Integrating People, Processes and Technology With Hardik Parekh and Adrian Chu

By PeopleLeaders | People Leaders Podcast

Hardik Parekh and Adrian Chu People Leaders Podcast

Hardik Parekh, CEO and founder of Searce, believes that the potential of people, processes and technology working together has the ability to change the world. He is passionate about working with people who share this belief, and who have a desire to make work and life better. In this conversation, Hardik and Adrian Chu, country manager of Australia and New Zealand, discussed on the podcast how their approach is working to improve the world of work.

In today's rapidly changing business landscape, leaders need to be aware of the tools and skills necessary for innovation. This includes the ability to connect with people across different geographies and cultures, as well as the use of digital collaboration tools. Leaders also need to have a strong social media presence and the ability to listen to and learn from others.

The company has an open platform for sharing wins, losses, mistakes, and suggestions in order to improve the organization. The philosophy is one of ‘blameless root-cause analysis’, and every meeting starts with the leader admitting what they could have done better. This creates an environment where people feel more open to admitting their own mistakes.

Episode Highlights:

  • [02:03] The Changing World of Leadership
  • [04:17] The Rise of Community-Based Leadership
  • [06:12] Happier Work
  • [08:02] Social Listening Skills
  • [09:43] Celebrating Mistake Makers
  • [12:34] Learning From Repeated Mistakes
  • [14:12] Have You Solved Things Differently?
  • [17:03] Be Brave and Fail Fast
  • [19:34] Better Than Our Best So Far
  • [21:05] The Hard Thing About Hard Things
  • [23:13] Earning Trust
  • [26:05] Managing Prickly Personalities
  • [27:46] Thinking Out Loud
  • [29:29] A Happier Culture Deck
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Jan Terkelsen: [00:00]

Well, hello everyone. Welcome to the People Leaders Podcast. I am flying solo today, and as, when I fly solo, I always have some wonderful, interesting guests on and this is definitely one of them. And we've actually got two people who are coming on, which I'm really excited about. So I'd like to introduce you to them.

Hardik is the founder and CEO of Searce and has a passion for people, processes, and technology. He believes in the combined potential of the three to transform the world. Hardik enjoys working with passionate people who believe in the power of possibilities, who carry the passion for tech. And have a deep desire to make work and life better.

Well, he is definitely someone that we want to hear from. And also, Hardik is the global CEO of Searce, and then we've got the country manager of Australia and New Zealand who is also going to join us. And that's Adrian Chu. So good morning.

Hardik Parekh: Good morning.

Jan Terkelsen: Yeah. And now some people are actually going to be listening to this in the afternoon, evening, or in their bathtub.

So, welcome to anyone who is doing whatever they're doing, listening to podcasts. And anyone who is listening to podcasts, especially in this area, are interested in growth and development of themselves, their team, or their organisation. And so this is why we, we want to get as much information to you as possible.

[02:03] The Changing World of Leadership
Jan Terkelsen: So, Hardik, let's just jump in. I'm really interested, like when you say that the combined potential of people, processes, and technology have that potential to change the world, we totally see this from small businesses right through to large organisations, but what I am interested in is leadership as well. And so, being the head of such an organisation, what changes are you seeing in your industry in particular as it relates to leadership?

Hardik Parekh: Well, thank you for that question and thank you for having me here. This is very, very relevant currently, every industry is going through phenomenal changes, in our industry, which is primarily in the cloud AI consulting, high end professional services, there is a lot of change that happens every week.

Every week there is a new technology that comes out. There is a new service. There is new way of doing things that gets into action. Either one of the hyperscalers, either Google, AWS, any of these partners come up with some kind of a technology that really transforms the ability for a business to do a particular business process much, much, much better.

And this is having your eyes and ears open to what's possible is something, which is a very important need of the current leadership in our industry. The need to learn and adapt and listen to those changes, observe and kind of adapt super fast has always been the need for any successful leader.

But it's all the more a case for our industry, primarily because there are a lot of things that change every week and every month, and a lot of businesses get disrupted. There are new kinds of startups that emerge. And it's just the adaptability to two changes is one of the important trait that I continue to see in the leadership, that becomes successful.

[04:17] The Rise of Community-Based Leadership
Jan Terkelsen: Oh, absolutely Hardik, and Deloitte have done some research around, what are those tops skills that are needed, and one of them is that adaptability and flexibility because as we know, change is the new normal.

Adrian, I'm interested from your perspective being the country manager of Australia and New Zealand. Is there anything that you'd like to add to that around leadership?

