Work-Life Integration Leads to Success
Redefining success the right way for your team.
Mike Popadak is the CEO and Co-Founder of iVueit, an innovative platform connecting the Facility Management industry to an On-Demand workforce dedicated to site audits and data collection anywhere in the United States. Mike believes that when leaders serve as coaches, employee retention is a given.
“We want everyone to succeed, not climbing over one another to get to the next spot.”
Mike Popadak is the active CEO and Co-Founder of iVueit, an innovative platform connecting the Facility Management industry to an On-Demand workforce dedicated to site audits and data collection anywhere in the United States. iVueit is trusted by the largest retail brands & facility management companies in the world to quickly (sometimes within minutes) assess properties and gather photographic information so that they may make informed decisions for their clients. Mike is a creative leader with a decade of experience inside a multibillion-dollar sales environment where success is expected and earned with integrity and record-breaking sales performance. Defined by hard work as a competitive advantage, combined with the innate ability to connect with people add up to a winning combination dedicated towards profitable growth and achievement. Known to be tenacious in building new business, securing customer loyalty, and forging strong relationships with internal and external business partners. Mike is also the President for the Central Ohio Athletic Association which is focused on teaching young men and women the values of character, respect, and hard work through competitive athletics.
“No coach is worth anything if they can’t tell you the why, whether it’s work or it’s a sport.”
Hello, I’m Michael Kurland, CEO and Co-Founder of Branded Group. Welcome to the #BeBetter Podcast. To me, our company’s mantra to “Be Better” is more than a tagline; it’s a culture that permeates our organization, propelling our team to Be Better to each other, our customers and our communities as well as to ourselves. Each week on the #BeBetter podcast, I interview leaders who authentically exemplify how they are being better in their professional and personal lives.
Today’s podcast is dedicated to our valued clients who help us to #BeBetter every day. We are grateful for their continued partnership and trust as we continue to deliver industry-leading facility maintenance to their multi-site facilities across the country. Learn more about how to become a client and our services at https://www.michaelkurland.co/clients/.
Michael Kurland (00:01):
Welcome to another edition of the BeBetter podcast. I’m your host, Michael Kurland. Today, we have a special guest Mike Popadack, from iVueit. He is the co-founder and CEO. Mike, welcome to the show.
Mike Popadak (00:17):
Hey Michael. Thanks for having me, man.
Michael Kurland (00:19):
Glad you had a chance to come on. Why don’t you tell the audience a little bit about yourself and your company?
Mike Popadak (00:25):
I obviously work a lot in facilities management now. That wasn’t always the case. I cut my teeth in consumer packaged goods for over 10 years inside of PepsiCo but moved over into exteriors facilities national accounts and things of that nature. I learned a ton about the space over the years there. Then, one of the things that we saw was just a blind spot in the industry. I previously had a lot of information at my fingertips, a bit of a challenge at times, and really we built a platform, a unique one that really taps into an on-demand workforce and network across the US to gather quick information on properties, photos, surveys. We’re doing videos enhancing the boots on the ground because we understood just how important managing the day to day can be. Instead of disrupting a whole day, we just have to find out some information right now and we created a platform that helps those who manage facilities, but do it fast and affordable.
Michael Kurland (01:27):
I can say you definitely infiltrated a hole in the marketplace. There are times where, from my point of view, as a facilities management company owner, we need those photos to get that sign off, to get that paycheck. We’ll give you a shout and send you out. Like you said, it’s very affordable to get that done.
Mike Popadak (01:48):
Sometimes we’ll get it done within minutes because our viewers are driving by, shop at, live near, so it’s really changing the speed of things in the industry.
Michael Kurland (02:00):
I don’t know if you would say this and I hope this comes across right to you, but it’s like the Uber of photo and survey taking for facilities management.
Mike Popadak (02:10):
Yes. It’s usually the easiest way people can describe it and get it right away. That’s exactly right.
Michael Kurland (02:16):
Cool. Well, that’s awesome. I’m glad that you guys filled this great hole in the marketplace. Let’s jump right in. So, this season, we’re talking a lot about company culture and remote company culture with the pandemic that we’re going through. So first question for you is why do you think a solid company culture is so important?
Mike Popadak (02:37):
When I think company culture, you think core values, right? That is really what the culture is built on. So when you say, why is it so important? It’s really everything, right? It’s the foundation that your company is going to be built on, known for, and eventually becomes your compass, right? That the decisions you make, how you interact with people, hiring, firing, rewarding, all of that goes into that. It trickles down to how you treat others and how you make others feel. I just think when we set out creating our business, one of the things at its essence was how is this culture going to be and how are we going to do it for our people.
