Last month’s Business Success interview was with Dr Jamie Wilson, the founder and CEO of HomeTouch. He spoke to us about how his company is helping bring home carers to those who desperately need them, giving families the peace of mind that their relatives are being looked after.
For our first entry of 2017, we spoke with David Ciccarelli, founder and CEO of Voices.com, about how he’s bringing together voice talent with clients from around the world as well as his personal management style.
What’s the story of Voices.com in a nutshell?
Founded in 2004 and launched in 2005, the idea was written down on a napkin at the kitchen table by myself and my wife, Stephanie Ciccarelli. Fast forward to today and we are the CEO and Chief Brand Officer of Voices.com, respectively, as well as co-founders and co-owners, employing over 100 people at our office in London, Ontario, Canada.
Voices.com is the largest online voice-over marketplace in the world. Talent from around the globe, speaking over 100 languages and dialects, are connected daily to the job opportunities posted by 200,000 clients. Projects range from broadcast TV spots to audio books to e-learning videos, and everything in between. Clients include Microsoft, GoDaddy, Hulu, and National Geographic, to name just a few.
How do you stand out from the competition?
We view the traditional way of hiring a voice talent as our competition. Those traditional talent agencies are locally-based and showcase, at most, 100 talent from the surrounding area. By contrast, Voices.com is home to over 200,000 voice talent who speak over 100 languages and dialects, all of which are located all around the world. We’ve broken down time zone barriers, language barriers, and, often, cost barriers, thus making the process of hiring a professional voice an accessible one, no matter what type of creative project a client may be working on.
Describe your workspace. Are you tidy, or do you work in organised chaos?
I’m very tidy. A clean office, to me, is a reflection of clear thinking. When getting down to work, I like to minimise distractions, which is why, for the most part, we have a paperless office. I have a MacBook Pro which I plug into dual Cinema Display monitors. I find myself with data on one screen and a communication app on the other. Two guest chairs are available for collaborative work sessions, such as a group conference call, while a lounge area off to the side is more suitable for chats and conversations.
Tea or coffee?
I’m a coffee drinker. Ever since I had my first cup at a summer camp when I was 14 years old and having difficulty getting going in the morning, I’ve been hooked on both the flavour and the stimulating benefits of coffee.
How do you keep a strong work/life balance?
I view this more of a work/life integration. Balance suggests you are engaged in one activity or the other. Lately, I’ve found myself with inspiring thoughts when reading at home or spending time with the kids. I know that if I don’t jot down the idea in the moment, I’m at risk of losing it. That said, there are sacred times in our home that are strictly for family. For instance, we eat dinner as a family at the kitchen table every night, something my parents impressed upon us. And, each Sunday night, we have a special meal at the dining room table. Each of these moments allow for my wife and me to capture those teachable moments and hopefully pass along life lessons to our kids.
Which workplace habit can you not stand?
Gossip. In the absence of information, there is a tendency to fill this void with assumptions and speculation. These assumptions are always wrong and they only create confusion when clarity is needed. I jokingly refer to myself as the Chief Myth Buster because I feel that it’s my – and every CEO’s – responsibility to state our purpose, define the direction, and communicate consistently.
Who is your business idol, and why?
I admire Marc Benioff for the corporate culture created at Salesforce.com. As well, the company is leading an entire movement towards mobile and cloud computing for the business enterprise, which has inspired some of our own processes.
What is your management style?
If I could be so bold, I’d like to suggest that of a servant leader. During weekly 1-on-1s with my direct-reports, I always ask “How can I help? What barriers can I knock down for you?” I also enjoy leading by teaching others. For example, this past month we ran a ‘training Olympics’ for our team, which was tremendously well received. December can be a slow month for a lot of companies, which is why we took advantage of that to create an opportunity for departments to cycle through various mass training sessions, led by knowledgeable employees. As an instructor for some of the sessions, I had the opportunity to demonstrate my knowledge and pass along information about systems, processes, and our technology to those interested in raising their skills. I found the experience incredibly rewarding and reflective of the management style I strive to have.
What advice would you give to people starting their own business?
First, pick an area you are really passionate about. Too often aspiring entrepreneurs hear about a trend or spot an opportunity, but it’s in a field they know little about or have little desire to pursue. When times get tough, which they always do, it’s passion that will breed persistence. Next, my advice is to solve a real problem. Observe people, ask friends and family members what frustrates them – at home or at work – and then zero in on defining the problem with extreme clarity. Doing this will ultimately lead you to a proposed solution. Finally, pick a niche that is experiencing a real problem and you’ve got a solution that you believe will resonate with a lot of people. Then stick with it. It’s too easy to jump from one idea to the next without giving your original idea enough time to gain market awareness, win some early customers, and eventually see success. Stick with it!
What’s your secret to success in one sentence?
Finding a niche market with the aim to completely dominate it, followed by creating a culture where people want to be. It’s those people who will join you for the journey.
What will the future bring for Voices.com?
The future brings growth, innovation, and the pursuit of industry leadership.
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