Leaders and Influencers: An Interview with Andrew Conley

In our continuing series on Leaders and Influencers, we talk with Andrew Conley, Executive Director of 100state and co-founder of Townsquare, a platform that connects co-working spaces and automates co-working management tools.

Tell us about 100state and some of the accomplishments you’ve been most proud of as Executive Director.

Andrew Conley100state is a nonprofit collaborative community of over 190 entrepreneurs, freelancers, problem-solvers, and community leaders in Madison. It’s a place to come for inspiration, for collaboration, and to have a positive impact in Madison. I think that most people have amazing ideas quite frequently; 100state is a place where people surround themselves with others who are actually pursuing those ideas.

As Executive Director, I’m really proud of a few things:

  • Providing a home for Madison’s ambitious creatives. By far the number one piece of feedback that I receive that reminds me of the power of what we built is that people were alone in their endeavors before we came along. Now they have a place to call home.
  • Strengthening our membership. Not just growing it from ~20 to ~190, but really strengthening the bonds of our members. Our team has done this by improving our workspace environment, building new avenues for members to have input (our members council), and by raising the bar on what it means to be a 100state member.
  • Building a team at 100state. When I started, it was just a couple of founders (myself included) working on making this thing float. Now we have 3 full-time paid staff and 1 paid intern who are helming our ship.
  • Fostering our members’ output. In 2014 alone, we saw 25 startups started, 18 community projects worked on, and ~1500 hours worth of events on our calendar.

What’s the single most important change you’d like to see to encourage more innovation and entrepreneurship in our community?

It’s been really great to see what’s happened over the last 2-5 years in Madison. The community has seen a number of new organizations building the infrastructure for innovation and entrepreneurship. What we really need now is strong collaboration between all of those groups to tie them together to create a roadmap for budding entrepreneurs. The university needs to play a big role in it but not be the owner; they need to connect to Madison’s entrepreneurial organizations and industry leaders to create a solid environment.

What book do you think every aspiring entrepreneur should read and why?

Great question, but it’s hard to just pick one. I would say to start with Peter Thiel’s Zero to One. Peter has a track record of amazing companies as well as great investments. His book is an easy read for the neophyte entrepreneur and offers some great advice for how to keep things simple and focus on the true parts of being an entrepreneur.

Tell us about Townsquare and what’s next there.

Townsquare is really coming along. For those that don’t know, Townsquare is a platform that fosters existing collaborative communities and the connections between different communities (whether that be coworking spaces, clubs, universities, etc.). We have 20 communities across the nation operating on the platform and have a big redesign ready for launch early June. While the tool is shaping up and customer demand increases, we’re validating our revenue model. It’s going to be a big summer for Townsquare.

 

Visit Fine Point Consulting for more information about the great tools and services we use to help organizations like 100state succeed.

 

Going ROWE, Part 2: Presenting ROWE to Fine Point’s Senior Team

 

ROWE logo

In this blog series, Fine Point Consulting staff discuss the process, rewards, and challenges of becoming a certified Results-Only Work Environment, an HR management strategy wherein employees are paid for results, rather than the number of hours worked. Certification is expected to be complete sometime this summer (2015). 

This week, Jen Hildahl shares how ROWE was introduced to Fine Point’s senior team—and the questions, concerns, and excitement that came with it.

“Before the ROWE presentation to Fine Point’s senior team, I didn’t know anything about a Results-Only Work Environment. But when Luella and Leah returned from the ROWE conference, they were really excited. They sent us an email telling us they were looking forward to presenting ROWE at our next senior team meeting, which wasn’t for another week or two. At that meeting, Leah came with a ROWE PowerPoint presentation, and the senior team talked about our questions and concerns, and whether it might be something we’d want to try at Fine Point.

“My personal reaction was really positive—it was a relief, actually, to hear that we could have this sort of official policy for the office. I’d just returned from maternity leave and was trying to figure out my new work-life balance. I’d returned in January, which is our busiest month, and I was overwhelmed and feeling guilty about the fact that I couldn’t work as many hours as I had before having a family. I was working from home and on weekends out of necessity, so I was really excited about the potential of a ROWE to formalize this flexibility of work and life for the entire office.

