Employee Referrals and Kevin Bacon – Take Advantage of the Six Degrees of Separation

Jeff Meyer serves as Director of Solutions for ThreeWill, bringing leadership on consistently delivering great experiences to our clients, partners and associates. In this role, he leads relationship building with prospects, clients and alliance partners.

“Six Degrees of Separation” is the concept that all living things are connected by no more than six links or degrees of separation. Take any two people on the globe, and it could be possible to link them through six people that are connected to each other.

If you subscribe to this theory, then think about applying it to recruiting and hiring. Most people have worked with others we enjoyed collaborating with and some we didn’t enjoy working alongside too much. Wouldn’t it be great to work with your favorites again? Why is it so hard to find top quality candidates? If we’re all separated by only six other people, the trick is to figure out how you’re connected to the right person to hire.

ThreeWill has an employee referral bonus program. If you refer someone you know to interview for a job and they are hired, you get some money when they start and a larger payout after they’ve completed nine months with the firm. It’s a great way to help us find good people to join the company. The quality of candidates coming from our employee referral program generally fit our culture well, because someone knew them and knew they’d probably feel at home working here. Every company that’s growing and needs people should consider doing an employee referral bonus program.

The “Six Degrees of Separation” theory has been around since 1929 and it’s “friend of a friend” hypothesis is a foundation for many of our modern social networks. LinkedIn, for example, categorizes 1st, 2nd or 3rd degree connections to recommend people you may know or want to connect with for business opportunities. A 2nd connection is a person connected to someone you know as a 1st connection, so they have mutual connections with you. Following that logic, 3rd connections are people you might want to meet since they know someone you know.

The key to success in getting employees to spend time recruiting for your organization is more than just advertising the incentive on referrals. It’s a good idea to show your team how to search their connections and proactively think about recruiting on a regular basis. We all have connections with friends, family or business associates we’ve known throughout our careers. But, remembering who’ve you’ve met who might know something about Agile Development processes, for example, is difficult. Besides, if I made a connection 12 years ago and I’ve not stayed in touch all that often, the person likely has gained new skills and experiences since we first met.

LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (or MySpace, if you’re a musician I guess) are the keys to getting started finding someone you know. If you search keywords across your connections or friends, you might be surprised what you find. I had no idea, my old high school buddy, who majored in music in college was now an IT guy! Really?!?!  Hmmm… I should ping him and see how he’s doing. There he is on LinkedIn with an Information Team Lead title.

Just for fun, I took a sampling of 20 coworkers LinkedIn statistics. If all of them used LinkedIn to search for candidates for our job openings, how many people could we reach? It was astounding to find out that 20 people, myself included, had 11,290 1st connections. Granted, a small percentage of those connections could be candidates for the specific job openings we have. But, if we add in 2nd connections, those people that our 1st connections know, the number grew to 2,145,100! Another 4,516,000 people are added to the mix coming from 3rd connections. When you add up all those connections, just across 20 coworkers on LinkedIn, the total number of potential candidates for our open jobs might come from a pool of 6,672,390 candidates. That’s the equivalent population of what would be the second largest city in the United States, just below Los Angeles, CA at 8.5 million or so. And, we’re talking about only 3 degrees of separation, not 6.

Malcolm Gladwell is quoted as saying, “Six degrees of separation doesn’t mean that everyone is linked to everyone else in just six steps. It means that a very small number of people are linked to everyone else in a few steps, and the rest of us are linked to the world through those special few. Congratulations to Danny Ryan, here at ThreeWill, for having 2756 connections on LinkedIn. You’re our special one(but we knew that already.) You have more connections on LinkedIn than anyone else in our company. We expect to see some referrals from you, buddy. You referred me – so thank you for that!

Also, just for fun, maybe you’ve heard of the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game? The goal is to link any actor to Kevin Bacon through no more than six connections, where two actors are connected if they were in a movie or commercial together. Go to to check your answers and see the actor’s “Bacon Number”. This has nothing to do with recruiting unless you are a member of the Screen Actor’s Guild, but it’s a great example of the power of connections.

So, we’ve spent all this time the last few years building up our social media with connections, friends, and post after post, time to capitalize on it. Earn a referral bonus, grow your company and work with people who are like-minded. Recruiting is everybody’s job. Why? Because you’re the best recruiters available.


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Jeff MeyerEmployee Referrals and Kevin Bacon – Take Advantage of the Six Degrees of Separation

The Ultimate Question 2.0 and the Net Promoter Score

Tommy serves as the President at ThreeWill. In this role, he works with his leadership team to hire the best people, find the right business opportunities, and ensure that ThreeWill delivers for our clients on projects.

Danny Ryan:Hello and welcome to the ThreeWill podcast. This is your host Danny Ryan and I’m here with Tommy Ryan. How’s it going Tommy?


Tommy Ryan:It’s going well Danny.


Danny Ryan:Good. Today we have a book that we’re going to go through. A book that I read through recently. Actually read through a couple of times. It is called The Ultimate Question 2.0 and it is about Net Promoter Score. You’ve run into Net Promoter Score a couple of times with our clients, is that right?


Tommy Ryan:Have yeah, definitely in the customer experience or customer service departments. They really care about that NPS score.


Danny Ryan:Cool and we have up on our … for many years as the Microsoft partner they would as part of becoming a partner and getting a certification around being a partner or certain level of a partner, they would have you take a TNS Global, which is some organization and actually go through and interview or have your customers take a survey about you. One of the things I brag about because I’m often bragging about us, but the last four times we took it, they would tell you what percentage of the Microsoft partners you were the top part of and we were the top 5% the last four times we took it. Good job to you in delivery and for doing great work on projects.


Tommy Ryan:Yeah, it feels crazy to be in the top 5%.


Danny Ryan:We’ll take it. So what happened is, the reason why I mention that is, that’s gone away and so I wanted to find some way of capturing how are we doing on projects. I ran into this by hearing about it sort of as a third party from projects and then seeing that it was something that we were starting to do for some of our clients. I picked up the book. I was at the library and I saw the book and I picked it up and I read through it the first time and I liked it so-


Tommy Ryan:There are still libraries?


Danny Ryan:There are still libraries, yes there are. They’re great places, Tommy, you might want to check one out sometime.


Tommy Ryan:My library’s audible.


Danny Ryan:I picked it up, read it through, liked it so much that I ended up ordering the book off of Amazon and having it delivered and then I marked it all up. I wanted to go through the book with you. For folks who are listening or haven’t gone through the book, this probably will serve as a little bit of a summary of what’s covered in the book. This is done by-


Tommy Ryan:Cliff Notes, what I liked in college.


Danny Ryan:Yes, you’re very familiar with Cliff Notes aren’t you? It’s done by a couple of folks from Bain Consulting, so this is, I’m not even going to try to pronounce his last names because I’m not going to. But I wanted to get us started with sort of what is a definition of what NPS is. I’ll just use NPS as an abbreviation for Net Promoter Score. The key question for this is on a zero to ten scale, how likely is it that you would recommend us or this product, service, brand to a friend or colleague? That’s the net promoter, sort of the question. That’s the ultimate question that we’re asking people.


The after that, you can do a follow-up question to this as well, which is what’s the primary reason for your score? So that tells you a little bit about why did they give 10, why did they give you eight, why did they give you a five. You’re trying to understand the main reason behind that. Then what you get are promoters. Promoters are people who respond either a nine or a ten and those are typically people whose lives have been enriched by the relationship with the company, so they’re loyal customers.


Then you have a seven or an eight, is what’s considered a passive and then you have detractors, which is anything lower than that, so a six or below. What you end up doing is taking from this and you can calculate your Net Promoter score, which is the percentage of promoters minus the percentage of detractors. So you could have the case of having a couple of folks who are passives and that would lower your score because obviously the percentage of promoters would go down at that point in time. In general, anybody that has a positive net promoter score is a good score. They have some well known published scores that are out there for published industries.


I looked through, there was a forum that was created for net promoter score called NPS loyalty forum, it’s good to see a lot of our clients are in this forum, but as a group of companies that were using this basically giving some feedback and input into net promoter score. One of the things that I liked about this is, is in the introduction, the how likely question is merely, and I’m quoting, this is a quote from page 14 of the book, “the how likely question is merely a practical shorthand for the question of whether you are observing the golden rule, and that’s treating others like you would like to be treated.” I thought that was a very insightful thing.


If I jump into that so, I just hit the introduction, one of the things that they get started with is bad profits, good profits, and the ultimate question. They start it out with “we live and work in a web savvy world in which customers have near perfect information. Only companies that put customer at the very center of their operations can successfully compete in such a world. Many companies also want to make themselves more mission driven than profit driven.” That’s part of, I think for you and I, last couple of weeks talking about our values and what those values are is more driven around the mission of what we’re doing, than just the profits.


Tommy Ryan:Definitely. Definitely.


Danny Ryan:The concept of what they call bad profit, so you probably have experienced this before, which is there is a bad type of growth. If you could imagine let’s say for instance, I’ve experienced this in the past where I have an overage on my data for, I remember I bought a card for my laptop and in one night it did a backup of all my stuff and I ended up the next day, getting an email the morning after and logging in and noticing that I had, it was like over $3000 in overage charges.


Tommy Ryan:Oops.


Danny Ryan:Now the company will make a profit off of that.


Tommy Ryan:How did that work in your expense sheet? Did anyone notice that?


Danny Ryan:Yeah did anyone notice that. I think Linda would notice that, yes. There is some mad negotiation skills we ended up working that down but I think they realized that this was a … well one of the things that’s interesting from this is that I did have … I recently from my home internet had a similar situation and I noticed I was going to get dinged again and midway through this, they changed their policy on it and they gave you three months of, basically three months of mulligans. Which, I think they did this-


Tommy Ryan:Right. That’s Comcast?


Danny Ryan:-yeah this is Comcast. They ended up doing this because I think they probably got feedback on the net promoter score saying like I wouldn’t recommend you guys because I got overage charges when I started using your service so I have a feeling that, that was a part of the feedback cycle that they were getting from customers. Which, was really neat to see them do that. “Whenever a customer feels misled, mistreated, ignored, or coerced, profits from that customer are bad.” Okay.


We don’t want bad profits, right, because those folks could easily … they’re looking for an alternative at that point.


Tommy Ryan:Yeah, that’s not how you build loyal customers, for sure.


Danny Ryan:Yes, absolutely.


Tommy Ryan:No one likes to feel tricked into a service. They want to feel good at the end of the day that it’s been something they want to buy again.


Danny Ryan:Interesting to see, they cover a couple of companies that, some pretty well-known companies in this case. For instance, Vanguard, this is a quote, “Not long ago vanguard reduced prices by as much as one-third for customers who had recently made large investments or had maintained healthy balances for an extended period of time.” So they’re really trying to take care of those folks who are their core business and basically there are a lot of benefits that they ended up seeing coming from this.


Another one that in the pursuit of good profits, “Amazon could easily afford to advertise more than it does. Instead, it channels its investments into free shipping, lower prices and service enhancements. Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has said if you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Costco, the leader in customer loyalty among warehouse retailers rocketed up from startup to the fortune 50 in less than 20 years while spending next to nothing on advertising and marketing.” Don’t get any ideas, Tommy.


“Its customers are so loyal that the company can rely on customer word of mouth for growth.” How many people do you talk about like your experience at Costco, some of the bargains that you got. I typically, you’re hearing from other people about …


Tommy Ryan:That’s right.


Danny Ryan:You hear from other people about the return policy. You’re like Costco will take anything back and that leads to these conversations with other folks.


Tommy Ryan:Frank Ryan uses that all the time.


Danny Ryan:Shout out to Frank. Let’s see, yes. So Isadore Sharp, founder and chairman of the Four Seasons hotel group, “Our success all boils down to following the golden rule. Golden rule behavior is the basis for loyalty and loyalty is the key for profitable growth.” I had sort of mixed two quotes there, but I thought that was interesting. The second was from Enterprise, another company that really focuses in on net promoter score. Good stuff.


