225 - Start With The Systems With Rob Nickell - John Laurito

225 – Start With The Systems With Rob Nickell

In today’s episode, host John Laurito invited the Founder of Rocket Station, Rob Nickell, to talk about something that makes his company unique in terms of its process. Because while some companies like to go traditional and hire people and worry about systems and processes for the new role, Rob makes sure to put the systems in place first before hiring people for the roles. So listen to this episode and learn how this philosophy can also benefit you and your business.

Robert Nickell is an accomplished real estate investor and serial entrepreneur in the business process outsourcing industry. He is CEO of Dallas-based Rocket Station, which he founded in 2018. Rocket Station recruits and trains college-educated Filipino professionals to fulfill various remote roles at small to mid-sized American companies. Under Nickell’s leadership, Rocket Station has become a multimillion-dollar company with 10% month-over-month growth since early 2020 and more than 700 Filipino team members.

Rocket Station is the second BPO company Nickell has founded. For four years, he co-owned Dallas-based Investor Virtual Assistant Services, which provided outsourcing services specifically to the real estate vertical. Previously, he owned the Dallas realty investment firm Greenro Homes.

Nickell earned his BA in business and communications from Austin College in 2009.

Where to find Rob:


[0:00] Intro

[1:54] Rob’s philosophy in his business and what it looks like in action

[5:28] What “develop the systems and processes first” really mean

[9:49] Coming across the challenge of having everyone on the same page of the business process

[11:46] The ceiling of complexity

[14:12] Having harmony in the day-to-day business process as a company culture

[16:39] Where to learn more about Rocket Station

[17:39] Outro

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John Over the last two decades, I’ve been on a quest to learn everything I can about leadership obsessed with what makes the best leaders so good after running companies small and large for the last 20 years. Today I speak on stages all across the world to audiences who are interested in that same question. My name’s John Laurito and I’m your host. I invite you to join me on this journey as we explore this topic. What makes the best leader so good? Welcome to Tomorrow’s Leader! 

John Hey, there Tomorrow’s Leaders. So my only regret on this interview is it was short. I love talking to this guy. Rob Nickell. He’s the founder and CEO of Rocket Station, which is a staffing company that does, I think, some great stuff with regard to consulting as well and just their whole philosophy. Rob and I talked about how some leaders tend to hire people and then figure out systems and processes. His whole philosophy and his company’s philosophy is to do the exact opposite, reverse-start, with the systems and processes, and then figure out the people that you need. So just a cool conversation. Great guy. I know you’re going to get some really good value from this. Here is Rob. 

John All right. Welcome to today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader, where we dive deep on all things leader-related, related to leading yourself and leading others. I’m John Laurito, your host. Thank you for joining us today. I’ve got Rob Nickell, the founder and CEO of Rocket Station, joining us today. I’m really excited to have you, Rob. Thank you for joining. 

Rob Excited to be here. I really appreciate the time, John. 

John Yeah, you’re in sunny Dallas were in December and it’s 75 degrees and sunny. You got the life. 

Rob Man cannot complain. I’ve been spending many a day recently at the golf course trying to soak it all in before it gets too cold. 

John I love it. I love it, man. I’d be there. I’d be right there with you. Well, it’s great to have you on this show, and I know we were chatting a little bit about some of the things that that you’ve been going through. You founded Rocket Station in 2018. I know this was kind of the second iteration of the company. It sounds like you guys are doing some great things and I do want to talk a bit about the company. But one, I wanted to start with your philosophy because you said something that really caught my attention, and that many business owners and leaders, as they’re building and growing the business they think about, OK, they’re going to hire this person or these people, and then let me figure out the systems and the processes to have them work through. And your philosophy is it really should be backwards. It should be. That’s backwards. It should be the other way where you start with building out the systems and the processes and then figure out the people. Is that right? 

