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Kevin Kerl and Innovation, Change, Remote Work & Hiring


May 26, 2020


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Kevin Kerl and Innovation, Change, Remote Work & Hiring

CJ sat down with Kevin Kerl. Kevin is the CEO of SelectOne, a professional recruiting firm headquartered in Buffalo, New York. The conversation began with Kevin sharing his experience living and working in Boston during the bombing at the marathon, and how that was the only experience he remembers that remotely resembles the pandemic we're all experiencing now. Kevin and CJ also discussed his experience growing companies, the importance of change and how to innovate during during adverse times. We also discussed how remote work will continue to proliferate and his recommendations for any businesses thinking about hiring new employees now.

Kevin and CJ Discuss Innovation, Change, Remote Work & Hiring During a Global Pandemic



Conversation Highlights

CJ and Kevin spoke for about 44 minutes. Together they covered the following topics:

  • Kevin's experience working in Boston when the marathon bombing happened and how it was his only experience that even remotely resembles what we're going through today with COVID-19.
  • How adversity and challenging times can bring about innovation and positive change.
  • What factors contribute to a business's ability to grow and scale faster.
  • The immediate and long-term evolution to embrace technology and remote working environments.
  • Advice for businesses thinking about hiring employees during a global pandemic.

Full Conversation Transcript

CJ Maurer: (00:01)
All right. I got Kevin Kerl with me here today. Kevin is the CEO of SelectOne. He is a partner, a friend, an advisor, well-respected business owner in the Buffalo community. Kevin, we're going to have a lot of cool stuff to talk about today. First off, thank you for joining me.

Kevin Kerl: (00:23)
Thank you for having me on, and I've been kind of around you [inaudible 00:00:27] were at complete payroll then decided to kind of venture on your own [inaudible 00:00:31] so it's great to see where you got to. I'm excited to just have a conversation about everything in this wonderful world.

CJ Maurer: (00:37)
Thank you and before we begin, also we need to point out that you had to indicate to me that your background is actually a real background, not a Zoom background, right?

Kevin Kerl: (00:47)
Yeah, that's a brick wall in our office. I can not make a green screen. I cannot make it disappear. I sit here and look at, and it's just like the Zoom backgrounds, but it's definitely just a solid brick wall, so behind our office.

CJ Maurer: (01:01)
Would you say you're a Zoom background guy or are you an all natural guy?

Kevin Kerl: (01:05)
If you can get the right setting, I think the Zoom backgrounds don't look that great. You can pull off a really cool looking background yourself and it'd be your home, your office, your basement, wherever it is. I think go for it because it makes it feel more organic and natural than trying to force feed something in.

CJ Maurer: (01:21)
Yeah, I've seen some people with Zoom backgrounds and I like it, but I've just never felt like it was the right fit for me for whatever reason. My background, I feel like there's nothing remarkable about it, but it's fine and sometimes I get distracted when I move and it kind of like cuts off part of my face or my shoulders so I've just kept with the normal setting.

Kevin Kerl: (01:43)
I am surprised more companies haven't adopted their own branded version. We see the face mask everywhere because now you're starting to see branded face mask for companies but you don't see a ton of Zoom background branding going on yet, especially if you're like a big influencer. When this starts getting out and you have millions of people looking it at a weekly basis, you could actually like lease your space out.

CJ Maurer: (02:06)
That's right.

Kevin Kerl: (02:06)
Start doing sponsorships behind you. You have Nike logos all over behind you just to help out though.

CJ Maurer: (02:11)
It's inevitable, right? It's going to happen.

Kevin Kerl: (02:13)
It's the future of advertising.

CJ Maurer: (02:16)
Something else that we were talking about before we jumped on and hit record. The precedence of this whole thing and you have a unique story because although you grew up in Western New York, you spent a number of years in Boston in startup scene and you talked about the bombing at the Boston Marathon and how that shut down the city for two days. Why don't you talk a little bit about what that was like?

Kevin Kerl: (02:42)
Yeah, it's interesting because you try to think, wow, is there anything in your life that even comes 1% of what we're going through right now? And the unprecedented time, we're all working from home. We're all remote. Companies have to just figure out how to work separately. I was just thinking through it the other day and I was like, when I was in Boston and I worked for a company called Intrepid strategy, mobile development shop, and we worked downtown by MIT and when the Boston Marathon bombing happened if you all remember, they didn't find the people right away. It's not like, hey, we know who exactly it is we're going to catch them. I think it's five days or so.

