Keith is a seasoned global executive with more than 39 years of operational experience leading teams at wireless and wireline companies in addition to tower and industry engineering/consulting/deployment service providers.
Prior to joining Connectivity Wireless, he most recently served as both the Chief Network Officer and Chief Integration Officer at C Spire. Prior to C Spire, he led operations in both North and South America for LCC International (now Tech Mahindra) as well as serving as the SVP Global Quality Assurance. While at LCC he provided engineering, technical consulting, and deployment services to all of the major wireless carriers and many equipment manufacturers both domestically and internationally.
Keith has held senior level operational and strategy roles in the tower industry at both Mobilitie and Global Signal. He also has held executive management roles in the carrier/service provider marketplace at Windstream, Open Range communications and Sprint. During his 18 year tenure at Sprint he lead the initial buildout of the Sprint wireless network and, in addition to many other positions, served as their SVP Operations and Chief Procurement officer. Prior to Sprint, Keith worked at AT&T, Mountain Bell and Southwestern Bell.
Keith has always been passionate about building and operating quality networks, execution using disciplined program management principles which deliver on commitments, developing and leading high performing individuals and teams with specific attention to customer service and achieving committed financial objectives.
Keith is a graduate of Southeast Missouri State University.
Brad Burrow: This is the In a World with Real Media Podcast, and today I’m with Keith Paglusch, who’s the Chief Operating Officer of Connectivity Wireless. Keith, your background … So I was reading through your LinkedIn profile. Man, you have done a lot of different things in the wireless realm, or in that, I guess, what’s the word for it? But the communication realm, I guess you could say.
Keith Paglusch: Yep.
Brad Burrow: When you started your career, the one thing I really wanted to ask you, when you started your career, did you have an affinity to kind of go that direction, or did it just kind of happen?
Keith Paglusch: Not a clue.
Brad Burrow: Is that right?
Keith Paglusch: Yeah, no. I went to school at Southeast Missouri State and they had recruiters come on campus. One day, someone from Southwestern Bell, if you remember what that is, but-
Brad Burrow: I’ve heard of that.
Keith Paglusch: Yeah. From Southwestern Bell came and they did interviews for people for a summer intern program. I was a summer intern. I worked in North St. Louis, and I supervised a group of installers that installed in people’s residences. That summer went very well.
Keith Paglusch: By November, before my next year of graduation in May, they offered me a job in their management training program. Literally, that’s how I got started in the communications.
Brad Burrow: That was the launch, huh?
Keith Paglusch: That was it.
Brad Burrow: That was fate.
Keith Paglusch: It was fate, and I have tried to get out of the communications world and do something else. You know what? Every place you go, they go, “Man, you’ve got a communications background. We don’t hire communications people. We really need this kind of person.” I’m like, “Yeah, but it’s more about general management,” and they’re like, “No, you’re top telecom guy.” That’s where I’ve been for 39 years.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, it’s like the actors that they’ve done one genre of film and they can’t get away from doing that. You’re like that. You can’t get out of telecoms, huh?
Keith Paglusch: That’s right. I don’t get paid as good as actors do. Yes. That’s kind of like that.
Brad Burrow: Tell me about your career path. You just kind of worked … I knew you were at Sprint at one time, is that correct?
Keith Paglusch: I was.
Brad Burrow: And you just kind of worked up the ladder through the telecommunication industry, it sounds like.
Keith Paglusch: Yeah, I would have to tell you, I’ve been extremely fortunate. Every opportunity that I’ve ever been given, I have really enjoyed. I mean, certainly, there are bosses along the way or there are certain roles that you’re like, I think I’m done with this one. Honestly, each and every single one of them have been kind of a learning experience.
Keith Paglusch: I spent six years at the Bell System. I was at Sprint for 18 years, and about the last 15 or so, 20 years I’ve been a couple of tower companies, a lot of service providers that serve the wireless community and all of them have been just really, really fun experiences.
Keith Paglusch: I think the best part of it is that when I look back, I’ve had an opportunity to work with a lot of really great people and I’m still working with a lot of really great people, and a lot of those really great people have gone on to do some really good things, and been very, very successful. That, to me, that feels really good.
