Thursday, December 1, 2016

Corporate Culture

One of my senior projects at the University of Utah was making a video about culture in the workplace. It was called Corporate Culture. I haven't watched it in a while, but I'm sure it's full of moments that will make me cringe.

It's interesting that 13 years later, I would say that one of our company's greatest assets is our culture. Pinnacle has an excellent work atmosphere. There is very little drama and almost no gossip. There is a lot of teamwork and most people get along very well.

In addition to that we have a high standard for customer service. Our culture is priceless.

As the CEO, I usually get credited for that culture. The truth is, it's not my culture, it's the culture of the people who work there.

Our secret is that we have figured out how to hire the right people. We know what type of people fit in at Pinnacle, and will help enforce the culture.

We will hire on fit before skill set. If someone has a great personality and will fit in with our team, we can train them how to do their job. We can't train someone how to fit in to our team.

Obviously, our preference is that they have the skill set and the cultural fit, but if push comes to shove, culture wins. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Dragged to the Middle

I've been thinking about government regulation a lot lately.

When a big portion of your business is regulated by the government, you tend to do that. This time it was brought on by the new overtime exemption laws taking place later this year.

The principle of the law is to protect people, which is admirable. Make sure "folks" (as Obama calls us) get compensated fairly for a hard day's work.

What's not to love about that?

They are updating laws that were more than 40 years old. They weren't protecting people anymore like they were supposed to.

The problem with federal laws like that is that businesses across the US are vastly different. When you make a law that brings regressive or predatory companies to a minimum standard, it protects the employees of those companies.

However, it can hurt the employees of progressive companies. By enforcing a medium standard, it brings everyone into the middle.

For example, we try very hard to make sure our employees are happy, well-compensated, and valued.

One of the ways we do this is through our Paid Time Off plan. Salaried employees who are exempt from overtime can take as much time off as they want. The only thing we are concerned with is getting the job done.

A lot of our employees will work extra hours one week in order to take extra time off the next week.

The employees that will become non-exempt in December will likely not be able to do that anymore. They lose one of the perks that they really like, as we (a progressive company) are dragged to the middle.

I've also seen this with our clients. Many of our clients were using a satisfaction survey that gave them in depth feedback about their individual patients. Then a few years ago, the government mandated they used a certain survey instead. They had to get rid of their superior tool in order to use the mediocre tool established by the government. Dragged to the middle.

I'm not sure what the answer is. I like the idea of protecting people. I wish we could trust the free market to protect people. I know Pinnacle couldn’t keep employees if we tried to force them to work 60 hours without being compensated fairly. I suppose that's not the same everywhere. I don't know. All I know is that it's frustrating to get dragged back to the middle.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Story from a Client

One of our new clients recently told me a story about how our satisfaction surveys had impacted one of their facilities.

They got a survey back from a resident's daughter who was pretty upset. She felt that they weren't including her mother in any of the activities at the facility. The mother was really bored and lonely there.

The administrator at this facility was surprised by the feedback because she knew this resident really well and happened to know the resident had been involved in most, if not all, of the activities. So the administrator reached out the the daughter and had a conversation with her to understand her frustrated feelings a little better.

The administrator told her she was very active there and even sent over some pictures of her participating in the activities.

The daughter was surprised and realized that her mother had been trying to make the daughter feel bad for not visiting enough by telling her how bored she was. The daughter felt some remorse and realized she needed to make a better effort to visit and also realized the facility had been doing a great job.

I liked this example because it illuminates how some open communication can solve problems. After the survey opened the lines of communication, an upset customer became a satisfied and loyal customer acknowledging this care provider's excellent work. Furthermore, a relationship between a mother and daughter was positively impacted.

I'm glad Pinnacle got to play some role in that. It's rewarding.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

An Indescribable Trait that Makes the Best Employees

I was talking with a group of people representing four different organizations last week. The conversation was sparked by one of them saying that they had a theory about hiring people that had worked in the restaurant business. They liked hiring them because they knew how to hustle and how to treat people right. (I, of course, like this theory since my first job was serving tables.)

That led us to talking about what we look for when hiring employees. What followed was really interesting. One of the people there said the best way he can describe what he looks for is "spirit." He is looking to fill a job right now, they had 112 applicants and they have narrowed the search down to 2. The reason they ended up on these two? Spirit.

Another person said that what they are looking for is "legitimacy." Will others look at this person when they are working with them and think they are legitimate? Do they bring a presence that is legit?

