When your people have the systems of integrity and accountability, you have a team aligned to the right work. Creating a culture with integrity and accountability requires new approaches to leadership. My guest today is Robert Davis, CEO of Stealth ISS Group. His company was ranked #368 on the 2019 Inc 5000 list. Robert shares how integrity and accountability have been an essential part of company growth. Discover new practices that allow your team to increase their alignment and productivity.
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Robert Davies: The Transcript
Target Audience: Robert Davies is the CEO at Stealth Group Inc. Stealth Group and I offer expertise across the whole spectrum of IT and cybersecurity (across people, process, and technology), tailored assessments, 3rd party risk, secure by design architecture, penetration testing and vulnerability management, and the world of SOC. We support CISOs and CIOs and their teams with anything from developing Target Operating Models to training and coaching. Stealth Group works with startups and established enterprises bringing innovative products to the market and bridges the gap between executive and technical stakeholders.
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.
For us, that starts with our culture. And I have to give a shout out to Keith Cunningham at this point, I met him at a Tony Robbins business mastery session about his book. And you know, he agrees with Drucker, he says, you know, culture eats strategy for breakfast. I believe, if our culture is a fertile enough ground for our folks to thrive, and that means engaging with our customers in a very genuine but authentic and you know, with integrity and accountability, then that does wonders for our reputation.
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 [0:51]
Would you say that you have integrity and accountability across all of the people in your company? Well, those key elements are very important. You probably know that So how do you create the systems, the rituals, the practices, of having integrity and accountability, working well together so that your company can grow fast? Well, that’s the topic of today’s conversation. Our special guest is Robert Davies. He’s the CEO of Stealth ISS Group. They were number 368 on the Inc list in 2019. That’s a mouthful. They grew really fast because of such attention and focus on integrity and accountability. We’ll talk about what those core elements are, why they’re important. And what I really liked about today’s interview was just some of the details around what you could be doing day in and day out, to increase the level of integrity and accountability across the company. Robert has a very special perspective of leadership, why that’s such an important piece. And actually, he told me, he thinks of himself as more than just a CEO. He’s actually the chief culture officer of the company. And you think about how employees People are when I asked him my key question about as a leader, what’s more, important employees or customers, he very quickly responded. It’s actually employees, its employees. It’s very clear to him why they’re so important inside the growth of his business. Now, when you think about integrity and accountability, you want to increase those factors inside your business, your culture, make sure you tune into today’s work and make sure you do the work. Here’s Rob.
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 theleadershiqpuiz.com that’s pretty easy, right? theleadershiqpuiz.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 theleadershiqpuiz.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 the leadership quiz calm and you can get that right now.
Gene Hammett [3:21]
Hi, Robert, how are you?
Robert Davies [3:22]
Very good. How are you, sir?
Gene Hammett [3:24]
I am fantastic. We are going to talk about you know, some of the core elements that’s helped your company grow really fast. But I would love for you to give us some perspective of the company. So tell us about the Stealth ISS Group.
Robert Davies [3:38]
Okay, so the company was founded in 2002. Not by myself, unfortunately, I’m merely the CEO. It’s started life with some big data center hosting and circuits for hire. latterly I would say the last 10 years the focus has been on IT security. Whoever put a cyber in front of that is editors. It’s all about paychecks. So 10 years really focused on cybersecurity from assessments through to forensics and everything in between. I joined the company about six years ago, my brief was to grow business in the US. And being in the right place at the right time is part of it. But, you know, I managed to get us to be 500 lists two years consecutively. And I don’t know many companies that have done that.
Gene Hammett [4:26]
Well, I have many clients that have you when you play in this world, but it is harder and as you know, Robert, it gets harder each and every year. It does. Let’s dive into this because one of the things that we have discovered is, you know, I asked you what really drives the growth of the company. And you said, two things really come to play and it’s something you guys do consistently every day, its integrity and accountability. Tell us what those mean to you and the organization.
