Episode 6: Hiring and Onboarding for a Great Culture Fit, with Bill Harney
Watch the episode here
Bill Harney is the CEO at Keeping Current Matters, a fast-growing educational content provider that’s changing the way real estate advisors educate and serve their clients. After taking over for his father in 2014, he’s led the team at KCM as it scaled from a small 5-person firm in a garage, to a 22-person team of aligned rock stars, all while growing revenue 600% in 5 years. Under his watch, KCM has been on the Inc. 5000 list the last two years, recognized as a 3-time Top 30 Great Small Workplace in America, and one of the Best and Brightest workplaces in the country. Today, Bill leads the strategic direction at KCM and works with his senior leaders to not only scale the business at KCM, but more importantly scale the talent-magnet-culture as well.
What the podcast will teach you:
- How Keeping Current Matters has experienced 600% growth over the period of five and a half years that Bill has been in charge
- Why Bill’s father founded the company in 2006 in anticipation of a likely real estate market collapse (which did take place in 2008)
- How Bill and the early team at Keeping Current Matters established their strong Purpose, Values and Mission, and why consistency and intentionality were key
- What Keeping Current Matters’s six Core Values are, why those particular Values were chosen, and how they help to steer the company towards its success
- What culture awards and recognitions Keeping Current Matters has received in honor of their stellar culture and great work environment
- Why Bill believes every business should apply for a Great Place to Work certification, and what companies can learn about themselves from the process
- How the organization’s Purpose, Values and Mission have changed the way they conduct their hiring and onboarding processes
- How applicants are interviewed by multiple team members who are hiring for a Values fit, and what strong onboarding tools the team uses to bring new employees in
- How the onboarding process at Keeping Current Matters allows new team members the tools, resources and relationships they need to succeed from day one
- Why Bill’s team has developed a unique process of offering a month’s pay as a “bribe to quit” at the end of a new employee’s two-week evaluation period
- Website: keepingcurrentmatters.com
- Website: greatplacetowork.com
- LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/billharney/
- Instagram: instagram.com/keepingcurrentmatters/
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/kcmcrew/
Hiring and Onboarding for a Great Culture Fit, with Bill Harney
Bill Harney is the CEO at Keeping Current Matters, a fast-growing educational content provider that’s changing the way real estate advisors educate and serve their clients. After taking over for his father in 2014, he’s led the team at KCM as it…
I’m here with Bill Harney. He’s the CEO of Keeping Current Matters and somebody that I’ve known for a few years now. I’m excited to have him as our next guest. We’re going to be learning from Bill, his company, and his journey over the last few years. My hope is that you will take away some practical ideas that can help you as you work to grow your business. Bill, why don’t you give a quick introduction to yourself and Keeping Current Matters? I’d love to ask you some questions that I think will be useful in helping our readers learn some things from you.
Brett, thank you so much for having me on. It is an honor. I’ve learned so much from you over the last several years. It’s helped me become a better leader and helped my company grow tremendously. You can’t have one with one of those without the other. I’m honored to be here with you. My name is Bill Harney. I’m the CEO and Owner of Keeping Current Matters. We are a research-based content creation company for real estate professionals in the United States.
We were at 22 employees in 2019. I remember not that long ago when we were five young kids sitting in a garage, trying to figure out how to make this happen, and it’s been a wild journey over the last few years. I had a lot of fun, learned a lot of lessons, and was lucky to have a lot of great people in my corner to help guide me through some of the challenges of growing a business from when I took over probably shy of $1 million to we’re going to approach $6 million.
That’s remarkable growth over that timeframe. When was it that you took over, Bill?
I took over in April of 2014.
It’s been several years. You’ve had 6X growth during that time. Let’s talk about the history of the company before you took over. This is a company that your dad started.
My father was a realtor his whole life, or at least as far as long as I’ve been around. He sold his company in 2004 and did well on that, semi-retired for a bit. Anybody from the US is going to know that 2006, 2007, 2008, through 2009 were a wild time in the real estate industry and for our nation as a whole with the Great Recession that came in there.
Dad had seen the writing on the wall for what was going to happen in the real estate space. He went out and created a new business based on what he was seeing. He was educating broker-owners of companies, groups, large groups, and agents. The company was founded almost on a mission from his soul that he had to go out and help people.
