The people in an organization are the life of every growing business. Investing in employees is a requirement if you want your team to grow, develop new skills, and retain talent. Every company is investing in employees at some level, but the critical question is, how do you support the right way? Today’s guest is Darius Fisher, CEO of Status Labs. His company was ranked #3253 on the 2019 Inc 5000 list. Status Labs has developed an excellent reputation management solution, and its talented employees operate that. Darius and I discuss investing in employees. We look at the mistakes in his journey. Discover new ideas for you when you believe in investing in employees.
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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.
We have worked very hard to build a team of people that we have built up the people that we have started with us early. And, you know, our culture, I think, is probably our most valuable asset. And we have a group of people that work together. And when we like each other are genuinely You know, Friends outside of work. And I think that just means to, you know, accountability and collaboration, culture, and I think a lot of companies, sometimes black.
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 help leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett [0:48]
investing in employees? When you think about how they’re going to grow? And how they’re going to really meet the demands as an employee? Are you willing to invest in your employees the way that they need to be invested in? Now, a lot of people tell me that the kids out of college today, don’t come into the organization with the skills that they really need. So you’re always investing at some level, helping them get the skills, but are you doing exactly what you need to do to move your employees to that next level. So they take ownership, have confidence and courage and who they are, so they can make decisions and become the leaders, you really need them to be. Today we’re going to talk about investing in employees. But we’re going to talk about that through the lens of some unique ways to really help them grow and be more connected and collaborate in a deeper level. Our interview today is with Darius Fisher. He’s the CEO, co-founder of Status Labs, their reputation management company, and they’re really on the cutting edge of reputation management. That being said, they know that they have to invest in the employees from a skill set, and a leadership set. One of the things they do differently is inside this interview, make sure you stay all the way to the end. So they hear how they’re truly connecting and allowing their employees to show up and build a culture that really does propel the company forward to fast growth. This company was on the Inc list. They were number 30 to 53 in 2019 on the Inc 5000 list, the good over 100% of last three years. And what I really liked most about it is dairies, his approach to leadership is a little bit different than most people, make sure you tune into it.
Gene Hammett [2:31]
Before we get to the interview, I want to remind you that if you haven’t had a chance to download the principles of fast-growth companies, I’ve been interviewing down founders and CEOs of companies, just like the ones I’m talking to today. I’ve organized that into the 12 core principles, absolutely free for you. If you want to get them just go to genehammett.com/principles that will tell you exactly what you need to focus on as a leader, give you a kind of a roadmap, if you will, with some of the core elements of a fast growth, leadership and culture that is ready for growth. Just go to genehammett.com/principles to get the 12 principles of fast growth. Now here’s the interview with Darius.
Gene Hammett [3:12]
Hey, Darius. How are you?
Darius Fisher [3:14]
Very well, thank you, Gene.
Gene Hammett [3:15]
I am fantastic. I would love to welcome you here to grow think tank and to invite you to tell us a little bit more about Status Labs.
Darius Fisher [3:25]
Sure, well, thank you for having me. I’m the CEO and co-founder of Status Labs. We are a digital reputation management and crisis advisory firm. We typically work with high profile people or large companies to help them improve their digital reputation, including Google search results, anything you see on the web about a person or company. We help them clean up and fix. I’ve been doing it for about eight years now we became about 50 people and headquartered here in Austin, Texas, LA, New York, and London.
Gene Hammett [4:00]
I love it. I love the fact that you guys have grown so fast. It’s one reason why we had you here. And I know you did some research with my team. And you said that investing employees is something you felt like had, you know, a very important ROI for the growth of the company. So when we say investing employees, what do you mean by that?
Darius Fisher [4:21]
Well, I mean, for a business like ours, you know, we’re a tech-enabled services business, and our employees are really our primary asset. You know, it’s the skills and knowledge that they learn and the relationships they form, that allow us to be you know, successful as a company. And so when I say we invest in them, you know, we do everything we can to ensure that they are growing, they’re learning, they’re enjoying the job, and you know, and think about…
Gene Hammett [4:53]
When you think about those that you’ve invested in, I’m sure you’ve got some stories around this journey. What comes to mind when you helping people be better leaders or do their jobs better?
Darius Fisher [5:07]
Well, I mean, we’ve taken a lot of people that came to our company with almost no skills in identification and no skill in business whatsoever. And it’s taken them from, you know, having sometimes retail jobs or no-no work experience at all. And then some of them have been with us for five and six years now. And it’s just amazing to see, you know, the progression that some of them have made, you know, they’re now leaders within our company. And, you know, it’s been, you know, a journey for for all of us to get there. But it’s been great to see that kind of growth within the ranks of the employees that you’ve taken from, you know, very early in your career and where they are now.
