how to build a true employee first company podcast featured image

How To Build A True Employee-First Company (with Andy Alsop from The Receptionist)

In this episode, Tim is joined by Andy Alsop, President of The Receptionist—the company behind the original iPad-based visitor management system. Listen as they dive into the topic of employee supremacy, why it matters, and how to implement change by identifying your business’s purpose, values, and operating system.

Interview Highlights

  • Andy runs The Receptionist, a visitor management company based out of Boulder, Colorado. [1:41]

What it means to be a leader is that you are putting yourself aside and doing what is necessary for other people for them to thrive.”
— Andy Alsop

  • Andy believes that a leader is somebody who can be an example for others. And also at the same time, put themselves aside and be there for the people they’re working with. [3:54]

Being a leader is helping people to grow into their best selves.” — Andy Alsop

  • When Andy hears the phrase “build a better world of work”, what comes to mind is employee supremacy. Being in an environment where you trust the other people you’re working with, you trust the company that you’re working with, you feel as though you can do what you want to do that is in the best interest of the company and the company encourages you to do that. [6:33]
  • Andy mentions Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why. He shares that it’s an encouragement to recognize what’s important about work-life balance. [8:09]
  • If you’re looking at employee supremacy, the leaders of the company—the leadership team—are making decisions that are in the interest of the employees, not the shareholders. [9:38]
  • Tim also mentions a book called Primed to Perform by Neel Doshi and Lindsay McGregor, which talks about the three motivators. [10:38]
  • Everybody at The Receptionist knows what their just cause is: to build a world where the profits go to their employees and to the community. [13:32]
  • Employee supremacy is saying, ‘we’re in the long game’. This is about making decisions that aren’t just going to impact this quarter. They’re going to impact the next year, the next decade, or whatever else. [14:47]
  • Andy explains the difference between an employee-first company and an employee supremacy company. If you’re putting the shareholder first but saying that you’re employee-first, you’re really only speaking to it but not actually demonstrating it. So then if you take it and say, “Okay, we’re going to put employees first”, it changes your methodology and how you think about things. [16:01]

If our employees don’t trust us, what do we have? We have a lot of wasted costs in turnover, in lack of engagement. If you’re not engaged, are you producing at a hundred percent? Probably not.” — Tim Reitsma

  • At The Receptionist, they implemented Traction, the entrepreneurial operating system by Gino Wickman, that gave them an organizational structure. [22:30]
  • At The Receptionist, they created something called FABRIC, which are six core values: fun, authentic, bold, respectful, innovative, and collaborative. [23:32]
  • The Receptionist went from a company that was running really low with core values and they implemented The Infinite Game from Simon Sinek. Basically, it has five core tenets that you have to focus on. After going through the entire exercise of the entrepreneurial operating system and Traction, The Receptionist still didn’t have one of these core tenets—just cause. [24:12]
  • At the first quarter of last year, The Receptionist came up with their just cause and that just cause was all around employee supremacy. [25:11]

You put that together, Traction and the entrepreneurial operating system. The infinite game, finding your just cause. And that is how you can implement employee supremacy at any company.” — Andy Alsop

  • Andy talks about the ‘right person, right seat’. And GWC, which means Get it, Want it, and Can do it. The right person is somebody who shares the values. They feel a strong sense of what the mission of the company is. They share the core values. [29:01]
  • Andy also mentions working with a company called Scalability Solutions. [30:03]
  • A trusting team means they trust each other. They trust the company and the company trusts them. And so that level of trust is what drives the behavior to really do everything you can. [32:13]
  • Something they begin implementing at The Receptionist is growth plans. [35:17]
  • Sometimes you have to go and lead your shareholders, lead your board and say, “This is what I’m going to do. This is why I’m going to do it. Let’s have a dialogue around that.” [39:43]

Meet Our Guest

Andy Alsop is the President and CEO of The Receptionist, the company behind the original iPad-based visitor management system.

The Receptionist offers an iPad-based visitor management solution that consistently receives a 5-star rating from its customers according to sites such as G2, Capterra & GetApp. Started in 2013, they are now in over 4,500 locations in 36 countries and growing.

Andy is a 30+ year serial entrepreneur who has been part of the founding or c-level team of 6 different startups.  He acquired The Receptionist in April of 2015. His passion is running the company under “employee supremacy” a bold and completely different way of making decisions in a business.

photo of andy alsop

My passion is running a great company where people feel fulfilled.”
— Andy Alsop

Read The Transcript:

We’re trying out transcribing our podcasts using a software program. Please forgive any typos as the bot isn’t correct 100% of the time.

Andy Alsop

We came up with our just cause and that just cause was all-around employee supremacy and what we talked about before. So it’s really been those things. You put that together, traction, and entrepreneurial operating system. The infinite game, finding your just cause. And that is how you can implement employee supremacy at any company.

