By: Lea Hensel, UNI Business and Community Services
With an emphasis on company culture in this month’s IASourceLink, I hit the jackpot for the entrepreneur spotlight. It was recommended I reach out to Sean Abbas, Co-Founder and President of Threads in Cedar Falls, IA.
A little background about Sean as an entrepreneur - he has over 25 years of real-world experience managing people and leading companies and aside from Threads, he is also the owner of a manufacturing company called Baird Mounting Systems and a member of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry Board of Directors.
But the connection for this conversation was a result of Threads, which Abbas co-founded in 2012. Threads is a software company that gives organizations the tools to hire and review employees based on company culture. With over 200 clients in 34 states and seven countries, they are the highest rated performance management software out there. So one of the first things I wanted to know from him was his ‘ah-ha’ moment about Threads.
“That was probably 26 years ago. Just when we took the concept behind Threads and applied it to a situation we had been really struggling with and we got to watch how it worked at that moment,” he explained. How that all works into your company culture has to do with what Sean refers to as the “administrative tag” of communications and transforming it into person-to-person communication about things that are really working. Reviews in particular are not simply a Human Resources function to be checked off each year. There’s much more to it than that. He explained that perks and benefits do not make up company culture and even though spending is up significantly on things like perks, overall employee satisfaction is down. There’s actually a great video here that explains this in more depth than I’ll get into but my focus for this article is more on what advice Sean has for entrepreneurs just getting started.
Advice for Entrepreneurs
One sentence that encompasses his advice is, “At its foundation, it has to be your absolute passion,” he explains. With his background, he has seen many entrepreneurs who want to start their own business to make their own hours and be their own boss but what’s hidden underneath is the reality that it’s “an all-encompassing process that I hope people understand the level of engagement and work it takes to do.” He continues by explaining that, “being an entrepreneur means you’re going to work more hours than you want to work, it means you’re not going to have all the support you need, it means there will be dark times when you need to dig deep to keep going.” Aside from making sure it’s your passion, be realistic with your expectations, especially as you’re getting started.
Most Useful Resource
One of the main questions I always ask entrepreneurs is about the most useful resource they’ve used. I’ve received answers about associations for networking, resources for funding, etc. But true to the conversation, Sean’s answer was real as could be, “It’s no doubt my wife.”
He continues, “She knows exactly what goes into this, she suffers with me sometimes, she celebrates with me sometimes.” He highly encourages people to be real about what’s going wrong, just the same as what’s going right. Your support, whether it’s your significant other, family or friend, be real with them and trust them to be in this with you.
One unexpected turn in our conversation focused on the impact being headquartered in Iowa has had for Threads. “Being from Iowa has been fantastic for us.” As a software company, it tends to be a conversation starter and surprises clients to learn Threads is headquartered in Cedar Falls, IA. Sean actually shared that he has often heard that the “software feels like Iowa.” In that, it’s genuine and kind, as Iowans are perceived.
Entrepreneurs can learn a great deal from the key aspects of my conversation with Sean. First of all, make sure whatever you do is a strong passion. Be realistic and know it’s going to be difficult. And be sure to have your support system in place for those difficult times as well as the celebrations. When talking about being located in Iowa Sean said, “Not everyone wants to leave the state and we need opportunities.” So take Sean’s advice and take the next step towards turning your idea into a business creating opportunities for yourself and your future company.
You can learn more about Threads and Sean at threadsculture.com
. He also told me that he frequently presents for groups and organizations all over the country so be sure to catch his presentation if you ever have the chance!