Ep. 71

Maintaining People Over Profits w/ Ashleigh Wilson

In episode 71, we talk with Ashleigh Wilson about what it means to show up to work as your true self.
Ashleigh Wilson

Ashleigh Wilson

CEO & Founder
Auditmate

What’s your focus: profits or people? Of course, there’s no reason you can’t have both: a profitable business and happy, engaged employees. In fact, Ashleigh Wilson believes that the best way to have a successful company is to prioritize your people. In this episode of the HR Mavericks podcast we talk with Ashleigh, CEO and founder at Auditmate, about how her mission-driven, human-centered approach has helped her grow her business. 

We talked about:

  • What it means to bring your authentic self to work
  • How to have a heart-centered corporate culture
  • Choosing investors who share your company values
  • Why it’s important for leaders to be aware of their blind spots
  • Simple ways to build a diverse workforce

Learn more about Ashleigh’s company Auditmate by visiting their website or checking out their LinkedIn page.

Episode 71 Transcript

You’re listening to HR Mavericks, a weekly podcast, featuring leading small business HR professionals who share their experiences and insights to help you know how to turn your HR processes and employee experience into a strategic business advantage. Let’s get into the show. 

[00:00:00] Garrett Jestice: Welcome to the next episode of the HR Mavericks podcast. I’m Garrett Jestice, and today I’m joined by Ashleigh Wilson out in New York City, CEO and founder at Auditmate. Ashleigh, how you doing today?

[00:00:14] Ashleigh Wilson: I’m doing so good. Thank you for having me Garrett.

[00:00:17] Garrett Jestice: It’s great to have you on the show today. I’m super excited to dive into our topic. I think it’s a special one. It’s an important one for sure. But before we do that, tell our listeners just a little bit more about you and also about your company Auditmate and what you do.

[00:00:30] Ashleigh Wilson: Yeah, so I am Ashleigh Wilson, founder and CEO of Auditmate. We are the first ever elevator and escalator auditing and management software. To which most people go, what the heck is that? And we found that building owners are only receiving 50% of the elevator services that they are already paying for.

And the elevator and escalator industry is an 80 billion dollar a year industry going growing to 120 billion dollars a year and just a few years. And so this, this industry is massive. There’s literally nowhere for us to grow but up, right? And so building owners are not getting what they’re paying for. So what Auditmate does is we created a software that audits all aspects of their elevator service vendor to ensure they’re getting a hundred percent of what they’re paying for and not paying any more than they should.

[00:01:28] Garrett Jestice: I love it. It’s so fascinating. I love learning about like little niche industries, things you wouldn’t have thought of before. Right. And you know, I, I found it fascinating reading just about how you kind of fell into this, kind of got into this. Tell our listeners a little bit more just about your background and how you decided to found a company focused on, you know, elevators and the service.

[00:01:52] Ashleigh Wilson: Yeah. So I’m an elevator baby, I like to call myself. I was raised in the industry. My stepdad was in the industry my whole life. I joined in my early twenties, and I quickly found that, that the profits in the industry were because customers didn’t understand their contracts. These contracts were extremely vague and confusing.

They’re, they’re, they’re intentionally confusing. And then elevator companies just simply not doing their job. And really what happened is me being in the industry, I started to live at odds with my values and morals, and I couldn’t do it anymore. Right. It just, it didn’t feel good. And, you know, being, being of a, a different gender than the majority of the elevator and escalator industry.

And being really values driven and really customer driven. I just, you know, it started to almost make me sick, to be completely honest. And I don’t mean like, oh, that’s sick. I mean like, no, like my tummy hurt. Like it made me physically sick. And so I, I left and Auditmate was born about nine months after I left the elevator.

[00:03:14] Garrett Jestice: Awesome. Well, it’s so cool. It’s fascinating to hear about your background and, you know, what led you to start this company. You know, what we’re gonna talk about today, as you and I discussed, what do we talk about in this episode, you kind of propose this idea of something that I know you’re super passionate about and it’s really about people, it’s people on your team, and, you know, I, I could, I could sense that as you’re talking about your background growing up in the elevator industry and why you started this business.

It’s really about taking care of people and it’s about maintaining people over profits. And that’s something I think that a lot of people hear about. We don’t often hear the CEO talk about that because as a CEO, especially a, you know, a software company, you have to maintain profits. You have to be able to show a good return and growth, and sometimes historically, people have that you’re at your company, your employees often right, are the, get the brunt of that, that are on the opposite end of that.

Right? So I’m excited to talk about this topic today and really dive in and kind of understand, you know, your experience. And so I guess just to start us off, what does it mean to show up to work as your true self?