Keith Paglusch: A lot of the folks that I’ve worked with before in the past, we’re still friends and we still talk to each other on a regular basis and keep in touch as much as you can in the world today.
Brad Burrow: It’s like a fraternity almost, huh?
Keith Paglusch: It really is. I mean, when you think about either a former Sprint people or former people at, whether it’s been any of the other companies that I’ve been at, it is a group of people that you went through a lot of battles with. Right? I mean, together. I mean, we built out the Sprint PCS network from 1995 to roughly, ’99, ’98, ’99 and we worked really hard, and we worked long hours, and we had a lot of rambunctious discussions and negotiations with vendors and people in the industry.
Keith Paglusch: I think when you have a group of people that did that together, you walk away from that as that’s an experience that you’ll never have again in your life, in that exact setting. It’s one of those kinds of things that is in your heart and it’s in your mind forever.
Brad Burrow: One of the things that intrigued me about, you mentioned tower building, I had a neighbor that did that, and I thought, wow, what a great business to be in because your market’s going to just continue to grow into eternity. It seems like you go from the different levels of wireless. Man, that had to be just a crazy business to be in.
Keith Paglusch: It really is. It is one that one you said, was it destiny? I would say back in when I first started in 1980 at Southwestern Bell, no, it wasn’t destiny. It was a job. Right? It was, wow, I got a job right out of school and it’s a great job and I’m really excited about it. I would say is that time has progressed and certainly, I think Sprint was a very excellent example of that.
Keith Paglusch: Then, as I’ve progressed from there to other parts of the community, you are realizing how much of an impact you’ve had in people’s lives. Right? I mean, back when we were building the first network, nobody had a cell phone. Right? I remember the very first day that we got one, it was a bag phone and I had it delivered to the house. We were living in Kingsport, Tennessee. And my wife said, “We don’t need a cell phone. What are we getting this for?” And I go, “No, no, we really need this.” Now, you don’t live without them, right?
Brad Burrow: That’s funny now, isn’t it?
Keith Paglusch: Yeah. Right. You don’t live without them. So, yeah. It’s been one of those kinds of things that not only has it been a fun career and great opportunities, but I think when you really think about the impact that anybody that’s been working in the wireless had on people’s lives, it’s extraordinary, and it makes you feel really good.
Brad Burrow: Fast forward now to Connectivity Wireless.
Keith Paglusch: Yep.
Brad Burrow: I’m reading a little bit about it. A huge, huge need. We do a lot of work in stadiums, for example, so, the video graphics and the things that you see on the boards. It used to be you’d go to a Royals game or Chiefs game, and there’s no way you’re getting any wireless at all. I mean, or even connectivity, I mean, to even upload a picture, that’s changing now because of, I would assume, some of the things that you guys are doing in places like that. Is that correct?
Keith Paglusch: It really is. I mean, again, when we built the first network, it was like, oh my gosh, we can make a phone call. Right? Then it was like, oh gosh, we can make a phone call out in the middle of I-70. Right?
Keith Paglusch: It started to grow from the cities out to the highways. Boy, if you did it in Cape Fair, Missouri, you were like, wow, gosh, I can’t make a phone call here, but now I can. Right? So, that was fun.
Brad Burrow: Yeah.
Keith Paglusch: But I think now, it’s not just the fact that it’s something that you want to do, it’s that it’s an expectation people have. Right? I mean, if you go somewhere today that doesn’t have, not only wireless phone coverage, but data coverage, you’re like, what the heck? What kind of place is this?
Keith Paglusch: At Connectivity Wireless, and it’s really two companies we’ve put together, connectivity Wireless and Neutral Connect Networks. We’re very fortunate because our core business is obviously, working in various venues all around the country.
Keith Paglusch: We have a many, many places that we do this all throughout the United States. When you do it, you’re now bringing together the venue owners, right? Whether it’s a stadium or a class A office space, and you’re bringing them together with the carriers. It’s really, if you look at the tower model that someone put a tower up and you brought all the carriers on, you’re now doing that for indoor coverage.
