The easiest path to take was let’s move along this defined process, but it took – geeze – 30 years. Thirty years into it, a group of luminaries got together and said ‘hold on is that actually the right way to do it?’ Is there a better way because what happened was I think you do a defined process and it almost feels like your jamming it in and then what we found personally, is that you end up doing an empirical process or an Agile process sort of in spite of yourself right? It feels bad to be doing it but you know you have to do it to get the outcome you want and so I think the industry kind of realized it too and so I think why don’t we kind of adopt that as our standard instead of feeling bad about it.      

Joe: You just changed the rules because you were breaking the rules.

David: Exactly, that’s a great way to put it.

Ashley: Were there natural type of organizations that adapted very readily to this new concept?

David: Yeah, I think you know certainly smaller nimbler organizations. There are certainly nimble organizations that aren’t small, but where culturally they could shift so not a lot of bureaucracy not a lot of controls built into the business could definitely make that shit a lot more easily and I think organizations certainly new organizations that could start like we did. Start from the ground up with these philosophies built in and not have mountains to move in terms of change it was certainly a lot easier to adopt that.

Ashley: Did you see any commonalities in industry on a larger scale – were they tech-based organizations?

David: You know I don’t have statistics on that but I think that I would guess that the tech industry was the quickest and then we are seeing actually in our business right now it’s kind of funny. We always strayed from what I would consider you know pure business consulting you know we built software and we do consulting but it’s for technical implementation dev-ops, engineering topics. But now to the point of your question other industries are wanting to adopt Agile for non-technical work for non-technical process and so we are doing a lot more of that type of consulting with other non-tech industry so it ventures into business consulting a little bit which is fine I mean it really dovetails with what we do and I believe so strongly. We think, the other classic story I give of Agile is in terms of describing how broad the philosophies or the concepts can be utilized is I use Agile for my honey-do-list at home right.   

Ashley: Right.

David: So if you think about it, it’s a way to match backlog or really demand with capacity and so if my honey-do-list is the demand, that’s all the things my wife would like to do around the house and in any given weekend which Agile released in Scrum terminology as a sprint you know in any given weekend I’ve got a certain amount of capacity. In every weekend it changes right If there’s a football game I want to watch, if I have a tee time whatever it is, that constrains my capacity for that weekend.

Joe: I hold steady at 15 minutes.

David: 15 minutes that pretty good actually, I might have to adopt that one. But in any given weekend I have a certain amount of capacity so that I look at it and I ask her to prioritize that list. What is most important to you and she can change that priority coming every weekend and every weekend I go back to that list look at the priorities and say ‘Oh I’ve got this and this to do’, so I’ve got whatever 2 hour, 15 minutes of capacity and so I can do these two things at the top of the list and then I go do it.

Joe: There’s a couple words I wanna get some vocabulary points so we have backlog which is a list of work that needs to be done, you mentioned scrum which is variation on a meaning.

David: Scrum is one flavor of Agile methodology, it’s characterized by the existence of a backlog and more importantly a prioritized backlog and even more importantly a backlog that’s prioritized by business owners it’s actually called the products owner, not by the tech team. Now the tech team can collaborate and discuss how that should be prioritized you know we own practical considerations in owning software that makes sense first. But it’s really from a purist standpoint it should be prioritized based on business priority what is the features that matter most what is the things you want to see first that’s formed the foundation of whatever is being built. So, Scrum is a backlog that’s managed by a product owner and then from an execution standpoint it executes according to sprints which can be anywhere from 2 to 3 to 4 to 5 weeks you don’t want to get much longer than that. I think our standard is three weeks and then each cycle you go through a sprint you go back and do what’s called a – it’s been a while since I’ve actually done it – a sprint review and a retrospective where you show the product back to the product owner and then the product owner can react and completely upend the backlog if I have to and then the team goes and looks at the backlog just like to do with my honey-do-list assess their capacity for the next sprint looks at the priorities builds the plan and goes and executes for the sprint.  

Joe: And that’s the key piece where the agility comes in, after every sprint you can rework.

David: Yeah, it’s just like I said, you’re operating within the realities. And the software – so the reason Agile make a lot of sense in the software world nobody will be able to envisions a software as close to what it will end up being as in other industries. So if you’re building a house your using materials that end up being real physical properties to them. You’re working with plans, that have probably been built and its okay for a house to have the same plan as the house down the street or in the neighborhood, in fact that’s a good thing in the construction industry. So when you build a plan or when you build a model for you know building a house or a building its less likely to change – obviously there are some if you have built a house renovated like I have here are always changes but they are typically not the foundation or the big changes that require a lot of rework. In software it’s a little different generally you’re building a new piece of software your probably innovating something or your automating something in either case there are things that are going to inevitably happen along the way that will give you those little light bulbs those little ‘Aha’ moments ‘We could do this too’ or ‘you know what we no longer need that because we’ve done with this feature’, ‘that feature isn’t even important anymore’ those are the things that happened and so those are the things that Agile works really well for software.

Ashley: We should also probably define what a honey-do-list is and that’s say it’s really a list of conditions I would say it that really are a barrier between you and continued affection. How do you see it?

David: That’s an interesting definition I see it as, yes that is true and actually it’s pretty dead on actually in my marriage but it is actually love language, but my wife’s love language is – what do they call it – acts of service.

Ashley: Right, interesting.

David: Mine is touch so section pieces right on.

Ashley: Interesting.

David: But also, it’s a negotiation tool so it’s a sort of leveling sort of making sure we are in equilibrium kind of home and that’s what a honey do list really is.