Tim Reitsma

Welcome to the People Managing People podcast. We’re on a mission to build a better world of work and to help you build happy, productive workplaces. I’m your host, Tim Reitsma and on today’s show, Andy Alsop, President of a cool company called The Receptionist, and I dive deep into a topic called employee supremacy.

Employee supremacy is where our employees truly come before our shareholders. We get into the, how we can truly do this? And it all starts with identifying our just cause, our values, and creating an operation that supports. And guess what? It all comes down to trust. So stay tuned!

Welcome to the People Managing People podcast, Andy. It’s been a while for us to get here and I’m just so excited that we can jump into really intriguing conversation around a term that, you know, I haven’t really heard about before, before we had connected. So, thanks for joining us. I’m excited.

Andy Alsop

Thanks, Tim. I’m really looking forward to talking about this topic. I go on a lot of podcasts to discuss it and it is a new term. That’s something I’ve only come up within the last six or seven months. So I’m hoping that to get it out there and have conversations really start going around it, so. 

Tim Reitsma

Yeah, I can’t wait.

So, you know, just to leave our listeners a little bit intrigued about what that is you know, we’re going to jump into that here in a sec, but before we get going tell us a little bit about what you’re up to and what’s top of mind for you these days?

Andy Alsop

Well, it’s funny cause what we’re going to be talking about is really what’s most top of mind. But aside from that I, you I run The Receptionist, which is a visitor management company and we’re based out of Boulder. And it has been an interesting time at work operating the company and running the company through the pandemic. Things are getting a little bit better, I would say, hopefully. We actually just had our holiday party which would have happened in January, but Omicron wasn’t going to let us have that party.

So, we all just got together in person with exception of a couple people, but we got to see everybody’s face from the team. And so for me, that was just extraordinary and it was just really nice to see each other hugs and everything else. So it felt like a little bit of normalcy. Now we’ve had little bits of people coming back to the office from seeing people and things like that.

But this is the first time where we all really had an opportunity to see each other. So like that’s what’s on top of mine. I’m kind of basking in that. That was just last week. 

Tim Reitsma

Oh, that’s phenomenal. I can’t imagine going for that long period of time and so many of us have done it and are still going through it and then embracing people for the first time in such a long time. I can imagine that’s a, you’re kind of on cloud nine, so to speak. 

Yeah, and, and it definitely ties in with, you know, what we’re going to be talking. I’ll just let the cat out of the bag. Well, we’re going to be talking about employee supremacy and how to build a true employee-first company. An employee supremacy is, you know, kind of the opposite of that shareholder supremacy.

I guess if you’re looking at a black and white term, but I know there’s a blend in there, but I think this also plays really nicely into my next question. And it’s a standard question that I like to ask is – what does it mean to be a leader?

Andy Alsop

I think what it means to be a leader is that you are sort of putting yourself aside and doing what is necessary for other people for them to thrive.

And that’s the way I look at it. I think there are, you know, they talk about two different types of leaders. Sometimes the ones sort of that, the rah, rah and push you and you got to get going and everything else. But I honestly believe that a leader is somebody who can be an example for others. 

And also at the same time, and as I said, put themselves aside and be there for the people who you are leading. And I don’t even really like that. It’s almost like the people you’re working with. And so I use that by example. There’s been people, there’s actually only one person who has left our company in the seven years.

We just crossed our seven-year anniversary day before most on the temp, so three days ago. And only one person that’s voluntarily left this company and it was back in 2017, 2018, actually, no, I’m sorry, it’s 2019. And that person went on that he was an iOS developer for us and he wanted to run on a mobile dev team, but we didn’t have enough positions for there, for him to be able to do that.

And so he said, this is where I want to go. And it was what I felt like, what we did through leadership was to celebrate that he wanted to move on and just support him in that and that he got the experience and he said, but he wouldn’t have been able to do it had he not been at the company and learned what he learned.

And so it was a celebration that he moved on. I know a lot of other leaders can be sort of take it personally when somebody moves on to something else. That’s what I think about being a leader is helping people to grow into their best selves.

Tim Reitsma

Oh, I love that you’d said, you know, there’s multiple different types of leaders and those who are the cheerleaders who are rah, rah, let’s get some stuff done. There’s also leaders who, how can I help you succeed? 

And when we talked a while ago about The Receptionist, and you’d mentioned that one person had left and the whole existence of the business, that just blew my mind. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that in, in a company. So it got me really intrigued about, well, what’s going on?

What’s the difference within The Receptionist and maybe we’ll touch on that a little bit and, ’cause I, I’m sure our listeners are also intrigued about what are you doing. How do you keep people engaged? But, you know, retain, there’s still this whole notion of great resignation or great reset or whatever you want to call it.

But it sounds like you’ve been able to skirt that a little bit. My own kind of research question that I love to ask people is, when you hear the phrase “build a better world of work”, what comes to mind?

