Many believe leaders must put customers first. However, fast-growth company founders and CEOs believe in employee-first focus. This is a very different approach to scaling a business. Putting employees first allows them to take care of the customers because they know leadership is taking care of them. Today’s guest is Cory Brymer, Founder, and CEO at BryComm. Inc Magazine ranked his company #3803 on the 2020 Inc 5000 list. BryComm, a leader in delivering technology solutions, specializing in the design, installation, service, and maintenance of network infrastructure. Cory provides a deep understanding of why leaders must have an employee-first focus. He outlines the strategies he has used to build a culture of owners. The idea of employee-first focus is usually a threat to the traditional customer first that many leaders embrace.
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Cory Brymer: The Transcript
About: Cory Brymer is an entrepreneur at heart and specifically enjoys bootstrap growth. Cory Brymer is skilled in corporate leadership, product/service innovation & development, process improvement, market research, and building a winning culture. Cory Brymer, core values are centered around communication, servant leadership, relationship building, responsibility, and accountability. It is on these pillars that he established BryComm in 2008 with a vision to enhance the way businesses and customers experience products and services.
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.
Cory Brymer: A lot of people, rightly so. They focused on customers, right? When you’re in a service-type company and you took your customers, the lawsuit for you ultimately makes your company successful. , it’s natural to focus there. And not that that’s not for you. , but I think I think you can still get some of those natural successes like customer retention and all those different things and still. But with a different approach. So I noticed just whether it was turnover or attrition that our employee. I wasn’t happy with how happy our bullies were, I guess. And, and shifting some of the focus from what may consider a customer focus to them. No, it was a risk, I think, more of a long-term risk in the short-term and, and, and so, but it was something that I felt comfortable and confident.
Gene Hammett: 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 Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Here’s a crazy idea. You should have an employee-first focus. I say it’s crazy because so many people believe that you have to put customers first. And I believe that customers are absolutely critical to the success of your company. But I know fast-growth companies, all the conversations I’ve had, all the interviews. So many of these leaders believe that they should put employees first. Employees first really is not a revolutionary idea, but it’s very different than what a lot of corporations do and what a lot of general practices of management is. And so I really wanted to look at it today, not from my teaching you about how this works, but through the eyes of a founder of a fast-growth company today, we’re talking with Cory Brymer and he is the founder of BryComm and BryComm has been on the Inc list before.
But they made a shift about five years ago to create an employee first focus and what that has done to the bottom line of the business, what that’s done to the overall employee retention now is it absolutely fixed everything well, of course now, because companies evolve and right now, what they’re experiencing is a tremendous amount of growth during the Austin area.
And all the prices of materials are moving up and people are not very plentiful. So it’s even more important to create an employee first focus as a company that’s growing that fast. We look at all the different aspects of the day. What you’ll learn today really will help you become a better leader. If you have any questions about what your next steps are as a leader.
And one of the things I do is offer a chance to go over what I call a growth call. What is keeping you from growing? What do you need to activate and focus on to grow? I’ve done hundreds and hundreds of these. I’d love to help you grow your business. All you have to do is reach out to me at genehammett.com. You can go to start your journey and it’ll help you understand what your next step is. Well, we have a one-on-one conversation. This is not a cookie-cutter approach. There’s not a video for it. There’s not a book that you can read. I’m going to help you zero in on exactly what you should be focused on, where you should put your energy, where you should invest your money. I do this as a third party. I do it all the time and I’m right so many times, and I want to give that insight to you. So if you really feel like you want to grow your business more, you want to be a better leader than just go to genehammett.com and sign up for a call with me. Now here’s the interview with Cory,
Cory, how are you?
Cory Brymer: Good. Good. Thank you, Gene, how are you?
Gene Hammett: I am great, excited to have you on the podcast to talk about growth and people in leadership. Before we get started, I’ve already let our audience know a little bit about you and what we talk about today, but I’d love for you to introduce your company. So tell us about BryComm?
Cory Brymer: Yeah, so BryComm is a technology solutions provider where we do a design installation, service, and maintenance around the, around the network, basically I’m in the various systems that connect to your cat six cabling or fiber optics. Those sort of things in a commercial environment is what we do on the construction side. And we service those on the back end, with those customers. , we’ve been founded in 2008 really been in 10 years in operation, about 200 to 250 employees right now fluctuates depending on. Sort of captured the market. I would say here in Austin, Texas, where we’re headquartered, we have, Dallas and San Antonio as well, and looking to expand and grow. So I’m excited to be here. Thank you.
Gene Hammett: Well, we are excited to have you, you know, we only bring on people that we’ve really found that have had tremendous results and, you know, making in the Inc list it’s just part of that. But you did make the Inc list a couple of times over the years. , what was that honor life for you?
