Last Updated on December 10, 2020
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About Michael Papay
My name is Micahel Papay and I am a proven HR technology pioneer with over 20 years of experience building and leading technology businesses focused on Human Capital Management. I currently serve as CEO & Co-founder of Waggl, an Employee Voice platform that crowdsources real-time insight to drive faster action and alignment around critical business topics. I am a frequent author and contributor to advancing the thought leadership around organizational learning and employee engagement, and my work has been published in Fast Company, Forbes, Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, and other leading business publications. I have presented at SIOP, ATD, HRWest, and other prominent industry conferences. I am on a mission to make the workplace more human by empowering the voice of employees and cultivating a more connected and engaged workforce.
Waggl is an Employee Voice platform that crowdsources real-time insight to drive faster action and alignment around critical business topics. Inspired by the waggle dance honeybees do to communicate vital information, Waggl believes every voice matters. Unlike heavy surveys or basic pulse tools, Waggl is a dialogue-first approach to engagement that creates shared ownership through inclusive team-based action planning.
I was drawn to this field because I wanted to help people become more connected and have more of a sense of purpose in the workplace. I’ve always had a passion for entrepreneurship. My mentor was Cal Wick, who I worked with at Fort Hill Company, where we worked with enterprise clients like Deloitte, Kaiser, Boeing, Cisco Systems, and more on how to successfully implement change management initiatives within their organizations. I spent my time there learning a lot about how leaders manage change, and how to take good ideas and translate them into action. What I’ve learned is that, most of the time, it’s about central concepts like empowerment, transparency, focus and design thinking. The trick is to take complex ideas and make them really simple for people to implement. That led me on the journey to found Waggl, where we empower the voice of employees to drive change and betterment inside their organizations.
How Did You Get Your First Several Customers Or Users? How Many Users Or Customers Do You Have Now?
When we founded Waggl in 2014, we saw that many organizations were struggling to achieve a more agile way to operate. We also recognized that managers and leaders want to be included in the conversation and feel like their voices matter. And yet, no one wakes up in the morning wanting to full out a survey. So, we recognized a huge opportunity in helping organizations to thrive by giving people authentic voices in the workplace, and in the process, make work a better place. The reality is that we’re working now more than ever. The average person will work over 70,000 hours in their lifetime (8 hrs/day x 5 days/week x 50 weeks/year x 35 years in a career). This far exceeds the amount of time we will even spend with our own families, even in the midst of a pandemic. And in fact, 40% of the US population believes it is impossible to succeed at work and have a balanced family life. So, it’s important that we make work a positive place to be. Our purpose is to help organizations thrive by giving employees a more authentic, genuine opportunity to be heard in the workplace. This, in turn, will help employees and their organizations thrive.
Waggl’s initial business development efforts focused on selling into our existing network of prior clients from Fort Hill and HR tech ventures. Since the Waggl platform was built specifically to solve many of the issues those clients had expressed in prior work engagements, it naturally opened the door to discussions, and usually resulted in subscriptions.Waggl now supports over 120 enterprise organizations.
How Does Your Company Grow And Acquire New Customers?
A big part of Waggl’s growth trajectory is due to our ability to win the confidence of large enterprise customers. In the first half of 2020, Waggl celebrated its sixth anniversary with notable growth, adding many well-respected brands to its client roster in a wide variety of industries, including healthcare, government, technology, education, financial services, fast-moving consumer goods, and more. The company exceeded its revenue growth goals by attracting a number of premiere new global clients, including Principal Financial, Sabra Dipping Company, MiTek, New Zealand Trade & Enterprise, the Ken Blanchard Companies, and four VA hospitals, among others.