Andy Alsop

Well, I mean, what comes to mind is employee supremacy. That’s what we do and I know I’m kind of, if there’s point, putting it there because I think being in an environment where you trust the other people you’re working with, you trust the company that you’re working with you feel as though you can sort of do what you want to do that is in the best interest of the company and the company encourages you to do that.

Those are all the things that when our employees, I hope, I actually thought about this. Maybe I should have some of my employees on because I don’t want to just be the CEO that talks about how great it is, but I hear it in interviews when they’re at when our team is asking questions of interviewees and interviewees are asking them, how, what is it like to be at The Receptionist?

Some of them say, this company has changed my life. And that just makes it, it gives me a little tangle when I hear that, because I feel like that is how you build a better world of work. Because that is how you make it so employees, at the end of the day, they feel like they can end their day. They don’t have to work all the time.

And they feel energized when they want to start the next day, cause I know they’re going to have an impact and they’re in environment that supports them. 

Tim Reitsma

The first thing that comes to mind is, wow. You know, having that employees, having our teams be, you know, eager to clock out at the end of the day if you will, but eager to get up in the morning and do it again. Like that’s the ultimate. 

And the big question in my mind is how do we get there? How do we do that?

Andy Alsop

Well, I think it’s really interesting because there are a lot of good examples. Just when you were saying that it really helped me, I just finished a Simon Sinek, “Start with Why”. And at the end, he has this story about a construction company, of all things, a construction company that has a model where they will they don’t normally encourage their employees to only clock in at state between 8:30 and 9:00, and only clock out between 5:00 and 5:30. And if they clock in earlier than that, where they clock in later than that, they will be eliminated from the bonus.

So it’s an encouragement to say, we recognize what’s important about work-life balance. And when I read that, I thought to myself, a lot of that is really what we’re doing as well. And so I think it’s fostering an environment that allows, as I said earlier, employees to trust each other and trust the team.

And that trust is so incredibly important and it’s something that I think that companies that may be running under shareholder supremacy, one where the decision-makers are focused on what the needs of the shareholders kind of forget. Because they’re taking it for granted because they see the employees as being sort of the cogs in the wheel that increase shareholder value.

And there isn’t that level of trust. And if you’re looking at employee supremacy, which is the model is to say that the leaders of the company, the leadership team are making decisions that are in the interest of the employees, not the shareholders. Hey, might say, well, what, well, what about the shareholders?

Like, they’re the ones who, they’re the ones who invested. Sometimes, I’m myself is the biggest shareholder. And my answer is that, if you’re doing all this, you’re creating trusting teams. You’re actually investing in your employees. You are giving them not only, just the only, only the benefits they need, but more than the benefits they feel secure and everything else. They’re going to do a great job for the customer.

They’re going to do a great job for each other and the rest of the team. And therefore shareholder value will increase. And it’s been shown time and time again, that if you have this perspective, that you will actually grow shareholder value and those companies are even more valuable than one run under shareholder supremacy.

Tim Reitsma

It reminds me of a great book that I’ve read and I reference all the time called “Primed to Perform”. And what they talk about in just in their research Neel Doshi and his partner, Lindsay, what they talk about is the kind of the three motivators. And yes, I know Daniel Pink had some, and there’s a lot of these type of books out there.

What stood out to me about this one is, if we provide play, purpose, and potential for people, if we provide that opportunity to play within our roles, meaning don’t give me a step-by-step worksheet on how to do exactly this, but having a little bit of freedom, but also allow that little bit of freedom within my week or my month or my quarter. That, that purpose, where are we going?

You know, we talk about Simon Sinek and start with why. What is the why? Why am I doing what I need to do? So it’s play, purpose, and then potential, where can I go in the organization? So I was actually on a, on someone else’s podcast recently and we were talking of just about that is if we don’t provide that as leaders, as organizations, here’s your potential. Are we then limiting the growth of our teams?

Because, you know, let’s say you’ve been you know, an SDR, sales development representative for two years, and you want to go to that next level. Are they going to look within or are they going to start looking without? I’d love them to look within the organization. 

But I think that ties into that employee supremacy, is putting that employee first rather than how can we ensure that the shareholder is number one and being taken care of? What are your thoughts on that?

Andy Alsop

I think that’s amazing. So, in terms of Primed to Perform, I’ve actually written it down. So that’s one of my next reads. And what’s awesome about these podcasts is that I learned something every single time. 

I would say that a lot of this, a lot of what you’re talking about is very congruent with what we’re already doing. I’m in this idea of play, purpose, and potential. Is that what it was? Play, purpose, and potential – that fits perfectly into employee supremacy. There’s something that I say a lot of times on podcasts is that I’m an operator. I operate a company. I’m not an author, not a professional speaker. I’m not out there in the speaker circuit.