Keith Paglusch: As you said, when you go watch a football game, or a baseball game, or go to a concert or you go to a hotel, or you’re in an airport, any of those kinds of locations, or any big public event where there’s a lot of people, you expect to be able to pull out your phone, you expect to be able to take a picture, send it, and converse back and forth on social media. That’s what we do.
Keith Paglusch: One of our very most important points of how we differentiate ourselves in the marketplace is really around trying to make sure that we’re not just thinking about our customer. In this kind of world, we have a dual customer, we have the venue owner. Right?
Brad Burrow: Right.
Keith Paglusch: But we also have all the carriers. The carriers not only include the top four carriers, but it includes US cellular, and includes C Spire. It includes, now carriers that are also in the cable business, that are also trying to, as they get into the wireless industry. Right?
Brad Burrow: Yeah.
Keith Paglusch: In doing that, we look at it from the standpoint of providing service to our customer’s customers. Because in the end, we only get evaluated by how good that service is by the user in the community, not just our customer that’s paying our bill. We like to look at things from the customer’s customer.
Keith Paglusch: We also like to make sure that our relationship with the carriers or the venue owners, as we’re doing this work, is frictionless. Frictionless, what I mean by that is making sure that we deliver things when we say we’re going to deliver them, we deliver them in the budget we said we’re going to do it, and that we’re very, very communicative with our customers to make sure that they know what’s going on and when it’s going to be ready.
Keith Paglusch: I’ve been in both roles, right? I’ve been in the carrier role, and I’ve been in the tower owner role, and I’ve been in the service provider role. I can tell you that as the carrier, the thing that is the most important to me is that if a vendor came in and told me they were going to do something, then I held them accountable for doing that on time, very being very communicative, making sure that I knew along the way what was going on.
Keith Paglusch: We pride ourselves in doing that. We have an outstanding project management team. We have an outstanding engineering group, that’s the core of our business. We have very good deployment managers and construction managers, and all of them have risen through this industry, and they’ve been on both sides of the fence.
Keith Paglusch: By having that kind of expertise, it really gives us the ability to go in and be concerned about how we’re providing service to our customer’s customers.
Brad Burrow: Now, the company is fairly new, right? How old is Connectivity Wireless?
Keith Paglusch: Connectivity Wireless has actually been around since 2008.
Brad Burrow: Okay. So, 11 years.
Keith Paglusch: Yeah. Right. They’re 11 almost 12 years into the industry. They had a core group of guys that really put blood, sweat and tears into this to develop that company. Now, we’re owned by a company, we had a company that called M/C Partners out of Boston that purchased, they owned Neutral Connect Networks, and so, now Neutral Connect technically acquired Connectivity Wireless.
Keith Paglusch: Since about February of this year, it’s under new ownership and it’s being held by M/C Partners. That gives us a lot more reach into the industry, both from the ability to finance the business, and put the kind of things that we need into the business to make it successful. It also gives us more reach as we’re dealing with both venue owners, as well as credibility with the carriers.
Brad Burrow: As a COO, that has probably given you a lot of resources that you needed to really expand and grow and put the infrastructure in from a management standpoint to do that, too, I would imagine. Right?
Keith Paglusch: It really does. M/C Partners has been a fantastic for us because they are not the typical kind of a venture capital firm that buys a business and then just turns around and flips it tomorrow. Right? If you look at their track record, they really care about the businesses that they own and the customers of those businesses.
Keith Paglusch: That’s been very good for us. They’re extremely supportive of what we do, and we’re fortunate that A, not only do we have them, but we have a core group of team members. Some of them have been with Connectivity and Neutral Connect Networks since their early days of 2008 when they got started. A few of them are part owners in this business.
Keith Paglusch: When you have ownership and you really drive that type of culture in your company that says, Hey, we’re going to establish a leadership team agreement and you can hold us accountable to do these things around communication and driving results, and all the things that are a part of ours. What happens is, I think through that transparency, we kind of get on that same boat and they say, hey, this is going to be a fun thing to do and I can personally get rewarded by making sure that we achieve the results that we expect you to achieve.