“What is the question that can tell good profits from bad? Simplicity itself, how likely is that you would recommend this company or this product, or this friend to a colleague. The metric that produces this is the net promoter score.” Cool. So jumping further into this, “Reflecting on our findings, we realize that they made perfect sense. Loyalty after all, is a strong and value-laden concept. Usually applied to family, friends, and country. People may be loyal to a company that they buy from, but they may not describe what they feel in those terms. If they really love doing business with a particular provider of goods and services, however, what’s the most natural thing for them to do? Of course, recommend that company to someone they care about.”


So again, this is … you’ve taken then … what’s nice about this is taking the really long surveys that we’ve typically had and just narrowing it down to … on our customer satisfaction, it’s really narrowed down to three questions and having really short format for this is a nice thing. You’re really trying to figure out what is that key question we should ask. Cool.


Tommy Ryan:Yeah and I noticed that on GoToMeeting, at the end of some of your meetings they’d pop that up and you’d say ooh, that’s the net promoter score right there, in action.


Danny Ryan:“NPS merely measures the quality of a company’s relationship with its current customers and high-quality relationships are necessary, but not a sufficient condition for profitable growth.” So here they describe some things that you also need to pay attention to maintaining a profitable business. They’re saying how important that is. One of the other things, I’m sort of jumping off of that I got out of this book, is this gives something just do everybody can measure their financials and that’s a very … you have hard numbers there and for this, they’re saying to monitor this just like you might monitor your financials. You want to know what your NPS score is because it’s really telling you how are you doing as a company.


Chapter five, the Rules of measurements. They notice, they point that most surveys are too long. “They create unnecessary complexity and waste customers’ time. They are design to generate research reports, not daily front line learning and behaviors. They are often anonymous, which eliminates the possibility of closing the loop with individual customers. They are constructed in a language the researcher not the customer. Response rates are typically low so the results are often unreliable.”


I think that was one of the things that as we’re doing this, it’s not like we’re having customer interactions, like thousands each day, we’re typically wrapping up projects and have two or three sponsors on those projects. So principle one with the rules of measurement, “Ask the ultimate question and very little else. Choose a scale that works and stick to it.” We’re doing a zero to ten scale. It’s interesting that they have the zero in there because everybody knows you have the concept of one, which is first place, and that can sometimes throw people off but if you have a zero in there, they realize that’s the lowest. So that helps understand, break up some confusion about that.


Tommy Ryan:That’s good idea.


Danny Ryan:“Aim for a high response.” What was interesting is they go into some of the rules of measurement and actually saying sometimes the people who wouldn’t give you the tens will not respond back to the survey. So your real net promoter score is typically lower than what you get back because they’re not thrilled with your service so you can factor that in as you look at your NPS. So you’re going around bragging about it, but most likely people who don’t have good things to say about you won’t even take the time to do the survey.


They give some …


Tommy Ryan:What about being anonymous or not? What’s the rule of thumb there?


Danny Ryan:They issue I mentioned earlier where you can do, they suggest doing closed feedback loops on this and that’s one of the things there’s no way for you to do a closed feedback loop unless you have the contact information for that person. You have to do that in order to be able to have that processed for follow-up.


Tommy Ryan:Okay.


Danny Ryan:A lot of these, like if you … one case they talked about, like the Apple store, if you go in there and after you’re done you rate them, you’ll get follow-up from the store manager about your experience if you put in a negative experience. There’s no way they could do that unless, well Apple does it because they track everything on you with … you need to have some way of following up and closing the loop. That’s why I don’t even have an option for ours on our website to do it anonymously. I’m sure you can also, you could use anonymous surveys if you wish to.


Apple retail, I just mentioned them. “The retail division’s mission, he declared, was to the enrich the lives of customers and employees. The stores would be places for people to gather and learn, not just buy. There be designed to encourage an ongoing relationship with customers, not merely a one-off purchase transaction. The delighted customers, Jonson believed, would tell their friends and colleagues about their wonderful experience at the store. He envisioned the neighborhood surrounding each Apple store become populated with customer advocates who will promote the brand and act as missionaries to help convert PC using friends and neighbors into Mac enthusiasts”


Sounds religious. We’re sending out missionaries. “Mission of Apple retail, similarly is to enrich lives and a vital role for NPS is rigorously measuring how consistently the division achieves this mission. When customers score their experience at a store a nine or a ten, Apple can assure that Apple’s employees have enriched those customers’ lives and in so have enriched their own.”


About halfway through the book. Getting through here. One of the things that was interesting is they say you can use the NPS score for employees, which they call the ENPS. Your employees, as you can imagine the question there is how likely would you recommend to your friends and family working at ThreeWill. It’s a question about internally looking at this. Apple retail uses this, Rackspace uses this. They have settled on one central question to determine employee engagement, on a scale of zero to ten, how likely is it that you would recommend this company as a palace to work?


I thought that was interesting that you can use it internally as well to see how well you’re … internally doing. Close the loop, chapter eight is closing the loop with customers. There’s a story in here about mailing from a cable TV provider calling in and you can … the computerized voice begin the survey with these words “Please provide feedback on the performance of your representative. I ignore that request because the excel, the rap excel that what she had trained to do.” Basically this was something where the issue wasn’t … the person, the issue was the process and the support system behind the person and understanding that. I think we’ve talked about this a couple weeks ago or maybe even a couple months ago, of how we were trying to buy a service and it wasn’t so much that person but it was the whole support system behind it, and you needed to have some way of understanding that there was an issue.


In this case, they were talking about how are we going to respond to this. The whole, the end of that questionnaire ends up with we really value your business and this guy, he’s upset because you dealt with a very bad experience and it’s almost like it puts really bad … tastes in their mouth if you’re saying, if you’ve had a bad experience and then telling them, we really care about your business.


Then he talks about an experience with Verizon Wireless where he put in a negative response and he wanted to see what the feedback, he’s put a three out of ten and “A few days later I found a message on my home answering machine from a manager at the Verizon store where I had purchased my cell phone. I called her back, she explained that she had received my feedback and she wondered if I could take a few minutes to discuss how she might improve my experience.” So that’s one of the things with this, if you do get any detractors, it gives you or I the chance to go back to them and talk with them and say, well what is it that we could do better.


Tommy Ryan:Right.


Danny Ryan:Part of this we cover in the retrospectives I think as well as getting some of that feedback but interesting to read that. Then there’s a section on creating customer communities groups of people that provide regular feedback on the company’s products and services. For a lot of the net promoter score, the customer service stuff that we’ve done, has it been typically internal communities or external communities or what does that look like so far? For some of the companies that we’re … I know I’m doing a lot of talking here.


You mentioned that we’ve helped out with a net promoter score for some of our customers, has it been for customer facing or has it been employee facing or a combination of the two or what does it look like so far?


Tommy Ryan:Customer facing, and then there’s one solution that is really employee driven but based on customer experiences so what they’re hearing either as someone in the store, is someone just out there in the world listening or getting feedback about their services and ways to improve. So they’re essentially submitting that as a suggestion and having a closed loop process to make sure they get back and close that loop.


Danny Ryan:Nice.


Tommy Ryan:Also, using the NPS to justify certain projects, to say this will help this aspect, that is driven poor NPS scores.


Danny Ryan:Got you. We’ve got through the majority of the book, the last part of it is really about some of the barriers that you’ll run into when trying to put this into place. A lot of it you need to have the management of the company behind it, which is a lot … I think you guys were … both you, Bruce, and JM have all been very behind this as a way of measuring and as a way of understanding how were doing on projects. You really need to have that as a part of the process of what we do.


I know I’ve been trying to, I’ve been tying this into as were wrapping up projects to go and do, get our net promoter score out of that and it’s been wonderful. A part of this I think that is great as well is that customers know that you’re doing this and they know that there’s going to be a chance for them to provide input, hopefully positive, but also if you do have a bad experience, that we care about it. I think when you’re working with smaller companies, one of the things that’s really nice about that is you know that ultimately the owners of the company really care about providing a great service.


I think this is one of the ways that were really checking every single project that we did a good job.


Tommy Ryan:Yeah, if you care about it you would measure. I think we find that we have the best management around a concept or idea or a value based on measuring it. It’s great that we’re doing that. I think we’ve cared about it over the years and tried to collect that information one way or the other but I think the NPS score is a very nice simple way to do that and a standard way to do that. It’s nice that these surveys have gone down to, we used to have like a two page survey, now it’s down to three questions. I think that we get more participation that way and we don’t overburden our customer with filling information that we can’t really act on and it’s just data.


Danny Ryan:Yep. Some of the things that I’ve done just to make it, just to encourage people a little bit more is like I have a Starbucks gift card, just to say thank you for taking the time to take the survey, on the form as well as it’s got a question about are you able to receive gift cards. I don’t want to get them in trouble with their corporate if they’re not able receive any gift cards. That’s just been another way I think of a real way of somebody saying hey we’re going to take the time to send a gift card as a follow up as well, helps promote this.


Tommy Ryan:Yeah it allows people to quote, you’re giving them a thank you to fill it out. The only thing that you worry about is does that impact what they would rate you? I don’t know, I haven’t thought through that process.


Danny Ryan:If it’s just … if it was $100 bucks, or something that was … it’s more of just a gesture would be what I … and id be interested to hear if people want to comment on this. For me it was more of, I’ve just seen this used before. Other marketers use the small gift card, the thank you with a coffee type of concept and it’s easy enough to download it and put it onto your card and the next day they’re buying a scone and a coffee thanks to you because they took a little bit of time out of their day. It’s not a great amount of money, but it’s something that’s just a way of saying thank you.


Tommy Ryan:Yeah, I didn’t know if the book said anything about that.


Danny Ryan:No, no, you know whether they said to try to, try different things with getting participation and so whatever it is that you want to try, so that was one of the things I wanted to try to see how that would … it’s not like I’m saying I’m going to send you a gift card if you give us a ten, they do say there’s parts or chapters that are tricky.


Tommy Ryan:I get this from Toyota, I’m sorry to say that, but you get the service department that tells you, you need to, I mean they almost tell you, you need to give the highest score. Or you get this question.


Danny Ryan:Oh threatened you.


Tommy Ryan:We, you know you get this question of why would not you wouldn’t give me a ten? Just let me know if there’s anything that I need to do to make sure that you provide me a ten. I don’t like that.


Danny Ryan:I will not give you a ten because you asked me that question. It seems subversive.


Tommy Ryan:Yeah it’s almost like a guilt trip that if you don’t give me a ten I’m going to get in trouble and at the end of the day, they should want to get honest feedback so they can know when things are not going so well for their customers. Otherwise, they get tens all the time and then the customer goes away and they don’t know why.


Danny Ryan:It’s funny because even their companies that will audit your NPS basically makes sure you’ve got a sound system put into place and some folks will try to trick the system where they’ll like not give a customer that they know of has had a bad experience will not give them a way of giving feedback. That’s a way of gaming the system.


Tommy Ryan:That’s bad.


Danny Ryan:It needs to be consistent, like for us, I’m trying to make sure that on every project, as we’re sending out the last invoice that attached into that and we’ll get this feedback on every single project. It was interesting to read. Anything else that you’ve experienced so far with net promoter score? I know I’m starting to cover it in the company meetings where I’m doing it both overall NPS, which I think is like a 94. Which, is wonderful to see. Then for that quarter, I’m giving a quarterly NPS, which was lower because we had some people who were eights who we didn’t interact with that much. I thought that was kind of interesting. We had some small interactions with some folks and they filled out the survey and I think if we did have a full fledged project with them, we might get a higher score.


Or get a nine or a ten but it’s just interesting to see that.


Tommy Ryan:Yeah it is because we know we’re not perfect so we want to hear that when we’re not so we can work on improving and you can’t improve unless you get honest feedback.


Danny Ryan:Yep. This is really rewarding to see this. I’ve liked hearing back from folks, especially the quotes that I’m hearing back as far as why they gave us a ten. It feeds me, I think it feeds you and it’s really nice to hear that they want to work with us again if they have the opportunity to work with us again, which is …


Tommy Ryan:A big part of what gets us up in the morning is hearing that. Definitely.