That’s not honestly my passion is running a great company where people feel fulfilled. But I’ll do, I want it, and I like them. I like going out on podcasts and doing speeches and things like that, but it’s not my primary purpose. And I say that because I know a lot of the books that you read a lot of times it’s theoretical.

It’s more kind of like these are theories we’ve come up with. Sometimes they’ve been backed with running companies and things like that. But what I see is the why and the purpose is that everybody in our company knows what our just cause is. You know, just cause says it is to build a world and it’s to build a world where the profits go to our employees and to the community. It’s not a direct translation from it, but that’s the idea.

So what that means is that we need to build a world. And so I’ve gone around to every member of our team saying that we’re on a mission. The reason why we’re doing this is not just so that The Receptionist could be a great company. It’s so that we can actually build a world so that, let’s go out there and let’s be as successful as we possibly can because then what we can do is talk about how this model will work and that other company will want to follow up. It’s lead by example.

And so when I hear, you know, that Primed to Perform, that is excellent because that is, that it, those are also people who are out there saying, we want to see that there’s a better way to run companies. And I think there’s starting to be a movement like this, starting to be a movement away from the quarterly cycle of we just got to do whatever it is, we’re going to do in this quarter, and let’s not focus on anything else because we’ve got to deliver those numbers. 

That’s shareholder supremacy. Employee supremacy is saying we’re in the long game. This is about making decisions that aren’t just going to impact this quarter, they’re going to impact the next year, the next decade, or whatever else.

So I think that’s the type of mindset that you have to have when you’re really thinking in something like employee supremacy. And again, that is where the leaders of the company are not focused on the shareholders. What they’re focused on is the needs of the employee and the community that surrounds us.

Tim Reitsma

How does a company go from, you know, shareholder supremacy to employee supremacy? That’s kinda the big loaded question and, cause it sounds, you know, in some ways it sounds idealistic. Where, yes and I’ve read about companies. I’ve been part of companies. Oh employees first, employees first. Oh, we’re not making enough money.

Shareholders want that extra percent. And in this real story where we were then told by the end of the day, have two people that we can lay off so we can squeeze more profits. But yet it was all about employees at first, employees everything, until it came to that half percent that we needed to squeeze.

So, how do we then practically shift the mindset?

Andy Alsop

That is an excellent question and something I think about a lot. There are so many companies that say, “we’re employee-first”. And it was actually some great companies that have done well. There are examples, again, I was just reminded this recently by Start with Why. 

Walmart, Sam Owen, in the early days, when he was running the company, he recognized that if I treat my employees well, they’re not going to treat my customers well. They’re gonna treat me well and we’re going to have kind of a, sort of, you didn’t say this, but symbiotic relationship. So that was very kind of revolutionary when he was talking about this in the ’80s. 

Costco also has, you know, another company that is in retail and stuff. And I think Southwest Airlines similarly has that. But what you pointed out, which is really important and why people have come to me and said, well, we’re employee-first. And I’m saying, “we’re employee supremacy”. And there’s that difference because if you’re employee-first, you’re still running under shareholder supremacy. The employers of the best, we focus on our employees.

We just had a down quarter. Crap. The shareholders need the delivery of their profits. We have to do something. So if you’re putting the shareholder first but saying that you’re employee-first, you’re really only speaking to it but not actually demonstrating it. So then if you take it and say, okay, we’re going to put employees first, it changes your methodology and your, how you think about things. 

So for instance this is an example I use for frequently. We had a salesperson who had an error in a calculation for his commissions. Now, if you’re under a shareholder supremacy company, you end up in this awkward position of, I need to deliver as much cash and as much profit to the shareholders.

And if I disclose this mistake, which I don’t think the employer ever saw, anyhow, I’m not doing what’s in the best interest of the shareholders. If you’re running under employee supremacy, you say there’s no, there’s not even a decision. My director of sales and I’m only found the mistake. He actually found it and said, Andy, I just found a mistake. And he was like let’s calculate this. 

And it was just like, not even a question, not even, now let’s go to the leadership team and see if we should even do something about this. It was immediate. We got the employee on the phone or actually a Slack call and we said, we want to apologize.

We found an error in your commission sheet. We’re adding, this is what we’ve done to correct the mistake. Do you believe this is correct? Some state to make sure they are okay with it. And then we’re adding them out to your checkbook. I mean, to your next paycheck. That employee from that felt as though this company has my back.

So that is a stark contrast between employees supremacy and shareholder supremacy. And I want to go into the next question. I got to take a break for a second. I always talk too much, but about how you can actually do this at your company, but I don’t know if you had any questions.

Tim Reitsma

No, I love that. I love the fact that it wasn’t “Oh, we’ll catch you on the next one”. It was, “No, we found this mistake. We’re going to own it and we’re going to we’re going to apologize”. And this employees doesn’t sound like they’re probably going, “Hmmm, oh, Andy might want to talk to me”. You know, it’s like, “Oh, that’s, I’m curious what that’s about”. 

