Home Automation Podcast Episode #134: An Industry Q&A With Taylor Whipple
In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Taylor Whipple of One Firefly, shares how an analytical approach to brainstorming ideas has helped further empower One Firefly’s growth.
This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Taylor Whipple. Recorded live on Wednesday, August 26th at 12:30 p.m. EST.
About Taylor Whipple
Having just celebrated his 7 year anniversary with One Firefly, Taylor has been responsible for overseeing the organization's financial and production management.
Throughout the years, Taylor has been a key member of the leadership team in overseeing One Firefly’s operations and providing guidance to the CEO. One Firefly has recorded a period of record growth including 4 years of 30%+ YOY growth culminating with a place in the 2020 Inc. 5000.
- His rewarding time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa - he even spoke to us in Wolof!
- Taylor’s start in the music industry where he spent some time working for Madonna’s music label before he decided to go back to school to pursue his MBA in Finance.
- How an analytical approach to brainstorming ideas has helped further empower One Firefly’s growth
- One Firefly receiving a placement on the 2020 Inc. 5000 list
Ron: Taylor, how are you sir?
Taylor: Doing just fine. Thanks for having me on.
Ron: Yeah man. I see you're wearing the uniform.
Taylor: I am representing well. Definitely.
Ron: There you go. Now, Taylor officially just for those that are watching and maybe you don't know you. What is your role and responsibilities here at One Firefly and where are you coming to us from?
Taylor: Sure. So I'm coming to you live from Fort Lauderdale. I am the Vice President of Operations and Finance here at One Firefly and I've been with the company just over seven years now.
Ron: I think you just hit your anniversary , didn't you?
Taylor: Yes I sure did. Yeah. Time flies when you're having fun.
Ron: Does it feel like seven years or does it feel like 20 years?
Taylor: Yeah most of the time it feels like seven years but there are times it feels longer than others but it's been an awesome ride. Really really cool.
Ron: Awesome. We're already getting some actually as you'd maybe expect some members of Team One Firefly are already stopping in to say hello. So I'll give Allison a shout. She says, "Excited to have Taylor on the show. Two of our fearless leaders leading the charge." Thank you Allison and Tomas is coming to us from Panama. He says, "Yes you are on Ron. Saludos from Panama. Good to see you." Thank you Tomas. Appreciate that. We have Angel, "Welcome Taylor excited for the show, Saludos from Mexico." Then Stephanie, who helps us behind the scenes with a lot of our client's social media and she just hired a new member of her team this week. So now Stephanie is managing people and she helps me with Automation Unplugged. Thank you Stephanie. Taylor, what does it mean that you are Vice President of Operations and Finance?
Taylor: Yeah a lot of different things. Here at One Firefly I'm responsible for accounting, finance, overseeing HR, production management, operations management. I also currently oversee our sales team as well as our own internal marketing for the company too, so wearing a lot of different hats.
Ron: Yeah. It sounds like you have quite a few hats on there.
Taylor: Yeah. Keeps things interesting. It's fun.
Ron: Yeah I can imagine. What is Ted saying? Ted said I'm just here for the water polo tips and tricks. I guess we have to start there.
Taylor: I've got my mini water polo ball here. I'm happy to answer any questions on water polo as well.
Ron: You are our resident water polo expert.
Taylor: I am definitely.
Ron: Let's start at the beginning. Tell us about what you studied. What did you do before you landed at One Firefly seven years ago?
Taylor: Yes. I originally went to school and when I graduated high school, I really wanted to be involved in the music industry actually. I had it in mind that I was going to manage bands. I went to school as an undergrad in Los Angeles.
Ron: I don't think I remember any of this.
Taylor: Yeah I was all about the music business at the time. I had moved down to L.A. I was going to school down there. At the same time, I was interning with a lot of different record labels, radio promotions, groups, things like that. I worked for Madonna's label down there Maverick Records at the time and I was promoting bands and going to concerts and things like that. I really felt at the time that was going to be my career progression and as I was getting ready to graduate from undergrad, I was really wanting to spend part of my life giving back, volunteering. I'd always love traveling internationally experiencing other cultures. I also wanted to learn new language as well. And that's where the Peace Corps came in. I made the decision in my senior year of college that I was going to go join the Peace Corps, spend a few years of my life living abroad helping others giving back. That ultimately led to me getting placed in a small country in West Africa called the Gambia. From 2005 to 2007, I was living and working in the Gambia.
Ron: The is always part of the country name?
