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Episode 5: The Kingsmen Way with Bill Clerici

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About the Episode:

Kingsmen Software CEO, Bill Clerici joins us for this week’s episode of Beyond the Build. We discuss the Kingsmen Way program and what it takes to run a successful business. We dive into everything from our apprenticeship program to how technology professionals are often the best at running a company.


About the Guest: Bill Clerici

As Managing Partner and Chief Executive Officer, Bill Clerici leads our high-caliber teams to build enterprise level software platforms. Clerici has been a partner with Kingsmen since the early days of the company—back when Kingsmen Software was based in Davidson, NC. Clerici joined Kingsmen in 2014 to further develop our product pipeline and to grow our portfolio of regional and national accounts. He has a wealth of IT and software experience in the financial services industry, having spent the last 21 years delivering software solutions for financial products including Investment Banking, Commercial Banking, Research, Risk Management, and Retail.   

An expert in technology delivery, project management and relationship management, Bill Clerici runs our App Studio, managing technical delivery to clients and continually investing in building high-functioning teams and our one-of-a-kind Agile software delivery Program that is the cornerstone of Kingsmen.   

Prior to joining Kingsmen, Bill has provided Senior VP level team leadership at Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Wachovia, focusing on centralized data management, and building enterprise level risk platforms.  

He graduated cum laude with a BS in Computer Science from University of North Carolina at Charlotte and holds a BA from the State University of New York at Buffalo.  


About the Host: Pete Seeber

Pete Seeber is a Partner and the Chief Strategy Officer at Kingsmen Software. In this role, Pete is responsible for overseeing the expansion of Kingsmen. Pete also plays a key role in developing new products and services, identifying new markets, and creating strategies to achieve these goals. To this end, Pete is adept at partnering with our clients to help them overcome their technology and business challenges to reach the complete development of their business model and vision. Pete is a combination of technology, risk and finance executive who has developed his multi-disciplinary background over 25+ years of business and entrepreneurial experience in professional services, large scale consulting, information technology and cybersecurity. He is an entrepreneur who was lucky enough to start his career under the umbrella of one of the most respected consulting firms in the world. It was these early professional experiences that shaped his passion for moving businesses in the right direction and his own personal mantra, “Always Forward”.  He is a proud graduate of Wake Forest University. Pete has been actively involved in the Charlotte and Lake Norman communities as a member of the Board of Managers for Greater Charlotte YMCA (through YMCA Lake Norman and YMCA Camp Harrison), Eliminate the Digital Divide, Habitat for Humanity, Summit Foundation, Davidson Youth Baseball Association and others.


About Kingsmen Software:

We are dedicated, experienced practitioners of software development. We grow software iteratively and adapt quickly to changing business objectives, so we deliver the right software at the right time. Our proven approach combines processes, tooling, automation, and frameworks to enable scalability, efficiency, and business agility. Meanwhile, our advisory & coaching services enable technology leaders, business partners and their teams to learn and adapt their way to sustainable, collaborative, and data-driven operating models.


Production Credits:

Produced in partnership with Mistry Projects: https://mistryprojects.com/

Pete Seeber 00:28

Welcome to the Kingsmen Software Beyond the Build podcast, where we highlight our friends in the software development community, we get to know them their story, their influence, and their impact at a deeper level. We also have a good bit of fun along the way. I'm your host, Pete Seeber. And among other things, I'm the Chief Strategy Officer here at Kingsmen Software. I'm amazed by the number of I'll call them traditional companies and traditional industries that have realized that they're sitting on mountains of data, right, and they've realized if we can convert this data into some sort of information that can first help our business move forward, and use it in our business to accelerate things, right? How can we then translate that same data into some sort of a licensable, you know, software package that we can then sell to our clients as a value add to what we already do, that set us apart in the industry from our competitors, right. And though to me, those are amazing conversations, if you get executives around the table, and you can throw ideas out there and chew him up, spit them out, land on the right one. And but it takes some time. And then when they have the idea, they still don't have the organizational maturity to get there.


Bill Clerici 01:41

Right. Yeah, you can't just turn this on. I mean, this is not just an engine, you just purchase off the shelf, and you plug it in and unwrap it and turn it on is, that's not a thing. There's a lot of things that go into, you know, how do you have a successful software delivery organization? I mean, because I think one of the things that, you know, I think is really interesting that maybe a lot of folks know, or don't know, is that everybody's a software company these days. I mean, there's even even the healthcare companies are software companies these days, right. And if you don't look at yourself as a software company, I think you're, you're doing yourself your company, a disservice. Right? Because everything you do is software related, whether that's just pure data that you you offer to other folks, or whether you consume data that helps you do other things inside your company, or you're providing a new product, because you have access to all these other things. And that may be something that other people may want to buy and purchase or subscribe to. And so I think a lot of times we run into folks that aren't quite there yet, they still think that they're a regular company. And you're like, well, everything you're asking for, that's going to provide you value and your strategic plan 99% of it's got to do with software. So Shouldn't you have a top notch software organization? Shouldn't you look at your software organization as that's where you want to invest? Because that's the thing that's going to get you to the next level, not not a you know, more business people or you got to have a you need to come in and go, Hey, how do I need to change in order to have my organization be successful in software delivery. And I think if you're not doing that, if you're not looking at that you're not going, that's the that's the thing we should be hitting, and that's one of the drivers we should have, strategically, you're going to end up behind all these other people who because that's what they're doing, especially these small little companies that are maybe a little more nimble and agile, so fleeting, yeah, they can move around and adjust quickly. And the big organizations can't and that's why I think you've seen the explosion and, in, you know, payments, companies, you see the crypto and defi stuff that's going on all over the place. Those are all those are all being started by very small companies. And now you're starting to see the big guy, incorporate them, but because they never could do it, right. They couldn't move fast.