Rob Yeah. Entrepreneurs and business leaders are amazing at taking action, and a lot of their success is usually because of their willingness to take action and go-go, kick through some doors and run through some walls and get some stuff done. But as you grow and you progress, and you reach a certain size, it’s like if there’s fires happening, we just see fires as opportunities. That means there’s opportunities to solve an upstream problem before a fire should ever get created. And so we think if you throw people into a situation where there’s already fires and there’s not enough systems, processes, structure, clarity in place… Then just hiring people is going to create more stress, more anxiety, more problems than were there to begin with. So. So yeah, we think if you start by putting some structure in place, then you think about putting people there, then you’re going to have a whole lot easier time. 

John Well, and it makes a ton of sense. I remember a mistake I made once I was so focused on just finding great people. I found a great individual I remember and didn’t really quite have the role designed and defined and brought him in too early. There wasn’t really anything behind it other than, OK, I got a great person, part of my organization, you know, let’s figure it out together, and it just ended up backfiring big time. So I hear you big time from my own experience.  That’s pretty common, right? That type of thing? 

Yeah, your willingness to hire great people is admirable. I mean, we try to do the same thing. If we find somebody super talented, we want to make sure and bring them in and get them going in the organization. And I was lucky to have a mentor that asked me a really, really great question. Once I was having a hard time managing hiring, training, the whole process, the people problem in my business, and I was kind of doing the traditional complaining about saying things like finding good people as hard and then managing to get people is even harder. And, you know, turnover really sucks. And those types of things that my mentor looked at me and he just said, you know, he was dead serious. He said, Do you think people want to do a good job? And I was like, what? He said, You’re complaining about, you know, managing people and the chaos and anxiety you have and you hate driving into your office because you have to manage all these things. Like, do you think the people that are in your office that you’ve hired, do you think that they want to do a good job? And I thought about it for a second, I was like, Yeah, of course they want to do a good job. And he said, Yeah, if you believe that people want to be fulfilled, if they want to be content, if they want to do a good job, which I believe and I hope you believe to, then it’s your job to empower them to have the success that you’re expecting. And if you want to hold somebody accountable, there better be some systems and processes and structure to hold them accountable to. And so for me, the big AHA moment was realizing that I was. The problem in every sense, all these people problems I was having in the business were really just problems because I hadn’t done what I needed to do to empower my teams to do what I was expecting from them. 

John That’s great, a great point, and I love that. Can you give for the listeners that are out there that might be thinking and saying, Boy, OK, this is resonating with me. I kind of think I understand what Rob is talking about. Can you give an example of what that might look like to develop when you say the systems and the processes first? 

Rob Yes, so for example, we do a few things really well, so I’ll just talk about those things, and I won’t really talk outside my expertise. But like for inside sales, for example, sales teams are oftentimes, you know, sales is the lifeblood of the business. So we want to hire great salespeople and then we look at their tasks and what they’re responsible for every single day. Well, they’re responsible for generating leads, whether that’s from LinkedIn or wherever, like cold calling, cos they’re responsible, generally responsible for setting appointments, for showing up on those calls, making sure people actually get there and show up on those calls and then rescheduling if they don’t get contracts on the whole sales pipeline. It’s long, arduous, it’s complicated. 

Rob It takes a lot of work, each one of those phases. So a really great salesperson, if they’re doing all of those tasks, well, what’s the likelihood? What’s the chance of them having that much success? It’s not a ton. So if we want to get that person, some help to do this setting the calendar management, the chasing, the herding of the cats, which a lot of sales is if we want to get some help to support our rockstar salesperson before we just hire somebody. The first thing that we’re going to do is we’re going to go through every single step of that sales process to make sure that every step, every task, every single thing that’s done from log-ins. How do you log in? How do you access information? Where do you know if it’s what’s expected? I mean, how do you push people through the pipeline? What are the different phases mean? What’s kind of the lingo of the salesman? We want to document all of that stuff step by step, so that we have a living, breathing training resource and manual for someone else to be able to use. 