Michael Kurland (03:21):
It’s true. I mean in these days as a company owner working at the last place I was at, it was you have a job, you have a paycheck, right. Growing up. That was everything, right. That’s all you’re supposed to be excited about is you have a good paying job that has benefits. That was my mom. Every time I came home from college, you need a college degree, so you can get a good paying job with benefits. Now it’s more than that. Benefits and a good paying job are a start, but what keeps people there? It’s the core values. So, we set out years ago, it was probably five years ago to set our core values. We did a whole process where we brought in a third-party company to go sit down and find out what was important to our employees at the time. Those values are still true to this day. Totally there with you.. So what was the process of developing your mission, your vision, your purpose, and your core values? As I just said what we did at Branded Group, what’d you guys do at iVueit?
Mike Popadak (04:24):
It was the same. Maybe, we were young and growing a small company. We sat down and we started making a list of things. We talked about it. It was great because my co-founder and I actually worked in a previous roles in the same company. So we knew a lot of what we wanted to do and we knew what we didn’t want to do and examples started coming to mind. At Pepsico, there was a story I tell people that we’ll walk into a site with a store manager and his team’s asking me, why did he give so much to the festival in Frito-Lay? Because if I called them today, this morning and said, I need a trailer of product in every one of my stores, they would call me back and say how I can’t do that this morning, but how about this afternoon?
Mike Popadak (05:13):
So it was things like that where we started saying, we want to delight our customers. No more taking those phone calls and you’re letting people down. So there’s certain things that we started throwing on the board and listing that came into those values. We didn’t want to be a company where it was crabs in a barrel. We want everyone to succeed, not climbing over one another to get to the next spot. We just started iterating on what we felt was important, what we felt we’d experienced in the past and then we started finding people that fit that. It’s almost as interviews, right? One of our great employee we have in marketing, I met at an event and we just started talking and it was like picking the best player on the board.
Mike Popadak (05:56):
We wrote down our culture and our values, and then as you’re hiring, it was like how do you find that person in the draft? It’s the best player on the board. She fit so many of the things that we had listed that it was like I got to bring those people in. Then it just continues to develop and grow with our purpose. Similar to what you said. We sat down, we wrote it down and then we talked about what we liked and what we didn’t like, and we memorialized it, and then we go find those people that fit it so that we can obviously keep it going.
Michael Kurland (06:26):
I think you’ve touched on some really great points here. The first thing that you said that was resonating with me was you were at the last place with your co-founder and you guys knew what you liked, but you also experienced what you didn’t like. That’s very similar to my story. The other two founders of Branded Group, we all came from the same place. That was really how we started figuring out our culture – what we liked and what we didn’t like. That’s where BeBetter actually came from. It was pay your vendors on time, pay your employees a fair wage, take care of your clients, be transparent with your clients and the community came after the fact, but that’s where BeBetter came from.
Michael Kurland (07:13):
It was all the stuff we didn’t like not just at our last place but across the board, because like I said before, growing up when I did, and I think you’re probably right around the same age as me, it was just like get a job, make money. You were lucky if you had a cool place that had a beanbag chair or a Pac-Man video game. So that was the one thing that resonated with me. The other thing that you said was the crabs in the barrel example, I’m totally on board with that competition. Some people are all about it, right? They want it to be cutthroat and they want everyone to get pitted against each other because they think at the end of the day, the company wins and they’re probably right.
Michael Kurland (07:53):
The company will win in the short term, but long term you’re going to have the employees that rise to the top, the ones that you step on and the ones that you step on are going to be resentful. Maybe they’re not going to be working as hard. So we at Branded Group have put together, at least on my sales team and I would say in the company overall, there’s no competition. Everyone’s working towards the greater goal of trying to BeBetter. So they all have a common goal and a common mission. By letting them work together on that brings the unity and gets everyone focused on the same final goal.
Mike Popadak (08:31):
No one’s holding anything back, right? Because it’s not, I’ve got information or there’s not this gossip. Everything’s out in the open. Everybody wants everyone to win. Again, is it always perfect? I don’t know, but when it seeps into a culture, it becomes everybody, everywhere. It’s not what we want.
Michael Kurland (09:16):
Mike, next question. What is the impact of company culture on employee engagement and retention?