Brad Burrow: Yeah. That’s awesome. That probably is not that common either, I would think, that you have a management group saying that to their team.
Keith Paglusch: I think it is more … I worked at a company just prior to this called C Spire for three years and almost three months. We did kind of this similar thing there, but it’s really about establishing kind of a mission, vision, and then a leadership team agreement. We can say to the team, “Hey, here’s what the objectives are for the year,” and then once a month we meet with the team on a regular basis, all around the country. We do it via video and we say, “For that month, here’s how we did against those results.” We’re finding that people really liked that. I’m excited about that.
Brad Burrow: Yeah. Can you talk a little bit about, the industry is changing at light speeds. The more connectivity needs, even in our industry as we get into 4K video, 8K is coming, which takes a lot more data, a lot more storage. We’ve got to evolve to keep up. In order to do that, we really have to stay on top of what’s happening. New equipment that’s coming out, all of that stuff. How do you guys do that? I mean, in your world it’s got to be even worse. It’s got to be changing by the second.
Keith Paglusch: Yeah. I think what’s really important for us is, while we want to lead in the industry from a technology and a roadmap perspective, part of what we are is we are somewhat subordinate to the carriers that we serve. Right? So we have to make sure that our technology and the things that we do matches their individual roadmaps. If you’ve got today, four, five carriers in the marketplace, you may have a diverse roadmap with some of those carriers.
Keith Paglusch: One of the things that I think holds true for everything is really around making sure that the technology that’s in place, and so that’s why you see this evolution of, people hear it as LTE or 4G and then now moving to 5G, the technology that’s in place has to facilitate faster and faster speeds, more efficient use of the bandwidth that’s out there because the bandwidth is not unlimited. There’s a lot of carriers that have a lot of bandwidth and that operate in different frequencies. When you’re operating wireless, you’re operating in an RF environment that’s on various frequencies.
Keith Paglusch: Much of this, they’ve either purchased through open auctions and things like that. What’s important for us to do is to be knowledgeable of what’s out there in the industry and what’s available, and participate in a very interactive way with our carrier customers and understanding what their needs are, and then, where we can, certainly show thought leadership from a technology perspective and trying to make sure that we’re saying, “Hey, we’re aware of this new technology,” let’s call it CBRS, right? Which is going to be being able to do this over unlicensed spectrum, if you will.
Keith Paglusch: It’s trying to make sure that we weave all those parts of what they know they’re doing, with what we know is also out there in the industry, and do that in a way that gives us a credibility with them to say, food for thought, have you given this any thought? Then, our goal is to be extremely, not only proactive, but certainly to be reactive to their needs and be able to serve them in a great way.
Keith Paglusch: From a technology perspective, too, I think that’s been what’s really been helpful is that some of us came from a carrier background, so we understand that background, and that’s really important. We’re really fortunate.
Keith Paglusch: Our CEO is a guy by the name of Stephen Bye, and Stephen has been around the technology world forever. He’s not as old as I am, so I shouldn’t say forever. But anyway, he’s been around the technology world forever. He was a CTO at several different places. In the industry, he’s extremely well thought of, and in the industry, he has a reputation that he walks in the room and people kind of go, “If Stephen says that’s what it is, we’re pretty comfortable that’s what it’s going to be.” So, that helps.
Brad Burrow: It sounds like you’ve got an incredible team with the perfect background for building this thing. Your background seems like you’re made for this position.
Keith Paglusch: I have to tell you, I think I mentioned to you, I don’t even want to count how many jobs I’ve had in the past, but it’s been a lot and I’ve loved every one of them. I would have to say this is probably one of my favorite roles. It’s a little bit because A, the team that’s already in place is a really fun team to work with. B, we’re going to grow, and we’re going to grow big. As we grow, the opportunity to bring on more and more people and the right caliber of people is good. I love working with carriers. I like working with venue owners because the venue owners are out there and they’re hearing from their patrons that come to these events or working in their buildings that they own as landlords, they’re hearing from them, “Hey, we need service,” and they’re like, “Well, hey, your carrier doesn’t provide service here,” and they’re like, “Yeah, but hey, this is your venue, so you need to help and let them in.”
