In this episode, I talk with John Dickerson, founder and CEO of Quillo, a new mobile communications platform, designed for the human service industry. He explains that Quillo is a platform designed to engage, inspire, and build relationships to solve the problem of high turnover within the disability field. Workers in this industry are out in the field all the time. They don’t have a network of people and coworkers that they’re connected with. They feel like they’re on an island. Quillo resolves this issue.
When employees feel valued and that they are making a difference, a company is much more likely to have higher retention, and save the cost of a new hire. John shares that the two pillars of Quillo are positive psychology and well being of employees. He explains that when a client implements the platform, starting with the leadership, it can help to build relationships and culture within the company.
Topics In The Episode
Helping users generate their own content
Being mindful of the culture being created throughout the growth process
Related verticals in which Quillo could be implemented
The effects of focusing on positive communication
Value of appreciative inquiry
Book recommendation: The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg
Mike Kelly: Welcome to the podcast. Today we have John Dickerson, who's the founder and CEO of Quillo. John, welcome to the show.
John Dickerson: Thanks for having me.
Mike Kelly: Let's start with a quick overview of Quillo.
John Dickerson: Quillo is a new mobile communications platform designed for the human service industry, which is facing incredible turnover, 50%, 60%, 70% turnover every year in their staff. We've designed a platform designed to engage, inspire, and build relationships with folks, that solves that problem for them.
Mike Kelly: Help me, when you say human service, I'm thinking everything from like wait staff to call center, things like that. What ...?
John Dickerson: Really good question, Mike. I've worked 40 years in the disability field with human services, so we're starting with that market, people that provide home care, job training, support to individuals with ...
Mike Kelly: Oh, I missed it entirely then. Okay, right on.
John Dickerson: We live in very interesting titles, don't we? And so when we talk about human services, we starting within the disability field, because they have this huge turnover. Staff feel they're on an island. They're taking care of your brother, or sister, son, or daughter, and they're out in the community all the time. They don't have a network of people and coworkers that they're together with, and so they felt they're isolated, like they're in an island. And we went into this using technology, how to move them off that island, how to make them feel connected, how to inspire them every day, because the boss isn't there every day to give them encouragement.
Mike Kelly: Give me a feel for what ... if I'm a user of Quillo, what's my actually experience? When I pull up the app on a daily basis, what does that interaction look like?
John Dickerson: Well, let me tell you, we were really lucky, we worked with a local company, Innovatemap here to design our user experience, and we find ... Let me tell you real stories from users, we have a woman that starts her day while she brushes her teeth, watching two or three Quillo videos. Our goal is they spend two to three minutes a day getting a quick little lesson, something that makes them smile, something inspires them for that day. Another one of our users has shared with us that she spends five minutes a night before she goes to bed, watching five videos. Every one of our videos is a minute or less, because we wanted them to be quick, we wanted them to be uplifting, and we wanted them to keep coming back. So she spends five minutes every night, as she said getting ready and getting her mind around for the next day.
John Dickerson: One of our other users, she came up with great line, she said, “You know, I watch Quillo every morning because it's kind of like packing my perspective lunch. That I want to have the right perspective when I come in contact with your son or daughter. So just like I pack my lunch every day, I want to get my attitude in the right frame of mind of coming to work with your son.”
Mike Kelly: Nice. So who generates all that content? Is that all custom content generated by Quillo, or is that generated by the client company that might hire you? How much of that is your content versus maybe a company's content?
John Dickerson: So we now have a library of over 600 videos that we create. We're constantly bringing in new authors and people that are helping us do this. One good thing is having worked in this field for four decades, I know a lot of people around the country, and they're coming in and helping us provide content, because they see how important this work is. The art makes it very easy for the subscriber to create their own content for their own employees. And you know what? They love watching our national experts talk, but they love hearing from their leadership, their own people. They want to feel connected. As one of our folks said to us, “I want to see more from my company than their logo on my paycheck.” They want to feel part of something, and feel like they're making a difference. And these videos, even if it's a weekly video from the CEO just talking about, “Here's things that are important that you need to know we're doing, and here's why you're important,” is really a key message for them.