[00:04:24] Ashleigh Wilson: It’s real messy. It’s messy to be completely honest. And that’s, I think that’s why it’s often you see big corporate America be like, be authentic. And it’s like, do you really want people to be authentic? Because it doesn’t fit in a suit, right. It, it’s, it’s not … it’s like be authentic, but also still be professional because you know what’s, what’s seen as professional is often not these different colloquialisms and different cultures and different, different ways of living that are really authentic and maybe professional in other countries or in other cultures is, is very different here in the US right? 

And we say that a lot at Auditmate. You have permission to be human. And what does that mean? What does that tactically mean? And for me, what that tactically means is you can call in with a broken heart. You don’t have to call in sick. You don’t have to lie and say that you have a runny nose when really your partner just left you.

Right? Cause it’s like I’m brokenhearted. I can’t think. Right? My brain is not functioning. I am grieving, and it doesn’t matter why you’re grieving, right. But to be able to have the space, and not that you have to disclose, that’s not what I’m saying. But if, if you do feel comfortable enough or be able to take a mental health day and not have to fake a physical health day, it means that you get things wrong.

I get things wrong a lot, right. We’re human and we’re building this massive startup together. So you go from running an idea to running a 12 million company in the span of just a few years. You’re gonna mess it up. You’re gonna put your foot in your mouth, you’re gonna not put people first. And then what happens when you build a team that expects a human centered environment that expects heart centered courage is they look at me and they go, You’re not living in our values. And I’m like…

[00:06:46] Garrett Jestice: hmm.

[00:06:47] Ashleigh Wilson: Yep, I’m gonna, I’m gonna go take a walk around the block , because you’re right, I’m not, right. And they, and we call, we call each other out. And it’s not, that’s, that’s, there’s no hierarchy to living in values.

No one is above it. And in fact, When you are above the rules, “rules,” your self discipline and your discipline to these values is higher, not lower.

[00:07:15] Garrett Jestice: Yeah. I love that. There’s so much, man, so much that you just said that we could unpack that I, I just love. I guess the, the question I have for you then is just, you know, is that what is showing up to work as your true self and creating an environment and a culture where people feel that and believe it?

Is that really, in your opinion, the key to this topic that we talked about maintaining people over profits in your company? Is that, is that the core of it? Is there anything missing from that?

[00:07:47] Ashleigh Wilson: Yeah, I think there’s a lot of organization and goals and objectives and feelings about objectives and conversations and you know, there’s so much more than that that goes into it because we’re still an organization. We are still profit seeking. We still have stakeholders to report to, right? We’re still a corporation at the end of the day. However, we be excellent to each other first, and sometimes being excellent to each other is being really organized and giving your updates on your objectives so that your boss doesn’t have to ask you and they can report to their boss or to the stakeholders.

Right? Being human centered is sometimes that that has to do with objectives, right? Because it is the most kind for me to meet things by the deadline that I gave you, or to tell you that I’m, I’m gonna miss the deadline. Right? So, so to take something that you see in a professional environment all of the time, which is an objective and a deadline to an objective, but to make it heart centered is, is like you’re allowed to miss it.

You’re not allowed to not communicate because not communicating is not kind.

[00:09:02] Garrett Jestice: Yeah.

[00:09:03] Ashleigh Wilson: Right, and so like we can still be heart centered and do all of the things that these big corporate environments are doing. We just know that we’re messy feelings humans, that all of that also is a part of the equation.

[00:09:19] Garrett Jestice: Yeah, that’s great and I love that. So I’m curious as the CEO, if you go to an investor or a partner and you say, our company is maintaining people over profits. What, what’s the response? Cause I, I could imagine a, I think there’s a change happening in, in a lot of companies, which I think is a great change where people are open and accepting and excited about something like that.

I could see 10, 20 years ago where, that would’ve been a very scary conversation to have, and you might have been cut off by investors or partners. So, so what’s that conversation like today? Like how, how do people you work with from your perspective as a CEO respond to something like that?

[00:10:05] Ashleigh Wilson: Yeah, I think that people over profits is also includes investors, right? I’m mission and values driven. I am likely not going to be the portfolio company that is a PR nightmare for you, right? I’m not going to likely be the company that’s going to be making these big risks that aren’t taking into a consideration my employees, my customers, my investors, those are my people. All of those are my people, right?

[00:10:36] Garrett Jestice: Mm. 

[00:10:37] Ashleigh Wilson: So for us, if an investor, if that is not attractive, me being absolutely above all else mission driven, then they’re not my investor. Right? And so if we get a response that it’s like, well, sometimes you have to make a decision for the profits.

They’re not my people. They, they don’t get to give me money. Right. Because we don’t, when, when we choose investors, it’s a two-way street. It’s a two-way interview. Right. You’re, you’re, you’re kind of like marrying these funds and so it’s, it’s really like, do our values and our missions align? And, and that’s really the initial conversations with investors.