But man, we talk about organizational trust and know, I’ve, I highlighted trust a few times in my book when I took the note is, ’cause in my research on how to build a better world of work it’s, it starts with that trust. How do we do it? If our employees don’t trust us, then let alone our customers and shareholders. 

But if our employees don’t trust us, what do we have? We have a lot of wasted costs in turnover, in lack of engagement. If you’re not engaged, are you producing at a hundred percent? Probably not. 

And there’s countless examples, even my own personal examples about, yeah, I’m not, I don’t want to be here, so I’m going to do enough to stay here and continue to look for something else. But it just builds that trust and so, but it’s the how right?

How in, just to go into that next question and I’d love to hear it, because, you know, for those who are listening, grab your pen and paper, or you know, make these mental notes because, you know, I’m curious about, about, you know, how to bring this to life?

Andy Alsop

Well, and I feel like this is, actually what somebody said was some of the biggest changes that happen in the world of life, theory of relativity, right? E=mc2. It’s, it is very simple. And I feel like employee supremacy when you say it, is actually very simple. And you know that in business are these complex, like methodologies you have to go through where you got to step one and that leads to step five and then step 16, which then you have to drop back to step one.

I find this to be something that can be implemented fairly easily. Now, where do you implement it? Is you know, Chase Bank or Mega Oil Corporation kind of completely revise everything and say, “Okay, we’re going employee supremacy right now”. I find it hard to believe, but I, you know, maybe there will be where I think this is going to happen is at the grassroots.

It’s the Googles of tomorrow, they’re going to be able to recognize this as a better way to operate and they implement it now because implementing of those early stages as much easier than going and completely changing a whole organization. And I’m not saying that organizations, large organizations can’t change, but it has to come from the top.

It’s not something that maybe an individual contributor can probably make enough of an impact and say, “Hey, let’s find our company under employee supremacy”. That can introduce the idea, but it has to come down from the leadership. The leadership has to say, “We recognize that if we do things differently, that what’s going to happen is that we’re going to get a better bottom line results, both at profit and at the shareholder value”.

But so the way we’ve done it, and we’ve kind of just been working our way through this. I am definitely somebody who is passionate about helping others. So I do have that personality of wanting to see other survive, thrive, and grow. And so, but the way we got there was fairly simple. We implemented Traction, the entrepreneurial operating system by Gino Wickman.

And what that did for us was sort of give us that organizational structure, such that everybody knew things like we’re going to work on a quarterly rocks. They can only just look at the virtual traction organizer, which is a two page document that’s revised every year, and say, “I know exactly where this company is going”.

I know I can go into a meeting, it’s scheduled for an hour. It may actually end early. It’s got an agenda to it. We rate the meetings to make sure that we’re actually doing what we say we’re going to do. All of these structural elements of the company were so important. And the one that was most important for us and for me, who was the naysayer about core values, I always thought the core values were the things that big corporations stuck on the wall and nobody knew anything about. 

I was like core values, moral values. I don’t know, I don’t even know what those do. Traction taught me that is the first thing you have to do. And since we did that, we created something called FABRIC, which are six core values: fun, authentic, bold, respectful, innovative, and collaborative. We live them. They are on the walls, but you can go to any one of our team members and they can tell you not only what is it, what is the acronym. But they can tell you about each one of the values. We celebrate them. 

We get the words every month for people who indicate a core value. We have a culture club that actually was created, not even it was created by somebody else, not myself. And that club is always doing things to encourage our core values. So that’s it. That’s number one. 

The second one for us that was really, this is where we went from a company that was running really low with core values and we implemented The Infinite Game. And The Infinite Game from Simon Sinek basically has four, five tenets to it. But of those tenets we were working, we did really well on all of them, trusting teams, things like that. 

In the infinite game, what you get is the five core tenets that you have to focus on. And one of them that we didn’t have, even after going through the entire exercise of the entrepreneurial operating system and traction was our just cause. And it kind of hit me hard when I started listening to Simon Sinek. 

There was a particular Inc.com interview that he did and he outlines all of this. And I said to myself, we don’t have a just cause. We’re just kind of having fun and so a visitor management company. And what I ended up, what we ended up doing, and we did, we basically came up with this sort of in the first quarter of last year. 

We came up with our just cause and that just cause was all-around employee supremacy and what we talked about before. So it’s really been those things. You put that together, traction, and entrepreneurial operating system. The infinite game, finding your just cause. And that is how we’ve, you can implement employee supremacy at any company.

Tim Reitsma

It’s it reminds me of, you know, it’s just thinking even just at the company, you know, we’re People Managing People and we’re part of the umbrella under, it’s called Black & White Zebra, bwz.com. And you know, our whole just cause is, we’re writing the playbook on the future of work.

