“How business leaders can create a fantastic work environment” With Jason Hartman & Scott Madsen

It is a painful lesson to cast off old relationships with people who aren’t going where you are going in life. Fill your life with people who focus on improving the self, who take responsibility for their faults and failures and become better. I’ve learned through many difficulties that they are the ones who solve […]

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It is a painful lesson to cast off old relationships with people who aren’t going where you are going in life. Fill your life with people who focus on improving the self, who take responsibility for their faults and failures and become better. I’ve learned through many difficulties that they are the ones who solve problems, innovate the future, and change the course of history. They live in a reality most can’t grasp, not because of the wealth, but because of the way they have learned to see the world.

As a part of my series about about how leaders can create a “fantastic work culture”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Scott Madsen.

Scott Madsen is the CEO of Cingo Solutions, a SOC2 certified managed detection and response cybersecurity provider. An entrepreneur that emphasizes strategic process creation and integration, Scott is motivated by technical solutions development, customer experience and innovation.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Necessity brought us to this career path. My partners and I founded Cingo Solutions in 2012 with the sole focus of providing web-based solutions for underserviced industries that deal with regulatory requirements. The deeper we got in providing solutions the more we became committed to the idea that in order to do cyber security and compliance correctly, we were going to have to do it ourselves and Cingo Solutions “Protects” and “Compliance” series of products were born.

Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We specialize in creating security stacks that meet rigorous regulatory compliance in various industries. There are always exciting new challenges in creating custom solutions for our clients. Currently, we are working with clients to help navigate a new law that will be going into effect in January 1, 2020, called the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). The CCPA is an effort to require more advanced and proactive measures to combat cyber crime and the leaking of personal data from individual businesses. These types of laws have been passed in other states as well. They affect multi-billion dollar corporations with the resources and teams to implement them…as well as companies that revenue $10M/year and up. Cingo Solutions has the expertise and experience bringing companies into compliance, and because we are a third party, we take on the responsibility of making sure qualified people are doing the work which takes the burden off of the company who just heard about this law and wants to pass their audit. Hiring and training in this market with any hope of retention can be tough. Cingo clients falling under the jurisdiction of the California Consumer Protection Act are secure and have taken the necessary measures to safeguard their customer’s information are prepared for the current regulation, but ongoing Cingo Compliance clients are futureproofed for any updates or changes.

Ok, lets jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?

I think to simplify, I would say most of this issue can be summed up in the idea of “meaning”. How do people derive meaning out of what they do every day? Many feel they are underemployed and that they have more potential to offer, whereas others are over-employed and they may not be willing to start in positions that will offer more meaningful growth. We have found that some of the more brilliant workers aren’t the “squeaky wheels”. So how do employers recognize capacity within their organizations to retain and inspire the exceptional people? And how do we recognize people who are in over their heads and need more support? This is why training and growth pipelines within organizations matter so much. Transparency about what roles exist, what roles are going to be created and openings that need to be filled is key because it clearly communicates that promoting from within is a priority, recognition of individual’s capacity, and leadership helping to plot their course for success. Internal certification programs also help employees reach earning goals by becoming proficient and therefore more valuable to the organization. Helping employees set and achieve goals by helping them understand their limitations for growth is paramount to their personal satisfaction and wellbeing. “Management” as a term is becoming a less effective word to use. At Cingo we hire adults, people who want to grow and build meaningful projects. If a team member needs to be ‘managed’ every day, they are either under-challenged or underqualified for the tasks they are doing. Recognizing and applying real solutions for these people doesn’t take “management”, it takes leadership. Leaders help people unlock unknown potential, help employees reach goals both short term and long term and don’t do it for short term benefits. They do it because a happy employee with a path charted to get them from where they are to where they want to be can create future leaders who lift others with the same passion. Leaders should mentor their subordinates even if it makes them a greater acquisition in the job market because competence should be a byproduct of your organization.

Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?

People don’t just want a job, they want to be spending their time doing something that is going to make an impact…and on the surface level, most companies don’t exactly offer opportunities to “change the world.” But successful companies will distill for their employees the meaning behind the work they do every day so everyone can be united in the company’s purpose. When our teams at Cingo do a great job for a client in securing their systems and preventing cyber security breaches, this allows that company to conduct business as usual. Is this changing the world? Well, when you consider that business as usual means the company stays open, their specialists get paid, they can offer greater employment opportunities and those families now have financial security which then opens up a myriad of other opportunities, well, I would say that for that group of people, it is changing the world. The impact of this type of thinking on company productivity is huge because it unites teams behind a purpose. It means that everyone walking through the door every morning knows that by doing their job well, they have the opportunity to make someone’s company, and the lives of every person in it, better.