Ashley: And that is really what the insight behind my list really is about the types of industry we are starting to penetrate with the concept or the mindset of Agile thinking. Think it about my business think it about all of the Joe’s different businesses and understanding what type of thought processes we need to go through to understand if your solution makes sense for our respective business and sort of how we know we need you essentially. What are we experiencing that you would presumably solve for?  

David: Well back to my earlier I think point about if you find yourself needing to kind of reevaluate – even just the idea of starting a business, right? And we talked about pivots and things like that in the entrepreneurial ecosystem and a pivot is just being agile, right? A pivot is usually pretty major it’s sort of a big example of being agile but there are little agile moments that happen all along the way when you start a business and so I think any business that’s a startup will benefit from having these types of principles philosophies baked into how they operate. In terms of the specific types of businesses you know I think if your trying to produce a repeatable output every time, in terms of what your business is doing, if there really isn’t a lot of flexibility to it. Perhaps your goal or your value is in the consistency and it’s in the lack of flexibility and it’s a reliable consistent product on that side of the operation agile probably doesn’t play a lot. However, I would argue that getting to that point, it does. In order to get to that point where you operationalize or standardized how you produce an output you’ve probably cycled through a lot of different ideas, innovation lifecycles, there’s tons of different ways of producing that model that your gonna go now operationalize. But there’s a lot of agile built into those innovation processes that I think get you to that point. You could take the stance that there are no businesses that in certain areas of their business would not benefit from an agile way of thinking. There’s a humility in it too, by the way. There’s a big piece of agile is the humility which is if I set off to do something I’m not claiming to have all the answers right now it can be considered second guessing so a lot of it is second guessing yourself along the way and being comfortable with that. Which gets into a whole other topic about agile operators and what types of personality characteristics are effective or at least are more comfortable and can get there more quickly than others.

Joe: So my marketing agency Big Sea we switched to agile about a year ago and my partners led that charge. Andi and Dzuy spent months researching it and trying to figure out how we could adopt the philosophies and the methods for marketing agency and what the team it was actually fairly easy cause they are developers and developing the platforms and websites and the nature of marketing changes every month you iterate based on the data that you get back but the biggest struggle we had was with some of the fixed elements in the clients namely budget you know when you come in and say ‘I need this thing come out the other end and here’s my budget’ but you know that similar to any software project what they want is going to change as they go through the process and so you know it seems like a fantasy to say okay this is an internal project for a company that doesn’t necessarily have a fixed timeframe or fixed budget because business tends to make the change it gets approved and you make the change right. But we are always working towards a fixed pool of resources so.

David: We have been in business 15 years now and you think we have good answers for this and we don’t. Agile contracting in a client services scenario is extremely difficult for one even if we did have an answer, every client has different expectations and not only when you say client not just the company, the individual, right? So your individual stakeholder has different expectations has different frame of reference, wants to apply the level of control in a different way and so that’s been very difficult for us and we do allow a certain amount of flexibility in terms of how we kind of lay things into what those expectations are. A lot of times we’ll be working with a client who has a background with a structured methodology and we’ll just sort of lay our way of doing agile into that and just find sort of that happy medium of how do we get you what you need in terms of visibility, reporting, control or otherwise, while allowing us to operate in the way we know is most effective. Not just because we like it but its effective for you. It’s actually in a client’s best interest and those are interesting conversations that happen honestly all day every day, with every client we have.

Joe: Yeah and that speaks to kind of the best solution we found was the visibility, setting the framework up, having an education up front this is if we have fixed resources everything is going to be a tradeoff and by involving the clients more deeply and process them we might normally do they see the tradeoffs coming well on advance or they see just the inflection points coming along well in advance and they have sense of agency in those choices and you know instead of us coming in and saying we weren’t able to do this because we did that they are a part of that decision making process.

David: Absolutely we do the same thing, so we do product owner training for our clients as we engage or initiate. However, prior to that there’s a benefit that we found in that initial education and really standardizing on how we do things. You know, early on as a business we started off 15 years ago as 3 people and have grown steadily since then, you know in the early years, we were trying to get the business off the ground. So we’ve got scars from multiple scenarios where we allowed things to be shifted away from our core principles based on the clients expectations and needs or desires. We don’t do that anymore. Not just because we are bigger now and we have that leverage but it’s more because we’ve learned again we have scars. We’ve learned firsthand what the results of that can be – the negative results. But what we found now is that having those discussions upfront and being pretty firm about what our philosophies and our standards and expectations are – there’s an element of our work style and how we want to work – but all of that is in the interest of being most effective for our client. So it is a let us help you type scenario. But we’ve actually come to conclusions and I don’t want to say we’ve weeded out clients but we’ve got to a point where we would agree with the client that this isn’t the best fit. You have expectations and a lot of times it’s not even expectations it’s constraints. They have real constraints they’re working within and the way that we execute doesn’t fit with that and it’s a mutual understanding that, ‘hey this isn’t the best fit you probably need to go and source that and build a team so that you can operate well within your constraints because we can’t.’ And so that’s been an interesting by product I think of doing that upfront education and making sure we have consensus on how we are gonna operate because we know early on that if it’s not going to work versus getting halfway into the project and realizing that something’s not working here, what do we do? And money has been spent and efforts have been expended, et cetera.

Joe: You mentioned scars and that’s a good opportunity to segue into sort of the origin story of AgileThought and you started in the development as a developer, and then moved into becoming an entrepreneur and now ultimately an executive of a pretty large and growing company. Can you walk us through that transitions or how all that came about ?

David: If I go all the way back into college. Actually I started college as an accounting major for no other reason that I had taken an accounting class in high school and somehow discovered that I was good at it. When I started college I had to pick a major – I guess I didn’t have to, in fact, my son’s going to enter college in a few years and I discourage him from picking a major too early. But anyway back then you had to pick a major, and got into the business school and got into the core classes around accounting and realized this wasn’t for me, nothing against accounting – our biggest clients are accountants – but it just wasn’t for me personally. but in business school you do a rotation of all the different disciplines and MIS is one of them and so as I was transitioning out of accounting, and trying to figure out what to do at the same time I was really enamored with MIS and the topics.  