Keith Paglusch: Working with them to make that connection for the carriers to serve their customers, I can’t think of a more exciting thing to do at this time in this industry.
Brad Burrow: One of the things that I was thinking of while you’re mentioning working with the different carriers is they’re all very protective of how they do things. Would you say that’s true? You’ve got relationships with every carrier probably, it sounds like.
Keith Paglusch: We do. Yup.
Brad Burrow: They got to trust you. How does that work?
Keith Paglusch: Well, there’s a fundamental thing in the industry called a nondisclosure agreement, an NDA. We have NDAs with obviously, all the people we work with. I think that trust happens by performing properly. By performing ethically in the industry, legally and morally correct. Right? Meaning, those are just things that are table stakes for us.
Keith Paglusch: I’m a big believer that people can come in and tell you that stuff, but they have to watch how you do business, and you have to earn that trust. I think when you look at some of the people that we have in our business, some of the people that have been around this industry for a while, as I mentioned, Stephen and and others, they’ve earned that trust.
Keith Paglusch: Now as a business, from a Connectivity perspective, as we’re growing it new, we have to continue to earn that trust. Once we do that, then they tend to let us in and start to tell us things that obviously, we don’t share with other people. We don’t share with other carriers, so it’s kind of like, I guess I look at it as a doctor. Right? A doctor knows something about each of his individual patients, or her individual patients.
Brad Burrow: It’s the wireless HIPAA.
Keith Paglusch: That’s exactly right. Right? We don’t share those kinds of things with the other carriers, much like a doctor doesn’t share with other patients what’s wrong with the patient that he just saw.
Brad Burrow: What are some of the things, when you go into a venue or a building, what do you look at? I mean, it seems to me like there’d be different buildings have different challenges from a wireless standpoint. How the walls are made. I’m making this up as I go, but I would think that would be. How do you go into a situation, analyze it and say, okay, here’s how we’re going to solve this problem.
Keith Paglusch: Yeah. If you want after this we can give you an application. It sounds like you’re ready to be an engineer here.
Brad Burrow: Right.
Keith Paglusch: That is exactly what we do. Right? Each building is going to be different. That’s even more different than when you’re building a macro network. A lot of people say, hey, Miami is different than San Francisco, versus Kansas City because you got water and all that stuff you’ve got to deal with when you’re building the macro network.
Keith Paglusch: It is no different when you go in and look at a building. There’s going to be different number stories. They have different architecture within their buildings, in terms of how you’re going to bore holes to get the equipment that you need to be able to get the right RF throughout that building. Each carrier operates sometimes off of different spectrums. We serve everything from basically, 600 to 2.5, which is good. Some of the carriers own a different spectrum in those bands.
Keith Paglusch: We look at each individual characteristic, and then our engineers do a fantastic job of doing the right calculations and kind of laying it out and making sure that we understand each and every part of it. Part of what we do is not only in building coverage, which, that is our bread and butter is in building wireless, but we also sometimes get the rights to the rooftops. Right? We’re shooting out. Then we’re in historical districts and we have to make sure that whatever we’re putting on that building, on the face of that building, or on the roof of that building works within the municipalities. Again, no different than when you’re building a macro network.
Keith Paglusch: Now, there’s a couple of ways to go in and do that, right? You can go in and kind of force your way in and say, we’re just going to go do this and we’ll take [crosstalk 00:00:23:14].
Brad Burrow: Ask for forgiveness.
Keith Paglusch: Yeah. We don’t do that. We don’t do that. A beautiful example of what we’re doing in one of the cities right now getting ready for an upcoming super bowl is that our team has sat down with the historical preservation group down there and said, hey, look, these venues have these needs, these carriers have these needs. Here’s our recommendation of how we can do that. But we also respect and appreciate very much the historical nature of your buildings. What we want do is, we want to work with you and we want to make sure that as we do that, we do that in a way that serves everybody’s needs, including, the beautification of this particular city.