Danny Ryan:Awesome. Thank you so much, Tommy for taking the time.


Tommy Ryan:Like your socks.


Danny Ryan:Oh you, oh yeah. Let me see yours?


Tommy Ryan:These are repeats


Danny Ryan:I think these are new.


Tommy Ryan:They look new to me.


Danny Ryan:Yeah, I’m a little crazy. Thank you everybody for taking the time to listen to this. One of the great things about working with ThreeWill is that we will get your net promoter score at the end of the projects. We do care about successful projects. Especially if you’re doing anything share a point related, technology wise. We’re a great company to come and talk to. Definitely drop by our website and check out our services but thank you for doing this Tommy and thank you everybody for listening. Have a wonderful day. Take care. Bye, bye.


Tommy Ryan:Adios.


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Tommy RyanThe Ultimate Question 2.0 and the Net Promoter Score

ThreeWill Shared Values – Passion

Tommy serves as the President at ThreeWill. In this role, he works with his leadership team to hire the best people, find the right business opportunities, and ensure that ThreeWill delivers for our clients on projects.

Danny:Hello and welcome to the ThreeWill podcast.


This is your host Danny Ryan, and I’m here with Tommy Ryan. How’s it going Tommy?




Danny:Chilly willy.


Tommy:That’s all I can say is chilly.


Danny:Yes it is, it’s a bit cold outside.


So we’re wrapping up today with the last shared value. And that shared value is passion. And we love what we do and working at ThreeWill. And I’ll read to you from our website what we have about passion.


We value having an environment where people choose to come to work because they’re passionate about what they do. We realize that our company exists because we provide a service or solution that has a positive economic difference to our client. That being said, we always challenge ourselves to stay in the balance between making money and having fun at work. A significant proportion of your time is at work, so it is important that you make the most of it. Having passion with what you do, and fun while you’re doing it. What do you think about that Tom?


Tommy:It’s an interesting value that I think in the early days we did not have. And I remember refactoring the values, trying to tease out and simplify them. And this last one of passion, it is a value that we have but we never called it out explicitly. We talk about the intersection of your skill, passion and business need when we look at what people do at ThreeWill. But we wanted to call this out because it is that balancing factor to what’s work about? It’s not all about getting the work done but having fun as you do it. And so it’s an important value, it’s a value that I think we seek out in the interview process. We want to have people that are passionate about what they’re doing, so we can continue to have a culture that’s more of a carrot versus stick type culture. So I think that value is important that we call it out to recognize that without that the rest of the values, I think, kind of collapse without having it in balance with passion.


Danny:Now the making money and having fun, isn’t that from Gore? Is that where that came from?


Tommy:Yeah that did come from Gore. It’s kind of the bottom line as a business, we’re here to make money and have fun. And any business endeavor, there’s that money aspect. And sometimes it gets honed in just on the money aspect, so they try to keep that in balance with making money and having fun.


I think people have fun when they’re doing something they’re passionate about. So if we’re focusing in around our passions, what are the types of solutions we like to provide. What types of roles we like to play, as it comes to being on a project team. What kind of problems we like to solve. And if we’re honing in on those things that we really love to do, and it pulls the passion that we need to have to keep on enduring past the challenging parts of our work and our projects.


Danny:Yeah and I think one of the things you and I always look at is what type of environment are we creating and I think we start this out with where we’re trying to create an environment where people come to work because they’re passionate about what they do. It gets them up in the morning, they’re excited about it, they want to come in and really focus and they’re excited about what they’re doing each day.


Tommy:Right. Yeah and I think sometimes you get caught up in the minutiae of what you’re doing and it can drag you down but you have to step back and say overall what am I doing here? Yeah I’m sitting inside of Outlook all day, in front of Word and Excel, and if I think about just the skill of being able to manage email and write proposals and contracts, that’s not really what I’m passionate about, it’s more of the creating the environment to be able to do the work that we do, and that starts with that sales process. So that helps me stay passionate about I do because if I were just doing contracts and managing email, and it wasn’t in an environment and in a company that’s doing things that I believe in, then gosh that would be very painful. To come into work every day and just open up Excel and PowerPoint and Word and Outlook.


In a sense, starting this whole thing out, there was a lot of passion around visual studio and understanding technologies, and that’s evolved over time. And so it isn’t visual studio, it is different tools, and I’m not passionate about those tools, I’m passionate about the outcomes of having conversations that lead to the opportunity to show what we can do well.


Danny:Yep. And I think one of the things that over the last couple of years with, in my evolving role and starting to do marketing things, it’s something I feel like I’m passionate about and want to learn more about. And I appreciate you created the environment here for me to branch out and try some new things. I think you’re always trying to tune into what gets people really motivated and trying to create the situation where they can go after something. I think this has a lot to do with as well, our first podcast was a roles versus responsibilities and the whole titles, I guess it was more like titles versus responsibilities. And something where people want to carve out something and go after something and creating that type of environment as opposed to I’m doing something because I have this title.


Tommy:Right, yeah and probably the thing that might be my favorite thing to do here at ThreeWill is the culture, and doing things that impact the culture and keep the culture healthy and alive and so the people aspect of understanding what people are passionate about and trying to get that matched up with the projects that we do and the roles that need to be played on projects. That interests me and there’s probably things I don’t need to do in my role to help those aspects of our business, but the lovely thing is we’re not forcing people into boxes where they have to stay within one container or one role and one set of responsibilities. We want people to surface up and contribute where we have need in the organization, and if they have skill and they do it with passion then we get out of the way, we let that happen.


And I think with you with the marketing side of things, you’ve got both the skill and the passion, there’s definitely the need there. So it makes it easy, it makes it where I’m not coming in and trying to give structure to you or give structure to Bruce, or give structure to anyone. Everybody is filling a role that they feel like they can do and they’re passionate about it, and that just makes an environment that it’s easier to say I want to get up in the morning because we’re individually making choices to want to contribute.


And I was having an interview yesterday, and it’s very weird that I’m looking for an executive assistant, it doesn’t seem like I should have an executive assistant. But that’s the title that people use out in the world and what I’m looking for is someone that’s passionate about organizing around email and counter appointments and scheduling things, and they get a kick out of it. And they happen to have a title in this world of executive assistant. I might come up with a new title for that but as we’re searching, that’s the role that we’re looking for. And you know it’s one of those things that… Actually I’m losing track of my thought there, but…


Danny:I guess along with that, how do you, because you were talking about this earlier, how do you find when we’re interviewing people, what’s sort of the way that we find out they’re passionate about, really passionate about, because the typical person coming in for a job, you say I’m passionate about doing this. How do you really find that out?


Tommy:You reminded me of what I was trying to lead it to, but since we kind of let them know what’s important for them to realize is it relates to our culture and what’s going to make them successful, and I said we’re an environment that it’s great that we encourage self motivated people, and we provide a lot of freedom, we don’t put people in boxes. But then there’s people that want to have those boxes, the people that want that structure, and that can be very stressful, very difficult to work in an environment like that. So I’ve indicated to people, if you want to have that structure, that’s not bad, I mean that’s just the way you want to have your work environment set up.


In here, we’re attracting people that are self motivated people. And to be in the business of consulting, I think that’s the right thing to do. I think we have to have an environment that we’re allowing people to use their creativity to solve the problem in the most effective way. And along the way there is structure, there’s the structure of choosing what technologies we’re going to use, what types of projects we go after, there’s plenty of natural structure there. But for the individual’s potential to contribute. You know if someone comes in as an executive assistant and they’re doing some junior sales type work, if they have the passion and the skill to do that and we find we don’t have as many people as we need to be doing that, we’re not going to stop you from helping at that level.


So you know, for some people that’s awesome. I can learn some new things, I’m not going to be stuck only being able to schedule appointments and follow up on email, but I can do some other things that will help me grow. So I think that’s a benefit but also for some people it can be a drawback, of I don’t want to come into work not knowing what I’m going to do next. And that’s a valid thing to be concerned about but as a person that’s got a lot of self initiative, they like having that open space to be able to create what do I want to do next?


Danny:Well I think there is diversity in the types of things people are passionate about, and it has to do with, some people might be… You know we always joke around with Linda, she would be really excited to be a collector of money at the toll booth, that would make her excited because of the structure that’s a part of that. Now that would drive me nuts. To do the same thing over and over again. But you have to recognize I think there’s diversity in what people are passionate about. That what gets them up in the morning is different for you than what it is for me. And I think trying to create this organization, you’re trying to find different people and their passions, and putting them in… Because there are some things that just need to be done and require a lot of structure to get them done. And finding the right people to go into those positions is part of our role and part of what we need to do to create a diverse team at ThreeWill.


Tommy:Right and I think that organization structure, you know, working on accounts payable, receivable, some of the HR things. And this executive assistant role, it requires a lot of structure. I think the thing that’s nice about a Linda, a Jan, a Barbra, they’re naturally wanting to create that structure. And you know for Linda, from day one, she’s just taken things and gone after them and created the structure she needs around her to be able to get her job done well.


So I think the thing that I was trying to emphasize the other day was you might go into a big corporate environment and there’s high structure for what your role is, and what you’re allowed to do. And at the end of the day we try to provide the ability, for a lot of people, to not be pigeon holed into one type of role and responsibility, but to be able to explore others. And as a company we do have structure, from an agile process, from templates for estimation. And I don’t think we get rid of structure as it relates to the processes and how we get business done. I mean that’s so important. I mean that’s kind of the theme aspect of what we do, is the day to day things, that we don’t want to reinvent the wheel with certain things because AutoTask is wherever we’re putting our time. You know we’re not trying to reinvent that all the time, we’re trying to create structure around that so people know what to do for some of those mechanical things.


I think what we try to do to create some freedom is around how you contribute within that whole mechanism of what we do as a business and allowing people to say okay today, yeah all the time people look at me as an infrastructure engineer, maybe I want to try development or people look at me as a sales person, maybe I want to try marketing. And you know, give that opportunity. And you know other companies do that, it’s quote lateral moves, within organizations. And we try to create that environment of it’s more important for you to work on what you’re passionate about than, quote, climbing the ladder. And you know being a flat organization, there’s not really much of a ladder. It’s more of what am I passionate about doing and then how can I hone that skill and get better and better at that? And we try to create that environment that you can do that.


But I think it has to come from self motivation. And probably our biggest fault is we don’t create a lot of structure to tell people what is the next step, and we got to keep that in balance. We can’t, you know, not look at ways to help people in the way they grow. I mean our sponsors I think is a way to do that, and we try to keep on top of sponsors to make sure they’re doing the reviews, and the reviews are very simple. The retrospect is asking those three questions of, what am I doing well, what can I improve and what should I stop doing, just so you can have that conversation of how can I grow? And the sponsor supports that.


Danny:Excellent. Excellent.


Yeah I think a lot of the structure for the different teams comes around the process that you use, you know the product backlog and the spreads and organizing around that. Inside this environment I think there’s a lot of self organizing teams, so Bruce works with the right teams to sort of put them together based on what the project is. And you know I see a lot of passion with you around the… You’ve always had a lot of passion around the process you used, and so the process drives out structure for us. Especially on projects. That’s always been there and something I’ve seen that you really enjoy doing. I think that there’s a lot of… I think bringing in somebody to help out with some of the administrative things around sales is just… We’re all encouraging you to do that because it just helps you scale and helps out, I think, overall. Some of these responsibilities will be handed off to somebody else but for the meantime you’ve got a lot on your shoulders and so having somebody else come and take the weight off of that, really is something I appreciate you looking into.


Tommy:Sure. Yeah it’ll be a journey.


Danny:That it will. What kind of socks have you got on? Anything special today?


Oh those are nice.


Tommy:Little stripes.


Danny:Yeah little stripes never hurt anybody.


Tommy:They change colors as they go up.


Danny:Excellent, good job. Anything else before we wrap up with passion?


Tommy:I think that is it.