Yet another said he wanted someone with emotional intelligence. Someone who could recognize how others around them are feeling and react appropriately.

The thing that I have always looked for is twofold. The first I call the "normal person" concept. I just want a normal person. I don't want to work with someone and after they are done talking to me think to myself "what the hell are you talking about?" I need them to be a normal person. Tina Fey shed some light on my principle in her book Bossy Pants. She said that when she was hiring writers for SNL that she would ask herself if she would want to be stuck in a break room with them at 3:00 in the morning eating dinner together. If she answered yes, they would likely be a good hire.

I don't want to be stuck at work with people I don't want to have lunch with. I prefer to have normal people around me. Is that too much to ask?

The second part of my preference is zest or infectiousness. Do they have that thing that really makes me want to be around them? I've never known exactly how to describe it, but I know it when I see it.

I thought it was really interesting that each of us in our group last week were essentially looking for a very similar and hard-to-describe quality. There is an emotional quality inside people that we know translates into successful employees.

We each had a different word for it, zest, spirit, emotional intelligence, legitimacy.

There are lots of other traits that employees need to be successful. (Problem solving, pattern recognition, attention to detail, etc.) but that zest or spirit really puts people over the top.

Thursday, April 7, 2016


I travel quite a bit for work and for fun. Yesterday I was on my way to Washington D.C. and happened to be seated next to a mom traveling with four kids. The youngest was under two and sitting on her lap. He was pretty restless. He was loud, and really wanted to run around.

He was a normal toddler.

His mom was amazing. I can't imagine how stressed she was about making the people around her uncomfortable. She was really doing her best to keep the kids settled down. The youngest one cried sometimes and went crazy a few times, but honestly I don't think anyone on the plane cared. We were too impressed with how this mom was handling all her kids as she had to chase the youngest one up and down the aisle a few times.

I regret not telling her how great she did on that long flight.

My experience is that a lot of moms are this good with their kids. That's pretty amazing when you think about it.

This supermom on the plane made me start to think about all the moms that work for Pinnacle.

We have about 130 people that conduct surveys for Pinnacle. Roughly 100 of them work from home, 90% of those are stay-at-home moms who were looking for a job they could do in the home.

As someone who was raised by a supermom, and also happens to be married to one, it makes me so happy and proud to entrust our most essential business operation to these supermoms.

If you know any supermoms who happen to be looking for a work-from-home job, send them here.

(We hire superdads and childless superhumans as well.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Oh, I do that.

I got my haircut yesterday. I'm not telling you who cuts my hair, because I already have to book my appointments two months in advance, and I can't risk that the three people who read this blog would start going to her and make it even harder to get an appointment.

Anyway, I overheard her talking to the stylist who works across from her. This other stylist has just started doing eyebrow microblading (a popular new technique to get the appearance of thicker eyebrows). Most estheticians who perform this post before and after pictures on Instagram or other social media pages as a way to advertise their services.

My hair stylist (who will remain nameless) started telling her that when she posts this before and after pictures on Instagram, she really needs to show three pictures: a before, a directly after, and a 4-week after (once it is completely healed). Nobody does that, everyone just posts a before and an immediately after.

Stylist #2 had a difficult time with this suggestion. Her immediate response was "oh, I do that."

She doesn't.

She might post a picture several weeks later after they are completely healed but the pictures aren't side by side.

Being in the customer feedback biz, I can't really fault stylist #2. Her reaction of "oh, I do that" is the most common response to customer feedback.

It seems like when customers or potential customers give us feedback, the most natural reaction is to assume that they are telling us this feedback because we are not as good as we should be. We came up short. No one wants to admit that they came up short.

The truth is, customer feedback can highlight your shortcomings, but it can also give you some interesting new ideas that no one expects you to do, and no one is currently doing.

Regardless of which one it is, your shortcomings or interesting new ideas, you can NEVER get defensive to customer feedback. Once you do that, your customers will stop giving feedback. They're feedback will feel unwelcome.

I've seen this over and over in healthcare, an executive director will approach a patient and ask him/her, "why would you say this?" The patient will then back off their comments because they don't want to make anyone upset. Then nobody learns from the problems and they are doomed to repeat themselves.

Be aware that it can be difficult to hear customer feedback sometimes, make sure you do your best to listen and understand without getting defensive. That's what my hair stylist does, and that's why my hair is so on point today :)

Friday, March 18, 2016

March Madness

It's here! Happy my Utes got the win last night.