Keith Paglusch: We find that to be, and I’ve always found that to be, in whatever kind of work I’ve been doing in the wireless industry, that’s the best way to do it. Be upfront and try and lay out what your plans are. In this particular case, we found, they were like, wow, we really appreciate you coming in, in advance talking to us in this fashion, and kind of laying out your plans and working with us, as opposed to coming in and demanding, this is the way you’re going to do it, and then us having to fight you.
Brad Burrow: What are some of the things that you would do to preserve historical integrity of a building? I’m thinking would you make a wireless system look like the building? What would that look like?
Keith Paglusch: There are a million different, what we’ll call stealth things that are out there in the world today. Right? In the macro networks, trees, and church towers and all that have turned into cell towers and you don’t even know it when you’re driving down the road.
Brad Burrow: Interesting.
Keith Paglusch: Likewise, what we do from an indoor wireless perspective, or if we’re working on the outdoors part of that, we try and make sure that the design that we put in place is one that is matching that building in nature. Right? Whether it’s the same color or whether we have to do the architecture, to match the architecture, in terms of whatever we’re putting on the face of that building.
Keith Paglusch: On the inside of the building, what you want to make sure of is that, you don’t want to have just a big box sitting in the corner when you have a beautifully architected building with glass or whatever. Right? You try and work with the architects of that building and say, what looks good and what is something that people don’t even actually realize that there are nodes within that building that are picking up that RF signal and helping making sure that you’ve got the kind of coverage you want and the kind of data speeds that you want?
Brad Burrow: Yeah. That’s very interesting. They have to appreciate that. I mean, it’s got to be a differentiator for your business. Right? I mean, the competition’s probably not doing anything like that.
Keith Paglusch: Again, I think some of the competition certainly does do that. There’s others in the industry that have taken a different approach. We’ve taken an approach, again, that is, what are the things that we can do that provide the best value for our customers and our customer’s customers and making sure that however we design it, that a building owner doesn’t go, oh my God, that’s the ugliest thing I ever saw in my life. Let’s take it home. Right?
Keith Paglusch: In your house, if you have someone coming in, you would rather have the wiring for something you’re putting in kind of built into the wall. Right? As opposed to having a big extension cord going across your living room because now you’ve decided to connect four speakers to your TV. Right?
Keith Paglusch: That’s what we try and do. We try and do things that are hidden and that people don’t actually even realize there’s something there, but it still delivers, and which is really, really important to us, is delivering the level of quality that people expect.
Keith Paglusch: We praise ourselves on having a five nines mentality and a five nines is really all around making sure that that it’s not only the type of availability that you have on a system, 99.999, but it’s making sure, and more importantly, having that mentality of how you do things, how you interface with the community, in terms of the zoning commission or the historical commission, how you interface with the venue, how you interface with the carrier is doing that in a way that is as close to perfection as you can possibly be.
Keith Paglusch: Nobody in the world is perfect. We know that. We are also going to make mistakes. We will own those mistakes and we will make sure that if we make a mistake, that we make it right. We, and our team is operating under that five nines mentality and all that we do.
Brad Burrow: Yeah. That’s great. Future, what’s the future look like for your company? Where are you guys going? I mean, obviously, there’s a big market that’s going to continue and grow and grow and grow. How do you take that on?
Keith Paglusch: Well, it’s interesting because our future is really kind of wrapped up in our vision. Right? Our vision statement. It’s really about making sure that we’re thinking about tomorrow and that we are trying to stay in line with tomorrow at providing in a very technical fashion, what our customers need. That’s really what it’s about.
Keith Paglusch: I think that if you go back to the days when we were providing voice only over the wireless networks, did anybody ever think that people would be using their phone to watch TV, or watch a football game or whatever? The future in this business, I think right now is certainly in this immediate future, is wrapped around, how do I extend the most coverage? How do I provide the highest quality of service? How do I provide the highest speeds of service?
Keith Paglusch: Now, there are going to be more and more things that happen in the wireless world. Right? Autonomous cars, all of the things that go into … We did something in our previous company, some other folks did in that company, where we were helping the farmers and the people in rural America, monitor their systems differently. Right? Which, three, five, six, 10 years ago, people would’ve never thought of that. How does wireless, really, how does that make a difference in a farm community?
