The Uncommonwealth Podcast – Glenn Kurban – VP of EPMO at Randstad

Glenn-Picture

Here is the transcript from The Uncommonwealth of Kentucky Podcast with Glenn Kurban.

 

Chad Webb:
Hey everyone, this is Chad Webb with CrowdSouth. On today’s episode of The Uncommon Wealth I have Glenn Kurban. Glenn is actually the VP of EPMO at Randstad in Atlanta, Georgia. Glenn was also my first manager at my first job out of college in south Florida. Glenn is a great guy, we’ve been friends ever since that for about 20 years now and Glenn’s been a mentor during that time and he’s got a ton of wisdom to share and I appreciate him coming on today. Hope everyone enjoys. Thanks.

Chad Webb:
Hey everyone. Today’s guest is Glenn Kurban. Glenn is a VP of EPMO at Randstad. So Glenn, welcome, appreciate having you on.

Glenn Kurban:
Hey Chad. Appreciate you having me on as well.

Chad Webb:
Absolutely, no problem brother. I guess the first question is what’s EPMO? What’s that mean?

Glenn Kurban:
What’s EPMO? It was a rap group back in the eighties, you remember those guys?

Chad Webb:
Yeah, weren’t you part of it?

Glenn Kurban:
That’s right. EPMO, it stands for Enterprise Project or Enterprise Program Management Office. So we are responsible for all things project within Randstad.

Chad Webb:
And I guess we have a Randstad local office here, but if there’s anyone else who may not know what that is can you explain kind of what your company is?

Glenn Kurban:
Yeah. Actually Randstad is the largest human resources staffing company in the world. We’re a Dutch organization, so the global headquarters is based in the Netherlands in Amsterdam. It’s a 60 year old company and the US entity is one of the largest operating companies under the global umbrella. So we provide staffing services, whether it be permanent or temporary, across pretty much any kind of skillset that you can think about. We’ve got folks working blue collar jobs in manufacturing in warehouses all the way through professionals working as interim CFOs and everything in between.

Chad Webb:
Okay. And you’re in the Atlanta office, is that just one of the US offices or is that the head one?

Glenn Kurban:
Yeah, so what you mentioned I think in Bowling Green or somewhere near you, that’s a branch office. And a branch office is where your recruiters and sales people sit and these are the folks actually finding clients that we want to sell to or that are interested in our services because they need people to run their businesses and things. And the flip side of the client paradigm is the recruiters who are actually looking for talent, as we call them, people who are looking for jobs.

Glenn Kurban:
And so that’s kind of a two way relationship and we’re trying to match those two sides of the equation. Talent matching with clients who are actually looking to fill jobs. So that’s a branch location and we’ve got hundreds of those around the country as you can imagine. But the office I work out of in Atlanta is the corporate headquarters for the US business.

Glenn Kurban:
So basically in our building, well up until earlier this year, we have all of our leadership team, the C-suite, most of our leadership within all the different corporate functions, and then we actually do have a small branch built in right into the corporate office as well which is kind of cool. You can go down there and watch these folks do what they do. But we as corporate groups support all of these branch offices.

Chad Webb:
So what does the department that you’re a part of, what do you specifically do inside of Randstad?

Glenn Kurban:
Right, so think about any major organization, you’re going to have projects that come up every year. My team, the Program Management Office, actually sits within IT, so I report up to our USCIO, gentleman named Don Sloan. And the majority of our portfolio projects are IT in nature, meaning if we’ve got new software that we’re implementing to support salespeople or recruiters out in those branch offices, my team is managing those projects on behalf of Randstad. So we’re coordinating resources, we’re building timelines, we’re doing all the things that project managers do to basically deliver those solutions for our organization.

Glenn Kurban:
Then we have other aspects of our portfolio that are more business facing, so maybe we’re acquiring a business and we need to integrate that into Randstad US, and obviously there’s all kinds of process work and in some cases conversions and things that have to happen. So at the end of the day it’s project management at its core. But like I said, the majority of it today is sort of IT focused.

Chad Webb:
Okay, so we just got into kind of what you’re currently doing, but how did this all start for you? Where did you grow up? I believe it was, did you grow up in New York City? Is that correct?

Glenn Kurban:
I did. I was born in New York in actually Manhattan, so the city city, and my folks lived there with me until I was probably about four years old, then we moved to Queens, New York which is one of the five boroughs. And for most people who visit New York it’s still pretty much the city, it’s one of the most densely populated areas in the Tri-County area there. But I grew up there until about age 16 and then my folks moved down to Florida. Central Florida at first, we spent a little while there and then moved down to south Florida where I kind of went through my formative years and finished up high school, went to undergrad there and a few years after that went to grad school. And then moved up to Atlanta in 2005 for a job opportunity.

Chad Webb:
So, you were up in Manhattan and you said Queens, what were your parents doing up there?

Glenn Kurban:
So my folks are first generation, I’m the first generation here in the States, they both immigrated up to New York separately, met each other in the Village, right in the west Village in New York City back in the early sixties. So they were both leaving their respective home countries just for opportunity. Both came from pretty large families and decided they were going to come to the States and take a crack at the American Dream and all that good stuff.

Glenn Kurban:
So I found myself very fortunate just that they decided to do that and I was born where I was. And I always say for me New York City’s the center of the universe and I can’t think of anywhere else I would have rather have been born I guess.

Chad Webb:
Sure. No, that’s really cool. So you enjoyed growing up there?

Glenn Kurban:
Absolutely. I think it’s a different upbringing, I’ve got three kids now and I couldn’t possibly imagine bringing my kids up the way we came up. It’s a very stark reality to living in New York and you kind of learn to be street wise and kind of on your game when you’re living especially in the city. It’s just definitely a different existence. But I think it’s prepared me for life in a lot of different ways. You think quick on your feet, you’re able to I think comfortably sort of mix it up with all kinds of different people because New York in and of itself is just this melting pot of different cultural backgrounds, religions, you name it.