Taylor: Yeah , it's always called The Gambia. I know it's a little bit unique. You don't really see that with too many countries. But it was a really unique time in my life. I was there to really help teach basic computer education so how to type, just really introducing students high school level students on the basics of computing. And it was really challenging. There's a cliche in the Peace Corps that it's the toughest job you'll ever love. And I found that that couldn't be any more true. It was really difficult at times but ultimately one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had in my life. And it was really neat and I still to this day keep in touch with a lot of my former students on Facebook and Skype and it's a really cool experience to see them be able to use those tools and get jobs and computing industries and I.T. in some cases.
Ron: You did all of this in English?
Taylor: Yeah mostly in English. While I was there I learned to learn how to speak Wolof which is one of the tribal languages of the region. I say learned I learned enough to get by and get around. I wasn't fluent.
Ron: You know what I'm going to ask next. Are you going to say something in Wolof?
Taylor: Hundred percent yes.
Ron: All right speak to your students in the Gambia.
Taylor: All right. (Speaks in Wolof) That's just some basic greetings. How are you? Hope everything's fine. That sort of thing.
Ron: Do you still practice Wolof?
Taylor: Here and there I've had some interesting experiences with people that I've met now in America and have immigrated from the region. And in one case actually it was with a professional basketball player, an NBA player who I had a chance to meet. And this guy was 7 feet tall and I just introduced myself and just started speaking and their reactions are pretty amazed when they see that. Who's this guy speaking our language and you're able to get by? It's led to a lot of cool experiences post coming back from Africa.
Ron: Sounds amazing. And how long were you living in Africa?
Taylor: Just under two years living and working in West Africa. Most of the time I was I was stationed in the city. But we did spend some time out in the villages as well. So living in mud huts no electricity no running water. Definitely a lot of challenge especially coming from L.A. and being so close to the entertainment industry and going to like Lakers games and living in that whole sort of bubble and then all of a sudden you're out in the middle of nowhere looking at scorpions and snakes just living on the ground.
Ron: What did you eat?
Taylor: A lot of ground millet. It's really in the villages a lot of ground millet.
Ron: What is that?
Taylor: It's a type of grain, that's how to best describe it but it's coarse I guess is maybe the best way to describe it. Not a whole lot of flavor, wasn't a huge fan. Rice as well. Those were a lot of the staples of their diets at least in the villages.
Ron: We have a question here Ted. He's a member of the team here at One Firefly. He says, "What was the most impactful lesson you learned in the Gambia?".
Taylor: Ted putting me on the spot. Oh that's a tough question. The most impactful lesson.
Ron: One lesson was you don't like that grain you just mentioned.
"We're very idealistic in the sense that we're gonna go change the world and we were gonna leave and we would have all of this terrific impact. But the reality is that different cultures learn differently."
Taylor: Yeah , I don't like ground millet. Yeah. The most impactful lesson. Boy , I think I really gained a new understanding for other cultures and how they think, how they operate. It was easy for us to be very naive as Americans when we first came over there. We're very idealistic in the sense that we're gonna go change the world and we were gonna leave and we would have all of this terrific impact. But the reality is that different cultures learn differently. They adopt different practices and it's not that necessarily that either one is right or wrong they're just very different. And so it gave me a new understanding of how to personally adapt my own strategies towards helping them to ultimately have it be more effective.
Ron: When you got back. You did some startup stuff.
Taylor: I did. When I got back I was still kind of torn between continuing in the music industry. I actually had an offer from the William Morris Agency. Now it's called William Morris Endeavor, one of the largest talent agencies in the world to be in the mailroom and you can eventually work your way up to be a music agent.
Ron: I was just listening to a podcast and it was someone in the movie industry and that was thing apparently starting in the mailroom is really a thing. And you worked your way up from the mailroom.
Taylor: Absolutely a thing. Yeah. And you put in several years and when I had received the offer I was kind of torn because I knew it was going to be a lot of years spent not making a lot of money, putting in your dues and then maybe you have a chance to graduate to be an assistant and then from there if you're lucky you get to be an agent. Part of me was still really interested in going in that direction. Another part of me was still kind of interested in this whole international development helping other countries develop. Ultimately I decided to join a nonprofit based in Los Angeles called Relief International. Relief International does international development work all over the globe. Places like Afghanistan Iraq all over Africa the Middle East. And we were coordinating a lot of different programs from health to international to emergency disaster aid things like that. That's where I really got my start in operations. I was helping with procurement and logistics. I had the opportunity to travel to Jordan in the Middle East and to help with some Palestinian refugee camps in the region which was really cool, really rewarding. I did that for a few years working in a non-profit and it was super rewarding but ultimately living in one of the most expensive cities in the world in L.A. and working for a non-profit.
Ron: It was not an easy lifestyle.