Brad Burrow: Even robotic farming and things like that.
Keith Paglusch: Exactly. Right. It’s amazing now, right? I mean, just even on your apps that you use and that the airlines know, okay, you’re now at Gold, and you’re now this and you have this seat, and oh, we’ve changed planes, and all that kind of happens behind the scenes. That’s where I think this industry goes. Right? I think this industry is going to be still about the unknown as we get much further out than three or four years, people that think they can predict that, I think we’re going to have to be proactive in staying on top of it. Then, certainly, where appropriate, being reactive.
Brad Burrow: One of the things as a small business, I’ve heard this a lot over the years, is controlling your growth, and you can grow too fast. To keep up with the infrastructure and the money that you need to grow, is that a consideration for you guys? I mean, that’s just got to be an exploding market. You could get out over your skis pretty fast it seems like.
Keith Paglusch: Yeah. No, I think it is very much a consideration in all we do, right? Because if we want to do things in a quality manner, and want to deliver those kinds of services in a quality manner, many businesses will make the mistake of growing too fast and then their quality suffers or their culture, their team environment suffers and all that.
Keith Paglusch: Obviously, and again, we’re not going to be perfect at this, but we’re going to do our very best. We have to make sure that however fast we grow, that we put in place the right processes that are repeatable. We put in place the right systems that support that growth, and we certainly continue to put in place the right people that can grow from that environment and make sure that we continue to deliver the the highest level of quality, and most importantly, continue to deliver that type of project management and communication that our customers and our customer’s customers depend on for us.
Brad Burrow: Is recruiting a big part of the challenge for your company moving forward? I mean, we’ve got the lowest unemployment in history right now, it seems like, and finding skilled labor to be able to do what you need your operations people to do, that’s got to be one of the challenges for growing, right?
Keith Paglusch: It is. We’re very fortunate. We’re all over the country, but we’re also headquartered, our core engineering group is in Atlanta. We’re in a very good marketplace, to be [crosstalk 00:32:01]. Yeah, absolutely, but again, we have people all over the country in many places.
Keith Paglusch: One of the things that we’re very fortunate to have an HR team that is able to react to kind of that changing environment. As you think about that, you got to think about wages. You’ve got to think certainly, about your culture. There’s a system out there called Glassdoor that people look at, and 10 years ago, 15 years ago, nobody went and looked ahead. It was more of the the hirers world, and that’s not the case today. Today, it’s really about the individuals that you’re hiring.
Keith Paglusch: I think we also have to be ready to change with the times. Right? Whatever generation we’re in at the time, they have different needs, they have different requirements. Work life balance is very important.
Keith Paglusch: When we came to this company, one of the things that the team members told me that was the most important thing to them is that we’ve always felt like a family. When you have a smaller group of people, that’s important to do. But our goal and our challenge has to be that as we grow that company, we have to make sure that we continue to provide that family environment.
Keith Paglusch: I don’t think you can spread this like peanut butter. Right? I think you have to look at individual needs and individual group’s needs and people’s needs, and then you react accordingly to that.
Brad Burrow: The type of people you’re hiring have to kind of fit that a little bit, too, right? I mean, that’s got to be kind of a key ingredient of somebody that’s coming into an environment like that that they’ve got to really mesh.
Keith Paglusch: Yup. Yeah. No, clearly, right? No business is going to be perfect, right? You’re going to make a hire or two that maybe wasn’t the best hire and we just have to, at that time, figure out what’s the right remedy for that.
Keith Paglusch: In our particular case, we’ve made a few hires recently of some really talented engineering people. The best way to do that in the industry is to continue to keep up your reputation, right? You have to be regarded as someone that provides five nine service. You have to be regarded as someone that really cares about their customer. You have to be regarded as someone that cares about their team members. That’s our challenge, and certainly as we grow, we’re going to keep our focus on our team because our product and our services will only be as good as the team members that we have.