Mike Kelly: What's the success been of getting subscribers to generate that content?
John Dickerson: Well, that's one of our keys. So we're now in 13 states, with 21 different subscribers, and we are constantly working with them on tools to give them easy to do this. Some of our best ones, they did 150 videos, and they had Quillo night at the academy awards, where they gave out their staff their own awards for their videos. Other people get really nervous about going on camera, so we have to work hard around them to get over that fear of recording themselves, because they have to be perfect. They worry about tripping over a word, or saying something wrong, or how do they look on camera. And so a big part of our onboarding is not only teaching them how to do that, but then supporting them, and making it easy for them to create their own messaging. And with our analytics, they can see right away ... when people are watching their video, they get that validation that, “Oh, that worked.” And my people like seeing that.
Mike Kelly: Interesting. That's great. So you've already hit some of this. My next question is typically about current stats, any way, maybe metrics you can share to help paint a picture of where you're at in the process. You said 600 video, 13 states, 21 subscribers. Anything else you can share for somebody who's listening to maybe paint that picture as a company, where you guys are in that journey? That could be team size, anything else you want to share.
John Dickerson: We clearly have a team of five, and we're going to be bringing in another person on in June who's going to work remotely from Minneapolis. We've one who's working from North Carolina. We're finding that our team as it grows, we want to be mindful of building that culture that we have for a small startup. I was fortunate, I worked for the same organization for 42 years, and culture in our organization is so important. And so we want to grow, but we want to bring the right people on board, and meet those needs for folks that we're looking at. We're starting within the disability field, which has about seven million employees. So with our 21 customers now, that's our first foot in the door. We have our first California customer, we have our first New York City customer, there are much bigger organizations out there, one we're talking to in New York City has 10,000 employees, that'd be huge.
John Dickerson: Of course, they're not going to bring all 10,000 on at once, as we are looking at that. I had a lot of interest from other related areas, everything from K-12 education, where we have a real challenge with teachers. If you ask a current teacher, same sort of problem, they don't get a lot of encouragement, they get asked about test scores and discipline. We are going to face a teacher shortage. So we're looking at other vertical markets to take our architecture as it begins to grow we move into that. We're also looking at how do we support families that have a son or daughter with a disability. And so looking at how we can use this message, which is based on two key thoughts, one is positive psychology, the work of Marty Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania. We live in pretty negative times right now, and that impacts everybody's psychology. You ask most managers, they talk to their employees about problems.
John Dickerson: When we did our market research, folks found that 80% of their communication with their supervisor was by a smart phone. So their boss is talking to them on a phone, texting or emailing them. And when we asked the supervisors and the staff, “Are your communications predominantly positive, or predominantly neutral, or predominantly negative?” 70% agreed that they're predominant negative. Now it isn't Mike calling up John and saying, “You worthless person,” it's, “What happened with Sarah? Why is that report not in?” It's always around a problem. It doesn't build you up, it doesn't support you. So positive psychology taught us that three out of every four communications have to be positive with an employee, that building them up and keeping them focused on the mission is more important than constantly correcting them. So you'll find on Quillo for example, people can give it a thumbs up on the video, but they can't give it a thumbs down. The idea that we want to build this positive connection with folks that keeps them coming back and understand the why of what they're doing it.
Mike Kelly: That's great. So just as you explain that, I was in a parking lot last night talking to another father about that same thing, like he and I were trading some tips for ... we have sons similar age and we were trading some tips, and he said that exact same thing of like, “One of the hardest things to do as a dad is not make every communication to your kid about the negative things that they're doing, but like how do you find those opportunities to be positive?” I don't know if he said the three out of four just like you did, but it was basically that same ratio, like we need to find ways to be overwhelmingly positive so that when we're saying the negative things, the kid isn't giving them a story of, “I'm bad, I'm wrong, I'm not good.” They should be hearing this constant thread of, “No, you're great, but like here are some things you need to work on.”