Glenn Kurban:
And we were exposed to all that from a very, very young age. And so I feel very fortunate to have come up that way. I think it gives me a very unique perspective. And I think you talk to New Yorkers, generally most of them feel that way as well.

Chad Webb:
So when you moved at 16, so you were in the middle of high school when you moved from New York to Orlando, or not Orlando, but central Florida.

Glenn Kurban:
Yeah.

Chad Webb:
Was that tough?

Glenn Kurban:
Yeah, that sucked. I was not happy. We used to go down to Florida for vacations, Disney World and the whole thing, and we’d drive down there when we were kids. So we loved that aspect of it, but then you get into those teenage years and now all of a sudden the most important thing for you is your group of friends and your lifestyle and all this stuff. And it was the mid eighties and it was just a really cool place to be around that time. And I was half excited and half just not really happy that we were picking up and moving away from all that.

Glenn Kurban:
So much so as I think that I rebelled against it for a long time. It was like, “I don’t want to be here in Florida, I’m going to maintain my New York tough guy bravado image,” and all this stuff, and that kind of got me into different kinds of trouble as well.

Chad Webb:
Yeah, well I mean, when I think of Glenn I think tough guy.

Glenn Kurban:
As you should. As you should.

Chad Webb:
And so you graduated from high school in central Florida and then you ended up going, you didn’t go to UCF, you went to Florida Atlantic? Or where did you go?

Glenn Kurban:
All wrong.

Chad Webb:
Whoa. Made a huge mistake.

Glenn Kurban:
I’ll break it down for you. So actually, all told, I ended up going to four different high schools, which that was not great either. So I started in New York, we moved to central Florida, I went to two different schools there just because of how things cut off after eighth grade. So I guess it was technically a middle school but they still called it junior high, whatever. And then by the time we were ready to move down to south Florida, where I finished high school, that would have been my fourth.

Glenn Kurban:
So I finished up high school down there and then I went to Florida International University, FIU, go Golden Panthers, for undergrad. And that’s a state school as well so I understand your confusion.

Chad Webb:
Yeah, that was going to be my third choice. I knew it was one of those.

Glenn Kurban:
Third or fourth choice. But yeah, I went to FIU, and then 10 years later I went to University of Miami and got my MBA there.

Chad Webb:
Right, yep. And so between FIU and getting your MBA at Miami, you and I met. I was an intern at Affinity Group in Bowling Green working for Dave [Ciphers 00:10:50] and I believe you came up and did a training for us, possibly on Sequel while you were working for Accelerated Ecom with a man named, president was Jose Gonzalez.

Glenn Kurban:
That’s right.

Chad Webb:
Right?

Glenn Kurban:
Memory on you.

Chad Webb:
And so you did that and then I graduated in 2002 from Western and I took a job, Jose offered me a job and you were my manager. I directly reported to you and…

Glenn Kurban:
So sorry.

Chad Webb:
No, no, it was good stuff, it was awesome. So why don’t you tell us, was Accelerated your first job out of college?

Glenn Kurban:
Yeah, it was. And so you may or may not remember this, but probably a year or so before you joined it was actually called something else, the company was called KnowledgeSource.

Chad Webb:
KnowledgeSource, yeah.

Glenn Kurban:
Yeah, that’s right. So that was Jose’s company, his partner was a guy named [Sean Strachy 00:11:49], they basically came out of, at the time, Big Six consulting, now it’s just Big Four but at the time it was Big Six. Both had I think Anderson, Sean was at Anderson, Jose was at Coopers in [inaudible 00:12:04] and they both met, I’m not sure how they knew each other before that.

Glenn Kurban:
So they came in, they formed their own company and it was called KnowledgeSource, and basically it was a custom software development shop. A lot of Visual Basic, probably CyBase, God I forgot the name of the product from way back then, but this was even before the web. So nobody was building websites even at this point. This was my first job, I took it in the fall of ’95, so I started with these guys in January ’96.

Chad Webb:
And then you kind of just grew up, did you start there as a consultant? Just consultant number one or whatever it was?

Glenn Kurban:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chad Webb:
And then by the time I got there in 2002 you were kind of more in I guess a management role at that point?

Glenn Kurban:
Yeah, I don’t even remember my title at that point, but let’s say between ’96 when I started, as you said, we maintained the same hierarchy as your typical Big Six consulting firms would so, I was a C1. And after the first year, which was a difficult year because I got put on a pretty big project with a number of other folks, I got promoted, and it was the mid nineties so if you remember, that was kind of when technology was just going off the charts.

Glenn Kurban:
It was pre dot-com bust and everything and so it was a lot to be had, and if you were in IT or MIS kind of background, you could go off and kind of do anything. I mean, there was just such a high demand for that type of skillset and there weren’t a ton of people coming out of colleges with MIS degrees. It was, again, this newer degree, probably 5, 10 years old at that point, but it was supposed to be this crosswalk between people who had a little bit of technical background but could also interact with business people and kind of be comfortable in that setting.

Glenn Kurban:
So I had an MIS degree coming out of FIU, I didn’t finish my computer science minor but I had some development background as well, and yeah, that was kind of the deal and our biggest mission in life at that time was just keep getting promoted, keep working up the chain. So by the time you got there I was probably like a director or something like that, which meant I had responsibility for a portfolio of clients, I had [inaudible 00:14:31] responsibility for those, I was making sure that the team was billing their hours and we were profitable on the jobs and all that kind of stuff.

Chad Webb:
And so that year that I was there was also what some would consider your last year.

Glenn Kurban:
The summer of Chad?

Chad Webb:
No, yeah. The summer of us going to Einstein’s Bagels everyday.

Glenn Kurban:
That’s it. That’s right.

Chad Webb:
But that would be considered your last year right? Because I’d been only there a year. Like halfway through you took a little bit of a Sabbatical.

Glenn Kurban:
It felt longer, I feel like we were working together for at least a year if not more. But I could be dead wrong. What year did you leave?