That was 2006 when the company was officially first incorporated. He ran the company from 2006 up until 2014, mostly as a speaking company. He was out there training agents in large groups. Eventually, we built a residual recurring revenue subscription service type of product on the backend, probably around the 2010 timeframe.
I’m guessing there are going to be a few people reading this whose parents, grandparents, or somebody before them started the business and ran it for a considerable amount of time. In this case, it was “only eight years” that your dad ran the business but got it up to nearly $1 million or over $1 million in other people’s cases. Sometimes that’s over several years to grow a business and run it that long. They hand it off to the next generation and these generational businesses, and they say, “Go make it happen, son. Keep it going.” You find yourself in 2014 at the head of this business at the ripe old age of? You’re a young guy.
Ripe of the age of 31 at the time.
You’re in your early 30s, and you’re running a company. How much did you know about running a company?Everything falls out of purpose, values, and mission. Click To Tweet
I knew nothing about running a company. A couple of things here. One, I don’t know if it was as much a hand-off as it was ripping it away from him type of moment. He and I joke about this and have ever since, but there was a day that I remember looking at the business that we had, and I’m going to call it a business at that point. We had a business. We didn’t necessarily have a company yet. Looking at the business that we had, I was looking into the future and the conversations that he and I were having. I’m thinking this was much bigger than either one of us realized it was. I spent some time working with friends. I read the E-Myth by Michael Gerber, which unlocked an entrepreneurial fire inside of me.
I went to him and said, “I think the impact that this company can make is bigger than either of us is talking about. I want to see if I can make that happen. It was less of a here. It’s time for you to take over. We can do something more. I’m the guy that can take it there and not necessarily you. I’ve got the fire. I’ve got the runway in front of me. I want to see if I can make this happen. What do you think?” I expected that to be, “No, heck no. Over my dead body.” It turned into a quick yes.
As you’re very astutely pointing out, I knew nothing about running a company at that point. I came up as a sales marketing guy. I understood product fulfillment of being able to deliver value, but I knew nothing about how to run an actual company. That’s where I draw the line between those businesses and there’s company. I talk about this at KCM all the time.
There’s business, which is the nuts and bolts, the block and tackle, and the stuff that we all know. That’s the revenue and profitability. How many members do we have? What are the different KPIs? When I talk about business, that’s usually the mindset that I have on. When I’m talking about the company, I’m talking about the human beings that are real people that are doing the work inside of the four walls that we create in our office. That’s where culture, vision, communication, feelings, vulnerability, and trust. That’s where all of that leads for me.
I’m quick to point out that those are two different. When I talk about businesses, I’m specific when I talk about the company. As you were asking, I knew a lot about business, and I knew nothing about the company. I quickly realized that I needed to get educated about what running and owning a company meant and what was going to be needed of me in order to make that happen.
To grow as much as you have over the last several years, you’re a pretty quick study. Good work on that. Let’s try to dive into some of what you learned as you went about educating yourself and working on company building because that’s where the gold is for our readers. You all read that he references it as KCM. That’s his company Keeping Current Matters. How does somebody like Bill Harney at KCM do the stuff that everybody wants to do? They don’t know where to go or don’t know what to do. You jumped in, you figured it out, and you’ve had some great success. Let’s talk about that for a few minutes.
You mentioned Michael Gerber’s E-Myth, which is coincidentally an episode with Morty Hodge, and I mentioned to you, since you know Morty, that we had an episode. He mentioned that book as well as one of those pivotal moments that changed the way he thought about systematizing and growing a business, rather than being the technician working in the business. That was a key book. It sounds like, for you as well. What other resources did you come across that helped you on your journey to building a company?
E-Myth was the first one that, for me, the reason that E-Myth was impactful was I couldn’t be the technician. That was my dad. To this day, I still can’t do what he does and what our team here does from creating the actual product that we sell and the membership that we create. I had no option but to be on the other side of things of being the owner and the visionary, that side of things because I couldn’t do the other pieces. E-Myth was huge for me in that space seeing that this is possible. After E-Myth, I started going on an educational spree.
To be dead honest with you, Brett, the first thing that clicked for me is I saw you on a webinar. That’s how I first got introduced to the Elite community. That’s how I first met you. You did a webinar with a partner in the Infusionsoft space. Summer 2014 is when I saw it. It was even a recording. You were talking about purpose, values, and mission. You were talking about the core of how to build a company and how to set up the foundation properly.