Danny:So we’ve covered all of our shared values. And i know one of the fun things that we’re doing is we’re just wrapping up with some design sessions around doing a blackboard or chalkboard that has our values. So we’re looking forward to getting that up on our wall in our kitchen, so that should be fun to have.


Tommy:Yeah that’s going to be nice. A good way to wrap it up.


Danny:Yeah be a good way to wrap it up and a good daily reminder as you’re grabbing some coffee, a good reminder of what our values are. I think that’s important is to have it in your physical environment as well, just reminding everybody, as a group these are the things that we truly value and these are the ways that we make decisions as a group.




Well thank you everybody for listening to this series of discussions around our shared values. Love to have a comment, if you have one, at the bottom of the blog post. Just interested to hear on your take on that and just really appreciate you listening to this series.


Take care, have a great day. Bye bye.


Tommy:Bye bye.


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Tommy RyanThreeWill Shared Values – Passion

ThreeWill Shared Values – Value

Tommy serves as the President at ThreeWill. In this role, he works with his leadership team to hire the best people, find the right business opportunities, and ensure that ThreeWill delivers for our clients on projects.

Danny Ryan:Hello and welcome to ThreeWill podcast. This is your host Danny Ryan, I’m here with Tommy Ryan. Tommy how you doing?


Tommy Ryan :I’m doing well Danny, how about yourself?


Danny Ryan:Good, good. Doing just fine, doing just fine.


So, today we’re going to continue on. We’re talking about our culture and in particular our shared values and on the second to the last value which this one sounds a little weird but our value is value.


Tommy Ryan :Yeah.


Danny Ryan:I’ll go ahead and read what we have up on the website for this. We have Carolynn up there and this is the value itself. We strive to provide maximal value for our customers, that sounds wonderful. Then let me read the quote that we have with that. We think the greatest value we can bring to our clients is taking the time to truly understand their needs in order to be able to provide them with an outstanding solution on time and on budget. At ThreeWill we will strive to understand completely what the client needs before we ever strike the first line of code or make the first configuration change. It is not our job to write amazing code, using all the latest technologies just because we can and think it would be a good value. It is our job to know what … Excuse me … It is our job to know what will bring the client value by working closely within to gain a real understanding of the project requirements. Then using our agile process we can apply that knowledge to ensure the correct tools and technologies are employed in order to provide an outstanding solution that exceeds the clients expectations and brings them the greatest value. What do you think about that Tom?


Tommy Ryan :I think it can sound generic but I think when you put skin on it, when you look at individuals at ThreeWill, the way they look at this, they look at okay what am I billing per hour and did I actually do something that was valuable. I think we always have that tension of am I at the end of the day providing more value than the check that’s been signed to compensate us for the work that we got done for the customer, so you know that’s a tension that’s really real within our organization and it’s good to have that tension. It makes you think about, let’s make sure that we’re methodical in the way we go about determining what gets done, and the agile process helps with that, where we’re not spending so much time talking about things that don’t get done or don’t add value.


If you look at the process of sales to delivery, we take down the users stories, so we can understand at a high level what do you want to accomplish, what are the individual features that make up the initiative that you want us to get involved with and as a part of that we feedback, very quickly the leveled effort. So you can look at an item on that backlog and say wow, that’s going to cost $5,000 dollars or $10,000 dollars to implement that one feature. Maybe it’s not as valuable as I thought it was and maybe I didn’t realize the complexity of going down that path. So we want to enable our customers to see that, before they even spend a penny in the process and so that I think gives value to the customer very early before we even deliver any of our product that we do and our projects.


Danny Ryan:Yeah, I really like what Bruce and the team does with breaking out estimates and understanding from the get go, he breaks them out into different groups and understanding, how much am I going to be spending on maybe this feature set and early on from a clients stand point, they’re understanding sort of where am I spending my money and they probably have the best sense of anyone as far as whether it’s worth that and understanding what their goals are and will implementing this really help them meet those goals and so you know, we don’t want to see ourselves as an okay let’s go tell ThreeWill what to do, it’s more we’re engaging with you to talk through what yo are trying to accomplish and then sort of prioritizing what you’re doing as well because I think that’s where the value comes into play, as you’re doing the things of the highest priority first and how do you do that and I can see with the delivery teams, that they’re able to do that and organize on a sprint by sprint basis, which is just wonderful to see.


Tommy Ryan :Yeah and I really think the process of agile is the key component to the value proposition that we have to our customers and it even comes without a project taking place. It can come through the ability to make a good decision on should I go after a certain project and to “fail early.” We do fail early in the sales process where we provide a budget and that budget is beyond what they can afford to go after an initiative and it’s much better to figure that out up front, than to get half way into it and realize well I’m not going to be able to get to the finish line, now I’ve spent money but I can’t get to the finish line so I don’t have value, I have a deficit. I’ve spent money, I’ve spent time and I have nothing to show for it. We don’t want to put our customers in that position and that’s tough.


We’re in environments that we want to be a catalyst to move quickly, get engaged, start producing, working software and to keep that in balance with okay overall objectives of the organization, technology, standards and at the end of the day is this something that fits and works well within the organization. It’s not always black and white, so we have to help tease out the details with our customers, so they can make the most informed decision along the way and at the end of the day, we feel like an educated customer where we’re helping them in that process, is going to be the best customer to set us up to be successful.


Danny Ryan:I feel like a part of the reason why we ended up focusing so much on share point as a framework and just sort of what we’re taking into each of the different projects, is because of wanting to provide value and that is we don’t want to go around building these frameworks from the ground up … We’d rather come in with share point into a project because I think ultimately if we’re talking about value, sorry I can see some clients sharing the same concept of value and saying you know looking at our bill rates and saying hey I could get maybe two or three other folks at a lower rate, that would lower your bill rates so I think that these other companies are better value, but the way that I look at is our approach both with our process with scrum with being able to organize around what are we going after each sprint and making sure we are spending the right time on the appropriate things along with using share point as sort of the framework where we’re configuring first, coding second but can build these high value solutions out of this that we’re able to have one, two, three persons teams that if you were building this from the ground up would take a dozen folks to go and do.


Tommy Ryan :Right, yeah, yeah and I think focusing on a platform and being able to understand the nooks and crannies and the breadth and depth of that platform enables us to have a final complete solution that is going to give the customer further, than just taking a generic approach where you have to in a sense reinvent the wheel and we prescribe to, if there’s something out there that can get the job done and we extend that and bring it to the finish line faster and kind of better quality more capability then we’re all for that. We don’t think we need to start everything from scratch and we’re always trying to find those opportunities where there is that fit. We’re not forcing a square into a round hole but we see that this is a round hole and this is going to be the fastest way to get you there and let us show you want we’ve done with other customers and give you a vision of how you can get there and do things that maybe you really didn’t realize you could do with a platform.


Absolutely, anything else to add for value?


Danny Ryan:I think it comes down to making good choices. We’ve talked about this and the number of values in the brand promisees. At the end of the day, to provide value there has to be a good dialog with the customer to understand what’s important to them and continue to hoNE in on what is their situation, what’s special about what they’re trying to accomplish and tune ourselves to that need and not try to force a customer down a path just because we think it’s the right way. We really need to understand where our customer is coming from, so we can tune to giving them the most value. I always turn the artist software development into a science but there are aspects to what we do, which is people interactions that we have to kind of tune into what’s important to the customer and I think that’s what makes us a very valuable organization to our customers today and tomorrow. It’s because of us caring about understanding their need and expecting and adapting to that need in the fastest way possible.


Tommy Ryan :Nice socks dude.


Danny Ryan:I don’t think I’ve seen these yet?


Tommy Ryan :Yeah, yeah there maybe, I think we’re getting to he bottom of all the socks that I have.


Danny Ryan:If anyone would like to donate some socks to the Danny and Tommy Ryan Sock Fund.


Tommy Ryan :I don’t know if I want used ones.


Danny Ryan:Oh yeah, let’s make sure there new socks, yes we’re looking for new socks to talk about.


Well thank you Tommy for taking the time to do this and thank you everybody for listening and have a wonderful day. Take care, bye bye.


Tommy Ryan :Bye, bye.


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Tommy RyanThreeWill Shared Values – Value

ThreeWill Shared Values – Growth

Tommy serves as the President at ThreeWill. In this role, he works with his leadership team to hire the best people, find the right business opportunities, and ensure that ThreeWill delivers for our clients on projects.

Danny:Hello, this is Danny and Tommy Ryan, and we’re here talking about growth today. We’re talking about our values. How’s it going, Tommy?


Tommy:Going well, Danny.


Danny:Awesome. Last one we covered was honesty and now we’re into growth. I’ll get us kicked off here by just reading what we have up on the website, our culture part of the website, which is: “.. growth, we encourage each other to grow in a balanced way. Personal growth is an important part of our culture at ThreeWill. We recognize the technology field is in continuous flux.


Tommy:Yes, it is.


Danny:Time can erode the technical advantage, making it a priority to sharpen the saw, a little bit of Covey there … is a key to being able to provide the highest level of service to our clients and our company. ThreeWill encourages people to recognize and pursue their passions in ways that allow for personal and professional growth while also directly benefit our clients.


ThreeWill fosters an environment where people can enjoy what they do but also have an appropriate work-life balance, which allows time for our consultants to invest in their families and communities.”


Thoughts on that, Tommy?


Tommy:Some of the things that come to mind with the statement of growth and how we embrace the value of growth is … comes from another background that’s common in our values, which is my background at Gore, W.L Gore & Associates. They had a concept of no one has titles. People have roles and responsibilities. One of the reasons they did that … it could be kind of counter to growth. You could see, well, how do I quote “climb that ladder” and get the next title in the list? The concept was you really don’t want to be pigeonholed into a box and say, this is only what you can do. It’s to try to encourage that freewill aspect of choosing to succeed and not having artificial barriers there, to choose to succeed and to grow.


That’s something that comes to mind, and also I think our environment with the humble confidence that we’ve talked about before, is we created an environment that people can learn from each other and are fine with talking about the things that they don’t know so they can recognize that and be able to address the gaps that they have in their knowledge, to be affect in the roles that they play. Those are some things that come to mind when I think about growth and how growth is applied in our culture.


Danny:It’s tough, I mean, as being a part of a consulting company there’s always the challenge of trying to stay a step ahead and trying to be wise in the guidance that we give our clients. It seems like there’s always a constant balance to try to figure out. How do I try to stay a couple steps ahead, yet at the same time don’t get out of balance when trying to get a couple steps ahead?


You and I have been doing consulting for quite a while and it just seems that it’s always something you have to try to figure out, and have to be focused in on. It’s a challenge to everyone here that works at ThreeWill, which is growing and keeping balance.


Tommy:Yeah, I think that balance … one of the things that we consciously work on and it’s easier said than done, which is what is our technology focus? That kind of plays into the ability to grow and grow in a way that is going to be effective in helping our customers or clients that we work with. When we come in as consultants you’re always that person that has to be that half-step ahead, and give guidance down the path that’s going to be the best advice that’s known at that point in time. To keep that awareness of, what are the best practices, what are the best approaches, what is really working in the industry? The further we can narrow down what we do, puts us at that advantage to be able to spend less time to accomplish the goal of being that good consultant being aware of the things that you need to know. The work-life balance, there’s always one more thing that you feel like you need to know and so if we can narrow that done, that addresses some of the anxiety that comes with being a consultant.


Danny:Absolutely, yeah, I think that focus allows for us to say we’re not experts in everything, there’s certain things that we focus in on as an organization and you and I, I think through the years have really tried to do our best at staying focused at what we’re doing. It’s tempting to go after different things but I think that’s helped overall the team at ThreeWill to help maintain some balance in the work-life.


I remember early on in the company … it was probably even before ThreeWill where you and I had conversations about the work-life balance and wanting to say … I don’t want to get to the end of this thing and have a great career yet a messed up relationship with my wife and relationship with my kids. How do you balance that over time? I think there’s … trying to figure out this growth thing along with the work-life balance has been something that we had to focus in on for many years here.