Chad Webb:
I got down there in June of 2002 and I think I was back home by November of 2003. So one of the things was, I took a project near the end, back with Camping World, I was outsourced over to them and then Dave just offered me a job and I think I talked with Jose and I said, “I think I just probably should be back home,”. And so it just made more sense for me.

Chad Webb:
But I just remember, before I took that job, before I was traveling to Bowling Green back from Fort Lauderdale, you’d been there so long that you were kind of ready to take a break. And I guess my question is once you took that break, once you took a Sabbatical, did you go back and work again for them? I just don’t recall.

Glenn Kurban:
I did. I did. So one of the cool things, and I’ll never forget this about Jose, Jose treated me really well in all my time that I was there to be honest.

Chad Webb:
I agree. He’s always been kind to me.

Glenn Kurban:
Yep. And the whole Sabbatical thing, when I came to him and said, “Jose, it’s been seven, eight years,”. And as a young consultant, you’re traveling just constantly. So I was pretty heavily utilized in [Billable 00:16:32] and all that stuff and in those first few years I was just on the road nonstop. And I was in a relationship or whatever but it’s not like I had a family or kids or anything like that at home. But it wore on me.

Glenn Kurban:
And that was back when travel was easy. When you could get through security in like 30 seconds and chill out to the airport 20 minutes before your flight. So I can’t even imagine, well I can because I did it recently, we’ll get into that, but I just burned out. And I got to the point where I was like, “I can’t do it anymore Jose, I need to go kind of think about what I want to do next,”.

Glenn Kurban:
And it was also post dot-com bust. So that was a really tumultuous time because now we were having to work like crazy, we took salary reductions during that time as a leadership team, we all agreed that we would do that so we didn’t have to let people go, staff go. And while I, to this day, know that was the right decision, now we’re working harder, making less money, traveling all the time, and like, “I can’t do it anymore,”.

Glenn Kurban:
So I told him how I felt and he was very empathetic and I appreciate that. And he said, “Look, I will pay you,” and I forget how long it was, I think he said, “I will pay you for two months,” or three months maybe. “You go figure out what you want to do, what you want to be. And if you want a job at the end of that, it’s yours. And I’m paying you this whole time by the way,”. I mean, who does that? That was kind of nuts.

Glenn Kurban:
And so I said, “Jose, that’s really generous. Okay, I’ll take you up on that offer,”. And at the end of it, I kind of thought through things and I decided, “I’m probably going to go back to school,”. That’s when I decided to go apply for the MBA program at UM, got into that. And I did end up going back, that’s good recollection on your part. I did a little bit of contract work for him when I came back. But it was a small contract it was probably like a couple months just to help bridge something for him and help him out.

Glenn Kurban:
But he didn’t have to do what he did and I really value him and the way that he handled that situation, handled me, and guided me through it.

Chad Webb:
Yeah, I mean, I think something that we, as a young company, we’re about seven years old, we recently in the last year or two have come up with a handbook and things like that and one of the things we added was an every five year Sabbatical where we give people a month off. And that seems to, I mean again, we’re so young, we’ve had one person take it, this year was the first year someone took it.

Chad Webb:
But I think she appreciated it and I think it does help with the mindset. I mean, having a continuous time off in most corporate environments, you usually get the one week even if you have four weeks saved up. It’s tough to take anything beyond a week or six or seven days. So no, I think that’s incredible that Jose did that and gave you that opportunity.

Chad Webb:
So I do recall one funny thing because we were pretty fairly good friends at the time even though you were my boss. I remember that you, it seems like every Friday, you would call me and be like, “Hey. What are you doing? It’s 2:00. I’m on South Beach,”. I’m like, “No one asked you man,”.

Glenn Kurban:
That is true. Did we even have phones then that sent pictures? Because I feel like I sent you pictures but I don’t remember, it would have been some ancient Nokia or Motorola device.

Chad Webb:
Yeah, I mean, I remember I bought a digital camera back then and took pictures.

Glenn Kurban:
I remember that. I do remember that.

Chad Webb:
So I don’t think the phone was any count at that point. But anyway.

Glenn Kurban:
So you’re right, that was during my Sabbatical time and I always tell people, I blew through a bunch of savings. But to that point in my life, I’d never done anything like that and I would not change that decision looking back. It was just a good respite from all the hard years of work and whatnot. Reset my brain a little bit.

Chad Webb:
So I remember you got into the MBA program, but you got into about the time you moved to Atlanta right? Because I remember you were traveling like every weekend.

Glenn Kurban:
Yeah, very good. So what happened was I got into the MBA program and midway through, I don’t remember if I started looking for jobs or I got a call, I think I got a call. So this was a two year program, it was an executive MBA which means that it wasn’t all day classes or anything like that or even night classes for that matter. It was set up where it was all day Saturdays for two years. So lots of flexibility, I had my entire week to do whatever I want, if I wanted to pick up a little contract work here and there, I did.

Glenn Kurban:
I did some of that, had some contractors doing some stuff for me and billing them out to a couple different jobs. And so that’s when I kind of hung a shingle, nothing like what you’re doing right now, but it was my first foray into, “How do I generate a little income while I’m doing this MBA thing?”.

Glenn Kurban:
So what happened was I got through year one and then, again as I recall, I got a call from a former client from years back, from my first job actually out of school. And he was the CTO at the client, and maintained good ties with him and he did with a bunch of other people that were on that project that I worked with at KnowledgeSource. And he said, “Hey, I’m doing a new thing and I need somebody to come build a PMO,”.

Glenn Kurban:
And I had to go look up what PMO was, back then it was probably like Ask Jeeves or something in 2002. And Jeeves told me that it was Project Management Office which, again, I’d been managing projects up to that point but I didn’t know there was a name for it or that there was an office that did it. So I was like, “Yeah man, I can do that. You tell me what I need to do. Can I do it from south Florida? What’s the deal?”.

