Ben Wright: How to Hire Next Generation Rockstars

Rapid growth as a company can be challenging...but growing over 39,000% brings its own set of headaches. Learn from Ben Wright, CEO of Velocity Global on how they only hire 10's.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

The Transcript - How to Hire Next Generation Rockstars

Welcome to the Next Generation Rockstars podcast. If you are trying to figure out how do you recruit and retain this next generation of rock star talent or you are in the right place.

Amanda Hammett: Hey, this is Amanda Hammett with the Next Generation of Rockstars. And today we have Ben Wright with Velocity Global. Ben, welcome to the show.

Ben Wright: Great to be here. Thanks for having me, Amanda.

Amanda Hammett: Oh, no problems, no problems. So you are actually a guest on my husband's show. My husband's show, is Leaders in the Trenches, and he really digs in and studies the Inc 5,000 and after he interviewed you, he was like, he needs to be on your show. So tell us a little bit about you, Ben.

Ben Wright: A little bit about me? Oh my gosh. I'll try to keep it to a little bit. Founder, CEO of a company called Velocity Global. We're headquartered based in Denver, Colorado. , blessed, average. Dan said to be on your husband, show leader in the trenches because we, we built a company that's, that's grown really, really quickly. We ended up number four on the Inc 5,000 last year, which is pretty amazing. I'm still kind of have to pinch myself every time I say that. Uh, but we've got a really incredible team. , husband, a father of two kids, Ted and Seven. , and I don't know what else to tell ya that occupies just about all of my time.

Amanda Hammett: Well, that's a lot. I mean, just being a CEO and a founder is a lot, but a CEO and a founder who grew, yeah, 39000% or over 39000% in three years. That's full, that's more than a full-time job. So congratulations to you.

Ben Wright: Thank you.

Amanda Hammett: All right. So wonderful. Wonderful. So a couple of things that I wanted to dig in and get to know about you, is that okay?

Ben Wright: Yeah.

Amanda Hammett: You guys, in order to grow that fast, you've really got to feed a machine, but you've got to have a machine that is made up of phenomenal people. So where do you find these phenomenal people and how do you get them in there to velocity global?

Ben Wright: Yeah. A great question. , any organization, the dad kind of has grown as we have, has to feed that machine with people. We are a technology-enabled service. There's nursing. So that's particularly the case with us. , we're not just a dyed in the wool technology solution that has this incredible scale where you achieve a certain size and then, you know, you can grow, grow, grow, grow, grow without having to add as many people to the organization. , and so han capitals big for us. And so getting a feeding the machine with candidates and the right people and getting the right people on the bus is huge, particularly for an organization like us. , and, and we've, you know, we've taken the approach since day one of the organization. Uh, literally the very first person I hired who is now my COO, Kevin, the name of Rob Crabtree took the approach from day one is that, uh, you know, we want to make sure that we get the very best people in the mix organization.

Ben Wright: And every company can say that. But we took the mantras that we only want to have penned. , and so if, if we are out there and interviewing and talking to people, typically in the last question we asked ourselves is, you know, is this individual attention? Uh, and if not, despite how much we like them, we'll take a pass and we'll wait until we can find that, that that grade standard comes in. We have passed on people who honestly and objectively are probably tens, but may not actually be tens in our system as well. And so there's, there are multiple angles to it. , and, and frankly, I think for us, it as odd as it may sound, it doesn't have all that much to do with your, the very specific details of your professional experience in terms of kind of the exact roles that you served or are Kennedy accomplishments along the way. It's more sore about who you are as a person. , your ability to learn, your ability to analyze information, to assimilate information, to really be a team player. And can I have a sense of where do you want to go in life? That's all been a pretty good, pretty good Gbo for us.

Amanda Hammett: I'm pretty good Gbo. Okay. Wonderful. So when you're putting people through this process, you mentioned it's not all about what's on the rese, which I think is phenomenal. It's, I think it's really more about culture versus specific skill. , so are you guys relying more on the softer skills or those abilities or how do you judge those softer skills? Let's start with that.