Rob So we want to think long-term. We’re planting seeds today so that we can reap the rewards of the future. And so it does a couple of things, but by documenting every single thing, you’re going to get some great clarity and alignment about what’s happening through the process. So oftentimes you’ll find inefficiencies and ways to improve the process by just taking a few step back steps back and documenting the entire thing. It’s amazing what you’ll learn from that process, and the team really comes together, and that’s a great experience in itself. But now hiring somebody and having an onboarding process and being able to train them and have the resources to do that pre-built is going to allow for somebody to come in just absolutely crush it from the beginning. It shouldn’t take somebody 90, 120, 180 days to kind of figure out their job because they’re learning it through osmosis. Somebody is just kind of telling them how to do their job all day long. We have structures. We have processes for how everything works. Now an inside salesperson can come in and support the team, get running really quickly, be a revenue generator for the team, and add a lot of value. A lot right at the beginning, and reduce that startup, that anguish that that whole led chaos of like, what do I do with this person? And you know, we hear sometimes so may say well, if I hire somebody, it takes twice as long. I could just do it myself by the time… It’s like, No, no, no, it’s because we need to put some structure in place. There needs to be clarity. There needs to be systems from the beginning. And then so then what if you need to hire a second inside sales rep? Well, now we have a process for integrating and all of a sudden hiring managing people becomes so much easier. And then, John… Culture. Now we could have a great culture because we got structure and clarity. So it all kind of builds for us. The building blocks, it’s all in the foundation and the foundation is systems and processes. Clean structure. 

John It’s interesting because you brought up a very valid point. There’s a lot of times just by writing that, by documenting that, you can find where your process might be broken or too many steps in it, or even unclear. I mean, I see with a lot of businesses, a lot of leaders, the leader he or she may be able to write out or describe what a process is based on what they want or what they assume the process is. But then you run it by the rest of the team or the rest of the organization, and everybody’s got a different understanding of the processes. So do you come across that a lot where there’s it’s not a function of having a process, it’s a function of having everybody be on the same page with the process? 

Rob All the time. Companies don’t become successful by being bad at what they do. So it’s not like everything in every business is just broken. And that’s pretty rare, right? Companies get where they are because they do some things really, really well. And that’s one of the most fun things about what we get to do as a company is we get to be a part of these amazing organizations doing really, really cool things, right? But there are opportunities everywhere. And if you’ve been doing a business even for a few years, by the time you get to three, four, or five years into a business, much less 10, 15, 20 years later, things just start happening and they die because they have right because people just do they make assumptions. And as things changed a little bit, you know, we’ve all seen if you’re a couple of degrees off, by the time it gets way away, you’re way off the mark, right? And that happens in organizations all the time where it starts off really tight and really clean because you either have a few people doing it, it’s new or it’s just the business owner. And then over time, things tend to get a little more inefficient, a little more just because that’s kind of the natural progression things people kind of move away from the structure. And so if you’ve got everything documented, you have clear SOPs and you have clear training manuals, then all of that it’s people want to know what’s expected if people don’t want to guess. And so the more clarity that you can provide, you’re going to see and create more stability. You’re actually going to create a happier workforce by creating more structure. It’s not about micromanaging to test. It’s about creating a path for people to know what success looks like. 

John Yeah, and that’s exactly right. And bottom line is that there’s no way you can scale a business without really getting the systems and the processes right and clear and consistent all across the board. So I see a lot of businesses that hit that ceiling of complexity. They hit a certain level and they just can’t grow. They can’t get out of their own way, almost. And that’s sometimes the issue is what exactly what you’re talking about. 

Rob Yeah. And companies are really good at their core competencies as we see it all the time. We’ve done this. We have hundreds of accounts right now that we work for and have seen many more. And it’s a very similar story where it’s, you know, software companies are amazing at developing software and health care providers are great at providing health care. We are a lot in real estate, and so you’ve got great real estate operators that are really good at taking care of people’s needs and finding how to really serve and add value within those communities. But business isn’t all about the core competency. There’s a lot of things that happen, a lot of ancillary tasks that are really, really important. So, you know, we talked about the sales pipeline for us. We have a consultation before you ever become a client. We want to make sure your partner, you’re a good fit. And so that that consultation, that’s the goal of our sales process and a lot of our clients. 