Kevin Kerl: (03:18)
As part of that kind of transpired, it got worse. There was a shooting by MIT and these guys were on the run that they had to figure out, we can't find them. We need to just keep people away because we don't want to put people in danger. Similar to this, slightly different obviously. We were told you can't come to an office. You can't work. Like you got to stay home. Everyone hunker down, lock your doors and we were 25 minutes outside of the city limits. You can imagine that whole city just shut down for two or three days and going through that and I was thinking back because like today, yes, we're going through this, but luckily our technology advancements over the last 10 to 15 years have allowed, I think a lot of companies to adapt much quicker than in 2005, let's say.

Kevin Kerl: (04:04)
We didn't have Zoom, we didn't have the ability to have shared cloud services where you could literally log in on any computer anywhere and be able to do your work for the most part. Even in 2000, this would have been 2013, I believe. I got the date right. We were using a Slack like interface called HipChat and we were able to talk to all our employees, communicate with them on a daily basis and our business continued but we were a very advanced technology company at that time compared to most in that city, especially being in Boston where technology has always advanced slightly ahead, but-

CJ Maurer: (04:36)
I did check. It was 2013, by the way.

Kevin Kerl: (04:38)
Okay. Yeah. It's interesting to think like that was like a mini little microcosmo we're going through today and even back then the same type of thing. How do you get your team to work remotely? How do you get them to produce? We don't know how long it's going to be. Luckily that was a much shorter span than what we're going through today, but then I think back to like 2005 and I'm just like, oh my God, if something like this would have happened back then, can you imagine business would've just stopped. Like I don't think we would have been in any situation to be able to handle what we're able to do today and I think sometimes we still even take all our technology advancements for granted that we're dealing with now but yeah, I've seen it in a small microcosm then and now obviously on a much larger scale.

CJ Maurer: (05:20)
Yeah, that's really interesting. I think your point about taking some of this technology for granted is interesting and quite honestly refreshing because with the disruption in our normal activity, whether it be business or personal, it's been very easy just to focus on the inconveniences of all the interruptions. I think right now people are absolutely craving leadership and optimism and as long as it's not superficial and manufactured, but honestly pointing out things that we have to be thankful for, things that we can leverage to get through it or even thrive, right? Make the most of these scenarios. I think it's very fair to point out how fortunate we are that we have all of this technology that can keep some semblance of business activity moving, can keep us connected to our friends and family members.

CJ Maurer: (06:14)
I mean, just imagine how much harder this would be just 30 years ago, right?

CJ Maurer: (06:21)
You sent just letters and talking on the phone, great, but like... I mean, just the way we're able to do like family group chats on holidays and we get whatever. It's awesome. I like focusing on that because it's just way too easy to focus on the downsides and inconveniences of it all.

Kevin Kerl: (06:42)
Definitely. I mean, another example of how technology allows us to continue, I'm on the board for local nonprofit organization called Buffalo Prep and every year they celebrate all their wonderful students who are going through the program who are graduating high school. This year we will be going to our, what's called celebrations this week to celebrate all these students and we can't, because obviously we cannot have large gatherings like that, but they're doing a 51 hour online, totally social media driven celebration.

Kevin Kerl: (07:13)
Same exact thing, setting up Zoom happy hours for people. They're doing all these videos, all the students are talking. It's going to go 51 hours straight for the 51 students who are graduating and again, this is where technology has allowed people to still be able to enjoy life, still have things happen in their lives that 20 years ago you'd never been able to do that. This would have just stopped. There would've been no graduations, nothing would've happened.

Kevin Kerl: (07:35)
I know we both have kids and we look at like birthday parties. I sing happy birthday on a Zoom line Saturday night to a good friend of mine son who was turning four and he just put it out to everyone in the whole startup community. I think there was like, 40 people showed up on the Zoom call to sing happy birthday to this kid. It's amazing the things when you look at how our communities come together and the things we're able to do together, even in these tough times, it makes up for it.

Kevin Kerl: (08:02)
A lot of us don't look at work as work. Some people do, but it's also your outlet. It's the where you break your brain up from other stresses that occur in life. Be it personal, be it challenges at home with your kids, with your family. Work can sometimes be that breakup and now it's like all becoming intertwined, but they still have the ability to communicate to people, helps break up those really busy times and keep a positive outlook on life.

CJ Maurer: (08:26)
Yeah, 100%. I had... A friend of mine used the phrase like, there are no days anymore. There's just no time. Because everything just kind of bleeds together and it's moving fast as much as it is slow and monotonous and what's the difference now between like weekends and weekdays? I mean, I've done my best to kind of really like separate my time doing work and not doing work. Yeah, I mean that's been a little bit of a challenge but it's working okay, but that's certainly true and I do admire how a lot of people have responded to that and you just see all the things on social media.

