Trust, ‘ridiculousness’ key industry innovation drivers

IF you get to speak with Canadian expat and TaskUs Country Manager Robert Hayes, you will quickly find out he has a lot of good words to say about the Philippines.

“I love it here—it’s fantastic! I think the Philippines is one of those beautiful places in the world when it comes to tourism. I have gone diving here, which absolutely blew me away.”

“And I have great fondness for the food! I still continue to be surprised overall,” said Hayes, who first set foot in the country in 2008.

The people? He described Filipinos as “courteous”.  And “responsive”.

The second trait might have helped in being instrumental with the decision to set up TaskUs in the Philippines, as we learn more about the people who make up the company in this exclusive with the Businessmirror.

Meanwhile, we learned Hayes established TaskUs at this time when organizations are being driven forward with concepts of innovation, disruption and revolution. What exactly was his impetus?

“There was a group of Silicon Valley-based companies bent on changing the way the entire world works. Entities such as Uber, Airbnb and the like were looking for tech-focused resources that had ‘new-age’ approaches in doing business.”

“When TaskUs saw a potential need within companies of their kind, we eventually started to serve some of the biggest and most popular tech companies in the world,” Hayes explained.

According to the TaskUs country manager, their corporate culture is built around delivering the best employee experience. He said the company believes exceptional people thrive in an exceptional environment, in the company of other exceptional people.

This is the most crucial factor they have seen as to why clients want to work with them. Hayes pointed out, “We deliver the ‘magic’ behind seamless customer experience. Working closely with our clients, we focus on bringing innovation.”

He continued, “As an employer, I find tolerance for risk is a defining factor.  So, I guess the question is: How afraid are you of your employees making a mistake that is going to hurt your business? I think a lot of firms struggle with this aspect.”

“When one looks at other employers, there are rigid processes, regulations and rules. There is little room for creativity allowed. One is pretty much controlled within the environment he or she is in.”

“Until there is promotion within the ranks,” he proceeded, “A team member does not earn the right to make decisions on his or her own, so I think that leads to a certain degree of frustration. A lot of people might have better ways to do things, but they are not empowered to do so. It is because people are scared of what might happen when power is given out.”

Hayes said as an employer, the one thing he has proven time and again is that: If people are treated well, it begets trust, which allows them to be innovative and creative. Such can take the business forward, enabling that next leap which others cannot make.

“That’s the difference between TaskUs versus any other company: It’s all about building trust. The employee relationship is evident. Therefore, creativity and innovation can happen. Our focus has always been, and will continue to be, an employer of choice, enabling trust and accepting risks, which will allow great things to happen in the future.”

“And it helps a great deal that our work force is build around Filipinos, who are very responsive and are innovation-driven.”

Ridiculousness vs monotony

Hayes also highlights the value of “ridiculousness”. He proceeds to explain: More policies harbor rigidity, diminishing trust.

“So that’s where ridiculousness comes in. In fact, the only reason our company exists is because we were ridiculous enough as entrepreneurs. We started out with almost nothing: No office space; no capital; nothing. Yet, we chose to operate in a space surrounded by big names and known brands using what we have, which are appetites for risk and ridiculousness. Those are what got us to where we are now.  It was always about the questions of, ‘Can we do things differently? Are they ridiculous enough?’”

“Be ridiculous!” proclaimed Hayes, which basically meant innovation and creativity are really what TaskUs stands for. “That’s a core value we need to hold true to, and even as we get bigger; to fight against monotony.”

Hayes narrated how people are becoming more empowered than they ever have been; and conversely, they are seeking a sense of empowerment, as well.

“The concept of ride sharing is a classic approach to that, where one can drive part-time and make some money on his or her own. One is empowered to be an entrepreneur in that sense, and I think that mind-set will continue to expand.”

He furthered that in this time and age we are witnessing so many amazing ideas when it comes to new businesses, which we have not seen before—those which are born on the back of technologies. It makes places like the Philippines as, or more competitive than, places like Silicon Valley.

“I have seen a lot of really cool businesses coming out from the Philippines just last year. I expect the trend to continue and get bigger, and greater.”

Some of the most amazing parts of TaskUs today, Hayes proudly claimed, were all built “in-house” in the Philippines. They are being developed by people within TaskUs’s organization with an entrepreneurial mind-set.

Triumph among difficulty

The Canadian expat often quotes Theodore Roosevelt, as he echoes a saying from the American president: “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain and difficulty. I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives, and led them well.”

Although preoccupied with running TaskUs, which is based in the heart of Bonifacio Global City with about 8,000 employees, his foremost concern is his family.

“Pretty much my entire life revolves around them. I have two kids: a 4-year-old and a 2-year old.  My job is to make sure of their positive well-being, and that they going to grow up to be decent members of society.”

Likewise, he shared about spending time helping his wife with her children’s furniture business, called Petite Mamon.

Hayes also mentioned his love for video games. For sports, he is into swimming and weightlifting. “That’s more or less my personal life in a nutshell,” Hayes proclaimed with a smile.

He attributed his success to good-old grit and determination: “Some of the most worthwhile efforts involving pain and difficulty that I have had to go through over the years came from being a seasoned executive with over 14 years of experience in management. I also had the privilege to run organizations with a manpower complement of 5,000.”

“These businesses have hundreds of millions of dollars in yearly revenue and have grown every year, while improving profitability quarter over quarter. I have managed international launches, business intelligence projects, cash-strapped quarters and aggressive vendor negotiations.”

Thus, it was no surprise for Hayes to close his interview with a bold declaration: “I look forward to more struggles in the future!”

Image Credits: Jimbo Albano

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