Glenn Kurban:
He’s like, “No, you got to move up to Atlanta,”. And I’m like, “Oh. Okay. Well, here’s the thing. I’m in south Florida, I’m halfway through my MBA, we’re going to have to figure that out,”. Long story short, I ended up taking the job primarily because I liked this guy and also because it was now a pretty big credential to have. The more I researched the whole PMO thing, the more I found out that, “Wow. Almost every company out there that does projects has a PMO, it wants a PMO, and that’s a pretty marketable skill to have at some point especially if you’re building it and leading it,”.

Glenn Kurban:
So I took the job and…

Chad Webb:
Is PMO, did that turn into something? Is that basically Project Management Software now?

Glenn Kurban:
Yeah, so PMO, again, EPMO, Enterprise Project Management Office, we’re using software to run projects so you’re now using Microsoft Project to build project plans and whatever other tools and techniques. People who are PMP certified, those are the kinds of folks you can find working in a PMO.

Glenn Kurban:
But back to your question. So I’m now midway through this MBA, all day classes on Saturdays in Miami, in Coral Gables, and I took this job. And so for a year I flew back to Miami every Friday night, every Friday night and woke up early Saturday morning, had a whole day of classes, flew back Sunday. All the while, new job, 60 hours a week, and it was just the most nightmarish year ever.

Glenn Kurban:
So not advisable. I added another like 10 grand in travel expense to my college experience there. But when it was done, it was done and it was a huge relief. But yeah, it was not the best decision I’ve ever made.

Chad Webb:
So that’s interesting, because again, because I’m not the most astute person. So your current position is VP of EPMO, you took the PMO. Would you call it a startup that this guy was doing?

Glenn Kurban:
It was a little more than startup, it was a small transaction processing business. They were in prepaid, you probably remember years ago, talking about, “I was in the prepaid business,” which means all these store value gift cards and phone cards and things that were big back in the… I mean gift cards still are big but back in the day when you had to call long distance, you remember?

Chad Webb:
Right, yeah.

Glenn Kurban:
You would buy a phone card and that’s how you did it. So it was a small outfit that sold these gift cards and phone cards at retail, and the PMO was the project management entity within the company that would help actually roll out the products to retail locations. So one of our clients, I remember was Dollar General.

Glenn Kurban:
And so when Dollar General said, “I have an end cap for an aisle and I want a hundred cards on there, give me everything you got,” it’s not just getting that physical product to Dollar General times a thousand locations, it’s also the technology behind it so that when somebody takes that off the rack, goes to the point of sale, they swipe it, the transaction goes through, you activate the card, the whole kit and caboodle.

Glenn Kurban:
And then the supply chain associated with shipping cards when they run out of cards, all that was project management work that we did.

Chad Webb:
Because a company like Dollar General, they want all that handled. They just want the cards delivered and them to work, and that’s it.

Glenn Kurban:
That’s exactly right. They’re looking for a [inaudible 00:26:44] operation, there are other companies who do what we do so we have competitors in that same space. It was just a matter of who could come in, offer them the best selection of products, do it the fastest, get them to the point where they were able to sell the stuff to their customers.

Glenn Kurban:
And then of course the replenishment when they ran out of cards. The worst thing is when you walk into a location and you see, “Oh my God, half of the hooks are empty,” and your replenishment engine didn’t fire and somebody hasn’t been out there to re-merchandise that stuff. So yeah, that was my first stint at PMO, and we got acquired by another company, a bigger company, and so I started up the PMO there because that was one of the selling points for them buying us was, “Oh, we need that project management stuff,”. And so I started it up there.

Glenn Kurban:
And then after that I kind of got out of PMO for a while, went back to software development and then back to consulting, but we’ll get there.

Chad Webb:
Sure. So once you left that position, about what time is it or I guess year is it now when you leave that position?

Glenn Kurban:
I started that company 2005, we got bought by like 2006, 2007. So we got bought by another prepaid company and so I left that one in 2008 ish, somewhere there abouts. And I went to a small software development firm where I took on the VP of professional services job. And so that job was probably as much as like KnowledgeSource as anything that I’ve seen since then, except that it was not for me.

Glenn Kurban:
The owners were not great people and just for a number of reasons I decided to hightail it out of there after a year. And that’s when the consulting bug bit again and I went to a company called Protiviti which is management consulting and I spent almost eight years there. And that’s when I was back on the road again.

Glenn Kurban:
But I kind of at that point abandoned all the PMO stuff and started gravitating back towards the data world. And so at Protiviti, my focus was data management, data governance, master data, a lot of those different disciplines, selling and delivering solutions for clients.

Chad Webb:
So that was eight years there. And then the Protiviti piece, there was a point in your career, and I believe it’s here, where you had lots of direct reports, correct? Was that at Protiviti?

Glenn Kurban:
That was actually at the prepaid company before the small software development company. So I had, well it wasn’t direct reports as much as it was just organizational structure was fairly large. So I had, within that PMO role, what I built out was something kind of atypical of PMO, it was not only project managers but I also had quality assurance people to QA software testers, I had business analysts, I had Java developers as well. We turned this PMO concept into a full sweet solution where if I was managing a project, I also had within my control the QAs, the DAs, the developers. And I didn’t have to reach across organizational lines to try to get people to do stuff that they didn’t want to, it was all fine.

Chad Webb:
Right, so you were in charge, you weren’t having to work with the graphics department to get them to prioritize, you didn’t have to put a request in.

Glenn Kurban:
That was actually one of the departments that we did have to put requests in. So what I tried to do in building out what we called merchant implementations, meaning we were the ones delivering for these merchants, in this case the Walmarts, Targets, Dollar Generals we were implementing these prepaid programs for them. But all I had control of under my span of control was the IT stuff.

Glenn Kurban:
What I didn’t have control of was what you just mentioned, the marketing people who were doing the branding stuff, the warehouse people who were providing the physical cards, the finance people who have to do whatever the finance people were doing. Those were other functions within the organization I still had to queue up with everybody else who needed their time.