Our goal is: we succeed when we help other people succeed. And that gets us going and, you know, we’re still figuring out that the Traction, it’s also on a book on my bookshelf and I love, my background is operations, so I’d love it. It’s it gives you a, just a good foundation, but, you know, I think as leaders, whether we’re you know, leading a team or leading yourself or leading a company, we have to provide that clarity, where are we going?

You know, and why are we doing this? You know, it’s, if you’ve ever worked in an organization that’s, you know, you don’t really know what the purpose is. You don’t know how your job is actually contributing to that purpose. It’s so important under, I think under employee supremacy and please correct me if I’m wrong, it’s to provide that meaning, you know, where are we going?

That just cause, and then it’s, how can you contribute to this? This is how you can contribute and here’s how we’re holding each other accountable. And so I call it clarity responsibility and accountability. And as a leader is kind of like a mini model of to get us to that, so, it sounds like yeah, to some employee supremacy.

Andy Alsop

Exactly. And that’s actually that goal, that thing that everybody wakes up with every single day and they’re driven by that just cause has given us that spark that allows us to keep pushing every day, not in a, “You got to do this because the shareholders need this or whatever else. We’ve just gotta be, we’ve got to grow at all costs and things like that”. 

People are doing it because they feel a sense of belonging. They can feel like they’re a part of it, and they can feel like they can impact it as well. But it’s also something that is ultimately unachievable, which is really hard to do if you’re saying, “Okay, every day we’re going to change the world”.

And it sounds like for your company, the same thing, it’s almost ultimately unachievable, but people can rally behind it and be a part of it and feel like they’re making a difference. I love that. That’s really good. 

Tim Reitsma

Yeah. I just had a thought that popped to mind and this is way off-script. This is how, but it’s the, you know, it’s, I love the idea and not even just the idea. I love employee supremacy. That’s me at the core. 

You know, you talk about shareholder supremacy. You know, don’t get me started there. That’s not the type of person I am. And I’m curious about, at The Receptionist, you have employee supremacy and how do you balance that with that sense of urgency?

So to ensure that everybody is still acting with a sense of urgency versus complacency. So employee supremacy, right? I’ve, you know, it’s employee, it’s more than employee-first, but if somebody is not moving at the speed at which you’d like them to move or is doing something counter to your values through this model of employee supremacy, how do you handle that?

Andy Alsop

Well, and that’s also another great question because I think, so one thing that I may have failed to mention as part of the whole thing, but Traction kind of gets you there because I talk about right person, right seat. And GWC, which means get it, want it and can do it. So that’s kind of the characteristics. You want somebody who’s in the right seat, the right person, excuse me. 

Right person is first. The right person is somebody who shares the values. They are, they feel a strong sense of what the mission of the company is. They share the core values, right? See it is, you want to make sure that you’re actually in the right seat, being able to do the tasks and they can do that.

And then GWC just means they get it, they want it, and they can do it, or they’re capable of doing it. What’s really important is that it’s the people you get on the bus. And this is what I didn’t learn, I hadn’t learned until I really wanted to traction and some of the other things we did. And it just coalesced in the end of 2017 that we started working with a company called Scalability Solutions and Leila Blauner is the president of the company. 

And the two both traction and she came on board at the same time. And what she gave us was a very strict hiring process. Prior to, you know, we were doing more entrepreneurial hiring, I call it, where you’re just like, eh, go through like 10 resumes and, eh, there’s so much pretty good. Enough, bring them in for an interview. Yeah, they probably do the job and you bring them on the bus. And that can be actually one of the worst things you can do and it can kill everything if they aren’t contributing.

If they’re not the right person, if they aren’t feeling, you know, a connection to those core values. So that is really what’s happened is that the complacency actually takes care of itself when you get the people on the bus who really want to be on the bus. They aren’t just there to make, you know, a living. They’re there to contribute.

And it’s amazing what ends up happening because those people are contributing in a way you might not even know. They’re basically going and doing things. We do these quarterly rocks. It’s something that traction comes up with and we just had our rock meeting. Now rock meeting was at the end, or it was very beginning of April, you know, so it was last week.

And so we’re reviewing what did we do in the first quarter rocks and then what are we going to do for our second quarter rocks. And so the employees are coming in and they’re not coming in at the end. You know, nobody’s coming to leadership and saying, “Okay, here are the rocks. So there’s going to be our right. It is going to sit in the mission or whatever else. 

We’ve gotten the right people on the bus. So they’re disclosing, they do work with their director from the department, you know, just to make sure that it does still fit in the mission, but nobody is saying now, no, it has to be this way. We give it a theme, you know?

So one was deliver solutions that “wow”. Right, so everybody is gonna develop a rock around that. And then they come back and they deliver what they’re going to do, and then they deliver what they did. It’s amazing what ended up happening. And there’s a sense among the group that nobody wants to let anybody else down. So they don’t want to come in and just be like, Oh, man, I just didn’t have enough time on my rock. Sorry.” 