Taylor: It was a tough lifestyle. From there I decided that I really wanted to have a better sense of how businesses operated. I found myself being more drawn to just the private sector and businesses in general but I knew that I wanted to enhance my own skill sets and abilities. That led me down a path towards going back to school and getting my MBA and so I had applied all over and ultimately found I was also wanting to get out of Southern California for various reasons just the rising cost of living and just wanting a bit of a change. I found myself in West Texas at Texas Tech. I was also at the time interested in international business and they had a strong international business program. I found myself there and I spent just under two years there.
Ron: It's a good sport school.
Taylor: A good sport school yeah. It's really football and now basketball they've been having a lot of successfully with that. And that was really cool. Another bit of a culture shock going from L.A. to West Texas which is very different night and day. But a lot of school spirit and tailgating and I still had the chance to continue to play water polo.
Ron: Tell me where you learned or is that where water polo started for you or did you start that in college and you always had that and then you just picked it up again?
Taylor: Much earlier. Yeah. I started probably gosh when I was 13 or 14 years old. I was always a competitive swimmer competitive water polo player throughout high school. I did do that in college as an undergrad in Southern California but that was also a neat opportunity for me to continue playing as a postgraduate and competing at a level we went to nationals and finished seventh in the country on the club level which was really cool, really rewarding. It was a really interesting two years I certainly learned a lot within my MBA program, concepts like accounting and finance. I really hadn't had a lot of experience in those fields. And so that really opened up a whole new world for me kind of combining some of the operations experiences that I had at my previous position. But then just getting more resources and more sort of tools to add to my toolkit as far as that goes.
Ron: What did you want to do with your MBA? What was your vision at that point?
Taylor: I think my vision was to make money certainly coming from the nonprofit world.
Ron: Everybody watching or listening can appreciate that.
Taylor: Taking on student loans and things like that I knew that that had to be somewhat of a priority. But I think beyond that I wanted to work with a small business. I liked the idea of getting to touch a lot of different departments or areas of a business and just getting more experiences as to how businesses work so that I could apply all the different components of what I'd learned as a postgrad and MBA school and ultimately help the business grow. Beyond that, wanting to be a part of an organization that I felt like was meaningful and was having an impact and a positive one at that in their customers' lives.
Ron: At some point, you found One Firefly.
Taylor: Yes, well after I graduated in 2012 from my MBA I had started working with a startup for a bit. We were trying to get that off the ground and had some great experiences there but ultimately was wanting something a bit more full time. I was also really intrigued about the idea of moving to Florida. Having lived in California I was I'd say accustomed to a warm weather environment and I don't really do well in the cold. I grew up partially in Idaho. Cold winters and things like that really weren't my thing. Living in South Florida was really appealing to me. I ended up finding I think One Firefly on a job posting on Indeed. And the rest is history.
Ron: What was the interview process going back in the time machine here. I can't remember recently or maybe ever asking you this and I certainly know some of our team is watching here and so they'll probably get a kick out of this. What was the interview process like? This would have been seven and a half years ago.
Taylor: It was very intensive. I remember we started off with a phone interview and I think that lasted about 30 minutes or so. And then you know that you had invited me down to do an in-person interview. And I want to say that that interview probably lasted between three or four hours. It was very intensive.
Ron: Anyone on our team that's complained about a one or two-hour interview. They haven't seen it.
Taylor: Ron and I, this was back when we had our physical office in Hollywood Florida. I remember Ron asking very specific questions about my past work performance about why I did what I did, how I was measured, and ultimately what I was looking for and it was a really unique conversation. I didn't feel uncomfortable persay but I definitely appreciated being challenged and appreciated that you wanted to dive so in depth about my past history to ultimately see if would be a good fit together.
Ron: In our first few years. I'll say it. You joined One Firefly in 2013 I want to say I started that hiring process maybe in March or April of '13 and you ultimately joined us in August '13 and the first few years were challenging not not for you but just for the business in general. There were a lot of lessons we were buying.
Taylor: There were certainly some challenges for me as well. Yeah. What was unique I think about that time is that the business was really really segmented into several different business units. We had our programming business unit. We had an engineering and then we had this marketing thing. All of these different business units were uniquely different in how they got sold how they were serviced. How that work was performed. Different operational challenges. That made it really difficult not only just to manage but also to scale. Ron and I would have conversations about growing the business where we wanted to focus on and you know being so spread out across all of those different business units made it really challenging. But then I think ultimately we made the decision to focus purely on marketing and that's been a huge game changer for One Firefly.
Ron: To your memory or knowledge, when and why did we make that decision? What's your recollection of how that decision was made?
Taylor: There are two main things that came to mind at the time. I had spent a lot of time analyzing the business and looking at the different parts of the business that were working that were great for us and the components that were not working. And one of the ways that was working was this idea of having recurring revenue. We had a small batch of customers who were paying us on a monthly basis for marketing services. I want to say maybe 10 or 15 at the time it wasn't much.
