As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Keith Metcalfe.
With a diverse background in the tech industry, Keith Metcalfe is a seasoned software executive with over 20 years of experience across large organizations. Keith has extensive knowledge in enterprise software, identifying strategic trends and celebrating the importance of data, business intelligence and innovation. As a developed expert in SaaS and CEO of Traction Guest, he sees an opportunity to transform visitor management with emerging technology to significantly improve physical and data security worldwide.
Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
At university, I completed an international Bachelor of Commerce degree and studied to be a stock analyst. After a brief financial stint, I started working as an IT project manager at a business intelligence company called Crystal Decisions. I went into customer support management following that and led a team of 50 people across North America.
I realized that if I wanted to run my own business, that learning in a bigger company would increase my odds of success so I went into sales management and then services. During that time, the company changed from Crystal Decisions to Business Objects to SAP by acquisition so I had opportunities to work in various departments. After that, I worked for Traction on Demand, a leading cloud consulting and application development firm and the largest Salesforce consulting partner in North America. That’s where Taction Guest, our current company, was incubated.
While at Traction on Demand, we started noticing that many businesses were using paper-based logbook systems for guests entering a building. These physical logbooks were often slow and we wanted to find a better way for companies to host visitors. We founded Traction Guest to alleviate that problem and help enterprises in regulated industries like healthcare, utilities and manufacturing to establish a safe, secure visit. Today, we’re the leader in enterprise visitor management, empowering businesses across five continents and dozens of industries. With a highly customizable and contactless solution, Traction Guest enables organizations to deliver a safe and intuitive visit experience across multiple entry points from pre-registration to check out.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
During my first technology role, I had to learn how to handle difficult situations with customers. By the time I left that job, I became really good at handling controversial scenarios and found that I enjoyed customer success — I was almost addicted to it.
Early in my career, one of my customers was a leading printing, copying and binding services retail chain. I had completed a commerce degree and read all the business books so I thought I knew the right things to say. I had gotten on the line with a customer. They were frustrated the project was behind deadline. I provided a textbook response that I understood and “cared a great deal, so here is what we’re going to do.” Long story short, the customer wrote a letter to my VP about how insincere I came across.
I learned very quickly that when you’re in business, you don’t have to talk like a business person in order to register with somebody. In fact, it actually doesn’t register very well at all. This is something we regularly discuss inside Traction Guest. I’ve noticed that as our company grows, more people start using business language, but it isn’t a real language and doesn’t feel sincere because people are not corporate robots.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
One of my favorites is a book called “Crossing the Chasm” by Geoffrey Moore. It’s about the specifics of marketing and selling high tech products during the early start up period. As someone who is most comfortable making decisions based on data, I really appreciate the way Geoffrey thinks about business because it’s all data-driven.
More recently, I’ve been reading Kim Scott’s “Radical Candor.” This book focuses on building better relationships with employees and I have our senior leadership team also reading it. Our company has grown fairly rapidly and when you grow rapidly, you start getting more people speaking in business lingo. To the point I was making earlier about how people relate to other people, we’re trying to create an environment where we can all be successful while preserving our humanity.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
In many organizations, managing a high volume of visitors presents operational, security and safety challenges. I’ve seen how important it is to establish efficient visitor and employee management processes.. Now, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will see rapidly evolving security standards emerging for facilities across all industries worldwide. Physical safety will no longer be a line item in a business contingency plan but a health-standards-driven requirement for every day operations.
When we started, we saw inefficiency in the way that businesses checked in their guests, including both employees and visitors. We were going to some of the biggest, most organized companies in the world and they were relying on traditional paper-based check-in systems — an extremely inefficient and illogical process.
After trying to figure out why companies created these manual processes and getting the same response from people about protecting employees, we realized there was actually a larger theme of safety and security. This led us to our mission which is to create a safe, secure workplace. This realization allowed us to go beyond convenience to creating value for organizations. A safe and secure visit has become a topic of critical importance, from how employees and visitors enter a building to how they interact on premises. The world is moving towards an invite-first culture. To make this a reality, technology needs to enable companies to validate identity and pre-screen both employees and visitors before they even enter a workplace. This is why we recently launched ZeroTouch which adds fully contactless pre-registration, screening and sign-in capabilities to our enterprise visitor management platform.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
A principle I like to live by is “Do the right thing.” For me, this means having open and honest conversations to build stronger relationships. I’m well-known for being straightforward. I find it very rewarding to interact with people directly, and I highly encourage our team to do the same. We all struggle with the concept of legacy. Living by this principle helps me with the idea that my legacy will be something that I’m proud of.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I firmly believe that we’re in the midst of a social experiment. As social primates, people need to connect with others. And as a father to two kids who are nine and twelve years old, I’m concerned about the impact it’ll have on our children who are playing with tablets instead of being able to go to school and interact with their friends in-person. Because of this, I prioritize making myself available to listen and talk to my boys about how they feel. I make sure to let them know they can come to me with questions they have about what they see and hear on television, radio or online.
