Employees First, Customers Second with Steve Burke at Texadia Systems

Fast growth companies do one thing entirely different than those companies that don’t grow as fast. I have analyzed hundreds of companies to find that one thing. It is the concept of putting employees first, customers second. Leaders that are willing to put employees first, customers second are prevalent with the companies on the Inc 5000. Today’s guest is Steve Burke, Founder of Texadia Systems. This company was ranked #2897 on the 2019 Inc List. The company operates in the residential and commercial markets with its design and engineering services. Are you willing to put employees first, customers second? Inside this interview, we look at the value of employees first. We look at what that means when it comes to company growth. Join us today for this conversation on employee first, customers second.

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Steve Burke: The Transcript

Target Audience: Steve Burke is the President/Owner at Texadia Systems. Texadia Systems takes a consultative approach to understand your project needs and proposing a solution that is easy to use and meets our client’s needs. The bottom line is that we care about your success.

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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.

Steve Burke
Service calls, just little things that guys are out in the field and they’ve got to make a quick decision. And I want them to make that decision. And you know, there’s the worst thing that could happen to them is that they fail and that they’re going to learn from that mistake. But people who are not afraid to make decisions, they go a long way with Texadia Systems. We encourage that, you know, comes from the top down from everybody in our team is it’s okay to make a decision. And if you make a mistake at all, even if that’s okay, but just try not to make the same mistake twice.

Intro [0:41]
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs of the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?

Gene Hammett [0:58]
Putting your employees first sounds odd, right? I know, it’s important to a lot of companies to really make sure that their employees are taken care of. But are they willing to put them first? Did they put them above their customers? Well, in this whole COVID-19 issue, I’ve seen a lot of companies that are trying to put customers first. I’ve seen many companies putting employees first, I can tell you really appreciate those stories of those putting their employees First, we have to continue servicing our customers during this tough time. Even if you’re in businesses that are not essential. You’re trying to figure out ways to keep growing. But I do believe that putting employees first means something and leadership. This doesn’t come from just me. It actually comes from a lot of the research I have across many founders, CEOs, the fastest-growing companies, they’re willing to put their employees first. So this episode is dedicated to why that’s important. Some of the details behind that, and we have a special guest today, Steve Burke. He’s the founder of Texadia Systems. They’re a design firm in the residential and business market. They really are great at putting employees first, they’ve grown to over 10 million since 2013. I share all this with you because I want you to understand who they are and what they’ve done from an impact level, and not just take this employee first, as you know, something that you think you should do. I want you to think about how you can move forward as a company and the culture. If you really do put employees first and what that means, today’s a special interview with Steve, hopefully, you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed recording it. Here’s the interview with Steve.

Commercial [2:36]
Before we dive into the interview, I wanted to remind you that you can actually get a tool that I’ve been working with clients with for the last couple of years, I’ve refined this tool has gone through several iterations. Now we have it completely automated, you can actually go online and fill out the leadership quiz. To get the leadership quiz. Just go to theleadershipquiz.com that’s pretty easy right? theleadershipquiz.com. What you will get when you do that is you will answer a few questions, you will see where you rate based on the core principles of fast-growth companies. If you’re ready to grow your company or you want to see where you are, then make sure you go to theleadershipquiz.com inside it, you will get insight to where you are, understand where you want to improve. And you will get them mapped into the 10 areas that are most specific to fast-growth companies. Again, go to theleadershipquiz.com and you can get that right now.

Gene Hammett [3:30]
Hey, Steven, how are you?

Steve Burke [3:31]
Good, Gene. How are you doing?

Gene Hammett [3:33]
Fantastic. We’re here to talk about your company and leadership and growth. You’ve had some tremendous growth over the last few years, but I wanted to back up a second. Let our audience know a little bit more about you in the company. Tell us about Texadia Systems.

Steve Burke [3:51]
I’m happy to, Texadia Systems is a full-service design-build audiovisual integrator, we have two businesses that we really focus on one is Commercial in one is high and residential. We started back in 2013 and have grown to over 10 million in sales in the last six years. So we feel like we’re very fortunate and been excited to have been a part of this fast growth.

Gene Hammett [4:21]
Well, I know that you have, and I have talked before about what really was the catalyst for that growth. And one of the things that that we came up with was really talking about the importance of the people in the organization. How many employees do you have?

Steve Burke [4:40]
Right now we have 52.

Gene Hammett [4:43]
And when I say the importance of people, every leader goes, Well, all people are important. All of our employees are important, but when you talk about your business growth, why do you say that your people are the most important aspect of that?