Ben Wright: Yeah, great question. So we've got, we've got a whole process that we put people through. And it's interesting. I was, I'm just happy to be on kind of glass door the other day and right notice that a few folks have kind of interviewed and apply with us and it didn't get past that first phone screen and couldn't figure out why the heck we weren't. Yeah. Talking about their rese. And I kind of got a chuckle out of it because that's on purpose and I'm sorry to those folks who applied and didn't get past that bed first round. But we really start out talking about you know, what makes you passionate. What are the thing is that you are most proud of, you know, what are some low points kind of throughout your, and really kind of understanding and painting a picture of almost kind of what it means in a quick 30-minute conversation about what it is to be you in a professional setting?

Ben Wright: And that's where it, that's where you either you're either onto the next round or you're not, uh, beyond then in future rounds we do actually start going into kind of the different roles that you've had over your career. But honestly, we don't focus as much about really the blocking and tackling of what each individual position entails. It's more about what did you learn? How did you work with other people? Uh, you know, how, how did you work with your boss? How were you as a manager? How were you as a peer? When you were in those positions, you know, what did you gain the most satisfaction out of? And, and how does it all kind of weave a tapestry? And too, it's a what it is that you're going to do next and what makes you most passionate. And the perfect situation does, is we have incredibly passionate, incredibly intelligent people, who may not be able to articulate perfectly, but together we can come up with kind of, this is, this is really what this next step looks like for you. And when that fits into what we need as an organization, it's magic.

Amanda Hammett: That's, that's wonderful. I love to hear things like that. I love to hear when, when people bring that whole recruiting process in and make it magic. That's, that's amazing. So, hmm. What about when people are in the recruiting process or in the interviewing process and you're asking them these questions. Yup. Are you relying, and I hate to say this, but are you relying on exactly taking their word for it or are, how are you backing this information up? Let me, let me go about it that way.

Ben Wright: Yes. So, yeah, you know, we, I don't want to, I don't want to give us too much credit in case I, I think there's, there's a lot of people who do some really great things around there through an interview process. And I don't think that we are just completely, you know, off the grid genius in terms of what we do. But we do have a process that is really good about getting down to, okay, this is what you told me, but, but, but, but, but digging deeper, digging deeper, digging deeper, and then repetition, repetition, repetition, right? , I am a firm believer, that we can and should learn as we go through our careers. Right? , and the Times that are the challenging times, I'm the great times. Those are fantastic. And that's what we always want to talk about in the interview.

Ben Wright: Those are easy. Exactly right. But it's the, you know, it's the tough ones where we literally learned the most. And, and that's where you understand someone's character. That's what you understand their metal. And most importantly, that's where you understand them, not only how did they overcome, but what did you then take that to the next know? How did you take that to the next position and the next company? Right? And what are the learnings that you did from there? And my goodness, if you continued to kind of make those kinds of same issues in Saint Mary's, in Sanford stakes, , I hope that you learn at some point, but you're probably not going to be a good fit here, right? And come back when you, you kind of have that, that ability to be able to kind of incorporate and information. And then so, so all of that can of paint that whole picture. One of the final steps is absolutely talking to references and talking to people, , who you've worked with in the past and it's, yes, it's validating the job and the job description of the job requirements, but it's more so validating. Here's what, here's the picture that we think we've kind of painted about this individual and we ride, are we wrong? Help keep us honest on this thing.

Amanda Hammett: That's really, I, I love that you put that kind of care and effort into it. , it seems like, and I could be wrong, but it seems like you guys really take your time through the hiring process. You slow it down.

Ben Wright: Yeah, so yes, we are very, the way I describe it as we are incredibly purposeful and for studios, but we also move fast. So, uh, you know, we, we named ourselves velocity global for a reason. We moved fast in just about everything that we do. Uh, but we are in certain that we kind of purposeful and taking the right amount of time kind of through that process.

Amanda Hammett: I love that. Oh, fantastic. All right. I'm gonna switch gears a little bit. So I know that this is not this first round as a founder and you blew it out of the water. Congratulations on that. But before that, you have various other roles working for other companies. And I would imagine that you have experienced other forms of leadership and how did those shape who you became as a leader?

Ben Wright: Yeah, I often tell the story and, and I don't even know, I'd have to actually go back and do the math again because there's so many. , so take us to the grain of salt. But I think over the first 10 years of my career I worked for seven different companies. Some of that was my, of my own decision making. Some of it was, you know, market forces, like the company, was bought out. I was fired a couple of times, so that was not my choice.