Cory Brymer: It was, it was good recognition. I would say I would, I would say that wasn’t a goal of mine when I started the company was to, you know, get on all these lists, that and awards. But, , I think just, just knowing the kind of hard work that went into, growing the company and growing and quickly getting feeling and getting recognized by various associations, is, is to me, it’s a big pat on the back. So myself and to my team. , and, and those feel really good when you’re in the middle of growing a company and things are stressful. So, yeah, that’s, that’s pretty much it.
Gene Hammett: You have talked to someone on my team. We’ve done some research around, you know, what really makes you guys tick. And you said there was something that really shifted about five years for you. I’d love for you to first tell us what that shift is, and specifically, I’m talking about the employee first focused, but what, what, what does that mean to you?
Cory Brymer: Yeah, so I think, I think it’s a lot of people rightly so should focus on customers, right? When you’re in a service type, , company and you, your, your, your customers are the ones that generate revenue for you and ultimately make your company successful. , it’s natural to focus there and not that that’s not important. , but I think, I think you can still get some of those. , natural successes, like customer retention, all those different things and still, achieve those, but with a different approach. And so I noticed just, you know, whether it was turnover or attrition that our employee, I wasn’t happy with how happy our employees were, I guess, and, and shifting some of the focus from what may be considered a customer focus, to them, you know it’s a risk, I think more of a long-term resident, a short-term and, and, and so, but it was something that I felt comfortable and confident in doing that. If we take care of our people and focus on them, we lead with them and some of the decisions we make that, that customer retention, the revenues, all those will be a natural byproduct of that decision. I mean it took a while to show that it actually worked, but, after about two or three years, I could see the rewards, , for making that decision. Then it’s, it’s been something we’ve focused on ever since and reinforcing it internally.
Gene Hammett: You mention having employees. Is there anything specific you did to measure that?
Cory Brymer: No, not early on, , I think now we do a better job of doing surveys and kind of giving, taking a temperature on people on what they like and don’t like early on. I think it was a small enough company where I wasn’t engaging enough personally, with most of the people that I kind of. , gates on it myself. , but you know, and whether that was, you know, just sitting down and talking to, with some of the employees or potentially an exit interview when somebody was leaving and asking questions, that’s kind of how, how I ascertained that we need to make a shift.
Gene Hammett: Cory, when you talk about the impact of employees first, it took a while to take effect, but are you measuring specific things on the bottom line that, that lets you know, that. That’s a contributing factor to your growth.
Cory Brymer: Yeah. So we’ve, you know, we’ve done a few things to try to quantify, you know, that approach and, it’s never easy to everyone talks about how turnover is expensive. You know, it’s an overused term and quantify exactly what that cost is. It’s not easy. , but we’ve dug in as hard as we could to try to figure out how much does it cost for us too. Unemployed turnover, various solutions. What is that? , you know, just the cost of recruiting and going through the onboarding process and retraining and all those different things that go on. So it’s expensive. And if you do, you actually sit there and talk to some of those employees of why they left to begin with, and perhaps sometimes it was, a wage, a discussion more, didn’t get the review that they wanted with the compensation. You can elevate some of those things, at the fraction of the costs of what turnover costs. So I think from a, just a cost standpoint, it’s, it’s, , it’s almost a no brainer. Sometimes it goes, turnover is expensive. And then there are those other factors too. , you know, outside of wages that is obviously important to culture and company.
Commentary: Hold on for a second, Cory just talked about the difficulty in quantifying turnover. Well, a lot of the research. That if you have knowledge-based workers, meaning people that you really expect to think and make decisions, not hourly based that you expected to get the job done, but those hourly-based employees, it could cost you as much as one time to one and a half times their salary. So even if we’re conservative and say it’s one time, their salary, and that person’s making a hundred thousand dollars a year, it would cost you a hundred thousand dollars. To find a new person with recruiting costs, onboard that person, train them, get them up to speed for any person that leaves. So what does that mean? Well, you have to be aware that this is costing you on your bottom line. You have to be aware that this is something that you can actually get ahead of be proactive by creating a place that people don’t want to leave from. I’ve worked with a lot of companies to help them do this. It all starts with leadership. It starts with you. If you have any questions about what your next step is, just reach out to me. [email protected], but the cost of turnover is likely costing you a lot more than you think it is. Now back to Cory,
Gene Hammett: what had to shift in your style of leadership that allowed you to put employees first?
Cory Brymer: Honestly, it was honestly, I didn’t think I didn’t always go ahead and answer that question. That it was dawn on me. And that’s at the very beginning when I was running the entire company that was small. I expected every person that worked for me. , without knowing at the time terror about the company like I did from the $15 an hour office admin. So the tech workers in the field and when they didn’t, I would get extremely frustrated and, and, and disappointed. And, it also took me a couple of years of realizing that these people aren’t invested in the company like you are, and setting those expectations for other people is just completely unrealistic. For me, I had to realize that, I can set expectations for everybody, but they needed to be reasonable, for the various positions that you’re in and create structure around that so that, I wasn’t becoming, you know, necessarily frustrated at various points and they were, you know, feeling like they had the opportunity without these completely unrealistic expectations.