Adrian Chu: Yeah. What we're seeing is, I guess from the post pandemic era, the rise of community-based leadership and I guess what we're seeing is organisations coming together to solve the same business challenge. So very interesting perspective in terms of seeing, the rate of change is phenomenal as Hardik mentioned, and what we are seeing is the ability for multiple organisations to come together to really drive efficiencies, through solving challenges for both organisations.

We've also seen productivity tool integration across business units and partners, and technologies solve a lot of the issue. It is very prevalent at the moment that cloud adoption is no longer fashionable, but mandatory for driving business efficiencies for digital transformation agendas, and that's common across the globe, so they're probably the key things that we're seeing.

Jan Terkelsen: Beautiful. And then from someone who doesn't own a global organisation or is part of that, just having multiple partners, where you can actually come and collaborate and, whether or not it's similar industries, obviously that's where you can share that product tool integration. However, if you're a service industry, that's a way that, people can really collaborate and I think that's one of the key skills as well, collaboration. That's going to be really important.

[06:12] Happier Work
Jan Terkelsen: So what tools and skills do you think leaders need to be aware of knowing that there is such an incredible rate of change and expectation around innovation?

So, Hardik, can I start with you and then I'll ask Adrian to comment?

Hardik Parekh: Thank you. The demographics of the current workforce is changing very, very fast. It's also becoming multicultural, multi-generational and the ability to communicate across and connect with people across different geographies, across different cultures, across different generations. It's very, very important.

So some of the digital collaboration tools that Searce advocates for this and we also are one of the largest partners for Google Workspace and some of the other tools that we use. We have built our own platform called Happier Work Platform, which is an HR software as a service platform. Enabling some of these skillsets is something that we continue to see a greater and greater adoption for.

Awareness of some of these new technologies is one thing, but being able to connect the technologies with the right application areas across different parts of the business is the other dimension that is becoming all the more critical and important, and that's the reason why I do feel that that leaders who have that skill set to be able to have the applied tech mindset, are the ones who are growing much faster and smarter than the others.

[08:02] Social Listening Skills
Jan Terkelsen: Love that. Thank you. I'm just taking notes. Thank you. And Adrian, any comments or additions to that?

Adrian Chu: Yeah, I'd suggest that, extremely strong social listening skills and building a resilient mindset is mandatory for the leader of today.

And access to diverse thinking and nurturing growth in others, is critically important with any leadership role and also promoting a culture that celebrates success and failures. Shows the true intent to launch a problem and build from those experiences. Searce is a wonderful example, in terms of building and sharing knowledge across the organisation.

We have an open platform that we share wins, losses, improvements, suggestions. We harness the ability to draw upon the skill sets of our global workforce to accelerate improvements throughout our organisation. So really important that every voice is heard and we take the good and the bad and we build upon our successes and try to accelerate our growth.

Jan Terkelsen: And this is what I love, is that it's not only that you espouse that, but you have created a process and an environment that is working towards the behaviors that you want to observe and see. And I think, when you get the people and the processes and obviously what you were talking about, the technology integrated, that's when you can embed it.

You can really see it in the culture, so it becomes enculturated. And that's what is very powerful.

[09:43] Celebrating Mistake Makers
Jan Terkelsen: So were there any hiccups with this open platform of sharing wins, losses, mistakes and things like that? Because I can imagine people want to promote their strengths and what they're doing well, how was that managed?

Hardik Parekh: We have open groups where mistake makers are celebrated actually. So experiments are encouraged and people who make mistakes, we have this philosophy of blameless root cause analysis and every major meeting that we go to is followed by what could we have done better?

And it starts with the leader in the room admitting first as to what is it that they could have done better. And when it begins with that kind of a mindset, then people start becoming more open to accepting that the leader is a human as well, and I can be human too, essentially.

Jan Terkelsen: Awesome.

Hardik Parekh: I think that's the direction in which we have kind of done this and there are quite a few such rooms, which just discuss, how can we become better? How can we solve better?

Jan Terkelsen: Thank you and Adrian.

Adrian Chu: Look, I think Hardik has summed it up very well. Having that right level of agility and empowerment to not be shot down in a safe place is very important for our people.

And that's how we learn. That's how we grow and that's how we build a community of respectful employees that want to do the best by the organisation and want to personally see their own development. So it's a very empowering organisation to be a part of.

Jan Terkelsen: Oh, it sounds it. And the thing, cuz one of the questions I was gonna ask is, can you share some examples of how you create a constructive workplace culture? And the fact that leaders share first, is very powerful, especially when you are sharing vulnerabilities or mistakes or things that haven't worked because then, like you said, Hardik, that it shows that they're vulnerable and they don't always have the answers.