CJ Maurer: (09:07)
Let's talk about business for a second too. I mean, you were talking about how you've spent some time, you were at Intrepid in Boston and you're keyed into the startup community. You have a 43North judge emblem on your quarter zip right there. We're seeing a lot of businesses, I don't know, maybe pivot, maybe evolve depending on the business, depending on the circumstance. I mean quite frankly, I'm doing this right now and I was not doing this before COVID. Something I'd wanted to do.

CJ Maurer: (09:40)
It was something that I thought about for a while and for me it was a situation where one, no longer do I have the opportunity to attend networking events and connect with people physically go to lunch, go to coffee, right? And also it occurred to me that if I didn't do it now, then really when would I ever do it? That there will never be a better time just to start doing this. I felt a certain responsibility to myself to just show up and do it.

CJ Maurer: (10:11)
I think it's a really unique time for businesses who want to produce more content and engage with people and I know that you guys are doing it over at SelectOne with your business people series and that's super cool. I talked to [Allie 00:10:23] on that. What are you seeing like any... do you notice any common denominators and ways businesses are responding to this and either evolving, trying new things or in some instances like pivoting?

Kevin Kerl: (10:36)
It's interesting because you bring that up and we're both big fans of Inbound HubSpot's conference every single year on the East Coast. We've been going for five, six years. I know you've been going three or four years I believe. Like all they talk about was content, content. Content is king and then all of a sudden, like over the last two or three years they talked about you got to be doing video content. I know you and I had many conversations. We come back and be like, we got to start video and we didn't do it and we didn't do it. We didn't do it.

Kevin Kerl: (11:03)
Honestly, a lot of people didn't do it. It wasn't like a ton of stuff out there and then all this happened and everyone's starting to do it, right? It's like what we've been told at this conference that you should be doing should be doing, we all kind of waited until there was this crisis where it kind of forced us to do the things we have to do and yes, like the ones doing, I know you're doing it, but you see a lot of other businesses trying to figure this out too.

Kevin Kerl: (11:26)
I think on that end contents out there. I listened to a podcast yesterday out of Europe, I think it was Ireland in the UK and a few other business owners on it and they were talking about how 2020 is going to be all about brand and how you build your brand as a company and a lot of that is video content, digital content. Like don't overthink 2020 as this year you're going to increase sale. It's just not going to happen. Like the economy is where the economy's at. A lot of things are frozen. You're not going to go out and like... some businesses will because of how they're situated, but you're not going to have a 75% increase in sales this year.

Kevin Kerl: (12:04)
It doesn't mean you can't spend time building for the future and building your brand recognition both to acquire the best talent and have people who want to work for your company because of how you handled yourself through the situation and be able to generate more sales in the future as we come back out of this and companies you've positioned yourself with a large content library, you've been able to get brand recognition and drive up social media numbers because as you know social media is all about being front of mind when the buying decision comes up and so that's why I think a lot of companies are starting to adapt to this.

Kevin Kerl: (12:36)
Larger picture, I think there's going to be a lot of changes that come out of this and a lot of ways established big businesses do business, how startups do business. I think you'll see it in the private equity world, you see it in the VC world. How they invest, what they invest in. Changes always occur. There's kind of this weird model that you look at, like in the 1990s web became popular thing. The Internet existed, right? And people started learning what is the Internet, then they learn how do I use the Internet for business and then the 2000s was all about expansion into mobile and how am I going to use mobile? And Oh my God, I got the phone. If you'd asked me 2003, would I do everything I do on an iPhone? I would've thought you were nuts but now that's what we do.

Kevin Kerl: (13:18)
2020 through 2030, 2040, what is that going to look like? Is that more AI, machine learning, virtual reality? Some people were talking virtual reality three years ago, but this is going push and speed up that, to get to that world. We're going to have... yeah, we're using a phone and doing video right now, but maybe in five years we're literally putting goggles on and we're staying in a room together even though we're really not in the room together.

Kevin Kerl: (13:47)
I think that's... Companies that start to figure out how does that affect the business they offer and how will consumers purchase things that way and how they're able to adapt themselves are the ones who are going to come out ahead and honestly in five years, the Dow top 20 companies might be 20 companies we've never even heard of today because there are all these new innovative companies that just explode in growth. I mean, Zillow didn't exist 15 years ago. Now Zillow's-

CJ Maurer: (14:15)
Just speaking to... You referenced Inbound, the conference and I've gone the last four years. I remember passing you there briefly last year. Brian Halligan, the CEO of HubSpot was making a presentation, which is essentially about market disruption by reducing customer friction and making it easier for people to do business with you and he gave an example of all of these companies where they have tangibly disrupted the customer service aspect of that industry, right?

