I had the pleasure of interviewing Dan Kiely, founder and CEO of Voxpro. He and his wife Linda Green-Kiely spent the last 20 years building Voxpro, a business process outsourcing provider that helps today’s most innovative tech companies. Voxpro specializes in creating and delivering customized contact management solutions for clients which can deliver excellence in customer communications.
“Last year we were looking to launch our second center of excellence in the US. We were considering Raleigh in NC, but suddenly the State introduced a law that compelled transgender people to use the bathroom matching the sex listed on their birth cert. We immediately pulled out. Good business is all about respecting and celebrating people for who they are.”
Yitzi: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
My wife and co-founder, Linda, and I have always been entrepreneurs at heart. We first met while working for an Irish news outlet called the Cork Examiner. When the downturn in the economy took hold in the early 1990s, the publication became an early casualty and we both found ourselves out of work. Not the kind to sit still, we quickly pivoted. It was time to set up shop together.
Soon, Voxpro was born. The company began life as a 6-person paging company in Cork, Ireland. As our partners’ needs grew and expanded, so did our company, and soon, Voxpro was a fully-outsourced support solution for a number of large Irish businesses. Then the global economic recession hit. Anticipating the choppy waters ahead, Linda and I knew we needed to innovate or die. And thus one of the biggest and most successful pivots of our career began.
Voxpro is a high end, premium tech outsourcing brand, which has succeeded in creating a unique niche in a rapidly growing global market. Our partners are part of one of the most exciting, innovative and dynamic markets globally, and the needs of our partners are unique and constantly changing. As such, Voxpro has a dynamic and flexible approach to life and its entire way of doing business is built around understanding how disruptive technology businesses start, scale and evolve; and serves as their most trusted and highest performing partner right along their lifecycles.
Yitzi: Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I will never forget the day that I was chatting with one of the Voxpro teams in the office, and he asked me who I was and what I did! It really brought home to me just how much the company had grown and how far we had come. I was of course aware of the company’s growth from our performance data and projections, but this encounter just had such a different impact. I had always known everyone in the office and everyone had known me. Realising this was no longer the case made the next phase very real, and hugely exciting.
Yitzi: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our values are a key element of what makes us unique. Ensuring that values aren’t just a set of words on a page, but are reflected in company culture and individual habits, is a question of leadership. A couple of years ago I rewrote our company values. One of them read: ‘We’re relentless in the pursuit of operational beauty’. I remember presenting it to the board — they thought I was on drugs. Everybody swore they would never say the words ‘Operational Beauty’. The easiest thing would have been to just give up and replace the word ‘beauty’ with ‘excellence’, but I was determined that we had to be unique, so I persisted. Three years later everyone in the company says the words regularly. I’m now thinking of trademarking them!
Yitzi: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
Without a shadow of a doubt, that is my wife and business partner, Linda. There would be no business without Linda. She was the original venture capitalist. We wouldn’t be employing all these thousands of people globally if it wasn’t for her, and her vision, in terms of believing in me and believing we could create something amazing together from a business point of view.
She was prepared to back herself and back me by making huge financial sacrifices for the company. If that’s not venture capitalism don’t know what is. She also has a deep commitment to customer services and a fundamental belief that customers should not only be satisfied, but be delighted. This conviction has been deep at the core of Voxpro’s success.
Yitzi: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
In 2015, we launched our Innovation Program, which enables employees to submit any idea to Voxpro’s leadership team for adoption by the company. One technical support specialist named David Humber suggested to use the field next to the Cork headquarters as a place for staff to grow fruits and vegetables. It was approved and David’s idea became the ‘Voxgro’ project. In just two years, it has grown to include a bio-dome, gardens, a disco ball pizza oven, an outdoor bar, and a family of chickens, all overseen by a full time horticulturalist and volunteers.
Yitzi: What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Never put the goods ahead of being good
Last year we were looking to launch our second center of excellence in the US. We were considering Raleigh in NC, but suddenly the State introduced a law that compelled transgender people to use the bathroom matching the sex listed on their birth cert. We immediately pulled out. Good business is all about respecting and celebrating people for who they are.
2. Always act like a small company
Voxpro started with six people in an office above a pub. By the end of 2017 we’ll employ 3,000 globally, but I still have the mentality that we’re six people.
3. There’s no business without show business
Huge colorful events, visually striking offices, and a constantly changing work day — that’s Voxpro. A great place to work is one part business, one part show business. People need entertainment in their lives.
4. Throw yourself off the cliff and assemble the airplane on the way down:
If I had said ‘Sorry no, we can’t do that’ when Google or Airbnb approached us all those years ago, Voxpro would still be a local Cork company. Once you commit to the impossible, you’ll constantly surprise yourself.
5. Enjoy the wins
When I achieve something, my natural instinct is immediately to look toward the next thing and to start working on it straight away. Linda always tells me to take some time to enjoy the wins instead of immediately looking for the next ones. And Linda’s rarely wrong, so I listen!
Yitzi: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂
This is an easy one — it would have to be Roger Federer, for many reasons.
First, he’s an incredible athlete. If you start reading his list of titles and records, you’ll be reading for a long time. The heights he has reached as a tennis pro are astounding, and his consistency has led to incredible longevity.
There are many sportspeople with only a fraction of his talent, but a multiple of his ego. Despite all of his success, he comes across as humble and grounded. In sport as in business, the moment you believe that you’re a big deal is the moment you hang up your boots. Federer keeps it all in perspective.
Federer is also an incredible businessman and humanitarian. He has used his talent and his network to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, the Tsunami of 2004, Haitian earthquake survivors, and many other causes besides. I have huge admiration for people who, despite the demands of their work, still carve out so much time for crucial causes like these.
And Roger, if you happen to be reading this: if you ever fancy playing a set or two with one of your loyal Irish fans, my tennis racket and I can be on a court, anywhere, anytime!
This article originally appeared on Thrive Global on January 23rd.