GVPOD - Greater Vancouver's Business Podcast

Greater Vancouver Board of Trade President and CEO Bridgitte Anderson speaks with Vivo Team Development CEO and Founder Renée Safrata about putting together a team that will help your business succeed.

What is GVPOD - Greater Vancouver's Business Podcast?

GVPOD is the podcast of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade. President and CEO Bridgitte Anderson talks to leaders in the business community about the challenges and opportunities they experience, as well as issues impacting our region.

0:00:00.0 S1: [Bridgitte] Well, Hi again everyone and welcome to GVPOD, Greater Vancouver's business podcast, exploring the challenges and opportunities facing your region.

0:00:09.4 S2: I'm Bridgitte Anderson, President and CEO of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade. October is small business month and our sponsor this month is our pillar partner, RBC, and anyone who has run a small business knows that it can be a monumental task and building the right team is often half the battle. So today I'm speaking with someone who knows exactly what it's like to take to build a winning team, because she's done it herself, and now she helps others do the same. Renee Safrata is the CEO and founder of VIVO team development, and she's here to talk about how to get the right people to help your business succeed. Nice to see you.

0:00:48.5 S1: [Renee] Nice to see you as well. And thanks so much for doing this today.

0:00:52.0 S2: [Bridgitte] So maybe we'll start with your back story, let's talk about your entrepreneurial background and then the company that you first found it, and love to hear some lessons learned from that experience.

[Renee] Sure, sure.

0:01:05.2 S1: I think my entrepreneurial background started from growing up in the late 60s, in the 70s, with an entrepreneurial father who was an architect and worked from his home and was, had a global footprint even at that time where he was designing out in... throughout Europe, I think that really gave me the context of, hey, why not do it on my own, and so I had lots of great messaging from both my parents to just get out there and do it, and I did... I got educated in my first profession as a, what we call an Canada registered interior designer and what we call throughout North America an interior architect, and I thought I'd take a stab at my first venture, which was a boutique interior design architectural firm run out of Toronto, and it was really started in residential design, went through to commercial, and I ended up in big box retail, so helping big brands make all of their client experiences look the same, so claim to fame, I named Petcetera - which some of us may know. And the other claim to fame was just that I had the ability to work on some teams that were highly functional and others that were not functional, so that was quite a learning, and there is a thread line to...

0:02:25.6 S1: Right now, Vivo team as well, so I've had a number of solo-preneurial and entrepreneurial ventures. Vivo team is where I have landed through that process, you asked me about lessons learned, I think...

0:02:37.6 S2: Yeah, so

0:02:39.2 S1: I think for me as a new person or educated as a technician, but really not educated as a business person, I had to realize that I didn't know anything about business, I knew lots of great technical skills, hard skills, but I really didn't know how to work with customers or the finances of my business, or the right metrics to show me that I was on the right track, and that actually became a little bit scary, I think as well. I also thought as my first iteration, because I didn't really know again with the financials, could I support a hire a full-time employee? So what I did was I built the business that would... Depending on the projects, it would grow or it would scale down, and how I did that was with contracting and vending relationships with engineers that I brought to the table, or decorators that are brought to the table, or those other support services to the end project game.

0:03:42.4 S2: It was a stepping stone

[Bridgitte] So that thread then, not just building beautiful spaces, but building the team to build beautiful spaces, and I think anybody who has been on a team or built a team knows that some teams are highly functioning and you're really grateful when you're in that situation, but sometimes that's not always the case.

0:04:04.3 S1: [Renee] That's right, that's right. And that's what's become my life passion, my professional passion is to figure out how to unlock that, how to help the companies that we work with now really understand how to balance hard scale competencies and soft scale competencies, so that their teams and their leaders connect at a high level, and they collaborate at a high level, and I wouldn't be here if I hadn't had the stepping stones of the previous experiences to really find out my passion, and I think as well... I have to say, I think as a young entrepreneur, a lot of people say- “Just find your passion and the money will follow”, I had a tough time with that because I can do a lot of things and I can do a lot of things really well, so that question of, What's your passion, I found almost disturbing, I don't know. But after a while, I started recognizing there was that piece of team that I wanted to unlock.

0:05:07.4 S2: [Bridgitte] So the obvious question is, how do you build a winning team because it is a bit like... I don't know, I see it a bit like cooking, you gotta have all the ingredients to make a good recipe.

[Renee] Yeah.

0:05:19.6 S1: I think you're right. I think building a great team has to do with, again, let's just small with... You find that first right hire, and that's tough, you might have to go through a number of re-hires to find the right hire, but you find that right hire who shares? My right hire was Aaron Bruin, we call one another, she calls me her batwoman, and I call her my Robin. We knew that our values were aligned, we could almost finish one in other sentences that right hire than could be duplicated. So I think that's an important first step. Go through as many people as you have to find that right hire and to build the team, you have to build it slowly, because once you have those core values and the core, let's say the accountabilities of how work gets done around here, and as long as you hold people accountable to great work, then you can just keep rinsing and repeating and expanding, but it takes good quality management of that, it can't be just lip service to- Hey, you're a great person, come in and do your job.