And so all of our investors are also mission driven investors for the most part.

[00:11:26] Garrett Jestice: Yeah. I love that. That’s great. So I guess, and you know, the next question I have for you is what’s, what’s the benefit of doing this? If there are other small business owners out there who are hearing you talk about maintaining people over profits, what would you say to them, especially those who might be on the fence about, okay, what does that tangibly look like?

Can I really do this? Like what, what’s the benefit that you have seen for your company by really focusing on this and being vocal about it?

[00:11:57] Ashleigh Wilson: Yeah, the biggest one right off the bat is it feels better. It feels better. It feels better for you. It feels better for your people. Right? And if, if, if feeling better and having a balanced life and having solid mental health, which we know leads to physical health. Right? Science, science proves that all of this stuff is related, if that’s not a big one for you … interesting. Right. 

[00:12:22] Garrett Jestice: Yeah. 

[00:12:23] Ashleigh Wilson: But above, But, but other areas are, you know, your employee retention rates are higher, your customer retention rates are significantly higher. Your, your customer resolution, all of that’s gonna happen, right? You’re still going to be having hard conversations, and in fact, you might be having more hard, hard conversations, right?

But, but the difference is, is the conversation is hopefully including all aspects of the human, right. We’re not leading with these, We’re not burying these resentments. We’re not leading from a place of assuming we know where someone else is coming from, or my boss is treating me like this because they only care about this, this, and this.

No, we’re all talking. We’re all talking all of the time. We all have, there’s an alignment that you get with having conversations and like, our team knows where we’re at with, with investment and when we’re going out and when we need money and, and when my schedule is booked, why and when I’m going out and meeting with these people because I can’t show up in the same ways.

[00:13:32] Garrett Jestice: Right. And that’s important. And it’s like if we know someone’s tapped, are we gonna be like, Oh, hey, and also let me throw you this curve ball right now that has nothing to do with your … no, we we’re able to be more excellent to each other. It’s great. I mean, those are, those are some amazing benefits that you just talked about. So I guess kind of the flip side of that, you know, you’ve seen some of these benefits, but in your opinion, where do you feel like most business leaders are falling short? Like what are they not focusing enough attention on when it comes to this topic, and where do they fall short most often.

[00:14:07] Ashleigh Wilson: I might throw out a radical answer here, but…

[00:14:09] Garrett Jestice: Great. We love that.

[00:14:11] Ashleigh Wilson: I think where, where leaders are falling through is doing their own healing.

[00:14:17] Garrett Jestice: Hmm.

[00:14:18] Ashleigh Wilson: To be the best leader that you can be, you have to be radically aware of your blind spots, and that usually has to do with your trauma, and that usually has to do with how you were raised, and how you give and receive feedback, and how communication happened in your house.

And so there’s a lot that goes into how you communicate with your team, and how you’re able to be empathetic and compassionate and be seen and be heard, but also see and hear people around you. And in order to do that, you have to be able to look in the mirror and you have to be able to have others hold mirrors for you and take that into consideration.

And it’s hard and it’s ugly and it is not fun. It is not fun at all to be like to pop off on something and like lose your temper and then be like, oh, this is probably related to this and there’s this thing that I gotta go back in my past and heal in order to show up in this work thing that is completely unrelated to this other thing.

So I think for me it’s, and no one has to know about that at work. Let me be really clear here about like that. But I think that leadership coaching and therapy and mental health tools, and stress reduction tools are all so important to be able to show up in a way that allows you to be open and curious and kind and tolerant and compassionate.

My mantra lately has been, patience, tolerance, compassion and love, even when they don’t deserve it, and especially when they’re wrong.

[00:16:32] Garrett Jestice: Hmm.

[00:16:33] Ashleigh Wilson: And that has been … when it’s really hard because when people are wrong, I’m like, you’re wrong. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that they’re wrong because really they just wanna feel heard.

So does it hurt anything that they’re wrong? And if it doesn’t, why are we getting bent outta shape? I don’t know.

[00:16:56] Garrett Jestice: Great, great points. I love it. I, I mean, I, I, it makes total sense that, you know, where leaders often are falling short, is not starting with themselves. The best way to do this is to lead by example and to be transparent and to show some of your flaws and to get better over time. And that’s how people on your team are going to do the same thing.

So if that’s what you want them to do, you gotta do the same thing. I love that answer. So not, not crazy radical. I loved that answer. 

That was good. Well, I know we don’t have a ton of time left here, Ashleigh, but one of the things I wanted to get to as one of our last questions here is I know that you’ve done a great job at Auditmate of just achieving such a high rate of DEI, right?