I heard Stephen Colbert ask Charles Barkley last week why the country loses its collective mind for this particular tournament every year. This is why I think it's so popular:

Every team has a seed
This is important for casual fans. Anyone can look at the little number next to a team's name and know if they should win or lose their matchup.

Cinderella stories
It's cool to see a team win that was supposed to lose. There are so many upsets every year. #MiddleTennessee

Regional interest
With 68 teams in the field, most people can find someone to cheer for.

Even if your team gets eliminated, you still have a rooting interest for every game. Most workplaces have a bracket contest.

Day games
At some point along the way, the tourney became part of the American workforce culture. Most people are allowed to watch the games at work. If the games were exclusively at night, we might not have all those office bracket competitions, and it wouldn't be a fun culture-building event.

Access to games
Big shout out to CBS, TNT, TRUtv, and TBS for putting the games online. Another shout out to your boss, who probably doesn't care if you watch the games. It's so easy to watch any game.

Any other reasons I missed?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

I Hate This Blue Carpet!

This brand new blue carpet makes me so mad. It's the carpet in the entry way of our office building. I don't hate blue carpet on principle. It clashes with the carpet right next to it and it's ugly, but that's not why it makes me upset.

It makes me mad because the carpet it replaced was an atrocity. Green tile carpet that was mismatched,  hideous, and at least 20 years old. Over the last five years I asked our landlord no less than 10 times to replace that carpet. They always said they would soon.

We are moving out of our office space in three months. My first reaction to seeing the new carpet last week was "of course," they finally listened to me when we are moving out in three months. But then I realized this is no coincidence.

The landlord also came and replaced our outdated suite signs the week after. They were faced with the reality that their biggest tenant was moving out, they had already lost a large tenant last year and are looking at losing their last tenant this fall. Their building will be empty.

If they don't make some improvements, they will have an empty building generating zero income.

The catch is that over the last five years, I told them several times what they needed to do to make me happy, they never did any of my suggestions.

One of the reasons we picked this building was the beautiful trees that surrounded it. One day, I came to work and almost all the trees had big orange x's on them. I knew this meant they were marked to be cut down.

I begged the building owner not to cut them down. Mature trees are a premium in Utah. He didn't care what I said. They were under the impression that people couldn't see their building from the road and that's why they weren't leasing out as many office spaces as they wanted; people didn't know the building was there.

Had they listened to me, their customer, I would have told them why people weren't leasing offices. Instead,  they played a hunch, cut down the trees and really upset me, their largest customer.

Hunches have their place in business, they are right sometimes. But they are wrong a lot of the time as well. Why wouldn't our landlord at least take the time to verify with his customers that his hunch was right or wrong? It's such a simple investment.

Now they are listening to some of the suggestions I have made over the years, but it's too late for us, and the other tenants. We've already had enough of not being heard.

They have to spend much more on acquisition than they would have spent on retention had they just gave a damn about us.

The moral? Whether you have a formal customer feedback process in place or whether you just want to informally talk to them. Listen to your customers! They will tell you how to make them happy, and that will, in turn, help you attract other customers that likely have the same needs.

In the meantime, I just signed the lease on our beautiful new office space yesterday. I'm pleased to report that the entry way is tiled.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Chris Magleby, CEO

I don't like introducing myself as a CEO. When people ask me what I do, I never say that I'm a CEO. I rarely say that I own part of our company either. I usually say that I work for a firm that does patient satisfaction surveys.

Jessica, one of our account managers, always goes out of her way to introduce me as her boss if she gets the chance because she knows it makes me uncomfortable.

None of my social media accounts have ever said what I do. I don't like to brag, and when your title is CEO, sometimes just saying it sounds like you are bragging. So I rarely talk about being a CEO. If you didn't know any better, you would think I'm ashamed of what I do. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Outside of my family and close friends, nothing brings me more joy in this life than being the CEO of Pinnacle QI. It's the most exciting, rewarding, challenging, and incredible job I could ever have hoped for.

I've decided to be a little more open about me and about what I do. I've made my social media accounts available to anyone (and even say what I do in my bios, ha). I'm also going to start regularly blogging here. Both as Chris Magleby, some dude, and Chris Magleby, CEO.

Not that I am terribly interesting or that everyone could learn a few things from me, but because what we have accomplished at Pinnacle and what we are trying to accomplish is pretty interesting. I think our customers, employees, and any other stake holders have the right to know a little but more about me and the direction I am taking this company.

I hope it's not too boring.