John Dickerson: And what they would tell you in a personal relationship or a family relationship, if you want that to be successful, it has to 5:1 positive, and especially with our spouses. So the idea that, “How was our ...?” Where you're caught into traps, and so you have to be mindful about how we communicate. Not manipulative, but how do we be mindful and look for those opportunities to say things, because we never know how they're being interpreted? And that might be the simplest of messages for folks. When we look at staff ... and we've got some really good user data. So we've been surveying our users. It's pretty new. We just launched a year ago, March, so we're brand new as a company. But we're just ... nearly 40% of our users in our recent survey said using Quillo daily, weekly, or even just several times a month improved their relationship with their supervisor, and 72% ... now, again these are people that work with people with disabilities, 72% said it improved the relationship with the people they support.
John Dickerson: So the idea that the more we raise those metrics, the less likely you're going to just get pissed off day and you quit, and that's what we deal with, because it's tough work, you're not paid a lot, which is a political battle that legislators decide these are government-funded services. But it's always this idea of how do we build people up? And that's the second tenet of Quillo, that while we use positive psychology, the second tenet is wellbeing. How do we get organizations and companies to really be concerned about their employees' wellbeing? And not that's not just showing up for work, that's not just doing your job. How do we know what's going on in your life? For the first time in history, I read that over 50% of Americans cannot handle an unexpected $400 bill, that's how close they are to a financial cliff. And there are more payday lenders in this country than McDonald's. So when our people who take care of ...
Mike Kelly: Is that real?
John Dickerson: That is true, check it out.
Mike Kelly: Jeez. Okay.
John Dickerson: Unlike McDonald which is everywhere, all across the geography, they're concentrated in certain areas where people are vulnerable. So if you are faced with a tough problem, you got to one of those folks, they'll lend you money, but it becomes a difficult problem to get out of. So financial wellbeing is one, health and wellness is another, the welfare if there are children, and what's going on. Those are all things that a company that wants to keep their employees, needs to be in touch with them with what's going on in their lives, because turnover is expensive. Average cost from the experts is about $5,000 to replace a direct care worker that's making $26,000 a year. So that means if you're replacing 200 people a year, you're spending a lot of money just maintaining the status quo. You can invest more in your people in time, and energy, and attention, and it will pay off from ... and Quillo gives you a powerful tool to do that.
Mike Kelly: I know you're only a year into it, and so your answer might be not yet, but do you have any case study data on how Quillo has impacted retention?
John Dickerson: We've got some promising shoots coming up. We want to be real careful. I've worked 40 years for The Arc as an advocate and a lobbyist, and I learned that your most convincing argument is the truth, and the idea that we want to tell people ...
Mike Kelly: I thought you said you were a lobbyist?
John Dickerson: Yeah. Well, we were different kind of lobbyist. The idea that we want to show that we are promising practices, and we want to help people document those results. So the data that we have shows that we're building relationships the way that we want, and we're new enough that we show some green shoots coming up that we think this is going to change the turnover rate. But before I tell you you can save turnover by 10%, we want to have much harder data than we've got right now for folks to do that, but we had really good initial results from folks and people are happy with it.
Mike Kelly: Nice. That's great. Do you guys use Quillo internally?
John Dickerson: We do. We're now adding so many videos. It's always fun to see what's coming out and what's are some of the new things that are in there. We have our chief content officer who works out of Minneapolis, and she's always bringing new and fun things in there that are key. And so we use it as a way to not only keep our focus, but also when we were starting the culture of our organization, because Quillo is really about building culture in an organization. And we keep using the very same premises of wellbeing and positive psychology with all of our staff. So we just take a moment to begin thinking about it. The other key thing that I've learned is the value of appreciative inquiry. We're really good at problem solvers in America, we're taught it from very young. Identify a problem, look at your analysis, and come up with a solution.
John Dickerson: Appreciative inquiry is the opposite of that, of, “Let's look at what's working. Why is it working? Let's do more of those things as well as we solve the problems.” And we've learned those lessons, and even in our small company of looking at, “Okay. This installation went really, really well. What worked there so well? Is it the people or is it how we did things?” And that's been an interesting learning experience for all of us along the way.