Pete Seeber 03:45

It 's interesting, just had this conversation the other day about, you know, successful FinTech organizations that grow up fast and are nimble and are delivering what the market needs, then they get swallowed up by a large financial institution that all of a sudden has, you know, legal risk and compliance, reputational risk. And so there's like a triple effect, right, you've get you that they can lose some of the great people because they Oh, I just I left the bank three years ago, and now I'm back in acquisition, so I'm out of here, or, you know, the people that stay and endure some of the pain and they just can't make the cultural shift. And then it's hard for those fintechs to keep that there keep that same edge that they had in that same growth trajectory to do that.


Bill Clerici 04:30

Yeah, because a lot of the fintechs are, I think, you know, are driven by those really talented folks who didn't want to be in the giant pools anymore. And there's, there's two sides of that there's a the big corporations lose a lot of talent, good talent that, you know, could be innovative for them, just because of the processes they have and the way they're organized and structured. I don't I don't think the big corporations are structured to be successful delivering software, you know, that's, that's another differentiator for us here. or even at Kingsmen, how we're structured, we structure ourselves completely different than most corporations do. But you see a lot of talent leave those places. And then they go to they go to places like Kingsmen. Or they go to places that are startups because they want to be innovative. They, you know, they want to be creative.


Pete Seeber 05:17

No more phones chucked at them


Bill Clerici 05:19

yeah, they don't want to be yelled and screamed at and they want to, they want to help drive strategy, because I think, you know, they're not looked at that way. A lot of times, you know, technology folks are just looked at as commodities, they j ust plug anybody in, and you know, they can, they're gonna do whatever you need to do business guy. And that's, like, that's so antiquated a way to think that it's completely lost on a lot of people. Whereas, you know, I think what we find, especially in our company, is that even the most the best business people, strategy wise, are technology people, they have more domain expertise and strategic thinking, than a lot of the business people that they deal with on the other side.


Pete Seeber 05:56

Well to me, that's what's adding to the acceleration, right, you turn the clock back, I don't know, 25 years ago, right to to the early 90s, when, you know, the internet was just becoming this thing, right? That, you know, there was a reason you went there, because I heard I could buy a book and they would actually ship it to my house. And so those, those technologists who are always in the second row, or the third row, right behind the business people, those technologists have found out that some of those business skills are skills that you can acquire, if you apply yourself yeah, and they're learning it through some technology means right through, you know, internet or wherever they're, you know, they're picking up these skills, you cannot pick up those technology vision skills, that that are now driving it right. So I've seen a flip, I don't know if I said that the best way, but I think that the technologist, those leaders are now in the front seat. And they found that sometimes the business people are a little bit easier to add to your team to be in the second row.


Bill Clerici 06:59

Yeah, I'm with you. I think we've had multiple times over our of the Kingsmen career here, where, you know, we've gone in and worked in some very complicated domains. And because they're complicated, and because we have a process that really allows us to understand how to get in there and break things down and understand them that at the end of the day, our technology folks know more about the business domain than their counterparts over in the business side. Going back to what I said before, is that, you know, every all companies are software companies these days, and one of the biggest things that you need to understand from a if you're a business person is the data. And that's not a thing of going back 10 15 20 years ago, those guys didn't, nobody on the business side was expected to really understand data they have sure they ran reports, right? But I'm talking about, you know, complex data, right? That you need to actually go in and can't just run it, you hit a button and run a report on you got to go and sometimes do forensics or, you know, dig into it. And there have been several times where our folks have come out the other side of it being experts in a particular business domain, much more than our clients are. And if you think about that, you go wait a minute, you know, we have somebody in our technology organization that knows Treasury more than anybody like you. They could go work for any company tomorrow and, and work in Treasury, 100 percent. And you're like, wait a minute-


Pete Seeber 08:21

It's amazing, right? Yeah, that's exactly what I was just saying is that a technologist realizes that that information, that that experience, it's, it's tangible, right, did it that knowledge that you're getting, I guess, I don't know, I went to Wake Forest, right. Econ 101, at Wake Forest is the same as econ 101, at University of Pennsylvania and its content, right? You may have a different professor, you may have different classmates, but the subject matter itself is content that can be absorbed. And in today's world, it can be absorbed over the internet, through a course that you take online, and applied the next day at work. Yeah, right. Yeah. And that's, that's a lot of fun to watch. I know, I know, the situation that you're talking about with the people that have done that. And it's really fun to watch them grow and add value to their clients.