0:06:35.0 S2: That doesn't work.

[Bridgitte] Well, is such a good point about aligning values and accountability because you can do that, but still build diversity in a team, because more and more workplaces are focused on diversity, diversity of thought, diversity of individuals, diversity in every kind of aspect of skills, abilities. But I think I'm hearing you say that the alignment of some of those core pieces, like values is sort of the glue that holds a good team together.

0:07:06.5 S1: [Renee] Absolutely, and I think that when you bringing up diversity is a really good point because I think people get confused and they think that diversity has to do with how our websites look, that there's a lot of diversity on the team page. You're absolutely right. Diversity means looking at the business and what are the problems we solve, and what diverse opinion, viewpoint, knowledge judgment do we need around our decision-making table with our customers to solve those problems properly. That's true diversity. I think

0:07:43.6 S2: [Bridgitte] I'll admit I was doing some... I don't know if it's called sneaking around, I was looking at your website and just looking at some of the really interesting research that you had in the analytics you had, because there's a real financial cost to having dysfunctional teams, and it is a bit of a harder thing to put your finger on, but anybody who's been part of a dysfunctional team or letter dysfunctional teams know there's a cost, but you've actually got some research that shows about the cost of non-productive behaviors.

0:08:14.9 S1: [Renee] Yeah, we do, and we set aside... Talking about research, we set aside a good two to solve this problem because 12 years ago, we looked at what Learning and Development looked like, and we looked at what five generations going into the workplace and the workplace of 2020 would look like. Like we really cast our eyes out to the future, we didn't expect a pandemic, but we cast our eyes out and we said, How is learning and development going to solve the problems at the C-suite for the leaders and managers and for the individual contributors with what is out there, and we recognize we needed to disrupt what was there, so one of the things that I recognize is that people kept saying, You cannot measure soft skills, this was a big thing years ago, and you cant measure self-skills. And we believe differently, we believe that with behavioral science, if we look at effective behaviors in key soft skills, communication, accountability, emotional intelligence, and therefore, and so on, if we could identify effective competence behaviors, motivation behaviors or will behaviors and collaboration behaviors, and then we could measure repetitive behavioral pattern against those efficient manner, mannerisms, we had something...

0:09:39.4 S1: And so we hung our hat on, let's look at not putting people in teams in a box saying You're a blue hat, I'm a Red Hat and you're a green hat, how do we talk to each other? But actually looking at how do we behave when we are completing projects, what are we actually doing, we're not doing, and how can we then give managers the tools to really understand how to notice behavior and how to give people... Behavioral feedback on that behavior has a positive impact on the project or on the team, that behavior doesn't... So please do more of this, or please do less of this by arming managers and leaders with those kinds of very practical tools, then they don't feel so overwhelmed and they can have sometimes tough conversations with the people they're leading, if we start to... We believe, and we do this all the time, and we believe that when we have teams and leaders having high quality connecting conversations about behaviors, people know what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and what has the best impact on the project resolved. We all feel great about it, we come home at the end of the day and we feel alive, we're not...

0:10:58.7 S1: Gravitating to the couch for a bag of salt and vinegar chips, right?

0:11:04.2 S2: [Bridgitte] Now, October is small business month, and 98% of the businesses in British Columbia are small businesses. So a lot of what I'm hearing you say about teams and leaders is applicable to many, medium or larger businesses, but if you're talking about a small business that might have five people or fewer, how does this thinking apply to those businesses?

[Renee] Yeah.

0:11:29.1 S1: So what I heard you say is you have these larger businesses, medium to large, but most of the audience here are small businesses, so how does this really apply to small businesses... Correct. This is my lens on small, medium and large businesses, we all have to solve problems to be in business, business problems requires people... People to solve those problems. And so if you're a small business and you have three people or six people, let's say, we are probably bumping into the same thing as those large companies, that at the end of the day, when you look at how projects are completed, projects and large companies are also completed with six to 12 people on average, right. Just be maybe multiple teams, and truthfully, I think the only difference is they have an extra zero behind their revenue and their bottom line profit, so work the zeros, I just get the build those zeros. But think about human beings and how we can manage. How do people solve projects and people solve projects by navigating both their hard skills, that's their technical competence and their soft skills of working together, so all of this is super applicable to no matter what size of business focus on the people, and that's the invisible balance sheet.

0:12:57.5 S1: of organizations, and we are very... And I include myself in this, we are very, very privileged that we get to have small teams, and we get to have the opportunity to focus on people and make it a great place - workplace for people, that's our invisible balance sheet, there are a lot of really large companies that just look at the balance sheet that's from... Lost in the balance sheet. And they don't care about the people. So guess what, we're a good news story is small to medium-sized businesses.

0:13:28.2 S2: [Bridgitte] The last two and a half years have just been so challenging on so many levels, but for this particular conversation, I just think about the change in the workplace environment, this hybrid work environment that still is happening now, and I think it has forever changed for all organizations, whether you're in any kind of flex environment or you're just trying to navigate that right now, so how does that change for when you're building a team, like what kind of additional factors go into go into building a team when some people, you just don't see them every day.

[Renee] Yeah.

