Businesses are struggling to find talented people and retain the right people. Great company cultures attract and keep the right people. Today’s guest is Brian Mize, President at Ad Victoriam Solutions. Inc Magazine ranked his company #2880 on the 2021 Inc 5000 list. Ad Victoriam is a Salesforce® and MuleSoft® Partner that provides multi-cloud consulting services, from strategy to implementation. Brian believes that great company cultures drive growth. The techniques that work for culture are sometimes counter-intuitive. Discover how great company cultures create new opportunities.
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Brian Mize: The Transcript
About: Brian Mize’s passion is helping people succeed. Every business, every endeavor, every person… all have unique challenges, talents, resources, and gifts. Finding not just a solution, but the right solution can prove difficult at best. That junction of technology and opportunity is where he lives. Taking advantage of the latest (or, sometimes, the most tried) innovations while teaming with all aspects of business and customer, Brian Mize lives the moniker of Solution Provider. Having a background in a variety of areas certainly provides an edge and an insight into technology that spans the breadth of time from Green Screens and terminal emulation to Cloud computing. Salesforce.com, Microsoft Technologies (Biztalk Server, SQL Server, SSIS, Visual Studio, etc…), and often Open Source platforms and tools provide the needed vehicles to accomplish the mission and reach success… once the Team has identified what Success looks like.
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.
Brian Mize: The idea, if you will, of being good stewards of what we have been given. So, this enables our employees or our team members rather to, to get involved, to show their passion for what our customers are doing and solutions. , especially if the customer offers a product that our team members are very passionate about, which I have to align those resources to there. I, it also allows our team members to go out and get involved with. And get involved with their families and their communities or with other team members, to be able to go onsite for some events, we give, 40 hours a year off for people to make a difference. People to be able to serve. What that’s allowed us to do is to build, build a team that is very strong technically, but it’s also very passionate, very impactful, around them or globally in everything that’s going on around the community state nation, across the board.
Intro: 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: When you think about what really makes an impact in your company, you want to make sure you pay attention to a few things. But one of the most important things is a great company culture, great company cultures are often misunderstood because people think it’s being back chairs and no free sodas because that’s what they do in Silicon Valley. But actually, those things don’t really play a role in what great culture really looks like. You want to make sure that you have some of the key factors and understand what that is. Today’s case study is looking at Ad Victoriam Solutions. We’re looking and talking to the co-founder. Brian Mize, Brian really talks about what they see is a great culture of the company and they see it very differently than what most people do. There’s service-oriented. To their organization. And that’s something that creates unity and really impacts across the organization. We look at the benefits of great company culture, and we really want to make sure you understand what that means for your organization. As you move forward, as you try to evolve if you’re really intentional about great company culture. Today’s episode will give you some insight behind that.
Now, when you think about your own journey as a leader, I want to ask you a question, are you absolutely certain, you know what it takes for you to be the best leader that you can be at this juncture in your business? Do you know what skills you need to have? Do you know exactly what to do next? Well, if you’re not sure, then I’d love to invite you to what I call the game plan. The game plan is really figuring out exactly where you want to focus your energy and time. So that you can be an extraordinary leader that drives impact and results for your company. If you don’t know what that is exactly, I can help you do it. It’s a quick conversation with me just going to GeneHammett.com go to schedule your call and you will be able to have these conversations with me to drive your business forward and be the extraordinary leader that you want to be now here’s the interview with Brian.
Hey, how are you today, Brian?
Brian Mize: I’m doing very well, Gene, thank you for having me. Looking forward to the conversation.
Gene Hammett: Well, I’m excited too, because I love being able to talk to founders and CEOs about leadership and culture and the things that drive their companies forward. Tell us a little about your company Ad Victoriam Solutions.
Brian Mize: Ad Victoriam Solutions, we are a top 25 Salesforce partner. We are located right here, just north of Atlanta and Alpharetta. , we touch everything on the Salesforce platform. So whatever your needs are, whether it’s integrating or building a sales team or building some automation in the backend to handle your tickets and your support or anything, really the Salesforce touches. We’ve got people that can do it. We’d be pretty excited to sit down and talk to you about it.
Gene Hammett: Well, Salesforce is an incredible platform. I’m using it back in 2004, right involved with sales.
Brian Mize: 2004, they were only about a year old, back then,
Gene Hammett: I worked for one of those .com startups, where I was in the sales team and they were going to bring in this new concept of the application in the cloud. And we had to understand what that meant. Right. It’s certainly, it’s certainly kind of work, didn’t it?