Mike Popadak (09:31):
I think we touched on a little bit of that just a little bit ago. Right? It’s not like it used to be just the dollar. I think studies show it’s one of the further things down the list anymore that you go to work and it’s just because of a good paying job. I think the impact is everything right? People are going to want to stay. I mean, it is so secret. They’re going to want to stay where they feel appreciated, where they feel like they have a voice. There was a new hire we brought on that I worked with at a previous spot. It took for me a lot to find him. I knew he fit the core values that I wanted. I think he could do the job that we wanted to do.
Mike Popadak (10:12):
But I remember telling him about the culture and trying to get him to come on board and I could see it in his eyes. He was like, “I don’t believe you. I don’t believe it’s really like that. I worked with you elsewhere. I worked in this industry.” I could tell, he just didn’t believe me and to this day, when I introduce him, walking to the office or on a call, he’ll still talk about it., I’m still pinching myself because everything he said is true. The idea that he wanted to find something. We were able to give him what he wanted was what we wanted to build in our culture for our employees. Now, with all that said, this still may someday not be the best fit for him. There may something else happen. There may be a better offer, his family dynamic could change, but, I want him to be happy here. If something else happens and they go somewhere else, I literally, I want them to cry when they leave. They tell me because they don’t really want to, it’s just a must. If that’s the case, I feel like we did a good job. I know that making that decision around retention, engagement. I know they want to stay. I know we’ve created the right culture.
Michael Kurland (11:19):
Totally agree. It’s actually become a selling point for us to our clients and our prospective clients that our employee retention rate is 96%. It used to be 98%, so it pains me that we had a couple of people leave, but, it was like you said, for similar reasons. It wasn’t because they wanted to per se. So when you can keep the employees engaged and then you can have them stay, you can have your customers start to get to know that person. They work on that account for six, nine, 12 months. In this industry, that’s not normal. Most of the time when you get into a company, you’re working with 13 different people in the first 10 months, and you have no idea who your actual account manager is. If you have a problem, you don’t know who to go to.
Michael Kurland (12:10):
So we don’t have that issue. That’s why keeping the culture where it’s to keep the employees engaged and keep the retention rate up is so important, especially in our industry where our job’s not easy. It’s hard. It’s hard as an operational facility manager, because it’s a very thankless job. I’m sure you guys have the same experience where you did it fast, quick and cheap and that’s just what you’re supposed to do, but you do it a little slower. It’s a little expensive and someone’s yelling at you. So I totally agree with you. I love everything you’re saying there. So speaking of the pandemic, how has that impacted your culture and your leadership style?
Mike Popadak (12:52):
I thought about this one a lot, because it’s so important to everybody right now. There’s times I feel like, Oh, you know, it hasn’t changed our culture. It hasn’t.” I still feel very similar in ways, and I feel like I’m doing the same things. As I thought about it, I like to use examples that describe stories. I used to have a boss and I believe this, by the way. He used to say, if you want something done, give it to someone who’s busy and the idea there was, they’re a performer, they’re a hard worker. They’re going to get it done and I was one of those people. I surrounded myself with those people at times. Because I think that’s a culture part.
Mike Popadak (13:35):
We’re hardworking. We are available. We want to get done with it for the customer, each other, but COVID really introduced a new kind of busy, in my opinion. We work very much on work-life integration, not so much balance. When you’re going to be working, sometimes family time happens. When you’re at home, sometimes work happens. With integration, that they co-exist. But COVID is like, every time we look there’s kids in the office or there’s kids on calls, right? So one of our core values was Team. Well, that’s been changed to Family. It’s caused me to pause and realize that it’s important that these times, the kids are being impacted so much with this change.
Mike Popadak (14:23):
The idea of thinking that I would give somebody something to do, and I want it done despite this integration, it really is pause for us to get to know, not just the team, but the families that we have, the kids, the wives and spouses, all of these things because everybody’s impacted and that giving it to someone who’s busy, everybody’s extra busy. Everybody’s working more for whatever reason, right? Being at home, it’s balancing the kids. I think for my leadership style we looked at the culture and said, this is now extended. It’s a bigger family. There’s more involved here than there was before. So me getting on somebody to say, Hey, where is that at? Then we’re working hard on it. The pause that makes a hundred percent sure, make sure the kids are taken care, that they’re okay to go and do these things. My employees knew that before, but at the drop of a dime, somebody sent home, this is shutdown, this is different. So just really making sure that they understood, like, yes, I want you to be busy and working hard and all those things, but a hundred percent, please make sure your family is taken care of and they know that. I think like I said, for me just working hard has been such a big part of our culture, but the pandemic is just really just put it back out there. There’s so much more important things to focus on.