“The senior team did have some initial concerns about ROWE, specifically about how some employees, who are maybe more traditional workers, would react. We’re a very small company, very family-like, so we also worried about what would happen if even a single person didn’t want to become a ROWE, because it has to be all or nothing. But for the more traditional employee, you can still come in to the office from 8-5—a ROWE allows for that. So we talked through our concerns as a team and decided it was something we’d be interested in presenting to the rest of the company.

“I think a ROWE will be great for Fine Point because the idea is that you work wherever and whenever you’re most efficient and productive. Our job is to support our clients, and they typically work from 8-5, so we know there are some limitations—we can’t work only in the middle of the night, for example. But our business is knowledge, and if we can help our clients better understand their financials and be more efficient about it, without the last-minute fire drills and stress, that’s huge for us. It’s our reputation.”

 

Stay tuned for future posts on the ROWE rollout, and be sure to visit Fine Point Consulting for a complete list of the tools and services we use to help businesses succeed.

Software Scoop: GoodHire

GoodHire

In this blog series, Fine Point Consulting reviews accounting, HR, and other software we use in our office or on behalf of our clients. Check it out! You might just learn about a great new tool for your own business.

GoodHire is an FCRA-compliant employment background-screening service that “takes the headache out of running background checks.” Basic criminal background checks can be purchased and run individually for $29.99 each, with options for add-ons and volume pricing available for larger companies.

I’ve used GoodHire for all of my hires here at Fine Point over the past few years. Because we deal with sensitive information on behalf of our clients, it’s really important to me to know that my employees check out. Just because a candidate gives a great interview doesn’t mean that he or she is a trustworthy individual. Background checks provide this peace of mind, and it’s certainly something I recommend to my clients and a service that we could provide for them.

What I like about the software is that it complies with federal Fair Credit Reporting Act laws, and requires the candidate’s consent to do the background check. I provide GoodHire with the candidate’s name, date of birth, social security number, and email, and then they contact that person directly. I don’t have to gather things like social security cards—GoodHire does all of that work for me. The turnaround is also very quick: within a day or two I have the final report.

I chose GoodHire over other options because at the time I was looking for a screening tool, it seemed like other services were still requiring that you send in a physical form, and they were more expensive. GoodHire is completely web-based and provides many add-ons beyond the basic background search, like education and employment verification, should our clients or we ever require them.

 

Visit Fine Point Consulting for more information about the great tools and services we use to help businesses succeed.

 

Leaders and Influencers: An Interview with Heather Wentler

In our continuing series on Leaders and Influencers, we chatted with Heather Wentler about entrepreneurship as it relates to her roles as co-founder and executive director of The Doyenne Group, and as founder of Fractal, a STEAM enrichment program for kids. 

Heather Wentler

Heather Wentler

Tell us about The Doyenne Group.

Amy Gannon and I founded The Doyenne Group in 2012 after having the same experience of attending entrepreneurial events around Madison and noticing a lack of women in the room, both as attendees and as panelists/speakers. We knew there are lots of women starting and running businesses in Madison, but we weren’t sure why they weren’t engaging in the ecosystem.

Doyenne focuses on four key areas to support women entrepreneurs of various sectors and stages of running their businesses: 1.) Highlight entrepreneurs and give voice to their experiences, 2.) Build the network within the community so we’re all working towards making Madison the best it can be for women entrepreneurs, 3.) Support entrepreneurs through our programming and partner programs in the community, and 4.) Fund ventures through our Evergreen Fund to provide grants and small equity investments for those just starting out. Doyenne has a mission of expanding to provide support statewide and make Madison one of the top cities in the nation for women entrepreneurs by 2020.

What’s the single most important change you’d like to see to encourage more innovation and entrepreneurship in our community?