Steve Burke [4:59]
Well, It comes from years of experience and doing things. But, you know, people are, you know, they’re, they’re a culture, they’re a heartbeat, they’re a pulse. And they’re moving part in a big machine and, you know, what we do from you know, coming in to learn about a person’s problem, to try to figure out how to solve it to trying to deliver on that and then service and maintaining it. There’s a lot of things that have to go right for us to be successful. And I firmly believe 100% that it’s the people that we have working for us. So you know, I have done this for almost 20 years and, you know, one, if one piece fails, you can lose a client And what we’re trying to do is get people in the right lanes in the right positions where they can be successful. empower them to make decisions and deliver on the high standards that we have at Texadia Systems.

Gene Hammett [6:18]
That word empower is a really strong word that a lot of leaders want to make sure that’s a part of their culture. When you think about empowering others, what steps do you take to make sure that happens? And I’d love to, like get really detailed here on this empowerment.

Steve Burke [6:37]
So it’s a combination of a lot of things. But you know, from an executive leadership group, it’s something that we talk about, you know, and I’m kind of a big picture guy, but you know, is that when I hire somebody, I always tell them like I have no interest in doing your job. That’s a nice way of saying, you know, I want you to be accountable for making decisions that are going to affect, you know, this company. And empowerment is difficult because a lot of people are, you know, don’t feel comfortable with that responsibility, but once they get it and they know that they can impact the operation of the company. You know, it’s, it’s a positive thing to see. It’s a positive thing to experience and it’s a never-ending struggle for us. You know, we try to get people that genuinely care about other people, about our clients about the financial well being of the company. And if we can get those behaviors, then the empowerment Can you know, It’s a little bit easier once they understand the why.

Commercial [8:04]
Steve just said something interesting. empowerment is difficult. Did you catch that? Well, it is difficult, because you’ve got to learn to let go. You’ve got to learn to trust, you’ve got to learn to really allow others to make decisions for you. And you’ve got to allow them to fail. And those all are very difficult pieces to their growth and to your growth as a leader. When you think about empowering someone. It doesn’t just happen overnight. You have to actually be intentional about it. You have to allow them to make their own decisions. You have to allow them to sometimes go another path, even if you know it’s not the right way. Why do I say that is because you want your employees to feel this sense of empowerment, not just because it’s just you know, the right thing to do but truly believe in themselves, belief in their ideas, and be willing to test them all the way to the end. I’m not saying you need to put yourself With a business in danger, but give them a chance to really grow, give them a chance to really put forth everything they’ve got, and empowered them as employees. Back to the interview.

Gene Hammett [9:13]
I had asked you my impossible question. I think you chuckled when I answered I asked you that because it was a hard question but as a leader, what’s more, important to your customers or employees? Do you remember what you said?

Steve Burke [9:28]
I do. I said, my employees because, without my employees, I’m not going to keep my customers. And so you know, that’s pretty easy. And going back to you know why I started this and what was, you know, a driver for me as I’ve been in sports my whole life. I love sports. And I found out early unless you play tennis or golf. You are going to be working Working with others, if you want to be successful, right, there’s nine players on a baseball team. But you’ve got relief pitchers. There’s 22 guys that start on a football team. And then you’ve got special teams, every single facet of those games played a role in how I look at leading people. And, you know, we, I strive to use the word we, because we really are a team. And we want people to feel like, you know, we’re paddling in the same direction, we have the same goal. And we want to achieve the same thing. So it sounds easy. It’s incredibly difficult. It’s constant, you know, meetings to get everybody on the same page, talk about our core values, talk about them. That, you know, we want to get everybody doing.

Gene Hammett [11:04]
I love the sports analogy and inside leadership because it to me, it’s I know, it may be only a male thing, but I think some females will understand this. You take football, you want everyone to play their own positions, right you need, you need those running backs just as well as you need the offensive lines and everyone has a position. And you have to empower them to do to make those decisions on the pill. If you’re the coach, Steve, you can’t make that decision for them. Right?

Steve Burke [11:37]
I cannot. And, you know, I think about, you know, service calls, just little things that, you know, guys are out in the field and they’ve got to make a quick decision. And I want them to make that decision. And you know, there’s the worst thing that could happen to them is that they fail and that they’re going to learn from them. mistake, but people who are not afraid to make decisions, you know, they go a long way with Texadia Systems. We, you know, we encourage that, you know, comes from the top down from everybody in our team is, is it’s okay to make a decision. And if you make a mistake, it’s all even if that’s okay, but just try not to make the same mistake twice.