Tommy:Yeah, I think some of that comes from what commitments do you make along the way, along that path, because I think you can grow and keep that work-life balanced based on what is your level of commitment. That’s what you always have to tune. As a company and then as individuals what is our commitment? What are we committing to, and are we over committed? How do we balance or level out the things that we do within the organization in way that people can feel like they have the opportunity to have that work-life balance?


I look at some of our consultants sometimes from time to time, or end up leaning on one or two consultants that have great capabilities to help our clients feel very comfortable and have that knack of knowing how to get to the bottom of things and solve the problem effectively. We have to keep a balance and consciously think about, for this particular person, what does that balance look like? Each person is unique and to kind of be fair, we have to treat everybody differently within the organization because they do have different personal styles, personal definitions of what is balance for them. We’re consciously tuning to that, and I think that brings the best out of people. Some people, they work fine within two to three projects, and some of them work best with one or two or just one. Looking at what is their breadth of responsibility and what is their impact based on coming up with the right balance for different individuals within ThreeWill.


Danny:One of the things that I like that you do each year with the planning is … I think a part of this is you have to plan for the balance as well, because you sort of look at what you did this past year and you look at the upcoming year, and a lot of what we look to do is … I know it’s not the sexiest thing in the world but we look to repeat, to show that we are able to repeat what we’ve done in the previous year. I think a lot of that has to looking at who’s on the team, what are we able to reach to. Not just saying we’re going to grow’s sake. It’s saying we want to have a good, mature … the overused word is “organic” growth, but you want to have something where we’re not over-extending ourselves and we’re able to prove that we can repeat. Repeat performance of what we’ve done in the past year, and then from there branch off and maybe go after a little bit more.


Tommy:Yeah, I think when I look at growth a lot of what I hone into is the growth of individuals at ThreeWill. When I look at that, it sometimes translates into financial growth in terms of what is the top-line revenue and bottom-line revenue. Those are I think fruits of the labor of focusing on individual’s growth. At the end of the day, some of that is finding that we can go after different types of challenges and that excites us, it feels like we’re using our gifts. It allows us to feel like we’re proud of what we do at the end of the day.


Within our environment, what I think is it’s not say, unique to every environment but I think it’s something that people appreciate, is when we’re faced with challenges and faced with decisions, the financial part of it is a piece but it’s usually not the leading piece. It’s looking at what’s the right thing to do to treat the client, the individual well. As a result of that, there’s good longterm stability and there’s a sense of “I’m valued for what I’m doing”, versus “I feel like I’m just a cog in the wheel making more money”. You have to keep in balance with that. I think the balance is we want to provide an environment that people feel like, “If I do my best, this is an opportunity I can continue to contribute and be here.” We have some fiduciary responsibilities to make sure that we have the right amount of top-line, bottom-line revenue to support the team, who we are today. Then we look at, are there new challenges out there that require a growth in terms of head count, in terms of revenue? That gives us opportunities to do things that we feel like we have that individual personal growth.


Sometimes that has to come through quote “growth of the company”, because some people mature to a level of they need challenges that might require them to be responsible for a group of people, something they’re passionate about to kind of carve off, I want to solve this problem. Sometimes you can’t do that at a small number, you have to wear too many hats. That’s something we’re consciously looking at and trying to figure out what is best.


We went into this year, we said based on the characteristics, we want to have something very similar to last year because we think that’s appropriate. That’s something that allows us to sharpen the saw and regroup around certain aspects of what we need to do to scale to the next level of growth. That’s a conscious effort to grow sometimes, is to make a decision to stay the same level so you can either sharpen a skill, bring on the people you need and get them ready, and then be positioned to go up to that next tier.


Danny:Great stuff, great stuff.


You going to see the Braves today, are you seeing their new stadium?


Tommy:Yeah, it’s visit number two.




Tommy:I hear we’re going to see a little bit more this time because they’re further down the path and there’s a few more things that we’re allowed to go see and walk through.






Danny:You have to take a picture or two so I can share that with folks.


Tommy:Okay, will do.


Danny:Good to see, that’d be great to see. Awesome stuff.


I’m checking … I think I’ve got your socks beat today. You did match them with your pants, so that’s pretty impressive there Tommy.


Tommy:Yeah, the only fanciness about these socks is that they have an indention or striping to it.




Tommy:I’m sorry. No color.


Danny:It’s okay. Mine are black at the bottom but these are the ones that are a little bit crazy up top. That’s me, I’m a little crazy up in the top.


Tommy:Very true, very true.


Danny:Very true. Well thank you for taking the time to do this. I know we’re going to … I want to go through the ultimate question book with you, and talk about net promoter scores. Maybe we’ll get through all the values first and then go into that, or maybe we’ll drop into that the next time we talk. Thank you for taking the time to do this, Tommy.


Tommy:Sure, Danny.


Danny:Yeah. Thank you everybody for listening and have a wonderful day. Take care now, bye bye.




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Tommy RyanThreeWill Shared Values – Growth

ThreeWill Shared Values – Honesty

Tommy serves as the President at ThreeWill. In this role, he works with his leadership team to hire the best people, find the right business opportunities, and ensure that ThreeWill delivers for our clients on projects.

Danny:Hello and welcome to the ThreeWill podcast. This is your host, Danny Ryan. Hey, Tommy. How’s it going?


Tommy:It’s going well. Enjoying the summer.


Danny:Enjoying the summer. Let me see them. Pull them up. He’s got some Clemson socks on, I haven’t seen these, have I?


Tommy:When you roll them over … It says Clemson.


Danny:Yeah, oh, my goodness. My goodness. At first, you think they’re tacky, and then you really know they’re tacky.


Tommy:Yeah, kick it up a notch.


Danny:Yeah, I don’t even know if I want to show mine off. I’ve got polka dots. I feel a little weird.


Tommy:And, they’re the wrong color if you’re wearing your collegiate colors. Mine are red and white, so I don’t know if I’ve got the right colors on, but …


Danny:Those are nice.   Are those new socks?


Tommy:I think I had these at another podcast.


Danny:Cool, cool.


Tommy:This is my second show.


Danny:Nice, nice. Well done. So, we’re going to follow our conversation about the ThreeWill culture and our shared values. This week we’re going to talk about honesty, and, of course, who else do we have representing honesty?


Tommy:Mr Kirk Liemohn.


Danny:Mr Kirk Liemohn. The appropriate person. Whoever created this website, man, kudos to them. The whole idea of someone who represents the value. I think this is really someone who does, sort of, represent the value, and that’s Kirk. The statement we have for that is, “We treat each other and our clients fairly and honestly.” I’ll go ahead and read the statement. I’ll get us kicked off here, and then, if you want to have a couple of comments, that will be great.




Danny:“We value building long lasting partnerships with clients in a fair and honest way that is equitable to both parties. Stephen Covey, I’m bringing up Stephen Covey again, calls these win-win relationships. We look to create engagements with clients that will create success for both parties. Being fair and honest is a big part of providing quality service to clients with high integrity. If we are to build long lasting partnerships with our clients, we need to be explicit in our decisions, and do our best to lead them down the right path. If a risk or issue becomes apparent, we will raise this with our clients and give them the opportunity to react appropriately, and enable them to address the problem. Sometimes this information is difficult to share with the client, but it is key to our long-lasting partnerships.” Plenty of meat on that bone.


Tommy:Yeah, you know, you can tell that when we wrote these values, we definitely were coming off of a Stephen Covey high, but, you know, he is so good at articulating the importance of shared values. This one, definitely, I think rings true and is one of those, again, high bars that you set, and as humans we always fall short of the high bars. But when I look at Kirk, I just think of meetings that I’m in with Kirk, and sales opportunities and just things in general. I think I have a conscience that says you need to be honest and speak as though the other person is present, but when I’m in a room with Kirk, I feel like I’ve got to kick it up even a higher notch. I think he leads by example, and that’s how you kind of see honesty.


I think honesty can be faked at first, but over time, people can really see where that level of honesty is when they get into tough times. When they get into little pinches, how do they react when they’re pinned in a corner. What’s that response? Here what we see with Kirk, he’ll just take that high road, and sometimes that’s a larger effort. It’s more responsibility that you need to take on. You know that statement of, ‘It creates long-lasting partnerships.’ We’re in it for the long-haul, and I think with our clients, we want to create life-time relationships and we’ve seen a lot of that over the years. It does come through honesty and making key commitments that people know what they’re dealing with and I think we all want to get down to cut to the chase and that is a lot easier with someone that you know is being honest with you.


Danny:With honesty … You remember my best friend in high school was Jack Swift and he went off the West Point and one of the things I learnt about honesty at one point in time when we met up. I don’t know if whether during college or after college, but he taught me a part of honesty is making sure you don’t do the attempt to deceive. So saying something where you’re trying to deceive someone else is being dishonest.


Tommy:Kind of the white lies.


Danny:The white lies. And so I remember him just describing something and him correcting himself because he felt like he was attempting to deceive and how much that is a part of … The place where I have a struggle with this is early on in sales opportunities. And I think its sort of like you want to spell out all the risk and you want to be upfront with everybody about all the things that could go wrong. But you want to enable someone to make a decision as well, so you have to also be able to … If I’m gonna spell out all the risk, I’m gonna spell out all the things that are there opportunity wise.


The reasons why you should do this, ’cause I think when you’re coming in and you’re being honest, you have to represent both sides of the coin, which is, ‘here’s all the reasons why you might not want to do this,’ but then you have to also represent all the reasons why you should do this. And I think it’s being balanced with that approach is very important, ’cause I know, sometimes a lot of us are engineers and we see all the risks in doing things. But we also have to represent ‘what happens if you don’t do anything at all?’ And that is a risk in itself as well and representing that in a fair way, and in an honest way during the sales process.


Tommy:Yeah. Sales process and it even carries into the delivery of a project, where the bigger the challenge, the more difficult it is to navigate those conversations of the things that come up as risks and how do you effectively communicate those. And I think one of the things that we encourage and try to do a good job at is doing risk management. And so it’s not just raising the risk, but you raise the risk along with what we think the potential likelihood of this occurring is, and how big that impact will be. And then that allows us to score the risk, to give it a sense of how important and how critical that risk is. And then as a part of that, also having a contingency plan, and a mitigation plan, and being clear about when that risk gets triggered. And so that allows you to, I think be honest in a way that doesn’t paralyze people but enables them in their decision making process and we do that …


During the sales process we’re capturing those things and especially early on in the engagement and we know that you’ve got to tease some of these things out. And you’ve gotta tease out what are the great things about what we’re doing, all of the features and benefits and pain points that we’re addressing, but also realize that things are not perfect and there’s things that will be trade-offs in that path forward. And I think if you can document those risks in a way that are not just risks but managed risks along with, ‘what are all the benefits?’ Then you bring everything to the table to make a good decision ’cause that’s what we want our clients to do, to make a well-informed decision and some of that is the negative side. But doing the work it takes to present the negative side in a way that they understand how they can work around it or mitigate that particular side of the equation.


Danny:So in our business we’re doing work directly for our client or having somebody else subcontract us out. And we’ve stayed away from the latter part, I think because of this last part here. “If a risk becomes apparent, we’ll raise this with our client to give them an opportunity to react appropriately and enable them to address …” Boy this has happened recently, hasn’t it? We want to raise the risk up and allow for the client to be able to address that risk, but we might not be the person who is raising those risks to the client. And that puts us in a difficult situation doesn’t it?


Tommy:It does. And I think you have layers of stakeholders in an engagement and so there’s things that you want to communicate that you can’t communicate tactfully, based on different conditions and different constraints. And as you are further removed from the ultimate decision maker, that becomes trickier and trickier, ’cause you have more than one boss to work with. And so, the least amount of layers there, the less work it takes to manage that. Because when you’re trying to manage something that you have someone in between that relationship, then you have to take into account their challenges, their issues, their constraints and at the end of the day it dilutes the message that you want to provide.