Brian Mize: It did. I, humorously, I received a call on a Friday afternoon and 2002, 2003, somewhere around in there, from my boss that told me that they, we had just bought a product called Salesforce and I needed to learn it over the weekend because on Monday I supported that platform. So that was my exposure to Salesforce. It has come a long way since then and can do an awful lot of things.
Gene Hammett: Well, you have, is this a traditional consulting kind of company?
Brian Mize: We are.
Gene Hammett: And when you think about that, that’s a little bit harder to create the kind of culture that most companies are able to do. Because of the nature of the work or your company, are your employees out on site, or are they more kind of virtual?
Brian Mize: Nope. When we started the company, again, we’re looking at, platform consulting or cloud-based. When we started Ad Vic, one of the things that we wanted was for our employees to be able to live wherever they want it to live. And we kind of wanted to break that model of four days on the road one day at home, filling out your time card, doing everything you got, and then you spent a day with your family before you get back on the road. Most of our team, we’re living everywhere from Hawaii, all the way down to Florida and up through, New England. And we’re all remote, very little travel, maybe 15 to 20%, certainly during code that dropdown. But our goal is to be able to provide the services remotely, the study of the company, some money to save our customer some money and still give our people a sense of life about it.
Gene Hammett: Love that. I, I was one of those road warriors for many years, traveling four to five days a week. Lived a lot of time in Montreal and Toronto. , I would refuse to go back for another winter and that’s what put me back in Atlanta, which is where I grew up. And that’s where you’re calling from today.
Brian Mize: Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. That’s our goal. Again, we want people, Jeff and I, at the beginning, we wanted a, business that, that allowed for family too. And that on the road all the time, you miss, , you miss having dinner with your families, you miss out of the things we wanted to be able to, to still be able to do that. Still, be able to grow a good career in that. We found a good mix there.
Gene Hammett: Well, that takes us right into the transition. The topic for today is really how do you create a great culture? And what’s the impact that has across the company. Let’s start with the impact. When you have the kind of culture that you envisioned for this company, what kind of impact are you seeing as it relates to business and growth?
Brian Mize: Some of the things that we do, we are a B Corp, which is a growing thing, really among businesses. One of the things that we adopted early on was the idea of service, the idea, if you will, of being good stewards of what we have been given. So, this enables our employees or our team members rather to, to get involved, to show their passion for what our customers are doing and solutions, especially if the customer offers a product that our team members are very passionate about. We try to align those resources to bring them to bear there and also allow our team members to go out and get involved in their communities to get involved with their families in the communities or with other team members, , to be able to go onsite for some events we give, 40 hours a year off for people to make a difference. People to be able to serve. What that’s allowed us to do is to build, build a team that is very strong technically, but is also very passionate and very impactful, around them or globally and in everything that’s going on around their community, state, and nation across the board.
Gene Hammett: Did you guys start out this way to have this kind of culture?
Brian Mize: We did actually, we had four people, on day two or day three or whatever. It was two of them, myself, and one other, we’re actively serving in the national guard. , Jeff himself also was actively involved in some of those. Philanthropic activities around Atlanta. And as we grew, we wanted to adopt that mindset that you give back. You want to, again, I use that term a moment ago. You want to be a good steward of what’s being given to you, whether it’s your environment or your job or other aspects, going to be able to give back and leave it better than what she found it. So that has been weaved into the very fabric of who we are as a company. I think we live it out pretty well.
Gene Hammett: Well, I want to dive into what makes a great culture from your perspective. There’s a lot of things we can measure. Some people measure engagement. , are you actually measuring culture?
Brian Mize: Measuring is a challenging thing is you have said, no, we do have some core values of radical transparency impact passion in candor. measuring passion. We do measure it by how many VTO hours have, have you stepped up to this year? Where have you gotten involved in your community or, in, activities that you were passionate about? We are really, our, our culture is such that you can do this through a local religious organization or through a civic organization. However, it is as long as it’s something that you’re passionate about. And you want to get back to them. We measure that annually. We look at how many VTO hours each person has gone out and gotten involved in and contributed back to their community. That becomes a part of their review. So, that’s, that’s typically how we review it across the board.
We measure how much money we have spent on philanthropic activities as well, where we have been engaged as a company, but at the individual level, how many hours have you given back that we have asked you to do that for.
