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Season 01, Episode 09

Founder and CEO of DayBlink, Michael Wong

Founder and CEO of DayBlink, Michael Wong

About the Episode

Today on The Fastest Growing Companies podcast, we’re talking to the Founder and CEO of DayBlink, Michael Wong.

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Full Transcript

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20:57

Chris:
Here with Michael Wong. He’s the founder and CEO of DayBlink consulting. Hey Michael. Hey Chris, how are you, sir? Awesome. Thanks so much for coming on.

Michael:
Of course, of course. Pleasure.

Chris:
Real quick. Tell us about DayBlink. What is DayBlink consulting? What do you guys do?

Michael:
We’re a professional service firm and based in Washington DC, or about a decade old, uh, we are a professional service firm that actually does management consulting, but also venture capital, which is a little bit of a unique model.

Chris:
Yeah. Interesting. All right. So you manage, it’s a management consulting. You go in and help optimize businesses and then you spot good opportunities and you invest in some, is that yeah.

Michael:
Yeah, exactly. So, you know, think of us as like an, a center Deloitte PWC. Uh, we kind of, a lot of us came from those big shops. Uh, I did myself. I’ve been a managing consultant for about 20, 25 years at this point.

Chris:
Nice. I did in college. I did an internship in management consulting and so I got to scratch the surface in that world before my business really took off. But, um, I loved being in and out of so many different businesses. So it’s a pretty cool world you live in.

Michael:
Yeah. W we’re actually, um, we’re able to solve some cool problems and take advantage of opportunities for our clients. So we usually help some big kind of fun, innovative clients. Um, so it’s fun.

Chris:
That’s awesome. All right. So why this business, I guess you mentioned the background in consulting, but, um, why spin-off and start your own?

Michael:
Well, you know, around again, 10 years ago, I realized that, um, what I want to do and professionals services, wasn’t actually out there in terms of the professional opportunity, I loved management consulting. I love to solve problems, but I also thought there was an opportunity to disrupt and frankly, change the model fundamentally.

Chris:
Got it. And so being on your own giving you the flexibility to kind of operate with a different model, then you’re used to.

Michael:
Absolutely. So in the traditional model, we’ll solve, I mean, the cliche of, you know, through PowerPoint, a lot of our clients, uh, challenges, right? Um, we actually have a different model where we not only can do that. We do help our clients on a traditional time and material basis, but we also partner with our clients. These are big fortune 500 clients to go solve those through either joint ventures or startups.

Chris:
Oh, that’s cool. So it kind of becomes an incubator for good ideas and you’re in the trenches with them.

Michael:
Absolutely. It’s a true partnership.

Chris:
That’s nice. All right. So, so this show is all about the story of growth, growing businesses, growing people, growing teams, and as much as you’ve grown your revenue over the years since you started this in 2012, um, your, your people relatively has been consistent over the last few years. You’re right. About 50 people you said. And so talk to me about how that’s been possible. How have you had this core team, but yet experienced the kind of revenue growth that you have?

Michael:
Yeah, so, uh, I think, you know, we’re in the people business. I really believe that, um, when I started in consulting a long time ago at a company called Coopers and Lybrand Consulting, which is now PricewaterhouseCoopers, I had the ability to be surrounded by some partners that really kind of taught me about what it means to be a part of a corporate family. Um, and I took those lessons a long time ago. And when I decided to actually pursue the DayBlink vision, uh, I took those, and I said, those are gonna be core to who we are. Right. And we have to be true to these promises. And there are certain things in which we set in place that help guide our journey. Uh, and being a people-centric firm, truly being a people-centric firm is, is core to who we are.

Chris:
So do you think it’s finding the right people, it’s investing more in people? I mean, how, how have you been able to increase your capacity and bandwidth with about the same mix of people?

Michael:
Yeah, so, uh, it’s a really simple formula for us, right? We have to go in the marketplace and have, uh, amazing, uh, recruiting to identify talent, right? It’s not about the capabilities of transactions. So specifically, Hey, are you great at PowerPoint? Right? That’s not what we’re looking for. We want great entrepreneurs. We want the right talent. Then it’s my job. Once we actually identify those and bring them onto the firm to develop them, right, give them the right opportunities individually to develop their own journey. So even though we’re about 50 people and we continue to hold that we continue to recruit and also have people leave our model, which actually is part of the journey. Like, um, my promise to them is we’re going to develop you while you’re here and we’re going to get you to where you need to get to, right. Not necessarily be here.

Chris:
Got it. So it’s almost a training ground then it sounds like in the same way you went from the big firms to starting your own, some of your employees might follow that same journey.