To answer your question, A) an employee who sees the greater purpose of their job and how it contributes to others success does increase productivity, B) the more efficient the workers, the greater the knowledge base, and the more confident they are in actions they are taking results in greater profitability, greater leadership growth for the employee, and C) an overall better quality of life for everyone in the organization.

Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?

  1. Good managers are good leaders, who stay ahead of their employees’ development needs. We have a team member who is inherently driven- when he couldn’t get the jobs he wanted because he didn’t have a college degree, he somehow put 4 years of schooling in a single year. After joining Cingo and being successful, it was clear that giving him more money wasn’t going to be enough to keep him. He wanted something harder to do, something to develop him into a better coder, a better person. Hiring, onboarding and training is an investment for companies and it is in everyone’s best interest to retain those employees and ensure their growth. Be aware of the people you are managing who may need additional problems to solve so you can keep them challenged in a way that pushes the company forward. Don’t punish brilliance, and don’t grade other workers on the same curve. Appropriately and thoughtfully connecting employees of any specific level of skillset to a pipeline of work gives them a vested interest in the success of the company and communicates the company’s confidence in them.
  2. Culture must be solidified by intentional framework. Every company has its own secret sauce that makes its work environment special but in order to maintain that culture, the company vision, mission and values MUST be defined and communicated. It’s not enough to just “hire well” or “be open to feedback” or have the best intentions of not changing the feeling of working in the office when you grow from 50 to 500 employees. It has to be intentional and you have to build a framework that puts language to the elements that have created your culture. In the early years of Cingo, we doubled our workforce by trusting our gut in the interview process. Some new hires were great…and some were certainly not. We realized we made a critical mistake by not selecting candidates by a clearly defined set of values and, in return, we didn’t give candidates the opportunity to see if Cingo was a good fit for them because we had no way to share our culture. We now have clear processes for hiring and for our internal team that reflect the culture that makes Cingo a great place to work and sets us up to scale both the business and the culture. We hire all types of skills at all levels of experience. What makes people successful is whether or not they can self-identify their struggles and what is holding them back from personal growth so that we can chart a path to success.
  3. Empower your team with ownership. Do your employees have the information and access they need in order to make decisions, come up with the next big idea or execute a task above their proverbial paygrade? Give everyone, executives, managers and brand new hires, the gift of your confidence in them. If they feel ownership over their work product, you’ll see a different commitment to the outcome than if it’s work they are doing for “someone else.” The position of Product Owner with our developers has been key in helping employees rise or fall of their own accord. It isn’t always a success story but by betting on those willing to take responsibility even failures turn into valuable coaching moments which can help result in great employees with healthy attitudes towards the success/failure cycle.
  4. Listen. When they feel they are in a safe environment, most employees are able to self-diagnose, within reason, what they feel may be holding them back or not giving them the satisfaction they should have in a job well done. Most employees can tell you where they would like to be and a select few are right! “The grass is always greener” is a difficult mindset to break when you don’t understand the maintenance requirements to keep it green. Most people need to experience different challenges to realize if it is the right fit. Be sure to listen to your employee’s complaints, personal interests, what drives them, what squashes them, but most importantly, the style of communication they respond the best to. If you really want great people who are happy to work for you, they need to feel like you speak their language.
  5. Mentorship/Leadership. The measure of true leadership is not based solely on efficiency, or profitability, or productivity. The most important measure of leadership is shown by the changes or growth in the individual lives of those who received it. If the leadership has made the correct decisions and evaluated employee motivations correctly, all of the fundamentals will fall into place. But leadership means more than getting what the leader wants, it means guidance and mentorship.It means we aren’t just in the business of cyber security and compliance, we are in the business of offering our employees a growth plan that will help them reach their goals in reasonable increments. At Cingo, we break it into 5-year increments. If an employees quits in the middle of their growth plan to make more money elsewhere, we genuinely wish them success. But it has been our experience that many come back because the culture around personal growth and mentorship is difficult to find.

It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?