Amanda Hammett: I appreciate the honesty here.

Ben Wright: Was pretty sure it, and I honestly probably deserved it in both cases, but the one where do you learn, right? What are you learning?

Amanda Hammett: You learned something apparently.

Ben Wright: because you tried to be hope. You too. , but I only raise that because you know, seven different companies under the first 10 years. I have lots of different managers, pods of different cultures and it's not how I would've scripted my career by any means. I would have scripted it really, really, definitely. But the silver lining is, it honestly gave me, you know, experience after experience after experience. And I was able to kind of look and view and absorb and say, here's the culture's, here are the themes, here are the personalities. Here's the direction. Here's the strategy that I love and here's the ones that I, that, that I really don't care for. Uh, and don't make sense to me. And honestly,

Ben Wright: In my opinion, that hasn't necessarily led to success in those organizations. Right. These things have held those companies back, these things ever really let those companies shine and grow. And so I really sort of took that collection of experience. You're not just in terms of cultures of organizations, but the leaders themselves. MMM. And there's, you know of them, of this, the seven different companies over the first 10 years, probably 10 or more, you know, bosses or leaders that I worked for in that time, you know, there's, there's probably two or three that really stand out, uh, as amazing. , there's four or five that were pretty middle of the road as far as I'm concerned. And, you know, there's a couple that I hope they, they really continue to grow and evolve as leaders and managers.

Amanda Hammett: So that was a very polite yeah.

Ben Wright: Because I'm certain there's, you know, there's probably somebody out there and maybe say the same thing about me and so I'm just hoping they would offer me that same grace.

Amanda Hammett: That's wonderful. So I am an expert on developing next-generation talent and I noticed just going through your website that you have quite the population of millennials. Do you have any Gen Z's on your staff when your team does

Ben Wright: What's Gen z? What's the oldest?

Amanda Hammett: Gen Z would just be starting to graduate from college. So the oldest would be around 22, 23

Ben Wright: so we do, so we did, we have, I couldn't tell you how many, but we have a handful of folks who are kind of just out of university, , in a handful of folks who are, who are interns with us, who are still at the university level. So, so yes, we're starting to get into that Gen z, but we do have quite a few, quite a few millennials.

Amanda Hammett: What would you say the makeup is of millennials versus everyone else?

Ben Wright: I haven't looked, but my gut says are the average age in our organization is somewhere between 28 and 30. Okay. Guy like me, that's at 42 is really dragging that mean up quite a bit. And there's a few of us there that are, you know, again really kind of do dragon that the dragon that numbers up. For better or for worse. I don't know if I like the fact that I did that, but it's just simply the fact. So you know, quite a bit. I, I would say that the majority of our, uh, of the team of our population is probably in that millennial group.

Amanda Hammett: Wonderful. Yeah. Well, I would imagine in such a fast growth arena, you guys really do need to rely on that millennial talent in particular. I mean across the world globally, it's going to be 75% by the year 2020 or 2025. Excuse me. But I'm glad to see that you guys have already reached that. A lot of the people I work with are already at 90%, so I'm not surprised by that at all. Not at all. So I'm all right. What, what do you think is the difference in the workplace or in the culture of a workplace now versus maybe when you first came in? Cause you're, you're a little, not much, but a little tiny outside of that millennial age range. I mean, just a little like, oh, I'm actually being serious. It, you know, it's more of a flow thing versus a hard date. So,

Ben Wright: Well, listen, when I started my career, we were in cubicles, right? I mean that in and of itself is, is out the door. You know, with us, the velocity global, we not only have a completely open office environment, nobody has, nobody has an assigned desk. , and, and that includes me. I don't have an office. I don't have an assigned desk, you know, we'd float. And it is totally wide open and there's, you know, there's space where you can sit at a desk there space where you can sit in the couches, you can set me at a huddle rooms, you know, it's this incredible use of space, which was so sterile when, when I came out and frankly I hated it, right? I'd go sit in my cubicle and it didn't matter how high the walls were and it felt like they were always ridiculously high.