I’m a sucker for a great model and a sucker for a great system. I said, “That makes sense to me. I like that.” It resonated with me, and I reached out. That kicked off a lot of the conversations that you and I had for the last several years. I saw that webinar with you. You turned me on to some Jim Collins work, Beyond Entrepreneurship, and being one of the pivotal pieces there. Scaling Up by Verne Harnish has been pivotal for me, especially in that space of trying to get things organized and a system. The other book that has helped me over the last several years has been Multipliers by Liz Wiseman as developing my leadership more than my business operation.
What I would like to do is talk about the work that you did after you got these resources. You talked about the role of setting the vision in your company. What did you do? What does that look like to go back as a leader? You’re in this company-building mode. You’ve got a small team at this time. What is the work that you guys did?
I have four people that were on the de facto leadership team and were that for a number of years afterward. I knew that was the team that we were going to go to war with. We had a couple of other admin folks. My dad was still there, but he knew that it was going to be the kids running things. The four of us, for the better part of two months, spent a couple of hours a week starting to codify what we believe to be our purpose and values.
Eventually, we started creating what do we want our mission to be. For those not familiar with the terminology we’re using here, I like to think of purpose as our big why. I’m a big Simon Sinek fan. If you’re familiar with his famous TED Talk of Why, How, What, what’s at the center, and why do you wake up in the morning?
We spent a lot of time working on our purpose, which for us, has been equivalent to that modality. We spent a lot of time working on our core values. We wanted to understand what was it that made the four of us click well and who were the type of people that we wanted to attract more people like us. It’s that triumvirate of the purpose values and eventually the mission of what we’re trying to accomplish, which are the big, hairy, audacious goals. Any of that lexicon all works out well, but we wanted to set the foundation for, as we’re building this company, what is it that’s rooting us in consistency and intentionality.
The two big strengths of mine are being intentional about things than sticking to a plan. I knew that if we codified this at the top of all levels, everything would start to fall out of that, and we would get aligned. A good point here, Brett, to bring up is that at this point, we were running a successful business. We were right at about above or below $1 million in revenue. We had 2,000 or so clients, maybe a little bit more than that at this point.
We weren’t like floundering. What we started to realize quickly was that I was running sales and marketing. I was going in one direction. Our head of member experience and customer service was working on different things. We had a young kid that was managing our database, social media, video content, and everything else. We had a young lady and her job was to be the glue that kept the three of us from killing each other.
What became quickly apparent was that we were all trying to accomplish greatness, but we were in different boats, rowing in different directions, and some might argue we were in different oceans at that point. The work that we did on purpose values missions got us in the same body of water. We’re all in the same boat. We knew that we needed to row in the same direction. It was the work that we put in over the next year that got us rowing in the same direction in some synchronized orders. It’s the best way to describe the state of where we were and what defines our purpose, which I’ll state here that we believe every family should feel confident when buying and selling a home.
That is our North Star. That is what we are trying to work on every day. We know that we’re never going to get to every family, but we are waking up every morning trying to. We define our purpose there. We set our core values that we’re rock solid, things that w 100% believe in, and we took off some things that we thought should be on there. We had one that was the customer is always right as a core value. We quickly realized, “No, unfortunately, they’re wrong more often.” That’s not a core value, but let’s try to do the right thing for the customer. We got strict on what our core values truly were.
Do you mind sharing a couple of them? You shared one that didn’t stick. Let’s talk about the ones that are guiding everything you do now.
We have six. That’s how many core values we have right now that we’ve identified. That came from the essence of who the four of us were at that point. We now use that as a measuring stick for anybody at KCM. Our six core values are lead, own, and exceed as first. It’s three words together, lead, own, and exceed. That’s our number one core value. When we teach this in orientation at KCM, I let everybody know there’s no order, but there is a number one, and that is the driver for us here.
The other values for us are trust, patients, and flexibility. It’s another triple. We cheated that way. We’ve got to play chess, not checkers. We don’t take ourselves seriously, but we take what we do seriously as a core value number four. We are committed to the education and development of both our team and members. We practice open communication.
I didn’t get the sense that you read that. You know that. Is that a requirement for all your people to know those things?