Personally, I’ve started reflecting at the beginning of each morning to provide more structure to my day. It’s so easy to be reactive right now, and when the world is in a state of constant change, it almost requires it. However, it’s important to create order in this time of uncertainty so I’ve also spent more time allocating more time in my calendar to be less reactive and a little more strategic.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
When the pandemic started, I had a discussion with a good friend who is a trauma counselor. He told me that the world was about to go through a group trauma that it’s never experienced before and that most people are ill-equipped to handle it. As a company that prioritizes employee mental health and safety, we quickly invested in making him available as a resource.
Together, we put a program in place and created this concept of resiliency. Every week, we would spend time with our leadership team, discussing what it’s like to go through a trauma and how we can develop skills to become more resilient. It’s really intriguing because in the course of working with this counselor we found that those who deploy these tools are actually powerful decision makers who evolve in special ways.
In addition to bringing in a trauma counselor, we’re also working towards creating a safe workplace for people to go back to by putting together a touchless office environment with a detailed back to work plan.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
It’s important to acknowledge that mental wellness is a real topic. Statistically speaking, either you are dealing with it or someone you love is. There is no shame in getting help so I encourage anyone who is feeling uncertain, fearful or lonely to seek treatment.
Within the company, we’re working to address mental wellness through our employee assistance program. It’s been near impossible to see psychiatrists so this program provides an opportunity for people to see counselors as well.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
As a result of COVID-19, we’re seeing a shift toward a security-minded, invite-first culture across industries where both employees and visitors are invited and vetted ahead of a scheduled visit for any given facility. As businesses reopen, they must address visitors and employees as one universal risk management challenge — everyone is a guest, and everyone poses a potential risk.
Additionally, visitor management is now a must-have rather than a convenient “nice-to-have.” It will play a critical role in driving best practices for employee and visitor safety in the workplace. Anything less does not provide adequate safety, putting both non-employee visitors and company employees in harm’s way and endangering the business.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
If you examine history, it’s generally forgetful. It’s not our first pandemic, but when you look at the way people greet each other in different countries, it’s hard to imagine that we’ve lived through one before. Although history is forgetful, it also evolves. We may be in an evolutionary time where we’ll see a hybrid work model. I’m from the school of thought where I don’t think we’re moving towards total work-from-home because the need to connect with other people is too powerful.
A clear example of this is the number of reservations at reopened restaurants that are booked up until 9pm. We’ll start to see more people becoming comfortable with going out again, however, there’s a good reason for caution. As more places start to reopen, we’ll need to be able to adapt quickly if things start getting out of hand again. I think this speaks to the importance of acting fast and wearing masks, which have helped Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong slow the virus.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
As we work to grow our company, we’ve found that it’s important to measure carefully and regularly. To implement this idea, we’ve moved to a cadence where we measure the business by department on a weekly basis. Every week, the leadership team gets together and talks about our key metrics and projects in order to make sure we’re aligned. Doing this has enabled us to react quickly to unforeseen changes.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
Investing in technology that will help enable offices to be truly contactless will be key in helping businesses get back to work and rebuild in the post-COVID economy. To manage the return of both employees and visitors to the physical workplace, businesses must enforce PPE requirements, temperature checks and social distancing guidelines. Organizations must provide secure and fully contactless ways to enter and exit a facility — on-site check-in without prior vetting of access requirements no longer meets the necessary new standards. Moreover, the need for many organizations to manage multiple employees or visitors signing into their facilities at the same time calls for a solution for managing visitor queues in a way that promotes physical distancing. Employee and visitor safety should be your first priority and with the right technologies in place, businesses will be better equipped to handle future risks.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how and why that was relevant to you in your life?
“Be memorable and make a dent.” Everyone wants to make a difference in the world, to be significant, and to have a positive impact on those around them so why not do it?
How can our readers further follow your work?