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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Joel: What kinds of companies should be leveraging programmatic?
Andy Katz: Every fortune 1000 company out there. Anybody with extreme volume of jobs. You're recruiting for 20 positions a year, you don't need programmatic, you can go to a recruitment marketing agency or a job board and do a direct email with your company only. You're not in with another 20 companies and a job alert, or you're not just on a career site or a job board. You could do banner advertising, buy premium placements. So where programmatic again is one piece of the puzzle, it's not going to ever be the end, all be all. And I do believe all the programmatic platforms out there have ancillary services to support that, knowing that you can't just survive on a one trick pony. For more information, go to hiring.nexxt.com. Remember that's Next with the double X, not the triple X. hiring.next.com.
Chad: What about LinkedIn? What about Talent Hub? Because that's an entirely different product. What's the connection there?
Steve: Well, look, we're big fans of LinkedIn. We think the data from LinkedIn on the right hand, which is just amazing. The data on the left hand from iCIMS seems like it's a match made in heaven when you bring it together. And we know that, we've been doing some work with them to match up certain data elements and provide value to their customers. And we'll continue to do that. I think that we approach the need so differently than a LinkedIn, for example. And we're doing it reach scale, depth and breadth, the product feature function. And it's also the persona you focus on. Like we're focused on recruiter, hiring manager, candidate, you got to focus on all those. How do we deliver analytics to the CHR? Or it's this ... I'm not saying that [Inaudible 00:15:35.05] it isn't well-rounded, but we've been doing this for a long, long time and for very big companies and customers. And I think we've got that enterprise swagger, we're confidence, we've got that experience.
Joel: So when Chad goes high, I go low. He talks upstream with the big boys, I'm going to bring it down a little bit. And we talked to quite a few startups and HR tech startups, and they always ask about, what platforms should I integrate with? Who should I start with? And we were fairly critical last year of app stores or platforms that charge quite a bit of money to let technology firms build on their platform, and you guys went free late last year. Susan will correct me if I'm wrong. But you guys have a free ecosystem now. And I'm curious, what has that meant to the business? What has the growth been in the app store? How important is that to your future growth? And for anyone out there that's a startup or looking to build on a platform, I would think that this relationship with Microsoft would be added incentive to build onto iCIMS, agree or disagree? Talk about your platform.
Steve: I think Susan should go first because she was the powerhouse behind that decision.
Susan: You're right. The open marketplace, so to speak, where we didn't charge partners to participate, was actually a decision from the start. Where we felt it was important to really drive community and abroad ecosystem. I think they're going to be different models that we'll continue to look at over the years as they expand, as we go into new regions, as we move up market, et cetera. But I think it's still important that even with strategic relationships and these new models, that the power of scale and choice in the ecosystem will be there. And it shouldn't be prohibitive for two dudes in a garage to join this type of ecosystem.
Joel: And what's the growth been? And how will the Microsoft relationship impact the growth of the platform, do you think?
Susan: The growth has still absolutely been there? So we're at around 300 validated, integrated partners today. I think overall, we're closer to 700 vendors within the ecosystem. So that's certainly been really impactful for us. There are certain categories that we see go up and down just as things change. We actually, during the early days of the COVID crisis, we actually worked with a number of partners to offer free solutions to the customers, if they were mutual customers of ours, which was great to see. So there is power in the sense of the ecosystem. I think we're still early days in some of the Microsoft conversations, but if we put scale and scale together, that should be exponential for the community at large, no doubt.
Joel: Double the scale.
Susan: Double the scale.
Steve: scale wins. Like that's it. But for me, it's like, we got to take this whole thing of, is the app integrated or not? You just got to take it off the table. Like, yes, it's integrated. So I like the free aspect to it, I think we should continue to do that. For me, I think the question is, how do we help our customers better understand, okay, so it's integrated. What does that mean? Is it single sign on? Is it data? And have we certified the app? There's just a lot more that we need to do there. So we've got a good plan, and the Microsoft thing is just going to give us more and more scale.
Chad: Diving in further with the marketplace, this has got to be Mike Wilcheck's like favorite thing in the world, being able to snuggle up, look at obviously, the text recruits, the Jibes, now the opening.ios. Talk a little bit about that from an acquisition standpoint, because you guys obviously, are still playing off offense, which I love. You're not in the corner, in the fetal position, waiting for this thing to go away. ICIMS is playing offense, Microsoft big, big partnership. And then just yesterday, opening.io acquisition. Talk a little bit about that and how the marketplace is helping you really guide some of those decisions.
Joel: By the way, I think it's officially Death Match champion, opening.io.
Chad: Good call.