Gene Hammett: Now, I mentioned this engagement factor. What’s your kind of relationship with that? I have a little bit of a love and hate relationship with measuring employee engagement. What do you guys do?
Brian Mize: Engagement in what capacity and how they are involved in the company and how they’re involved in their community?
Gene Hammett: Let’s go with the company first.
Brian Mize: So again, we have, we’ve got, wow. There’s like a whole host of areas in my head on that. We do, something really cool. That started up right before the pandemic called rhino talks every, month or so we have our own version of Ted talks. It’s a lot cooler. We look at how people are engaging in that, how they’re involving themselves in the aspects that we’re doing as a company there to speak about things that they’re passionate about. We put together panels pretty consistently and see how many people are coming to bear on that. And you, I know you’re using the term measure and I want to be cautious about that because what we don’t want to do is hold a measuring stick up to somebody and say your level of giving back or your level of something in addition to your job, it’s not as much as somebody else’s. So you’re, you’re not as valuable. We’re not doing that. But we do take notice of how much people give back to their job. Get back to their teammates, give back to the community, how much they’re engaged in the rhino talks, how much they’re engaged in raising their hand and saying, Hey, as a company, we need to adjust our approach to, X, Y, or Z.
That really becomes more of a, not a measuring stick, but more of a, just a knowledge of how people are giving back and how they’re engaged in. And I don’t know that there’s a better term for it, except that you know.
Gene Hammett: When you think about the values of their company, I’ve seen a lot of companies that want a great culture. They put a lot of emphasis on those values, all the way from hiring all the way through the onboarding and development of employees. , what would we see inside your company as it relates to the usage of values and a day-to-day basis. ,
Brian Mize: So again, we have the values of radical transparency, candor, passion, and impact. We do measure based on that we have a monthly review for our employees, where they get the opportunity to write down where they have been impactful in each of those areas. And impactful is probably not a good term for that since this is one of the values, but, what have you done? How have you lived out the company values? And we actually adopted this a little bit from our earlier conversation from the military where they asked, how have you lived out these values? We’re asking the same thing. It gives us the ability, not again, not to measure them on how impactful their service is or not how impactful their engagement is, but are you doing it?
Are you doing something that makes you feel better about your community, that it makes you feel better about your job that makes you feel better about what your doing. , and makes you more passionate about your job and about how you’re engaging with your clients, because ultimately that’s, what’s going to make us a better company as if our people are, are, are engaged. They’re actively living out the values and they’re actively making their projects a better place.
Commentary: Now, Brian just talked about values. We didn’t go into the details of this, but I want to share one little insight for you. If you want to make sure that your company is filled with people that have similar values. I don’t mean that they have the same political views and, they think about everything the same, but I mean, at their core, their characteristics, they have values that are similar to what you believe the co-founder and executive team believes. And if you want to make sure that this happens consistently, you want to make sure that everyone understands that they need to be interviewed and have questions that are aligned with the values of the company. These questions are pretty easy to do. You can create a bank of questions. You can have a list of these things that you share in a Google document or some kind of collaboration framework. Don’t tell people exactly what questions to ask inside their interviews, but you want to make sure that everyone is doing their own assessment. Whether this new candidate should be invited on the journey, along with the company, because they have similar values. And if they don’t have similar values, you want to make sure you think really hard about bringing them in because it’s likely to upset the turnip cart if they say, and it won’t be the best fit for your company. And that will cost you a lot of money in the long run. So if you believe in values, you want to make sure you hire people in the values. I’ve just given you a play that you can run to help you find the alignment back to Brian.
Gene Hammett: You know, when you think about, the service-oriented culture, you, you really have described and painted your picture about externally and internally. Is there anything else we’ve missed that to make sure they really complete this picture of a service-oriented culture?
Brian Mize: From day one, our services-oriented culture. We do bring everything to bear on that we have brought in a director of culture, who helps us to, to bring, to kind of put the corral around what we’ve done in that regard. His whole job is making sure that we’re living out what we say we’re living out in the fact that we’ve invested in that I think speaks a lot to our commitment to living out those about. At the end of the day, that has become a part of our mission, bringing the person on board to measure it, to keep track of it, to report up, Hey, you’re doing well here. You’re not doing well here. And then also to actively look for other areas that we can get involved. , that’s how we have made this a part of who we are.
Gene Hammett: And what to kind of turned the table on your just a little bit, because a lot of leaders go through different inflection points or transition points as you learn to lead, especially as our company grows fast. Can you think back to one of those inflection points you would be willing to share with us today?