Joe: Did you identify more with the management piece of it or the technical piece of it?

David: Technical piece, which is why I became a developer. Leaving college I started my career with Arthur Anderson in Sarasota, they had a technical operation.

Joe: A good gig?

David : Yeah it was a great gig. It was a great gig because I was coming out of college especially back in those days, when there wasn’t a huge startup community, most people wanted to go work for big multinational business with tons of resources and fly all over the place and everything. I got to do that, but making my home base at Sarasota, paradise in Florida, so it was a really good gig. I actually met my current business partners, I met every single one of them in my first day of work, first job out of school at Arthur Anderson in Sarasota. So Ryan Dorrell and John Wagner, who are two of my partners, I was placed on a team with them, and Jeff Alagood who was actually in the cube next to me but not on our team. But we all became great friends and so our professional relationships have developed over those years and to what they are today. Back to your question, I had a strong kind of appreciation for the technical side of building software, and immersed myself in that and developed my skill set, and did some great things at Arthur Anderson. When Arthur Anderson had its end run, all four of us went to work at PWC for a little while and did some great work there.     

Joe: How much of that was coordinated? Did one go and say hey we got opportunities for you? Or did happen by chance or how did all 4 end up in the same place?

David: More the former than the latter, in fact it was actually coordinated to some degree between the organizations. As Arthur Anderson was winding down, they were doing what they could to kind of find places- and I don’t know all the details – but I think at that time PWC was building up, so as Andersons technology operations in Sarasota was winding down, PWC Tampa was building up in terms of a centralized IT operation in Tampa. So it worked out pretty well. And did great work there, and built some relationships that really helped us all the way through, launching and building the company, both the Arthur relations and PWC relationships.

Joe: At this point was there a sense that you would become an entrepreneur at some point? Was that inevitable?

David: Yes. It was certainly a strong possibility and my personal kind of story on that. When we were at Arthur Anderson, I had left for a year, so I’d been there probably 3 and a half to 4 years. This was during that .com boom and you know I didn’t go to Silicon Valley or New York to chase that. But the market was very, very active and technology, consulting was becoming a pretty big opportunity. For various reasons, I wanted to experience that – I wanted to be on the front line of a business. At Arthur Anderson and PWC, we worked on internal IT and we built great solutions for use internally by the firm. There are some differences between that and working for clients and directly affecting the bottom line of the business. So I wanted to go experience that a little bit so I actually left Arthur Anderson and went to a small consulting firm that is not around here any longer in Tampa and realized after a year what I had, what I had left – again a big multinational company with resources based in paradise, closer to home. I was commuting from Sarasota to Tampa for that job, and job security. If you just look at the sight of the opportunity going out and doing consulting and client service all those things and wanted to feel that kind of that pressure and rush a little bit it’s easy to miss the fact that it’s not quite as secure.  

Joe: Arthur Anderson though didn’t end up being secure.

David: Well exactly – to get back to answer your question, I came back for many reasons to include job security and then a year later they went away. So what I learnt from that there is no such thing as job security. None. And because of that when Anderson started to take its slide, the four of us decided, let’s at least think about maybe launching our own thing. And it’s one of those things that when you have a tight group of professionals who have a lot of professional respect for each other but also have good personal relationships, you can’t not talk about ‘Hey what if we did this on our own some day?’ So those conversations had been happening for years with no level of seriousness or substance to them at all. Well when your employer is about to shut its doors, substance rises up pretty quick in those conversations. We started talking about it and just decided the timing was not right for lots of reasons – some personal – just where our families were in terms of just starting to have kids and needing little bit more security, and also market reasons. The market wasn’t quite right as we thought, and so kind of delayed that for a little while, which was great for many reasons. I think waiting a few years, we were able to go- again – do really great work at PWC, built some really great relationships, worked with some really talented people, and developed our skill sets further both on the technology side and also the management, and process side. We also allowed time for the Anderson dust to settle, so a big part of our success as a business early on and still to this day, has to do with the networks of colleagues and internal customers as well as teammates and colleagues we built within Arthur Anderson. A lot of them are still our clients today, and a lot of them work in our business today in various capacities, and so allowing that dust to settle a little bit really served us well. It wasn’t by design or intention. It just sort of worked out that way. And that’s how the business got started I’m trying to think if there was a specific catalyst that said, ‘okay, now is the time’ and I wouldn’t point to any one major factor. It was a combination of factors. I mean even to the point of – we had just finished a project at PWC, an internal project we just finished a major role out of our project, and so the timing even from what we were doing there was a little bit right and I think that from a personal standpoint, some of us were in a little bit of crossroads in our career projection within that business. It has nothing to do with PWC, it was just where we were employed at that time. So a lot of things converged to say, ‘okay, you know what, the timing is right.’ So we launched the business with a three-month contract with the three of us. So the three of us launched the business and we only had a three month contract, but we were comfortable with that because it was sort of an assessment. Ironically we pride ourselves on being a software development business, but our very first engagement was a consulting engagement to do an enterprise architecture assessment. But the nice thing about assessments is that there is typically follow-up work and we knew there would be and there was. We put a lot of confidence in the fact that there’s nothing like being out on your own to drive you and yank whatever business development talent you may have out of you, and so if we’re employed and we’re trying to find clients and maybe trying to find that launching point versus actually being launched and out there and not being employed and knowing that we gotta go out there and find that next project that’s a whole different level and that all kinda worked out, and we built the business from there.  