Ron: Good enough to prove the concept.
Taylor: Enough to prove the concept. And it was from a cash flow standpoint from a sales standpoint it was great to have that money coming in each month and allowed us to be a little more aggressive and just provided a bit of a safety net. I also found that it was easier from both a sales standpoint and an operational scalability standpoint as well. It was easier to scale those type of services than they were with the let's say engineering and design aspect of the programming aspect of the business which could be difficult to hire for difficult to train up etc.
Ron: One of the challenges that I have as an idea person kind of big picture idea person and being a passionate salesperson, I just love the art of selling and solving customer's problems and bringing them solutions. I've got to remember I started this business back in 2007. Right. You were in Africa or somewhere when I had started the business. And one of the challenges of my personality type is that I can be strong or demanding or convincing to the point of a fault to where the company that I was in charge of would go down paths because I thought they were good ideas regardless of whether they were actually good ideas and everyone around me at that time we were much smaller would go down that path with me because again I was the boss I was the owner I was convincing and I was passionate about believing it was a good idea. The fact is some of them were great ideas. Some of them were good ideas and some of them were just terrible ideas.
Talk about your skillset and balancing I'm going to transition this ultimately into EOS traction. But just before we did all that stuff, there was a concept that we needed balance in the business and some of the people listening that might be business owners or managers they might relate to this. There's the idea that there's the person with ideas or the relationships or whatnot. And then there's the financial analysis operational analysis. There's a balancing act. I think that in the best businesses in the world they have that. What does that mean to you and how do you think that your role and who you are as a person has brought some of that if not a lot of that to One Firefly.
Taylor: For sure. I think just by my nature I'm more of an analytical person. Whenever you propose an idea for example, I think by nature I would want to kind of look at how that would actually be accomplished. Meaning methodically take the different steps plot that out to ensure that you know what you would be proposing was actually going to be viable for us. And I think that that idea of you coming up with these ideas and these visions and then balancing that out with a more strategic analysis that I would bring. I think that's ultimately led to having not only more balance in the organization but that's ultimately helped us grow to be where we are at. But I will say that it was a little bit challenging at first because there's a bit of a give and take so to speak. My first joint, you might have been selling me on something and the initial inclination might just be to like hey I'm just going to do it because he's the CEO he's the boss and that's what he wants to do. But I think gradually I became more comfortable at challenging those ideas when they're being brought up so that we ultimately want to support what's going to be best for the organization moving forward. And I think that as time went on we got better and better at that.
Ron: My wife Danielle, looks like she's watching. Hey honey. And she posted I remember I was there for the first meeting and I think she's referencing when we interviewed you. I didn't remember that Danielle was there.
Taylor: That's right. I think you had brought me in for another meeting to meet some of the members of the team and the leaders of the team at the time and I think I remember Danielle was there as well.
Ron: That was very cool. I do want to put another shout out Vanessa awesome member of team One Firefly and she said, "So excited to have you on the show Taylor." Thank you.
Taylor: Vanessa has been by my side for six of those seven years. Couldn't have done it without her.
Ron: If you're Batman is she your Robin?
Taylor: Hundred percent yeah. Absolutely. Or is she Batman and Robin I don't know?
Ron: I think you go either way depending on the situation.
Taylor: Yeah. That on the end, of course, our man Bobby Dodge over at Pro Source says, "Taylor is the man."
Ron: We just recently Taylor and you could tell the world what goes into this if anyone's ever been curious. But we were recently awarded an Inc 5000 status. Officially it's called for 2020 but it really means for 2019. You want to explain what that is and what you have to do to go through that process?
Taylor: Sure. Inc 5000 is put on by Inc Magazine and the list is a list of privately held companies in the US. And it measures their growth over three years. In the case of the 2020 list , it's measuring from 2016 to 2019. In order to actually get published on the list, you have to apply, you have to have CPA verified documents really ensuring that you're putting accurate statements as around your actual revenue that you've earned for those years. And yeah we were lucky enough to I guess it's not really luck right. It's hard work.
Ron: A lot of hard work went into that.
Taylor: Yeah. And we're very fortunate to be included on that list.
Ron: Do you think we'll do it again next year?
Taylor: Not only do I think we're going to do it again next year. I think we're going to move up quite a bit given all that's gone on this year and COVID and all that.
Ron: That is cool. I've mentioned this on the show before. I want to say some shows back maybe Stephanie if you're watching you could post this reference in the comments some shows back. We had on our EOS implementer Caesar and we as a leadership team we adopted the EOS system officially starting last summer and then we implemented and were brought on into the system and now we're doing it. For anyone that's watching or listening that has no idea what I'm talking about. Can you kind of describe that in your own words what that means and then what your role in that is?