Michael:
Absolutely. That’d be great. I mean, ultimately that’s winning, right? If I could actually take somebody who I really care about, uh, on a personal basis and develop them and get them up to a position where, uh, they can go either start their own DayBlink or actually go, you’ve lost, people’s amazing firms. Um, that I’m very proud to say that we’ve actually had people matriculate through the tape, like to go to, or even business schools. We lost people to Tesla, AWS. I mean, some of these big, great, uh, opportunities. And I think it’s, uh, a Testament to frankly, the vision of the leadership team of what we’re trying to accomplish.

Chris:
Man. So celebrating, losing people to great brands is such a contrarian thing. Like I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone else say that because usually, you think about retention, you know, something you’re so prideful of, but if you can be a training ground where people really hone their skills, we’ve said the same thing. Like we want people to want to hire from Trainual. We have, an initiative where we want everybody to be poach-worthy, which doesn’t mean we want everyone to be poached, but you want to create that sort of talent. Right?

Michael:
Uh, everybody on the firm has options like everybody, because they’re really good at what they do. So I understand that my job is not necessarily to try to figure out ways to keep them here in terms of like, this is what your career needs to be. I need to create a great environment for them to want to be here every day. Right. And sometimes I can meet them where they are, but sometimes they want to go back to business school or law school. And that’s fine. Like, I encourage an environment where people tell us, I want to go to business school. Tell me why I want to help you get to Harvard. I want to help you get to Stanford. Because if I do, I’m going to be able to attract the other individual who wants to come and say, Hey, I want to go to Stanford too. I’m going to go to DayBlink for three years. They’re going to develop me. And oh, by the way, Michael Wong is going to write my recommendation letter to help me get to that school. Like, let’s do it.

Chris:
I love that approach. I love that. So I want to throw kind of a curveball at you because I’m just too interested when you have those kinds of career path conversations. Is there a frequency that you’re having those, like, how do you encourage the openness for people to share their aspirations? Because I think far too often, entrepreneurs and leaders get surprised by those things. And then you’re scrambling when somebody is leaving last minute and you don’t have a good plan. So how do you plan in advance for that?

Michael:
Yeah, well, so we encourage that communication. It sometimes doesn’t happen. Just being honest over the last eight years, I’ve been surprised too, which is fine. And then if I’m on the other side, you know, if I get a phone call from a recruiter, do I tell the firm that I’m actually starting these conversations? When’s a good time. Um, cause if it doesn’t work out, I don’t want to be perceived as I’m not in it. And I, I get that I’m sympathetic to that perspective, but whenever he can have those, I can do a better job of getting them to where they are. And so one of the things we did was not a very big farm issue. Now we have moved one of our superstar managers from client delivery to just help the staff development full-time right. Nobody does that on our sites because of all that person does. And she’s amazing. Um, she actually works with the team to figure out how to be the best that they can be. That’s it. And so the training is tailored. Then, the journey is tailored. How we think about staffing, whether it’s with one of our startups or whether it’s one of our clients is a tailor. And so it should be right. And I think that’s how we get people to where they want to be.

Chris:
Was there a point in the journey when you decided to make that pivot and really start to invest in the development of your people? Was it a certain team size?

Michael:
No, actually it’s, uh, it’s, it’s funny, like at a certain point we, we, um, you only could afford what you can afford over that journey. Right. And when you’re, you know, working in the basement of Michael Wong’s house, I mean, there’s only so much you could actually do. Right. Um, uh, financially, um, at some point we actually graduated offering benefits. It was a part of our shared at the beginning. We did it. Uh, and then now we’re where we are, which is amazing. Um, in terms of like, we are in the top five in benefits for our firm, uh, relative to our comp you know, McKinsey, Bain, BC, all those big shops, we’re in the top five in benefits. Like why would a company, the size of us be there because we want to invest in those people? We treat people like family, not as a cost, right?

Michael:
That’s generally how we see the world. When this individual from a career perspective said, Hey, I want to no longer travel, but I love the firm. And I love what we’re doing here. I want to help my colleagues individually. We just created a role for her. We moved her off of client delivery and that’s, that’s how we got to where we are. It wasn’t a conscious decision saying, Hey, we’re going to create a rack. And we’re going to actually look for this person. It was one of our superstars who gets what we’re all about. And we moved him over.

Chris:
Yeah. Hey, I remember the first time we launched benefits and it was such a big deal for me having come from no benefits to benefits. And then all the other people joining. They’re like, what, what do you mean this, this isn’t that special. Everybody has this. And I’m like, no, you don’t understand.

Michael:
This is a big deal. Yes. Yeah. Well, I mean, I mean, think about the benefits during, for myself. I quit my firm, which I was a part of prior to dabbling. I had two, two years and a newborn, and I went on to Cobra. Right. That’s the journey of frankly de Blanc and really a lot of entrepreneurs. Right. I mean, that’s, you have to believe in your vision so much that you’re willing to take on that type of risk.

