If you want to have a company that grows fast, you must understand fast-growth leadership. Leaders that I have talked to about their companies, employees, innovation, and even business models have a unique way to think about their growth. One thing they all agree on is that fast-growth leadership is an essential foundation. My guest today is Rex Kurzius, Founder of Asset Panda. His company was ranked #104 in the 2018 Inc 5000 list. We talk about the three C’s of fast-growth leadership. Rex has some unique views on a fast-growth culture that will challenge how you think your people. Discover new insights on fast-growth leadership so you can accelerate your company.
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Rex Kurzius: The Transcript
Target Audience: Rex currently serves as Founder and President of Asset Panda. Asset Panda is a highly configurable asset tracking and management platform that is SaaS based on mobile apps. Rex serves on the board and is an investor in several other operating companies. Rex is passionate about entrepreneurship. He is a sought after speaker and donates a significant amount of his time to mentoring entrepreneurs. Rex is also the former President of the Dallas Chapter of Entrepreneurs Organization and former Chairman of the North Texas Young Presidents Organization.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
When I’m in the business for the first five years I had the biggest ego I think you could ever find. I Had three doors because I was so integral to everything. Then I realized that I was the problem with the company. I was really into that company. The first five years I got up to about 2 and a half million. Once I kind of relinquish the day to day management team. It went from two and a half million to 28 million over the next 48 months and I realized that I was an issue I wasn’t the person making it happen I was a model so that was a very powerful lesson for me. And so from that point on the rest of my career I just focused on getting good people in and creating that clarity communicating team to me and don’t affect the culture around them so that you do amazing things with them.
[00:00:55].440] – Gene Hammett
Welcome to Grow Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs. The fastest growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene and I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow.
[00:01:12].360] – Gene Hammett
When you grow a company fast. You’ve got to have some frameworks to lean on your frameworks maybe around the strategies that you create. But we’re going to talk today about leadership frameworks specifically when you talk about what you need to grow your company fast. I went out there and looked to my community to see who has the best and strongest framework for this. That’s simple to understand but also powerful. And so I found asset panda the founder of that is Rex cruises. I know I misspelled that mispronounced that name but really do have a little bit of a crush on this type of leadership because it really aligns with what I believe and I’ve done hundreds of interviews with fast growth leaders like yourself.
[00:01:53].670] – Gene Hammett
But this interview really does light me on fire so I’m going to share it with you without too much detail. But Rex really has grown his company fast now #104 in 2018 on the INC list over 3000% over a three year growth rate. He did come back with 2019 they just got announced at number 89. So really impressive. I’m really excited to share this interview with you and what we talk about today will really light you up too if you want to grow as a leader. This simple framework would really help you.
[00:02:26].050] – Gene Hammett
Now before we get into it. Let me just remind you that if you want to grow as a leader that you want to pay attention to who you hang out with. I have a special opportunity for you to hang out with the fast growth leaders that you hear on this show and some other people that really want to connect with it. I have an intimate group of leaders. I call this growth think tank live. If you want more information about what growth think tank live is then make sure you reach out to me email@example.com it but what it is in a nutshell is two days really growing working on the core issues of your team building framework that allow you to be a better leader and value to take that back to your team to find more alignment and to build more leaders inside the organization and grow fast too. Now here’s the interview with Rex.
[00:03:08].950] – Gene Hammett
Hey Rex how are you?
[00:03:10].360] – Rex Kurzius
I’m good. How are you?
[00:03:11].630] – Gene Hammett
I am fantastic glad to have you here at grow think tank. I already let our audience know a little bit about you and the company but I’d love for them to hear from you specifically. Why did you have to start asset Panda?
[00:03:25].760] – Rex Kurzius
So I was actively looking for a business that centered around the medium with basically a mobile device and I had a couple points of inspiration along the way. I had a company that I started that went from startup to a few hundred employees within three years and we could go into our accounting package and we could see that fixed assets that we had. Appreciate it. Not like a serial number but we had no idea within that report who had it what condition it was and what the history of it was. So that was part of it. And then I had a friend whose house burned down he lost everything and then went to the to file a claim with his insurance company and basically they said if you don’t have a detailed list of the contents of your house this is the amount you’ll get based on your zip code. So between those two things was kind of the genesis of starting as a panda.