Gene Hammett: So again, that’s a little bit. You know, a shift in your leadership, but is there anything specific that you worked on to like your better one-on-one meetings, better listening skills or better delegation skills, or anything else that you think really played a factor in you becoming a stronger leader?
Cory Brymer: Communication, I would think is it’s always been one of the driving things almost any issue or, or positive result can, you can almost attribute it back to communication and some shaper. And so I really focused on trying to communicate better, and conversations, you know, tell people why and not what, as part of mentoring and developing, when making company decisions involve more people, if possible. And then when a decision is made, you know, communicating out there, not just what the decision is, but why? , so I think the internal and external communication from my perspective personally, was a huge change, I think sometimes as a CEO or a leader or owner of a business, you are fearful of kind of letting people be behind the curtain and, and I’ve learned that there’s nothing, if you’re a, you’re a good company and you’re making these decisions from a good place with good intentions, they may not always end up how you, if one of them too. But, I think allowing people, to understand why that decision was made at that point, whether it had a good result or a bad result. I was a very positive-sounding effect with what the culture of health.
Commentary: Yeah. Hold on again, Cory just talked about communication, the importance of communication, improving your communication as a leader. But let me ask you when’s the last time you’ve actually done some very intentional work on you, communicating better, whether it be you listening at a deeper level, listening beyond the words, really listening through body language, listening for what’s not being said or just how you actually ask someone to do something you make requests. We recently had a conversation with my team who is coaching some upcoming leaders inside of organizations. And they talked about communication specifically what we call explicit communication. And one of those employees said, you know, I gotta be honest with you. I haven’t done a really good job with this. But this emerging leader knew that he could do better. And so he’s working on it. So my request here is for you to reflect on where could you improve your own communication style skills, whether it be listening or actually the talking, or maybe it’s reading the social cues inside the conversation to really ask even better questions. All you have to do to communicate better is make an intention to do it and make it something that you really want to be masterful at that will help your business grow. Back to Cory.
Gene Hammett: I appreciate you saying that about communication because of all the research I do, this is the one area where CEOs think they do a pretty good job, but if they got feedback for their employees, it’s actually, they’re not doing very well. It’s kind of like the customer service surveys where they say, you know, 80% of the company sent me to do a pretty good job. And 20% of the people say, no, doesn’t really work. , so I want to switch gears a little bit here and kind of look at your own. Inside the company, I took a lot about in my private coaching with clients. What are the rituals that we have? Some are good. Some are bad. Let’s look at some of the good rituals that you guys do on a regular basis that allow you, to be the company you are. What comes to mind? When I talk about rituals?
Cory Brymer: Yeah. So I think that comes down to, you know, kind of what your, your mission and your vision of your company are and developing core values and, and sticking to those core values and using those, you know, taking the time, I guess, initially to really vet through that process and make sure you identify things that align with what my viewpoint is from the founder and CEO to my executive leadership’s team, and building, building a basis, that we can operate from. And then once you’re, once you’ve done that and you’ve invested the right time and you’ve identified. Then it’s, you know, using them, at every scene, the decisions tree. , smaller, large, you know, when you struggle to know which direction to go, I think if you can go back to those core values and, and use, , as a basis, that’s going to lead you in the right direction, the majority of the time.
So that’s, it’s not an easy task, you know, it’s developing those is, and they change too. Right. And I think they should change. You know, there’s, I think your vision shouldn’t be your mission. My inner core values that need to fluctuate based off of what
Gene Hammett: I agree with you. The values will change over time, not too often, but the big thing there. And I’ve talked about many episodes here on the show, really living the values. How do we reinforce that? So I would imagine you’ve gone through the process of your hiring by senior values, et cetera.
Cory Brymer: Yes, absolutely.
Gene Hammett: And your onboarding with the values in mind, giving them a good solid foundation. Is there anything you would say is unique about the way you use values and inside your organization, or
Cory Brymer: I don’t know if I would say unique, I would say in our specific industry, , you know, kind of skilled trade construction, it’s it’s not often found that I would say, like, even some of our competitors actually run their companies from the same mindset. And so I certainly know we don’t do the best job at it from, you know, an entire employer standpoint, but, and I don’t think my goal isn’t to be the best at it. And I’m no, we’re not always going to be the best at it, but I’ll always want to strive to be better at it and know that, you know, never be comfortable with, , any of those core values that we’ve set that we’re doing. Oh, we’re doing a great job. We can stop this. I think we could always be better at any of those things and never always strive to get better at those. And, and, you know, we talked about employees first at the beginning and they still are. And, and, you know, in the market that we’re dealing with in Austin right now, it’s, it’s crazy what is happening from a growth standpoint and a lack of supply you know, many things about skilled labor is a big one and. You know, we’re having, we’re having a lot of turnover and attrition right now. And, and that’s one of the things that’s our, that’s our biggest thing that we try to keep from happening. And, but it’s, I kind of almost appreciate it while it’s happening too because it’s showing us where we have some weaknesses right now that I know we need to fix.
