Dan Kiely, CEO, Voxpro
Voxpro CEO Dan Kiely speaks to Deanna O’Connor about scaling internationally and communicating a strong company culture.
They’ve come a long way from a room over a pub in Cork. Reinvention is the name of the game with Voxpro. CEO Dan Kiely and his wife and co-founder Linda Green-Kiely refocused their original business to keep it alive – and along the way, went from a small pager company to a leader in business outsourcing with plans on a global scale.
They’ve reinvented call centres, preferring the term ‘centres of excellence’ to describe vibrant upbeat offices they created to motivate and enthuse staff. They’ve gone from a handful of workers to 2,000 people in Europe and the US, with more exciting new deals and openings on the horizon.
“We’re expanding our operations in a big way in the US, on the west coast, and the east coast now,” reveals Kiely. “We’ve won another major new contract out in the west coast which helps increase our numbers much more quickly, so it’s really good news.” While at the time of going to print it was too soon to reveal details of the latest news, the list of companies they are working with is already impressive, providing multilingual customer service for global tech giants like Airbnb and Google.
“We’re only on the beginning of a journey really,” he continues. “We don’t have a presence in Asia-Pacific or Latin America, and we’ve made it very clear that we want to become the first Irish outsourcing company that goes global. Nobody has done that before and that’s what we want to do, and we’ll make that happen over the next 12‑18 months.”
COMMUNICATION OF CULTURE
Kiely himself almost finds the pace of growth hard to believe: “We started up as a very small paging company with six people over a bar in Marlboro Street in Cork and if someone had said to me that we would reach numbers of 2,000 people, and we would be working with iconic global brands, I probably wouldn’t have believed it. If someone 12 months ago had said to me that we’d have launched a centre on the west coast, and scaled that, I would have settled very much for that. It’s actually been incredible that we’ve done the same thing on the east coast. We’re shortly moving into a new Centre of Excellence in Silicon Docks, so we’ll be going live there on October 15th – so the last 12 months have been phenomenal. Also, 2017 is looking amazing in terms of global expansion as well.”
As the company grows at pace, a challenge is to keep the company culture strong across all the new outposts. Kiely reflects that his priorities since he started in business have remained the same throughout different incarnations. “The most important thing at the very heart of our business back then was that a beautiful customer experience was part of our DNA. That hasn’t changed ever since; the business has changed dramatically. We’ve reinvented ourselves at least four times but at the core of everything has been that beautiful customer experience.”
At the heart of our business, a beautiful customer experience is part of our DNA
As they move internationally, communicating that culture remains a priority. Communication of culture starts from the top, and with two strong leaders in the Kielys, with personality and vision in spades, they are a masterclass in how to achieve this. “It’s singularly the most important thing to me as we scale globally,” he says.
“I think the only way that you can be successful is that we grow our leaders here in Ireland and we send them to pioneer our centres in different parts of the world – because they understand what’s in the DNA of Voxpro, they understand what’s in the DNA of the founders of Voxpro and what they have conceived in Voxpro, and what behaviours you need to cultivate to be able to maintain that culture.”
The design of vibrant workspaces has played a big part in the company image and ethos. “It is hugely important to me,” Kiely admits, “and we have a design team in-house who have a passion for building out beautiful spaces. We want to attract the best possible candidates to the company and to do that you have to be able to provide a beautiful working environment, and the design, look and feel of it is ultra-important. Also in terms of the brands we’re working with, like Google, Airbnb and Nest, we have to mirror their own culture and that means building out spaces that they feel very comfortable being in, so it’s a hybrid of Voxpro and our partners in terms of the design look and feel.”
Kiely maintains that when walking into one of their call centres, one shouldn’t be able to guess what their business is – and should you ever visit, don’t mention the ‘c’ word! “The phrase ‘call centre’, that’s a phrase that pains me,” he says (with the full weight of Corkonian emphasis on the word ‘pains’), “because there’s a negative connotation. We always describe ourselves as ‘Centres of Excellence’ and you can only use that mantra if you’re the number one partner across all of Europe and your partner network, and we are, so we can justify that.”
Our people don’t have a filter; they feel empowered to articulate any opinion or view
Reflecting on trends in the industry, he points out that call centres are taking a dwindling number of calls, and there may be less ‘vox’ in Voxpro’s future. “The number of calls we are receiving is going down year on year because everything is moving towards the internet now via chat, email and social media. In terms of trends, ultimately I think our industry will be changed dramatically in three to five years by automation, no question about that, and you have to embrace that.”
As the business goes forward, Kiely says his own personal leadership style remains unchanged, citing “inclusion” as his top buzzword. “You’re only as good as the team that supports you,” he maintains. “One of the most important things in any meeting that happens anywhere in the company is that our people don’t have a filter; they feel empowered to articulate any opinion or view or idea (as long as it’s not personalised, obviously). I’ve always been like that and that hasn’t changed.”
If you ask Dan Kiely if he has any regrets in business the answer is a resounding no. He’s firmly of the opinion that everything they have gone through as a business, reinventing themselves numerous times, has made them stronger and more agile, and he looks to the future with great excitement for the company. “The bigger the goal, the bigger the dream, the better it is – and that’s my mantra.”