Wylie Robinson on the Evolution of Rumpl’s Talent Strategy
Roy is joined by Wylie Robinson, CEO and Co-Founder of Rumpl, a Climate Neutral Certified B Corp and proud member of 1% for the Planet. By using performance materials that are most commonly found in premium outdoor gear, Rumpl is on a mission to introduce the world to better blankets. Before moving out to Portland, OR and modernizing the puffy blanket, Wylie worked as a designer with branding agency Landor in San Francisco. Wylie shares how his approach to hiring has evolved throughout Rumpl’s growth. The two also discuss how the brand’s compelling vision and values have helped attract top talent and drive its success.
Listen to the podcast
HIGHLIGHTS FROM OUR CONVERSATION INCLUDE
- Wylie’s path to becoming an entrepreneur (1:51)
- Making Rumpl’s very first hires (7:26)
- Overcoming the growing pains of starting a company (8:53))
- Lessons learned from hiring challenges (10:41)
- Pursuing more equity in the hiring process (12:05)
- How he attracted talent with limited resources early on (14:35)
- How hiring needs have shifted as the company has grown (16:15)
- What makes the Rumpl culture so unique? (22:55)
- The value of hiring engaged employees (24:50)
- The employment brand’s development (28:23)
- The pros and cons of remote and hybrid work (36:23)
- Advice for entrepreneurs who are just starting out (37:16)
SHOW TRANSCRIPT – HOW I HIRE PODCAST WITH WYLIE ROBINSON
HIH: Wylie Robinson Transcript
[00:00:00] Roy Notowitz: Hello, and welcome to How I Hire, the podcast that taps directly into the best executive hiring advice and insights. I’m Roy Notowitz, Founder and President of Noto Group Executive Search. You can learn more about us at notogroup.com. As a go-to firm for purpose driven companies, we’ve been lucky to work with some of the world’s most inspiring leaders as they’ve tackled the challenge of building high performance leadership teams. Now, I’m sitting down with some of these very people to spark a conversation about how to achieve success in hiring and create strong, purposeful leadership for the next generation of companies.
I’m joined by entrepreneur and designer Wylie Robinson. He’s the Founder and CEO of Rumpl, a brand that’s innovating the outdoor apparel, gear, and activewear industry.
The concept for Rumpl was born during an outdoor adventure gone awry in extreme cold conditions. Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, Wylie and his team developed the distinctive line of puffy blankets and technical comfort products that they’re known for today. As a Climate Neutral Certified B Corp and proud member of 1% for the Planet, Rumpl truly embodies their values and looks to the future responsibly.
Wylie and I will discuss hiring during the early days and how they utilize the brand’s compelling vision as part of their recruiting strategy. He’ll also share how they developed their hiring process as well as what it takes to succeed at Rumpl.
Wylie, thanks so much for being here. It’s great to have you on the podcast.
[00:01:43] Wylie Robinson: Thanks Roy, I’m really excited to chat with you about this.
[00:01:46] Roy Notowitz: Let’s dive right in. Can you tell us a little bit about your career journey and, you know, what’s the path that you took to become an entrepreneur and ultimately the Co-founder and CEO of Rumpl?
[00:01:58] Wylie Robinson: So I got a degree from college in architecture, a pre-professional degree. So I’m an unlicensed architect and I got an internship pretty quickly after school with an architecture firm where I realized that architecture as a profession is actually very, very serious. And the work environment was really serious. The coworkers I was with were very, very serious — as they should be.
[00:02:18] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. You don’t want your house to fall down,
[00:02:19] Wylie Robinson: Yeah. But I realized very quickly it wasn’t a great fit for me. So I kind of pivoted from there. I got a job as an illustrator and basically I was illustrating images of mature construction projects that would be pasted on the chain-link fence and the construction site so passersby can look in and see, oh, this is what they’re building here. And that eventually led me to focusing more on graphic design and eventually found my way to Landor Associates in San Francisco, which is a very, very large branding agency. And I was there for about four years before the eventual idea for Rumpl came to me and my co-founder. He and I were really good friends. We did a lot of mountain biking and skiing and surfing together, and we both were working at agencies.
He was an engineer and I was a designer and we went down the coast of California and surfed all along the way down there. And then the plan is to head east into the Sierra and drive back up north through the mountains and ski.
And on our first day before we were about to ski, just outside Yosemite and Tioga pass, it was like the coldest night on record in that area. And our car completely froze and we woke up the next morning, the car wouldn’t turn over. And we were, we were stuck pretty far away from where anybody would go on a regular basis. We were in this fairly sketchy situation actually. So we ended up getting really lucky and getting out of there. But the whole time we were waiting for somebody to show up, you know, we had no cell phone reception or anything. We couldn’t walk into town. And we climbed into our sleeping bags and got to talking about how we really weren’t that uncomfortable. And the reason for that is because we were in these nice, warm, comfortable, cozy sleeping bags that made us feel safe.