Mike Kelly: When you think of competitors for Quillo, who comes to mind?
John Dickerson: First answer is that generic, there is time, everybody is pressed for time today. The second is quicksand, quicksand is when you're running so fast you just keep sinking deeper in the problem. So if you have 65% turnover and you're an agency with 1,000 employees, you're recruiting 650 people a year to stay in the same spot, and you're stuck in that quicksand, and the faster you run, the deeper you dive, and you don't pay attention to the 35% that are staying. And so getting people away from that. On the other side, there's a wealth of new technology coming in. There are some great employee engagement apps, beautiful one here in town called Amplify, very different that what we do. They are very much on, “How do we engage in a process and keep people involved in a process?” We are at the other end of, “How do we build relationships with folks, that they want to be involved in a process with you and not be lost along the way.”
John Dickerson: So we have probably more of the first two that causes problem, because right now nobody else has moved into this space exactly the way we are, other people are looking at it. People don't look at this workforce because they don't make a lot of money. A lot of the really cool employee engagement apps are designed for people that make more money, and they can spend quite a bit more than.
Mike Kelly: Right. You can afford to... Yap.
John Dickerson: Yeah. We're aiming at a market where an average worker makes less than $11 an hour, but they're important for your son or daughter, and that person may be important in taking care of them tonight for you. And so how do you value and appreciate and acknowledge that person?
Mike Kelly: It's interesting when you're talking about time and quicksand, quicksand in particular, it brought to mind a phrase I heard last night. I was at a board meeting last night for a children's camp, I think like a summer camp. One of the people there ... we had another camp leader from somewhere else in the county in a Skype session, and he was sharing ... they'd just gone through this massive change in their camp over the last couple of years, and they took retention from something like ... So year over year, when all the same kids are coming back, something like ... it was good, it was 70% or something, and they're now at like ... I want to say he said something like 96%. It was some obscene number, and when you peel back the strategy that they tried to do, they basically said, “Look. When you look at what we were doing,” they were stuck at like 70% retention for five years in a row or something like that, and when they looked at it, he said, “We were potholes. So we looked for the things that were negative experiences that were causing parents to maybe not send their kid back, or make a kid not want to come back, and we tried to deal with those.”
Mike Kelly: That's basically like you look at all the complaints you're getting from kids and parents, and you try to triage those. Which is the opposite of what you said, which is focusing ... appreciative inquiry? Is that what you called it?
John Dickerson: Yes.
Mike Kelly: So focusing on the things that are going well, and then how do you do more of that? So he was like, “We call that finding the peaks.” So how do you create these new experiences, so instead of ... I mean, it's like you have to fill some potholes sometimes, but instead of focusing on that, making that the mission, it was more, “How do we create these amazing experiences for kids so that even if they hit a pothole, they're still in, they still want to be on this journey because that pothole was worth it?” Right?
John Dickerson: And what Seligman will tell you, is that we'll always have potholes, we'll always have bad things happen. You want to build up enough positive experiences that when the potholes happen, it's no big deal. And the idea that how do we connect with people, and ... You know, Malcolm Gladwell writes about this too, that it's how do we connect with people because we can only have so many relationships, and we run out of ability to process additional relationships. So how do we connect with people in different ways? How do we make sure that technology, rather than separating us, can really make us closer? How do we know that friend of yours in the parking lot talking about your kids? So how many staff ...? We had one of our subscribers that learned to one of our interviews, when we were dealing with esps, that we had these 12-set interview questions we were doing on market research, and the 13th one is 'anything you want to share.'
John Dickerson: And this young woman said, “Well, you know, I've never told anybody. I've worked at this agency six years, I love it, but I've never told anybody that I have a 12-year-old daughter with Down syndrome.” And I said, “Really?” This is an agency that serves people like her daughter. And she said, “Yeah. I never thought anybody would be interested.” And I asked her permission, I said, “I know your CEO, can I tell him the story and give him your name?” “Well, yeah. I won't get in trouble with you?” I said, “Guaranteed, you won't be in trouble,” but I didn't tell her somebody else might. And so I told him, and he said, “Well, just take me out in the parking lot and hit me with a brick. Why wouldn't she think we'd be interested?” And talked to their HR person and said, “We can't ask those questions.” And he said, “Well, we can't ask it when we're hiring them but once they're hired, shouldn't we ask that? And she stayed six years with us, and shouldn't she know that we could help her daughter and her family in some ways?”