And that’s just reality and so you have to figure out, ‘How do you communicate that in an effective way?’ How do you enable you stakeholder to communicate to their stakeholder? And then sometimes even if we’re not subcontracting, we might be working with someone that is maybe one or two steps removed from really being the ultimate decision making. We might be working with the project manager, or maybe we’re working with the director, but there’s the VP that is really caring about this and the one that is gonna write the check for it. And so we’ve gotta work with our stakeholder to present business cases, to present the decisions that need to be made, and raise the things to the top that can get lost in a very complicated project.


Danny:Couple more questions. What happens if we’re in the situation where we feel like a client’s not being honest or fair with us?


Tommy:That’s a tough question.


Danny:Sorry. Let me give you a second to think about that.


Tommy:Well, I think you deal … And deal might not be the right word to use. It’s a relationship and I think when we come to the table, both sides have flawed aspects of what we bring to the table in building that relationship. It might be someone that might be lacking the technical knowledge of understanding the details of what you’re trying to provide, and so that becomes a barrier. I think sometimes we can misread someone’s honesty or fairness, because we don’t have a good perspective of where they’re coming from. And so it’s a journey of having a conversation that you’re feeding back what you’re saying in a tactful way, to say, “This is what I’m hearing.” And at face value to the consultant it might sound unfair and dishonest, but we can’t get to that and we can’t really make that judgment. All we can do is work within the constraints that we’re provided. Give them the details and what we’re willing to commit to and let them make the decision.


So we can take something that maybe is unfair, dishonest from face value, and what we end up doing is saying, “Okay this is what we think is the right thing to do. And we want to hear your feedback so we can understand your side.” So we’re not talking over and under each other. And then it gets to a point where you say, “Okay, can we come and get on the same page.” And if we can’t, then we shouldn’t engage with each other ’cause we’re set up for failure and that’s where it comes down to. Is the person on the other side dishonest or unfair? That’s hard to judge and I think it’s a two-way street. I think clients can look at us and say, “Waw, you’re charging us a lot of money for that.” And that can be perceived from their viewpoint, of dishonest, unfair. So you just have to work it out and then you have to decide. Are we enabled on both sides and do we feel comfortable that this is the right things to go forward with?


Danny:Sounds like you’re addressing it with one of Covey’s ‘seek first to understand.’ Really, that’s you have to understand the other person’s position. And I think that you’re whole concept of stating to them what you believe, just feeding back to them and listening to them, really is key to that. Because once you understand their situation, you might understand their intent and have a totally different picture on everything.


Tommy:Right. Right.


Danny:Very good. I think this honesty, for us, as we’re looking to it as a part of our culture, you and I are very sensitive to it I think. Especially with hiring people and I’m thinking people who would be at ThreeWill. I think we can forgive a lot of things, and we understand the situations with little white lies and things like that and being able to be understanding about people in different situations. But I think honesty is one of those things. Just be honest with us so we can deal with the situation, especially when it comes to project work.


I think it’s one of those that we really have to hold each other to a high standard, or we’re not able to work together. And so I think that’s one of those things again that when we’re looking to hire people at ThreeWill, we’ve got to believe that your intent is to be honest with your teammates, with us, with the client. Or else there’s just no way for us to build up a foundation of trust. There’s no way for us a build up a relationship with an employee or a relationship with a client. That has to be there for us to start to build trust in each other.


Tommy:All right. What I’m thinking about … Have you ever see this show, Selfridge?


Danny:No. No. What is it?


Tommy:For folks that watch like, Downton Abbey, it’s one of those masterpiece theater. It’s the story of the shopkeeper or the owner of Selfridges in London, a kind of high end department store, and I think seeing the story … Basically it’s a guy that has very high standards for people around him, but very low standards for himself. He’s dishonest with his marriage, he’s dishonest with a lot of things and then when other people do things dishonestly to him, he ends up crucifying them. And I look at it and I say, “be careful not to be that person.”


‘Cause I look at it like gosh, it’s easy for us sometimes to say, “You have to be honest to work with us.” But we have to realize, I look at it myself introspectively and say, “You know what, it’s something that I’ve got to understand that I am flawed as a human being and I’ve got to continue to strive for that.” I’ve got to have people around me to hold me accountable to that and at the end of the day making sure that I put more effort on myself, and then that in turn I think, reflects on others and encourages others.”


Just this whole honesty thing, I think we were both raised in a family that saw this as an important value and so we want to carry that forward. And then I also look at things like when I am strained, there’s things I do, that I want to take the shortcut path. You want to take those white lies. So I think it’s great that we talked about this value, ’cause we had to remind ourselves of this. ‘Cause at the end of the day we’re gonna do things that protect ourselves, but to get there we have to talk about it. And we have to, like you said, hire people that value that, that want to do the hard thing that it takes to be honest in situations. And that, sometimes is a longer journey, it’s something that’s not a get rich quick strategy. So I’m glad that we’re talking about this and challenging ourselves to say, “How do we continue to raise awareness of the people we see it at ThreeWill that are honest? And how do we continue to get better at that as an organization?”


Danny:I think a couple of ways we could do this, that I see is, one, saying “I don’t know.” Because a lot of times people want to have the answer to the question and sort of make something up and I think through the years of just learning to say, “I don’t know what the answer is for that question.” And I don’t have to have all the answers to the question. I can go research it and go do the work necessary to find the answer, but sometimes I think what’s important is, and it’s tough in our situation where we’re brought in as the experts, for folks from delivery. You want to be competent, but we need to show, as leadership in the company, that it’s okay to say, “I don’t know what the answer is to that question.” And then the other thing I think needs to happen. And I know I probably do this more at home than I do at work, which is, I express when I’ve messed up. When perhaps I’ve done something or I wasn’t completely honest about a situation, or I did attempt to deceive and I said something.


So I want especially my kids to see what happens when you’re in that situation, when you weren’t completely honest about something. And you apologize for this. And I think when we’re working especially, in whatever part of the process, sales, delivery, whatever, if there’s a time in which we feel like our conscience is telling us that something’s wrong here, to raise it up and say, “Listen guys, I thought it was this way yesterday, but I found out it wasn’t that way and I need to correct myself there.” I think whenever you hear somebody do that, you’re like okay, all of a sudden I’m gonna give that person more leeway. I’m gonna trust that person a little bit more in the future, because if they do say something and they find out it’s wrong, they’re gonna come back and correct themselves.


Tommy:Yeah. Yeah. So I think the honesty has to come with vulnerability. And I think that’s hard to do, especially in the professional setting, to admit when something that you did wasn’t with the best intentions, or you weren’t fair in that situation. It reminds me of … You sometimes start a different type of relationship when you get into those situations, and again in a professional environment, that’s harder to navigate.


I remember one situation with Eric. Actually working with Eric when he wasn’t at ThreeWill, but as a contractor at Ernst & Young, and I was the lead for the development effort and I came in one day and really got frustrated and kind of … I can’t remember if I yelled at the team or what I did, but I was something that I didn’t feel that was fair to the team. And I slept on it. The next day I came in and I apologize to the whole team. And there was something that I felt, like a different connection, a different relationship that I had with Eric, post-that. Because I think I could sense that Eric thought it was unfair in terms of how I responded to the situation where I was, quote, “backed into a corner.”


And I think a lot of these values, it’s important to not necessarily to be perfect, but to continue to be reflective on, “Am I really being honest?” Because overtime, these things can get diluted, these values get diluted unless we sharpen the saw, as Covey says, towards looking at, ‘Well what is honesty, and where do we think we can get better?’ Because, I think that we can get dull with some of these values overtime. And doing what we’re doing now, at least for me, it’s helping me recognize that, yeah these are the same values that we have, and there’s opportunity to even grow.


Danny:Great topic. Enjoyed talking with you this morning Tommy. Thanks for taking the time to do this.


Tommy:I was trying to be as honest as I could.


Danny:Honestly Tommy, this has gone a little long so … Let’s go and … Let’s put a bow on this. Thank you everybody for taking the time to listen and leave a comment at the bottom of the blog post if you have your own stories to share about honesty or anything you’d like to share with Tommy or myself. We’ll keep an eye on that and we’ll definitely respond back to it if you ask a question there or anything along those lines. Thank you everyone for listening and have a wonderful day. Take care. Bye bye.






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Tommy RyanThreeWill Shared Values – Honesty

ThreeWill Shared Values – Teamwork

Tommy serves as the President at ThreeWill. In this role, he works with his leadership team to hire the best people, find the right business opportunities, and ensure that ThreeWill delivers for our clients on projects.

Danny Ryan:Hello, and welcome to the ThreeWill Podcast. This is your host, Danny Ryan and my co-host Tommy Ryan is here with me. How is it going Tommy?


Tommy Ryan:It is going well, Danny.


Danny Ryan:Great.


Tommy Ryan:It is Tuesday.


Danny Ryan:It is Tuesday.


Tommy Ryan:Why are we doing a podcast?


Danny Ryan:Because we did not do it last week.


Tommy Ryan:Okay. I see.


Danny Ryan:But we are back at it today. Do you have your own socks?


Tommy Ryan:Actually, I forgot about the podcast, but I got my socks.


Danny Ryan:You got your socks.


Tommy Ryan:Subliminally, I thought, I am going to do this.


Danny Ryan:I have got a pair of nice gray socks on, so no comment.


Tommy Ryan:I see.


Danny Ryan:But we are up in the Blue Ridge Mountains and we were looking at the different stores. Of course, now that is going to be my go to thing is to buy a pair of socks now. Right?


Tommy Ryan:That is Right.


Danny Ryan:Yes. There you go. And the kids know what to give me for Christmas now.


Tommy Ryan:It is not ties, it is socks.


Danny Ryan:Let’s continue our conversation about ThreeWill culture and our shared values and this week we wanted to talk about Teamwork. With that, we have none other than Tim Coalson, our poster boy for Teamwork and the underlying theme with Teamwork is that we work for a larger purpose. I will go ahead and read it and let you get us kicked off here.


We value Teamwork and believe that we work a larger purposes. People at ThreeWill want to see other associates be successful and we look at client relationships as partnerships. We keep our time small so that we can solve our clients’ problems with agility. Our deliver methodology is agile to allow us to inspect and adapt to our clients’ needs. At ThreeWill a significant part of the team culture is approaching our work with confidence, but, at the same time, humility. We believe that this humble confidence is a key ingredient to forming strong teams that include our clients as part of the team. During client engagements, we realized that we are just a project team, but part of a larger inter-dependent group that as a whole either succeeds or fails.


Tim Colson:Amen.


Danny Ryan:The end.


Tim Colson:Drop the mike.


Danny Ryan:Anything more that you would like to add to that?


Tim Colson:I love this value. It is such an important aspect of how we provide value to our customers. I was just coming off a sprint review today with a large, financial institution that is here in Atlanta. We are coming in and helping them with their SharePoint Intranet and several initiatives there. One of the things that we are doing is we are an extension to their team and we involve their team as we are accomplishing certain features that they needed to get done. We make it look like a large team because we are including their team members and valuing what they are doing. Where some consulting organizations want to come in and create a separation and kind of own it and not have any inter-dependencies, where they try to minimize that and kind of put up a silo between them and the organization. That has value, but I think it is different approach. Our paradigm is really coming in and being a part of the greater team versus trying to be a separate team.


Tommy Ryan:I imagine if we are doing this, you have to have a different viewpoint on projects. If we are working together with the client and their team is a part of our team, and what I hear around here quite a bit, there has to be a high trust environment.


Tim Colson:Yes, and transparency that comes with that. We are getting them involved with our backlog; understanding impacts to decisions on budget; and making sure that we make it easy for them to work with us and that does require trust. I think you hear sometimes the concept of the speed of trust. There is a book on that, I think Steven Covey’s son wrote one on the speed of trust. It is so critical to have a high trust environment and you cannot get that right away. It comes through some of the things that we have talked about already. Making and keeping commitments, being responsible and your client getting a sense of you making choices that are for their good that they can see that when you face a challenge that you take a path that looks like you are looking at it as a partnership versus a way that you can “get more money.”