And we got to talking about how we just liked the materials of our sleeping bags so much more than our blankets on our beds back home. And you know, why has somebody not use these materials for a blanket? And that kind of like started the idea for Rumpl. So we kind of dabbled with this idea.
We sewed up two prototypes when we got back to San Francisco and several months later we were using these things on our beds and we would gradually start to take them out with us and take them to hanging out with friends at the park or going to concerts or to the beach or whatever, because it was just like really versatile tool.
And a bunch of our friends told us, oh, this is something really interesting. I think people might like it. And so we still were really unsure if this was a good idea. So we decided to do a Kickstarter in December of 2013.
And the Kickstarter campaign did really, really well and ended up doing about a quarter million dollars in sales in 30 days, which was wild to us. And that was like the clear sign that, okay, this is a viable idea. We’ve tapped into something here. And that allowed us both to, you know, leave our jobs and go into this full time.
So that’s sort of like the starting of the company, the path to CEO, which I believe was the second part of your question was a little different. I actually, when we were incorporating the business, I have this really, really distinct memory of signing all the paperwork. And there was a line at the bottom that said, you know, “president” and I think the other one was “secretary” maybe.
And I looked at my partner and I was like, you’re the president. I do not want that job. And so he was actually the CEO of the company for the first two years or so. And the company, you know, right out the gate did pretty well. Our first year in business, we did about a half million dollars of revenue. And from there we did a million and it sort of kept doubling year after year, but he was really passionate about this idea that what Rumpl did with the blanket, which was take some existing technical materials and apply them to this dated category.
He was really passionate about the idea that we could take that same type of design thinking and apply it to a much, much broader variety of home goods. You know, obviously blankets, but bedding and towels and slippers and robes. And we even talked about ideas of furniture that was upholstered in DWR coated fabric so it didn’t get stained. Rugs that had special treatments. And like it was this whole reinvention of the homeware category. And we actually trademarked the term “active homeware,” and the idea was taking active performance materials and applying them to this category. And, you know, I still think that’s a really cool idea.
And I still think it’s something that much, much further down the road Rumpl could explore but meanwhile, our blanket sales were just going crazy and we had to keep reinvesting in this one, SKU, basically. People really liked it. And so my thought was like, we really need to stay focused on this. We’re a blanket company. We’re not an active homeware company, we’re a blanket company. And he just had a very, very different opinion about how to, how to grow the business. And so we sort of diverged on our visions for the future of it. And that’s where we had to split up. So from there, I was sort of shoehorned into needing to now be the CEO of the company, which made me super nervous at first. But, you know, through coaching and practice, advisors and things, I’ve become more comfortable in the role.
[00:06:58] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. I mean, I think as an entrepreneur, once you start having success, you start thinking expansively and it’s hard to stay focused on what your core competency is, but obviously in that situation, you were at the crossroads that you made the right decision and the best decision and it’s paid off. So that’s great information for other entrepreneurs who are listening, who are thinking about their success and expanding and the types of options that they might have in front of them.
[00:07:22] Wylie Robinson: Yeah. Yeah. I highly recommend focusing when you start a company.
[00:07:26] Roy Notowitz: So what was it like in the early days when, you know, you first started building the team to get things off the ground, how did you approach that?
[00:07:35] Wylie Robinson: Really simply. At a very, very high level, we, so we hired two of our first employees kind of at the same time within the same month. And those were the first two employees we had. That was about two years in. So for the first two years, it was just the two of us, my partner and I, and we made our first two hires and we really kind of divided it in like front end and back end.
So the front end included product marketing, creative, you know, some sales, definitely anything that the customer would see. And back end was finance, ops, customer experience, supply chain, logistics, freight, anything that the customer didn’t see. That’s basically how we divided it. And so we hired two people, one for front end and one for back end. Generally speaking, my partner and I also sort of divided ourselves that way as well. So I was kind of more front end and he was more back end. So we each kind of got a counterpart to help us grow and definitely required everybody to be doing a million things, but that was all we really had money for. That was the only division we can really do. It couldn’t be specialized.
[00:08:36] Roy Notowitz: So starting out, you were able to use your skills in a complimentary way, and then you just multiplied yourselves basically,
[00:08:42] Wylie Robinson: Essentially. Yeah. I mean, that’s a simplified version of it, but that’s basically what happened. Yeah.
[00:08:48] Roy Notowitz: And so, first of all, I mean, that’s a big step: investing money and making a hire. And that’s something that a lot of entrepreneurs see as a hurdle getting started. So how did you sort of cross that barrier? And how painful was it up to that point to where you were like, we absolutely need to hire right now?