There’s a requirement for all KCM crew employees. Usually, by the second day of orientation, every new employee has a down because that is always the first three pop quizzes.
I want to point out to people that the idea of starting with a purpose, and you shared with us what your purpose was, whether or not you’re involved at KCM, people can get a sense of how that could be inspiring to somebody who cares about that, having that impact where everybody who is buying or selling a home can do with confidence.If you haven't started your purpose, values, and mission work, that is where you have to start. Once you connect on that, everything else gets a little bit easier. Click To Tweet
I butchered that a little bit, but the idea is that you’re making a difference for people. This is not just a business and making money. It needs to be those things, but there’s a purpose behind it. It’s purpose-driven and values-based. You guys hire, lead, and fire to a set of core values and that purpose and fit with the mission that you’re up to.
I want to talk about how in the span of several years, you guys started earning some awards for creating the best place to work, which is fantastic. It’s probably a little awkward for me to ask you to share publicly, but you do not want to brag on yourself, but do you mind sharing a couple of the awards you’ve won?
The reason I don’t mind doing this is I don’t like to brag on myself, but I will tell you that this is a team award which has been spearheaded by my Chief People Officer Beth Frank, who has been with been bright by my side ever since I started at KCM. She was only a year after me, but she’d been right by my side as I took over. I would not be able to have done what we’ve been able to do here. I would not have been able to leave this team without her. This is a testament to the work that she has put in. She and I are connecting on the culture vision for what we want KCM to be 20, 30, to 40 years from now. That’s why I don’t mind bragging on this side of it. It’s good on her, not me.
We have been recognized as a Certified Great Places to work four years in a row. Ever since we first started, we’ve been submitting our application for them. We’d started that pretty much right after I took over. We believed that that was going to be important to us. We submitted for certification. We wanted to know what we could do better. We’ve been certified for several years.
We should be finding out if we’ve made the top 50 list again, but we’ve done that for three years since 2018. We hope that it will be four years in a row when we get the official word. That means that of all the companies in the US, we have been recognized as a top 50 medium and small workplace in the United States. They do awards for the large workspaces. It’s from 200 and up. They do it to everybody from 200 employees and down. We have been in the top 50 for three years until 2018, hoping to make that four.
What’s been your high watermark on that so far, as far as the number?
We’ve been the number four great place to work in the US for small and medium-sized businesses.
It’s with less than 30 employees. I know that’s not the definition, but I’m thinking about you guys. Here you are several years ago, taking over the raw materials of a business. You’ve got to build a company. You, along with your team, and you gave amazing credit to Beth. I know you would give credit to that whole leadership team for the vision work you did, but pretty fast, you hit the scene on those Best Place to Work Awards. This isn’t in your local area or your state. This is in the US. That’s outstanding. Not every company applies for those awards. If you’re reading this and saying, “I wonder if I could apply for one of those awards,” you can. Tell them first, where do they go to apply? Let’s talk about why you said, “I think they should.”
The organization that is at the top in this space is a company called Great Place to Work. It’s GreatPlaceToWork.com. If you Google Great Place To Work, they’re going to be the top hit that you see. They’re the governing body for this organization. They put on an amazing conference every spring. Our team has gone to that for the last several years. The content that they provide is phenomenal. Great Place To Work is the organization. It’s $1,000 total to be entered into the certification process.
Everybody that’s reading this that’s resonating with anything. If they haven’t turned us off by now that I think this makes sense for them is that you are going to learn so much about your organization and employees, but you’ll also get a tremendous amount of content and practical tips on things you can do to improve the culture, workplace, and employee experience at your organization. Every year, even when we were number four, we have a laundry list printed out from Great Place To Work, “These are the areas that you did well. These are the areas that you probably can do a little bit better. Here are some practical tips to start having some of these conversations.”
The certification is great. Being on the list is amazing. I’m very much a person of what can we do better? When you have lead and exceed as your number one core value, we have a lot of people at KCM that take on that same moniker, “That’s awesome. We got an award, but what can we do better?” The reason that I would suggest that anybody that is reading this blog that cares about running a great company versus in addition to a great business and the culture is important to them, I would check out Great Place To Work. Try to get yourself by trying to get certified and learn what they can teach you about your own company. They’re a great organization to work with.
It’s a fantastic practical recommendation for people who want to create great companies. Thank you for doing that.
