iCIMS Offense w/ CEO Steve Lucas

Newly minted iCIMS CEO Steve Lucas has had quite a whirlwind since heading-up the company in February.

Aside from a global pandemic, which led to a round of layoffs, the company has gotten snuggly with a little company called Microsoft and acquired hot startup and Death Match WINNER Opening.io. So, the boys obviously had to get him on the horn and find out the 411. Oh, and longtime friend of the show Susan Vitale, the company's CMO, joined in the fun too.

Enjoy this exclusive podcast brought to you by Nexxt.


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Intro: Hide your kids, lock the doors, you're listening to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheesman are here to punch the recruiting industry, right where it hurts. Complete with breaking news, brash opinion and loads of snark. Buckle up boys and girls, it's time for The Chad and Cheese Podcast.

Joel: All right. All right. All right. What's up everybody. I am Joel Cheesman, co-host of The Chad and Cheese podcast, and I am joined by my faithful, Robin, Chad Sowash.

Chad: Fuck you.

Joel: We didn't really work that out before the intro but

Chad: Superman. How about that?

Joel: Yeah. All right, fair enough. Fair enough. And we are pleased to welcome

Chad: Yikes!

Joel: ... Wow, what an honor. The newly minted CEO of iCMS, Steve Lucas, and our good buddy, Susan Vitale. Holy crap! What deal with the devil did we make to get you two guys on today?

Chad: I don't even want to ask.

Joel: Welcome to the show guys.

Chad: Okay. So I've got to say... Right out of the shoot, I've got to ask, because Steve, you've literally been in the seat for like four months, so you were hit square in the chops by COVID-19. And everybody is reeling, we weren't prepared for this crisis. The nation wasn't, companies weren't, it's ridiculous. You are in the seat for four months, but yet there's a lot of shit happening at iCIMS. So tell us how you guys, a global company, you're navigating in this global crisis.

Steve: Yeah. Well, and first of all, I appreciate the latitudes. Actually. I've been in the seat, technically speaking, next week it'll be 10 weeks. So

Joel: Old timer.

Steve: Exactly. I'm still bringing the baby version of, you measure in weeks, and then at some point you get to it. I started the week before the global pandemic really hit in full force, and it's surreal to start at a company and... I've had nothing but good feelings and happy to run the company, and I look back and I go, hey, over the past two and a half months, would I do anything differently? No, I wouldn't. It's been hard, and it's been hard for everybody. This whole weirdness of work and family and home, and we all like to compartmentalize things and it's like the Seinfeld thing where all my lives are coming together and intersecting but it's

Joel: Worlds collide.

Steve: Yeah. More people with kids and cats than they ever have before. It's been challenging. It has. More because, I don't know how you guys feel about it, but it's just like this intensity to like, Zoom meeting, Zoom meeting, Zoom meeting, Zoom meeting, and there's no bagels. And I need a bagel.

Joel: No bagels in Jersey. Are you kidding me? Susan.

Steve: Yeah. Well, no pauses right now. So it's been ... The intensity level is way up, and I think the biggest thing for everybody, me included, is, where is the work-life balance? Right? So we got to figure that out. But the company's leaned in, we're 100% remote, which is good, kind of scary, I had to make that choice on day nine.

Chad: Wow.

Steve: Yeah. But, Susan, partner in crime here, along with... There've been... The good news is there's a lot of long time, execs at iCIMS, so I wasn't exactly operating in the blind, so to speak.

Chad: Yeah. Well, and you had to make hard decisions already. Let's go ahead and slap this one on the face, 10% of a cut that you had to make. And as we watched a ZipRecruiter go with 40%, CareerBuilder, we saw all of this, and then we heard this coming from iCIMS. This, obviously it's not something that you have to do, that's easy, but can you tell us a little bit about the guide that you took from leadership that have already been there for years and how they helped you through all of this? Or did you just come in and know exactly what you wanted to do?

Steve: I could unequivocally tell you that the day I started, this was not my plan. And I don't mean to make light of this at all, because to me it's the hardest decision that you can ever make as a leader, is impacting people's lives and their jobs. And you think every day, every minute leading up to, and post that decision about the impact that you're having, and how disruptive it will be for the people that are affected. And it's a gut punch. And as hard as it is for you as a leader, you also have to pause and think, but it's a lot harder for the person losing their job. And that is not lost on me. And when I came into the company, even just, I'd been at the company four weeks and you're sitting there staring into a bit of a economic abyss, where some CEOs and economists you talk to they go, "Well, it's the end of the world as we know it, and we're just going to go, kind of implode." And another is saying, "Well... " It's like, I heard more sharp V's and shallow U's and all this in like a two week period, then I carried a dialogue on for the rest of my life. But when I looked at the data, I tend to run a company and make decisions as a leader a lot like how I would run my household. Which is, it's a very simple thing, is if we have to cut back on our spending to live within our means, then that's what we do. And those are hard things to choose because it can affect people in not so positive ways.