Michael Kurland (15:39):
I really appreciate what you’re saying. We had a Michael C. Bush from Great Place To Work on the show a couple of weeks back. He answered a very similar question. What he said was get to know your people on a more deeper level. I’m paraphrasing, but it was basically what you just said with find out what’s going on at home, who has kids, who doesn’t have kids, who has an aunt that lives with them that has some sort of issue, maybe some medical issues, whatever the case may be, because you never know what people are going through outside of work, and then you have to be empathetic and sympathetic to what they’re going through. I love what I wrote down from our talk last week was work-life integration.
Michael Kurland (16:28):
Everyone says work life balance, but I’ve been very similar to you but to your point, COVID has really brought it out because now everyone’s working from home. When we started having remote employees about four years ago, we had a lot of employees, ex coworkers that were in the New York area that wanted to come work for us because they knew that we were going to be great people to work for. So we had to get over the remote employee status. I always said, my business partner, Jon was very leery of it. He wasn’t sure if it was going to work, but I was like, you know what, let’s give it a shot. I told these people, “Hey, your hours are – nine to five.
Michael Kurland (17:17):
That’s what we tell HR, but I don’t care what you do as long as you get the job done.. So if you have to take your kids to the doctor or you have softball practice or whatever the case may be because all these things are also important. They have to go do those, just let your supervisor know, Hey, I’m stepping out for half an hour. I’ll be back and work an extra half hour later tonight. You’re working from home. What does it matter? So work-life integration. It’s a great phrase. I really appreciate that you have tweaked it from the work-life balance and I can totally relate to it. So thank you for that.
Mike Popadak (17:51):
It goes that extra step of, Hey, call me on the way to the doctor’s appointment if you have to, I don’t care. I’ll talk to Emma in the car. I’ll see how her day was going while you update because it’s okay. Bring the kid to the office when we get back or set them up here and it’s okay if they’re in the background. We’ll get to know them too. It’s really, like I said, that integration is now more than ever.
Michael Kurland (18:16):
Especially with Zoom calls because kids are so curious. They’re just like, what are you doing, mom?
Mike Popadak (18:20):
You don’t want to embarrass, an employee shouldn’t feel embarrassed that a kid crashes through the door because we’re all going through it, or a dog barking or any of that stuff. It doesn’t even pay any mind anymore and in our business.
Michael Kurland (18:36):
Totally. I love it. So what advice would you give to other organizations about developing a strong culture? You guys definitely have one. We’ve talked about a lot of the groundwork that you’ve done. So what advice do you give?
Mike Popadak (18:51):
I think one that came to mind was, don’t forget how you got there because initially when you sat down, when you built a business or you started at a company or if you’re working in a large company, however you got there to where you’re at and you’re a leader in that, it started somewhere that just inherently developed itself, right because of what you’re doing, why you’re doing it. So don’t forget about that and stay true to it. An example, we moved into a new, larger office and we went from a very small, very intimate group and like yelling across the way and it was something that was awesome. Then when we moved into the bigger offices, a little more spread apart, more single offices for people, you started to lose a little bit of the culture that you didn’t realize that the employees really liked.
Mike Popadak (19:44):
It was one of those things you had to check yourself and say, all right, we’re evolving. We’re growing up as a company. So we need these things, but how do we still grab those pieces of what it felt like when we were small and we first started to what it feels like now. So I think that was one of the big things. Then along the way you might screw up a little bit because the numbers are getting bigger and the risks are getting bigger and all of that. It’s okay if you got off track, right? I mean, part of our culture and you own it. You let them know, Hey, we’re going to fix this and those type things. So as those come up, it goes back to your core values of what it was built on. Remember that, and if you feel yourself veering, get back on track. I mean, it’s okay. I guess is what I would tell them.
Michael Kurland (20:30):
That’s great advice. I totally agree with you. I similarly feel I will never ask someone to do something that I haven’t already done myself. So I know for all of my employees listening to this, you probably don’t know I used to run service calls and that’s a good thing that I don’t do that anymore, but I at least know how to do it. So you have to sometimes roll up your sleeves and show them, Hey, I can do this just like you can. I’m not asking you to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself. So I guess that’s like the building blocks and own your mistakes, right? What’s the worst thing that can happen? If you mess something up in our world, at least for our directly client facing, toilet didn’t get unclogged quick enough or we didn’t spackle a wall in the right way we were supposed to, you say, you’re sorry, and you fix it the next day.
Michael Kurland (21:28):
You own those mistakes. You don’t blame somebody else. So those are always great lessons. I think that anyone listening to this that’s trying to develop a strong culture can do good just to follow those two things. So Mike, it’s been a great amount of time talking with you here. We finish up every podcast with the same question. So I’m going to ask you, what do you consider yourself to be an expert at? And what advice do you have for our audience on how to become an expert at said thing?