[00:09:06] Wylie Robinson: When you’re just starting out and you’re in the embryonic stage of your company and it’s just you, or maybe a partner or two. It’s rough. I mean, you have very, very few people to bounce ideas off of. The business is so small that, you know, it’s not that interesting to people that know things about business. You don’t have the ability to get that much feedback. So it’s really tough. I mean, you’re in a complete vacuum with yourself and your partner.
And so I was so excited to get some hires on the, on the team to help us and give us some additional perspective. We got really lucky with our first two hires. I’ve got to be honest. And one of them is Patrick O’Neil, who’s our current VP of Revenue. I mean, yeah, it was just such a lucky thing to happen to us early on to get someone like him. And frankly, you know, like we only talked to maybe two or three people for the role that we hired him for. And we just got super lucky.
And we talked to Patrick and I remember he just like blew our minds. We were like, we aren’t even thinking about any of these things. Like none of them. And so we hired him pretty unanimously, you know, against the, like one or two other people we talked to about the role. And again, we just got so lucky.
[00:10:14] Roy Notowitz: What kind of experience or background did he bring? What kind of knowledge did he bring to the table?
[00:10:20] Wylie Robinson: He’s got an MBA and also a super small company. And so it was like a perfect fit where he totally got the hustle and the grind and the daily work of what a tiny company entails and also had this sort of higher level macro view of business from his MBA.
[00:10:36] Roy Notowitz: Based on your experience, can you summarize the challenges that early stage entrepreneurs have when trying to hire? What are some of the things, as you continue to build the team, that made it difficult? And what did you learn from those experiences?
[00:10:52] Wylie Robinson: You just don’t have much traction. You don’t have much scale. It’s not that interesting of a company yet. And besides the point you have limited resources, comp is always an issue. You know, you can’t really pay that much in the early stage. So I think that the way you can overcome that is certainly through incentives like equity.
We’d definitely distributed equity from day one to our early employees. And two, just like really casting a compelling vision where, you know, you tell your potential hire, “we’re nothing right now, but this is what this really compelling vision is. And this is how we’re going to get there.” Ton of challenges, but the way to overcome them, I would say, is painting a clear picture. And then not skimping on equity in those early stages. They are helping you build the company. They, they deserve meaningful equity.
[00:11:36] Roy Notowitz: As that plays out, though, just thinking through, at certain stages, you may have outgrown certain individuals and that’s not to say they’re bad, you know, employees or not capable but you go through different stages of growth and then you need to hire different skill sets or professionalize your leadership team. So as you were going through that, you had given equity to different individuals and things along the way, was that difficult to then separate? Did that put a burden on the business? Or should an entrepreneur just make sure that they have good guidance on how to, how to structure the equity?
[00:12:10] Wylie Robinson: Definitely structure them with a vesting schedule, right? You know, the way that we set it up is very, very boilerplate. It’s a four year vesting schedule with a one-year cliff. So I don’t know how versed the listeners of this podcast are in equity, but basically that means you get 25% of your equity after one year, and then it vests on a monthly basis thereafter all the way up to four years, then you’ve got a full, a hundred percent vest.
There were some more aggressive things, like I know Amazon is really famous for doing a four-year schedule where your vesting goes 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%. So the vast majority of your equity actually happens in your four. That’s actually a pretty smart play in my opinion. But yeah, I mean, you kind of just have to accept the fact that if you hire somebody and give them equity and two, three years down the road, they’re not working out, you’ve given up that equity.
And by the way, we also did options and that’s very common as well. So these are options to buy into ownership of the company. The day you’re hired you get set with the strike price. And that’s the cost of each share of ownership should you choose to buy it either after date of termination or after it’s vested.
[00:13:13] Roy Notowitz: So then in that case they would have to purchase.
[00:13:16] Wylie Robinson: Correct.
[00:13:17] Roy Notowitz: Okay. And so, which did you prefer? Which was a better tool for attracting talent at that stage?
[00:13:24] Wylie Robinson: I would say that in our case it was vision casting. One, because the equity was really worthless at that point. So, you know, the equity is only worth something if it’s supported by a strong vision. And so for us, you know, casting this vision of both sides of it, one where blankets are, you know, this sleeper commodity category. I don’t mean that to be punny, but this sleeper commodity category that isn’t really getting a lot of attention from major players. And it’s used by everybody. There’s a huge total addressable market. And then also, you know, the expanded idea of this active homeware, which we were still certainly talking about at that time with these early hires. Those are like really compelling visions for the people we were talking to. And I think that they saw a clear path to this equity being worth something. So that’s what propelled them I think.
[00:14:10] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. So that’s an important call out. And we do this for our clients too. We create a sort of a position marketing or a narrative. At different stages of the company, the story evolves right? Into bigger and better and more exciting narratives and that helps you attract more and more individuals and compensation is also another important thing.
So did you find that sometimes no matter how great the narrative you told that you still weren’t able to get certain people, or did you stretch on compensation or how did you sort of overcome the resource hurdle?