So for us, we walked in Jan one, we said, "Hey, this is going to be our biggest growth year in history. We've continued to grow," and by the way, we are continuing to grow, but we staffed up to record levels. And when you look at that on the left hand, then you just have to be as a CEO, your job is to, on the right hand, say, look, I have to create stability and security for our employees. Yes, absolutely. Number one. But also for our customers, we have to deliver a service. And if you started to do the math and say, well, if we're going to have economic instability and top-line revenue may be unpredictable, we have to make a decision. And I'm not one to sit on things. And I think as we... There's no credit due here, it's just, as we made the decision very early, to work from home to protect our employees, and I think we helped protect people as best we could, we've also made the decision to, protect the company, and did it in a very challenging environment. And I think you can always question, did we communicate it the right way? Or was... There is no perfect way to handle things like this.

Chad: Yeah.

Joel: So, working from home, Steve, and Chad, and I know that you guys have a beautiful headquarters facility, that's empty right now. The plan going forward, if you had a crystal ball, will you guys be staying at home for the foreseeable future? Will you slowly, gradually move back into the headquarters? What's the plan there?

Steve: Well, definitely stay at home until we feel that... Especially in Jersey. Yeah, we do have an awesome facility, like day one when I showed up, I'm like, "Holy crap! There's an iCIMS flagpole. I love that."

Joel: You knew you made it at that point.

Steve: Exactly. You've arrived. So, for me, we've got to get back into the office, we have great facilities. The good news is, we actually have access to an extra floor that we can build up, because we're totally going to have to social distance in six feet cubicles or whatever, that's just not going to work. So we are going to get back into the office, we're going to do it in a staged manner, and then we'll practice some, I like to call it physical distancing. Because I just think I'm a little on the like, I actually don't want to socially distance, I just don't want to get coronavirus or whatever. But for me, it's definitely making sure that we ethically source protective equipment, like, we can't be buying it in front of a hospital. So that's a big thing, we've got to give people protective equipment, we've got to social distance and then we're going to turn the lights on for the office one switch at a time.

Joel: I'm curious about the state of the business. You mentioned that you guys were still growing, but obviously businesses are challenged right now. Do you find some attrition in some places? If you are growing, where is that growth coming from? I think for the most part, people think of ATS's as largely protected because you make a big commitment to have an ATS, but businesses are certainly challenges. So where's the growth coming from? And where are the hurdles that you're seeing now?

Steve: Yeah. Well, I think we have the good fortune of, our business is fairly balanced across our core ATS that we've been building for a long, long time and innovating on and in. We have our communication suite, which is all about texts engagement on the left hand and on the right hand, our recruitment marketing platform. And those came through the acquisitions of text recruiting, Jibe, as you know, that are now many moons ago. But having a more balanced business is a really good thing. So happy about that one. And then two is, yeah, I think, an ATS is a big investment. For us, we've been actually using, it's anonymized, but our aggregate data to help guide our decisions. So if you look at the 4,500 customers that are using iCIMS, I can tell you in advance what unemployment's going to look like next week by industry based on job postings, hires happening all through the iCIMS system. We can literally correlate and there's a super tight correlation. We've got our analytics team. So Ray is now handling that and it's a good set of data. It's actually very good. And so for us, it's like making decisions on, hey, it looks like there's hiring in domestic manufacturing. Great, let's supply salespeople there. Or... And by the way, we've not held this data for ourselves, we're sharing the full set of data with all of our customers.

Chad: That's awesome. Let's move a little bit into the iCIMS snuggling up with Microsoft, area of the conversation. That to me, I think incredibly smart. I know that Microsoft has used iCMS as their applicant tracking system for years now, but tell us what that actually means to iCIMS to partner with the Microsoft ecosystem. And providing, that's your software, in the Dynamics 365 human resource, like the comprehensive suite that they have. What does that mean for you, overall from a growth standpoint?

Steve: It means everything.

Chad: Expound.

Joel: Yeah.

Steve: First of all, it goes without saying Microsoft, their scale is, I don't know what measure we're going to use here on this nice podcast. Let's just call them intergalactically huge. Right? For me, we have great partnerships with a number of companies. So ADP, Ceridian, Ultimate, we're going to continue to do that. And what is cool to me is like, if you look at the HCM landscape, we now partner with four or five, I don't remember, Susan, you have to correct me, of the seven largest players out there. Right? And that's exciting, number one. And then number two is, for Microsoft in particular, they dabbled in talent acquisition ATS. They kind of liked it and they built some stuff and they pulled back from it and sunset things. And for us, it's about we're coming in and we're delivering the best product, obviously bias, but the best product that we've been doing for freaking 20 years. Right? So we're committed to this space if it's not demonstrated by two decades. And that's what we're going to continue to do. What this unlocks for us, Microsoft has one of the biggest, if not the biggest software sales forces in the world. They've definitely got one of the biggest, if not the biggest ecosystems These guys have 80,000 reseller partners. So yeah, this is scale that's really unmatched.

Chad: With that scale, you're going to have to deliver. Are you guys ready to deliver at that scale? Because again, that's intergalactic scale, Steve. You've never, ever had to deliver at that scale.

Steve: Yeah. I think that in some areas we are well prepared and ready and in other areas we will be. I think the reality is like, do you have the confidence in your technology platform that you can extend it laterally to scale out? Yes, we absolutely have that. Are we dialoguing with a technology vendor or a strategic player around how we do that at intergalactic levels? Yes, more to come on that.

Chad: we'll get back to the interview in a minute, but first we have a question for Andy Katz, COO of Nexxt.