CJ Maurer: (14:48)
A good example being how Netflix disrupted the video rental or consumption industry where, you know what I mean? You sit at your couch and click a couple buttons and pick any video you want. Significantly better than driving to a store going through... everybody knows that example but the reality is now that there's countless examples of how you purchase what mattress you sleep on, the music that you get, transportation, clothing. There's just so many examples. I mean, he charted all of these companies. I want to say... I mean, definitely they were all disruptors. I want to say maybe they were also billion dollar companies and the one thing they all had in common is none of them existed 10 years ago. I 100% [crosstalk 00:15:38].

Kevin Kerl: (15:37)
Yeah. The biggest companies and the turnover in the... I mean, it's an exponential graph how technologies are transforming so quickly and being used. It's funny. I was talking to my mom this morning, my 90 year old grandmother at her first ever Zoom doctor's appointment today. She's 90 years old. Like, can you imagine talking to her when she was like 25 and being like, "Hey, one day you won't go to a doctor's office, you will literally open a computer and talk to your doctor and that'll be your doctor's appointment." It's amazing.

Kevin Kerl: (16:06)
You talk about friction, we build a lot for the generation of today who knows how to use this stuff but at the same time we have to always remember we do have to build all these tools and the applications for the generations outside the lanes too, who might not be as technologically savvy. I think that's where you're seeing companies take that next step. Like, hey, we built this tool and really technologically savvy people are using it. How do we make it so everyone can use it? So you get a more of a mass appeal?

CJ Maurer: (16:37)
Yeah, I mean, and that's something that the whole emergence of telemedicine has had to face because telemedicine has existed. I used to work with... in a past life, I used to work with a medical practice and a couple of the partners on there were really interested in leaning more into that world. They saw it as the future. I've met some other people that are involved in that industry, either in senior care or actually do know another tele-health company out of Rochester that's now offering this and on the front lines.

CJ Maurer: (17:09)
It's a type of thing where even though it's been available and communicated, as a society, as a culture, we just hadn't shifted to that yet. This I think is an instance of, it's a kick in the pants. It's the forced evolution as my friend [Brian Greener 00:17:26] from [White bicycle 00:17:27] would call it, the forced evolution. I think that this whole situation, in some ways it has kind of accelerated things that have been happening all along. You and I have been on Zoom meetings before, right? We've been on Zoom meetings. We collaborate with colleagues through Slack and whatever else, right?

CJ Maurer: (17:51)
A lot of us are already remote enabled. Now, it's kind of like we're remote dependent, right? But then there's other things where this is kind of... not only was it just kind of like a kick in the pants to accelerate trends that are already happening, now you're also seeing it open up brand new avenues like... and I'm thinking about alcohol delivery and all the things that you're seeing, the ways that states are allowing certain businesses to run, to keep these businesses afloat and provide their products and services to people. That's the thing that I think I'm very interested to look at is like what are the brainchild of this time? Not just the things that have evolved in unique ways that were already happening, but the things that were born anew.

Kevin Kerl: (18:38)
Yeah, I think it's going to be incredible. I mean, you got younger children than I have. Mine are nine and 11, but school, like where's it going to go? I've got one child who has completely excelled being at home and learning that way and I have one child who's struggling a little more than if he was in school. They obviously all adapt differently, right? But you can see where I believe there's going to be these hybrids. In long-term we're not going to go back to the old society where everyone gets on a bus, every kid goes to school. It's going to be more of a mixed hybrid. They can do smaller classes every other day and every other day you do virtual learning. It's kind of this hybrid so they can get more attention to the students.

Kevin Kerl: (19:23)
I think there's all these options that are going to come out of this that you're going to see and I think you'll would see a lot of hybrid. I don't think it's going to be cut and dry. Everyone works remote or everyone works in an office. I think everything's going to become this meshed hybrid system where you do a little of both [inaudible 00:19:39].

CJ Maurer: (19:38)
Yeah. That's interesting that you bring up school. Seth Godin, who's a very famous business and marketing leader, originally from Buffalo actually. Did you know that?

Kevin Kerl: (19:49)
No, I didn't know. He's from Buffalo. That's awesome.

CJ Maurer: (19:51)
Yeah. I mean he hasn't lived here in years, but he occasionally talks about it. He has written a ton of really famous books. In 2012 he published a manifesto called Stop Stealing Dreams. It was all about his vision of how school needs to be radically changed and his argument was that school was created in the early 1900s after child labor laws were passed. Businesses like at the time said, there's no way we can afford to not have children work for us because then our labor costs would be too high, so we wouldn't be competitive. They were very much opposing the institution of child labor laws. Exploitation of children.