Chad Webb:
Sure. So once Protiviti, you said Protiviti, is that correct?

Glenn Kurban:
Yeah, that’s right.

Chad Webb:
You said eight years, where’d you land after that?

Glenn Kurban:
At Randstad.

Chad Webb:
At Randstad, okay.

Glenn Kurban:
Yeah, so I left Protiviti in June of 2017, two weeks later, took the job and started at Randstad, my current role.

Chad Webb:
Were you planning on, when you left Protiviti, were you actively looking for a job or were you ready to kind of take another little break?

Glenn Kurban:
Yeah, that’s a good question. I mean, it’s a little bit of both. So one of my big drivers at the time, getting out of consulting, was being aware of my young family, you have kids around the same age. At Protiviti, as much as I really enjoyed the culture, enjoyed the job, enjoyed the people a lot, I was on the road three, four days a week, sometimes five depending on what was coming along.

Glenn Kurban:
Some weeks it’s like five days a week, two, three different cities depending on what accounts you had to go out to. And with my first child, with Kate, I saw her on weekends. And then when we had our second it was, “Okay, I’ll see you guys on weekends and maybe I’m a little bit more local because I’ve made some adjustments,”.

Glenn Kurban:
And then by the time we had a third I was like, “I can’t keep doing this to [Layn 00:32:31], to my wife and also to myself,”. It’s just like every Sunday night or Monday morning when you have to leave, you miss your family. And so that was one of the big drivers was to get back to some normality on schedule and just be present more.

Glenn Kurban:
And the other thing I always talk about is consulting, as much as I’ve grown up in consulting, I think I’ve spent more years of my 25 year career so far in consulting than not. But as much as I have that bug and I really enjoy that world, it’s the kind of thing where it’s rare that you actually ever get to enjoy the fruits of your labor. You go in, you say, “Hey client, this is what you need to do, we’ve got the best solution for you. Implement that, if you want our help, we’ll help you implement it,”.

Glenn Kurban:
And then by the time you know it, you’re off to the next thing. And even if you stay with them the whole time and implement the whole solution, when the engagement’s done, it’s done. You don’t get to sit around and kind of see how things get better and does it live up to all the promises you said it would? And that’s one of the things that I enjoy about a corporate role that I’m in now. You’re coming up with these ideas and I often take a consultative approach to most of what I do, but you got to sit around and live with it when you’re done.

Glenn Kurban:
And sometimes that’s good, sometimes it’s bad, but you actually get to enjoy the hard work and see things play out which I think if anyone’s looking at consulting versus corporate, there’s obviously pros and cons to both. I mean, the world has actually changed monumentally since we had that conversation. Honestly Chad, I don’t even know how consulting works anymore with the current scenario.

Glenn Kurban:
I talk to, I just message with my old boss and with some of my buddies from over there, and we don’t get into details but they’re like, “No, we’re not traveling,”. And I’m like, “How does that even work?”. Because the cornerstone of consulting is being in front of the client, billing time that you’re there. Granted, we always have gigs where you’re billing hours but you’re not actually onsite with the client, that’s fine.

Glenn Kurban:
But I can’t see how overnight that whole world has changed such that a client’s okay with you billing them 300 bucks an hour and they never see you, you’re never in the building. That’s got to be crazy and I just can’t imagine that it’s as lucrative as maybe pre COVID. And maybe all that goes back at some point but it’s got to be hard right now.

Chad Webb:
But don’t you think, at the end of the day, if you’re the knowledge expert, does it matter if you’re onsite or not? I guess it does if you need… I mean, you’re the knowledge expert but you’re not the business expert. Those business people have to get that info to you.

Glenn Kurban:
No, I absolutely believe that. And everything we’re doing right now at Randstad is testament to the fact that it was all a figment of everyone’s imagination that you have to be sitting at a desk in an office to actually get your job done. That’s dumb. We know very well that there are developers, there are managers, there are whoevers that spend two hours driving every day to get to and from this job, then put in another 10 hours and then do it again at the end of the day and rinse and repeat.

Glenn Kurban:
How much better is life for them, assuming they have a good work environment or work setup at their home, how much better is life that they can cut that 15 hours out a week of travel time, they’re saving money, you’re not buying lunch and stuff. They’re happier, we know that, the surveys tell us that, the data tells us that. But with consulting, it’s an interesting beast because, you ever watch that show House of Lies on Showtime?

Chad Webb:
Yep.

Glenn Kurban:
Yeah. It’s in the DNA of a consultant that you got to hop on a plane and you got to get in front of a client because that’s like 50% of the value that you bring to that client. It’s a very different feel than your typical developer or whatever. I’ve got to be in front of them, I need the face time, I need to take them to lunch, I need to wine and dine them at dinner because I’m going to get that next big project that my competitor is not willing to go do all these things that I’m doing.

Glenn Kurban:
So I just don’t know how that works in this new kind of era that we’re in. It’s interesting, I’m very curious to see how this all pans out. I’m sure it’ll all flip back to normal once there’s a vaccine and everything and life’s back to normal.

Chad Webb:
I’m sure we’ll forget pretty quickly. Everything will fall back into place. So at Randstad, the COVID environment that we’ve all been in since March, in the business that you’re in, the hiring business and the hiring out business, are you seeing changes specifically because of that? And is it a positive change in most cases for you guys?

Glenn Kurban:
Well, I mean, any staffing company if you look at Q2 and earnings, calls and reports, there was a pretty significant decline for everyone. But I think most companies having been banking on more of a deep V type of decline as opposed to an elongated event. Time will tell. If we’re going end up having this second wave that is as bad as or worse than the first, then who knows what Q3 and Q4’s going to look like.

Glenn Kurban:
But everyone got pretty well beat up Q2 and that was just kind of the norm. So yeah, there was declines and many clients basically said, “Well, I’ve got to shutter my doors so why do I need your people coming? I’m not paying those people,”. So yeah, staffing’s probably not the best place to be during something like this. Unless you can figure out what’s the type of staffing that people actually need.