Bill Clerici 09:06

Yeah and if you think about that, you go, okay, you know, do you really want to hire more business people? Or do you want to hire a technology people who have, who can you know, who can get in there and understand your business? Because they they're, they're a double threat at that point, right? They can go in and understand all the systems, right? Because that's where a lot of this stuff falls over is that these days, some organizations have hundreds and hundreds of systems, and they all manage data. And they all do it a different way. And they all talk different languages. And people who just come out of school with a business degree, have no idea how to manage that or be able to even go through it and understand it. But somebody who has a good technology background even from it doesn't have to be a developer. They can be a good technical analyst, a business analyst, but they they're going to have the skills that over the years have helped them understand how to how do you look at data, how do you manage data, how do you how do you go bring data together and do like, just like I said before, like just forensics, because that a lot of the time brings more information to the business than just having some canned report. That's been the same for the last five years.


Pete Seeber 10:11

So I'll take a left hand turn here, and let's talk about the what do you look for when you're hiring somebody into those roles? Right. I mean, you're you're talking about somebody whose brain is pre pliable. Yeah, right to to move in those different directions. So what are your you know, what are your? What are you looking for when you hire the right person?


Bill Clerici 10:29

Yeah, I think I think that's another differentiator for us is that we're not looking for skill sets as much as the right personality. I mean, you know, we've all been in situations that we've had developers that are like, Oh, my God, nobody likes to work with this guy, or, you know, I mean, that kind of thing. And it could be the most genius person in the world, and know every bit of code that's ever been written in Java, but nobody wants to work with them. And you can't get anything out the door, because they're so smart, that they're constantly fixing things, or, or whatever it is, it just, you know, you have those types of situations. So you don't want you don't want people who think they're smarter than everybody


Pete Seeber 11:06

the arsonist and the firemen.


Bill Clerici 11:08

Yeah, you don't want that. Because there's a lot of that that goes on, right? I mean, especially we see it in the corporate environments a lot. Because if you're not, if you're not a developer in a lot of environments, then the only way you show value is to show that you fix something or, you know, I mean, like, when when I talk about organization, I, you know, we look at a lot of these silos that are in all these companies, and you go, Okay, well, all these, all of these silos are put on a team to work together, but they're all compensated and rated differently. So your QA folks are paid based on the number of bugs, they find the project managers are paid and bonus by the amount of projects that are green, right. And so everybody's just trying to make their thing work. And so the accountability really just falls on the you know, that those technical analysts and the main core development team, and everybody else is just running off their, their own thing. So what we're really looking for is people who have a particular attitude and a team. And it's a team, you know, environment attitude, you know, I mean, folks that just like to work in the garage by themselves in the dark, not going to work probably real well, in a team environment. We do like we do like the whole team to be to have good social skills. Because we don't want just analysts talking to you, product owner, we want our we want our engineers asking questions of you, hey, this doesn't make any sense. If we go build this, you know, why? Why do you want it this way? Or what if we did it this this this way? Would that still work for you? Right? So so we want those folks to be social, we also want them to be able to work in a team really well. And so we're looking for those personality traits. Do they like to do those? Do they have critical thinking skills? Everybody always talks about critical, but critical thinking skills is a thing, can I give you a problem? And can you go off and give me a couple of different ways that you might solve it? Right? How do you How are you thinking through problems? Can you think through problems, right? I mean, those are a lot of things that I think a lot of folks are looking for, but but we're specifically focused on Do you work well on a team? Do you want to work in a team? Are you good with accountability? Are you good with transparency, because we're going to be transparent, we're going to our clients are going to know what you're doing, when you're doing and how much you've done. And if it didn't get done, they're gonna see that too. Are you okay with, you know, and then of course, we're going to give you the foundation and the cover to make sure that you understand what's expected of you. And if you're having issues we can, we can help you do whatever you need to do.


Pete Seeber 13:22

I've always thought one of the intangibles is, are you okay Knowing that you don't know everything? Oh, are you okay Knowing that you're going to have about three moments of humility every day, it happens, where you're going to have to go to a teammate or to a client, you know, a teammate, that's up the ladder, teammate that's down the ladder, somebody that's that at your same level. Yeah, to me, that's the hallmark of that of that lifetime learner.