Brian Mize: On how we changed our leadership or on how we, some,
Gene Hammett: How you personally have changed your thought about leadership?
Brian Mize: Absolutely. So, again, we talked earlier, before we went on about military service. I stepped away from, , the company for a while. I had two. Go somewhere with the army, you know, for an extended period. When I came back home, I met, came back in and of course, we had some, some new team members that had joined us while I was away. And I remember walking up to one of them and just introducing myself and saying, Hi, I’m Brian, can you tell me what you do here? And I thought that was a pretty innocuous way of introducing myself and his response was okay. Brian, why don’t you tell me what you do here. , and I was kind of taken aback by that. , and I noticed that somebody standing next to him was hitting him in the leg and saying, that’s Brian, you need to, you need to think about this that’s Brian.
So he said, yeah, I get it as Brian, but, and then you could kind of see the lights go off in his head. And he said, oh, so you’re Brian. And recognizing that there is a level of leadership and a level of personableness and somewhere, you’ve got to bring those two things to bear such that you can make the hard decisions if somebody is not performing and maybe we need to move them to a different position in the company, or if somebody is performing exceptionally well, but maybe you’ve had some challenges with them in the past. Recognizing that, and not letting your personal feelings get in the way as a small company, it was all about family in some respects. And as we’ve grown, we’ve had to move away from that. We’ve had to get to a point of leading, passionately, still getting to know people, but still making hard decisions. That was my inflection point, of recognizing that when I think. The guy down the hallway. Some people may not recognize that. And I have to be cautious of that or cognizant of that, perhaps.
Commentary: Hold on. Brian just said something about a family culture. Well, this works up to about 10 employees. The reason being is because most families aren’t more than 10 mine’s only three, but you know, you get the idea. You want to make sure that you’re prepared for all of the changes that you have to make as your company goes through different stages of growth. Now Brian’s company is 132 employees and growing, and they had to learn the different changes that are necessary as the company evolves. And you want to make sure you’re prepared for that. The biggest change inside of this is how you communicate. If you think about it, you can invite your family over for dinner. You can go to a restaurant without much problem. You can get a table, but when you have 25 employees, it’s much harder to get that table at the restaurant. And so that’s just one way you can look at this when it’s a hundred employees, you’re going to be a massive difference in that you have to basically rent the entire restaurant. I give us an example is because things change as the company grows. Communication gets a little bit harder as you are able to do this. You can’t always just share things over a meal together and be caught up. You want to make sure that, you know, these changes and understand what that means for your organization. If you have any questions about it, make sure to reach out to me. I’m here just to put a spotlight on some of the things that you might not be thinking about as you grow your business faster and further than it is right now. Now back to Brian.
Gene Hammett: When you think about a mistake that you might’ve made in your journey of leadership that you can reflect on and share with us today. What comes to mind is the biggest mistake that, we could learn from.
Brian Mize: The biggest mistake that I have made is thinking that I knew what mistakes I had made, you know, and by that, I mean, early on in our early. Thinking that I knew because I’ve been doing this while I know how to build out this process and know how to build out this area of our business. I know how to make this work. And while I might know how to make it work, I’m not know how to make it work for 10 people. But as we became 50 people, it might not as work as well. And as we became a hundred people, it might be completely broken. So, having the thick skin to be able to adjust that, to be able to maintain some nimbleness and some flexibility as we grow, that was my biggest lesson learned. The biggest mistake was thinking that I was a, that I already had most of the answers. This is a learning process. As we go through people, change process, change, technology changes, being able to adjust and flex with that as what allowed us to get where we are.
Gene Hammett: That’s pretty evolved of you to know that, cause a lot of leaders to look at themselves as like they’re supposed to have the answer. I think in the army, you’d probably look up your chain of command and they’re supposed to have the answers to want to do next and how we, how we move forward. , but in the business world, if you’ve got a, a real value of radical transparency and being candor. It’s okay to say, I don’t know, but that’s really odd to say that. Have you found that?