Brad Burrow: Go ahead and wrap it up here, but I want to ask you one more question. Just there’s a lot of different types of people that listen to our podcasts, a lot of small business owners, there are people that are maybe looking to move up in their career.
Brad Burrow: What advice would you give to somebody that maybe is thinking about this industry as a career? Maybe they wanted to just get into the flow like you did when you started. What would you tell them?
Keith Paglusch: I would tell people, and I get asked this question a lot by people that are new into the industry, new out of school, and they say, “Wow, how did you plan your career?” I had no plan. Now, I realize that’s different than what I do in my life now, but I had no plan. I was just lucky. I think that the most important thing and the most important advice that I could give anybody is just work hard and focus on the things that are important. Don’t get tied up in the pettiness of politics at a business or whatever. Do your job. Don’t always look towards what your next job’s going to be. Do your current job, perform well, deliver, and make sure people know that you’re performing, have good communications. Then, my experience is the rest kind of takes care of itself, right?
Keith Paglusch: Probably a little bit different in today’s environment because a lot of the people coming out of school, they want to have a career plan. In our business, developing a good career path for team members is really important. Making sure that we have a balance between hiring from outside and promoting from with inside or giving people rotational opportunities.
Keith Paglusch: My advice is going to be very simply, is just work hard, do a good job, and then take those opportunities when they’re presented to you.
Brad Burrow: Do you find that people coming in entry level are really have a career path in mind? Is that happening now?
Keith Paglusch: I think some people do. I think some people come in and they want to know, what are my developmental opportunities? I never asked that question when I was-
Brad Burrow: Me either.
Keith Paglusch: Right? When I was in, I was kind of like, “Hey, I got a job and I’m excited about this.” Right?
Brad Burrow: Yeah, no kidding.
Keith Paglusch: But again, you got to remember that was in 1980 in 1984 and all that time frame. Today, yes. I think people come in all the time and they go, “Okay, so what kind of training programs do you have? Where do you see my career?” Right? Instead of me asking that question, they’ll say back to me, “Where do you see my career potentially being able to go in the next two to four years?”
Brad Burrow: Wow.
Keith Paglusch: Instead of … Right? That’s a role reversal and I think it’s important. Again, I think that you have to be able to adapt to the current situation. And I think you have to be able to adapt to whatever the current environment is.
Keith Paglusch: I think there’s going to be some times where you put somebody in a role and it’s a developmental role, and they have to understand that. This is good for you because you’re going to, believe it or not, you doing this role of working nights, as an example, or working in an environment where it’s 24/7 and you’re answering the phone, that will be very good for you down the road because you can then relate to the people that are in your organization that you’re asking to do that role.
Brad Burrow: Right, right.
Keith Paglusch: I’ve always believed, don’t ask people to do any more than you were ever willing to do, or that you’re willing to do. I think that’s really important.
Brad Burrow: I wonder if the new millennials and everything coming up feel the same way about things like that? It seems like they’re a little more entitled.
Keith Paglusch: It’s interesting because I work with some individuals that are millennials. I’ve learned an awful lot from them. Right? Now, I think they would say they’ve learned a little bit from me along the way, which is good. I think it’s really important for any leader in a business to have to understand each of the individuals, whether it’s a millennial or a generation Z or generation JJJ in a couple of years or whatever it is. Right? I think you have to at least understand it.
Keith Paglusch: Now, that doesn’t mean that you still don’t set expectations and hold people accountable for expectations, but if you don’t understand what their needs are, then you will not win their hearts and you will not win their minds. That’s kind of kind of my motto as I go forward is I want to understand it and I want to understand what it takes to win their hearts and their minds so that they will be a very productive and a good team member.
Brad Burrow: Will stay. Because you have a big investment in new talent, so you want them to stick around, right?
Keith Paglusch: Exactly correct.
Brad Burrow: All right, Keith. Well, thank you so much for being on the podcast. I really appreciate it. This is the In a World with Real Media Podcast. If you’re listening, feel free to share it, and we want you to subscribe. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us know if you have some guests and topics that you want to cover. We really appreciate it and we will see you next time.
Brad Burrow: Thanks, Keith.
Keith Paglusch: Thank you very much.