Mike Popadak (22:00):
So I thought about this a little bit and I don’t know if anybody’s a complete expert and calling myself an expert, I think might be a stretch, but I do a lot of analogies with baseball. I’m a baseball coach. I run a baseball organization as one of my passions away from work. I think even the best players have swing coaches. So I won’t be myself an expert, but I think I’m a pretty good coach which allows me to be a good coach at work as well. So I always talked to the baseball guys about how does baseball apply to work and life? I do the same at life and work nights. I’ll talk to that. I think there’s a couple of concepts that I use that I think could help people maybe become a better coach.
Mike Popadak (22:41):
I thought one is no coach has worth anything if they can’t tell you the why, so whether it’s work or it’s a sport. So if you’re asking someone to do something, it’s okay to say why and get that explanation. I think it’s a great way to teach people too. So we’ll hop off a call with a client. We’ll follow up and we’ll debrief and I’ll ask time and time and time again. Well, what’d you hear the customer say? Why did they say that? Well, and then they start. Yeah, you’re right. Why, why, why, why, why, why? It applies to itself being a good coach and a sport, but it applies itself to being a good coach in baseball. So I think I like that a lot.
Mike Popadak (23:21):
I think that’s something that if you’re not doing right now, I think you can get a lot out of people and it just creates more questions, more listening. That’s a good trait of a good coach. I think, from that you take things like that. Again, when I say I’m a good coach, I applied to business. There’s things that in baseball, it’s constant failure, right? It’s three times out of 10, you’re in the hall of fame. So we work on redefining success. You’re not going to win every bid. So how do you identify what’s the right batting average and get there? Then just like baseball, right?
Mike Popadak (24:01):
There’s a quote from a coach I listen to and follow. They’re talking about a high D one commit, right? He goes up and he hits a laser bomb. The left field guy makes a diving play. Should be a standup double diving play. He’s out. Next guy comes up, broken bat single gets on base. The guy comes up behind, I love this game coach. Cause that’s baseball, but that’s also business and that’s life. So if you got 10 bids out there, you have the perfect bid, but for some reason you didn’t win it.. So you didn’t even get that hit. So how do you learn and say, how do we redefine success in the right way and have that passion of asking why? I think those things kind of tied together. You’ll make me a good coach, make me a good coach on the baseball field and make me a good coach to my team.
Michael Kurland (24:43):
Well, I love it. I’m a huge baseball guy, myself. I got a little upset when I saw your Derek Jeter quote on the wall behind you. I am a Mets fan. So I can’t say I’m a huge fan of Jeter. Although he did everything the right way. He definitely deserves to be in the hall of fame. I’ll leave you with this. My closing line usually when I used to sell it more was we’re looking to hit singles every day. We don’t want to hit home runs one time.
Mike Popadak (25:14):
I wish there was a small ball in the game. I can’t stand these home runs and strikeouts.
Michael Kurland (25:18):
I’m a huge baseball guy, myself, totally off topic and I’ve been a diehard Mets fan my whole life. It’s just been pain for the last five years. It’s just been pain. So I literally didn’t watch. I watched the opening. I always watch opening day. I pretty much take opening day and I’ll at least watch for my computer while I’m at work. But that was the only game I watched all year was opening day. Every other game was pain.
Mike Popadak (25:43):
The series going on the championship series in the World Series right now have been phenomenal.
Michael Kurland (25:48):
That ending to that game two nights ago was crazy. I think I like to see the Dodgers pull it off.
Mike Popadak (25:57):
I’m rooting for the Rays. They’re just a bunch of dudes playing baseball.
Michael Kurland (26:01):
That’s great. Well, Mike, it’s been great chopping it up with you here. If the audience wants to get ahold of you, what’s the best way they can do that?
Mike Popadak (26:10):
My contact information is on LinkedIn. My email is Mike.email@example.com Just direct message me, email me if they want to learn more, if they want to talk shop, they want to talk baseball, I’m good for any of that.
Michael Kurland (26:29):
All right, Mike. Well, thanks for coming on and thank you guys for listening. See you next week.
I’d like to take a minute to thank you, our valued listeners. My intention is for this podcast to inspire you, in some way, to be better. Change starts from within and radiates outward. Therefore, start with being better to yourself and only then will you recognize how to be better others and your community. Thank you for joining us today! If you want to learn more about Branded Group, then visit us at www.branded-group.com. From our website you can follow us on social media. Also, always feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn. Until next time, Be Better.