You know effective communication is essential to your companies culture. One challenge that comes up is the belief that a company has effective communication right now. Today’s guest on the podcast is Chris Vickers, President and CEO of Starc Systems. His company ranked #460 on the 2019 Inc 5000 list. Chris shares why effective communication is essential to growing fast. We look at the core elements of impeccable communication.
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Chris Vickers: The Transcript
Target Audience: Chris Vickers is the President and Chief Executive Officer at STARC Systems. STARC Systems produces the premier temporary wall containment systems for occupied renovations within healthcare and commercial construction projects. STARC has developed systems that offer superior durability, ease of use, appearance and ongoing cost savings.
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.
In a fast-growing company, chaos is often the environment that you find yourself constant change. Often there’s, you don’t have the time to do everything as well as you’d like. It is often good enough in several circumstances. And so there has to be a level of clarity that gets created allows people to understand where they are in this journey, what those priorities are so that they can ask themselves what they’re doing to meet those priorities work. And it for me, it’s a constant, either clarifying, this change or just clarifying clarification that we had the week before. We’ve got a lot of new people coming into the organization thing their own thoughts. backgrounds proof is why you want to hire people. But there, there’s not a lot of time for onboarding and there’s not a lot of times or there’s no time to not be as focused as an awesome.
Welcome to Growth 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 Jean hammock. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett [1:33]
We all know communication is critically important to the growth of our organization. But oftentimes, we confuse the quality of conversation with the quantity to have better communication is not about more frequent touchpoints it’s about deeper conversations. It’s about truly connecting people feeling heard. As a leader. Your job is to not only communicate the vision of what’s going on but also to prioritize to help people Stay away from the shiny objects to help bind people together to create teams that really coordinate and actions. Leadership is not easy, but you stepped up to be the leader of your teams. That means you want to communicate at a higher level of effectiveness, but also communicate and celebrate success along that journey. Our guest today is CEO and president of Stark systems. Chris Vickers has taken the company from just an idea of really creating a system behind the growth. They actually work in temporary wall systems, mostly in healthcare, but other industries and with the COVID-19 having such an impact on the way hospitals are run. Their system is uniquely positioned to help protect frontline workers. So it’s exciting to have his insight today here on the show, but also to talk about what’s really driven their growth. That is communication and celebrating success. So here’s the interview with Chris.
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 [3:56]
Hey Chris, how are you?
Chris Vickers [3:58]
I’m great. How are you?
Gene Hammett [3:59]
I am fantastic. excited to have you on the podcast here to talk about growth and leadership and culture. Glad to be here. You have been leading a fast-growth company STARC Systems. Tell us a little bit about the area you’re in and about the business.
Chris Vickers [4:15]
We are a company that makes temporary modular wall containment systems and four are used in occupied renovations to keep all the dust debris and pathogens from the renovation space getting into the occupied space. And we have been predominantly focused on health care, though do lots of corporate and education and so forth. And we’re across the whole country and into a couple of different other countries. So it’s been a very fast growth. People love the product and it’s a really simple reusable product. It’s really taken off.
Gene Hammett [5:03]
So I know STARC Systems has grown really fast by my numbers on the research 460 on the Inc List, last year, over 983% over a three year period. I know you’re proud of growth. But what are you most proud of besides just that growth number?
Chris Vickers [5:20]
I would say that it’s really the passion that our employees have throughout the company. We’re now at people we’ve grown I #23, since the beginning of the year, and almost every one of the additional employees we’ve gotten since I joined, you know, two and a half years ago has been a referral from an existing employee. So we feel great about that. And I think part of that is, is obviously it’s a lot of fun to be part of a growth company. But we also Have a mission with our product, which is to keep the infection from getting out into that occupied space. And so I think people feel a connection, you know, to a greater of drivers than just making the next product or making the next dollar.
Gene Hammett [6:25]
I’ve talked to a lot of leaders about the importance of being mission-driven. Although not the core topic of today. Give us just a brief idea of why you see it so important in hiring talent and aligning them toward the work and really creating this meaningful place that people love to come to work.
Chris Vickers [6:43]
I’ve always felt like it’s important to me personally to feel like action. It’s bigger than just meeting your numbers. And I think from my point of view, It just it creates a much stronger emotional bond to the mission that you have and to satisfying customers, we know that we all want to give the best customer satisfaction experience possible. But we often know that these are needed at a certain time and are the have to be there in order for the construction to start and being in healthcare. Obviously, it’s more life and death scenarios. And I think that it just adds a connection to the customer. That it’s special and it makes people want to get up in the morning and feel like they’re doing something more than getting a paycheck or meeting a number.
Gene Hammett [7:52]
Well, I agree with you and I see that across many different places that have really embraced that mission-driven approach, and There are benefits even beyond that, that you that we just haven’t gotten into. I want to pivot just a little bit here, Chris, we had talked about, you know, what makes companies grow fast. Your response to that with my team doing research trying to pull out of you the core elements behind this was two things, communication and celebrating success. I’m gonna let you take either one of those first, but let’s kind of dissect why those two factors are so important to the success and growth of a business.
