02 Sep An Interview with our Founder
OK Bob, tell us about you, how would you describe yourself in one word?
Really, that’s what you’re going with? OK. Moving along then, what are you into outside of work?
The kids pretty much dominate and dictate what I’m into outside of work, which is cool, because I’m usually really into them. [Note: that’s Bob’s attempt at humor]. When they’re not demanding my time, I love being involved with our church, or heading outdoors for about anything: backpacking, camping, fishing, kayaking. I also love biking, running and swimming – but I’m not as dedicated as I was pre-kid.
Speaking of kids, when you were one what did you want to be when you grew up?
About nine different things: carpenter, astronaut, mechanic , military… pretty much anything that wasn’t in an office. My mom brought me into her office though when I was about eight and they first got the [air quotes] internet. That pretty much blew everything else away for me. I remember going to a site that just showed different machines you could connect to around the globe and being absolutely blown away by the possibilities. From there it was off to Purdue for a Computer Science degree, and then, well, you know the rest…
Of course, working at another firm and then getting fed up with the industry and deciding to open your own shop. That must have been challenging. What was the journey like to get I-S to where it is now?
Exhausting and terrifying. While Inverse-Square doesn’t really feel like a fledgling any more, it still feels like a startup. But those first 18 months, it felt like the odds of success were not in our favor. I didn’t realize that waking up in a cold sweat was a literal thing until I almost missed that first payroll run. With our legs under us now and years of experience behind us, I feel like we’re in an amazing place to really make an impact on the city. I’m excited about the next five years of growth!
We are too! So if you’re excited about growing you must have a strategy in place…
I’m really inexperienced regarding strategy so I lean on a handful of trusted advisers to help me understand the landscape. Our financial adviser Mitch Katz has been a tremendous asset to the company. He brings years of experience that help me put our operations and organizational performance in a framework that provides repeatable metrics so that we can understand the impact of decisions that are made. I’ve worked through several strategic models, but I’ve found that simplicity works best for me. I meet with the team every month to work towards a set of seven to ten major objectives that will be managed by various team member. Those objectives are re-established quarterly. Annually, I’ll spend a few days with both Mitch and the team to create forecasts and plans that we work from. Having a general direction that you want to head in and then decomposing that into bite sized tasks is key.
It’s been five years so even with inexperience you’re obviously doing something right. How do you learn?
Experience. It’s so frustrating. I can hear something, and understand it, but I don’t really know it until I’ve experienced it. That leads to a lot of mistakes where I end up shaking my head thinking “I knew better” at the end of it.
What do you contribute the growth and success of I-S to?
The Team and our underlying values. We’ve intentionally selected talented team members that are not focused on their own pride or ego. When we embark on a project, we do so with the client’s best interest at the core of that work. If it’s something that we don’t think we can be successful at, we’re transparent and honest about that. The Team is full of genuinely kind and compassionate people, when you’re all trying to help each other out, things are much easier to accomplish.
Since you brought up values, how would you define I-S’s culture?
It’s best described by our values but if I had to wrap it up in a nutshell, I’d say that we’re an organization that prioritizes our employees first and foremost. By doing so, we create happy employees that enjoy their job and produce the best possible work for our clients. I used to feel really guilty about that, because we all have ‘the client is always right’ drilled into us. While we still care deeply about our clients and every drop of work we produce for them, I’m learning that caring for yourself first is absolutely essential in a healthy relationship. To that end, we’re striving to create an environment in which we care for one another and check our ego at the door. We strive to enjoy what we’re doing and continually get better at it, but without carrying chips on our shoulders.
That’s awesome. And because I said the keyword, where did the name Team Awesome come from?
That’s all Zach! He was pretty amazed with what the team was capable of creating when he first joined us. He said it again and again, and eventually it stuck. It’s odd because at first glance it goes against the ‘check the ego’ thing but once you’re on the inside you learn that not one person in here would ever refer to themselves as awesome, but no one would deny that the team truly is awesome.
That’s pretty amazing! So with such a strong team beside you, you must have a pretty good vision of what the next five years has in store. What do you hope to achieve?
I want to continue to create the culture and work environment that’s gotten us this far. To have an environment that’s supportive, fun and productive is a magical experience. I’d love to see the team grow to about twice the size that we’re at now. We’re doing some great work, but I know that we can do even more. I also feel like I owe it to the people that have put in some much of their own time and energy to ensure that they get to personally continue their development within the company.
Twice the size, that’s quite the plan. My guess would be that doubling the company size would come with a good bit of change, how will you and Team Awesome approach that?
Change is embraced, it’s absolutely inevitable for technologist. We’re hit with a change on our two largest fronts, production and organization. From a production view point the tools and methodologies we use are constantly in a state of flux, it’s crucial that we stay up to date with what’s available in the industry. From an organizational standpoint, we’ve experienced controlled but healthy growth over the last five years. The growth both personally for each employee, and as an organization requires that we constantly adapt to who we are as a team. If we were to operate today as we did even 12 months ago, we’d have serious issues.
You’ve got a solid group with you, advisers you trust, and you’re adaptable, so one more question. On a scale of 1 to 10, how lucky are you?
Inverse-Square is changing and growing! Do you have what it takes to be part of Team Awesome?Be Awesome!