Taylor: Sure. Yeah absolutely. The EOS retraction methodology is really a system. I'd say organization wide system to just gain more efficiency and strength in what you're doing. And my role within that system is the integrator and I'm sort of a yin yang.
Ron: Not the integrator installing audio-video systems and lighting systems a different integrator.
Taylor: That's right. Yeah. Really in charge of integrating the EOS system across the business. In my role , I'm really the balancing act of Ron's coming up with the ideas and the grand vision of where we want to go what we should be doing etc.. I'm balancing that out against again as I've been doing in the past a more strategic operationally focused manner. And yes we've been doing that for gosh just under a year now as you mentioned and the results have been nothing short of fantastic thus far.
Ron: What does it mean to have those results? Because I would challenge or posit just to play devil's advocate for a moment just because it's fun. We grew at a decent rate we're a small company but we grew at a decent rate for really '16 through '19 as demonstrated by the Inc placement and it's fair to say that's essentially pre the One Firefly deployment of EOS and now that we're in the deployment of EOS and you're calling it successful. What does that mean to you? What does that mean for your view or observation of the company or the company's performance?
Taylor: Sure. You and I had a meeting, I guess last summer prior to us engaging with Caesar our EOS implementer and going down that path and you and I really determined that what had gotten us to this point was not necessarily going to be good enough to continue on growing at that pace and to get us where we ultimately wanted to be. We knew that if we were going to continue to get better and better we needed to make some strategic changes. And one of the ways that I feel that EOS has been so successful for us thus far is ensuring that everybody is rowing in the same direction so to speak. Meaning that all of our objectives and focuses are aligned together.
Everyone knows what we're doing, why we're doing it. What we are focusing on, on a quarterly basis. I call those different rocks or different projects and that we're not getting distracted by the shiny ball syndrome. There's a thing out here that we could take on but we're not going to do that because we've decided collectively that this is the system we're going to use and this is what we're going to focus on. And I think doing so and having a method to hold each other accountable, that's created a lot of traction for lack of a better term and we're starting to see that come in the form of enhanced results across the organization. Better cohesion with teams, better interaction between departments, and just a better experience for not only our clients but our employees as well.
Ron: What are maybe one or two things in the EOS world that we've been implementing here that you think have made the biggest impact or most memorable for you as really enabling us to continue this growth and success?
Taylor: Certainly what comes top of mind are L10 meetings and for those of you who may not be familiar with EOS system an L10 meeting is really a very structured way of conducting a meeting. These meetings happen across the organization. Our leadership team does one but also our different departments have their own L10 meetings now as well and we start off by reviewing our scorecards. We then dive in from everything from a to do list checking in on each other's rocks or projects. And ultimately we have some dedicated time to solve challenges or issues that are outstanding. And having that sort of structure to the meetings and having everybody on the same page with how we're going to implement and conduct those meetings has been a game-changer for us. In the past, I felt that sometimes we had productive meetings and sometimes they kind of just meandered off into all different directions that were really not as productive as they could be. This has been a way of keeping us more focused across the organization and you can start to see the results. As we start completing rocks or different projects that we're working on, we have an accountability each week and we go over that and we can start to see who's completed what, if they're on track, if they're off track. Just so that everybody is aligned and on the same page. It's been a real game-changer .
Ron: Anyone that's listening. There might be a business owner. They likely do not run or operate a marketing agency and they might run an integration industry, they might run a rep firm, they might run a flower shop. Who knows. Does this concept of an L10 apply or just the bigger picture of the EOS does it apply to them or is it for certain types of businesses?
Taylor: It could really be for any type of business. Prior to us embarking down this EOS path. I personally had spoken to several different business owners in all types of industries. Lawyers, accountants, CPAs who had implemented EOS in the past. And I was really curious to see what their experience would be because I felt to a certain degree that the challenges we were facing perhaps had a lot to do with us as a marketing agency and we're less applicable to other types of issues or other types of businesses. I did not find that to be the case once we once I spoke to these business owners and once we ended up implementing EOS as well. This is really a cool system for any type of business.
Ron: How is One Firefly doing here in 2020? COVID year.
Taylor: Fortunately, the COVID year is proving to be one of our better years. And you know not a lot of businesses can say that but just sort of the nature of what has been happening I think has led to a stronger demand for marketing services particularly with small businesses. And we've just been fortunate enough that that was what we offered and we're at the right place at the right time and as a result we're continuing on our path to growing 30 to 40 percent year over year.
Ron: Amen, your mouth to God's ears. What is your opinion on the importance of company culture and how should a company how could a company work to improve their company culture?