People look at work as a long-term commitment to the companies which employ them. If you are unhappy in your job, the idea that working somewhere else will be the key to unlock your happiness is short-sighted, and typically untrue. This is very much the case in the tech industry. We have hired many people who have had 1 year of experience 15 times instead of 15 years of experience 1 time. If an employee finds a job where the company is willing to educate them, train them, promote them, hear them, value and validate them, they won’t seek to leverage that for $5k more a year. A valuable lesson is to remember that money is a byproduct of success, not its purpose. If you have a skill that you continue to craft and perfect, you can remake a fortune several times over a lifetime. Be willing to learn from people, stick with companies that trust you with greater challenges and opportunities and then ask for feedback. Gain everything you can from the situation before you think of entertaining offers from another company. This mantra is much more deeply understood in the trades. Perhaps we need to look at our jobs in any industry and ask ourselves: Am I getting better at my trade? Am I learning from my mistakes? Am I willing to give myself over to the process and working to get to a place in my career where I can do better for more people in the future? It’s that mindset that will help people feel more fulfilled in their work environment and then, subsequently, change workplace culture. Why would someone want to leverage their job to get a new job every 6 months when they are in a place where they are connected to the purpose of their company, being given pathways to develop and are fully committed to working to get better at their craft? The culture regarding work culture is a personal one, one that has to start with the individual in order to become a part of the larger conversation about the workplace. If you want to change an industry, become the best at what you do by growing from everyone around you.

How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?

Personally, when facing an issue, I work to get as much data as possible so I can do my best to evaluate it from all angles. I seek out advice from my team, from my mentors, from myself. I try and focus on its purpose and what mindsets or pitfalls may be creating weighted illusions about prospective outcomes…and once I make a decision, I don’t look back. People need leadership that doesn’t get blown around with every strong wind, leadership needs to have roots. I stay extremely open to input but when it comes time to make a decision, I stand by it. This is important because if it was the wrong call, I am the one responsible. If that happens, I diagnose, I start over, run it by my team, my mentors, evaluate the thinking and try to find what went wrong. In our development division where we develop our proprietary security stack I have written up on the board in bold letters: “FAIL FASTER!” Failure is imminent, but its antidote is adaptation. By failing quickly, we shorten the period of self-doubt and self-loathing and by getting focused on adaptation, we succeed faster. Things trickle up here at Cingo, not down. I’m the first one on the chopping block if something isn’t successful and that’s how it should be. I’m in the business of setting people up for success and our internal systems are designed to give them the best chance we can. If that doesn’t happen, I have to look at the data differently next time. I always want to be better and learn from my missteps so feedback is an essential part of Cingo’s culture.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have been very fortunate to have been punching up for most of my career. I have some incredible mentors, my board is full of knowledgeable, brilliant minds and I’ve become a bit spoiled for choice. It may be cliché but I would have to say my greatest advocate is my father. He was an entrepreneur his whole life. He rode the wave, sometimes he had great success and I saw men want to know him, shake his hand, and admire him. I also saw him take critical losses, be ostracized and isolated and sometimes even mocked. I never saw either mean much to him though. He used to tell me that Babe Ruth had a ritual when batting. He would get up, grab his bat, and swing for the fences. If he crushed the ball and knocked it out of the park, he would run the bases, come into the dugout, grab a glass of water and sit down. If he struck out swinging for the home run, he would come into the dugout, grab a glass of water, and sit down. It taught me a lot about the nature of people and the fickle nature of success. I think Kipling said it best:

“If you can dream- and not make dreams your master;

If you can think- and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two imposters just the same;

If you can bear to hear the words you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you’ve given your life to broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools.;

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Beyond our outreach and offering one of the most high-tech security stacks to smaller markets otherwise ignored by large scale providers, Cingo Solutions could be keeping clients safe from cyber crime based anywhere in the country (or world for that matter) but my family and I have spent our lives in a beautiful little town in the southwest corner of Utah called St. George. We are proud to have our company based here. It is in the middle of all of the great national parks like Zion’s, Bryce, the Grand Canyon, Etc. and as an outdoorsman, it’s tough to beat. But as a businessman, St. George has always been a boom and bust town in that great skilled workers come during the good economies, and leave during the bad. Cingo Solutions has clients in every time zone in the continental United States and has grown at a 300% rate for the last 3 years consecutively. We have been fortunate and Cingo has given locals high paying, high tech jobs and has given families a stable solution for long term employment here. Our success is taking the approach of having positive reach outside our organization locally and that’s the kind of goodness I am looking to cultivate.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

”Stay away from negative people, they have a problem for every solution”

-Albert Einstein

It is a painful lesson to cast off old relationships with people who aren’t going where you are going in life. Fill your life with people who focus on improving the self, who take responsibility for their faults and failures and become better. I’ve learned through many difficulties that they are the ones who solve problems, innovate the future, and change the course of history. They live in a reality most can’t grasp, not because of the wealth, but because of the way they have learned to see the world.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you continued success!

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