What they’re going to do is they’re going to do a mandatory anonymous survey of every employee that you have.
I’m glad you’re bringing that up. I was going to bring that up.
They’ll ask tough questions. They’re going to ask questions of what is the trust level that you have in your leadership team and ownership. Do you believe that the ownership is acting in the best interest of its customers and its employees? They’re asking real questions. These aren’t softballs, and it’s anonymous, so you’re going to get real answers.
Luckily, we’ve done well in those areas because that’s where a lot of our focus has been, but there have been some tough-hitting questions where I’m like, “I didn’t love the answers that we got.” We took that as an opportunity to be able to say, “This is a space we can get better. This is a space where we’re not hitting the mark as much as we want to be, and we can improve what we do here.” This is important to us.
We also do this at Infusionsoft. I have an experience with the same process. Not only is the survey insight invaluable that Bill’s talking about, but another reason I would second Bill’s endorsement for applying is if you have any interest whatsoever in creating a great company. Unfortunately, as human beings, we’re all this way a little bit. Making an investment in something like this automatically increases your commitment to creating a great company.
Even if you’re telling yourself, “No, I’m all about creating a great company,” the act of applying for these types of certifications or this type of recognition ups your commitment level. There is a financial piece, but you’re getting data and feedback from your company, employees, and team members. That raises the bar that says, “You’ve got to do something with that feedback,” or you set it aside, and they think, “You weren’t serious about it.” It cranks up the level of commitment that you have to have as a leader to do something about it.
It raises the accountability of the leader.
The commitment and the accountability have to go up when you start getting your people’s feedback on those things and when you pay some money to have somebody else inspect and give you some feedback. Let’s talk about some of the things that you guys did that you think were key factors or key elements that enabled you to become a great place to work.
You already talked about setting a clear vision, which is a core element. Purpose, values, and mission have to start there. In your hiring process and onboarding process, there are things that you guys have created that are innovative that add to the overall great place to work that you’ve created and helped you stay on these lists year after year. If you don’t mind sharing a couple of practical ideas, not necessarily expensive, but things that most people could do their own version of it.
Everything falls out of purpose, values, and mission for us. There’s nothing that I’m going to talk to you here that doesn’t somehow relate back to that. I want to reiterate. For anybody that’s reading, if you haven’t started your purpose, values, and mission work, that is where you have to start. Once you connect on that, everything else gets a little bit easier. You may have some pruning to do around current systems like we did, but you need to start there.
For us, we had our purpose, values, and mission, or we call it a vision. We had our vision set for our team. We were growing at this point. We were 6 or 7 people by the time this all got codified, and we rallied behind. We were growing. We knew that we were going to be adding on 5 or 6 people that year. We were in hyper-growth mode at that point.
The most important thing for us was our hiring process. We wanted to make sure our values were being checked to make sure that folks that we were going to “allow” into our company that they were a culture fit. They were going to be one of us and not in an anti-diversity type of thing, but you share the same beliefs of, “We should try to always exceed what we’re capable of doing.” That’s what I mean by fit. We’re going to try to play chess, not checkers. We’re going to think strategically. We’re going to have open and real conversations about things. That’s what we mean by fit.If you root it in a really strong onboarding process, the rest of it becomes a lot easier. Click To Tweet
People are going to automatically act as if because that’s who they already are. We wanted to make sure in our hiring process that was crystal clear. We built out in multistage. Every consultant I’ve ever met with says our hiring process is way too long. Yet, we hire only the best people, and our turnover rates are fantastic in a positive way. We get phenomenal human beings coming in, but it does take a little bit longer to hire some of these folks because of the different steps that we have. For every person that we’re hiring, they’re meeting with at least 4 or 5 people at the company. They’re starting with Skype and phone interviews. We’re checking for core values at that point. It’s less about can they do the job?
We’re checking on the core values. Do they have the basic requirements of the job? Will they be a fit? We’ll do more on-the-job type of interviewing. They’ll meet with not only the hiring manager, but they’ll also meet with people that they would work with, people inside their department, and people outside their department to get a lot of different perspectives.
We do that for two reasons. One, so that we get a good, well-rounded view of the candidate. Two is if they are going to be successful, they’ve now met a quarter of the company before they even had their first day. When they’re showing up, they’re going to have people that they recognize, and they feel more at home as they’re getting started. Those are two reasons that we do it that way. We have many different people interviewing the different stages. Plus, it also improves the interviewing skills of every single person at the company.