Brian Mize: It’s not only odd? It’s very humbling is not even the right word that I would want to use because you don’t want to own that because that’s gonna, that’s going to be that one little piece of the armor that you don’t have. And, other people are gonna come gunning for that, or your employees are gonna leave and go somewhere where maybe people do know the app. But what we have found is that by owning the fact that we don’t have all the answers, which as you pointed out is Absolutely challenging. I don’t like to be the guy going well. I don’t know. , owning that and acknowledging that I don’t have to have all the answers because we have really smart people here that know how to do what they do. Giving them the opportunity to step up and bring an answer to the table. , it’s brought a level of collaboration. This brought a level of ownership even to our business that we wouldn’t have without our leaders at all levels of the organization, then able to say, maybe there’s a better way of doing it. Why don’t you tell me how you would do it? And let’s see if we can solve that.
Gene Hammett: It’s really interesting where our conversation has gone to an evolve. We started talking about culture. Now we’re into this whole concept of ownership. You don’t know my research. My next book really is centered around how do we get others in the organization to feel like owners, even if they don’t have a financial stake, the values that you have, you know, one of them transparency and is really a critical component of that. Because if you’re not transparent, you’re not open people don’t feel that sense of ownership. And what you’ve just described here is a real breakthrough for a lot of companies that aren’t growing as fast as you, that really could learn from what you’re going through today. So really appreciate you bringing that to light. , it doesn’t work so well when I tell people that they should be transparent and they should have, you know, strong values and be real clear about these things and get people to take ownership.
They want them to just get the work done. I want to wrap up today’s conversation. Give me just one chance to talk about transparency and what that really looks like in your business, specifically when I would say, where’s your transparency line, what’s okay to share. And what’s not okay to be transparent about where do you guys draw that line?
Brian Mize: So, that has been a, I’m not going to say it’s been a moving target over the years. What I will say is when we first came out with this idea of transparency, what people heard was I can come to your office and tell you what an idiot you are whenever I want to, because that’s transparent that wasn’t what we intended, what we intended was the idea of, Hey, I know, I know Brian, this was your idea, but it does not work. And here are the reasons why it’s not working. Can we adjust and do it this way, that transparency to go to leaders from the very top, all the way through the organization and to bring your ideas, to bring your here’s what you’re doing and it’s not working and here’s what. Knowing that the leaders are going to have a number one that thick skin, to be able to handle that, to have the conversation, to listen and to adjust, but also expecting going down the chain for that same thick skin to be there. We should be able to go to the newest member of our team and say.
Hey, we want to pat you on the back and tell you that you doing great, but here are some areas that you’re struggling with, then we’d like to help you with that. It’s not to denigrate anybody. It’s not to belittle anybody. It’s not to beat anybody over the head or walk around screaming and ranting. It’s just, to be honest, and let one another know where we stand and how we can get better as a collective, rather than individually.
Gene Hammett: It’s hard as that is to take from any organizations and leaders. That’s what I see works consistently. And it goes both ways. I call this a two-way street. Transparency is one of those things where you have to be able to take the transparency, but you also have to be able to get it and the others have to be able to take it. And I appreciate you highlighting that today. Brian, you’ve been an excellent guest here on the podcast. I really appreciate it.
Brian Mize: Thank you for your time. , I appreciate it. Look forward to reading your book when it comes out. Hopefully, that will be soon. And I’m going to go ahead and read that other one as well.
Gene Hammett: Let me wrap up here because I love to, to, while Brian’s listening here, my takeaways for today’s conversation are these that when you set out to have a great culture, that you may not be able to create it exactly the way you want to, but you can actually give back. And that’s one of the things that a lot of employees want to be able to do today. It’d be a part of something more than just the work that they do. So this service-oriented kind of approach does help create connections with everyone. But you also want to make sure that you’re leading them effectively. One of the ways and tools you do that is by understanding the values, not something that you paint on the wall, but something you live out every day.
And then you also want to be able to be, open and transparent with your employees because the other options of that is people get hurt feelings and people get, you know, are able to take that kind of feedback and they’re not growing. And a lot of frustration happens when you’re not really being open with each other and transparent, as we talked about, there’s a lot more inside this conversation, but if you are on the journey, An extraordinary leader, drive your company to that next level.
Make sure you reach out, check out the free content we have. If you think you want to get a conversation with me, especially reach out to GeneHammett.Com. I’d love to talk to you about where you’re going next in your leadership and help you get the very next step. The game plan will be absolutely free to you, but to help you become an extraordinary leader, I do this all the time.
Love to do it to my audience. They’re listening at this beat for this something’s missing, and you want to make sure that you get your finger on the pulse of what’s next for you, so just go to GeneHammett.com. When you think of growth and you think of leadership think of Growth Think Tank. As always 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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