Bill Clerici 13:45

And that's and that's core to, you know, what Kingsmen, as a company is about is having a program in place. So you, when you're on a project, have have this safety net, that you have, that helps guide you through how you should work with our customer, and create a good partnership, because that's what it's all about, it's all about a partnership, Pete, we're coming in, we're gonna be doing this stuff like you and me, we need to become, you need to trust me, I need to trust you, let me show you how you're gonna, you know, you're gonna trust me, let's build that trust over time. And that's and we're going to put the safety net in place for our project teams to understand how to interact with you so that it doesn't go off the rails. But if it does, that, they're going to come to you and go, here's what you're gonna see it early A, right that's one of the biggest things is you don't find out two weeks before it goes to production, you're finding out a week after you know, somebody tried to start doing or two weeks at the end of an iteration. So you find out very early, which means we have the ability to adjust, you have the ability to make decisions because we're going to give you more information, and then you can come back and but we're going to build that trust so that when I do come to you and go hey, something didn't go right. We can talk about it in a way that isn't confrontational, right isn't Hey, Bill, you need to go make up this or it could be because there's gonna be times where you come and you go, Oh, yeah, that thing I asked you to do? Yeah, I didn't really explain it right to you what I had in my head and what I told you I wanted wasn't exactly right. So now that I see it, I want it maybe a different way. Okay, fine, we're gonna go good. We're not gonna, we're not gonna change request you, we're not going to point the finger at you and go, Pete, how dare you, you changed what you said we're going to do. I'm sorry, I'm gonna have to go tell everybody. And this is a big issue. We're now red. Right? I mean, that's what happens on a lot of projects, is that building that trust allows us to have good conversations and a partnership. But it allows the folks that are working on that project team to feel like, Hey, I don't have to worry about if something doesn't go right. I don't have to worry about oh my god, I'm gonna get beaten up, I'm gonna get fired. I'm gonna right, it gives them a mechanism to say, this is how we discuss it. This is when we discuss it. This is how we make sure that you and I and the team understand what happened when it happened. What the drivers were how we're going to make sure we don't do it again. Because if we're doing a project together, you're not your typical goal isn't to try to berate me and make me fail. You want to make sure we succeed, you know, because if we succeed as a team, you succeed, right?


Pete Seeber 15:59

At the end of the day, if the people on our team on the Kingsmen team, if they're playing with confidence, they're playing loose their playing free. Yep, they're going to perform at a higher level. That's right. And everything that you're saying what I'm hearing, is that the relationship with the employees here at Kingsmen is paramount to the relationship with the clients. And I've seen that because when that's played out the right way, then the the employees actually take care of the client in the way that they need to be served. Because they feel empowered to do that. They feel confident in what they're doing. Yeah. So you got it takes care of itself. As opposed to let's do anything possible for the client, hit those deadlines and arrive to go back and yell at more people and throw some phones right? By golly, that's what I'm gonna do.


Bill Clerici 16:48

Right? Or if you're on the technology side, go and okay, geez, that didn't, oh my god, we're gonna be behind. Don't say anything, make sure nobody knows, we'll figure out a way to say it. You know, okay, well, that, that always goes bad, right? That's not a partnership. So yeah, you're exactly right. I mean, what's what really makes Kingsmen what it is the program that we have that is foundational to what we do, how we interact as a company, how we, how we work, how we work with our customers, but also how do we make sure that, that our folks that are on those teams are treated well, and they have the opportunity to be successful, because that's, that's what, that's what most people want, they just want to be successful, they don't want to be on projects that always fail, they don't know, they don't want to be on things where they can feel like they're never getting anywhere. So our goal is to make sure we're putting them in a good spot so that they feel like they're successful. They're actually helping our customers drive, you know, success with them. I mean, that's in a big organizations. That's pretty rare. I mean, if you think it happens all the time, but it really doesn't happen as often as you think it does. Because 80% of projects still today, over budget, you know, miss deadlines drifting along. Yeah, and or they never get done at all, that's a thing, but we never miss, and we never miss because we have a process in place to understand what really what you want and what your business is. But then as we're going along, we have a very, you know, a very concise program that says, hey, how do we make sure you know, what we're doing and when we're doing it, how do you have say into it. So you know, we can change when we need to. And we have the process in place to understand how we change and why we change. And you're going to have the decision making ability to do that. But you're going to understand all the facts before you make those decisions.


Pete Seeber 18:24

And we collect the data along the way. I think one of the most compelling things that I see our QBRs with our clients, where we're able to show them, you know, it's a very simple table. Yeah, that basically shows that we plan the work and we work the plan. That's exactly right. So we'll show in every one of our clients, here's exactly the velocity that we're going to move at over what period of time and here's the end date for the project. Yep. And you know, the numbers better than I do, but we typically stay within what percentage of that