0:14:05.8 S1: I'm gonna say a couple of things on this one. I think that you can't put the tooth paste back in the tube, so we really need to embrace the paradigm shift, and actually when companies... When we see companies, leaders and teams embracing the paradigm shift and learning what the paradigm shift means, perhaps just even taking a pause point to recognize how technology or shared documentation can help them just pause. Pause for a minute. Just Pause - sharpen the saw. Pause for a minute. When they embrace the paradigm shift, they can recognize greater efficiencies, I think to answer your question as well, that there has to be more focus on their front-line managers connecting, connecting more deeply with people because we don't... We are no longer attached so much to place, the water cooler is now a river that is throughout a number of locations, and we need to attach to people and processes and solve projects from distributed teams. So I think that if in our business portfolio, we take some things from the old paradigm that we love, maybe it's brainstorming in a board room together, but we also have things that we love in the new paradigm.

0:15:22.9 S1: We've got a really exciting place to be in the future, the workplace of the future, I think looks really exciting, and in addition, I think that what I would say is where people will get it wrong, is when they try to squish the two paradigms into one, you just can't do it, you can't... We see some people that are in the office, they still have that big display in the board room, and they're bringing people into a teams meeting who are the people who are working from home into the boardroom, and there's eight to 10 in the board room. Well, all you're doing is taking two paradigms and trying to make it work and it doesn't... People are turning their heads and people are trying to talk to...

0:16:02.9 S2: [Bridgitte] It's very awkward.

[Renee] Yeah, it's... No.

0:16:05.8 S1: Don't take a pause, learn the new paradigm shift and implement in...

0:16:09.9 S2: [Bridgitte] What's your thinking on? There have been some leaders in team building and thought leaders in organizational development and those kinds of things that you know, it's really hard for employers to give employees more opportunity to help them with career advance unless they see them face-to-face in the office. Those people who show up are gonna get more opportunities, do you think that is necessarily true in building teams and advancing, helping to support the advancement of somebody's career?

0:16:42.3 S1: [Renee] No, I don't, I don't... And I come to this from being a company owner that sees a lot of work with a lot of companies that are doing it well, and many that aren't doing well, I also come to this conversation as a leader of a company that's retro Canada, there's people... I don't know the height of a lot of people in my day

0:17:03.1 S2: [Bridgitte] That is when it is surprising when you see them in-person.

0:17:04.2 S1: [Renee] When you see the ads there in a fact, they're in Toronto, they're in Vancouver, but we have the structures in place and we have taught the soft skills of communication and feedback, and holding one another accountable in such a manner that we feel equally connected and career advancement is something that I think actually can happen faster because people are extremely efficient and they're enjoying the lifestyle choice being where they want to be well, they work at the central hub called Vivo team that I don't...

0:17:41.7 S2: Yeah, I don't see it, I just don't see it.

[Bridgitte] That's a great perspective on... Before we run out of time, I do wanna give you an opportunity and maybe a call to action to all of those employers out there who are really challenged right now to attract and retain employees, a majority of our members have been saying that to us four months now that they are dealing with labor shortages, attracting talent, retaining challenge, so as you think about it with your hat on a building teams, what would be some advice to employers who are really grappling with is...

[Renee] Yeah.

0:18:15.4 S1: You know, again, I feel the pain. I think there is a pain out there right now, I think the ships will turn at some point, but we just put out a proposal to bring in a new hire, we had 300 applications and we short-listed it down to four to interview one didn't show up and the other three were not right for the role, so what we're doing is we're really starting to look at the employees who recognize, on our team, who recognize that they are a part of a great team and they're interested in being here, and we're asking them, do you have friends, do you have professional colleagues that would like to join a great team, like can we bring them to the table instead of going net new on a indeed ad where we don't know people in addition to that, I think as well is... And we see this in our clients, there's a stuck point that when team, even if it's a small team of three, when teams have not taken the advantages of helping people develop to the next level, it's hard for them to grow, so... Are you trying to find the people at the upper area of the org chart, or are you trying to...

0:19:35.4 S1: Are you organically developing, even if it's a small team, the people that are within your team and bringing in others and giving new opportunities to possibly some younger hires that are out there just dying to have a job outside of Starbucks... Right. I don't know if that answered your question.

0:19:55.8 S2: [Bridgitte] It does, and I would really encourage listeners to go to your website, Vivo team development, and look around, you've got some great tips, you've got really good research and analytics, and I'm sure that more than what we can spend over in a podcast, but lots of learning there. And thank you for…

[Renee] take our demo, and even if you have a team of three, find out where you're strong, where you're weak, how much is costing you, and then use those tips to improve things. Sorry, I..

[Bridgitte] No, I was just gonna say that no matter how high functioning the team is, you can always improve, so there's probably something on your website that would appeal and apply to just about anybody.

0:20:41.8 S1: [Renee] Yeah, yeah, absolutely, you're absolutely right.

0:20:43.5 S2: [Bridgitte] Thanks so much Renee, I appreciate your time.

0:20:46.6 S1: [Renee] Yeah, thank you for all of this. I think we can all be in great workplaces, and I hope that this helps a lot of people create great workplaces, thanks Bridgitte.