[00:14:42] Wylie Robinson: Yeah. It’s always a battle. I mean, it still is for us today. You know, like we have needs that are in excess of what our cash position can support. There are easily 10 roles I would open up right now if we could support it from a cash position, but we just can’t. And yeah, we definitely made sacrifices in the beginning. I mean, we paid those first hires more than I was paying myself at the time. And so that was a decision that we made. I don’t know that everybody does that, but that’s one that we made. And, you know, you just have to put a hook out there that’s compelling enough for somebody that can truly help you to come over, you know, from presumably their stable job situation and leave that and come to this, you know, relatively much riskier situation. And you need to at least try to be at parity with cash if you can.
[00:15:25] Roy Notowitz: Anyone who’s thinking about being an entrepreneur, just kind of sit with that idea of paying people more than what you’re earning. And I mean, that’s the true definition of an entrepreneur is somebody who is on a mission. It wasn’t just a job to you, right?
[00:15:41] Wylie Robinson: No, no. I mean, it’s my whole, like esteem was wrapped up in it, honestly. Maybe this is going in a direction that it shouldn’t go in, but, but my personality type is one that I would have been hugely embarrassed about had I failed at this.
[00:15:57] Roy Notowitz: Failure’s just not an option.
[00:15:59] Wylie Robinson: Yeah.
[00:15:59] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. I know how you feel. So, one thing I was thinking about was, you know, what’s different once you surpassed the 5 or 10 million in revenue stage in terms of your hiring needs? You know, you couldn’t just hire people who could do everything at that point. So how did your hiring needs shift your approach after you surpassed the 10 million or 5 to 10 million in revenue?
[00:16:22] Wylie Robinson: In a lot of ways. Soas far as needs go, in the early days, you need people that are both doers and also thought leaders. So they help you set strategy as well as do the strategy. And as you get a little bit bigger, you probably want to specialize in thought leadership or execution capability. And those are often different people. So if you’re hiring a director level person, you know, like that has a support role under them, you want to be really clear about those job descriptions and scope and responsibility going into that hiring process.
And then on actually process for hiring, we just got way more rigorous on how we did things, you know, we started using, well, first of all, we wrote clear job descriptions for each role that we opened up. Which, when you get bigger, you have the ability to specify what that role is more clearly. It’s not just generally everything ops or generally everything creative. It can be much more specialized. So we wrote job descriptions and from there would be really diligent about figuring out which competencies would support those roles and testing specifically for those competencies in the interview process. And then another thing that we found that we were doing, which was a big mistake in the early days, is we were giving candidates like very, very different interview experiences.
So in the early days it was natural for us to be like, yeah, let’s go grab a beer and talk and see if this will work out. And that might turn into who knows, maybe it turns into a really fun night and you really like this person and they don’t get the same experience that you meet, you know, for coffee with another candidate. And so really trying to limit variables when you have interactions with different candidates is something we grew into.
[00:18:01] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. To make it more equitable as well.
[00:18:03] Wylie Robinson: Exactly.
[00:18:04] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. So then the organization’s growing, so you’re hiring from external sources, but also the roles internally are evolving. And so did you spend any time and energy on role clarification at different stages to make sure that the team was also evolving their roles simultaneously as the company was growing? And how did you sort of manage the growth development and I guess how the roles were evolving from within as well?
[00:18:33] Wylie Robinson: Yeah. And I’ll be honest. This is an area we have not been as good at. I would say that everybody’s job at Rumpl is crystal clear the day they start and then within three months, it’s probably changed quite a bit. and it’s certainly something that we’re getting better at but we have not done a great job redefining the roles of folks as they’ve matured through the company. It’s still sort of an entrepreneurial environment in that sense where if you can kind of navigate with the company and learn, and your, and your learning agility is on the same pace as the growth of the company. That’s where we find people that are really successful in this environment without a lot of guided direction. Certainly something we could do better, but it also is just kind of a cultural thing here, I think.
[00:19:16] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. I mean, you’re still at that stage where everyone sort of knows what’s happening.
[00:19:21] Wylie Robinson: Yeah. Yeah. We’re still pretty small. Honestly.
[00:19:23] Roy Notowitz: How many people do you have now? 40?
[00:19:26] Wylie Robinson: We’re 40 full-time employees. I don’t know how many we’d be if you included all sorts of external and part-time employees. But yeah. 40 full-time employees, the size of the business isn’t huge, you know, it’s 45, 50 million revenue business, something like that, but it’s not a huge business. So I still know everybody very well I would say.
[00:19:43] Roy Notowitz: Have you had any mentors that have been influential in shaping your philosophy and approach to building teams? I know you have someone in your family that has a recruiting background.
[00:19:52] Wylie Robinson: So it’s my wife for the listeners out there.