Joe: So, at that point when you made the move to PWC, did Jeff come into your group? You said he was in a cubicle at Arthur?

David: So, if we get into the real details of it, so back to the point that I made earlier about timing and family situations and kind of where everybody was personally around taking risks and their individual risk tolerances when we first launched, Jeff wasn’t ready.

Joe: You said 3, he would have been the 4th.

David: Right, so Jeff joined us 6 years later.

Joe: Wow, 6 years.

David: Yeah, we launched in 2004 and Jeff joined us in 2010. Again, timing wasn’t quite right for him I think to join us early on. He was part of those discussions – it worked out well in retrospect because he built up his capabilities and skills sets up to the executive level. He built out his network. It has been a really big part of our growth story since he joined has been it has been the experiences, the network, and reputation he built in those six years while were out pulling our hair out trying to get this thing going. So, in 2010 when he joined us it was a perfect convergence of okay, we think we’ve got this stabilized to a really good launching point. Jeff came in and brought with him some pretty strong relationships that you know we could leverage the capabilities that we built in sort of a platform to really sort of relaunch. In 2011 we grew over a 100%.

Joe: Wow.

David: I think again it was we built the platform in the foundation and all the things that go along with that Jeff brought in some reputation and frankly some demand with him that really helped us launch from that point and we’ve sort of built upon that since then.

Joe: So, makes sense with him coming in six years later that Chief Strategy Officer I think is his title, right?   

David: Not as of today.

Joe: Is that right? Breaking news.

David: Breaking news is, actually my marketing guys is probably going to kill me, but we’re moving Jeff’s title to president. Jeff is now president of the company and there’s several reasons for that as Chief Strategy Officer while frankly I think that title itself and we’re very we are not super structured company, but we definitely hold ourselves accountable to everybody operating with in what their realm of responsibility should be. We don’t want to get sloppy, have too much overlap we want to empower people and give them lot of autonomy but that can break down pretty quick if the boundaries aren’t clear. Because there’s other areas that are sort of encroaching on your little bit you don’t feel that autonomy then. So because of that the chief strategy officer the role and title was I think a little bit too limiting and it didn’t properly reflect his impact and his potential impact on the business. So Jeff is a well-rounded executive, not only is a great strategist, he’s also very good at supporting the implementation of strategy and making sure it aligns with our overall strategic objectives but he’s also our relationship guy with our most key accounts and he just does a lot of different things and so if you look at the breadth of impact and the breadth of kind of capability it makes sense to put it in a broader role such as a president. The other thing it does for is it allows he and I to kind of divide and conquer a little bit in our respective roles and that helps us scale and as we continue to grow we continue to grow at the same pace actually not quite the same pace cause it’s been a little bit break neck but at a pretty good pace you know over the next several years that’s our goal and being able to scale our leadership ranks we think – and our executive ranks helps us prepare better for that.

Joe: That’s great, congratulations to Jeff. I think that makes total sense. So him coming in later as CSO makes sense. So, how did the other titles initially because you mentioned that technology bent in the beginning and then you ended up as the Chief Executive, how did that all shake out?

David: It was interesting as we progressed in building the company, so early on we all did everything, right? So the first several years of the business, if I look at myself individually and this is true of all my partners who were the founding partners, we were managing projects we were managing accounts and having an almost account manager type of role with our clients. We were in some cases writing code, we were building software, we were the architects. We pretty quickly hired people smarter than us to do a lot of those things. But everything is just in time especially in a client service model. You know, we weren’t funded we didn’t have a huge amount of funding to say okay well let’s build the teams out and as clients come in we’ll just fill the teams – it was much more reactive than that.

Ashley: Did you at all handle business development equally?

David: Yes, well the reality of it is some of us we’re better at it than others. Which is kind of coming to my point – is as you get to that point where now okay we’re a big enough business where now we can start to partition a little bit – instead of everybody being a jack of all trades you start to realise,  what your good at, but also what you want to do. So John Wagner, my partner was our original CEO and he realized through that process – whatever you want to call it – that he just loves to build software, that’s his deal. He just really, really wants write code and build software. So at that point that spurred me to say what do I really want to do and I really think about that pretty deeply and what I realised is that as much as I had appreciated and really valued my experiences in building systems and building software and all that goes along with that, it wasn’t about the software. It wasn’t about the technology. I just enjoyed building. I just enjoyed moving something down the road and continuing to build upon it and make it better and better and better. In fact, in some ways there’s a little bit of a detriment in building software because if you continually try to make software better and better and better than you’re just constantly tinkering and you gotta be more focused on what is the objective and get there, but anyway that’s a side track. What I realised is that I really enjoyed building something and refining it and making it better over time. So I sort of took the leap to say what if I applied that to business? It’s not about any particular project or piece of software or client engagement. It’s really about applying that desire and I won’t even call it capacity at that point cause I learned on the fly to do what I do today. What if I applied that energy to the business? And that’s what I did, I took on the CEO role. John has since started of what we call Agile Labs which is our internal software incubator he’s done a lot of great client work for us too. John is now out, he’s launched a new business now that we’re invested in over in Tampa called CoLabs. He’s doing what he wanted to do the nice thing is our success afforded us the opportunity to kind of direct ourselves in the way we wanted to go. You know I’ve enjoyed what I’ve done in that time period and I’ve grown in a lot of ways, actually. But that was a key realization for me, that what I thought was a big propensity towards technology, it wasn’t really about technology. It was really about building something, making it the best, applying creativity and resourcefulness to making it the best it can be. What used to be software is now business and resourcefulness is the key term here, it’s not all about me, it’s about coordinating and finding the right people that have passions that are complementary or are supportive of where you want the business to go. And compiling the right team and motivating them the right way and it doesn’t take much, we have a great team. So that’s been my journey.  