Gene Hammett [5:49]
Kind of curious through this whole COVID thing? Did you increase that level of investment in some way? Or did you kind of pull back on some of the investments you were making?
Darius Fisher [6:01]
Um, well, we’ve changed the operating model of the business a little bit, I’m very proud of the fact that we have not had to make any salary cuts, nor have we had to lay anyone off during all of this. However, we did have, you know, much more aggressive growth plans. we scaled those back as a result of COVID. But overall, you know, I’m fortunate in where we are right now.
Gene Hammett [6:29]
Did you change the strategy that you were investing in others from a skill set, like more online courses, or anything like that?
Darius Fisher [6:37]
You know, a lot of the training that we do as a company, we administer ourselves, because the fact of the matter is, is that we’re like, inventing a category. And we’re still in the process of building the online reputation management industry. And so unlike other, you know, industries, there’s not like a ton of information out there about, you know, how to do this type of stuff, and how to, you know, do what we do. And so a lot of the training that we do, are, is administered by the people on the team that know how to do this, and, and teach the rest of the, you know, the team, those skills and the knowledge that we’ve learned, because we do things, I think differently than a lot of other companies in this space. And, you know, a lot of what we think of what we do is proprietary.
Gene Hammett [7:21]
Is there anything that you do differently in the term of leadership development that you can think of?
Darius Fisher [7:27]
You know, I don’t exactly know what every other, you know, company does. So I can’t speak to like, what we do this differently, you know, I think we as a company has a very unique culture. And I think that is something that I think stands out about our company versus a lot of other ones. You know, we have worked very hard to build the team of people that we have built up the people that have started with us early. And, you know, our culture, I think, is probably our most valuable asset in the day, we have a group of people that work together, that I genuinely like each other are genuinely, you know, friends outside of work. And I think that just leads to, you know, accountability and a collaboration, culture that I think a lot of companies sometimes lack. I think it’s accumulation for us.
Gene Hammett [8:19]
How important are company core values to how you select people and grow them within the company.
Darius Fisher [8:27]
I mean, they’re extremely important. You know, we want to only work with, you know, people that we like, that we feel are going to, you know, follow the values that we have, and are going to work well with others, you know, work well with everyone that we haven’t worked for us. So, you know, we’ve definitely built out a, you know, pretty detailed screening process for how to bring people into the company, we’d run, you know, all of the potential hires through multiple rounds of interviews. And then at the end of the day, a lot of our employees come to us through referrals from other employees. And that’s sort of like a self selection process that happens. I think, if you just do.
Hold for a second. Darius just talked about how important core values are. He said, they were extremely important. Well, when you think about your values, are you living by them day in and day out, to have rituals that allow you and the organization to align around these are the behaviors what you would expect if people were truly living in alignment with those values? That’s the key. I find that fast-growth companies really understand the importance of core values. They live by them day in and day out, they hire by them, they onboard, they lead, they fire, and everything is centered around those core values. It may sound weird, may sound touchy-feely, but the company core values allow you to really communicate with your employees about what’s expected of them when you’re not in the room when you’re not there, which is most of the time back to interview.
Gene Hammett [10:00]
Have you found that having a really strong culture, they’re willing to police the culture within themselves, so it becomes a little bit less of something you have to shape as the CEO.
Darius Fisher [10:11]
You know, I’ve never really bought into the idea that the CEO alone, or the management team alone shapes the culture, you know, the culture is set by the team, you know, and I’m one of, you know, dozens of people that are part of this, this culture and this this team. So while I definitely have my viewpoint, and nine out of the way I act and the way I do things, the culture is there, the rest of the people I know they do that they do.
Gene Hammett [10:36]
Darius, is there anything counterintuitive, that you do that you feel like is really moved the needle, as far as developing in employees?
Darius Fisher [10:44]
I’m developing employees, nothing is not counterintuitive. But something that we do that is I think surprising is, you know, we incentivize our teams through things other than just, you know, monetary benefits. And one thing in particular that we do as a company, and we’ve done over the past, you know, four years is, you know, we set company-wide goals from a sales perspective. And then they’re always all the time stretch goals. And when we hit those goals, we then send the whole company, so no spouses, but the whole company, on on trips together, not just the sales team, but literally everyone that works for us. And, you know, we’ve now done one to two to Hawaii, one to Mexico, and one to Spain. And when people hear about this, they’re always Wow, that is a pretty awesome thing you can do. But for us, I feel like this is like a key component of our culture at this point, is the ability that we can do these types of trips, you know, we get everyone together for five days, you know, or it’s just, you know, no work, just play. And I feel like because we have all these offices in different places, it’s an opportunity for everyone to come together at once kind of learn about each other and culture. And, yeah, I think it’s just like a key driver of our successful financial and cultural.