John Dickerson: So they did a little session on a Saturday for families of their employees, and they had over 150 people show up. They're just talking about, “Here's things that you're going to run into as a family, and here's how we can help you find your way along that.” Or, “Do you have employees that have a mother or father dealing with Alzheimer's?” Which is a problem. Or, “How do you deal with health insurance, questions that you have?” When we talk about wellbeing, there are whole lot of issues that I believe on a macro scale, employers need to be thinking about with their employees, that we don't spend a lot of time with. And on a micro level, Quillo gives them a platform to communicate within a closed session. It's not social media, it's only closed to their folks. It is not something that you argue on, we're not trying to be Facebook or Instagram and post little clever things. We want to be very mindful about what you're communicating, and how you build that closeness with people.
Mike Kelly: When you think about that, what you just said, so that employer/employee relationship and how does an employer help with the wellbeing of their employees, what gets you excited about maybe future product roadmap of other things that you think you'll build on as a platform in the future that will help and maybe in some different ways to do that?
John Dickerson: You know, we built the architecture so it's ubiquitous, we can use it in any vertical market. What is interesting that I'll be at a social setting and ... I was with one of the largest employers in Indianapolis, somebody that works for their company, who was explaining what I do, and he happens to be an IT for them, and he said, “We need this. All we hear about is all the problems and all the things going on.” So we haven't found anybody that has said, “This is the dumbest idea since dirt.” There is a genuine sense, I think, in this country, people, we want to be more engaged, we want to have something that fulfills this value, that he only writes about those three things that really drive people away from a company. One is not being appreciated, second is being anonymous, and third is they don't see any value in what they're doing. It's kind of like the old saying, “There's a brick layer building a wall or is he making a cathedral?”
John Dickerson: And so we want to make people see is the vision of building the cathedral. And so we see lots of applications. We're still new, we're in our seed round. We raised around half a million dollars, we're still looking to finish that out. We think we'll be profitable this year. We found some great investors that are folks that are familiar with this world. And so that been great. Traditional VCs look at us and say, “Why does anybody get in this business, because you don't get rich doing it?” The providers are not, by and large they're ... it's a 80 billion dollar market, but they're virtually invincible unless you have a son or daughter, family member with a disability. And so we've been reaching out to folks to just look at that. So we see lots of barriers to growth. We want to make sure we take care of our first and get our initial product well established in the market place, get some good data and analytics that show it's working. And then we want to selectively move into some other markets that will give us that next step as we move forward.
Mike Kelly: When a subscriber creates their own content, does that always come from the top down or can employees create content too?
John Dickerson: We really encourage employee develop content. It's moderated. So again, it goes through a content manager, because we just don't want anybody putting anything up. We want to make sure it's ...
Mike Kelly: That's a good strategy in general.
John Dickerson: Yeah. Because you want to follow a theme. And yet with some of our subscribers, they found a lot of their people want to create content and had great fun doing it, and they were these aspiring little filmmakers that loved doing really clever things. But again, they moderate it to make sure that it's out there. We also have content that comes from family members saying thank you, appreciating staff, and from self advocates talking about, “Why you're important to me in my life.” So we find that some of the highest watched videos are people's peers. They like seeing them being, doing things and seeing success. The other part of it is interesting. Almost every company has some sort of employee of the year or employer of the month, but when I talked to some psychologists, it was interesting, they said, “You know, when you do that, you have 300 employees and you pick an employee of the month, you're saying to the other 299, 'You lost,'”
Mike Kelly: “You didn't make it.” Yeah.
