You likely do not often think of bookkeeping and beer pong in the same thought.
That is, unless you are thinking about Keith Mueller, the new CEO of BookKeeping Express. Mueller is credited with creating a vibrant culture that attracts and retains bright, young talent in a stereotypically conservative (dare I say boring) industry and market.
Mueller’s methods sound more like he is running a tech startup in Silicon Valley than a bookkeeping organization in the bastion of a traditional "we always do it this way" industry and work environment of Washington D.C. The BKE CEO offered these thoughts on what he is doing and why:
Dayna Steele: How and why are you changing the corporate culture of this D.C.-based organization from conservative/traditional to that of a West Coast startup?
Keith Mueller: We are disrupting one of the oldest professions—bookkeeping—and therefore need to bring new thinking, technology, and processes to help our clients. I believe Silicon Valley has this culture that starts with the questions of what and how can we do things better, faster, and at a lower cost? How we can effect change? That’s the culture we need at BookKeeping Express, and we are developing that here by a constant flow of questions, internal communication, and desire to drive value to our clients. Plus we work hard—so I just feel fun has to be part of the equation.
You say you are "disrupting the industry"—how?
Our clients are spending upwards of 1 to 8 hours per week doing financial administrative work, and are sometimes frustrated with all the moving parts and systems they deal with to just do basic financial transaction processing. Plus, they have no buying power and scalability to drive lower costs for services. We are driving solutions to make the business owner move their time to the front office, with a one-stop solution where they can spend a few minutes each day doing this work in a quality, low-cost approach.
You have a heavy focus on attracting the right talent to cultivate success for the company as a whole—what do you look for in a future employee? How do you cultivate this talent?
I look for inquisitive people who want to drive change. People who are analytic and ask the questions, "Why?" and "What can we do better?" They have to have a passion for the work and for helping our clients. Once they are here, they pretty quickly realize we have a job to do for BookKeeping Express and our clients—which is to drive a change to the industry.
One of the things you did when you took over was to totally rearrange the office set up—why is that important to your company's success?
Collaboration. To drive change, we needed to work more together every minute, pushing the change together. You can't do that behind closed doors and in a cubicle world.
Much like Google and other tech industry leaders, you offer free lunches to your staff and a stocked break room? Why?
We work a lot and sometimes long days. We want our work place to be comfortable and almost a second home. Part of home is soft drinks, water bottles, snacks, coffee and tea. Oh, we might also have beer and wine.
I have been told there is also a beer pong table in the main office. Really?
Friday evenings. Need I say more? Plus, we need to cover up the foosball table with something when we need a conference table.
Why is changing the culture so important to the future success of your company and any other industry?
Culture, and the values that drive it, hold a company and its people together. We have our BKE values, such as one team, and dynamic. We use these values to drive how we think, what we do every day, and how we work together. This just makes us stay and work together, moving in a direction together. This is what I think drives success. Moving forward and working together.
Final thought or advice to future leaders?
Have fun, drive a vision, and keep one foot in today and one foot in tomorrow when you are designing growth. Communicate, communicate, and communicate to keep everyone in-sync and driving in the same direction. And, never stop disrupting your industry.
While working 20+ years with the greatest rock stars in the world, Dayna Steele has seen disruption work for success time and time again—it always has, from Elvis Presley to Lady Gaga. What are you doing to disrupt your industry and force change and success? Do you know of a Leadership Rock Star Dayna should profile, someone who is driving success in disruptive and different ways? Contact Dayna with the information. Please keep it brief and she will be in touch.