And that’s going to make us better and that’s not always, you know, it’s not always the viewpoint every CEO is going to have. Right. And I think that’s, what’s important about our culture and our people here is we look at those things and we want to gather that data to make this better.
Gene Hammett: I know that, fixing that turnover thing is it’s such a hard thing to get your hands around. Cause there’s a lot of factors and it’s very easy to blame, you know? Well, I’m not paying enough or someone’s just paying a stupid amount of money. I hear all the excuses. But what I always come back to as well, when you focus on what you can control as a leader, what are those things? So just kind of curious, what are the, what are the one or two most important projects you guys are working on moving forward to improve your turnover?
Cory Brymer: It’s, it’s that communication? It’s a small things, honestly, it’s that engagement with our, from our executive level to our managers to our field personnel and across the whole company, I think this year has taught us. We’ve had, we’re having tremendous growth right now, which is great. A couple of very large projects that are religious slipping up a lot of our resources that we weren’t prepared for. And, and you can see that when. All the different levels of start having to kind of reach down and assist, you know, and do project-based offs instead of developing and mentoring of different levels of management. , you don’t see it initially, but after a few months of it, you start to feel it. And you know, whether it’s an exit interview or a discussion, you know, at coffee in the morning, whatever it is, you start to realize, okay, We’re missing the missing, the things that we were good on is creating that engagement, you know, the culture, that, that made this company successful. And, and there’s a lot of factors, you know, besides just our growth. I mean, I don’t think for us, COVID certainly didn’t help that situation. We would do a lot of employee events and parties and, all those different types of things that we had to haul. I know we didn’t do the best job trying to try to come up with substitutes that created that same level of engagement, but, you know, it’s a hopeful too.
And now that we’re coming back to this new normal, that we can start building that, , that water again, that, made us very successful get here.
Gene Hammett: Well Cory, I appreciate you sharing all this with us. I want to ask you one last question and it really has to you looking back over here your different ships and inflection points as a leader, but what’s one of the biggest mistakes that, that taught you a lesson that you, that you could share with us today?
Cory Brymer: Oh man, that’s a good question. I think there’s a few small ones. , I know one of the easy ones I’ll jump to this, you know, investing in some software and using tools early on, even though they could be expensive, if you really plan on growing and using gross, there’s a no better investment than kind of getting a good system and infrastructure to collect data it instead of having to go back and make transitions, I’ve said that to a bunch of people who have asked me about, Hey, should I spend money on this? QuickBooks works fine or whatever it is, and like spend it, there’ll be worth its weight in. By the time you knew that that’s what your goals are. But outside of that easy question, I mean, really it is, it is, is playing the long game. , it was what I like to call it and the short game at the same time and making it a priority, to make time for those short off long game decisions that you have to do or actions that you have taken, you may not see the reward for some of those for months or even years, but you can’t forget about it either. You can just get stuck, you know, attending to putting out fires all the time and being reactionary because we don’t take the type of plan before thought into that you’re never going to get ahead.
Gene Hammett: Well answer to in the conversation here, Cory really appreciates you being on the podcast and sharing your wisdom.
Cory Brymer: Thank you too. I appreciate it as well.
Gene Hammett: So I want to wrap up here, Cory, still listening in, but here’s my take on today’s interview with what I saw from Cory, it really is about you being clear that you need to lead this company. When he talked about playing the short game and the long game, it’s very easy to just focus on that short game and, and, you know, we, we have to do both of those. We have to balance making those investments, whether it’s in people or software, but putting employees first is a long game. , you have to become a different type of leader. If you’re going to do that, you have to create different systems and solutions. You have to, spend some time and, and sometimes you have to spend money, but most of the work like a community. It’s absolutely free. So if you want to continue to, be a great leader, drive growth, then you want to make sure you’re continuing to evolve as a leader.
And that’s one reason why we do these interviews. If you’re not sure what your next steps are. My job is to help you figure what that is. I can put a spotlight on it in five minutes if you want to. Whether you’re the bottleneck of the company or it’s something else that’s keeping you from growing, where you want to just reach out to me and just go to genehammett.com.
You can find, start your journey. I’d love to help you and support you. It’s absolutely free. You have the right number of employees and you want to grow and you’re hungry. Just go to genehammett.com. As always when you think of leadership and you think of growth, think of Growth Think Tank lead with courage. 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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