Bill Clerici 18:56

It's, it's it's typically within a couple of percent. I mean, it's small, like a three, four, yeah, three 4%. Maybe I mean, you know, a lot of that has to do with that, you know, when that when that's off more than a percent or two, it usually means that we don't have the product owner engagement that we really need. But it happens. But when you're looking at hey, the thing that we agreed to, yeah, we you and I work together, the whole team worked together to come up with this plan. We sized it, we estimated it and then we started working on it and executed against it. Now every quarter when we get back together we go did we execute against the plan that we agreed to? Hey, yeah, we did buy this percent. Oh, and how much did we deliver of that based on what we told you we were going to deliver? And it's like, if that's within a few percentage. Yeah, that's, you know, I mean, most places would be would say that they were happy if you were 50% off, right. We're like, because they've had such a bad experience. Oh, yeah. They expect 25 or 80%. Or, you know, there's scar tissue? Oh, yeah. I think most people who've had to interact with a technology organization, they take whatever they said, you know, quadruple that, you know, and then maybe you may get I mean, we've seen organizations where there like, Yeah, we don't even expect our technology organization to deliver anything. I mean, we asked for nothing, because we, you know, we've seen so many times that we don't get anything. And so but we, what we're gonna do as a partner is go, Hey, let's, let's put this plan together, you and I, you're on the hook for it, I'm on the hook for it, we're gonna do it together. And by the way, now we're gonna start executing, we get back together, and let's see how we did. And let's measure it along the way. And let's be very upfront, and let's be honest about it. Because the last thing you want to do is to is to try to make things look better than they are, or not give the real details, because that's just going to hurt you, at the end of the day, you're still going to have to answer to your boss. And if you told him, you know, we're going to be done in March of 2023. And you get to, you know, get to February, and you're still 90% off of the project, well, you know, you're gonna have your, your boss is not going to have a whole lot of faith in what you do that you're going to get anything done


Pete Seeber 20:52

well. And at the end of the day, there's a lot of people, there's a lot of stakeholders involved in what we're doing right on all sides of the organization. But they're all looking for some business value. And to me, that chart that I just described, it says that we plan the work and we work the plan, that is the definition of business value, we've all agreed what's going to be delivered in the timeframe that's going to be delivered. And within three to 4%. We track that on projects that are a year long, year and a half long, two years long.


Bill Clerici 21:19

They go on forever, because if you're running the program the right way, then you're constantly looking at your plan. You're constantly planning, right? I mean, that's what we're, that's what we're constantly doing is planning, planning, planning. So we're always looking at the plan, we're always trying to understand what's changed, what's new, how does that get incorporated into the plan? Let's replan and we're doing this as a complete team we're not doing this is just a person or you and I going off at it. This is the whole team going through and doing this over and over and over again. So that plan may change, it's gonna change over time, because you're gonna see it in three months, and it's gonna be, you're gonna have different ideas, once you see it, your business may change in six months or nine months. So now we need to change some things up. But what you're really what you should care about is that you have a, you have capacity for a team to deliver. And you know how fast they can deliver how much they can deliver in a given amount of time. So that when you know when if you've been working with us for nine months, and you say, hey, our business has changed, we got a whole bunch of new features, we got to stop what we're doing. Now you know how it's gonna work. And you're like, I know, these guys can get it done, because I'm gonna go through this process again with them with new features, and they're gonna tell me how big it is. And I'm gonna be able to go back to my management and say, This is how big it is. And based on our history, we've shown that everything that we've said, you know, we wanted to do we've hit it. Now, when new stuff comes along. Oh, my God, why would they say no? Right? I mean, and that's why we have longevity with a lot of clients, because they're like, Hey, you did a great job on that project. Nobody else could get it done. Now we got another one. Can you jump on this one? Because we haven't been able to get this one or we don't have the capacity. The boomerang clients. Yeah, they go in you establish the trust based on what you've been able to deliver, Yeah, and it keeps coming back. Yeah, it's an experience they don't find elsewhere in the market, right. So there's a lot of trust there. I mean, trust is probably the biggest word, it's like, trust between Kingsmen and our clients that we're actually going to be able to give them you know, be able to deliver for what they're asking for and paying for. But we also have a lot of trust with our employees that the program we're putting in place is going to put them in a good place that a they have a good work life balance, they have a high, it's gonna be very successful, every time they go on a project, it is going to be successful, they're going to mean, you know, their clients are going to love them. I mean, you know, they, you know, there's a lot of things that we want to make sure we have trust with our employees with because they have to trust that that program we're putting on that safety net is there and it's going to work. And if they have issues or things aren't working, right, that they have the mechanisms in place to go say, hey, this isn't working, we need to make some adjustments, what do we do, and then we can come in with, we can come in with our senior folks and go, let's help you with this. Let's help you with that. Let's get this thing back on track. And so there's just a lot of trust that has to be built, and a whole bunch of places for that to work, but if you put the right program in place, it turns out and if it's a repeatable process, you know, it turns out that over time, it just works. And it works over and over again. And it works in every environment. We it works in the large corporate environments, it works in the little startups, it works in the guys in the middle, I mean, so it's not a thing that's like, oh, only multibillion dollar companies can, you know, can do this. It's like no, anybody can do this. Because we don't bring in big teams, we're not a hey, let us throw 30 people at you for this team, we we think we can get more work done for you and provide more business value with actually less people, smaller teams with a better process and a better program in place. So at the end of the day, I think we're actually cheaper than if you were gonna go do it yourself. And because you'd probably hire a 10 developers and a whole bunch of QA people and project managers and at the end of day, you'd have a, you know, four or $5 million run rate. Well, we I mean, we're gonna come in with a much smaller team that has been working together for a long time, they know how to do this stuff, they're getting, you know, they're really good at understanding domain, you know, quickly, and they're gonna just start producing, they're gonna start executing to the point where we've had customers where we actually are out producing what they can accept from us, and that's a good place for us to be right. We're going so fast and producing so much of what they had asked for that they don't have have time to actually go in and accept it. Because we're going to ask you, Peter as the product owner, that everything we put out there that you give us the thumbs up, you go look at it, we take you through the acceptance criteria, you go yep, yep, yep, that's what I asked for, is doing what I asked for. And we've seen situations where they, they don't have enough people or time to actually do that. And that actually says a lot about our programmers, that small group of people can produce so much that, you know, they need, they would need more people to consume it on their side.