Rob It’s a similar type of sales process where you want somebody ultimately on a call. But there’s a lot of things that have to happen in order for someone to show up on a call and for those sales calls to actually happen. So what we want to do is take all of that chaos of the day-to-day, all the moving parts, all of that energy that it takes to actually produce the outcomes. We want a lot of clarity, a lot of structure, which, you know, ultimately, it’s that peace and calm where you want to fill. And that’s what we’re really trying to create, is that harmony, that peaceful business. And to me, that’s a really fun environment to walk into every day whenever you have. When I use that word peaceful, I legitimately mean peaceful because there doesn’t mean that there’s not a lot of energy, doesn’t mean you’re not moving really, really fast, doesn’t mean you’re not getting a whole lot done. But that doesn’t mean that there’s chaos. There shouldn’t be fires to put out all the time. There shouldn’t be, you know, you can have heated discussions about strategy and what the best decisions are and how what direction to take the company. That’s where I think if you want to have a heated discussion, in my opinion, save it for that. But the day-to-day operations, what it takes to run the business, let’s create some harmony. Let’s create some peace there and we believe it all starts with your foundation. 

John Yeah, that’s great. Very, very, very good point. And in reality, you don’t see enough businesses that have that peace. I know exactly what you’re talking about because I’ve been there where just there’s such a feeling of, Okay, we’ve got this, you know, we’ve got everything in place. We have the right people doing the right things. We have consistency in the organization, stability and that’s what everybody’s after. You know, nobody wants to be running around filled with anxiety and stress that’s not even necessary. And it’s, you know, it’s a result of not doing some of the things that you’re talking about. 

Rob Yeah, if I go on vacation, my phone’s not ringing. My hair’s not on fire. I’m on vacation. And when I come back, the business is in better shape than when I left it. So I mean it’s not because I’m a good manager. It’s not and I’m not a good manager. I have over twelve hundred employees, but that is not. I feel like I’m a very good leader in my organization, but I am not a good manager. And so I was for, you know, I can only relate to my journey and my story. And then I think it’s just pretty similar to other people. It’s like I am great at creating a vision for the business and understanding where we need to go. But when it comes to pulling every lever, punching every button and, you know, making sure that every single task and that’s just not me, so that that is just got it. I have to have a lot of structure in place so other people can perform those tasks and understand what the expectations are. And again, I mentioned it before, but to me, that’s where it creates a great culture. 

Rob So I love our organization and what we do and being a part of it because our culture is so amazing. The amazing culture is just a testament to the team. It doesn’t have anything to do with me as the leader of the organization. It’s the buy-in of the team and then implementing this structure and these, you know, holding teams accountable and creating clarity and alignment and structure. And through that, that alignment of the teams, everybody knows what the rules are. Everybody knows what’s expected of them and the company’s doing well. So we have a great culture. And so I think that’s the formula, whether it’s a virtual business like ours or you have, you know, I’m here in Dallas and there’s skyscrapers all around me full of people. Whether you have a business that’s in a big building or a virtual business, I think the formula is essentially the same. It’s just empowering your people to know what success looks like. And then when the company is winning and everybody’s on the same page, you’ve got a great culture. 

John I love it. Absolutely love it. So if people want to find out more about Rocket Station, what’s the best way for them to do that? 

Rob Our website is RocketStation.com. There’s some good information there, I think. So check us out. And there’s a schedule time now button if anybody is interested in how this could apply to them. I mentioned it to you before. I don’t care if you hire us or not, but if you have questions and you’re interested about how some of these concepts could apply to you and your business, spend 30, 45 minutes with us. We’ll answer any questions that you have. So just go to RocketStation.com. 

John Great. It sounds like a great use of time. Rob, this has been really great. I appreciate it. Great insights. I’d love to dive deeper. I know we’re out of time, but maybe we can get another time in. Book sometime down the road a little bit, do a part two of this. 

Rob That’d be great. I love the show. I really appreciate you having me on. This was great. 

John You got it and thanks to everybody for tuning in today on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader. As always, I appreciate you liking subscribing, share and all that kind of good stuff. Go down below, give a five-star review, and have a great one. We’ll see you next time. Thanks, everybody. 

John Thanks for joining us on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader. For suggestions or inquiries about having me at your next event or personal coaching, reach me at John@johnlaurito.com. Once again, that’s John@johnlaurito.com. Thanks, Lead On. 

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