Waggl has received a number of prestigious awards for its impressive growth in 2020. Financial Times recognized Waggl as one of The Americas Fastest Growing Companies 2020. Waggl retained a spot on the coveted Inc. 5000 2020 list of Fastest Growing Private Companies in the United States for the second consecutive year, with three-year revenue growth of 314%. It also ranked #250 on 2020 Regional list for California, placing #191 for Software and #63 for San Francisco area companies. Waggl was also included on the San Francisco Business Times’ Fast 100 list for the fastest growing private companies in the Bay Area.
What Actionable Tips And Tricks Do You Have For New Founders Who Are Looking To Get Their First Thousand Users Or Dollars?
First, you need to lay down a vision. Determine where you are, where you need to be, and a broad sense of how we get there. Then, have the energy, conviction, and belief that you can get there. Eliminate any doubt and negativity.
Next, ignite enthusiasm across the organization. Make it clear that you can’t do it alone — every team member has accountability for their contributions. Encourage a collective mindset: “We’re all in this together.” Cultivate teamwork, togetherness and camaraderie.
And finally, empower your people to make decisions. Everything is happening exponentially faster these days in the macro-climate, which puts more pressure on the traditional business model. So, decision-making and action need to be delegated accordingly, and people need to be empowered to achieve the objectives necessary to move forward quickly. Communicate wins and losses frequently. Make sure that people know where the organization stands, in terms of progress and feel empowered to contribute.
What Is Something You’ve Learned That Would Not Be Obvious To Somebody Who Hasn’t Worked In Your Space Before?
The most influential teacher I’ve had in my life is a gentleman by the name of Court Dunn. He taught me a number of subjects in middle school, and he was also my ice hockey coach. An amazing individual who flew airplanes, skied moguls in Telluride, and had many fascinating stories about leadership on and off the ice. We ended up playing in a tournament in Canada, and I remember him describing the rulebook for our trip and to start it was only going to be about a millimeter thick. Based on how we conducted ourselves, we would ultimately determine how many rules would be added — so in essence, he was letting us know that he trusted us, and we’d start with very few rules. That’s where I learned that extending trust is an important way to begin. If leaders can show that they trust their people from the start, it lays a solid foundation for the relationship going forward. This is even more true now, given the shift to remote work – begin with trust, and you may be surprised by how well things go.
What’s The Craziest Thing That’s Happened To You (Good Or Bad) On Your Founder Journey?
One time I was on a pitch with a large new business prospect, and while my colleague was giving a demo of our product, I was leaning back in my chair. All of a sudden, the legs snapped on the chair and I found myself on the floor of the conference room. The best part of it was that my colleague didn’t miss a beat – he looked over at me, could tell I was fine and just continued presenting. I still tend to lean in my chair, but my key take-away from that experience was “Lean forward, not back.”
What Are Your Favorite Books?
A book that I find myself coming back to more frequently over time called “The Killer Angels: The Classic Novel of the Civil War.” This book about the Battle of Gettysburg contains a story about General Chamberlain, who had a rag tag group of defectors who were on their way to an army prison. The General treated them with a great deal of respect and made sure that they were clothed, fed and treated properly. These soldiers had already served their term and wanted to leave, but as the Battle started to heat up, General Chamberlain asked if they would stay and fight with him and they agreed to do so. He ended up getting assigned to the left flank the evening before Pickett’s charge. That group held the line, even after they ran out of ammunition. The General called on them to fix their bayonets, and they charged the Southerners, even though they were outnumbered by a ratio of 10 to 1. Amazingly, the Southerners ended up retreating. Had they not held that line, it very likely would have been the turning point for this battle and for the entire war. I take great inspiration from that story, because it shows that treating people with dignity and respect is the right thing to do and will pay dividends when you need it most.
Anything You’d Like To Plug?
I’d like to pulg Waggl’s webinar series, which is designed to inspire people leaders and teams: https://www.waggl.com/resources/#webinars. We have a great library of resources on how to re-ignite engagement, communicate consistenly, listen with empathy, simplofy work processes, and use Employee Voice to listen and lead.
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Book summaries, notes, interviews, and more!
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