Pete Seeber 25:25

So let's talk about a different topic a little bit. Let's focus a little bit on some of our smaller clients. Because we have a we have a client relationship lifecycle, right? We have, but that client also has their own company lifecycle that they're moving through, right. And hopefully, our effort in building a product for them, enables them to grow as a company. And as they grow as a company, their needs, change, their personnel, change grows, they have different departments. Let's talk a little bit about those experiences and how we grow successfully with those clients. Right and typically come in the door, if they have a fantastic idea. And no development team then naturally that's something that if they trust us, they're going to partner with us and hand us that and we're going to walk lockstep and yeah, and get that done for them. But that changes over time. Talk a little bit about that.


Bill Clerici 26:16

Yeah, I mean, those are, those are pretty straightforward. Like, if somebody's just got an idea, they're like, I have funding and you know, we just want to build this thing out that great, you know, you building something from the ground up, that's pretty straightforward. We, we knock those things out like crazy, those are those are easy, from a hey, how do we manage them? The ones that are probably more complicated that, you know, we've had, we've had different experiences with is coming into a company that maybe started off small, but they've been around for a few years, and now they're really, they've hit something, and they're, you know, they're really starting to grow. This has happened multiple times to where the thing that they built, you know, was built maybe many years ago, and older technology. And over the last several years they've been they've been, you know, bolting things on to it. And so now they're ready to go bigger. And they're like, oh, okay, well, how do we manage this thing that's been built over the last five, 8, 10, 15 years. I mean, it can be a long time, before somebody hits that mark, where they're, oh, they found their niche, and somebody wants to give, you know, really invested them. You know, that's the places where they asked us to come in and go, Oh, yeah, we how do we, how do we modernize this?


Pete Seeber 27:33

How do we unfrankenstein this?


Bill Clerici 27:34

Yeah, they want to modernize their platform to something that's newer. And that happens a lot. And it happens for a reason. Because you know what, when you're starting out, we've been there, when you're starting out, you don't have a lot of cash and a lot of money, you don't want to, you don't want to take investment from everybody and lose all your equity. So you are, there's a lot of blood, sweat, and tears that goes into that.


Pete Seeber 27:53

But you got to get to market fast or some other smart person is going to beat you there.


Bill Clerici 27:56

Right? So when you find something new, you take it, you get it in there as quick as you can. And that happens over and over and over over several years where people come and go and different technologies. And before you know it, you've got something that's kind of complicated. And it's like, okay, well how Oh, somebody wants to really take this to the next level, but they're never going to take it in that condition. So can you you know, that we have strategy that says, here's how we want to get to the next level. But here's a bunch of things we need to be able to do. And I think that's where they asked us to come in and go, Hey, can you help us with this, there's a strategic initiatives that we need to get done. But we also want to make sure that that knowledge stays in house, right? So that our folks can start taking these things over. Because one of the biggest problems is that our folks aren't, you know, ready to take the things on? So can you help them? Can you incorporate them into your teams


Pete Seeber 28:45

Or possibly their internal team needs to keep that one fed and alive and moving forward while you're building part two in the background that is now scalable. That's right, as you unfrankenstein it.


Bill Clerici 28:57

That's true. That's true. And that's, that's where we come in. And, you know, we'll we'll actually want to do, you know, some coconstruction with them, you know, where maybe they'll they'll put some folks on our team that will learn what we do and how we do it. And then they'll, they get to gain that domain expertise along with us. There's a couple of aspects of that that are, that are good benefits for the customers, but a, they they have a way to keep the domain expertise in house, because we're sharing that with the folks that they're putting on the team. And then those folks get to stay. And then they get to see their organization say, Hey, here's how projects were run really well. You know, I'm gonna go on another team now. And I'm going to help them because they had the same issues we did before where they were just having trouble with technology or maybe organizing work or, you know, how do you measure stuff, but now they've got the foundational stuff that they can start seating other teams with. And I think that's super powerful, because if you're an organization that's struggling with delivery, a lot of times you can bring in coaches, right, you can bring in these transformation people, but the best way to really do it, is by doing it. And that's by taking your people and putting them in a program and making them work in that program, because that's where they're going to really learn, you know, what's important and how do I really, you know, how do I really make sure Oh, that's all, I never really knew that that was important. I didn't know I should be doing those things I didn't know I shouldn't be speaking up. Right, I didn't know how to communicate with my customer, my, my client, even internally. And so by putting, you know, getting embedded in one of our teams, whether they're an analyst or project manager, or you know, a developer, an engineer, is they get to learn those skills. And now-


Pete Seeber 30:35

it's our secondary leave behind. Yeah, besides the, besides the product, you also have the leave behind of that coconstruct, consulting, right, we've mentored them to take the Kingsmen Way and embedded it into their process, right. And that's to help them grow.