Robert Davies [5:00]
So working it backward, I think our clients, if our employees are going to our clients, and they can they seem to be acting with integrity and accountability, then our clients are very happy with, you know that and then we’re all human beings at the end of the day will react far better to personal recommendations than to come to a warm sales, right? So, so if you’ve got the CEO of another company that’s a client of ours that is absolutely a raving fan of our services, they’re more likely to recommend us as a personal recommendation to their peer group and we get business that way. So for us that starts with our culture, and I have to give a shout out to Keith Cunningham at this point, I met him at a Tony Robbin’s business mastery session, got his book. And you know, he agrees with Drucker, he says, you know, culture eats strategy for breakfast. I believe if our culture is a fertile enough ground for our folks to thrive. And that means engaging with our customers in a very genuine but authentic and, you know, with integrity and accountability, then that does wonders for our reputation.
Gene Hammett [6:15]
Love it. It didn’t talk much about accountability. So I’m going to give you put a spotlight on that. Why is accountability so important for the growth of the company?
Robert Davies [6:23]
Well, I mean, you’re as good as your reputation. So if you, if you make promises and you don’t deliver against those, you need nothing but a bad taste in your client’s mouth and that those that repeat business that I was referencing, that just does not happen, you have to hold your folks accountable. And you know, what, if you find the right people, they ask you to hold them accountable, that you know, they’re our hiring program has evolved over time. We made some mistakes and I’m sure we’ll get to those a little later on. But we’ve learned that hiring folks that want to learn that wants to be held accountable that wants to push forwards is the kind of secret sauce for us.
Gene Hammett [7:00]
Let’s put a focus on those mistakes that come to mind in this journey of fast growth, leading the people that you would share with us today?
Robert Davies [7:12]
Okay, so some mistakes I’ve made around hiring start off with, I guess, on occasion, you know, you’re desperately trying to find we’re in a very technical industry. So at times, we’re trying to find a needle in a haystack when it comes to capabilities. At times, we have let the cultural angle slide, the cultural fit slide. And actually, every single time we’ve done that it has risks our culture and therefore our relationship with our clients. So that was one for me. You know, I’d rather have to say no to a contract and hire the wrong, wrong person. I think also procrastination is a personal enemy of mine. Not only does it magnify problems, but if you know you’re going to be hiring somebody You know, get ahead of that process. Give yourself as much runway as possible to find the right people that includes cultural fit. Otherwise, you end up in a situation just as I say, finding the wrong people and hiring them and it’s just been an unmitigated disaster. So, and hire the best people you can afford. You know, don’t scrimp on hiring. You know, it’s a market economy. We’ve all got our price for one of a better phrase. Typically, you get what you pay for. And, you know, try and try and hire the best folks that you possibly can on your budget, but that’s a big one for me.
Hold on for a second. Robert just said that one of his biggest mistakes was letting culture slide in the interview process. Have you ever done that? Have you ever looked at someone’s resume and said, you know, they’ve got the skills to do this, but there were some red flags that you were willing to look beyond, but it didn’t work out? Well, it’s happened to me. It’s probably happened. You tap into a lot of the people that have been interviewed on this show because I’ve had these conversations, repeated leaders that know how to hire for culture fit, end up having more retention, have better employees, and actually grow faster. Why do I say that? Because I’ve had so many of these conversations with founder CEOs of the fastest-growing companies out there. I share this with you because when you think about changing your hiring processes, to better include the culture fit aspect, make sure you put a lot of attention to that because it’s so critically important to the success of your business, your team, your culture, and your growth. It also affects the bottom line. Back, to Robert.
Gene Hammett [9:41]
Well, Robert, I appreciate you sharing those mistakes with me. I know we’ve all made those same mistakes. When I think about, you know integrity and accountability, I think about the day today, the console things you’re doing consistently what comes to But you could share with us about the integrity and accountability and the day to day operation of the business.
Robert Davies [10:05]
Right. Okay, so I’ve mentioned these are two cornerstones of our culture. And our culture is discussed regularly. If you go to our website, our culture statement is on every single piece of hiring paperwork we put out there. And I’m, when I’m interviewing folks, I’d say to them, if this, if this doesn’t resonate with you, and you can’t live with this culture, I will not be offended. We can just end the interview. But we discuss our culture very regularly.