Glenn Kurban:
So we started looking at healthcare temperature check type people and registered nurses and all these types of folks that are now critical to making sure that businesses kind of keep on moving. And so we shifted our focus in a few different ways. Nothing that made up for the losses, but I think overall we’re hoping again that we’re kind of coming out of this now.

Chad Webb:
So one of the things that we talked about before we started here and one thing I wanted to touch on because I did report to you, is since that time, since one of your first positions where you did have direct reports and you were responsible for people in these last 20 years or so, what is a lesson you’ve learned about managing and about managing people? What’s one of the best things I guess you’ve learned in that role?

Chad Webb:
And I think one thing I’m always interested in is how to motivate people. Because I would consider us a consulting company here at CrowdSouth and I’m always interested in a good work, life balance and I want to do the right thing for the people we have here because we have such a small company. But I also want to get things done and I want to get results and I want to grow the company and things like that. I’ve got two sets of priorities; one, I’ve got a family and I’ve got a thing I’m trying to do here, but I also don’t want to make anyone miserable.

Chad Webb:
And so, as we talked about Jose, I think he struck a good balance there for you, at least during that time. But what kind of things are you seeing with your people or how have you motivated them in the past?

Glenn Kurban:
Yeah, it’s an interesting thing. On one hand, I find it easy some days to motivate people because of the approach I take. And then other days it’s much more complex because I think to think that you can treat everyone the same and get great results out of everyone, there’s no one standard approach that’s going to be foolproof 100% of the time. So what I mean by that is, what I’ve always been I think decent at is reading people, getting to the heart of what it is that is important to them because then I can kind of pull on those strings a little bit and press those buttons to drive motivation, to figure out the things that you’re asking about.

Glenn Kurban:
How do I make sure when this person wakes up in the morning they’re not full of dread about having to come to this job? They’re actually pretty excited about it, because in the case of Joe Smith, a fictional character for the sake of conversation, Joe likes his ego stroked, Joe’s a people pleaser, Joe wants an assignment that he can bring back to me when he’s done and I talk to him about how great this is, if it’s great, and he learns something as a part of that process. That’s Joe.

Glenn Kurban:
Sue, she doesn’t care about any of that. She just wants to come to the office, get her job done, get her pay check, she’s not filled with anything necessarily when she wakes up in the morning, it’s just, “I got to go do this job, and I’m actually pretty good at it,”. And so I’m dealing with Sue in a whole different way. For Sue it’s, “Hey Sue, we can make sure that you get progressed to the next level, make more money, and whatever accolades that you’re out for, we can make sure you get those,”.

Glenn Kurban:
So that’s a lot of words to say I try to really understand the essence of what gets them out of bed happy and motivated each day. But it’s difficult to actually pin that down with some individuals. Some people it’s written all over them, you know exactly what you’re dealing with. I’ll be honest with you, I mean, this newer generation of worker, I don’t have a lot of experience with this generation.

Glenn Kurban:
When we were working together pretty much everyone around us was, at the time I guess what, Gen X and younger. And I kind of grew up managing that generation of people and I understand what makes most of them tick. But now we’re in an era where nobody’s really looking at, and I’m probably over generalizing, but nobody’s really looking at wanting to be anywhere for more than a couple years. They want to pick up what skills they can, then move on to the next thing and pick up what skills they can there, progress, et cetera.

Glenn Kurban:
And I haven’t had a lot of recent experience with this generation of worker and trying to figure them out. But even with that being the case, I still feel like if you look at the individual and you understand the core of what makes them tick, you can still probably make it a pretty good run for them even if they only hang around for a little while. Where they feel like, “Hey, I was given opportunity, I wasn’t micro managed, I was trusted, I got good feedback, good, bad or indifferent when I needed it and I came out of this place better than I left it and I feel like I’ve grown,”.

Glenn Kurban:
So if I can tick all those boxes with anyone then I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job managing that individual.

Chad Webb:
I think one of the things I’ve learned more recently, and it’s probably because of the role I’m in here, is I’ve felt like I’ve had to separate, it’s a good learning experience, again, for a young company and a young business owner, I feel like I’ve had to learn how to separate between, “It’s not my responsibility to make these people happy,”. It’s like I can only control what I can control. And so the things you were talking about there between Joe and Sue, do you think that there’s a limited number, and this is probably where hierarchy comes into play, but there has to be a limited number of that type of investment in people that you can make.

Chad Webb:
Because I think that would be taxing emotionally for you as well, you couldn’t do that for 100 people. But you could probably do that for the five managers under you and then they have the five people, ten people under them or something like that. So I don’t know, did you ever find that? Do you relate to that? How do you separate the job from the person?

Chad Webb:
That’s something that I’m asking because it’s something I struggle with a lot of times is because I want to make something here that was different than the jobs that I came from and those experiences.

Glenn Kurban:
Well, I mean, to kind of hit on your first point; management I think, and I’m talking management, not necessarily leadership, and maybe we’ll talk a little bit about what I see as the difference between the two, but management of people, it’s a bit of a pyramid scheme of culture. You’ve established that’s the thing that you’re publishing as a company. “This is our culture. This is what we think we want to be, what we think we are,”. And when you interview people, you’re trying to figure out beyond just the, “Are you a good fit for the job and the skills that are necessary to be successful at that job? Are you a good fit for this culture?”.

Glenn Kurban:
I feel like, talking back to the Jose days, there were a lot of people there that stayed with him and kind of ground through everything because they were good cultural fits. Not always the best fit for the job. I was not really the best fit for the job. If we talk brass tags, in the beginning where he was looking for some pretty hardcore technical developers and things like that, I was good, I was never great as a technical resource.

Glenn Kurban:
But where I proved myself was the ability to be personable and talk to clients, make them feel comfortable, make them trust us, all that kind of stuff, the soft stuff. And then on the side I found my technical passion in VBA type work and Sequel Server and all those kind of stuff. And I ran with that for a while.