Commercial [12:23]
Hold on, Steven just said something interesting. He’s not afraid to fail. But he also means he’s not afraid to let his employees fail. He knows that that’s the path forward. We talked off the record. He talks about some of the things that he’s seen in his journey as a leader. And it really is very much like my leadership, you probably yours too. We got there through adversity. We got there through failing forward sometimes, and it was hard. We did it our way. And that’s what you want to let your employees to figure out a way that they can fail without putting things in jeopardy, but also grow from it. really build their confidence, build their courage, and their ability to make those decisions and trust themselves to a critical part of their own growth. And it will pay off in spades for the company. Back to the interview.

Gene Hammett [13:14]
I love this analogy too, you know, a part of what we’re talking about here, Steve, and we haven’t discussed it in these terms. So this might be new to you, are you really encouraged them to think like entrepreneurs. Have you thought about that?

Steve Burke [13:27]
Yeah. It’s interesting, you know, with my sales team, you know, I say, Listen, man, you’re the CEO of God, the Hank and this is your business, how are you going to develop it? what I’m here to do is help support you and help grow your businesses in any way I can. But it’s, those are the people that are successful are it really is trying to understand let them understand you know, what are the financial implications of doing this right? You know, we strive to do the right thing at all times. Just because we take a long term approach to how we work with people, you know, we’re not going and trying to buy a job, we’re trying to build a lifetime commitment with somebody and be their trusted partner, and, you know, be there when they need us to support them. So it really is a an entrepreneurial way of approaching it and people. Some people struggle with that, right. Some people aren’t entrepreneurial, but you know, we, you know, we spent a lot of time trying to get them to understand, you know, not only the impact on the company but the financial impact. And, you know, I think we’ll continue to do that.

Gene Hammett [14:49]
Now, a lot of people that have this kind of attention to the employee and growth, have also another element that we haven’t talked about yet, which is transparency. Do you feel like transparencies important part of your culture and the reason why you’ve guys have grown?

Steve Burke [15:05]
I know it is. You know, I’m preparing now for our all-hands meeting tomorrow, which will be the first one that we’ve done. Over video conference, we built out a new demo facility, we had a room specifically built-in for our employees because we communicate to them quarterly on what we’re doing, right? What we need to improve the financial success of the company and to reward employees who you know, are exceeding the expectations of what we’re trying to build for our organization. So, you know, I firmly believe that you know, employees want to know where the company stands. They want to know about The big wins and we share those internally. Every time we have a win in the company, I send an email out. And then I attach the lyrics of some random song to see if they actually read it, but not a win today with a Regional Hospital and I threw out a song by the little rubber band. So, you know, we try to make it fun. But we also want to celebrate success and, you know, let everybody know how we’re doing.

Gene Hammett [16:33]
Steven, I want to take this a little bit different area because I think a lot of organizations also want people to, to develop and grow and be empowered, but they also have some critical standards that are necessary the quality of the work and the quality of the relationships that they’re building. And you have a saying that you repeat quite a bit. I won’t test you on it but be the bar. What does that be the bars to saying mean to you?

Steve Burke [17:01]
So there’s, when you take a bunch of pieces of equipment together and you put it together and you make it work and throw programming around it. It’s a difficult task. And what we try to get people to understand is that mediocrity and cutting corners isn’t something that we tolerate and nor that we want. We want it to be the best. We want to provide the highest quality to our customers. We want to provide high customer service. Are we perfect at it? Absolutely not. But we strive to be the bar, right? You know, and just to give you an example, our technicians provide daily reports on the work they complete. They take pictures, we use those pictures on social media, we have contested that reward The technicians based on the pictures, they take some great photos, and we want people to know what we’re doing, and how much we care about, you know, the quality of it and that, you know that we’re able to support it. So I just think it is something that we, you know, start at the top. And it’s just a full circle with how we communicated to our clients. And then our technicians communicated back to us that, hey, we actually want to, we want it to be great.

Gene Hammett [18:31]
I know it’s not a completely new concept, but, you know, empowering your employees to take pictures of the job and to be able to post them on social media. And imagine it creates some camaraderie and some little bit of competitiveness on you know, the quality of these pictures and how well they do. It makes my guessing that right?