Let’s talk about that for a second. What does it do to the commitment level of all those people involved in interviewing the candidate and their commitment level to the new hire’s success if they were involved in the process?
I hear that from people. It’s a lot of pressure to work at KCM and to be the new person, but also to be bringing on and interviewing folks. Knock on wood somewhere here. We’ve been lucky. A lot of it is intentionality, and it’s a lot of work. We’ve been lucky in the folks that we brought in. Nobody wants to bring in somebody that isn’t going to make the cut. Their commitment level to their understanding of the values, to be able to look for it in another person in a 30 to 60-minute interview. Those skills have to get sharpened, and they do over time. You never want to let the rest of the team down.
We like to keep the bar of what it takes to be an employee at KCM high. My team does a better job than I would at making sure that we’re only bringing in and allowing to get through our filters the absolute best of the best, which is a phenomenal mentality. From a business owner’s standpoint, it’s easier to do the business side of things if you have amazing people at every spot.
That’s the key, isn’t it, Bill? You get everybody aligned, and you put rock stars, all stars, or whatever term you like to use for the best of the best in the spots. That’s a pretty good recipe for success.
We don’t stop at hiring. Hiring is step one. Onboarding for us is probably the biggest area where I think we make a big impact. It’s worth it to go in if we have the time for that.
Before we leave hiring, you said a lot of things that make sense. Let’s try to give a little more concrete example. When you say, “They’re interviewing for the values, they’re looking for values fit,” off the top of your head, can you give one type of question that would be asked to assess fit for any of your values?
I’ll give you two. One of our core values as we practice open communication, and what that value means to us in a nutshell is that you’re not going to be afraid to be able to talk to another human being about something that’s awkward or potentially confrontational. We give training on how to have those conversations, but we’re not going to let things dwell and fester. It’s not what we do here at KCM, and that’s hard.
When we’re on the interview, what we’re looking forward to, we’ll ask people, “Talk to me about a situation where you’ve been in an uncomfortable position with another employee, a manager, or a subordinate, depending on the role. Talk to me about how you handled that situation. How did you have that conversation?”
We look for, one, did you have the conversation? If anybody ever says, “It was awkward and I didn’t feel comfortable having that conversation,” for us, that’s a red flag. I know it’s difficult, but if you truly value being real and open, you’re going to have that conversation. Can they continue to talk about that situation, and how do they respond to that? That’s an easy and simple one.
We also have a core value around, “We don’t take ourselves seriously. We take what we do very seriously.” When you marry that with a value of, “We don’t exceed,” we hire a lot of high achievers and a lot of GSD, you put your head down and get the work done type of folks. That’s part of our culture, but at the same time, we want to be able to laugh and joke around with each other and not have our ego come in, “We’re too good for that or too busy for that.” We want to be able to have fun.
We’ll ask a question. In the middle of a serious interview, we’ll flip the table and turn into, like, “If you were a vegetable, what vegetable would you be?” We don’t care what their answer is. What we care about is how did they react when we went from serious conversation to laughing, joking around, and talking about nonsense. If they react well, that’s a good sign. If they’re put off or if they’re like, “What are we talking about? I thought that was important we were talking about,” that becomes at least a yellow flag, if not a red flag, for us.
I want to give readers concrete ideas and examples of how you do some of this stuff because it sounds great, “We’re going to hire to the values. We’re going to make sure everybody’s a good culture fit.” When it comes to what do you do, that becomes a sticking point for some people. I do want to transition to the onboarding thing. I love that you’re willing to share some of the things you guys have done with onboarding. Let’s talk about onboarding and some of the things you guys have done, the commitment you’ve made to this, and what it’s meant to your business.
The reason I want to spend some time here but because you had asked me earlier, “What are the things that have driven the great places to work?” This has probably been the single most impactful way that we have driven the culture that we do here because we start super intentional and in-depth. We want to make sure that their foundation, when they first come to KCM, is exactly the way we want it to be.
From there, it’s a lot easier to be able to build systems and manage them. It’s one-on-ones, accountability, normal management stuff, having meetings, strategic planning, and stuff that everybody else they’ve at least heard before. If you root it in a strong onboarding process, the rest of it becomes a lot easier. That’s been our theory and our belief in this.