I think our organization is really geared towards working in high trust environments. Every time we get into situations where it is low trust, you end up finding out that we get half accomplished for twice the amount of the money. And, in some cases that is the way you have to do it and that frustrates us. I am glad that that frustrates us. It keeps us kind of sharp to that whole concept of providing high value and not settling for less.


We have to help team sometimes to understand situationally what they are up against and decide what battles to fight and know that in some cases, we can only go so far in that trust relationship. We have to find the opportunity for the next commitment to inspect into that, and learn from that situation and say, how do we frame this better to put us in a position that we can incrementally build more trust, and therefore, we can go faster. We love getting things done in the most efficient way, but with people, fast is slow and slow is fast.


That is what I think frustrates an engineer that you want to engineer something to make it go faster and that human element is what slows it down. You find ways to build trust because at the end of the day, if you can build trust, then you are going to go faster and you are going to feel like you are on the same page to accomplish something that is hard to accomplish. I think we go after big, difficult problems and because of our approach to not be adversarial to the customer, that we want to be a part of their team, we try to jell with their team and do things like sprints where we can make and keep commitments in fast cycles. That accelerates stability to build up that trust that makes you go faster. I probably said too much on that.


Danny Ryan:No. This is all good stuff. I am thinking this is a shared value that we have and as we are looking at folks to join the ThreeWill team and talking with them … Maybe this has to do with humble confidence and so how do we figure out if somebody has humble confidence or not? But, how do you know if somebody is going to be a good team member and that they do value Teamwork. Is there anything that you have noticed through the years as far as a way of distinguishing that type of person?


Tim Colson:Yes. I think the humble confidence is the thing that we look for and sometimes that is hard to test for, but you get a sense of it when you see how they respond to stressful situations. Are they trying to protect themselves or are they trying to understand the situation more. You can take the kind of ego path of well, I am doing everything right and you are putting all the energy around why you are right versus maybe stepping back and trying to understand the bigger picture and try to understand the challenges that the other side is facing. We can all kind of fall victim of trying to push our agenda and not do that “seek first to understand before being understood.”


I think a humble confident person does that. They have the confidence to know that I am doing the right things as far as I know, but I need to put my ego out of the way and understand what the client wants; what their challenges are; and sometimes do things that put you in a vulnerable position where it is easier to protect yourself and prove that you are right versus trying to say these are things that we can do better and how can we approach this in way that we can be more successful. This does not seem to be working well.


I like the way that we do retrospectives and we have integrated it into every sprint. We use to do that at a checkpoint, say mid-project, or we do it at the end of the project just to learn before we do the next project with that client or another client that has a similar type of problem. Because we have done it as a part of every sprint, it becomes a habit. It becomes just part of the mentality. We always believe that we can do better and we need to get the feedback from the customer to say how can improve. If you do not have some humble confidence to you, you are not opened to hearing the constructive criticism. You typically guard yourself against that constructive criticism. As we all know, you are not going to grow that way. You are not going to get better unless you have that vulnerability to say, I did not do this perfectly. I need to understand how to do that better next time and be responsible about incorporating the feedback in a way that is recognized and makes a difference.


Danny Ryan:Nice. We were talking earlier about how Tim Colson is sort of the poster boy for Teamwork and these walls are thin, so I get to hear conversations that are going on next door to me. I saw a great example this morning of Teamwork where Tim was very thoughtful and patient in looking at a situation that could have become heated and really trying to understand. At one point in time, he was saying this might be my fault, or I could have probably done this better and really being a great example of someone saying, let us not try to point fingers at each other. Let us try to stay calm and look at what the problem is and solve the problem and not start getting upset with each other or anything along those lines. To a point, he was falling on the sword to say we do not need to get upset with each other. For me, it was another great example of seeing Teamwork today.


Tommy Ryan:Tim is probably one of our best people to come in and build a relationship and we know that is really what makes the world go around. People that can build strong relationships and can do that very quickly are people that will put their egos aside and care about the larger purpose. We work for a larger purpose is that statement that we had that supports the Teamwork shared value, and that is something that we learned from Tim. He brings that strength to the table and not only does he do that for our clients, but he does it for his team members, he does it for new people that come to ThreeWill. He is always looking to break down the barriers to make people feel at home and feel that they are valued. That is so important in the work that we do that we go in and create that environment of we are one greater team.


When we say it is the ThreeWill team, it is not the ThreeWill team, it is the ThreeWill team plus the client team as an overall team because if we are adversarial and we are trying to prove that we are smarter or better or faster, that is not going to get us anywhere quickly with our clients. We need to say that we are here to help. We are rolling up our sleeves. We are going to give it our all, and we will try to find ways to fill in the gaps that will make our clients better at what they do. We do not want to take credit for that, but we want to participate in that.


We want to make the client feel like ThreeWill encourages that environment and I want to continue to work with them because I feel like my team members grow. I do not have HR problems where people feel like, why are these consultants coming in and “taking my work.” We are looking at there is more work on the plate than there is time in the day and we all value work/life balance so we are coming in to help organize around some of that and accomplish some of that so there an even pace internally and we can come in when there are spurts. We come in for a month or two, address some big problems and keep the relationship going and then when the next spurt comes, that internal organization can keep an even keel with doing the work that they need to do day in and day out, but still feel a part of the efforts that we do. We are always looking to say, what have you done; how can I incorporate that in this new feature that they are asking for, so we are getting more out of the work that you put in place versus trying to create redundant things and trying to come up with a better service that you have already created. Let’s use that. If there are any gaps, let us help you enhance that and get more value out of the team that you have.


Danny Ryan:Great. Thank you Tom for taking the time to do this.


Tommy Ryan:Sure.


Danny Ryan:Thank you everybody for listening and have a wonderful day. Take care. Bye Bye.


Tommy Ryan:Bye Bye.


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Tommy RyanThreeWill Shared Values – Teamwork

Humble Confidence – A Key Character Trait at ThreeWill

Tommy serves as the President at ThreeWill. In this role, he works with his leadership team to hire the best people, find the right business opportunities, and ensure that ThreeWill delivers for our clients on projects.

Danny:Hello and welcome the ThreeWill Podcast. This is your host Danny Ryan and I have Tommy here with me. Good morning Tommy.


Tommy:Good morning Danny.


Danny:How are things going?


Tommy:Going well, a little chilly this morning.


Danny:Yeah. Winter has arrived. Yes, it’s almost Christmas so that’s a good thing. Let me see the socks, Starry Night.


Tommy:Yeah, I think I’ve shown you these.


Danny:Those are nice.


Tommy:Yeah, they’re one of my favorites.


Danny:Also some fancy shoes too.


Tommy:Thank you.


Danny:You didn’t get those from Bobby, did you?






Tommy:You’re wondering if you’re not getting first dibs anymore?


Danny:That’s my connection to clothes and to shoes.


Tommy:I could resell them to you.


Danny:Today I wanted to follow up from last week and talk about humble confidence. I know through the years we’ve tried to characterize what makes us different and what our internal values are. We keep on coming back to this idea of we want people who are competent at what they do, who are really … We have a lot of very technical folks, great problem solvers, very competent people. But then we noticed that sometimes with working with other folks the really competent folks make you feel bad, make you feel like you’re dumb, make you feel like you’re not able to work with them.


This idea of humility has become very important as well so that the person is approachable, the person doesn’t make you feel like you don’t know what you’re talking about. This is especially from the view of a client. A client is looking for us to help them out and they need outside expertise. It’s been a really important thing for us, which is humble confidence. What does it from you? Where did it come from? Give me a little bit of background on it for you.


Tommy:Sure. I think over the years in my experience in consulting and working with people in the technology field, the people that I enjoyed working with the most were smart people that were humble. You felt like you were able to have a dialog, you were able to contribute to the conversation, you felt like you were a part of that journey of figuring something out very technical. I think we want that for our customers. You always want to look at what does it feel like to be on the other side of the table. From my experience I feel like someone that is humbly confident is the person you want to work with.


You run across people that are very smart and maybe don’t have that balance of both intellectual IQ and emotional IQ, and you feel like, gosh darn it, it would be nice if there was some emotional IQ there because we could accomplish more. I think you become more isolated in a solution if you have that arrogance to you and you cannot speak to the level of your customer and understand and empathize in a situation. It goes back the last time we were talking about that buzzword, synergy. I think it does create that one plus one equals three scenario when you can approach a situation with humble confidence.


Danny:I think it’s great that you brought up emotional intelligence with intellectual. I think this is what we’re trying to do, is combine the two of those. Sometimes you don’t find it, that’s a very difficult quality to find because you have people lean towards one side or the other, they could really care about you but they’re not able to solve your problem, or they really want to solve your problem and you don’t feel like they care about you.


Tommy:Yeah. I think what happens sometimes is you get people that can care about you but maybe not have the intellectual capacity to solve the problem or you have people that are very intellectual but they lean on that versus work on the emotional side. I think you can tend to use one or the other as a crutch. If you get really good at the emotional IQ side of things you can spin thing swell, you can keep the conversation going, you can actually sound like maybe you know what you’re doing when you don’t know what you’re doing. That can be dangerous.


Then you can lean on the intellectual side which is, “I know I’m right. I need to prove to the person on the other side of the table that I’m right. I’m going to take the fastest path I can to prove that I’m right.” We know where that leads to, it leads to people digging in their heels and feeling like they’re not being heard so you never come to a solution. There ends up being this fight or flight type scenario.


Danny:Yesterday I did a podcast interview with Cassie Crossley. She was starting up her own podcast and we did an interview. We were talking actually about this subject.


Tommy:Really? Cool.


Danny:Yeah, because we were talking about how do you hire the right people? This is where humble confidence came up. I guess when we’re looking at bringing new folks on board, how do you find this quality? How you distinguish that a person has this quality?


Tommy:It’s tough. I think there’s a little bit of in an interview process how balanced is the conversation. Are they taking time to listen? You can see it in cues and body language of how the person comes, delivers a message. At times someone that’s humbly confident undersells themselves and so I try to get a sense of, does there seem to be some level, a strong technical foundation? How do they handle the interaction and the challenge of an interview process? The way they handle that to me starts giving indications of are they humbly confident?


For example you could get into an interview process and the person can belabor the amount of knowledge they have on a particular topic to prove that they’re smart enough to work at ThreeWill type thing. When I start seeing that, when I see someone talking too much and trying to prove too hard how smart they are, then I start thinking, “There’s probably going to be a challenge here with humble confidence and them representing ThreeWill in a humbly confident way.”


Danny:I think one of the people around here that really epitomizes this is Kirk Liemohn, because he could be the smartest person in the room and know the most exact correct answers, yet he will listen to other people, he’ll tell you what he doesn’t know. He really puts himself out there. Sometimes it’s difficult to have that in the sales process but in delivery, man, that’s the type of person you want to be beside. They lay it all out there. They know how to solve problems but when there are certain things that they’re uncertain of they’re confident enough in themselves, they’re courageous enough as an individual to put themselves out there and share maybe what they don’t know.


Tommy:Right, and that can be a fine line. That can be a tight … quite a difficult thing to walk that tight rope of staying humble and also being confident because you can go a little bit too far in the humble side and undersell yourself and start eroding that confident side of what the customer needs to feel like, “I’m being taken care of.” I think we’re always coaching people to lean in either direction based on, sometimes it’s the audience and where you are and that relationship and in that conversation where you determine how much of the humble you turn up and how much of the confident you turn up. There’s an art to that. We work with people at ThreeWill to make sure we bring them into situations where they can shine and bring their strengths of how they approach that humble confidence in a way that is going to best serve the customer at the right time in the right place.


Danny:Yeah, I think especially where we’re talking about in the consulting realm, because people are looking at us as experts and so they want to make sure that they’re working with the right folks first off. Then some of this stuff that people when they’re engaging us they don’t want to know how the sausage is made, they just want it done.


Tommy:That’s right.