Robert Davies [10:30]
We have, say team meetings twice a week and that’s all hands culture is no one agenda item, you know, how do we measure against those cultural dimensions? You know, at that point in time, we have a monthly innovation meeting, which is hilarious because it’s there that we let out and are we going to deviate off-topic for a little bit, we let our innovation and creativity bubbled to the surface and we have We took about a lot of things. It’s a learning opportunity for our folks. But, you know, we have chili Cook-Off competitions. And we have this beanie of awesomeness that you know, for the best staff member, that I make that award and that family is tied to how well folks have aligned to our culture. So, back to accountability. I have once a once-weekly with I. directs. metrics are key to accountability. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. I don’t know who said that. But it was somebody with somebody quite important. We discuss these metrics on a weekly basis.
Robert Davies [11:35]
That is how I hold these guys accountable, is there’s nothing new in there. But if you don’t get into the habit of it, it’s easy to draw, and then and then things start to slide. So just a more topical, more current thing with the pandemic. One thing I’ve insisted on, you know, we’re all working from home. They’re all making great use of zoom and these types of things. I’ve insisted that everyone pick Have an accountability buddy. And check in with them at least once a day. And that’s not just to check that they’re doing their work is to check they’re okay. Right? Because working from home is new for some folks. And it can freak you out after a couple of weeks in your pajamas, really enjoying life, all of a sudden that socialized isolation can really, really mess with people. So we try to do that too. So as I say, my job is all about making sure my people are fine. And then my people make sure that our clients are fine.
Gene Hammett [12:29]
I love that. I haven’t heard the fact of why you would have accountability. I’m used to working from home with our different elements. And I know people, there are even some introverts that are like, you know, I thought this would be better. extroverts can’t get like, I’m ready to get back to the office. Yeah. Robert, when you think about the values of the organization, I went to your website, I was doing some research. One of your values is people development. Yes. And I personally believe a really important piece to leadership is identifying where people can grow to need to grow, want to grow? What are you doing specifically around people’s development that you can share with us?
Robert Davies [13:10]
So, the phrase learning organization is bandied about quite regularly. It is part of our culture statement, it is part of our DNA. So what we do we have an online university that we have free and open access, everyone has access to that. I mentioned these monthly innovation meetings, I pick on folks to go and take a particular course and then relay that back to the rest of the team. For two reasons. One, I think they may need some of that training. And secondly, I forget who it was. But somebody said if you have to learn something with the intention of having to teach others, it’s you learn 80% better or something like that. So that’s a win-win for me. I’ve just recently started what I’m calling the stealth MBA program.
Robert Davies [13:57]
So I’m taking me directs through what I’ve learned, I have an MBA, I think it’s it’s a fantastic opportunity to get to take folks out of their silo and give them an exposure to broader questions. And I go back to Keith Cunningham I use his book for that. Because it’s not about great, great answers. It’s about the most insightful questions. I think if you get the questions right, then all of a sudden that can change the dynamic of what you’re doing and moving that needle forwards let’s say so there are those two things and I we look for folks that asked the question when we’re hiring ask us the question so what can you do to help me progress? How can I you know, what, what artifacts or what systems you have in place to help me drive forwards? So it’s the easiest thing on this world to try to for folks that want to learn to be pushing that in When I pulled at the time when it comes to money because as I say, we’re in it, you know, very technical industry, it’s not all about learning the technicalities of stuff. You know, we have operations, we need money to learn QuickBooks or whatever that might be. I don’t think I’ve turned down a training request, in my five or six years.
Hold on. Robert just talked about silos in the organization. If you have silos where maybe marketing doesn’t work efficiently with sales or sales is not handing off the onboarding process very smoothly, or customer service is that keeping others in the loop? product management, development, all of these teams must work together. Now, small companies don’t have this problem. But what happens as your company grows, you begin to get these silos. People want control. They don’t want to give up control and they fight for their own areas. This is the wrong approach for leadership in a culture that grows fast, so you’ve got to be aware of these silos that could be emerging. Be proactive to make sure that doesn’t happen. And make sure you don’t allow silos to permeate through the organizations. It really is a culture killer back to Robert.
Gene Hammett [16:15]
Well, I appreciate you going through that. I want to dive into the whole aspect of leadership. Now, I know in a technical world, there’s a lot of training that goes around the technical elements of doing the work, and I’m not gonna pretend I even know anything about security. But are you actually training them on other things outside of the technical world, like leadership and, and other aspects beyond that?