CJ Maurer: (20:37)
After that is when like basically universal school happened and they thought, well, the next best thing if we can't have children work for us is we can put them in a system that trains them to be basically efficient and obedient factory workers and so he makes the argument that too much of school even now exists around single file lines, sitting in rows, following instructions, memorizing facts and things that were useful at a time but now when you consider the way that our economy and our society has evolved, what is the value of memorizing something? You just said? Oh, I think the Boston Marathon was in 2013. I didn't know. I just pulled up Google and found out in about 17 seconds. Right?

CJ Maurer: (21:25)
It's like there really isn't value in fact memorization. Even though anybody who knows me knows that I love history and sports trivia and I do enjoy memorize... my brain for some reason, I remember birthdays-

CJ Maurer: (21:42)
It's so stupid but it's useless, especially now. Great, I can recall it 30 seconds faster than somebody else, so what? The overall larger point is that schools should be focused more around creativity and problem solving and that is the end of my speculation about what school would do because I have not studied schooling or education or like how that should work. I have absolutely no suggestions, no answers but I think it's really interesting and I wonder if what you just said in terms of some hybrid between home and school motto if that would bring about like not only just changing where school is delivered, but how school is delivered. I have no idea, but-

Kevin Kerl: (22:25)
It'd be interesting. I think... it's funny, the biggest issue I've heard about people, the kids staying home is that the parents can't get their work done. It's not the child's learning experience as much as just, oh my God, I'm going insane because I got to do my job and my kids running around behind me in and out of the office, so it's been this... the educational side of the schooling seems to have caught up pretty quickly and they're doing a good job at it.

Kevin Kerl: (22:51)
It's been more of the how do we be productive as a society, as workers, when we're not teachers, but when now we have this expectation that we're going to watch our children and help them while also doing our jobs in a remote setting. That seems to be the tug and pull and that's not been solved. How will we solve that to make sure we keep productivity up?

CJ Maurer: (23:12)
Yeah and productivity is on everybody's mind as you said. You were on this webinar that was administered in Europe and they said, look, 2020 isn't going to be your year for explosive sales growth. You're about branding, you're about laying a foundation for the future and... sure, some businesses might grow and maybe, perhaps even exponentially. I would have loved to have had equity in Zoom before this was their [inaudible 00:23:40] I don't know, right. I think that's a really sound point. As focused as everybody is and should be on productivity and innovation and growing their businesses I think it's refreshing to kind of set your priorities accordingly and realize what this year is for what it is.

CJ Maurer: (24:02)
However, at the same time, if I look back on all of the things that I've done to help my business grow or businesses that I've worked with grow, rarely can I look back and say, oh yeah, that thing was kind of like a faucet that you just turn on and off. I don't think growth is a faucet you turn on and off. In most instances, the things that ignited growth were things that took a long time, took months or years of planning and build up. For example, something like this, I mean I'm doing this for fun and I'm doing this because I like sitting down and having conversations with people like you.

CJ Maurer: (24:38)
People who have done this before, who now have large audiences at one point started at zero and usually like in terms of audience and usually like they didn't make significant gains right out of the bat, but at some point doing it over time, that started to snowball and I think most growth related activities and business work the same way whether it be the marketing of a product or blogging or website [crosstalk 00:25:03] whatever and so I think that the opportunity is for a lot of businesses to see the opportunity to lay foundation of groundwork that is going to pay off eventually no matter what and so it might as well be for them.

Kevin Kerl: (25:18)
Yeah, I mean I think you're spot on about how growth happens for businesses. I mean the only place you can have exponential growth quickly is when you have a product that you have very low or no competition in a market that is ready to accept your product. Right? And that's where you hear a lot more startups and oh my God. How they grow so quickly, is because usually the very successful ones, whatever that product may be, is something that is either a very hard barrier to entry for other players to get involved with, is so first to market that no one else exists and on the opposite end, there's a market that's ready to purchase whatever that be and do it quickly and then they're able to exponentially grow quickly. I mean I talk about Intrepid a little bit when I was in Boston. We're a service company because a lot of times service companies are not the type of companies that grow quickly. It takes time. You build relationships, you build referral networks and you provide services. Product companies can typically grow quicker.

Kevin Kerl: (26:15)
We were a service business, but we grew because in 2011 when [Mark Hessler 00:26:20] started a couple of... 2010 is when we started. 2011 we started to see growth [inaudible 00:26:24] more. '13 even more growth, iOS was becoming hot. People were starting to use iPhones more, starting using their Android phones more and the fact that all we did was build for mobile phones and iPads, applications for businesses. There wasn't a lot of competition. If you wanted it, which big companies wanted it and were willing to pay a lot of money because they knew they had to be in there, they didn't know what they needed, but they had to be building these applications. It made it easy for us to grow very quickly.