[00:19:55] Roy Notowitz: Hey Krissi.
[00:19:56] Wylie Robinson: Yeah, no she’s definitely been super influential in how we hire, just for context for anybody listening, my wife does tech recruiting and actually worked for Roy for quite a while when we moved here to Portland. We moved here from San Francisco, but she’s worked at Apple and Pinterest and Airbnb and a number of tech companies. And, you know, they’re just hiring like crazy always. So they need to have a really strict process and guidelines that they use. So she’s helped with some of those that Rumpl.
[00:20:23] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. I mean, she’s amazing. She’s super smart. So, you know, even the most seasoned and experienced hiring executives make mistakes and you know, that you can’t control for every variable. How have you sort of developed or learned from your hiring successes and failures? What are the things that we can take away or there’s anything you can pinpoint from those situations?
[00:20:46] Wylie Robinson: I mean, I still sometimes struggle with this, but if you kind of get a whiff that it’s a bad fit early, really dig into that and figure it out quickly because it’s so much more detrimental, not only to the performance of the business, but also just the morale and the output of the team if you’ve got a bad hire in place. And we’ve certainly made bad hires at Rumpl, not to say that they’re like bad employees, but we’ve made the wrong hire for where we are several times. You know, the process of bringing someone new into your company doesn’t stop when they sign their offer letter. There’s definitely, you know, 30, 60, 90 day period when they’re starting the job where you still have to really keep your eyes and ears up. I mean, make sure that it’s the right fit. Just like you were in the recruiting process.
There’s two examples I can think of. We’ve had a couple of hiring processes where we’ve done a really good process. We sort of narrowed down our candidate pool from applicants to phone screens, to project phase to final interview. And for whatever reason, you know, the top two or three people drop out and we’re kind of left with one person, or maybe we’re left with nobody that we really like. And we sort of shoe horn someone into the role, just because. We don’t want to go backwards and redo the whole process. These hiring processes can sometimes take three months, four months, five months or more in your case, like with executive, for sure. And so you just get fatigued and you’re like, “Ugh, can we, let’s just get this person in, they’ve made it this far.” And that can often lead to a bad hire.
Another thing in our case, and this, I think could just be a cultural thing for us, but I really think it’s important for people that come to work at Rumpl to be high energy people. They maybe can have all the skill sets and the experience and the referrals and do well in the interview and all that, but like if their personality type is kind of low energy, it just doesn’t really fit with the pace and the culture here in these four walls. And so that’s a really important one, too. We’ve definitely hired people that seem really great on paper, but their energy levels are a little bit lower than where we’d like them to be. And it just, it never kind of comes around.
[00:22:45] Roy Notowitz: So that’s a great segue actually into my next question, which is in building a company from the ground up, you have kind of a clean slate when it comes to creating the company culture. So what are one or two unique or special things about the Rumpl culture? And in what ways has your talent recruitment and selection process helped to shape that culture?
[00:23:05] Wylie Robinson: I would say that the most unique thing about Rumpl culture, and I only know this is unique because when I talk to people about this, they expressed that they’d never really heard companies doing it this way, but we actually measure employee engagement on a quarterly basis.
So we survey all of our employees anonymously. It’s just a 10 question survey. It takes two minutes and it asks questions like “I am proud to work for Rumpl. The leaders at Rumpl have communicated a vision that motivates me. I know what I need to do to be successful in my role.” And basically like, are our employees feeling fulfilled in their work? Are they engaged with their work? Do they harness some of their esteem and self to their work? And that’s really important for us because one, it provides the employee with a lot more life fulfillment and two, we just get better work out of them if they’re really like, you know, tying some of their self to what they do professionally.
And so that’s something that I think is pretty unique for Rumpl and we don’t have a really specific way of screening for “will this person get engaged?” But you can kind of tell, you know, like when you hear about past work experience and how people talk about their experiences at previous companies and what it meant to them and what they got out of it, you can kind of tell if it was like a key cornerstone piece of their life.
And we like that when people really go all in like that. It’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with pursuing professional paths that are just jobs. I mean, that’s a great thing if you are passionate about something that maybe you can’t get paid for as an example, you know, do a job that, that doesn’t necessarily fulfill you in that way, collect a paycheck and get out of there every day. But we definitely try to aim to hire people that are going to dive into this work in a way that really sort of fulfills their soul and that they’re really
A good by-product of hiring really engaged employees is everybody really cares about outcomes and people speak up when they see something they don’t like happening, you know, they’re super supportive of their teammates because they want to win. And so I wouldn’t say that we necessarily track those byproducts, but it’s clearly what’s happening through having a really engaged staff.
[00:25:13] Roy Notowitz: How would you describe the culture? Like what are the elements that define the experience of working at Rumpl?