You know, cause then they would feel a sense of loyalty to the rest of the team because they’re in a trusting team and trusting team means they trust each other. They trust the company and the company trusts them. And so that level of trust is what, and we’re going back to that word again, is that level of trust is what drives the behavior to really do everything you can.

To stand out, not from a, “I got to look better than my, a person sitting next to me so I’d get my promotion”. Just to be like, “I’m delivering, you know, I’m part of this thing and I feel it, I feel a sense of loyalty and a need to be able to do things really well.” 

So it kind of has this self, a self-fulfilling prophecy. I don’t know if that’s the right way to put it, but it kind of feeds itself, I guess is the way I would put it. 

Tim Reitsma

So it’s more than just, “Hey, are you fitting in this company? And if not then you’re out.” It’s, “Hey, are you fitting in this company? Yes, but maybe you’re in the wrong seat and maybe your skillset could be used somewhere else. Let’s explore that.”

Versus, you know, the first is, “Nope, it’s not working out. You’re out, even though you’re a good person.” And it’s, but then, you know, we circle right back to that thing of trust. I love the idea of rocks and it’s something that I’ve used and I’ve implemented. And what are we rallying around this quarter?

And so that is, it’s a powerful, it’s a powerful tool because, you know, we did a review in our publication and someone in the team was really down on themselves. Because, you know, we set around that rock was a KPI and we didn’t hit that KPI. But we blew it out of the water. You know, if we look back to the last quarter, the quarter before that. 

And so, so what’s, you what’s coming up for you? And why are you so hard on yourself? He said, “I just want to do more. How can I do more?” And so it’s amazing when we set that direction, instead of saying, “Oh, you know, we’re just going to grow and it’s going to be good. And let’s just go have some fun.” 

Now, it’s that operational cadence which, you know, let’s face it, I think, and again, I’m generalizing, we thrive in. We need some parameters, but we also need to know that the goalpost isn’t going to move. You know, if we set, “Oh, our target this quarter is a million dollars.” And then halfway through, it’s like, “Actually, it’s three million dollars.”

And then, you know, we get to the last month of the quarter, it’s like, “Actually, it’s one and a half million.” Right? It just, if that’s not employee supremacy, now we’re all sitting back into the shareholder supremacy or something completely wildly different.

Andy Alsop

That’s true. That’s true. And it kind of takes me back to that example of the SDR you were talking about early on in the podcast. 

That sales development representative has been there for a couple of years. Do you look outside or do you look inside? And I think that when you get the right people on the bus, they end up growing. And when they end up growing, they’re growing into positions. But I don’t think you can just say, “Okay, it’s LA, everything’s going to be free-flowing or whatever.” 

Something we’d begin implementing at our company is growth plans. If you’re at this level, this is what you need to get to the next level. This is what your next to get. And so what you’re doing is telling somebody, in advance, these are the things that we have expectations for you, and they love it, especially if they trust the company. 

It’s not like you said, well, yeah, we, you know, I got six months into the year and really rent change the goalposts, and you’re gonna have to do this because the shareholders need this, right? You can’t do that. You got to be able to develop that. You got to agree on it. You got to stick with it. And when they get there, they get to move up, and then they know. As opposed to like, well, I just hope I’m working hard enough to be able to get there. So I think that gets, that kind of gets back to some of that same point you’re making as well.

Tim Reitsma

Absolutely. And, you know, Andy, as we’ve talked a lot about, you know, the operations just cause, the why growth plans somebody who’s listening, whether, you know, you’re a leader, HR professional, a CEO of an organization, where do, where should we start? 

Like, what’s the one thing that somebody can do today, if they’re listening to this podcast on the train or driving into the office or walking to the office, what’s the one thing? Where can somebody start? Now, we talked about that grassroots, starting at that grassroot level. So, what can we do? 

Andy Alsop

So, I’ve had actually entrepreneurs reach out to me and asking me that same question.

Some that are running companies and things are a little chaotic and they’re just like, I can’t do this anymore. Like I have to figure out another way because it’s not working anymore. I always say, well, first that I do when I talk to entrepreneurs like that is I asked them, what’s going on? What’s going on in your company? How are things running? And really kind of try to dig in. 

But I think I’m going to go back to what I’d said before. If you’re on a train somewhere, if it were me and I was listening to this, the first thing I’d do is go over to Audible and I download Traction and start listening to that. Because I think organizationally unless you have an organization that’s functioning and operating really well, then it’s very hard to implement something like this. 

And what I know I heard, I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico and our company is in Denver. So in the early days, I couldn’t afford to fly back and forth, so I’d drive back and forth. So I consume a lot of audiobooks, right. And so I did that with Traction.