Glenn Kurban:
But I think a lot of this is you’re going to come across people that are just bad cultural fit. And you’ve got to weed those out early unless they actually serve a purpose within your organization and you’re being honest with yourself to say, “That’s really why I have them here, because they’re an expert at this or they’re a subject matter expert at that and I can kind of keep those people in isolation. I don’t necessarily care how well they fit in to the culture. And they might not be here forever. Because there’s not alignment with what we value as a leadership team or as an organization,”.

Glenn Kurban:
And that’s okay. But at the end of the day it’s like, “Are you here because you like working here and you like what the culture’s about? If so, great. If not, then you might want to go find somewhere else because I can’t fight with you every day to make you assimilate,”. You don’t have time to do that, nobody is going to want to have time to do that.

Glenn Kurban:
And so it sounds kind of drastic and cutthroat but I feel like the interview process is pretty critical in trying to identify that alignment.

Chad Webb:
Yeah, getting the right people in the right seats, the whole good to great thing. I mean, doing that as quickly as possible is the right thing to do just because it makes everyone’s life easier at the end of the day.

Glenn Kurban:
But I like kind of what you guys are doing. I believe you’re bringing a lot of interns through. And I really like that try before you buy kind of approach especially as it pertains to cultural fit because now you’re not basing a pretty big decision on one or two 30 minute interviews, you’re actually allowing these folks to show you what they’re made of, see how they actually operate in real life scenarios. Wherever I’ve ever had an opportunity to use interns and bring folks in through the organization that way, that always seems like a win.

Chad Webb:
Yeah, I mean, I was an intern at Camping World, that’s something that that organization does really well. Or did back in the day, back 15 years ago, whenever it was. You had mentioned, what do you feel is the difference between management and leadership? You started talking about that and that interests me as well.

Glenn Kurban:
I think management is the being there day to day, expecting to have to do some level of hand holding, guiding, stroking, all that kind of stuff, where leadership I truly believe is establishing all of that stuff that a manager does clearly enough, with enough control of controls built in to where you can kind of stand back and watch people in the system. A little bit from afar, not too disengaged.

Glenn Kurban:
But figuring out when you really do need to jump back in and guide and coach and mentor and quickly jump back out, see how they do. It’s probably a bad analogy, people who have worked or work for me probably won’t like it, but it’s a little like kids in a way. You want people to learn, you want people to benefit from the learnings that come from failure, from the decisions that they make, not the decisions that you told them they should make. And just giving them that leash.

Glenn Kurban:
I know I operate best in environments where somebody says to me, “Hey Glenn, this is what needs to happen. I’m not going to tell you how to do it, go figure it out,”. And whatever happens coming out of it, it is what it is, you own it. Giving me that sense of empowerment that I can go do what I have to do. And if I fail, yeah, I’m going to beat myself up the most about that failure, it’s not going to be them. I like those kinds of environments.

Glenn Kurban:
And I feel like that that’s rare these days. You’ve really got to find a company that has established that kind of set of values and guiding principals because I’ve seen a lot of companies that just tell you how to do everything, and that’s not good for anyone in my mind. Those are the organizations that, at some point, you’ll be replaced by a technology or some sort of RPA that does that job for you.

Glenn Kurban:
So for me, the leadership aspect, there’s a confidence that you have to have because ultimately you’re accountable for what these people are doing. If something goes sideways, you’ve got to step up and say, “Yeah, that’s on me. I gave leash and that’s what happened,”. But I truly believe you build a stronger organization and team by leading versus managing.

Chad Webb:
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I like that because managers are leaders. And so they have to do what they’ve got to do there. Some of these last questions we got here because we’re getting in on an hour. What would you say, in your experience in the last 20 years or so, what’s been the hardest lesson learned? Or one of the hardest lessons you’ve learned?

Glenn Kurban:
I thought about that question a little bit. I think for me it’s been something honestly that I’m still having to learn every day, specifically in corporate America. I’ve worked with a lot of people, I’ve worked with clients, now I work with people who I work with every day as opposed to clients that come and go. But it [inaudible 00:52:59] take things personal in the business world, when somebody squares up on you and goes against what you thought was the right direction or they just need to consistently run counter to what it is you believe.

Glenn Kurban:
At some point you might get into your head that it’s a personal vendetta, “They’re out to get me. And this is not someone I feel like I can work well with”. And what I found is that is a rarity where that’s actually what’s happening. It’s very rare that somebody’s personally going after you. More often than not it’s just the conflict that happens in business.

Glenn Kurban:
If we think about it, at some point everyone’s jockeying for something. Everyone’s got their own set of goals, everyone’s got their own trajectories that they want to see happen, different titles and promotions that they want, and we’re all jockeying all the time whether we admit it or not. And so out of that you can’t help but have these conflicts and it’s really never, ever or rarely ever about me and Chad.

Glenn Kurban:
It’s always about, “How do I get my thing so that I get to my goals quicker?”. And yeah, it’s just that learning, don’t take this stuff personally. It kind of comes with the territory. And here I am, like I said, 25 years into my career and you still have to kind of think through that and take yourself through the process of understanding why whatever Joe said or did, let it go, just deal with it however you’re going to deal with it and keep moving on.

Glenn Kurban:
So that’s kind of one of the big lessons for me.

Chad Webb:
That almost sounds like that’s a peer to peer thing. Someone on your same level or maybe even the person a little above you [inaudible 00:54:52] departments are like that. That’s really interesting. And I think sometimes about that from a down type situation like from people that hear direct reports or that you have interactions with. It’s like always trying to think in your mind, “This is about business. This is about making them better but also doing what’s best for the company,”. Versus it being like, “Man, I’m about to have a tough conversation with this person. I wonder how they’re going to feel,”.