[00:25:20] Wylie Robinson: I mean, I would say passionate. The people that work here, you know, they’re not doing this to just punch in every day and collect a paycheck. There’s definitely places you can go work in and around Portland and make more money doing very similar jobs. You know, they want to be here at this business, whether, because the work itself is really inspiring and they love it, or they’re really impassioned by the brand and what we do as a company. And I would say that that’s honestly the commonality, you know, like a lot of companies, they have a staff that’s homogenous in the sense that they all have sort of the same hobbies. I don’t think that’s Rumpl at all. I think that we have people from sort of all different walks of life that work here, but they’re really passionate about doing the work at a high growth startup. And so that’s the thing that unifies everybody.
[00:26:03] Roy Notowitz: Let’s talk about that a little bit. The culture that you’ve created is phenomenal. I’m just curious about bringing people in with big company experience versus small company experience. Do you have a greater degree of success from one or the other? Have you had any learnings from those types of hires?
[00:26:22] Wylie Robinson: It depends on the role and it depends on the individual. You know, you can come from a Nike and you’re a tiny little cog in the machine, but you have an entrepreneurial spirit and totally excel at Rumpl. You can come from a very, very small company and not possess a growth mindset and you maybe don’t have the tenacity to take it to the next level here at Rumpl. So it depends on the individual and the experience, but I would say generally speaking, you know, broad statement, we’ve had more positive experience bringing people into the company from relatively smaller companies that, you know, maybe had sort of plateaued on their growth or they weren’t given a personal growth opportunity at that relatively smaller company, just because the scaling speed wasn’t there. But you know, that’s not to say that we haven’t had a lot of success bringing people in from larger companies.
[00:27:15] Roy Notowitz: You talk about speed or pace. I see that a lot in earlier stage or growth oriented companies, you’re in a certain gear, you know, things are fluid. Things are evolving monthly, weekly, daily. Is there something to that in terms of adaptability or a competency within that, that you look for as it relates to hiring?
[00:27:34] Wylie Robinson: Yeah, adaptability is always something we look for. I mean, to your point, we do need to pivot on a dime all the time, and we’re getting better at, you know, setting a plan and sticking to that and only that, but the nature of a small business, like there’s just so many things that get thrown at you. I mean, totally outside of our plan, it was like everything that’s happened this year with supply chain and fulfillment and you know, COVID stuff, you’ve got to turn on a dime to react to that stuff. And so definitely screening for agility. And that’s one of those ones that we don’t necessarily look for it overtly as a core competency, but it’s kind of like energy I talked about before, you know, high energy people typically do well here. I would say that people that, you know, you can tell that they are, they’re willing to roll with the punches and be adaptable without being intentional about it, I think we probably look for those things in conversations with candidates.
[00:28:22] Roy Notowitz: In what ways has your employment brand and attraction capability grown as you’ve become more established? I know you’ve made some key hires recently and become a B Corp.
[00:28:34] Wylie Robinson: Yeah, definitely all the work we’ve done on the CSR front. So we’re a B Corp, we’re a Climate Neutral Certified brand so we offset a hundred percent of our carbon every year. We’re also 1% for the Planet brand. So we donate 1% of all revenue every year to environmental causes. So those are things that just attract people and sort of get them looking at the brand like, “oh, I like what this brand is doing from a moral perspective.” But then I would say the bigger investments actually are in internal programs that nobody would know about that’s just looking at the company. So we have, you know, we finally hired an HR department, the mission of hiring the HR department, going into that hire was not, we needed an administrative person that just like, you know, checks the boxes and onboards people and gives them benefits and all that. Our HR manager’s role at the company is really constantly look at how to make Rumpl a better place to work and have a better experience here as an employee.
So that’s like what his job is and that’s how he thinks about it. And that’s how he treats it. When he wakes up every morning and comes to work with that in mind, it creates a dynamic with him and the staff that lets them know he’s there for them. And they can go to him. They can request things, you know, they can share their perspective about what it’s like to be a Rumpl employee. And I think that that’s really led to just a much more positive experience for the team. Everybody’s really proud of the B Corp and the Climate Neutral and 1% and all that, of course, but that’s kind of like relatively surface level stuff when you come into the company compared to the felt experience, once you’ve been here for awhile and understand how we treat employees and how we like to grow and just do things here.
[00:30:06] Roy Notowitz: How do you and your team influence and improve the recruiting and selection process within your organization?
[00:30:13] Wylie Robinson: For us, it’s all about process and process consistency. You know, I mentioned in the early days, the way we would recruit was all over the place. You know, we might go get a drink with someone. We might go get a coffee with someone. Go on a bike ride or a walk with someone. It was just like a totally different experience for both the candidate and also the person interviewing the candidate, which of course in the early days was largely me. So we had this fairly rigorous, I would say for our size process now, which basically starts with, you know, once you’ve identified the need within your org, you write a clear job description.