Kevin Kerl: (26:52)
There was very limited other companies out there doing it where if you're doing marketing or SEO marketing, now there's a lot of people individually and companies who provide that service. And then we think just back to what you were saying, most businesses, most products, most services, it takes a longer time to build growth. You don't create exponential growth quickly. Just because A, usually have a lot of competition for the same client base, you have to build your brand awareness of why you're differentiating, why your product offering's better, and then you're able to grow within those niche markets, especially on the service industry side.

CJ Maurer: (27:28)
Yeah, and that's important to remember because oftentimes you'll see a business that grows fast and then you'll look back at it and say, well of course it did. They had this, they had this, they had this, it was new, affordable like all of those things but even in instances where it is almost a new category or there's extremely low competition, usually in those instances there's also little proof of concept. Going into it the only way to know is to do and I think that's kind of like the point for right now where we're in a period of reinvention and of evolution and I think the amount of experimentation associated with it is going to be exciting and will probably yield some really cool things moving forward.

Kevin Kerl: (28:11)
Yeah, definitely. I think a lot of innovation has to be around creating easier ways for people to do things. Whatever that is. If it's in your world, how do I interact with my clients in the most efficient way possible not to create friction. We use that word a lot. In our world for recruiting, how do I make it as frictionless as possible for my clients? What do they really want out of us? What are they looking for? Are they looking for resumes from us? Are they looking for us to have these deep engagements so we understand their whole entire company at a deep level and they're all different, right? Because every client's slightly different and you being a service business too realize that. Like not every client's the same.

Kevin Kerl: (28:52)
You have to understand at the end of the day you had to provide value that they perceive as the right price point for that value that you create for them. If your price points are too high, you're not going to... you might get the business, but you lose the business. If they're perceived... even if you do a great job, their own perceived value of what you're doing is not strong enough, you're going to lose that business. I see so many people who start businesses, they get frustrated. They're like, I've got this great offerings, either service or product and I know this company, ABC needs it. I've talked to them, they told me they need it, but they won't buy it. Or I did an engagement and they walked away. Because at the end of the day, no matter how good you think it is and no matter what they think, if you haven't created that perceived value within them, then you're going to lose the business.

CJ Maurer: (29:40)
That's great point. You just reminded me of something else that I have to ask you. Obviously this pandemic has affected a lot of businesses and their hiring strategy. SelectOne, you guys are a recruiting agency, you help people hire people and I'm in a position now where I'm actually looking at hiring my first employee, whether it's an employee or an independent contractor, right? As the owner of a small agency who's looking to add to my team right now, I'm in a unique situation where I've never done this before. What would you say to people like me who are looking to bring on new members to their team, but also, especially right now in this pandemic? Like what advice do you have for people looking to bring on new talent right now?

Kevin Kerl: (30:35)
I mean any business you should be forecasting. Small businesses I think struggle a little with this. Big businesses probably better at this, enterprise even better, but like adjust your forecast, understand what it's going to look like. You said you were saying you got to hire, what is that you're hiring for and where do you need to be month over month over month to justify that person being hired. Look out 12 months and say to yourself, okay, my sales are here. These sales are pretty locked in. Now's a good time to hire because I know my sales are there and I think I'm going to bring in this much in sales over the next 12, 18 months and therefore I can justify the hire.

Kevin Kerl: (31:12)
If you're hiring, because you have a blip right now for a month and a half or two months when you look at your projections. You're like, oh, I've got all this work I need to capitalize on. I need to hire someone but past that two months you don't see the consistency that's going to exist to support that person. I would not recommend hiring that person. A lot of companies hire in blips. They don't forecast out their hiring to make sure that's the right decision. If it's just a blip, find a contractor, right? Hey, I got an eight week contract and we'll bring someone in to do the work. You might have to pay a little more for the eight weeks, but you're gonna save the money in the long run versus having a full time employee.

Kevin Kerl: (31:48)
Really it's all about understanding where your business is going, forecasting that out, understanding the market and what's growing in that end. Did I lose you there or did that continue on? I've got a phone call [crosstalk 00:32:03].

CJ Maurer: (32:02)
Your video just cut out for a second but it was just fine.

Kevin Kerl: (32:04)
Yeah. I got a phone call I had with a client. Yeah, it's really all about understanding your growth methodology, I think. Let's say we get past all that and you're ready to hire, right? Now, you're going to go out and find someone. A lot of people I heard and I talked to are like, oh, well I've got business. I'm doing well, this is a chance to upgrade my team or get someone amazing. The one thing I'd be aware of, and I know... I think we're at 30 million people unemployed, right? Is companies don't let their best people go though. Just because there's 30 million people unemployed does not mean if you needed the best digital marketing in the world and you think you're going to find that person because they must not have a job right now. That's just not true. They do have a job. They're still employed.