Bill Clerici 30:50

That's right. And that's that's what Kingsmen is all about is like we come in, we help you get that thing done that, you know, maybe you didn't have the capacity for you struggle with. And then oh, by the way, we're going to help you, you know, learn some of these, you know, Jedi ways. And now you can, you can keep those things. And, you know, or if you want us to come back and help you, you know, just understand your organization and how you can do these things, we of course, we can do that kind of consulting, too.


Pete Seeber 31:12

And like a lot of things that you've done, it Kingsmen and built over the years, that was the result of a client request, right? That was a client saying, hey, you've built product A, B, and C, for us. It's phenomenal, right? But we're building our own team, how can we partner together, where you help us grow on a longer term basis. So to me, it's really compelling that we were in the position where we could do that, that they trusted us that much, not only with the build of the product, but the build of the culture as a leave behind. Yeah, and it hasn't, it's it hasn't been an out the door, other projects continually come along, and we find a way to adapt and continue to add value to that relationship.


Bill Clerici 31:52

If you're doing what's right for the customer. And that's what we do, we're always trying to do what's right for the customer. What's right for the customer is to you know, is to have an organization that delivers. And once you once you get through it, you know you're that job done, or you're to a certain point where you can do it yourself, then it's you know, it makes sense for us to you know, to go away. And, and that's kind of part of our deal is you know, we're high end, we're not just throwing a bunch of bodies at you as I said before, we're throwing high end folks at you. And of course, we would love if you if you love our product, our product and what we're doing for you, and you'd love us to come in and help teach that to your organization. Of course, you know, we'd love to do that. And we've done that before. But that comes out of it just naturally came out of things where people like, how are you guys doing so much with so few people? And how do you do it over and over again? And how are you finding these great people? I mean, we get that all the time is where do you how are you guys finding all these great people? And it's like, well, we do have a pretty good recruiting process that we vet people based on what we talked about earlier. But the program also allows people to grow and to be successful and be confident, as you said earlier, that they can just they know what the process is they know what the program is. And, you know, it's like the New England Patriots. I'm a Bills fan. So it pains me to say New England patriots, but those guys have a program that they've had for 20 years. And it doesn't matter who they bring in the typically they a lot of folks have thrown away and said, Oh, they're not good. There's, they're not good at that. But what did they do? They they had a program in place, and they bring these folks in and they they find a way for those people to be successful within that program. And I think that's a lot of what we do too, is that we have a program in place. And once you understand how it works, it allows you to it opens up all kinds of doors on how you can be successful, you know, personally in your career. And I think that drives a lot of retention, and a lot of you know, good work life balance stuff that we have with our folks.


Pete Seeber 33:38

And Kingsmen is also at the point now where there was a time where we couldn't necessarily go to market and find those particular resources, right, we talked earlier about what we look for in what we who can be successful in this organization. So when you're out there looking and also what's very important to us, and how we serve our clients and our culture is all the people that Kingsmen or what I call Charlotte centric, right? They're all they're all within drivable distance to the studio to work together and serve our clients. But we run into a situation when you cannot find the resources that you need. So we said, okay, let's just grow our own. Yeah, right. We groom software let's groom developers. Yeah. And so talk a little bit about the apprentice program that's been set up here and how how that's been successful, what you've learned from it.


Bill Clerici 34:24

Yeah, our CTO and CIO. Denise Beachley and Frank Wanicka they, they've put together a fantastic apprentice program, because we, as you said, I mean, you know, there is, we've said this for several years, but there is a war on talent out there in the industry, and getting good folks who know how to do software delivery is difficult. And it's also, you know, because we're such a big banking town and a lot of folks have been in the banks for very many years. And as you know, they are institutionalized. So we found that, you know, a lot of times there are very well qualified technical people at the banks that we don't think we'd be successful in our organization. They're very smart. They're, you know, they're, you know, a lot of these people are genius people, but they just we don't think they, we found that they're not successful in our organization, because we're, you know, very team focused, we have a lot of accountability. And we have a certain way of doing things, that when you're in the big corporations, you learn that you should you don't do


Pete Seeber 35:21

Sometimes it's easier to build muscle than it is to break scar tissue. Right? So right, yes. The apprentice program does that. Yeah, it builds muscle.