[00:04:15].020] – Gene Hammett
Well I have told the audience limit about the gross level and it just comes out today. Go ahead tell us your number for 2019.
[00:04:24].290] – Rex Kurzius
Yeah. So we’re number eighty three so we’re pretty excited we cracked the top hundred.
[00:04:29].920] – Gene Hammett
That is impressive. And what percentage growth was Do you remember is what it was.
[00:04:35].970] – Rex Kurzius
I need to look at this year’s is over 3000 percent I think close to 4000 percent but don’t quote me on that I need to check.
[00:04:42].830] – Gene Hammett
It’s hard for people to think that aren’t used to this and don’t really understand kind of the math behind it. But 3000 percent seems like an astronomical rate. I know you’ve had fast growing companies before. Is this the fastest.
[00:04:55].440] – Rex Kurzius
Now I had one other company that was no twenty fifth fastest growing one year. Fantastic. Not the fastest but it’s the most interesting business model and scale business model which makes me feel like you know eventually it will crack the top 10.
[00:05:11].910] – Gene Hammett
Well you’ve got a special way of really kind of developing around this if you’ve developed these what you call three Cs and then let you describe what they are. But how important have the three C’s bend to your growth.
[00:05:26].120] – Rex Kurzius
I mean I don’t think that group could happen without it. It’s it’s foundational I think to any business. And hybrid ones in particular but the three C’s for me their clarity communication and culture. And clarity is from the founders perspective the clarity of what you’re doing why you’re doing and how you’re doing it. Giving clarity to all your managers all your line employees basically anyone associated with the organization needs to know why they’re there what they’re there to accomplish and how they’re tracking against those accomplishments. That’s what I mean by clarity and then communicating.
[00:06:03].860] – Rex Kurzius
It’s constant communication it’s automated systems that force rank employees against other employees so they see how the performing arts appears. It’s weekly reports that aggregate how the entire team is doing its quarterly meetings where the entire company gets together recorders they have the company meeting where we go through every often operational division of the company and we talk about the highlights and lowlights what need some room to celebrate that new hires. But we’re constantly communicating either directly to them or indirectly to them with systems reports and then the last thing is a culture that backs up your clarity and your communication.
[00:06:43].730] – Rex Kurzius
It’s one thing to tell someone that you want them to take risks and be entrepreneurial and accountable trustworthy and honest. It’s another thing to build a culture that allows each person to be celebrated in their individual quality and to do the best we can to draw out the talents that those people have. And I’m a big believer that if you are hierarchical by a company you’ve got talent and it’s our job as an organization to make sure that people feel comfortable enough where they can express their talent in the way you express talent is you give people the opportunity to make decisions you encourage failure in your incursion or learn from their failures to succeed. I think it’s how people grow. So those are the three scenes clarity communication and culture.
[00:07:34].400] – Commentary
Now Rex just talked about entrepreneurial spirit inside the company having people that think entrepreneurial really is a benefit to your company. It really is something that people shy away from because they are afraid someone’s gonna go out there with the start their own business a lot of entrepreneurs want the safety of being in a company but they want to be able to let their ideas shine. They want to let their work shine and be innovative. And so if you give them the space to do that you can actually create and harness that power of entrepreneurship inside the organization. Every leader I know has wished that they could find mini me’s. Now I’m not saying everyone’s going to just like you but you want to encourage them to think for themselves be resilient and be resourceful and that’s what entrepreneurs do. So I encourage you to do that. If you have any questions about how you do that make sure you reach out to me. I’d love to share you my ideas. Now back to the interview with Rex.
[00:08:27].200] – Gene Hammett
A lot of the stuff that you’re talking about the entrepreneurial spirit the you know empowering them and encouraging failure all a part of the core speech I give when I go talk to companies that are interested in creating a culture of growth. I want to back up a little bit maybe dissect the three C’s clarity last year on video.