"From my perspective company culture is everything. Our most important asset here at One Firefly is not our products. It's not our services. It is our people. And so I think it starts with defining the type of culture that you want to have at your organization."
Taylor: Great question. From my perspective company culture is everything. Our most important asset here at One Firefly is not our products. It's not our services. It is our people. And so I think it starts with defining the type of culture that you want to have at your organization. As part of the EOS process last year that led us down to a path of really identifying what are our core values for us as an organization that we want to embody and that we want our people to embody. And that was going to then influence our hiring as well. Ron , we touched on this earlier about when I was interviewing and why we took so long three or four-hour interview that's very commonplace for us here at One Firefly to have a longer drawn out hiring process because it is so important to get the right type of person for your company your environment because ultimately that's going to enable you to grow. It's going to be able to accomplish your goals and I think for me it's really two things that say it's defining the type of culture you want, defining those core values and then it's hiring for those and ensuring everyone on your team is demonstrating those in a great way so that you're ultimately able to accomplish your goals.
Ron: We of course have the inside track here to what happens day to day at least as mostly what's happening day to day. And we have a pretty refined hiring process. We recently brought on a Manager of People Operations that now works under you for H.R. and we're very methodical about what we do in regards to bringing people on board. Objectively, how do we know that we're doing it right or wrong? What are the things from your standpoint of determining whether our hiring methods are working or not working what are you looking at and i.e. what would people listening what would they be looking at? What should they observe to understand whether the method by which their hiring is affected.
Taylor: Sure. There's a couple of different areas that come top of mind. One is we're pretty analytical here as it relates to employee performance. We try to be less subjective about how an employee is ultimately performing after they've gone through their training period etc.. They're on board. We'll know very specifically what KPIs they are being held to, what their goals are, and how they are tracking to those KPIs or goals. In terms of overall productivity or performance, it's so important to have a standard in place for both you as a business owner or manager but also the employee as well. We've found that employees really appreciate if they know very specifically how they're measured. If they have a goal in front of them then they can work to accomplish that goal. In terms of performance I think that's that certainly comes to mind now. There's a few other metrics that we measure from a management standpoint. One is we do a Net Promoter Score for our own employees as well. We're asking them how happy they are working here. What can we do better? We want to best support them so that if they're happy and they're going to start performing well and giving our customers the best possible experience. We're constantly now sending out surveys for example asking them how they feel getting their feedback. What could be improved to make things better for them and then internally we're also looking at our employee attrition. If employees are leaving, why are they leaving? What could we be doing better? Is it a hiring decision is it something that we could tweak to make things better from a performance standpoint or just better support employees. It's really going down that path and getting analytical with the type of issue or problem that you're trying to solve.
"When we're designing to offer a new service or we're designing to change something in our accountability charter or organizational structure to execute a service. We're modeling things out and we're in fact adding layers or texture to those models one could call sensitivity analysis."
Ron: I appreciate that. Speaking of people and really the concept of designing a business for the future. Something you practice and so I want you to describe for the audience so they better understand some of our processes. When we're designing to offer a new service or we're designing to change something in our accountability charter or organizational structure to execute a service. We're modeling things out. We're modeling things out and we're in fact adding layers or texture to those models one could call sensitivity analysis. Can you describe the concept of modeling and why is it why does a business do it? Why should a business do it and then what does sensitivity analysis mean?
Taylor: Absolutely yeah. So really across the organization , we've gotten pretty good at doing this modeling exercise. We'll have spreadsheets for example that lists every type of service that we offer and how long it takes to do that service. We have project management software that our employees log into and they're logging their time. Let's say if they're drafting a blog or doing a social media post. That provides us really with a wealth of data to know specifically how long it should take to do something. And so we're using that data to not only help influence our pricing but also to influence our staffing levels as well.
If we're doing 10 of this service and 15 of this service quantity a month whatever it may be that makes its way to a spreadsheet that's looking at all of our stops available time. We're taking into account paid time off and vacation days and holidays. Right. All of that influences how much time we have available to perform those services. And we're looking at the new rate of sales as well. We're forecasting more accounts coming on board. Well boy that's going to increase or influence all sorts of different things on the operations. That also influences hiring and when we make our hiring decisions. We're trying to be as methodical as possible and as Ron mentioned we do a sensitivity analysis to say well what happens if sales doesn't hit or what happens if we see an increased rate of attrition, cancellations from various accounts. What does that mean for us in our ability to perform these services operationally? And we're trying to operate. I don't see as lean as possible. I don't think that's the right term but doing so in a way that's supporting the profitability goals of the organization as well. We don't want to be too lean where staff are stressed out and we're unsure if we can accomplish everything in a given month. And we also don't want to be having too much resources on staff, we're overpaying and we don't have enough work to give everybody and thus we're losing it on the bottom. It's a strategic and an analytical way of planning for the future so that we can again ultimately support our growth goals and ultimately be at the profitability level that we want to be at.