Gene Hammett [12:10]
I’ve seen some other organizations that do some team trips. What do you feel like, you know, the ROI of that is? And how would you kind of characters that if you had to, to back it up?
Darius Fisher [12:22]
Well, we set stretch goals. So you know, whenever we’re going to, you know, put one of these goals in place, we set a stretch goal, so that, you know, once we hit that goal, we have the company are making more money, so just not alone, is there’s ROI there. But the bigger ROI really is in the culture building and the friendships that are formed amongst, you know, the team. That for me is like, I think, is even more valuable than like the financial upside that we get of increased performance during the digital period.
Gene Hammett [12:56]
Hold it for one more minute. There is just talked about the importance of culture building, you as a leader may not be the one that’s there day in and day out, shaping the culture for your people. But you have to know how important people are, you have to put that intention into each of your leaders on the top levels of the company through the middle management in through the front lines, leadership is very critical to you’re creating the kind of culture that you want to have. Ideally, you have a culture, that police’s itself, a culture that truly does weed out people that don’t fit that they only allow people to come in are a good fit for the people. That is not just about, you know, having everyone that thinks the same. It’s about having people that have diversity of thought, welcoming of new ideas, but they’re willing to understand what they stand for, and make that a part of the culture. Back to the interview.
Gene Hammett [13:55]
Love this idea. When you think about some of the mistakes, you may have made areas, I know that as leaders, we tend to make our fair share, what comes to mind is something that really causes you to really grow as a leader.
Darius Fisher [14:12]
I mean, I’ve made so many mistakes over the years, I there’s honestly too many to count. You know, we’ve just made bad judgment calls over the years. You know, a big thing is, you know, we’ve hired and I’ve worked with the wrong people. And you know, I think probably the biggest thing is that when I’ve recognized that there were problems with people within the company, I have not acted quickly enough to fix them. I think that you know, as at the core has driven a lot of the problems that we’ve had. It’s just one sort of things are in motion, you know, it’s sometimes easier to just let them stay in motion as opposed to the kind of disrupting, you know, the course of the company and there are definitely instances of when I should have You know, parted ways with people when we shouldn’t, you know, never hired someone in the first place. And that’s something that we’re, you know, continuing to work on.
Gene Hammett [15:09]
That takes a lot of courage as a leader to always have these kind of difficult conversations. How have you wrestled with that, that courage over the years,
Darius Fisher [15:20]
it was a, you know, it was a process, you know, I think when I was first starting out, you know, the company, I didn’t have as much confidence as I have now and myself. And I think it’s through these types of really challenging experiences that you build confidence is like, the first time that you know, something bad happens to you, or something bad happens to the company, you think it’s going to ruin, you know, and then you get through it, and then something else bad happens again, and you get through that. And eventually, you start feeling like I’m really powerful person, and I can actually get through really difficult things, and you sort of embody that, you know, mentality, and it’s, you know, it’s, it’s, like, extremely valuable, you know, and I think it only comes when you get in your…
Gene Hammett [16:09]
I’ve been through those things myself, Darius, I want to kind of transition a little bit, but stay on the same topic, confidence in inside of leadership is very important. How do you invest in employees and raise their level of confidence?
Darius Fisher [16:24]
I think it’s, it’s definitely hard for someone to come into our business, especially and have confidence from day one, because, like I said earlier, no one usually has worked in online reputation management before. So there’s a big learning curve, to understanding what we do, how we do it, the types of clients that we work with. And so, you know, there’s just like, you know, an onboarding process, obviously, and, you know, a lot of our our business is kind of trial by fire, where you have to learn as you go, I tried to personally help as much as I can, some of our senior account managers and salespeople and operations, people try to help as much as they can. But eventually, you know, the confidence, I think, just builds as you become more professional, and you understand how we do what we do. And I think just through experience, ultimately comes confidence in our business. I wish I had a way to just inject competence into people, but just not how….
Gene Hammett [17:25]
Something to that trial by fire, like having a relationship where failure is kind of part of the culture, and people are kind of moving forward through those failures, is that building confidence within the team?