Robert Davies [16:44]
Yes, for sure. So I mentioned the stealth MBA, teaching. My leadership team last week was funny enough about our culture, but with a focus on sales and growth strategies. So you know, I’ve got four From operations on that, training, listening in just learning that vocabulary of business, but I found leadership, learning is an on the job. You can read as many books as you like. But I think the more you as long as your pay some kind of homage to those books and the key points being raised within them and use them in your day to day on the job, then you can try them on for size and see which ones fit for you. So my MBA was years ago, and it was in context.
Robert Davies [17:31]
I did that while I was at work in a very stressful job with a very young family. But it focused my mind that everything that I was learning, I was able to apply to the thing that I was doing that week. So that’s what I’m trying to do with, you know, my paying it back is showing my folks billing for marketing and trying to teach them something about accounting. You know, I feel that once you’ve got the vocabulary of business, you break down the walls, of Your own silo. And you can peek outside and see where you might want to go. Because guess what, if you want to see the title, for example, if you want to be CMO, I think you need more than Technical Marketing talent. You need an appreciation of finances, and accounting and a number of those other things too. So I get that and I try to try to bring that to life or I can.
Gene Hammett [18:25]
Beautiful. Robert, I want to put the spotlight on here for a second. You’ve obviously been on a journey of evolution, probably before the NBA. Do you think back to a time when you had to let go of a previous version of yourself in order to become the leader that you are today?
Robert Davies [18:46]
Yes, so this is back in 19 something. I was still I’m a recovering network engineer. So I’m relatively technical, but you know, the 20 years have gone since. Since I was useful. But I made a leap the realization that young as I was there were folks younger than me coming up and learning CCIE. And I’m far more technical than I was. So one thing I realized was that I was quite good at managing projects, technical projects because I understood the vocabulary of both. Even back in those days, I thought, well, actually, I want to end up being quite senior in an organization or having my own company, what I need to do, okay, I need an MBA.
Robert Davies [19:31]
Well, I didn’t have a lot of in the way of qualifications at the time. So it took me six years, and while in a very, very difficult job, but I got it and it just opened up this whole vocabulary for me and it just underlined, it was the right decision. Because I think, folks, you either take a technical path or you take a more managerial path that they seem to be decisions that you need to make as you as you’re ascending the kind of slippery corporate pop If you’re very good technician stick with that, you know, you’ll be a scientist one day, but if not, I think my, when I was brought up being brought up, I was taught to be the best version of me that I could possibly be, bring all of myself to a given situation.
Robert Davies [20:17]
And for me, I recognized that, okay, it wasn’t technical, it was going to be managerial. And therefore, I would, I would perceive that as a path. As you can probably recognize, I’m all about learning and trying to push that needle forwards. It’s not about the qualification for me, it’s about the learning. You know, I’ve got lots of technical qualifications and others but I revere the things that I learned that helped me in the situation that I’m in so push that forward, and all of that pretty much all of that played into me joining stealth group, five, six years ago are being asked to develop business in the US because it This is the moment was not around I had taken on previously, but I felt confident enough with the learning and knowledge that I had to give it And it turns out it was, it was relatively successful.
Gene Hammett [21:04]
Well, Robert, I really appreciate you being here on the podcast, sharing your wisdom. Thank you so much.
Robert Davies [21:10]
My greatest pleasure. Thank you very much.
Gene Hammett [21:12]
I really love this interview, very intentional, very specific to why it’s so important to take care of employees so that they can take care of customers. We talked about a lot of the things today, hopefully, you’ve got something that you can run with. I’d asked Robert, a big question about the defining moment of his own growth, he was able to look back on his years of taking an MBA. Let me ask you the same question. Do you remember the defining moments of your growth? Well, likely you had something or someone challenge you to play at a higher level. If you want to do that right now in your business, and it’s not the time for an MBA. You don’t need that to be the CEO of a company. I know that for a fact. But if you know that you are in a defining moment right now as a leader and you know, you must evolve to the next step, I’m here for you. I’d love to connect with you on my own journey of becoming a leader. Creating a team growing fast losing it all.
Gene Hammett [22:11]
Yes, I did lost lose it all. Yes, if you haven’t seen videos or interviews with me or written articles in ink magazine Success Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, I did lose it all about 10 years ago and I rebuilt my life, and I’m better because of it. The defining moments that we lived through are very important. If you are going through that right now. You don’t have to do it alone. I’d love to connect with you. Make sure you reach out to me [email protected] as always with courage. Well, 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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