Of having people feel welcome regardless of, you know, where they come from, their backgrounds or how they identify. So help us understand first what you’ve done at your company to, to create a culture like that, and two, how that fits into, again, this bigger idea of maintaining people over profits.

[00:17:57] Ashleigh Wilson: Yeah. You know, it’s interesting. We were at a some event and someone said, What’s your DEI index? And we were like, What does that mean? And they’re like, like, what’s your stack of people? And we were like, God, that’s so weird. You, people ask people that? Like that is the weirdest question ever. Like you say what percentages you are like, like we get what’s our tech stack, but like what’s our diversity stack?

That’s so interesting to me because we don’t think about people like that. Right. And I think the only question that we’ve asked in regard to diversity is, if we are about to hire a white cis male with an Ivy League background, did we look hard enough? That’s really the only time that we go is this, is this, did we look hard enough?

Right? And it might be the right candidate and I’m not discrediting that it might be the right candidate, but that’s really the only time that we go, are we sure? Did we look right? otherwise, we understand that more marginalized communities apply for jobs less, 60% when they don’t meet a hundred percent of the requirements.

[00:19:19] Garrett Jestice: Mm-hmm.

[00:19:21] Ashleigh Wilson: White males apply to jobs when they meet 40% of the requirements on average. So knowing that your candidate pool is going to be different based on just the psyches of, of different types of humans. So at the bottom of every one of our job descriptions, we say something similar to what I just said. We know the people applied, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

If you feel that you are the right person for the job, but you do not meet the requirements, email me anyway. I wanna talk to you.

[00:19:56] Garrett Jestice: Yeah.

We don’t have a requirement for a college education at Auditmate. Certain jobs you gotta, Right. You can’t be our attorney without passing the bar right there. There are some, some things that you absolutely have to, but you can be a software engineer and not go to a fancy school.

Right. You can be a data analyst and not have to college. It exists. It’s out there. Right. Is it more rare? Sure. But it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Right. And just saying flat out you have to have a master’s degree to apply to this conversation, apply to this job. You might not get the candidates that we want at Auditmate, which are radically loyal, which are radically mission driven, which are radically inclusive of the culture and want to build up this sense of having each other’s back and watching out for people. 

That level of grit that you have to have when you are coming up the ranks without the pedigree to get into these rooms, that person will, will run circles around a lot of college graduates.

Yeah.

[00:21:16] Ashleigh Wilson: So it’s just, it’s, it’s, it’s looking at people, it’s talking to people and not resumes. And it’s also being understanding of, different experience levels from different groups of people. Right. It’s going to be different. It, it, it might be different based on your background and your gender and inter xyz, right?

You might not have followed the same trajectory which is traditional if you come from a diverse background. And being sensitive to that and being understanding of that, you get a wider pool of generally pretty badass people.

[00:22:05] Garrett Jestice: Yeah, I love that. And one of the things I love most, it seems like to me, you know, from an observational standpoint that you think deeper about your people than a lot of companies do. Right? Just your example of, you know, the job description. Knowing those stats of what typically happens when people go to apply for a job, knowing who you would like to attract, and then bridging that gap and just being upfront and saying, we know that this is what typically happens.

If you’re in this boat and you still are interested, like, let’s chat anyways. Right. I I, what I like about that is, is again, it takes a, a level deeper of understanding of your people rather than just, we gotta fill these roles and we gotta fill ’em right now because we need someone here right away. Right?

And so when you’re, when you’re in that process, being able to pause and think one layer deeper about who, who do you wanna attract and make sure that there’s alignment on that across your team, and then thinking about what their specific needs are. I love that example because I think that illustrated that.

[00:23:08] Ashleigh Wilson: Yeah.

[00:23:10] Garrett Jestice: Awesome. Ashleigh, this has been such a great conversation. I bet we could just continue going for a while here, but I know we gotta cut it short here soon. So thank you again for taking the time to be with us and sharing some of your thoughts about, you know, the awesome company that you’re building over there at Auditmate.

If there are listeners that have questions about this topic and wanna get in contact with you, or if they wanna learn about your company, what’s the best way for them to do that.

[00:23:33] Ashleigh Wilson: The best way to get ahold of me is LinkedIn, Ashleigh Wilson. And the best way to find Auditmate is at auditmate.com or LinkedIn. We’re also on LinkedIn. We have some fun little cartoon videos about elevators. You’ll learn more about elevators than you probably would ever want to in a 60 second video, so…

[00:23:51] Garrett Jestice: That sounds fun. I’m gonna go check those out right after this. So Ashleigh, thank you again for being with us today. Hope you have a great rest of the day.

[00:23:58] Ashleigh Wilson: Awesome. Thanks so much. I appreciate it.

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