So before we open up any role, we write that job description and that’s what sort of unlocks the role is writing that clear job description. That includes comp targets, you know, years of experience targets, where they sit in the org chart, who’s managing them, et cetera. And then also before we open the roll up, we will always communicate the role to the team. So every year when we kick the year off, we tell them what our hiring plan is. And a lot of those hires are either gated through revenue success, or maybe, you know, sometimes they might accelerate forward if we’re doing really well or we have a new need, but generally speaking, we stick to our hiring plan that we set at the beginning of the year.
So after we’ve done the job description, we pull out the Korn Ferry competency cards. And that’s another thing I, I highly recommend anybody spend a hundred bucks on this card deck and we do a card sort. This is something directly from Krissi, by the way, my wife. Typically, we like to pick six to eight competencies for each role that we’re hiring for. And then from those competencies, we build our interview questions and that’s a really important one that we’ve started doing the last three or four years is our interviews are scripted and the questions are asked by the exact same people in the exact same way in the exact same order. And so when we do our interviews and now it’s actually quite easy because a lot of our hiring is done remotely. We have the script right there in front of us. That’s what we’re reading.So if we put a job out there and you know, a hundred people acquire something we’ll phone screen, probably, I don’t know, maybe 20 or 30% of them from there. We typically like to keep panel interviews to six, maybe eight at most. And those panel interviews are done, like I was saying, just in the exact same order by the exact same people, time. From there, we like to bring the top two to three candidates into a project phase, and we do projects top to bottom in the company for any role.
You might be looking at a seasonal customer experience role that’s part-time and we’ll still have you do a writing project or, you know, how would you respond to this ticket or something like that? Just to see kind of what they have, if it’s a bigger role, like a high level marketing leader or something, we might ask them to look sort of holistically at the brand and present some findings about what the brand could be doing or which direction we should go.
So the projects sort of vary depending on the level of the role, but the point is that any role at the company top to bottom, gets a project. And that’s honestly where the rubber meets the road and we actually get to see how the person thinks, and we also make them present. So they would come in and actually share their work with us and talk through their work. Personally, I think that just general presentation skills are really important for having influence in a company. And so that’s another one, like energy and agility that we sort of passively screen for. Like, are they a good presenter? A good communicator? I would say that’s needed in any role at the company. And from there typically we would go into an offer, but you know, all those steps, I just walked through. That can take several months for some of these hires. So we’ll often have multiple hiring processes going at once.
[00:33:46] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. I think if there’s nothing else that an entrepreneur or growth oriented company takes away from this podcast, being really thoughtful about the questions you’re asking, using the competency model and being consistent and thinking about what you’re listening for, those things that you are just talking about. I mean, it’s still not a perfect science, but it’s probably the most useful way to be able to differentiate the different capabilities of candidates and how they might fit within your organization or that particular role. Even if they all have the same job title, you’ll be better able to determine if they’ll thrive within your organization with that just very simple, structured process.
[00:34:30] Wylie Robinson: Yeah. I would agree with that. And one thing that we actually catch ourselves- this is another piece of advice. One thing we catch ourselves doing sometimes is finding things in candidates that are really positive that are not the original competencies that we looked for. And we cannot let ourselves get influenced by that. So we dial in on the competencies we’re looking for, those six or eight competencies, call it. And that’s what we’re screening for. If someone comes in and they do pretty well on these six or eight things, but they also have this other thing that they did over here and they have this other competency. We can’t let ourselves get attracted to that. And let us be persuaded by that, because what we’re solving for is those competencies and only those competencies. So that’s a big one too, as we’ve grown, that’s getting much more specific about that.
[00:35:26] Roy Notowitz: I think the other thing too, is like some competencies are more innate, harder to train. And then also just thinking about, if you’re looking for people who are going to also grow and have a lot of potential beyond the role that you’re hiring them for. So I think some of those things that you’re hearing that you’re seeing as positives could also project into the future as well. So I’m sure you also have to take into consideration, you know, the role you’re hiring now for where it might go in the future as well. How do you do that?
[00:35:46] Wylie Robinson: That’s a tough one and we’ve slipped up a few times in doing that. I would say it’s turned out positive in all times it’s happened. So maybe it’s not necessarily a slip up, but we opened a role for, you know, a manager say, and somebody comes in and they are totally a senior manager or a director and we’re like, oh man, should we flex the roll up? Should we change the comp? And sometimes we do that. If we just get a rock star candidate, that’s interested in the role. I would say that’s the best practice and you obviously have to have the cash resource to be able to do that, to expand your comp target. We’ve done it a few times and it’s worked out, but I don’t think it’s the right way to do it.
[00:36:23] Roy Notowitz: So let’s talk about the office, in office hybrid, flexible work arrangements. And I’d like to know what’s your take on remote hybrid, flexible work arrangements, moving forward now that we’re thinking about the future and how the pandemic has affected the way we think about work in the office and things like that?