Ron: I'm going to go into pricing and we actually just announced a pricing increase at One Firefly on a handful of services so it wasn't across the board in fact it did not affect the majority of our customers and the majority of our service offering but it did affect some. And so I want to go down that path in just a minute. It is what is we're transparent soon as we decided to do it we announced it and I want to go through here why. Allison asked a question as well and I want to get to her, she's got a fun question. I'm excited to see what you say to that but I want to go to the pricing thing first. We do have an advisory board here at One Firefly and it's really wonderful talented smart people that have been dedicated to offering us counsel started that was back in 2014. The last six years they've been with us through some ups and downs along the way. And we recently gained some counsel as recent as June that we had a problem. And do you want to describe what that was and kind of what we went through to try to solve that problem?
Taylor: Sure. We were seeing that across a few different services that we offer that they weren't quite as profitable as many of the other services that we were offering. And so what this was doing was creating an imbalance of sorts. Ron and some of our board members advised that we engaged some outside expertise to help come in, help us, think of it as almost like a coach like every great athlete no matter how they're operating has a coach. And I think that was something that was really valuable. We've gone down that path and we've really broke out all of these different services and we analyze why we were getting the results we were. We were working backwards and then we were seeing what could we then change whether it was pricing or operational changes to start to influence to get the results that we ultimately wanted and in some cases we had staff members for example on our team who were working across many different services. It wasn't as easy as just applying their expense or their time to one particular project or line item that really had to be modeled out in a very strategic way that allowed us to properly analyze how to best scale those services and to ensure that they were all as profitable as possible. Going down that exercise and going down that path has proven to be really invaluable and in some cases as Ron mentioned that led to us increasing some of those pricing as well. It's also a fact too that over time, over the past few years or so, many of our products have undergone various changes where we're perhaps doing things a little bit differently than we were in the past. Dedicating more time for example to writing our blogs, ensuring we have more quality control in place, and at the time, a few years ago when we had made those prices, that was not factored in not built in.
"As products and services continue to change, sometimes pricing needs to change as well. And you see that across a multitude of businesses."
Ron: As products and services continue to change, sometimes pricing needs to change as well. And you see that across a multitude of businesses. Netflix or Amazon Prime as they continue to add and put more value into the services products. Well, there are expenses associated with that but ultimately price needs to be adjusted. We've gone through this exercise around better understanding our margins. We realized that there were a few products that frankly were pretty undesirable in terms of margins. But we love the product and service and they're in high demand. And so it led to this quandary of well what do you do? Do you stop selling the service or do you fix the pricing because you can collect more revenue or you can change your cost structures. But at the end of the day you need a thing to be profitable or why do it right? And we made a decision that when we went through that analysis we decided to go ahead and announce pricing changes. Again I think it's four services but we launched them immediately.
Ron: Why did we do that versus wait till next year?
Taylor: Sure. One is that if you've identified a problem, if you have a hole in your boat so to speak, you don't wait until the water starts filling up and then you try to solve the problem. As difficult as it as it was and is to try to implement that I mean nobody likes to hear about a price increase. We thought it was to our advantage to try and fix the problem as soon as possible so that we're better prepared sooner than later to continue offering a better product better service to those customers that can afford that and do want to continue on and receiving those receiving those services.
Ron: Got it. We have a question here. I've got to acknowledge my sister my sister just commented. She says, "Hi Ronnie. Great show. Proud of you." Thank you Amy love your beautiful little baby there and thank you for watching. And Allison, Allison's here at Team One Firefly. She says, "What excites you most about the direction One Firefly is heading?"
Taylor: Great question. I think what comes top of mind for me is as we continue to grow, we start to be in a position to bring on more staff who can better specialize in a particular field. I'll give you an example as we've continued to grow. Many of us have worn many different hats and are doing many different things across the organization. But gradually the need to get better at let's say H.R. for example. We decided to bring Tina on last year, I was previously doing that but it wasn't sustainable for us to continue growing at our pace that we were in to have me continue to do that. But by hiring somebody and taking that off my plate, we've gained a bit more of a superpower. Somebody who can come in who specializes that loves doing that and can help take us to the next level. We're starting to see that across different departments different roles within the organization and the plan is to keep continuing that that path of bringing on more specialists for different roles across the organization and in 2021 which is really exciting for both clients and internal employees alike.