Ashley: You mentioned earlier that the cornerstone of the Agile mindset is humility, right? And so if you look back on your journey from developer, entrepreneur, operator and now where you are today if you had to redo a pivot looking back at sort of the data of your experience, where would you make the change?

David: That’s a tough one. You know, it’s hard to answer that question if you have an agile mindset, right? ‘Cause I think the core of the question is, “What’s the decision you made that you wish you had made differently?” But in an agile mindset really every decision is a good one cause it either worked out or you learned something.

Joe: What is the decision you made where you learned the most?

Ashley: Not assigning any kind of value – good, bad, or otherwise. But I think that we all likely look back at a time where we could’ve been a bit bolder, a time where we should have been a bit more constrained or conservative in some of our decisions a relationship or individual?

David: I think that we’ve held pretty firm over the years to being custom software developers and we’ve avoided a lot of dependency or capability around platform. And so there’s package software platforms that – and there’s a tremendous market for customization and implementation of packaged software versus custom software – and I think we’ve held pretty firm over the years that we start from nothing. We write code from the ground up, we’re not a package software implementer. In retrospect, I think there are some packaged software platforms, frameworks, things that we could’ve leveraged, potentially folded into our business just to round out our offerings. And more importantly I think what we’re feeling right now is created channel partnerships with platform vendors as a way to generate leads and business and demand. We create all of our own demand now. I mean we have a great relationship with Microsoft, it doesn’t really create pipeline necessarily for us. So if I look back at some of the decisions we’ve made and we’re starting to shift that a little bit now. Again, they are not solely based on embracing platform and building practices around implementing platforms versus custom, it’s much more about 3rd party relationships and channel partnerships. I’d say it’s part conscious decision not to pursue that as a business strategy, but it is also a just the difficulty of doing those well. I think, you know, if we would have invested more in making sure that we executed on those partnerships properly and really built them up, cause there’s a lot to it it’s not really as simple as it sounds. I think that’s something I would’ve done differently is really investing in channel partnerships and made that actually a part of our business strategy.

Joe: I’m actually going to close the loop on the 4th partner because we talked about John and Jeff and you and then…

David:  Ryan Durell. Ryan’s journeys are a lot like mine. I think, again in his early days we all did everything. Ryan is much more technical and so I think for a period of time he was our Chief Architect, currently he is our Chief Solutions Officer. Ryan is an extremely intelligent what I would consider an industry luminary. For a long time he was – he actually still is – considered locally a pretty deep thinker in the Agile world. What’s interesting about being a business owner and an entrepreneur though is that you know if you kind of create a market persona for yourself around a particular topic like Agile, you kind of reach a point where if am I pursuing that or am I pursuing building my business? Cause if I’m building my business I actually want to take the focus off of me and I want to put good practice leadership in place. We have a really strong team of Agile coaches and people are out here speaking and writing and creating their own personas. I think because of those reasons, because we built the business so effectively and have focused on really propping others up in that particular practice area I think, Ryan has shifted away from that a little bit. I actually have been encouraging him to go back to it, you know get out there in the marketplace he has a lot of great things to say far more things to say – far more than I do on that topic – you should actually get him here to talk about Agile. But he’s now our Chief Solutions Officer because he’s pretty in touch with the marketplace and I think translating the market into how we package and provide solution offerings is a good role for him right now. And he heads up our marketing team as well just because he, I think he speaks the language better than my other partners and I do. He’s general connected to the marketplace at a conceptual level just more connected at an individual stakeholder level. But Ryan understand the technology landscape and the terminology and you’re not going to stump him with a term like you will me or Jeff.

Ashley: You know you talked about your team being industry luminaries and where you play and sort of now your emphasis is more on the business itself and scaling that and growing that. If you were forced to take the next 30 days off and you were forced not to report to your office or talk to your colleagues and instead had to consume the mind, the literature of a specific thought leader or the specific discipline or practice. What would you find yourself innately drawn to that you’re insatiably curious about that may be cornerstone to your professional development?

David: I find myself drawn to topics around – and maybe this is just one topic but I think it can get pretty rich – around self-awareness and around a true assessment on your own talent and interests. And how you focus that the right way. I think a lot of people you know when you talk about people who are dissatisfied in their jobs or even just dissatisfied in their life and you really can’t be satisfied in your life and dissatisfied in your job. I look at it as a complete picture. I don’t like the term work life balance because to me work life balance implies there’s a good thing and a bad thing to be balanced. I think work should be a good thing too, and I think certainly a lot of times when people mention work life balance really to talk about where do your hours go, right? Versus, I think, where does your attitude or reaction to what you do go. So that’s certainly a consideration, you don’t want to be working all the time. However, if you’re truly passionate about your work.

Ashley: It’s not work.

David: It’s not work that’s right. I think in order to do that a lot of that comes from self-awareness and having a true understanding, but also comfort and a confidence, in who you are and what your capabilities are and what your limitations are. I think there’s a place for everybody in the work world, the personal world, everywhere. Nobody doesn’t have a place. I think where people feel like they don’t have a place is when they don’t have that self-awareness to understand to know where they fit and to go seek out that. They are a puzzle piece and where does that puzzle piece fit that satisfies themselves but also the context around them too. So I guess it’s a bit psychology a little bit, but I am fascinated by those types of topics.  

Ashley: And I don’t think that process can necessarily happen – it could happen in the 30 day sanctuary that you force yourself into. I think more importantly the alchemy that you have experienced or you’re starting to experience with your team and seeing where their talents have sprouted and seeing potential opportunities sort of exist and how to evolve into that or what that means for you long term or what you know you don’t want to do. So, it’s sort of that interplay of what your experiencing in this scenario and sort of your own reflection as you move through. I mean you possess that self-awareness in terms of how you’ve shifted identity and morphed into different functions over the course of your career.