[00:36:42] Wylie Robinson: Mixed feedback. I would say generally, I like the remote hybrid approach a lot. As an employer, it’s allowed us to expand our aperture of who we can hire. Of course, that’s a huge benefit. At the same time, you know, you do generate culture through rubbing elbows and like that’s where personal relationships are developed. They’re not going to be developed over Slack or, you know, whatever platform that you use. So I have mixed feelings about it, but generally I am in favor of it, and it’s allowed us to hire some really great people.
[00:37:15] Roy Notowitz: So I’m curious, what is it that drives you and what advice do you have for entrepreneurs that are starting out?
[00:37:22] Wylie Robinson: I would say advice for entrepreneurs in the early stages at least is really focus on being the doer of things versus like trying to build your managerial capacity at an early stage. Eventually, if you do for long enough, and you get to a scale where you’re able to bring people on, you know, you can develop those skills, but I really often see early stage entrepreneurs that are- it seems like they’re jumping ahead a little bit and focusing on org development and like just a lot of the things that you don’t necessarily need to be focused on. I’m talking like infancy here, zero to 1 million. You just gotta be doing a lot of stuff and hustling really hard. I know that’s kind of cliche advice, but you know, it’s the truth.
And then another thing is definitely make sure that you aren’t delusioned about the idea of like working for yourself providing you more freedom. I would say, if you really dive in and go for it, you actually find yourself very much- this isn’t meant to be hyperbole. If that evolves over time and you get the freedom back. But that’s, I think a little bit of a delusion about starting your own business is like, you know, quote unquote, being your own boss and having all this flexibility. If you really go for it, it’s actually the opposite I would say.
[00:38:38] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. I would say responsibility too. A strong sense of responsibility because you’re dealing with employees and their families and-
[00:38:47] Wylie Robinson: Yeah, totally.
[00:38:48] Roy Notowitz: So much weight to that. And so what’s exciting at Rumpl right now? Why should somebody listening to the podcast jump at the opportunity to work there? And this is your opportunity to pitch candidates.
[00:39:02] Wylie Robinson: So I think there’s two things at a high level that I think are really exciting about Rumpl. The first is what we’re doing as a business. So we are reinventing a commodity category that has really not undergone any innovation in decades, hundreds of years, in fact. And it’s a commodity category, as I mentioned, so the addressable market is gigantic. So the opportunity for fast scaling is there. And for the right person, that’s interested in that this is a really great place to be because we’re starting to see that really materialize. You know, I mentioned earlier, we’re roughly 50 million in revenue this year. Probably we were just shy of 30 last year and we were 11 before that and 6 before that.
And so the ramp is really steep right now, and it’s just a fast paced environment with a lot of new opportunities kind of flying at us from all directions. It’s exciting. That’s why I would say if you’re the right type of person, again, this is a great environment for you. It could be a very intimidating environment I think for somebody that does not want that, or is not looking for that.
[00:40:04] Roy Notowitz: It’s fast paced. You’re working on a lot of different and important projects and you’ve brought in some great talent too. So there’s an opportunity now, as you’ve gotten to this scale, whereas in the past, you know, maybe a candidate coming in might not have had as many mentors within the organization, but now you’ve had some pretty seasoned people.
Some people have been there since the beginning, like Patrick and other new people coming in and it creates an exciting mix of experiences. You’re at such a great growth stage, and I know you have a supportive board and investors and things, so congrats on all of that. And, you know, I, uh, really appreciate you taking time to share your wisdom and expertise on hiring. You know, I know there’s a lot of entrepreneurs out there who are in those earlier stages to mid stage and growth stages. And I want to do more of these podcasts to create useful content for folks who are going through those stages and hiring is not a perfect science. You’re doing a great job though, of building teams and making it happen. So this has been really amazing. Thank you so much for coming on to the podcast.
[00:41:09] Wylie Robinson: Yeah, thanks so much for having me. And, you know, I can say I I’ve done a pretty good amount of podcasts over the last- I mean, since COVID, when people started doing a lot of podcasts, this is definitely the most unique, specific subject matter of any podcast I’ve been on, which I think will make for a really interesting listen. And so congrats for setting up an awesome podcast.
[00:41:28] Roy Notowitz: Thanks for tuning in to How I Hire, visit howihire.com for more details about the show and what you heard today. You can help spread the word about the podcast and the latest executive hiring trends and insights by sharing with your friends and colleagues on whatever podcast platform you listen on.
How I Hire is created by Noto Group Executive Search to find out more about Noto Group visit notogroup.com. You can also subscribe to our newsletter there. This podcast was produced by AO McClain. To learn more about their great work visit aomcclain.com.
This podcast was produced by AO McClain, LLC. To learn more about their work visit AOMcClain.com.