John Dickerson: Yeah. Instead what he said, “Just find people doing a great job and model that behavior, then find the next person doing a great job and model that behavior.” And for managers what we talk to them about, “When you're caught in that quicksand and you have a class of 20 new employees, and yeah, maybe six of them quit in three months, but you also have 14 that stayed with you, how do you mentor, nurture, and focus on those 14?” So like your campers, you're finding those peaks that you keeping back. And who are your future leaders? Who are the people that you want to build up? And that's where when you got to get them out of the quicksand and start doing things. There's a great new book that I recommended to folks, this guy named Duhigg wrote. It's called The Power of Habits, and it's all about how do you instill new habits as a leader? Because old habits are tough to break, and new habits takes persistence, commitment, and diligence from a leader.
John Dickerson: If we want people to watch three or four times a week, Quillo, the leader's got to do it and encourage other people to do it, and show that it makes a difference to them, and why it's important. Where we've had some failures, and we've had some failures, where people try it and drop out, where nobody in the leadership team is watching the videos, encouraging people to do it. And they'll get 10% to 20% of their people to use the app, but it won't get that sort of results that they want. Because sometimes ... well, you're in software, people want to buy the software product and plug it in and say, “It solves itself,” right? It's a powerful tool, but you've got to manage the tool and make it effective for folks.
Mike Kelly: How do you in the sales cycle or maybe as part of implementations, how do you get the leadership to engage in buy-in?
John Dickerson: We're really fortunate to have a ... I've got a ... just a key person as our chief operating officer, Sue Gordon that brings folks through both on the onboarding and keeps in touch. We do twice a month usergroup calls, trying to encourage folks, we look at our data analytics of who's starting to see some problems, what can we do to encourage them? And now after a years' worth of experience, we're actually retooling our whole process of bringing people along on performance metrics. So if they're at high performers, we're doing a lot of acknowledgement, recognition, rewards, and saying, “You guys are great. Let's move you up the next level. Let's keep moving.” People in the middle that are using it, starting to see some results but they're kind of struggling, we have a different set of interventions. And then there's people that have bought the app, they're paying for it, but it's just kind of percolating along out there at 10% to 15% percent utilization. And so we're trying a different set of strategies with them.
John Dickerson: And again, with our two biggest enemies are time and quicksand, of how do we help them take a step out of that and say, “Can you find 15 minutes? If you're the CEO can you find 15 minutes a week to record three messages to your team? Just three one-minute messages. They don't have to be perfect. What is it about ... that drew you to this? What did you like them to do, and how can you reinforce them for what they're doing?”?
Mike Kelly: Yeah. That's a great point. So as you're talking I'm playing through some products that I'm aware of in our portfolio where ... that you can think about it in thirds, just like you defined. You have your super engaged, the people who are using it every day it's ... you basically just answer whatever questions they ask and stay out their way, right?
John Dickerson: Right.
Mike Kelly: And then you've got that little third where it's a mixture of supporting them, giving them encouragement, and also helping them maybe tackle some problems here and there. And then you've got the third that I think for a traditional SAS product, you look at, and you're like, “Okay. So these are the ones that are most likely to turn, these are the ones where ...” like trying to fight battle of how do you figure out is it a training problem, is it a product/market fit problem, is the value proposition wrong for this client, and any number of thugs? Is it an external factor that you can't control, like the champion who brought Quillo in literally resigned a week after orientation and was like, “You just lost your chance here,” right?
John Dickerson: Yeah. And if we don't have the champion, somebody to pushing it, we find it kind of just lays there. We learned a perfect wrong way to do it, and that was we had a customer and they wanted to come in, and they didn't tell us that they had put in four new software systems to their employees in the last six months. And everybody was just pissed.
Mike Kelly: Fatigued.
John Dickerson: Yeah. And so now they're adding Quillo, and it just died an ugly death because it was the wrong time for them. And so we're going to come back to them in a year or two. We don't forget about them, but it is ... one of the things when we've got some good data coming on, the other side we say to folks, “How many of you would like to have 40% of employees saying they're getting along better with their supervisor than they were six months ago?” I mean, that's a pretty nice little metric to people thinking about.