Darius Fisher [17:37]
You know, I think so, you know, I, I hope that people that work for us are not, you know, a way to fail, you know, we give our people on our on the sales side of our business, the opportunity to, you know, feel a lead and answer is fumbled through them. And that I think, ultimately helps you kind of develop your skills and build some confidence. On the operation side of our business, we are, you know, constantly testing new strategies, and we have, like a culture where everyone is constantly trying to figure out, how can we serve our clients better. And that, you know, a lot of those tests don’t work out. But the fact that we started to do that more and more, I think has given, you know, people confidence in like trying new things, and, you know, trying to figure out solutions to our client’s problems that they wouldn’t have otherwise trying, if they were just kind of doing the same playbook that they had been taught initially.
Gene Hammett [18:32]
Is there a common phrase, or something that kind of governs your own style of leadership that you feel like, really helps you stay grounded to who you are?
Darius Fisher [18:42]
I think gratitude is the one that I just tried to embody in my personal life, my business life, and, you know, our interactions with the team. And, you know, I think like, earlier in my life, I, I didn’t practice it as much. And I think I was much worse for it. And so, you know, like everyone else, I’m also working progress, but that’s one that I try to do with our team, you know, thank them for when they do a good job, and for, you know, all the things that they do to make the company successful. And you just want to always, you know, remind me that, you know, our team is our biggest asset, and, you know, just be grateful for them.
Gene Hammett [19:20]
Well, I want to give you one more chance to say, we’ve been talking about investing in employees if you felt like anything I haven’t covered is important to the continued growth of your own business.
Darius Fisher [19:31]
Yeah, I mean, we try to do things like, like we give our team the opportunity to any book that they want, we probably buy for them, we try to do you know, mutual learning together. You know, and the thing that we have never done or we have not had a lot of success in is investing in outside people that come in. And so that’s something that, you know, we’ve tried before, it hasn’t exactly worked out for us, but yeah, I’d say like the big This thing is really the, you know, the investment in these, these company-wide trips, where there is no kind of rah status. It’s really just about having fun. And I think a lot of companies use these retreats, as, you know, opportunities to do stuff like that, and just never something that we’ve done. And I think we get a lot more on each one is just kind of like, get to know each other, enjoy each other, have fun. Hopefully, do it again in the future.
Gene Hammett [20:30]
What one last question on those? Do you structure them in any way so that people are coming together and meeting people they didn’t know already? And? Or do you let it just completely be a free for all,
Darius Fisher [20:42]
it’s pretty much free for all, you know, there is we thing that we do is, you know, we put people together in hotel rooms. And so sometimes they’ll stay with people that they might not otherwise know that well. And so I think that’s one way to kind of people get to know each other a little bit. Yeah, it’s really just like kind of a free for all, we do some kind of, you know, group barbecues and stuff like that. But, you know, it’s just kind of in those, I guess they call them kind of water-cooler moments that you get to really know people. And you know, this whole trip is sort of one of those.
Gene Hammett [21:16]
One final question on these trips? How many days are they give or take?
Darius Fisher [21:21]
Or usually, find is cool nine days? So yeah, it’s in addition to you know, it’s not doesn’t come out of there, you know, vacation days, this is completely outside of all that. So, and yeah, we, we pay for you pay for a hotel and for flights, not for food that keeps the cost, you know, at a reasonable level for us, and gives people the benefit of having a lot of fun.
Gene Hammett [21:49]
Awesome. Thanks for being here.
Darius Fisher [21:51]
Yeah, thank you so much.
Gene Hammett [21:54]
Love this interview. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed kind of taking some notes, maybe even learning that you want to, and really invest in how people come together as a team. One of the things I really like about this is the investment in the trip. And the trip is a little bit different than most it’s not a learning experience. It’s a way for them to connect. There’s no real structure around it. All those things were really kind of interesting for you to think about as a leader. How do you get your people to engage at a deeper level together? Well, it may take some unique choices as a leader, how you invest in them. This episode will give you some ideas. If you want to know if you know how you must evolve as a leader. I’d love to get to know you. I love to get to understand who you are, where you’re going. Hope you get more clear about those things that are most important for your own growth and for the growth of your company. That’s my specialty. I do it every day, all day with leaders. I have conversations to help them, see what they can’t see, challenge their growth, and specifically help them grow their company to grow their leadership capabilities. Make sure you reach out to me at email@example.com. If you have enjoyed this episode, you’re still listening to my voice here today. Maybe you’ve heard it before. But I’d love you to share this episode with one person. Find a founder that you really think would appreciate this message. Tell him Why you liked it and tell him about growth. Remember, always lead with courage. Will see you next time.
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