Chris Vickers [8:31]
Sure, well, I think communication is probably the best place to start. In a fast-growing company. Chaos is often the environment that you find yourself in constant change, and often there’s, you don’t have time, the time to do everything as well as you’d like. Good is often good enough in several circumstances. And so there has to be a level of clarity that gets created that allows people to understand where they are in this journey and what those priorities are so that they can ask themselves what they’re doing to meet those priorities and work that they do. And it’s, for me, it’s a constant. Either clarifying, you know, this change or just clarifying the clarification that we had the week before because it’s, you’ve got a lot of new people coming into an organization that brings their own thoughts, backgrounds, which is why you want to hire people, but there There’s not a lot of time for onboarding. And there’s not a lot of time for, there’s no time to not be as focused as possible. And so I asked myself every day, how do I, how can I prioritize? And how can I create more clarity, and then the communication back from the organization about what their needs are and what they’re seeing?
Gene Hammett [10:26]
I smile, and I say this, I had a client of mine mentioned this just a couple of days ago, the importance of communication. And I had given him some feedback around the organization because we did we do this kind of team alignment assessment. And he had said, but we’re communicating more than ever. And I asked him this question and said, What if there’s a difference between the quantity of communication and quality of communication, and when I shared this with you before we cut on the microphone, you really kind of lit up around this What do you think that that kind of balance of focus between quantity and clarity and quality of conversation? Now that got it out?
Chris Vickers [11:11]
Well, it’s, it’s a fine line, right? Because there everybody, I think everybody in an organization here is different or takes communication differently. And so on one level, I think quality, quality, we know it is at the core, of clarity, and it needs to be even when you think it’s clear, and it’s high quality, it doesn’t mean that that it’s working. I find that that it has to happen in multiple ways over time. So if the clarity is consistent and therefore unable to be reinforced on a regular basis, not just from you and speaking but from documents from examples from peers from, from supervisors, whoever it may come from, it’s definitely the combination, but if it’s quality, quantity is there without quality, then it’s actually counted.
But hold on for a second. I don’t know if you caught that. But Chris quickly said something that was really brilliant. Quality is at the core of clarity. To me, that really means that if you want to have higher quality conversations, raise the level of effectiveness, then you truly are going to make sure that you have quality conversations and that clarity is very important to how that person walks away from that conversation with you or the team walks away from the feelings that they have. If you are really tuned in to what’s going on, you’re able to have quality conversations. It’s not about the number of touchpoints, but it’s about that quality. Back to Chris.
Gene Hammett [13:10]
I definitely agree with you on that. Chris. When you think about communication, I’m sure you’ve got different things that you’ve learned over this. Maybe it’s mistakes that have come up. What could you share with us around things that maybe even counterintuitive to normal communication rhythms that have worked for your company?
Chris Vickers [13:33]
Well, one of the things that we’ve tried to do that I think has been more unique. Partially because it’s a, it’s a brand new culture that we’re creating every day is the amount of time we get together on a monthly basis as a company. And again, we’re small enough where that’s it’s possible and this is kind of where we are We create the celebration, as well as the communication and we have a monthly all company lunch, we come together and are very different sets of folks that do everything from direct labor and manufacturing to Office marketing or sellers that are in on a regular basis. And we often have our board of directors, and anytime there and they come to the same lunch and what we’ve found is that there’s, you know, it’s really an opportunity to connect with people on multiple levels and certainly, you know, having food together. Perhaps, you know, senior management cooking for everybody is great. Everybody has this desire for good food and we’re up in Maine. So we like to have lobster Every once in a while, but it’s also a time for us just again to reinforce and to, you know, to clarify, and we’d love to be able to, you know, just give folks an idea of what’s happening. I find in a lot of organizations, people in different parts of the organization when they don’t hear what’s going on in other places, feel disconnected. Even if that information doesn’t help them in their daily job. It definitely, helps make them feel like they’re part of something bigger. And so we try to try to share the things that are going on across the company and then and celebrate those achievements and point different things out about what people have achieved, what the customers are saying and experiences.
Gene Hammett [15:55]
I knew we would get easily into this concept of celebrating success with your customer or with your employees. What do you do specifically that that you’ve, that you feel like really has moved the needle for the company?
Chris Vickers [17:12]
Well, I would I think that’s a there’s a whole host of things that we do. But one thing that comes to mind which is is actually I wasn’t sure at the time, how it would come across is probably one of the best things that we’ve been able to do is, is really to share the failures as much as to share the successes and in this one instance, it was the perfect storm of everything that could go wrong with an order and getting it to the customer and having damage and then having to reship it and then shipping the wrong thing or it just went on and on and every week I would get a call and have to go through you know apology with where I’d make a call, I guess I should say, and, and go through that with the, with the customer and but what really helped us all is is to see two things one that everything each of us does makes a big difference, even if it’s small. And in the case of this situation, all the small things went wrong. And on their own, they don’t mean anything, really and you can, no one would really react to them but a five, helping people understand how all of those things came together and what happened and what we had to do to correct the situation, I think brought a deeper understanding of how important everything we do is to the customer’s experience and How we almost lost a customer that has since and one of our best. And, and so you can kind of help people see, you know the impact that doing it well and have and not doing it so well.
