David Niu – Understanding Your Employees Clients


Dan Abbate is a Contributor on the Price of Business on Business Talk 1110 AM KTEK on Bloomberg’s home in Houston (learn more about Dan at www.robotaton.com).

He recently interviewed David Niu, Founder and CEO of TINYhr, a company committed to making employees happier and clients happier. David is an angel investor and serial entrepreneur. He dropped out of business school to found and eventually sell NetConversions to aQuantive “AQNT.” His next startup, BuddyTV, made the Inc. 500 list as one of the 500 fastest growing companies in America. He attended the University of California at Berkeley for his BA and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania for his MBA. David was named a “40 Under 40” recipient in the Seattle area, and is actively involved in the Entrepreneurs Organization “EO.”


Tell me about your firm.
TINYhr is a start-up in Seattle with 10 employees, and was founded in 2012. The inspiration behind the company came after I was so burned out that I bought one-way tickets to New Zealand for my wife and then 10-month old daughter. I called this my Careercation, and it ultimately inspired me to start TINYpulse, a survey product to provide managers a pulse on how happy, frustrated, and burnt out their employees are before they quit. Customers loved TINYpulse but kept asking for a similar solution to gauge client sentiment, which led to us launching CLIENTpulse earlier this year. With these two online survey products we allow companies to regularly “pulse” employees or clients to get quick, efficient reads on overall sentiment. We enjoy a robust set of clients across geographies and industries, largely I think because our business is just so universal. What business doesn’t want to retain its employees or its clients?

Tell me about an employee or workforce-related issue that your company was able to avoid.
We religiously use TINYpulse at our own company. Through feedback, I discovered that new employees had a dim view of our onboarding process. I realized that I had spent so much of my time finding and recruiting great talent to join our team, but then I immediately fell flat on their first day on the job. We started them out with a thud.

Based on this feedback, I decided to take the bull by the horns. I now tell everyone that I’m committed to going from “zero to hero” and that others will write about how well we onboard. Based on current feedback from the new class, we are definitely pointed in the right direction. Plus I know they appreciate my acknowledgement and commitment to significantly raising the bar.

What lessons, if any, do you derive from this experience?
When I first read the biting feedback, I immediately started thinking “who wrote this?” But I had to put my foot on the emotional brakes and heed my own lessons to clients, which is “focus on the what not the who.” After I got past that, I realized how valuable their feedback was. I had a complete blind spot and thanks to their comments I’m not only aware of it but have since been able to help develop a robust onboarding process for future cohorts of new employees. For that, I’m humbled and will always remember this moment.

What industries seem to be the most prone to workforce-related problems? Why do you think this is?
Corporate culture challenges are actually pervasive across industries and geographies.

When I look at our client list it really does span industries, geographies and company size. And this makes sense to me—as a manager, I know how challenging it is to attract and retain top talent. And I’m no different than my peers at our client companies. We all know that the main driver of employee engagement is providing collaborative and transparent environments. But we all know we have blind spots. Just because we think our company has a great culture doesn’t mean our employees do.

We’ve all experienced that haunting feeling when a key employee submits their two weeks notice out of the blue. TINYpulse helps leaders across all industries avoid this sinking feeling.

Are there any “standard tips” on how to avoid these situations in the first place?
We are very strong proponents of the idea that if you don’t ask employees how they feel you will never actually know. And we think that anonymous employee surveys are the most efficient and effective way to gauge employee sentiment, something that translates directly to employee engagement.

I’d say our top four tips are around how to field employee surveys:
1.  Anonymous. Surveys must be anonymous so that employees provide candid feedback
2.  Short. Keep survey short. No one wants to spend 20 minutes to see they are only 12% done.
3.  Share. Leaders need to share results with the entire team to engage them and have everyone collectively address challenges that arise.
4.  Act. Managers must create positive change by acting on feedback. Otherwise they are only providing lip service that disengages the team.

Contact information:
Visit Tinypulse.com to learn more about fielding effective employee surveys
Visit Tinypulse.com/book to learn more about David’s Careercation
Visit Clientpluse.com to start learning how your clients feel about your services

Thanks so much, David, for taking the time to talk with me today. Workplace horror stories are common enough things, and there are definitely lessons to be learned from them to protect yourself and the business you have worked so hard to create.

Do you have an interesting workplace or employee horror story how you turned the situation around? Tell me about it! Email me at dan (at) robotaton (dot) com.