For us, onboarding is from day one through the actual in-the-classroom style training for the first three days for every single employee that comes to KCM, no matter what level. I hired somebody that had been working with us as a consultant for several years. He went through full onboarding all three days in a classroom being taught by people here at KCM.
Why do you do that?
It’s critically important to get the foundation set right at the beginning. There are two things. Let me answer that question a little bit better. For the new employee, it’s critically important that they know how important this is to us and they get the right training on it. Two, I only teach one section of orientation. The orientation for us is probably eleven different sections. I teach one as the CEO. I have everyone from my team teaching the other pieces, not just leadership. We have every single person. If you’re at least six months in, you’re teaching a part of orientation.
What does that do for you guys to involve the team like that?
It locks into the team. They make sure that they know what they’re talking about. The best way to learn something is to teach it to somebody else. I believe that, and I’ve seen that play out here. It truly locks everybody else in and makes them understand the values, vision, and what we’re trying to accomplish better. It reintroduces the new employee to many people at the company. It continues to raise the bar on how important values are, the pride of what it is to work at KCM, and everything that it means to be a part of the KCM.
I want to highlight a few things that I think you were saying. One, the new team member has the full context. They need to be successful in their role coming in. There’s no hidden anything. You guys are giving it to them in an intentional, consistent way. Every time somebody comes in, “Here’s the experience.” They have the full context to be successful.
Two, you’re keeping the team sharp. Everybody who’s involved in delivering the content stays sharp on the core cultural tenets of the whole company. You have everybody involved in it. Three, there are relationships being built with people across the company that makes it to where it’s not this awkward first day of school moment. I’m in here and trying to figure things out in the lay of the land and who’s who, but they’ve been building relationships throughout the hiring process and onboarding process. They get integrated better with the team. Did I catch everything, or did I miss it?It's critically important to get the foundation set right at the very beginning. Click To Tweet
That’s the goal of everything that we’re doing.
No wonder you guys are number four in the country. That’s awesome.
We didn’t do this. We worked on this. Every single person that we hire, we make tweaks to it because we’re always learning. We’re always getting feedback and trying to figure out what we can do to make this a little bit better. The orientation used to be five days. That was too much. We were going into too much detail that people couldn’t remember. We’ve got it down now to three days, but they don’t even get their computer until after the third day.
As weird as it sounds, we lock them in a room, and they’re in a room. They get to meet people. It’s fun. It’s not like you’re chained to a desk, but for those three days, you’re going to learn about the history of the organization, the product, the culture, the people, and what our vision is. Every single person at KCM, we teach them our strategic planning process.
It doesn’t matter what role.
We want them to fully understand how and why this company exists. I’ll teach strategic planning, knowing that most people aren’t going to be involved in our annual planning. That’s more of a leadership thing for us. They won’t be involved in all of that, but they’ll be involved in some of that. When we do our team-wide swap, I want to make sure that’s not the first time they’ve ever heard of before.
I didn’t hear you say this directly, but I’m hearing you say, “We give them all the contexts we possibly can so that they can make the best decisions and exhibit the strongest ownership of their role in the whole company.”
Yeah, without a doubt.
You guys have a practice that I love when it comes to wrapping up the onboarding experience. If you’re comfortable sharing it, I’d love for you to share what you guys do to tie a bow on this onboarding experience.
I’m a little bit nervous to share this, in case anybody that is applying for a job, but I’ll run the risk on that side of things. This is something you and I have talked about this for years. Where did you first find out? Is it Zappos?
Zappos did a similar experience way back in 2009 or 2010. We went to Zappos. We were learning as we were trying to do to grow our culture. We found this practice that you’re talking about.
It feels like it’s a hack, but I will tell you, the psychological side of this is one of the coolest things. It’s a little thing that we do here. In the orientation I mentioned before, we have three full days in the office, and we do a week and a half of on-the-job training before orientation is officially complete. We do that side of things. At the end of that two weeks, we’re looking at this candidate. As much as you want to be able to do that in hiring and orientation, you can’t know until they’re there. Did you find the right person?
For that two weeks, we’re still evaluating and luckily enough, we haven’t gotten to the point where we mishired and we knew it that quickly. We do make sure that we continue the evaluation process of the new employee for those two weeks. At the end of that two weeks, we want to give them the opportunity to be able to say yes again to us because we’re saying yes to them at that point.