Mike Kelly: Super interested to talk about pricing, but you don't have ... like I'm more interested in strategy than specific pricing. So you don't have to get into specific pricing if you don't want to, but as you think about pricing for a product like this, how do you do that? Is it priced just on a per user basis? Is it based on engagement and videos? How do you guys talk about that with prospects?
John Dickerson: I don't mind talking about it at all. One thing is we put our price right on the website. I always ... again, this come from my history of working with folks who felt if it's ... just be upfront with folks. So we're $3 per employee per month with no extended contract required. We go month-to-month with folks. Because we were brand new, we weren't tested, we just believed it was going to work. We didn't want to make people sign up for a year and then have something they'd have to overcome in that sales process. So you can load as many people as you want, you control who's on, we do a daily average of 300. You take 10 off, you put 20 on. So the computer adds it up for you at the end of the month, it sends you a bill. We had some really smart folks at Counterpart here, another local company.
John Dickerson: The other thing I was really committed to, we're fortunate we had IEDC-UBCI credits to use, and I had some people strongly urge me to go offshore for developments, and they said, “Gee, you can go to Brazil and India and Pakistan, and get it for 10 cents on a dollar,” and I said, “I want to support businesses locally here.” And they said, “Well, you can do it for 10 cents on the dollar,” and I said, “Well, yeah, but I want to sit across table from people that believe in what I'm doing.” And so we found on the Innovatemap and Counterpart that way, and Crafted, who handles our websites, because it's just something I believe in, in our community here. But as we started down this path, we wanted to ... My first goal when I started to do pricing is, “What can we do for a buck a month?” And we couldn't just make the numbers work, we had to have two bigger growth panels. So we started looking at, “What is it going to cost us to reach our goals? How much money do we need to raise to get there?” And I also knew it's not a totally elastic market place that we work in.
John Dickerson: So if you're trying to deal with folks that make $10, $11, $12 an hour, and who's one of our value propositions. If you're spending a million dollars on turnover and we help you lower it by 20% ... you know, with $200,000 you can put back into salary and benefits, or do whatever you want with it to be able to do it, because you're just throwing it away. And so we looked at our pricing strategy and saying, “$3, that gives us all room that somebody comes in like this agency in New York with 10,000 employees, we can do a better deal for them. If they're going to sign 3,000 people in one swell swoop, we'll do that.” It's more art than science, I would say to you. Something impacted me a long time ago. I was listening to the Economic Club of Indianapolis when I was still with The Arc, and the head of Ford Motor Company beside me, and he said, “People sometimes think we know exactly what it makes to make every Ford car or every Ford truck.” He said, “We don't.”
John Dickerson: He said, “We know what we think our costs are to build X number of cars that we think we can sell, and then we figure out pricing, can we sell that many cars? And then we re-engineer backwards on our pricing as we look at that. Because if we priced you a car and based it on what it actually cost to build that car, it's impossible to tell you what that car is, because we're going to build 30,000, 330,000, all those.” So we came up with a price that we thought would be affordable to folks, and then made it so they could get in or out easily. So they don't have make longterm risk. We're just now at the point that probably later this summer we're going to offer our first significant discount, that if you pay upfront for a year, we can give you a significant break on the cost. And so you're not making a price buy decision every month. And I think that will go over well with folks.
Mike Kelly: Nice. That's fantastic. How long have you been working on this, all in?
John Dickerson: About three years. So I spent two years just researching this, and I had retired early from The Arc after 42 years, lost my mind for a year, got involved in public office race, and didn't turn out the way I wanted, but it turned out the way it probably should have. And when I got done with that, spent a year running for office, and one of my dear friends said, “You know, you're too young to quit working,” and I said, “By the way I have to pay off this campaign, but ...” He said, “Why don't you look at this area of workforce?” So we spent about two years just talking to smart people, traveling around the country, talking to psychologists, business people, learning from a lot of folks that are struggling with this issue. Gallup did this survey a few years ago, and they found that 70% of American workers don't feel committed to the organization they work for. They like what they're doing, they're working, but they don't feel that connection.