Ben Wright: You know, you had to poke your head around just to talk to somebody and they're giving me this look like, why are you poking your head around the cubicle, the toxin, you know, the collaboration and the relationships and the bombs kind of bogus. This, you know, the millennial generation is, it is incredible and it's so powerful and I think it's an incredible boon to business because people care about each other. They know each other at a much deeper level that I feel like I did with my colleagues when I started my career. And that leads to it are really a much richer tapestry that allows you to kind of get stuff done. All right in a way you've never been able to do. , you know, and it's funny and it's ironic because we always read this stuff, you know, in the Internet generation and, and phones and social media and know these millennials are going to be able to talk to each other. I mean, it's ridiculous. It's wrong, right? It's absolutely wrong. They are, they have deeper relationships and they communicate at a, at a much deeper level than you, the than I was ever able to do. We get early in my career.

Amanda Hammett: Wow. I, that's a that's quite an accolade that you just threw out, so I appreciate that. That's wonderful. So, all right, let's talk a little bit about developing your employees because as we mentioned, a lot of these are on the younger side. You've got some interns, you've got fresh out of university all the way up the to late thirties, early forties. , what is the development path look like for you guys? Is there a set in stone? Everybody goes through this or is it more individual? How do you guys go about that?

Ben Wright: It's individual. It's very much individual. So what we do at velocity global is we have this thing called an employee development plan. EDP. and while not required, we strongly encourage everybody that goes to the process and its symbol and it's one page and it's, you know, what are my goals? and we encourage people to not think about it from a velocity, global perspective. Think about it in terms of a personal and professional perspective and almost going to take the philosophy where will thing out of the equation, what do I care about, what I want to do short term, medium term or long term. And we know that coming out of the interview process, but then once you're on board, we, we create the CDP together. Yeah. We make sure that we understand what that is and then we updated on a periodic basis because the best that we can understand from employee's perspective about what really makes them tick, really made some h.

Ben Wright: And frankly, what gets them the most passionate and an alliance. And that alignment can change and it should as you go through your career, but, but what aligns with what I want. I really want to do what I really want to accomplish. Okay. We take that and then we take a look at kind of the goals of the business, right? Where are there holes? Where do we need, you know, kind of future leaders, where do we need, you know, where do we need gaps that people are going to have to be able to go in? So it's a run this machine as you say. And then we make that alignment. And it's not, you know, it's never perfect. But the closest it gets to perfect is when both sides are being really radically candid with each other. , and went on the company side.

Ben Wright: We're saying this, here's the honest to God, the truth about what kind of this role in this direction looks like and the demands that entail. And, uh, you know, and this is why I think you can or potentially are not [inaudible] yet ready to do this job. And then on the individual side, you know, it's a two-way street, you know, our colleagues have to be ready and willing to be really open and honest like this is, this is what I want to do. And you know, the conversations that I honestly love the most is when that really doesn't have a current company Lens on it. When they say, you know, in five years' time I really want to go start a not profit or whatever the case may be. Right. Yeah. Perfect. I'm going to be really sad to lose you when that time comes, but now we know and so we can together create this directional flow that will help get you ready for that while at the same time help us accomplish the goals.

Amanda Hammett: Okay. That's amazing. I love that. That's so I'm, I'm almost me, I have so many questions and things I want to say. I love that because I think that so many people are afraid to say, this is my five-year goal, this is 10 years where I want to be, and I know it doesn't align with my company's goals. And so they keep that in and they're like, oh, I want to be a manager. I want to be a director by that point when really that's not what they want. But if you're using that as a, as an ability to not only teach them and to be able to leverage those skills in the meantime, but also prepare them to leave you, that's something you don't, you don't see a lot of. And I love that you guys are doing, I love that you're offering that to, to your employees, because one thing that you probably haven't thought of but that I'm immediately thinking of is the fact creates loyalty too.

Ben Wright: For sure.

Amanda Hammett: Absolutely. And that's something that I always hear. Millennials aren't loyal employees, their job hoppers, but if they love what they're doing and they know that you're supporting them, of course, they're going to love it and they're going to stay. That's great.