Bill Clerici 35:29

So we've brought folks in from all different walks of life that have all kinds of different experiences, because I think what you find in the software delivery world is that the more different types of experiences, you get the, you know, the diversity and folks that you get from even different industries, helps you tremendously. And just because somebody has been in the technical industry for any length of time doesn't make them any better, who's never somebody who's never been in there, if you give them the right foundation, behind that. So that's what the apprenticeship program does, we bring folks in, and we actually run them through a real life project. And we run them through all of the different aspects of our program. So they have to learn it from scratch, they actually have to practice it, they have to demonstrate that they know it and understand it, and you know, and so to the entire team, they have to demonstrate. They have to be able to yeah, it's more of a it's more of a practical than it is a test, we don't give tests, but we look at, hey, can you demonstrate this particular type of behavior? Right? Are you able to facilitate this type of, you know, workshop? Are you able to participate in this day? Are you able to build this type of model? Are you able to, you know, participate in some type of feature or function or story grooming, you know, and you understand what those things are so, and we and we've come up with a pretty good defined process for that training now, so we can bring folks through that thing, and then they come out the other side, knowing everything they're going to, it's gonna be expected of them when they get put on a real project team, which a lot of folks that just come in off of other companies, they, I mean, they don't get any of that a lot of them. They've never been in an output based model before. They've just been said, Hey, you work 40 hours a week. And if you get it done, you get it done, right, where we, you know, we're, we're have something different where, hey, you this team, you know, for particular size is expected to get this much business value done every two weeks, if you don't get it done, that's a problem, right? Because we're, we're actually contracting with our customers based on that output. So they understand as a team, not just one or two of them, but as developers as quality assurance folks, user experience, analysts, business analysts, technical, technical analysts, they understand as a team, what's expected of them, what the ceremonies are, what the agendas are, what they're supposed to get done in those meetings, what they're not supposed to get done out, you know, all of those things they have to go through in a real life project, with a real product owner, it's an internal person, but it's a real life product. I'm just like, we run our real teams. And they come out the other side of that, in two or three months. And we've had a lot of them that you know, within a few months of some other just kind of mentoring that we've put them on teams, real teams working with real customers, and we've had folks that have never even been in the industry before. And some of them are top performers a year later, a year later. I mean, we've got examples where we've had folks that came in from never did technology before, but come through that kind of training. And then we put them on projects. And within a year our clients are going where did you find this person? They are fantastic. And you're like, Well, you know, you didn't know this. But that's somebody who didn't even do technology a year ago.


Pete Seeber 38:22

They've learned how to be a world class analyst. At the same time, they've learned the domain knowledge of their client right? At the highest, right. And it's incredible.


Bill Clerici 38:29

Yeah and you can only identify that once you get them in. And once they show, you know that they have the aptitude for it and the drive for it. And that's what we look for. I mean, the person you're talking about, like, when we interviewed them, we're like, Well, this is an industry you come in from the sports industry, right? And then but you know, that person was driven, and went above and beyond to kind of go learn the things that they were being asked about in the interviewing process, because we have a pretty pretty in depth interviewing process. And so they're asked to do several things and demonstrate certain things. And this person went out and after the fact, went back and did a whole bunch of personal research and came back said, Hey, can I try to do this again, and show you and we were so impressed that they were, you know, that interested in showing that, hey, I went and learned some, it's initiative that we were like, we will we're gonna take a chance on you. And it's paid off huge. I mean, more than we could ever, you know, ever expect that our customers like, oh my god, this person over and over again, we get nothing but glowing like, Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, and those are, those are great stories. And that only happens because, you know, we have a process where we're giving people certain things to do so we have expectations of what certain people should be able to do but also we're looking for, hey, what kind of initiative do you have? Are you just gonna blow this off because you have 19 other interviews out there? And you know, because everybody's throwing recs out there all over the place. Or, you know, do you see the value in you know, our type of business and what we can provide and are you willing to put a little bit of time and effort into that. You can't ask for any more than that. Oh, I mean, it's a great story. So I mean, we we've had multiple stories like that. And, you know, it's like, hey, you know, if you find the right people, you keep them, you keep them and you do everything you can to make sure that they stay stay part of your organization, knowing that you know what, at the end of the day, everybody's got a career, they gotta go down, and people don't stay somewhere forever. But we do our best to say, we're going to do everything here to make sure that you're going to enjoy working here. It's not going to be like the other places where you feel like you're in a meat grinder where you're just another number where you're right. And that's Yeah, yeah. And so far, I think we can say over the last, we'll be coming up on 10 years soon and that, that has been a good approach as far as people goes, because once you find good people and you treat them right, they will, they will, they will be with you for a long time. And so we appreciate that.


Pete Seeber 40:52

That's fantastic. Thank you for your time. Congratulations to you and the team and everything that's been built here at Kingsmen Software. It's truly amazing. There's a ton of growth ahead. And, you know, I'll say to you what I say to everybody else, go build something great.


Bill Clerici 41:07

I love that. Thank you. I appreciate it.


Pete Seeber 41:10

Thanks, Bill.

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