Danny:If there are risks, they definitely get those documented but you come up with mitigation plans to them. You work, maybe you have conversations with other team members, but there is certain things that you don’t need to let the client know that makes sense for you to work through risk-wise with the team but you don’t want to always be screaming wolf either.


Tommy:Right, because we want to be a part of the problem … a part of the solution, not the problem.


Danny:I’m sorry …


Tommy:I short circuited that phrase there. No, we do not want to be part of the problem. That’s the point, is I think our customers have enough problems and at the end of the day we want to be careful on how much we surface to them. That again has its appropriate balance, where you need to bring things up that empower the customer, that give them the ability to choose the path when it’s time for them to make a choice, versus bring up things that are outside of their control, things that we need to address. Maybe we give awareness of that but at the end of the day we’re owning it as though it’s our problem.


Trying not to surface up those problems too much but knowing when is it the right time to get the customer involved, so they feel like, “You didn’t wait too long to tell me this, and also at the same time you weren’t just telling me every single problem you ran up against each day.” Because it’s easy to say, “I’ve got all these issues,” and sandbag, “This is impossible to do,” and create so much worry for the customer. We’re always trying to find that right balance of, how much do I expose to the customer to enable them, not to paralyze them and make them feel like this is impossible. That’s tough to do and I think with a good balance of humble confidence you know when to bring up those problems and when to solve them for the customer without burdening them with the problem.


Danny:One of the other benefits to having folks around here with this character trait is it creates a great learning environment. People who are starting up new at ThreeWill working alongside with those folks, I think back in my career like Dave Cohen back at Extreme Logic, how he was the smartest guy in the room yet I feel like I could come and ask him a question. He wouldn’t belittle me, he wouldn’t make me feel like I was stupid and he would talk me through it. I think it’s important to us as we grow as a company and as we bring on younger folks that we have this so that they feel like other people on their team are approachable.


Tommy:I agree. I agree, it does create a great learning environment when you have people that are humbly confident. I’ve said it this way to some people that have interviewed for ThreeWill, is that what you’ll find is a bunch of A-players that think they’re B-players. They feel like there’s so many people they can learn from. That’s a great environment to be in that you feel like you can contribute to others and others can contribute to you in terms of your journey of learning and growing in your career.


Danny:If you’re listening to this you might be looking for an environment like this where this is a really important characteristic. I think Tommy and I could probably go on for another 30 minutes about this, but if you’re looking for this type of environment for your career, definitely drop by our website. We’ve got an open positions and you can start the whole process, kick the process off with interviewing at ThreeWill. I know in this upcoming year we’re looking to hire at least a couple folks, is that right Tom?




Danny:We sure? Great. Then I think if you want to work with a company like us, where we’re not coming in and telling you what to do and are really listening and are competent in what we’re doing, yet we come at it in a way that is full of humility, if you’re looking to work with a company like us definitely come to the site, go to the contact us page and basically start a conversation with me. I’d love to hear from you and hear more about … maybe you’re trying to instill this character trait within your own organization. I would love to hear from you. Anything else to wrap us up Tommy?


Tommy:I think that’s good.


Danny:Awesome. Thanks everybody for listening and have a wonderful day. Take care. Bye bye.




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Tommy RyanHumble Confidence – A Key Character Trait at ThreeWill

Introducing ThreeWill Labs

Pete is a Director of Technology at ThreeWill. Pete’s primary role is driving the overall technology strategy and roadmap for ThreeWill. Pete also serves as ThreeWill’s Hiring Manager and is constantly looking for new talent to join the ThreeWill family.

Introducing ThreeWill Labs

I’d like to formally introduce ThreeWill Labs. We created ThreeWill Labs to proactively invest in our people, process and technology.  ThreeWill Labs was formed to create innovative solutions to business challenges encountered by our clients and associates.  As a company, we are choosing to invest in ThreeWill Labs to enable us to mitigate our customer’s technology risks, forge new technology directions, and innovate for our customer’s future.

In keeping with ThreeWill’s Core Values, ThreeWill Labs is an effort to balance and increase our effectiveness as a technology consulting company. Our Production / Production Capacity (P/PC) balance is critical to our growth and integrity.  We see this investment as a way to increase our ability to serve as trusted advisors and be a fundamental part of our customer’s success.

 Who We Are

ThreeWill Labs was created in November 2013 and initially staffed with a small dedicated team.  We see dedicating resources to ThreeWill Labs as an opportunity to anticipate the needs of our clients and proactively identify innovative approaches to our client’s current and future business needs.  ThreeWill Labs is not only a strong asset for our customers, but a great investment in our people.  Our professional services team is involved in ThreeWill Lab efforts so they can be exposed to upcoming technologies they can leverage on future projects.  We also encourage involvement from our services team to get centered around the true “real world” business problems our customers are facing versus just innovating for innovation sake.  In addition to involving our internal teams, we seek out opportunities to innovate with our clients and partners on game changing proofs of concepts that help our clients take a broader view on how to solve their collaboration challenges.

Mission for ThreeWill Labs

Our mission is to proactively invest in our people, process and technology to provide innovative solutions to collaborative business challenges encountered by our clients. By serving as ThreeWill’s “proactive muscle,” ThreeWill Labs will:

  • Focus On innovation – incubating novel ideas with technologies that provide next generation solutions to complex team based collaboration needs
  • We Will Serve
    • Internal Teams – facilitate best practices, provide training, code samples, solution starters and more to enable our professional services staff to be effective in the field with our clients
    • Technology Community – community involvement via spoken and written form to provide thought leadership
    • Clients – ensure our clients are using the most effective and beneficial collaboration technologies through the appropriate involvement before, during and after client engagements
  • Proactively Drive Solutions  – opportunistically partner with customers in R&D or risk mitigation projects who use cutting edge techniques or technologies

Follow Us @ThreeWillLabs

Interested in working with ThreeWill Labs?

Contact Us
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Pete SkellyIntroducing ThreeWill Labs

Humble Confidence – The Formula for Success

Pete is a Director of Technology at ThreeWill. Pete’s primary role is driving the overall technology strategy and roadmap for ThreeWill. Pete also serves as ThreeWill’s Hiring Manager and is constantly looking for new talent to join the ThreeWill family.

Recently a friend and colleague posted something to Facebook that made me laugh and then made me think about some of my current responsibilities at ThreeWill.

S = k log W (mathematical formulation of entropy)

My completely inadequate summary of this formula is “the natural tendency of things to move towards disorder” [don’t shoot me, my degree is in Philosophy not Physics].

But that is not the point of this post…

My friend’s post got me thinking, and what it stirred was some thoughts about how hard it is to find candidates that fit in ThreeWill’s company culture.

How did I get from entropy to recruiting? Do you really want to understand how my mind works…

Ok, you asked. The formula made me think of how hard it is to quantify the qualities of a good candidate for ThreeWill. What most people initially latch onto is the technical skill set that someone needs to perform a particular job. However, we have all heard the old saying, “I would rather have ten mediocre team players, than 3 egomaniacs” (or similar). Why? What does it take to get a project completed, a product created, a problem solved? Above all else, there is always one thing which is required – people who are part of a high performing team!

At ThreeWill, we list our company values in order – People, Process, Technology. We truly believe that the right people, applying a sound process, can apply technology to add value for our customers. Relationships, both internal to ThreeWill and with our partners and clients, are the most important things at ThreeWill.


Since I have been “wearing the sorting hat”, I have come to realize that it is not the the technical skills that identify the most compatible and valuable ThreeWill associates. Over time it has become clear that there is a combination of competencies (a specific range of skill, knowledge, or ability) which identify the most promising future associates at ThreeWill. The technology skills are only a part of the equation. Yes, those technical skills and abilities are critical to ThreeWill, and everyone at ThreeWill has them in abundance. However, there are some more significant indicators that identify candidates who will thrive at ThreeWill (and in my opinion in any company). Humility, cooperation, tolerance, empathy, influence, and problem solving skills are some of the more prominent indicators. These are the ingredients for great team players and excellent consultants.

Well this is all fine, but why this post?

I have had the opportunity to interview a significant number of candidates for a wide range of positions including Senior Consultant, Software Engineer, Project Manager, Account Manager and others.

So what is the formula for success within ThreeWill? Here’s the formula (and one we have discussed internally before):

HC = I – E or Humble Confidence = Intellect minus Ego

I recently celebrated 7 years at ThreeWill. Over the past 7 years I have seen this company grow significantly, but one constant remains. Humble confidence is alive and thriving at ThreeWill. Humble confidence is the reason ThreeWill is a great company to work with, and a great place to work. Relationships matter – and when a team of people (ThreeWill and our customers) can put aside their ego’s, apply their combined intellect and respective talents to a business problem, a team really can make a difference.


Humble confidence – if you’ve got it, maybe there is a place for you at ThreeWill.

ThreeWill Careers
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Pete SkellyHumble Confidence – The Formula for Success

Growing & Keeping the ThreeWill Culture

Tommy serves as the President at ThreeWill. In this role, he works with his leadership team to hire the best people, find the right business opportunities, and ensure that ThreeWill delivers for our clients on projects.

The ThreeWill Culture

ThreeWill is going through another growth spurt which brings us to the point of finding new team members.  The interview process can be so difficult.

How do you know if the person really embodies the shared values of your company?


I believe the best way to find new team members is through referrals.  People that work at ThreeWill know what is necessary to succeed in our company.  With this knowledge, they can say, “Bob would be a great fit for ThreeWill”.  Unfortunately, the number of referrals we have does not always meet the demand of our company growth. When searching for the next ThreeWiller, we are very concerned about diluting a good thing – our culture.

Our clients love the work we do and how we approach them to produce joint success.  We often get comments like “no matter who is on a project from ThreeWill, they are always such great people to work with”.  That is something I want to always hear from our clients, so new hires are very critical to the present and future culture of ThreeWill.

To find the “right” people, you need to understand what is typically important to the average person at ThreeWill. Loving to work at a company goes a long way in high productivity and effectiveness.  So, in order have healthy growth in the company, we need to know why people love to work at ThreeWill.

Top 5 Reasons Why People Love to Work at ThreeWill

1. Shared Values

We are a company that does more than pay lip service to their company values.  When people come to ThreeWill, they see the values in action from everyone in the company.  There is integrity between what is said and what is practiced.  This is always a pleasant surprise to new people at ThreeWill and is a key part of why people come and stay at ThreeWill.  This is also the foundation of the other four reasons below.

2. Making a Difference

At ThreeWill, we are a group of people that show up for work to get something done. We thrive on seeing forward-moving progress. I think this is a key reason why our company gravitated to Agile as a Process. This process values having incremental delivery of working software and maximizing the impact of a client budget against a customer problem.

3. Team First

We truly are a group of humble servants.  We value the “humbly confident”, a quirky term for describing people that are able to take on difficult problems with confidence, but do it with humility.  Doing this with humility allows for close-knit teams to be an extension of the customer.  To have a high-performance team, egos need to be checked at the door.  People at ThreeWill expect that attitude from their team members and get great satisfaction on seeing the dynamics of a small high-performance team.

4. Learning Organization

Folks that work at ThreeWill love to learn.  We are constantly excited about the next version of SharePoint and new development techniques.  We have an environment that people are encouraged to share knowledge and to come together to learn things together as a company.  No one is stagnant at ThreeWill.  We promote learning constantly through lunch and learns, book clubs and product showcases.  Product showcases allow teams to share the outcome of their projects with the entire team to reveal design patterns and lessons learned.

5. Recognition

Although humility is key, there is a balance to that… people want and need to be valued for their contribution. We care about giving proper recognition through highlighting an “Associate of the Month” each company meeting; providing people sponsors that are responsible for their success and recognizing their accomplishments; focused financial reward programs that can be understood and measured; and in everyday interaction that people show their appreciation for your help.  One of my favorite things to do at ThreeWill is to “catch” people doing good things and recognize them on the ThreeWill Cafe (our internal collaboration site).

If you want an opinion of why our people love being at ThreeWill, take a peek at our associate testimonials.

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Tommy RyanGrowing & Keeping the ThreeWill Culture