[00:08:49].650] – Rex Kurzius
Yeah sorry I missed something.
[00:08:51].520] – Gene Hammett
Not the biggest deal but I’m going to ask you the question like you know clarity. You mentioned the importance of vision from the leader but also them the employees and how they actually. Take the clarity and what they do with it. So what have you learned along the way of being more clear with your message.
[00:09:13].570] – Rex Kurzius
What I’ve learned is you need to set the broad direction but not micromanage the people micromanagement is destructive to any organization. I think people need the broad concepts and then they need to figure out how to accomplish the task. And we need to encourage those folks to think about things in a different light. We need encourage those people not to benchmark themselves against broad industry expectations for a position but against their own internal their own internal peer group. And I think if you can do those things then you can create an environment where people will come up with solutions and do things on a level that far exceeds your expectations. And that’s what it’s all about.
[00:10:06].330] – Gene Hammett
I talked to a lot of leaders who feel the pressure of a growing business. I don’t have the sense that you have as much pressure as they put on themselves. Partly because I think you’ve learned to let go of it and let other people do what they do and allow that to grow the business. Is that fair to say.
[00:10:26].850] – Rex Kurzius
It’s completely fair to say and I learned the hard way I had a business for the first five years. I had the biggest ego I think you could ever find I don’t know how I got my head through doors because I was so integral to everything and then I realized that I was the problem with the company. I was too integral to it in that company. When I the first five years I got up to about two and half million. Once I kind of relinquish the day to day to a management team it went from two and a half million to 28 million over the next 48 months and I realized that I was an issue I wasn’t the person making it all happen.
[00:11:07].020] – Rex Kurzius
I was a bottleneck. So that was a very powerful lesson for me. And so from that point on the rest of my career I just focused on getting good people in and creating that clarity. Communicating to him and building that culture around them so they can do amazing things without me being.
[00:11:24].800] – Commentary
Hold on for a second. Rick said I was the bottleneck. I know I felt that way before. As a leader you probably felt that way too. If you’re still feeling that you are the bottleneck you’re holding yourself back then you’ve got to get real about yourself as the leader you’ve got to have someone help you through that. That is one of the core things I do. I love to help leaders through the defining moments of their business. If you’re. Feeling that bottleneck then you are the problem. You were very frankly very directly. You’ve got to get out of your own way. This is what I saw at this is what I’d love to help you with. So make sure you reach out to me and I’ll share with you all of the details around this and I can share with you stories about clients who’ve done this and really have broken away from it.
[00:12:09].040] – Gene Hammett
That is just beautiful and I will mention to you and the audience that they have heard my story. The brief version as I ran a business from zero to five million in three years and I flatlined for about five years. Six years into that and I failed to grow as a company but also as a leader. And that was the problem. And that’s one reason why I do what I do. So I appreciate you being here with us Rex. I want to go back to the other C’s that you’re talking about communication. You mentioned the importance of technology inside of it. So tell us a little bit about how you’re using technology to improve the communication with the team.
[00:12:47].490] – Rex Kurzius
So a number of ways that the items that pop up in my head readily are the auto dealers in artificial intelligence being able to tie CRM into a cadence and have that cadence backed up by a support system that prompts the employees is it’s to me it’s just mind blowing and game changing how much that has changed everything.
[00:13:13].800] – Rex Kurzius
We no longer have to go to someone and say Hey how’d your day go. We can pull up a report and say hey you scored a 62 today and yesterday you’re in eighty five and the difference was you had these conversations with people and it’s totally changed the dialogue in the back and forth with the with the people. The other thing is you know I don’t believe in forcing people to do mundane tasks. You know I want administrative work to be done. The preponderance of it done by the systems that we integrate with.