The biggest change I would like to see in our community is the way an entrepreneur is characterized or stereotyped. In Madison we focus a lot on Tech and Biotech startups, which also means those on track for venture funding. I meet with entrepreneurs every day, and when I ask why they aren’t engaged with certain activities within the community they say it’s because they feel that they “don’t fit in.” Doyenne really emphasizes that being a successful entrepreneur is defined by the goals of a business. It doesn’t matter if your business is something that you want to start and run for the next 30 years or if you’re developing a technology to sell within the next 3-5 years; each business that is launched and grows within our community is a plus for everyone and provides economic impact to move us all forward.

What book do you think every aspiring entrepreneur should read and why?

I don’t have one book that I think everyone should read. Honestly I’m not a big book reader, partially because the traditional idea of sitting and reading a book from cover to cover doesn’t work for me. Each book that an entrepreneur reads (even if it’s only certain parts/chapters) should be meaningful and somehow reflect how it pertains to either what they’re doing or what they want to do. So, I don’t read books but I do read lots of blogs, articles, and research! Knowing your market, trends within the market, your competitors, and the new ideas coming out of them helps keep your company agile and gives you the competitive edge.

What do you find most interesting and rewarding in your position as Founder of Fractal?

Fractal is the most daily rewarding experience I’ve ever had. When I was teaching traditionally I didn’t always feel like I could be myself or engage my students the way I wanted to meet their needs, and when I would try, I would get backlash from others. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever want to go into business, let alone start a business. But the moment that I was able to make the decisions and teach the way I feel best serves those in our community was like a weight lifted off my shoulders. I enjoyed teaching again. I love seeing how each participant brings his/her own ideas, approaches, and creativity to Fractal’s programming. Many of the kids I work with are either categorized at school as Talented & Gifted or At-Risk/Remedial, so being able to provide a space where they get to learn from each other on their own terms and at their own pace, in a way that’s meaningful to their lives, is the most rewarding feeling I’ve ever experienced.

 

Visit Fine Point Consulting for more information about the great tools and services we use to help organizations like The Doyenne Group succeed.

 

Going ROWE: The Decision to Become a Results-Only Work Environment

In this blog series, Fine Point Consulting staff discuss the process, rewards, and challenges of becoming a certified Results-Only Work Environment, an HR management strategy wherein employees are paid for results, rather than the number of hours worked. Certification is expected to be complete sometime this summer (2015). 

This week, Leah Roe discusses FPC’s introduction to ROWE and the decision to move forward with certification.

“We were first introduced to the idea of a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) through a podcast featuring Jody Thompson, one of the co-creators of ROWE and co-CEO of the organization that certifies ROWE organizations. We’d been talking internally at Fine Point about moving to a value-pricing model for our services and felt like the ROWE would tie in really nicely with this idea of focusing on outcomes for our clients, rather than hours and minutes.

“When we attended a ROWE conference in Rockford in March, it just solidified our feeling that this was the way to go. We felt like there was finally a structure for the way we had been feeling about work and the way we wanted to work. We’ve always felt that making our clients happy and getting results is far more important than tracking the minutiae of a particular employee’s schedule. With ROWE, employees are responsible for their own measurable results and client satisfaction—when and where the employee chooses to do this is up to them. The ROWE certification gives us the resources and training to help make this methodology work for us.

“A ROWE is particularly well-suited to Fine Point because we’re an outsourced business anyway. As long as we’re delivering results and keeping them happy, our clients don’t really care when or where we’re working. Fine Point is also a young, energetic company, and I think our employees are going to love the amount of freedom this gives them to live their lives.

“It will be interesting to see how the rollout goes as we move through the certification process. Of course, we have those natural concerns about people working too little or too much with a ROWE, or what would happen if one member of our staff hates it, or how we will go about measuring work capacity if someone has too much work or too little. These are good conversations to have, and the ROWE resources have been really helpful in addressing these “what if” scenarios—they’ve really thought of everything.”

 

Stay tuned for future posts on the ROWE rollout, and be sure to visit Fine Point Consulting for a complete list of the tools and services we use to help businesses succeed.