The way that we do that is we give them an eject button. We write them a check, give it to them at the end of the two weeks, and say, “We’ve been impressed with the work that you’re doing here. We know that when you’re starting a new job that it’s scary, and you never know if the culture is right for you and if the specifics of the job are what you’re looking for. We’ve been spending these last two weeks making sure that we were 100% sold on you, and we want to give you the same option.”
We give them a check, and we tell them, “Think about this over the weekend. If you decide that this is not the fit for you, I want to make sure that you have something to be able to land on your feet while you’re pursuing your next job. If you decide this is not the job for you, we get it. You can go cash this check this weekend.”
You’re not talking about a check for their first two weeks.
They got paid. This is a bribe to quit.
This is at least significant enough to make them question, “Should I stay and do this thing? Should I turn down this month?”
The way that we do that, I’ll give it as a practical tip for the team. We built up to this. We didn’t start necessarily here, but I don’t think we’d ever go below this anymore. We do a full month’s pay with $4,000 as a floor. If somebody is making less than that for entry-level type positions, we want to give them the opportunity to make an honest decision about, “If I can think I can go get a job, I’ll be as good if I can go in and jump inside of a month.” We want to bribe them to think about this. I do that for two reasons. One, because if anybody’s ever on the job and they’re saying, “This stinks, I don’t want to be here.” I don’t want them here.
Let’s call it $4,000. That was your floor. For anybody reading here saying, “That’s a lot of money to burn like that to give to somebody for leaving,” but how much does that save you?
It saves us tremendous amounts of money for having the wrong person in the wrong seat that doesn’t want to be there. Hiring and onboarding are one of the most time-intensive jobs that we have here at KCM. If you’re using a recruiter or anything along those lines, the cost goes through the roof. We’re making sure that we have the right person and that they’re committed early on. It is one of the biggest boosts of confidence that we can give to our team.
I appreciate you sharing the practice. If they turn it down and say, “No, I’m all in at KCM.”
We have them take the check, and they go over to our shredder. We take a picture of them shredding money. Think of the mental side of this, “I’m shredding real money to work at this company.” What does that lock in for your people? We have those pictures on the wall all around our office of people shredding money to work here. It’s a little subtle psychological thing, but it goes so far.
I love that practice. Thank you for being willing to share it.Hiring and onboarding is one of the most time-intensive jobs. Click To Tweet
Each time people say, “No,” I’m tempted to continue to raise the number. I want somebody to say, “Yes.” I want to be able to write a big enough check that somebody says, “I love it here, but that’s too big of a check. I’m trying to figure out what number of that is, and I stay under that.”
Thank you for your wealth of information and for staying around a little bit longer. I hope our readers appreciated that last part about the check shredding, the offer. There’s a commitment that you’re getting from people, and they say, “No, I choose to be here. I’m all in,” instead of taking this money and running. It’s no surprise to me that you guys continue to land on those Best Place To Work Awards. Its recognition is well deserved. I appreciate you taking the time to share with some of our readers some practical things that they need to do. As always, Bill, you’re a great help to what we’re trying to do at Elite Entrepreneurs. I appreciate your willingness to spend some time.
It’s been an honor. Thank you again. Anything I can do to support entrepreneurship and the group that you’re working with. You know how much I care about you, your team, and your groups. Anything I can do, I’m more than happy to do that.
Bill, for anybody who wants to look up to you and your company, what’s the best way for them to connect? They can go look up KCM or engage with you on social media. Is there a place you would like people to go to if they want to learn more?
To see what we were all about, Instagram is the best way to be able to do that. We have our corporate Instagram account, @KeepingCurrentMatters, but our culture and our people team run a separate Instagram account for more of our team, what we’re up to, and the culture side of things. That’s a cool thing to check out. That is @KCMCrew. That is the cultural side of our Instagram accounts.
Thanks, everybody, for reading this episode with our special guest, Bill Harney with KCM. Until next time, take care.
- Keeping Current Matters
- Morty Hodge – Past Episode
- Beyond Entrepreneurship
- Scaling Up
- Great Place to Work
- @KeepingCurrentMatters – Instagram
- @KCMCrew – Instagram
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