Ron: If I was to go a little deeper on that this concept that and a lot of our customers are small business owners and so the person in a leadership position or maybe even the owner might have many many duties within the business. How do you think about or you could perhaps say how do we think about whether someone should continue to carry on those multiple hats? If you think of an organizational structure in the EOS system we call that an accountability chart and you might have multiple positions on that accountability chart. You might have the same person if you just look at your business today, their name might be on different jobs within your company, just maybe a fraction of their time. How do we think about whether that should persist and or when to bring someone in to do that particular role to specialize your focus?
Taylor: Yeah. So from my perspective, it's really an analysis about what is the opportunity cost so to speak of you continuing to do that versus bringing somebody else on board. I think for most people there are probably one or two things that they're probably great at. Or can continue to be excellent at versus doing a few different things that let's say good or possible level. For us, it's peeling back those layers and saying well boy if I could focus all of my time in this one effort what could the organization gain as a result? When we hear that from time to time from customers or prospects when talking about marketing and they might say I could do my own blogs and maybe they could actually. But the question is, is that the best use of your time? Whereas you could be spending time selling or developing your business or helping to grow your business and ultimately accomplish your goals. I think going down that analysis and looking at the different areas of the business the different needs and ultimately what you know you're best at. And what you want to be doing. Doing that for us as an organization I'd say has been invaluable.
Ron: How do you keep yourself organized? Are you organized?
Taylor: Great question. I'd like to think so. I think being more operationally focused I'm big in the spreadsheets as well so I'm in and out of spreadsheets. My Outlook calendar I'm blocking off time very strategically based on what needs to be done and when and honestly our L10 meetings and our scorecards that we're keeping up to date is another great way that we're holding not only myself accountable but others as well. All of that said they've been great.
Ron: I want to close on this concept of work-life balance. We work really hard here at One Firefly every person and every role is out there working hard for themselves working hard for the customer working hard for the company and you're no different in that respect. How do you balance the work and maintaining a quality of life outside of work?
Taylor: Great question. For me, I think it's so important to take time off to work on my own mental health whether it's meditating just having some quiet time where I'm not being cold or distracted. That's proven invaluable for me to ensure that I'm operating at a very high level during the week when I am actually working. Physically and I work out all the time I'm playing water polo I'm swimming at that. That aspect of being an athlete is something that's always important. I make that a priority. Part of my day is dedicated to that and I do my best to not let that slip because I know that by doing so everything else in my life is going to be enhanced as a result. I think all of that I'd say structuring my as well. I try to block off different time to focus on different things and I also realize that growth and performance is not always linear. If you're working out or competing there some days it's just you just don't have it. And that's OK, not forcing yourself and trying to think well man why am I not doing as well as I am? And then there are other days it just flows naturally and you can ride these waves of efficiency and progress. And so I think just keeping that balance and not being too hard on yourself. That's worked for me.
Ron: When you have a particularly hard problem on your plate, what's your process to tackle that?
Taylor: For me it's peeling the layers back and breaking it down into subproblems or different tasks, trying to get to the root of the cause. And I think when you do that and you can then come up with a plan to tackle that, it seems far less intimidating. I think it provides you with a sense of resiliency so that when this happens in the future that you're not again as intimidated when this comes up and you have a more methodical nature to tackle these problems in the future.
Ron: Might there be a day if you had your way or your wish. Is there a day where One Firefly may be helping our industry in ways beyond marketing?
Taylor: 100 percent. Yeah definitely. I think at the heart of what we do with marketing is that we're helping business owners solve problems. And right now it's marketing. But that could easily be other aspects of managing a business moving forward. I could see that being around hiring around accounting, finance, helping to strategically grow their business as well. All of that are really interesting. Again just going back to the idea of helping people and helping them solve problems. I think that's something we're doing really well now with marketing. I'd like to see that continue in other aspects of business as well.
Ron: Awesome Taylor. Thank you for joining me for show 134. And I know our audience just based on all the chats here have enjoyed it as well. Anyone that wants to get in touch with you directly what would you recommend? Are you on the socials? Do you do you mix work and or personal on the socials or would it just be to call you? What would you recommend?
Taylor: You can call, email, hit me up on social. Thanks for having me on. I really enjoyed this conversation.
Ron: Awesome. Well thank you for everything that you do and I know all of Team One Firefly thanks you as well.
Taylor: My pleasure.
Taylor Whipple is Vice President of Operations & Finance. Having just celebrated his 7 year anniversary with One Firefly, Taylor has been responsible for overseeing the organization's financial and production management.
Ron Callis is the CEO of One Firefly, LLC, a digital marketing agency based out of South Florida and creator of Automation Unplugged. Founded in 2007, One Firefly has quickly became the leading marketing firm specializing within the integrated technology and security space. The One Firefly team work hard to create innovative solutions to help Integrators boost their online presence, such as the elite website solution, Mercury Pro.
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