I love the fact that you have feedback and constructive feedback at the end of meetings, what could we have done better? Because again, you've baked it in, you baked the process into the way in which you operate. And the fact that you said that experiments are celebrated and you really mean it, because it, that's the thing about making mistakes, it shows that you've never done it before. That's why you've made a mistake. So there is something that pushes those boundaries.

[12:34] Learning From Repeated Mistakes
Jan Terkelsen: Okay. So just a curly question here, Hardik. So, experiments are celebrated and mistakes are obviously part of that process. What if someone keeps on making the same mistake?

Hardik Parekh: It's a very, very, very good question. Either the skill sets are not right or the role is not right in that case. And we try and figure out a way in which we could provide, enable that individual with learning. So there is a learning enablement team. Additionally that could be the role not being right because there are some people who are not meant to do certain things and you cannot ask a zebra to do the job of an elephant and things like that.

So we need to figure out as to how do we assign the right roles to the individuals such that they could make less mistakes. But the overall philosophy is encourage experiments, celebrate mistakes, and the passion is always required while we are continuing to do this.

So if the outcome mindset exists in the individual. We, the person who is making the mistake is self aware and is already needing a lot of help because of the fact that there is an ownership mindset. And that's the kind of people that we try and bring in and give them with more responsibility than what they have done in the past so that they can continue to grow and learn.

[14:12] Have You Solved Things Differently?
Jan Terkelsen:

Thank you. So I'm interested in what Searce does, but how does it really enable business leaders to succeed? What is the connection? Why would I be interested as a leader or a business owner?

Hardik Parekh: The primary reason why this is important is because there is no other better option. Things are going to change, things are going to evolve. People are going to make mistakes. Why not encourage thinking bolder? Why not encourage the ability for people to take those big, hairy, audacious goals? That's the direction in which we are building the culture, of trying to do things faster, smarter, better.

Just in the next few weeks, actually in the next four weeks we are having this summit called Evlos Summit, which is E-V-L-O-S, which is solve spelled backwards. The whole theme of the summit is that it's going to be real people, real technology, real conversations and intelligent outcomes.

There is no BS, no bad stuff, people are essentially, we try and create an environment where there are solvers and not just the ribbon cutters on the stage. And we create an environment wherein we want to encourage the real solvers to share those stories, which may have succeeded or failed.

It could be a failure or a success, but we are going to celebrate the failures as well in that summit. And the meaning of a loss is primarily to solve things differently. How have you solved things differently? Did you try and attempt to solve things smarter, faster, better?

Jan Terkelsen: So when is the summit happening? And is this for all Searce employees?

Hardik Parekh: It is for business leaders, c-level, founders, tech leaders, as well as, engineering leaders, transformation consultants. It's for our customers, for companies that have tried to solve things differently. It's happening on 9th of December.

It's happening in Bangolore in India, and it's going to happen in Singapore and then in Australia, and then in UK and in the US. So it's a series of the first part of the series that we are starting in India and it's a fantastic opportunity for the solvers to connect with each other and share their mistakes.

[17:03] Be Brave and Fail Fast
Jan Terkelsen: Yeah. I love that terminology, solvers. Yeah. Adrian, is there anything that you would like to add to that?

Adrian Chu: Look, I think we embrace the ability to be brave and also to fail fast. So a couple of points there in terms of, we are in an industry that has phenomenal light speed change. And as Hardik mentioned, the amount of services that are launched every week, it's very hard to keep up with it.

So, in terms of the evolution, people will try, test, it may work, it may not work. But what is critically important, is the ability to fail fast and to make adjustments and changes along the way. We embrace that wholeheartedly. And I think we celebrate that in terms of everyone really driving to see how far we can push the envelope.

Jan Terkelsen: Okay. So if there is this sense of people have that ability to fail fast and there's an iterative approach, what happens to all those perfectionists in an organisation? How do you manage them? Because I imagine in tech we have some people who are quite driven by that perfectionistic style. Have you seen that? Can you give us an idea of how you would manage that? So, Adrian, if we go to you first and then we'll go to Hardik.

Adrian Chu: Yeah, sure. Well, a lot of technologists are stimulated by learning and development, so critically important we provide all of our people with success paths and also learning and development capabilities that allow them to flourish in our environment.

We also work very hard to celebrate successes that we have across the globe. So we have a framework where we have global delivery models and with that, it allows us to build repeatable solutions that are not only applicable to a certain vertical or customer segment, but a lot of those solutions that we build are replicated in many different verticals in different geographies.

So, again, we allow people to flourish. We allow people to succeed and grow. And we've had phenomenal growth over the last three years as an organisation and to the point where the global expansion is continuing and we're in a very good position.

[19:34] Better Than Our Best So Far
Jan Terkelsen: Thank you. Hardik?.