[00:13:45].000] – Rex Kurzius
My goal is not to force people to do grunt work but get them focused on the goal and what we mean by that is you know we want to give on the map where the Treasurer is not telling me go find the treasure and a lot of companies will just blanket people with leads and try to give as much as they can out of them. In our goal is kind of a reverse funnel approach where we’re not going to try to give you you know tens of thousands of leads we’re gonna try to give you the best ones where our product can make the biggest impact on the client.
[00:14:19].400] – Gene Hammett
And you also mentioned the State of the company meeting is anything you do in there special that you can share with us that might be sort of newsworthy?
[00:14:27].790] – Rex Kurzius
You know it’s it’s interesting. It’s something I started doing in my companies about 14 years ago. It was the genesis of some Silicon Valley companies and what it is is some very frank discussion where we go through everything we talk about the company’s mission statements the short term vision a long term vision the brand promise. We talk about financial goals for the business. We break down each operational head goes and talks about the things that are working and things are not working and I think in a meeting like that it’s incredibly important to celebrate the successes but also acknowledge the failures is part of it it’s being real.
[00:15:10].490] – Rex Kurzius
And by having an open meeting like that in presenting to everyone in the organization you’ll get ideas and you’ll get criticisms and you get thoughts about sales from someone in dev or in marketing might have an opinion about something that’s happening on support and the cross pollination I think is very important. And then I think if you’re a standard employee here and you start the CEO is going to get up in front of you and tell you everything that’s working and not working. And he’s going to be very honest with you and give you an opportunity.
[00:15:43].480] – Rex Kurzius
And I think it makes them feel like they’re much more included in the organization. There’s an organizations I’ve had in the past where I didn’t do that. We had this phenomenon that I called Wild watercooler talk. So people would get discouraged about the direction of the company or have a question about it or maybe some something blew up where it’s gossip gossip. That’s not true. That’s running throughout the organization here. Every 90 days everybody knows every is going to get a reset. And I’ve got an open door policy so people can come anytime they want. And I encourage them to ask questions and I encourage them to challenge me.
[00:16:20].140] – Rex Kurzius
And I look at it as you know I am presenting the report card to the business and you know people say I’m the founder and CEO and I’m happy a report too. That’s not true. I report to all my vendors and I report all my employees. I take employing people very seriously. You know they got college educations to pay for mortgages in their dreams and you know the business needs to step up and make sure it’s doing what it needs to do. And it’s you know it’s not one of those things we want to hide anything when to put everything out in front of everyone so they understand they’re included.
[00:16:55].210] – Rex Kurzius
They have a right and they have an opportunity to give us feedback but then they know straight from me exactly what I think has happened in the company where they agree or disagree with it at least it’s a conversation.
[00:17:06].940] – Gene Hammett
I don’t think you’ve said the word but I feel like you really value transparency across the organization.
[00:17:12].550] – Rex Kurzius
Oh incredibly to a point where it’s not only transparency from the perspective of me like standing in front of everybody and telling them the information. It’s transparency to the point where it’s part of their operating reports. They see what I represent and when I talk about a revenue number it’s not new to them. They might see it in aggregate compared to a budget that they may not see it all the time but it’s incredibly transparent and it’s acknowledging we are not perfect people. The goal here is to not be perfect. The goal here is to improve every day and acknowledge our successes celebrate our successes as often as possible possible and just as importantly maybe more importantly acknowledge the failures diagnosis failures learn from the failures and then get better.
[00:18:00].430] – Gene Hammett
I’m not surprised that you continue the level of growth because this is the way you think about leadership and culture. And I say that because I talked to a lot of companies and you say it so matter of factly you know you’re one of the rare birds in this that’s the way you think about this.
[00:18:18].600] – Rex Kurzius
I appreciate that. I just know I grew up I had very humble beginnings and I learned from that experience growing up that you know life can change on a dime really quickly. And just when you think you’re the best thing in the world something can knock you right off. So I choose not to look at life trying to compete with anybody but myself you know and I just want to be a little bit smarter tomorrow a little healthier or a little more well read a little bit better leader and over time you know every step of the journey takes you up a hill and before you know it you’re looking down and it’s the valley is way way below your feet. And I think that kind of thinking is what I want to permeate throughout my organization into the people that I get to work with.