David: Yeah, I feel like I’ve achieved a certain level of understanding and comprehension around that and it sort of guides what I do, what I do in the business, what I do in my personal life. But there’s always work to be done there’s always more to do. I don’t think anybody ever feels like they’re really done with their own kind of self-reflection because context and environment changes around you all the time, as soon as you think you’ve got it. By the way everything I’ve describing is just being Agile in itself, everything changes around you and how you react to certain things you know you can get a little hyper analytical and sometimes I do, with that.

Ashley: Well you’re in good company.

David: I think it’s a worthy effort though, I think it’s a worthy expenditure of mental energy. Like I said, I think if you can leverage that to figure out where is your place? I think life’s too short to not focus on making sure that you are in the right place and that your fitting well with what you’re doing and where you are and who you’re with and that you’re getting satisfaction and happiness out of life and that’s really important.   

Joe: I think a key lever in that process is perceived freedom as well. Because you know you’re the clearly at the point where you’ve earned the right to have to do it you can take the 30 days sabbatical and most people who’ve come up whether it be financially, or it’s one thing to have the wisdom to say this is not the right client for us and speaking from personal experience to say, normally we wouldn’t want this and we have to pay payroll right so we have to take it. So I think a lot of people go through this grind, grind and grind whatever it takes and then get to a point where they sort of can have this release. I think as much as you can push that back down into the grinding process and you know work to keep that freedom or that perceived freedom or that self-awareness process working, while your grinding it ultimately seems to me that the people who do that seems to lead to a better place. Because if you’re in it and you have to make payroll and then you have decisions you wouldn’t normally make and your north star is to not have to do that, then you’ll do your business differently than to continue just to grow it for the sake of growing.

David: Well let’s take a long view right on yourself but also your business I think so you’re absolutely right that having that kind of self-awareness and how you react to it, right? So if I understand what my propensities are and what my talents and my interests are. If I have that kind of flexibility, I can just say okay I’ll just shift them over there and off I go. But you’re absolutely right that, you know, I currently and I actually don’t have complete flexibility, right? I still have clients, I still have employees, I have a wife – so I don’t have complete flexibility – and kids. But I think that’s an understanding to have tooo though, right? The state that I’m in, the state that I’m in right now actually don’t have it but I can see where I can make it my objective to get to the point where I do. So I think you know there’s a time aspect to it. If you lay out a timeline for all I understand where I want to be and I’m also going to you know second guess that as I go. But I think if I’m laying out a timeline to kind of get to that point to where I might have that flexibility and shift over. Which, by the way, is what I think I’m describing what my partner John did, when we first started the business, he knew himself all along I think. But he didn’t have the flexibility. When we were starting a business to not have to do business development sales, to not have to do account management, to not have to do finance, you know kind of working the books of the business. As the business grew, he realised that flexibility and leveraged it. And he’s doing today what he wants to be doing. He’s happy as a clam. So, I think he’s sort of built that plan out. I think in general in starting a business there’s an implied ultimate flexibility right that should be the objective. Even if you don’t know what should be the doing with that flexibility, the idea that you have it and you can leverage it when the time comes once you reach that goal I think personally is a reason why a lot of us do start businesses right even if you don’t know what you’re going to do with that flexibility at least you want to have it.  

Joe: I was talking to a young gentleman who I work with sometimes. He’s got a great personality and he’s sort of what I would call a budding influencer – in just how he talks and what he plays and sort of the social landscape or the business landscape here. He started to move into a small creative business around film and video and things like that. He actually told me about it and he wanted some advice on how to grow that cause I have an agency, and my immediate advice was ‘just don’t do it, don’t even go down that road’ and that’s kind of part of that process because when you look at the evolution that you go on as a business owner that retrospect is that the things that look good going into it. My advice was look at the evolution path for that business and does it take you to where you are already at are as a person. And who are the most successful video companies and whatever in the area – and does even if you get there – only a small percentage of the people do. Is that actually where you want to go? It became an immediate vehicle to express who he is, to get into conversations to get some paid work, to get some money, which at the end of the day you have to eat. But as you see it so often when people go into things that they don’t look at that evolutionary path and make sure that they are going which is where I was trying to get.

David: What’s interesting about that is we entered a crowded market too. I think part of what your saying is that it was – your advice was rooted to some degree in the fact that it was it’s a crowded market and its competitive – and also can you get to where you want to be…

Joe: Success isn’t really success. It’s very alluring in the front end because it gives the appearance that it fulfills the goals that you have. Which are money, your own thing, a purpose, a thing to talk about, an artistic expression. And all these things that technically check the boxes of people what they think they want. But it’s only after you’ve gone through it that you can sort of have that enlightenment of what you really want and sometimes you get lucky and the path takes you there. Usually, I think it’s more that you get to a financial freedom that allows you to reset and be what you want to be, not necessarily that the path gets you there. But the ideal is the path gets you there and you get the financial freedom in tandem with the right path.