Steve Burke [18:52]
You are so you know, we’ve got three platforms we use for social media, right Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn and so based on the number of views, you know, they’re trying to get the most views and they’ll get a financial reward based on that. So, you know, I know that they’re very competitive about it. And, you know, you can just see it in the work the photos, but you know, if you take a picture of a rack of equipment, you can genuinely see that these guys consider it a piece of art, and that they really, really care about. And so we want to, we want to brag about that. We want to share that with our customers. And let them know that that’s really important. So it really is it’s impressive to see.

Gene Hammett [19:45]
Steve, I used to talk about this a lot on stages, and I haven’t talked about in a while, but what you’re talking about is a really good example of that, which is a concept of internal brand ambassadors. There’s a lot of companies like Nike that will go out and hire Michael Jordan to be a brand ambassador. And and and that’s good. I mean, I’m sure that’s done well for Nike. But you’ve got a group of employees that are basically internal brand ambassadors that are so proud of the work, they’re doing a part of the mission part of this work, and they’re showing it through these pictures, you really are seeing some benefit probably internally within the culture of the company. Is that fair to say?

Steve Burke [20:25]
Yeah, it is. And you know, there’s there, it’s twofold. So, you know, we actually share these communications with the client. Right, so you’re, you know, in the middle of a half-million-dollar construction project. There’s a lot of things that are a lot of moving parts. And so we’re able to communicate to the client, where we stand any things that might have prevented us from being successful. And, you know, the employees you know, can also use that for, hey, we need some help here, right. We’re just Supposed to be done tomorrow, but the walls aren’t painted, and we have no power. We can’t be successful. And so it’s really elevating the communication cycle, if you will, and trying to make sure that we can meet our deliverable. And so those are things that we incorporate. You know, from an empowerment standpoint from the employee, as well as you know, trying to be the best possible communicators we can be.

Gene Hammett [21:33]
One final question, Steve, you have some counterintuitive kind of approaches and strategies to leadership. We talked about one last week about working for others. Do you remember that?

Steve Burke [21:49]
I don’t.

Gene Hammett [21:51]
Well, you talked about let’s go a little bit different direction. That’s one of the other aspects of this. It was about faith. I know we talked about a little bit that here today Why is failing within the culture considered okay? And I know this is not a failure isn’t catastrophic, whatnot but you know, a step forward a lesson or mistake. Why do you think that’s so important for the growth of the company?

Steve Burke [22:17]
Well, I know it’s important because it shows that you can take responsibility, right? That’s one key thing that we want you to be responsible and you know, as you know, as you go through and you think about I think about my personal journey to starting my own company was filled with a road full of mistakes. And you know, at some point, you take all those things and you put them in, you know, your, your pot and you turn around, you’re like, holy cow. You know, I can fight through this. I understand. adversity is I know how to lead I know how to listen. And I feel that you know, that’s one thing that, you know, we’re okay with. And so when we, when we set that expectation with people, I think they feel more empowered.

Steve Burke [23:19]
I think they feel more comfortable knowing that they can try to do the right thing. And, you know, once you have a group of people that do that, it really is. It’s a fun thing to see. And, you know, we strive from our, our service group, to really, you know, was one thing we worked on, it was a SMART goal of ours last year and the gentleman that runs that group really did a bang-up job. But he also, you know, he took it upon himself to try and improve that. And, you know, I think nine out of 10 things I thought were great one Like, Hey, I have a, maybe we can try this approach. And we work through that. But, you know, that was on him. That wasn’t me that wasn’t our VP of operations. That was him taking responsibility. And so it really does go down the line once you can enable people to do that.

Gene Hammett [24:19]
Steve, thanks for being here on the podcast, sharing your journey of leadership and culture and tech-savvy, as you know, culture is really, you know, something to be proud of.

Steve Burke [24:30]
Well, thank you. I appreciate your making time for me, Gene. And this was fun. So thanks a lot.

Gene Hammett [24:36]
I love episodes like this. Well, we can go deep into it. We can hear some of the stories of this leader’s journey through leadership. You probably have had an amazing journey too. If you think your story would be a great fit for our podcast, make sure you reach out to me, I’d love to get to know you. If you’re growing fast. Probably there’s a story behind that. If you’re not growing fast, but you still have something interesting to say. I’d love to hear from you me. Reach out to me gene@genehammett.com. I love stories about employees first. Hopefully you do too. We put some details in here that you can actually model from. So if you want to get the principles of fast-growth companies, make sure you know genehammett.com/principles that’ll get you the 12 principles of fast growth. we’ve analyzed this across many, many interviews over 100. And we’ve come up with the top 12 principles of fast-growth companies. Get that now Just go to genehammett.com/principles. As always, we will see you next time.

 

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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