[00:19:09].760] – Gene Hammett
Well I wanted to say that to you because I really appreciate you being here. We haven’t talked about culture much So what is something that you would share with us that you do to really reinforce the culture that maybe other people are doing.
[00:19:24].300] – Rex Kurzius
And culture by the way is the magic behind all of it. In my opinion and I forgot who said this but I’m sure somebody is smarter than I did so as they say culture is the only defendable competitive advantage in any organization. And I think they’re right. So a culture has to be something that is not initiated on a daily basis by anyone in particular. It’s got to be a feel when you walk in the office. So if you walk into acid and you’d see this silly eight foot tall panda mask got a neon sign you’d hear music play I believe music is a very important thing in the workplace because you know think about the great times we’ve all had in our lives and a lot of it centered around music.
[00:20:10].060] – Rex Kurzius
So we get people coming in with an upbeat attitude already. If you walk through the office you’ll see inspirational quotes on some of the boards. Some of them are mainstream that most people have read some of them are just internal to our company and then you’ll see points of celebration everywhere. We’ve got songs all over the place. And when a deal is close we had a gong customer calls and it gives us a great review. We try to celebrate things as often as possible. We try to create a sense of community.
[00:20:39].400] – Rex Kurzius
So we provide to quite a bit. We celebrate the most obscure holidays. We it. We celebrate because we want that sense of community and camaraderie and inclusiveness. And then on the flip side of it we also go out of our way to celebrate the independence of people. You know we don’t have a dress code at work. Most days I wear a panda T-shirt and a lot of people here do too. But we encourage people to be different. And when we do our State of the company meeting one of the things we do is we make sure that the star of the home will show that hourlong long presentation is not management.
[00:21:17].780] – Rex Kurzius
It’s the actual employees. So the pictures are all employees doing things and celebrating what they’ve done. It’s acknowledging failure and what we did and how we learned from it. But the star of the show is always the people working on the show. And I think that’s incredibly important.
[00:21:34].190] – Gene Hammett
I so agree with everything you’ve said. I don’t think there’s anything I can can point at and say you know what. You’re off mark. They’re putting people as the star of the show is a huge difference from what most companies do and bigger companies lose touch with that. And I know you’re growing fast so I will remind you don’t lose touch with putting the people first. I don’t think you will. But I really appreciate you being here. A growth think tank what’s one parting words you could share the audience about leadership and culture as it relates to growing fast?
[00:22:12].260] – Rex Kurzius
I would emphasize that none of this is about perfection. No one has all the answers. Things change rapidly. My brother talks about the concept that listen hard and change fast I don’t think he’s right. It’s not about perfection. It’s about trying things failing. Learning but never giving up. And when you when you lead someone in your organization I think total transparency and just being a real person with folks makes all the difference in the world.
[00:22:46].880] – Gene Hammett
Well I couldn’t agree more. So Rex thank you for being here. Thank you for bringing asset panda to this and for having a place that all these workers enjoy to come and grow as individuals and really move the mission for a living.
[00:23:00].750] – Rex Kurzius
Thank you for having me.
[00:23:02].210] – Gene Hammett
Fantastic interview? right. I always say that but it was really powerful because so simple. You want to have clarity clarity of your message clarity of how other people are receiving it. You want to communicate that you consistently you want to use technology. You would also have the kinds of meetings where people can be real. Those are really powerful aspects to the growth of your company. And don’t forget culture. Culture is the core of everything. Culture is the business and the culture is what we’re really make people pay attention and stick around and really put their heart and soul and loyalty into your company.
[00:23:37].580] – Gene Hammett
So if you are not maximizing your area of leadership on clarity communication and culture then you’re probably feeling that you’re feeling the pain and feeling the stress you’re not growing as fast now. I’d love to get to know you. Maybe there’s a solution. I have that could help you get grow your business as always lead with courage. We’ll see you next time here at Growth Think Tank.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
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