David: There is an element for us, too, that was really around creating a bit of a collective. So if you think about our full story here it is 4 individuals who had a tremendous amount of professional respect for each other, worked really well together, and produced really good things for stakeholders that we wanted to produce for, right? So, that’s sort of the micro definition of how the whole thing started. As much as I could measure talent at that point, you know, I measured the talent of my partners pretty high. And I’d like to think that they measured me high as well. We had proven to each other and to various stakeholders within our professional lives that we could produce good things, competitively good things even though it was internal for other business. They were great products and great outputs. So what if we take that and say, what if we built something that just builds upon that? What if we just set the bar to say we’re going to build a business and everybody who works here needs to kind of fit in that definition? We need to have a high, high bar for talent but also working together, we need to be able to work together effectively, not just effectively, but comfortably and happily, right? back to the point, everybody should be doing something that they enjoy doing and we take that very seriously. You know we root out negative energy in our business really quickly. So, if the vision for the company company early on and still today is to have this collective of individuals who all love what they do, they all work very well together, they are high order operators in whatever capacity that they’re operating in. You cobble all that together and it produces great results for the marketplace. Sort of like the raw materials work together very well if they meet certain standards and characteristics. And they can’t help but produce great things for the market – great things for the clients. So for us. I think it’s not just about the money. I think ultimately, way off, we figured well if this all goes well I guess we’ll make pretty good money make more than we potentially we would have made in our career progressions in our prior lives. Because we were actually on great progressions, we were all doing extremely well in our careers. Are we making more today than we would’ve then? I don’t even know. I mean I don’t know where we would’ve gone if we stayed in those tracks. But we’re very happy that we have achieved that objective though, of building that group of people that, if I walk around that office that’s sort of my measure of, do I hear laughter all the time? Do I see smiles on people’s faces? There’s sort of a tone in our office – a sense of the positivity – people are really enjoying what they’re doing they are enjoying each other and they are producing great results out of it so that’s our objective and remains today.

Joe: And that’s to me meaning for an entrepreneur, because that’s you get to pick you inputs, right? That self-expression, right? How you pick the inputs the self-expression, how you organize the inputs is self-expression. How you put the processes over the inputs that you have chosen to achieve what you talked about which is quality thing to put, put into the world.   

David: Yeah, I mean I take pride in the individual impact that every one of our employees, I take pride to think that they all go home in a good mood every day and they have families and spouses and partners and children and people that are part of their world outside of our office. It’s part of our objective – I’m not saying they go home ecstatic every day and tell everybody how great their day was every single day, but I’d like to think they don’t go home beat down. They don’t go home with their shoulders slumped like ‘Oh there’s another day, another day of the grind’ like they’ve got some satisfaction of their day professionally and interpersonally you know it’s energizing to be around people who you enjoy being around and are energized and are contented in what they’re doing. They also challenge each other I mean, when you really have a high bar for talent they end up implicitly challenging each other and so I’d like to think our folks go home really kind of noodling on something. You know, really intellectually, I think intrigued or challenged by something. And our clients challenge them too in a good way, so it’s kind of our thing it’s our vision and we’ve held pretty firmly to it and we’re pretty proud that we’ve been able to achieve that and it’s hard to measure, but as far as we can tell.   

Ashley: So you mentioned entering really competitive market place and understanding some of the rapidity of the environment, some of the uncertainties. And then you said earlier that your job is never done. There was this innate sense of – maybe it’s pressure to be ahead, to think faster to move faster – combined with what I perceive to be… I think that you’re probably a highly sensitive individual, you’re probably self-analytical I think you have an interest in psychology. I think combined that could be an interesting combination and it could, presumably, cause you to be a little hard on yourself. I find that even if you don’t have that personality the pressure, I mean you mentioned that hipster trying to play the game and probably innately feeling that to show up and be a brand..   

Joe: I did not say he was a hipster but…

Ashley: He is not but I think that, that’s his own piece but when you combine the industry that just another layer that you’ve gotta have a tough skin for you gotta have the energy for it and the mindset for it and then you move to being really driven and reflective and how do you forestall the downside of that?

David: The self-awareness, yes, I am very hard on myself but I know that I am I and catch myself doing it  

Ashley: So, insight.

David: Yeah I just think you know you learn that over time and that if you believe in the vision of what your trying to build as a company and you are driven for that to succeed and not just for your own benefit but for the benefit of your partners and the benefit of your employees and quite frankly the marketplace and the industry. We think what we’re doing is good for our industry and its good for our market for our clients. I think if your driven by that you start to recognize your own faults and you actually call yourself out on them in the interest of the business, so it’s not about, trying to think how to answer this. I feel like being hard on myself actually allows me to call on that things that I think I do that are potentially bad for our business and correct them it also helps me understand where to delegate things.   

Ashley: And probably a little bit more on an existential scale of this, on sort of tactical reallocation of tasks and just more about that insatiable drive to do more that your job is essentially never done I just don’t know how that affects an individual with your makeup or if there is an effect?

David: Just making sure that I understand the question? So, the question is does this perpetual drive to make it better, make it better, make it better end up being a detriment to …

Ashley: Maybe more how you, knowing who you are and knowing you perceived flaws and having a good sense of self-awareness, how you measure that energy and how you offer against pressure that maybe makes you move to fast or make wrong decisions or how do you navigate that?

David: Humility, I think and bouncing things and collaborating a lot with not just my partners but we have a very strong leadership team, while I’m the CEO and you might think I live on an island I make decisions and then hand down decisions and its so far from that, there are very few if any well the only unilateral decisions I make are the ones that are absolutely clear cut based on our business philosophy core values ethics things like that you know that we all say I’m not going to talk to anybody about that this is the decision I’m making virtually every other decision I’m making every other move that I make is somehow informed through a conversation, collaboration, gathering input. Because the advice that I give individuals around starting a business is every situation is different but the general advice I give is, ‘don’t do it alone.’ So I’m a product of my partners and the advisors that take the form outside the business, but also take the form of my leadership team. I seek input and advice on most things, actually.   

Ashley: Would you also advise – don’t move too quickly, or don’t move too fast? Are you a proponent of a more measured as a principle?

