Having someone believe in you as you’re building your dreams is hugely important as an early stage entrepreneur.
As a part of my HR Strategy Series, I’m talking to top experts in the field to teach prospects what hiring managers are actually looking for, while also supporting business leaders in their hiring and retention strategies. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Vivek Kumar.
Vivek is a founder and CEO of Qlicket, an enterprise software as a service (SaaS) talent retention platform that helps Fortune 500s and large enterprises reduce their avoidable frontline worker turnover. Before founding Qlicket, Vivek worked at Blackstone in New York, where he marketed alternative credit products to some of the world’s largest institutional investors from the company’s credit platform, GSO Capital Partners. Prior to that, he was a management consultant at Katzenbach Partners (now Strategy&), a firm started by ex-McKinsey folks focused on breakthrough organizational performance. Vivek graduated in 2007 from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! First, please tell us what brought you to this specific career path?
It has been quite a journey! After experimenting with monetizing free WiFi in India and creating a WiFi-enabled system for hotels to collect guest feedback, we eventually decided to test the waters in the HR space. In 2018, we launched our current solution: a talent retention platform for high turnover workforces, those in which the entire labor force is replaced each year. In environments like distribution centers, call centers, retail, fast food, and certain healthcare, we often see annual turnover near 100%. We began working on this solution after a conversation with an HR Managing Director at a Fortune 50, who said that his #1 pain was retaining his package handlers. This is an executive who hires more than 150,000 people a year; after seeing our hospitality and desktop-based feedback solutions, he asked us if we could build something for him to easily collect feedback from his package handlers to know why they were quitting at such high levels. He noted that we could probably find other customers who shared a similar pain, and he was right! Within the first year, we signed seven paying customers, including two Fortune 500s, and in early 2020, we were named the 21st fastest growing SaaS startup for 2019.
Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career and what lesson you learned from that?
As we were transitioning out of the hotel business and searched for another problem to address, we went through a six-month period in which we missed payroll for three months. Our employees faithfully bore some risk during those uncertain times. However, when we finally found an opportunity in the human resources space and began building our solution, our team was far more cohesive than we were previously, and we eventually paid everyone back and more for sticking with us during that trying time.
Wonderful. Now let’s jump into the main focus of our series. Hiring can be very time consuming and difficult. Can you share 5 techniques that you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill?
This may sound contrarian — and may be more difficult to do as we scale — but at our current stage of five full-time folks in the United States, and seventeen people total, we do not look to hire for specific roles. We have people in our networks with obvious talent — “superpowers,” as we call them — and we try to identify ways they can fit within our organization. Do their talents and passions align with our organization’s needs at the moment? Can they help us get to the next level? Would they thrive in our type of environment?
We look for people who are receptive to feedback and are motivated by building something that will hopefully be much larger than themselves.
With so much noise and competition out there, what are your top 3 ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?
1. Be a high growth company
People are attracted to companies that are succeeding. Although we are still a relatively early-stage startup, our traction is palpable. Talented people want to fuel the growth of worthwhile movements with their unique strengths.
2. Have an inspiring mission
Our work in collecting employee feedback to significantly cut employee turnover has a mission beyond increasing companies’ profits. When a business implements Qlicket’s solution in its workforce, it signals to employees that they are being heard. High turnover volatile workplaces lead to physical, emotional, and mental strain for workers. Because our technology impacts thousands of real people around the country, our employees see that their work has a tangible, positive effect on the world.
3. Foster a dynamic culture
Because we have access to a strong network of investors, advisors, and contributors, we seek to connect our employees to the wealth of knowledge available through this network. When we launch a new project, we often encourage our employees to meet with members of our network who could provide insights about their particular tasks.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
In researching the potential reach of our human resources solution, we found the significant health effects related to dissatisfaction at work. Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, for example, found that 5–8% of United States healthcare costs can be somehow attributed to how executives manage their workforces. As Qlicket grows, we look forward to seeing the massive effects it may end up having on how managers lead their employees, and how employees benefit as a result.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and how that was relevant to you in your life?
As a newlywed, I can attest that the adage “happy wife, happy life” is very true. Thankfully, my wife is very supportive of everything going on at Qlicket. Having someone believe in you as you’re building your dreams is hugely important as an early-stage entrepreneur.
We are very blessed to have some of the biggest names in Business, VC, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private lunch with, and why?
Elon Musk, who also happens to be a Penn alumnus! His willingness to innovate and his ability to orient his mission around solving massive problems is deeply admirable, especially for those of us who are naturally entrepreneurial.
Elon is an outstanding choice. Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!