Kevin Kerl: (32:48)
Understand the market of these layoffs that have occurred over the last three months may not be the job that you're trying to fill, therefore it's still going to be a very competitive market from a salary standpoint and a skillset standpoint, especially if you're trying to hire them here in Western New York, that you might not just have six or seven people with the skills you're looking for.

CJ Maurer: (33:07)
Yeah, it's good point. You brought up the possibility where you're not sure if you can like... with when you forecast you're projecting revenue, maybe you're confident in enough revenue to sustain this employee for your more than just go with the contracting route. I wonder... I already work with a number of contractors for certain things and I know a lot of other businesses do. Do you speculate that you might see more of independent contractors in this period of uncertainty?

Kevin Kerl: (33:45)
I think short term for sure. I think there's just... I mean right now we are, no matter what anyone says, in a very unstable, unsettling world. When there's that much lack of stability, people are going to make decisions that allow them to adjust quickly and temps and contractors allow you to do that much faster than full time employees. Yeah, I think you're going to see more and more increase of that over at least the next six to nine months here and understanding that if things start to settle down again, you just start converting into full time so you can see that.

Kevin Kerl: (34:22)
Now the thing that's thrown in here that is unprecedented that I've never seen before is this, the PPP plan, the government supporting and giving money to companies to hire full time people. I've never seen it before and because it's unprecedented, companies are hiring people full time to work within their organizations even if they don't work for those people to do because they have money from the government that they need to do that. I think that changes the game slightly than anything we've ever seen. It's hard to forecast that but in the next six, nine months if you need to hire for certain positions, I think you're going to see a lot of temping contractors or gay people doing multiple jobs, that type of thing where people are working two different jobs just to kind of make ends meet and also have some stability to their work.

CJ Maurer: (35:06)
Yeah, that makes sense. How are you personally just pulling off through all of this?

Kevin Kerl: (35:11)
Doing good. It's a world. We live in this. I've always been pretty calm demeanor as it is. I actually enjoy chaos in a roundabout weird way where it's like it kind of invigorates me to work and do things and create change. I believe that the best changes this world ever had is through events that are not normal. I think normal creates complacency within the business world and companies start just doing the same thing over and over and when things like this occur, they have to change readily. You go all the way back like World War II, obviously a huge event in the world. It created a lot of change in how business was done and how people worked and who worked and how the home life was, and then you kind of go through and different events happen that change the way that the work world occurs and this is another era that's going to change the way we innovate as a world, how we've worked together as a world.

Kevin Kerl: (36:14)
One very interesting thing that I did hear on this podcast yesterday was they expect a movement towards onshoring. Work coming back in. A lot of companies have used customer service centers in the Philippines and over in India and other international areas to keep costs down and have large groups of people to support them. Well, when this occurred, US-based companies, the hardest part for them to comply and be able to quickly go remote was not in the U.S. it was for these offshore centers that they had and how they worked with them and those failures created them to start to look at like, yeah, we save a little money doing this, but it exposed a lot more risk to our business by being so much off shore.

CJ Maurer: (37:02)
Yeah, that's a really good point.

Kevin Kerl: (37:04)
Yeah, so you see that. On a personal level. Yeah. Doing well. I've adjusted. I've actually... I think I enjoy it. I skid to see my kids a little more than I used to. You never realize how much time you waste when you are going in and out of an office on a daily basis. The drive in, drive out. So go to lunch, come back from lunch. The slight distractions that occur within the office water cooler talks great, but there can be too much of it. It's just those little things allow you to get work done quicker. I've also found, and this is probably true for most people, there are certain times in the day I'm way more efficient at work.

Kevin Kerl: (37:43)
One day it might be 7:00 to 9:00 AM. The next day it might be 9:00 to 11:00. Well, having my desk right there, being able to fit in my schedule is boom, sit down and do my work. When I feeling fully engaged my brain's right locked in ready to go. When I'm set on a schedule of like you go to work, you finish workup, you go to an event or something like you go home, you don't always... aren't able to maximize that work time. Like [crosstalk 00:38:10].

CJ Maurer: (38:09)
Yeah. Because you've already built your schedule around like whatever... not your productivity. You have not lined your schedule around when you are going to be most productive.

Kevin Kerl: (38:21)
Exactly. I've enjoyed that aspect of it.