Chad Webb:
You definitely want to take people feelings into consideration but you also owe it to the company, you also owe it to them and yourself to have tough, appropriate conversations. There’s never a reason in business to yell at anyone in my opinion, but the conversations need to be frank and honest. And yeah, I think about that quite a bit. Just keeping it’s not a personal thing. Everyone has their own agenda.

Chad Webb:
What’s something that you’ve failed at in these last 25 years? Other than you’ve got a really broke three point chop?

Glenn Kurban:
I don’t think I could reach the rim from the three point line right now. Oh man, I’ve failed at so many things.

Chad Webb:
Oh. You’re telling me.

Glenn Kurban:
Yeah. I don’t know. My biggest failure is probably maybe bailing out of a job or a role a little bit sooner than I should have. And in 25 years, I’ve named for you the companies that I’ve worked at, it’s like six places. To me, I think that’s a pretty decent amount of longevity per if you adjust for the lows and the highs, you’re still averaging a pretty good stint at different jobs. But I think the failure that I would cite is maybe just bailing out a little too soon and not seeing something through.

Glenn Kurban:
And it’s a little bit tied up in the last thing I just talked about, it’s the taking things personally. You got passed over for something that I thought should have been mine, and this is a real thing, and because of that I go so kind of jaded and frustrated by the situation that I said, “You know what? Screw you guys, I’m moving on,”. That to me is kind of one of the bigger failures.

Glenn Kurban:
And then obviously on any particular job there’s been any number of more specific things that you could have done differently, better, what have you. But I think just the hanging with something, getting past your hang ups and seeing it through. I’ve had a couple of those where if I had to go back and do it differently, I probably would.

Chad Webb:
Sure. And in the grand scheme of things that’s not even too bad because it all ended up pretty well overall.

Glenn Kurban:
Yeah, don’t get me wrong. I mean, I’m pretty happy with how everything played out because you adjust and you keep chugging. But you always think about what could have been. So back to the Accelerated days, what if I’d stayed around and at some point Jose said, “Hey, I’m going to leave the keys to you. You run this business,”. And things like that could have happened.

Chad Webb:
So the opposite of that, what would you say is one of your biggest successes? What is one of the things you’re most proud of over these last 25 years?

Glenn Kurban:
It’s not a direct answer but it goes back to what we talked about with people. And I tell people this story or this anecdote from time to time. When I look at LinkedIn as an example and I look at the people who I have been directly responsible for at some point in their career over the course of my career, without fail, and I’m in no way, shape or form saying that I’m solely responsible for how all these people turned out or what they made of themselves. But I look at this population of people, and say it’s 100 people that I’ve either managed directly or were within my organization where I had a little bit of touch, lots and lots of really successful people.

Glenn Kurban:
Like VP level, look at yourself, business owner. And with some of these folks it’s more fingerprints than others where I’ve had a lot more interaction. But to me, that’s success. As a leader in business, apart from building my own business and running that successfully and retiring rich, if I look at the people side of it and how I’ve had a part in actually allowing people to progress and become great at what they do, all over the country and in some cases all over the world, wherever these folks have gone. I mean, that’s a huge sense of pride for me.

Glenn Kurban:
So that to me is kind of my biggest accomplishment, and I’d like to think that those folks think about that as well, about the time we spent.

Chad Webb:
It’s like a business legacy. It’s like the legacy that you’ve created through management. And so the final question on this would be what do you see as the next 20 years look like for you as you kind of finish up your career and you’re circling the drain.

Glenn Kurban:
Getting ready to die.

Chad Webb:
Yes. I mean, how old’s your youngest?

Glenn Kurban:
She will be four here in a couple weeks.

Chad Webb:
Yeah man, you’ve got a good 16 to 18, 20 years you’ve still got to work.

Glenn Kurban:
Yes. Without a doubt. So I’m hoping it’s not more than 15 but we’ll see. I would like to finish in one place, I’ll say that. So if that ends up being Randstad, fantastic. I would like to kind of finish out somewhere where I can really make this a home where I can build great things, do great things, build some additional great teams and see people grow and things like that. That would be my desire.

Glenn Kurban:
But if that’s not in the cards, we never know what the economy is going to bring in the next few years, things may change drastically for our industry, it may change drastically for the whole PMO concept and some of the stuff that I do there. Consulting is another thought that I have. I feel like I have been successful in that world although I’ve been in and out of it for the past 25 years. Whether it was going out independently or joining up with a firm, that would always be a thought or a possibility for me.

Chad Webb:
Cool man. Well, we’re at an hour and two minutes, and this is the joke we always make on this, since my wife and your wife have made it to this point possibly in the podcast, they’ll be the ones that hear us signing off. I actually don’t think my wife has listened, well maybe 2 of the 12.

Glenn Kurban:
Oh Jenny’s going to love this one.

Chad Webb:
“Oh! PMO, that’s incredible!”. Well man, I do appreciate your time and thanks for getting in here and talking with me. And you know when you talk about that legacy and I definitely think about, beyond our management, I think about the friendship we had at that one year. That one sweet year in south Florida.

Glenn Kurban:
We’ve maintained it ever since so that’s something right?

Chad Webb:
That’s right, yeah. For sure.

Glenn Kurban:
So what’s it been now? Almost 20 years right?

Chad Webb:
Yeah, almost 20 years.

Glenn Kurban:
That’s pretty crazy.

Chad Webb:
That’s good, yeah. I’ve lost lots of other friends in that time.

Glenn Kurban:
Yeah, same. That’s how you know it’s good.

Chad Webb:
That’s right. Well cool, I appreciate your time man.

Glenn Kurban:
All right buddy, well I appreciate it, thanks for having me on. Enjoy.

Chad Webb:
Thank you. See you.

Glenn Kurban:
All right. Talk to you.

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By Chad Webb

Chad Webb (who is 40) is one of CrowdSouth’s Partners and brings years (not quite 40) of experience managing multi-million dollar website projects to your business. He loves hoodies, puffy vests, jeans and flip flops.

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