Ben Wright: Yeah, Bingo. Certainly, no surprise. Couldn't have said it any better myself, Amanda. But, uh, that was, yeah, perfectly captured. And you know, you've gotta, you've gotta walk the walk with a philosophy like this. , and what I'm really psyched about it is, you know, in a few weeks we're going to celebrate our five year anniversary as a company. And I believe that we have batted a thousand. We have every single case, , walk the walk as it relates to that, that, you know, we will work with you if you're willing to open up and kind of work with us. And, and we have never, there have never been negative consequences of someone has ever opened up and said, this is my five-year path. Right. And so, so the data has proven, just think about us as an organization that we have shown you can, you can open up right. Not Everybody has the courage to do that. And I get it. And sometimes we come with prior professional baggage, right. And you can't stop that, but all we can do is give, you know, obviously, try to create the right culture and environment ourselves. , and then my hope is that everybody sees that, hey, this is actually a really great way to get people to buy in, to be a part of a team, to remain loyal, but also, you know, create that goodwill and help them get to that next stage in their career, whether it's within this company or not. And so the navy then goes forth and become the leaders that we all hope they'll do.

Amanda Hammett: This is, this is an amazing and beautiful conversation and I'm sad that it's almost over and I don't even know so many other things to ask about. So. All right, we touched on this a little bit, but let's be very specific here. If you had an early in career employee come to you, And I don't know, are they saying, are they going, I don't know, it's up to you. What would be the one piece number one piece of advice that you would give them

Ben Wright: Early in their career employees.

Amanda Hammett: Early in their career? So they've been in the workforce full time, less than five years.

Ben Wright: Okay. So the advice that I would give to them is, and this is, I'm kind of thinking back about my own path is that have a plan, right? Have a plan and work would be, I mean, give your all to that plan, right? Give you all that plan and give your all to whatever it is that you're doing. And you have to do it every single day, right? You really can't, you can't take days off. Don't get me wrong, you need to take days to sharpen your ax. I'm not saying that when you come to work or when you're following that plan, you gotta, you know, you got to suit up and show up every single day when you're doing that and be purposeful about it. , because that's what kind of builds the right habits to get there and have that plan, but yet, don't be so headstrong and you know, heads down about that plan that you miss the incredible opportunities and promises as they come. You know, again, if my own career path is, is any sort of example, there've been a, there's been several instances along the way where opportunities were presented and if I hadn't been paying attention and if I hadn't been willing to take the leap, you know, just like kind of this current, you know, organization that I'm running today, it would have been a very different path. I'm sure it would have been great, but you know, you gotta be willing to take that plunge when the opportunities come.

Amanda Hammett: That's great advice. Very solid. All right, one last question. This is something I'm asking all of the leaders, what is your favorite leadership book?

Ben Wright: My favorite leadership book. And that's tough to only name one, but I think it's probably the five dysfunctions of the team. Okay.

Ben Wright: Ah, yeah, you pull it off the shelve. Yes. Yeah, it was plugged. yeah, it is just, it is so quick. It assembles it. It is so well written. , and into those lessons you just, you just see, you can take with your time and time and time again. It just came up in conversation with some of the executive team yesterday.

Amanda Hammett: Oh, I love it. I love it. Well, this is actually the field guides, so if you haven't gotten nice, try that one out too. I'm writing this down. , well, wonderful. Thank you so much Ben, for being on the show. Thank you for sharing and being honest and really sharing with the world about how awesome the culture is at velocity global, but also about what you guys are building. I think that that's really amazing and important and so thank you for sharing with us.

Ben Wright: Well thank you. It's an honor and we're hiring, so come check it out.

Amanda Hammett: Right. We will link to the hiring page for velocity global, which obviously I think it's a pretty awesome place to be if you make it through the cuts. So thank you again and we'll talk to you soon. It's a pleasure. Thanks so much. Thanks so much for joining us for this episode of the next generation Rockstars, where we have discussed all recruiting and retaining that next generation of talent. So I'm guessing that you probably learned a tremendous amount from this week's rock star leader. And if that is the case, don't keep me a secret, share this episode with the world, but really share it with your friends, with your colleagues, because they also need to learn how to recruit and retain this next generation of talent because these skills are crucial to business success moving forward.

Amanda Hammett: Now, of course, I want you to keep up to date every single week as we are dropping each and every episode. So be sure to subscribe to your favorite podcast platform of your choice, and you will see the next generation rock stars show up just for you.

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.