I don’t know if you’ve heard that, but Chris just mentioned about the importance of sharing failures, that level of transparency is not found often in business. Everyone wants to talk about their successes. They want to talk about how we move forward. But they don’t really talk about failures. If you want to share stories of how to connect with your team, make sure that you are able to talk about the failures that are going on in the organization, have real conversations, dissect them, and really look for areas where you can improve, or maybe just come together, maybe where it’s where the other people will step up and take more ownership of this. Talking about your failures is not a mistake. The mistake is letting those failures persist and not addressing them. And how do you do that if you don’t talk about them? I really love having conversations like this around really figuring out what really moves companies forward. Are you willing to have your conversations of failures with your team? Think about that for a second. Now back to the interview with Chris.
Gene Hammett [19:30]
one of the big areas I talked about Chris, across this podcast is the need for people to feel a sense of ownership. And duplication is certainly a part of that and trust. But another one you just talked about was transparency. The ability to talk about failures is very important. And it takes a lot of courage to do that. When you have done that in the past. You’ve seen the way it connects people together that the sense of trust rises. Is that true in your organization?
Chris Vickers [19:51]
Absolutely. I think you know, I’m probably at times I might say too transparent, but I think it’s important I think it shows a trust in the organization, which, again, creates another level of ownership. It provides people an opportunity to understand the business at a level that they may just be tangential to what they do. But just as important. One of the things that we’ve we did was when I was realizing that that growth was all about driving more production, and we were starting to I was starting to feel like we might be the folks might start to feel like they’re just making widgets and throwing it into inventory and making another one and by bringing the customer forward. And talking about who just ordered and why do they need to get this shipment? And what are they doing with it? It’s not anything confidential in that transparency, but it just brings, again, the value that you’re creating to live because you get to see the benefit. It’s providing for that customer.
Gene Hammett [21:26]
Well, I really appreciate you telling us I want to give you one more chance to go a little bit deeper with this. And this is really just a reflection on you as a leader, Chris, I work with leaders that are in their defining moments of growth and evolution. Have you been through something where you had to let go of some beliefs that weren’t really supporting the company? Could you share anything like that around us?
Chris Vickers [21:52]
Sure. Well, I think that you know, that across a career, you fail, plenty at least I have failed plenty of times in, in trying to, you know, do the right thing. I think my heart’s always in the right place, but my actions may not, you know, maybe not serve as well. I think in this organization what’s been the toughest and the most important is for me to let go of the day to day and feel like I have to be a part of everything. And I did when I was one of four managers, but now I have a senior team and we have people that report in and so forth and, and I need to be focused on helping them be successful rather than doing something to make the company successful in some deliverable. And that’s tough, that’s tough because you have to provide you have to, you have to really give up a lot of the control that you feel like you you’ve had in the past and put your trust in the people around you. But without that, you obviously can’t really grow.
Gene Hammett [23:21]
Well, you’re not alone because a lot of people have that realization that the company is where they are because of the way they’ve LED and been involved. But letting go, is is another realization that they’re also the ceiling. And right, you just described a moment that a lot of people have been through as leaders of founders and CEOs of companies that are growing fast. So, Chris, I really appreciate you being here sharing, you know, the impact that STARC Systems is making inside of, you know, our healthcare system today to create safer places for frontline employees. The Essentials is now we’re calling them so Really appreciate you sharing some of the details behind communication and celebrating success inside your company.
Chris Vickers [24:05]
Thanks, Gene, appreciate it.
Gene Hammett [24:07]
I love this interview. Hopefully, you got as much out of it as I did. The real power here is in really looking at your own communication. Where could you improve it? Where could you increase the clarity? It’s not the touchpoints. It’s not the frequency of meetings. But how do you take an organization and improve the clarity of your communication? And how are you really celebrating success and communicating that across the team? How are you communicating failure? That was a really big insight here that I had was he’s not afraid to talk about the failures of the organization, and let that be a catalyst to growth within the team but also in the ability to serve their clients.
Gene Hammett [24:46]
The story he shared was really remarkable. And I want you to make sure that you’re doing that inside your organizations. I love having you as a guest here on the show. I love you tuning in each and every week. Hopefully, you’ve mentioned this podcast. To someone that you know, want to be a better leader, my job is to help them do that through the content we create through every moment and every touchpoint. So make sure you reach out to me if there’s any question I can help you with. If you want to engage with me, I’m not here to try to sell you anything I want to help you and serve you. So make sure you know that you’re invited to communicate with me through social media through anything that you feel comfortable doing. My email address is [email protected]. I believe in giving yourself my cell phone number. If you want it, just send me an email. We’ll have a chat, as always lead with courage. We’ll see you next time.
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