CJ Maurer: (38:25)
That's a good... I think we've talked about this before. When you talk about average commute, maybe 30 minutes, right? That's one hour a day and then you combine to and from lunch, water cooler talk interruptions, whatever. Maybe that's another hour. That is two hours a day. Multiply that by five. You're talking 10 hours a week, 10 hours a week. Now what is somebody who's just even average. I'm not even talking about the most productive worker ever. Somebody of average productivity and efficiency, like think about how much better they can get at their job if they have those 10 hours.

Kevin Kerl: (39:03)
Extra 10 hours. I mean, if you think about a work day, right? It's 37 and a half hours for an hourly person typically. If we are able to add 10 hours into them, their work week actually becomes 47 and a half hours but really they're still only going to work 37 and a half. They get an extra 10 hours for their personal life. You heard the drum beating for the last six years about work life balance, work life balance. Here's basically 10 extra hours for your life. Right? Go spend 10 hours more a week with your family. That's amazing.

CJ Maurer: (39:35)
It is amazing.

Kevin Kerl: (39:35)
It is incredible. Yeah, it's like... I probably done more around my house with my son building things than I ever had.

CJ Maurer: (39:42)
Yeah. I've started a podcast. I play with my kids so much more. I built now two raised beds in my backyard for a vegetable garden, doing other stuff. It's been great.

Kevin Kerl: (40:00)
Exactly. I asked to put up a Ninja line tonight between two trees that we wanted... It's one of those things you would have ordered like a year ago, it would have sat in the garage and sat in the garage and the weekend would come and maybe I'd get to it now it's like, no, I got time. I'll give it [crosstalk 00:40:15].

CJ Maurer: (40:15)
What else [crosstalk 00:40:16].

Kevin Kerl: (40:16) o'clock on a Thursday, throw it up in an hour and be done.

CJ Maurer: (40:18)
Yeah. I really feel for people whose businesses have been dramatically affected by this. They really do require people to come in. Like, I know somebody who is a tattoo artist and has [crosstalk 00:40:39] done. I feel for somebody like him and I feel for people in those industries. That really bothers me about this whole thing. I also really feel for people who maybe are immunocompromised and are more fearful that something like this virus could affect them and so I think about them a lot but on a personal level I'm... just selfishly looking out for myself and my family, I have enjoyed it in some ways. In some weird ways as well.

CJ Maurer: (41:14)
Just to your point, it's new, it's different. It's something else to play with and adjust to and kind of make sense of. I think it requires... it calls for innovation, leadership, things like that. Things that I like to, I don't know, try my hand at and I think that again, in some weird way and then when you just talk about all the time with family, it has been... in a weird way it's been enjoyable.

Kevin Kerl: (41:44)
And it does affect a lot of people, right? I mean, you bring up a great point, barber shops and tattoo artists, those types of things. Like I haven't been... I've got this, my haircut at the same place, this new barber shop that opened up like three years ago. I haven't been there now in three or four months and I can imagine their business is hurting. Because what's he supposed to do. We both go to gyms and work out like Gymworld, like they're hurting and trying to find creative ways to do online but a barber shop can't do that. You can't cut your hair remotely. I think that's where, when you see this government money, those are the people I hope they support the most and they can find ways to keep them afloat for when we get back to normalcy because they need it and those are the companies that we need to... we as a society need to help support and the ones who are able to be successful can still do it back.

Kevin Kerl: (42:36)
I mentioned Mark before, the CEO and founder of Intrepid. Obviously that company exited at a fairly large exit and he... there was two of his favorite restaurants in Boston when this happened. He put up a challenge to fellow business owners and he did it himself. He paid the salary of every single employee at those restaurants for two weeks. He went to the restaurants. It's like, I got you covered, I'm going to pay for it and he challenged these other business owners in Boston to go to your favorite places, be it a hairdresser, a gym, a restaurant, and offer to pay their salaries for as many weeks as you feel comfortable doing.

Kevin Kerl: (43:12)
It was just like a cool thing to see these like... It's been successful. That city helps support him and build his company up to be able to be where he is today in life and then he was able to give back. It's just like an amazing story that I don't think we see enough of still. I know a lot of people in Buffalo have done some great things to help support the... feed Western New York group and those types of things but love to see even more of it, especially on an individual level or big large community leaders step up to help out. We have it and we have pockets of it and I hope we continue to see it, especially for the smaller businesses that you mentioned that are suffering.

CJ Maurer: (43:52)
Yeah, I love it. Hey Kevin, thanks so much. I got to run, but I really enjoyed this conversation. I'm so thankful that you made some time to riff with me and I really hope we do this again.

Kevin Kerl: (44:05)
No, this is fantastic. Thanks for the time and to everyone out there, let's stay positive and continue to support everyone.

CJ Maurer: (44:12)
Sounds good. Take care, Kevin.

Kevin Kerl: (44:14)
Thanks. Bye.

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