David: I think in general yes. It’s hard to say categorically yes to that because there’s market conditions, there’s opportunities, there’s things that – in fact I had this discussion 2 days ago with my leadership team. Where there was an opportunity to go take on a lot of work and to do that I think the messaging was we’re not kind of ready, we’re not positioned well to do that. And my response was that we’ve encountered that multiple times in this business. The idea of how our capacity matches demand coming in is not black and white – there’s a grey area in there, that you can operate within. As long as you’re not operating outside of that to where you’re risky for your client or the business, then we can just get it done. We’ve done that that’s how we’ve grown the business, and a couple huge leaps we’ve done that. So I think that’s kind of situational and environmental. Did we move too fast? Absolutely, but it was managed, we managed the risk. It was sort of a controlled chaos type situation knowing that we were going to come out of it making the client success the number one factor. We will clean up our mess coming out of it, and we’ll learn from it. We’ve done that multiple times in the business. So it’s hard to answer, you know, do I advocate moving too fast?  

Joe: You need to be agile, is what you’re saying.

David: Well you need to be agile, you need to do a really deep and honest risk assessment. When you’re approached with an opportunity to move fast, but if you can get yourself out of that risk assessment and you can lock arms with the right people and everybody is committed to it and everybody understand why we’re doing it, what we are going to get out of it, and why it is important.

Ashley: And they know who they are, too.

David: They know who they are, they know what their talents are, they know when to raise their hand for help. They know when to collaborate around a decision. They are all operating around the same core values of the business but also the core principles of this particular thing that we’re chasing or doing. Now the flip side of that is, I firmly believe in taking the long view. We have always taken the long view on the business, and what I mean by that is, We don’t manage to you know – our monthly or quarterly or even annual financial like that were so hyper, hyper focused on what do our numbers look like this quarter and so you know that takes four men and a particular client relationship decision – where the client says you know I really could stand to slow this thing down a little bit. Or I can’t think of other examples, but… Where we might react to that and say, well you know we’ll actually keep it going lets add some more people in cause we are trying to hit a number for a quarter or something like that. Instead we’re going to stand by that client and we’re going to empathize with their situation. We’re going to say, “Look, we want a long term relationship with you. If we don’t hit our numbers, if we have a little bit of jolt to our business in the short term, we’re okay with that. Because our interest is more in the long term relationship with this particular individual or client, because we take the long view on the business.

Ashley: Probably one of the reasons why your employees are so happy too. Just the removal of that arbitrary pressure, essentially?

David: So we do manage the business, we manage our financials, and we keep ourselves profitable, and we’ve always been profitable. At the same time, when it comes down to those types of decisions and that general mindset, it’s always the long view on the business and also the relationship particularly the client but also the employee. So we take the long view on our employee relationships too, those are always the priority.  

Joe: And another reason why your employees are so happy is that you have one of the coolest office spaces and I don’t know if that goes hand in hand with all things Agile. But we got the pleasure of the tour you gave us a month or so ago. I don’t think we have the time to cover it today but I will commit, whenever we do these shows, we have a pretty extensive show notes page and we typically do a companion article. So I’ll make sure that’s about the office space, cause it’s a great set up and we’ll have some photos and kind of dig into that so people can read about it. So with that being said we finish our shows with a shoutout – most of our shows, which is..

Ashley: 80%

Joe: 80% if I’m hosting and here, we do it, she doesn’t do it.

Ashley: An individual, a company, an entity in the Tampa area that is doing good work may or may not have the platform to toot their own horn, but you think we should all pay attention to?

Joe: I’m going to take anybody we mentioned in the show off the table.

David: Well I had it until you said may not have the ability to toot their own horn cause I think they have been tooting their horn so I’ll give the shout out to Tampa Bay Tech. Obviously, I’m a little biased because my partner is the chair. But I think they have succeeded in building – they built a collective of highly energetic, motivated, high performing individuals and look at the results, right? So if I look at that group the people who are actively involved, they are really, really talented people. They sure seem to love what they do, to the point they want to advocate the industry and do what they’re doing with Tampa Bay Tech. And the outputs that they’ve been producing to me has been astounding, to say nothing of the fact that they’re kind of the reason we’re sitting here right now. This introduction came through Tampa Bay Tech and I’m I think they are doing great things. Interestingly, to me they are far from topping out. They are building credibility right now and reputation and strength as an organization that I don’t even think we’ve seen yet what that could turn into.

Joe: They had a nice muscle flex with the CareSync closing and they stepped up and coordinated with a lot of their member companies. Put the hotline together to take care of the employees who were left out in the cold.

David: That’s very powerful.

Joe: Yeah.

David: That’s something that really hasn’t existed. I don’t believe that’s ever existed as an industry. It exists within the HR departments of the affected companies, or other companies who have needs, or who care. But as a centralized coordinating unit, that’s really powerful.

Joe: That’s a building block of an amazing culture for a community and it can’t be understated how important that is.

David: I agree.

Ashley: Good pick, nice work.

Joe: Thank you.

Ashley: Thank you.

David: Yeah, thank you.

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About the host

Joe Hamilton is the CEO of Big Sea, publisher of the St. Pete Catalyst and a founding Insight Board member at the St. Petersburg Group.  Joe brings a strong acumen for strategy and positioning businesses. He serves on several local boards, including TEDx Tampa Bay, which grew his desire to build a platform where the area’s thought leaders could share their valuable insight with the community at large.

Ashley Ryneska is the Vice President of Marketing for the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg and a founding Insight Board member at the St. Petersburg Group. Ashley believes meaningful conversations can serve as the gateway to resolution, freedom, and advancement for our city. Her passion for storytelling has been internationally recognized with multiple media accolades.

About the St.Petersburg Group

The St. Petersburg Group brings together some of the finest thinkers in the area. Our team is civic minded, with strong business acumen. We seek to solve big problems for big benefit to the city, its businesses and its citizens.