Steve: Yeah. I saw the badge. We'll definitely take that. So the marketplace itself is huge for us because it gives us a good sense of direction, which customers are adopting, what, and what do they like the most? And Opening happened to be one of those very, very popular things. By the way we used it, I know Microsoft uses Opening, and so it was like, I wish I could claim that it was more than just basic math, but like I can add, right? This was a no brainer for us. And so for us doing the talent matching capabilities, skill discovery, all that, our customers need that. And we're delivering that, and Opening gives us the extra lift that we need versus like, okay, let's just crack our knuckles and build this from scratch. But the marketplace itself, incredible insight, when you have that kind of scale that Susan and the team built, even prior to my arrival, the ability it's like it's just so enjoyable to walk in and go, okay, well, we've got like 700 different things that are... It's 700 different partners. There's 250 apps there, there are companies that have integrated apps. There's five or 600 now apps that are integrated. Just looking through that landscape and the intelligence you get out of it, it's not many companies in the industry that have that.
Chad: Yeah. Well, and big kudos on that acquisition. To be able to see matching over top of a candidate database for me is exciting because I know that your clients are spending hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars a year to drive candidates into that database. And then all it does is atrophy. And they continue to spend more money to get the same candidates over and over and over. So you will become more of a core system than before I think with this acquisition. But you talk about the Microsoft connection, how important was it that opening.io is a Microsoft house? Azure, AI, ML, machine translation, because it seems like just from the outside, like there's this courting that's happening between iCIMS and Microsoft. Microsoft couldn't put together an applicant tracking system, it sucked, but wait a minute, there's this iCIMS thing over here that's been kicking ass for 20 years, what kind of courting is happening?
Joel: Cue the Barry white.
Steve: That is an interesting thing to think about. What I will tell you is, I think that Opening, the whole Microsoft using it, this is validating for us. Right? Microsoft has a really, really, really rigorous qualification process for the technology they let in their door. Right? They're in a good way, very picky. And by the way, I actually applaud Microsoft, because to be a vendor for Microsoft, you actually even have to adhere to their accessibility standards. Your product has to be accessible for differently abled people. It can't just be, well, here's the software. So it's multilanguage, it's scalable. It's all that, but there's more to it. I applaud them for using their platform that they have, for forcing, forcing is a strong word, driving people to more positive... Look, it drives us all to make our technology and our companies better. So I actually like that. The Microsoft using Opening, hugely validating for us.
Joel: So Steve, I know you're a busy guy, I'll let you out on this. What's the future hold? I know that you've just come into this company, but you must have had a vision. I think your experience at Marketo is very intriguing. I want to know what the future looks like.
Steve: Well, the future, obviously, first of all, it looks like us doing what we do today better, faster, bigger, with more scale and reliability. But the first thing is, and this is like focusing on the companies that have kept us in business for 20 years, and have fueled our growth. We owe those customers innovation in terms of the look, the, feel, the experience of iCIMS that you walk away going, "Wow, that is next gen, it's cutting edge. Love it." And so we're focused on that UI UX experience. We also, we got to deliver, we're on the whole promise of, hey, we bought these other companies, we're integrating them. So that's like blocking and tackling, got to do that. Beyond that, for me, is our future is well, okay, we've got Opening. So we look at all these candidates sources out there that are outside your company. Why can't we help you look inside your company? Why isn't the company as a source for brilliant talent and understanding strong skills inventory, why isn't that part of what we do? And it should be. And so I would say that that's very much part of the future because I think the reality is, is that, especially in the world we live in, I think people are going to look inside as much as they look outside. That's one. And then two, is unequivocally, analytics, and I mean analytics in a unified, single lens across all of your candidates inside, outside, whatever that may be. We have to do that. And so we're going to do that. For me, those big areas of analytics, whether you want to call it companies, candidate source and term mobility. And then the biggest thing is driving real usable machine learning, not a clever name, like Athena or Bob, but it doesn't do anything. We're focused on our stuff, just works.
Chad: Well, you've got Al in place to make sure that that happens. And now you have Andrea, who is, she's going to be your portfolio manager on the AI ML side. So you should be set up pretty well for that.
SFX: Hell yeah.
Steve: Yeah. She is a gangster and I love what she does. She is that absolute rock star.
Chad: She is. Well, Steve, I appreciate you taking time out of the day.
Steve: Thank you.
Chad: Obviously anybody who wants to find out more about iCIMS can go to icims.com. Everybody knows that. Is there any parting words that you'd like to share with us about what's happening now or in the future with iCIMS?
Steve: We are playing offense.
Chad: And on that, I'll have to say, are you ready Susan, we out.
Joel: We out.
Susan: We out.
Joel: One more.
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