John Dickerson: So that was some of the important research and lessons out of there. And of course, they did involve their whole Q12 program on that about engagement. Again, wonderful program, very different than what we're doing. But the idea ... what we found is people, and the research is pretty clear on our field, people stay because of relationships, they leave because of the lack of relationships. And so we wanted to come with the idea that how do we build up relationships and create better lives, and when we do that, people will stay? That the more you're concerned about them, not just that they show up on time, but are they doing okay at home? How are their kids doing? What's happening. We have a customer on the South Side of Chicago. It is not uncommon for their workforce to find somebody was shot in their neighborhood over the weekend. For those of us in Indianapolis, that's not a common occurrence, but if that's part of your workforce, how do you help them deal with that?
John Dickerson: What is a common occurrence for all of us, is we have kids struggling at school, how to be a parent, how to deal with sometimes challenging things in our lives, including health issues, and how do we help employers build a culture that ... maybe they don't have all the answers? But we can help them with some things. So we have, in our wellbeing section, we have a whole section on domestic abuse. So if you have a worker that you're worried is in an abusive relationship, how do you approach them? 90% of women will not talk about their situation, so if you press too hard, you're going to cause more problems. So we went to experts and said, “How can we tell employers about that? How can we help them with that?” Does that affect what that worker does during the day? Of course, but we never really address it. So those are some of the things that we find that are exciting to us, that help change a culture, build an organization and increase retention along the way.
Mike Kelly: So when you reflect back on the last three years, everything from building and launching your first product to bringing in money, taking a product to market with sales and marketing, what's the one or two areas that you think you've leveled up the most personally?
John Dickerson: Well, that's a really good question. You know, it's interesting, when we went down this road, a very good friend of mine said, “You're going to experience extreme highs in doing this, being an entrepreneur, and then you're going to have catastrophic lows. And it's going to go in peak and dive. It won't be this gradual flight path of going on.” And he said, “In all respect to people with mental health fields” he said, “Being an entrepreneur is as close as a sane person will ever be in experiencing what it's like to be bipolar, because you just going to ride it out.” And he says, “Always remember nobody forced you to do this, you chose to do this, you chose to risk everything on something, and it may work, it may not work, and it may succeed or not based on what you do, or totally things are out of your control, but just go with the flow so that have those low points, you'll have really high ones. And you just keep working at it.”
John Dickerson: One of the things I think helped me in preparing for this is we worked in the Indiana General Assembly as a lobbyist for people with disabilities, not the number one topic on anybody's minds, and didn't matter which party people were in, we got the because we got told no a lot because we wanted to spend of your tax dollars to help people with disabilities. And that preparation was probably helpful. It still doesn't prepare you for that idea, when you lose your first client, which I take losing really seriously, always did, but the idea that, “What do you learn from that and how do you get better? And what do you learn from your successes along the way,” is key.
Mike Kelly: John, I have somebody who wants to get in touch with you to ask you a question or to learn more about Quillo, where will they do that?
John Dickerson: Sure. Our website is myquillo.com, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org, and it's just M-Y-Q-U-I-L-L-O.com. And we'd also be glad to give him my number, (317) 626-4387. I can tell people all the mistakes I've made along the way, things I've learned, what made common sense for years to me, I go off, “Here's how fast people will buy and how we'll move.” Right after, the moment we went to market, and people said, “You're doing what?” And then you get used to the idea that people that always used to call you back, now don't answer your phone calls because, “You know, he wants more money.” What do you do with along the way? But it's all part of this wonderful journey that once you get on it, it is ... I've met the most amazing people that I never knew before, came to know you. If you find people in this entrepreneurial community are really sharing and good folks, then start asking advice, and things to be you're thinking about, and it's really been a great journey.
Mike Kelly: I think I could talk to you all day long, seriously.
John Dickerson: Well, thank you.
Mike Kelly: It's fascinating to listen to you.
John Dickerson: It was fun.
Mike Kelly: So thank you so much for doing this.
John Dickerson: Mike, thank you for having us, and thanks for doing it.