Chris:
Yeah. All right. So, let’s go back to the beginning nine years ago, starting out on this, this venture, um, you, were you a solo consultant? Did you have a founding team? What was it? What was day one like?

Michael:
Well, um, there were basically two of us, I mean, two others and myself that we actually kind of started at PWC together and it turned into IBM. And then we’re at this company called IBB. It was a boutique in Philadelphia, a very successful management consulting shop. And so the three of us got together, talked about like, Hey, there’s gotta be a better way. There’s gotta be, there’s a lot of things that are awesome about the models, uh, mantras consulting, and there’s a lot of challenges. And so we got together brainstormed some ideas, you know, I was the first one to kind of jump and start this thing, um, years down the road kind of as time allotted. And it was right for their families. They jumped onto the model and we were off and running.

Chris:
And so from those first few years with just a small team, how did you start to take things off your plate? What did your first five or 10 hires look like? And how did you delegate to free up some time?

Michael:
It’s funny. I, my first hire was my executive assistant. Right. And which is like, well, why do you need an executive assistant when it’s just you? Well, there’s a perception game that is, you probably can imagine, like, it’s hard to go to these fortune 500 companies and go, Hey, like, why am I actually hiring a consulting shop of one? Right. Um, I literally, I have centered everybody out. Like, why would I do that? And so there is this perception thing that we pursued early on. She was awesome. Um, she created this perception of like, we can do a lot more than we could at the time. And we just were off and running.

Chris:
Yeah. So about perception at the beginning. And then I imagine slowly the roles started despite her out and there was more to be done. Did you, did you separate people by type of project or type of client? Or how did it grow from there? Yeah.

Michael:
Um, so we are all client-focused. I mean, and we still are. I mean, we really prioritize our clients. Um, and so it depends upon the client’s need, like early on, we would have the whole firm on one project. We would like to go, Hey, look, we’re all going to New York City to deliver this project. That was, that was it. Uh, we experienced, experienced tremendous growth as you kind of, we talked about the Inc 500 and some of those awards we got along the way we were sold out for maybe about five or six years. I mean, we literally like were billable and then we sell them our work, and our growth was constrained by cash timing. Honestly, I have to pay payroll every two weeks. My clients wouldn’t pay for maybe four months. Cause you have to do the work. You have to send the invoice. Then you have payment terms, cash would show up. And so we were constrained frankly, by just cash timing. Yeah.

Chris:
So if you had to pinpoint something that was a catalyst for that growth, I mean, it sounds like you were just booked every billable hour was booked. Was it a strong referral network? Was it a certain type of offering that was really unique? Or what would you say is the thing that really kind of started the hockey? I think

Michael:
It’s about relationships for me. Um, so, um, there’s only so many people who I hire a consulting shop of one at the very beginning. Right. And so those relationships that you have, you have to be able to deliver against your commitments. You have to have that track record. If you do, you have optionality down the road, uh, for us now, the first several years of growth were strictly tied to my relationships. At some point, we had enough capabilities and, and calls, uh, across the firm that we actually then very pinpoint, like whether it’s going to be going to automation or digital transformation or some of the offerings that we have, we built those capabilities.

Chris:
That’s great. Well, how about looking forward? You’re obviously very successful right now. Great team, great culture. Uh, what’s next for DayBlink.

Michael:
Yeah. I refer to it as kind of chapter two in the first decade, we kind of stood up the organization, we’ll build those capabilities, but I do believe we’re actually set up for, uh, hypergrowth. And in terms of the kind of, uh, uh, the next chapter, what does that really mean? In terms of percentages? It’s probably not a hundred percent gross or such, but it’s really about, um, having a foundation, understand the market opportunities and be able to go quickly after those, uh, whether it’s actually the started joint ventures or whether it’s a service offering. So on the traditional consulting side.

Chris:
Got it. All right. Well, everyone listening, I mean, you heard from Michael, a professional services firm coming from his consulting background to start out on his own as a one. And then a two-person shop, uh, created that perception of being a bigger company that could attract these amazing projects, amazing brands, and then put his own spin on the model to really invest in partner with those companies to incubate and build great ideas. He’s done a lot of great things. So Michael, if, if people want to look you up and connect with you after the fact, where can they find you? Yeah, LinkedIn is probably the best way.

Chris:
Hey, thanks for listening to the fastest-growing companies podcast. If you like this episode, be sure to subscribe and leave a review. If you found the information helpful, share it with your friends and family that can benefit from it. You can also find Trane UL’s company account at Trane UIL, just like a training manual. We’ll see you next time.

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