I ended up listening to it and having to stop on the side of the road to take notes because I was hearing so much about it. And it goes back to that thing I was just talking about is having this core values. Because almost always when I talked to an entrepreneur, I asked about the core values. So like, oh yeah we came up with those like two or three years ago. 

I’m not sure I even remember what they are, you know. Because it’s not getting ingrained into the organization. And if you’re not ingraining it into the organization, how do you know who needs to be on the bus, right? And you’ve got to know who needs to be on the bus.

And sometimes what that tells you is who doesn’t need to be on the bus as well. And that’s the sad part because we even did a lot of higher a prior to when, you know, we implement a Traction and stuff we’ve been in business for two or three years. Unfortunately, there were a few people who were not there, couldn’t be on the bus.

They weren’t right person, right seat. And so we had to take care of that. You know, I talked about the fact that there’s only one person who’s left the company voluntarily. That doesn’t mean that we haven’t exited other people. Sometimes that is something you need to do because it is in the best interest of the company.

And almost always, it’s been, it’s in the best interest to the other person because they don’t feel an affinity for the company. They don’t feel that passion that you want in them. And they’re ready to go on and take that passion to another company where they can exhibit that. So it’s a tough thing. I’ve had to do that a lot.

I’m sure you’ve had it too a lot. We all, if you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve always had to do that. It’s not comfortable, but when you start getting everybody on the bus who’s needs to be on the bus, all of a sudden using the bus analogy, the bus is rolling down the road and you’re not really having to think about driving it.

It’s just going forward. So that’s where I’d start, you know, is with Traction. And then I’d immediately go over to The Infinite Game right after that. And just thinking in my mind, how can I change the culture of our leadership team, such that they’re thinking about how to do everything in the employees’ interest, and rather than doing it in the shareholders’ interest.

And one last point on that, sometimes you have to prepare your shareholder for this. I don’t have a lot of shareholders. We’re a bootstrap company, I’m the biggest shareholder. But sometimes you have to go and lead your shareholders, lead your board and say, this is what I’m going to do. This is why I’m going to do it.

Let’s have a dialogue around that. I want a group of trusting people in this company who are going to go to bat for this company, not just doing lying, hiding, and faking. It’s another thing that Simon Sinek talks about. Where you’re, you just don’t trust the company, so you’re lying, hiding, and faking.

You’re kind of just fake it and it’s just, it’s what you talked about earlier. I’m sad, you know. I’m just coming in and punching the clock. I’m just doing my job, cause whatever’s going on around me, it’s just overwhelming. And I don’t, I’m just gonna, I’m just gonna focus on what I need to do. 

Tim Reitsma

Yeah. It’s such great insights, Andy. 

I really appreciate you coming on to the podcast and sharing those with us and I couldn’t agree more. I love the entrepreneurial operating system, the Traction book. We’ll put a link to that in the show notes as well as to Simon Sinek’s books. And you hit the nail on the head is, you know, if an entrepreneur or startup, or even here established company, if you haven’t identified your core values, you know, reach out to me.

I’ll, you know, help you outreach out to Andy or, you know, I’ll connect you with with a great consultant who can help you with that. And it would be one of the best exercises you can do. And if they’re written on the wall and you don’t know what they are, guess what? Your employees have no idea what they are.

And getting people rallied around those values, as the analogy, we were using the bus, get them on that bus will just have a transformational effect on your organization. And then if you want to take it to a step further is identify each person’s core values. Walking through that exercise and how do they relate to the organization?

So getting it to go that one step deeper, but you know, don’t start there, start with, you know, looking at the operations. Looking at what is in the best interest of not just the business, but your employees. And put the employee, not just first but at the front center of everything.

Andy Alsop

Correct. Exactly. 1000%. 

Tim Reitsma

I love it, Andy. And so where can people reach you if people are looking to get ahold of you? 

Andy Alsop

Well, first go to thereceptionist.com. It’s just The Receptionist, put together .com. You can go to the staff team page, and it actually has links to my email address, to everything. I’m very accessible.

Twitter is acalsop and LinkedIn is Andy Alsop. So I would say those are the three ways to get in touch with me and reach out. I have entrepreneurs reaching out all the time. I’m actually going to be talking to an entrepreneur who found out about this and wants to know more. He is in the middle of scaling his company and knows that it can be better.

And so I love talking to entrepreneurs and hearing their stories about what’s going on. And how to bring employee supremacy to the world. And it starts with just one entrepreneur, another entrepreneur, and we just build over time. 

Tim Reitsma

And that’s how we build a better world of work. So, thanks and we’ll put all the links in our show notes as well. So you can head to peoplemanagingpeople.com and head to our podcast page and find it there. 

And also if you’re listening, we love to get feedback. You know, hop into our website and leave us a feedback. Find me on LinkedIn and connect with me there as well. And again, Andy, thanks again for coming on.

Andy Alsop

You’re welcome. Thanks for having me, Tim. 

Tim Reitsma

All right. Take care.