Hardik Parekh: Thank you for this question. The name of, the meaning of Searce is to filter, to refine, to improve, to become better. And that's what Searce means, it's an English word. It means a fine seal. Our culture has always been to find better ways of doing things and discover better ways of doing things through an iterative approach.

One of the quotes that we kind of live by at Searce is "we want every piece of our work to be better than our best so far." So there isn't any end to perfection. We are just going to aim for excellence and it's a mindset of trying to aim for excellence, but there isn't any ultimate excellence that you could say that "this is it and now we stop and we are not going to innovate further."

We also believe very strongly in the fact that, best practices are highly overrated and purple elephants are really awesome.

Jan Terkelsen: I love that. Yeah and I like that idea for aiming for excellence because the difference between people who are perfectionistic is that they don't wanna make mistakes.

And the people who are achievement focused knows that if they are gonna push the envelope, that that's part of the process of achieving this or aiming for excellence. So thank you.

[21:05] The Hard Thing About Hard Things
Jan Terkelsen: So I'd just like to bring it down on a bit of a personal note, because people who are listening perhaps don't have global businesses and maybe don't work for global organisations.

However, a lot of the things that you said is, like creating success paths and people can do that by just having conversations with people and understanding what it is that they actually need in order to do their best work, the fact that you allow them to experiment or at least try new things.

You've talked about listening, which I think is an incredible skill that every leader needs to do and you celebrate wins, losses and acknowledgement. So bringing it to a personal level, what's the best advice you have been given that really has, I suppose, determined your leadership style and the way in which you lead others.

So Hardik, can we go with you first and then Adrian?

Hardik Parekh: Sure. Expecting that we will always succeed is a myth and then we have to fail. And that's something that I've learned quite early. I failed hundreds of thousands of times. I was very, very young and very stupid when I started this company. It's been 18 years since then and not so young, but I continue to make equal number of mistakes.

I believe that one of the best piece of book that I have read is a book by Ben Horowitz which has tonnes of advice, not just one piece, but quite a bit of advice. It's called The Hard Thing about Hard Things, and it's about building a company, scaling it, working with people, working with customers and how do we really scale this as we continue to build it?

And that's something that I have really been inspired by.

[23:13] Earning Trust
Jan Terkelsen: Wonderful. And then so Hardik for you, what, if someone was to describe your leadership style or the thing that you build your reputation on, what would that be? What would that quality or attribute be do you think?

Hardik Parekh: Trust is very, very important. Transformative leadership is what I believe in. I always try and challenge the status quo. We try and question the very basics of things. We try and see if this is really the right thing to do, or can we do something better? And that's something that is ingrained in our way of working and that's what is the philosophy of working at Searce.

I do believe that earning trust of customers, of partners, of people is also equally important and that's something that is done when we can continue to say what we do and do what we say. That's something that Searce believes in quite well as well.

Jan Terkelsen: Absolutely. Because trust is that combination of the character you have, but also the competence that you bring to it. And I think that integrity, doing what you say you're gonna do, that all of us can just be mindful of. And that's why it's so important, the quality of our communication, that what we say to our team and to customers.

So thank you. I've written down that reference to Ben Horowitz. Thank you. I will put that on my book reading list.

Adrian, for you. So what advice have you been given that you bring into your leadership style? And if you were to give leaders any tip or advice that you think would be worthy to share, what would that be?

Adrian Chu: Three points. The first, it's a privilege to care for success of others. Build a culture of give rather than take and you'll transcend boundaries through respect. And the third one is, continue your thirst for knowledge to improve for a better tomorrow. So those three points are really what I live by.

And with our Searce environment, we present a very flat structure. So there's no hierarchy within our organisation. Everyone's voice is critically important, and the respect that we have for each and every employee, whether they're a teammate, whether they sit on the other side of the globe, is about a collaborative effort to drive for a better tomorrow.

So three points for me in terms of leadership would be those particular items.

[26:05] Managing Prickly Personalities
Jan Terkelsen: Right. So I'm just interested, so just say if I'm managing a, a group of people and we have that culture, however, there is someone who I believe is a little bit of a prickly personality. So they're good at what they do, high competence, however the attitude perhaps isn't conducive to this psychological, safe environment. So they might be a little bit oppositional. They always look for the fault rather than perhaps both in a balanced view. Have you been in contact with someone like that and how have you managed that?

Adrian Chu: Yeah, certainly there's always prickly people in every organisation, whether they're part of your team or an extended part of your team. I think from our perspective, it's always about customer first and ensuring that we look for the best possible outcomes for our customers. So that's the first point in call.

In regards to tricky situations, it's always challenging and for me it's always about a consultative approach to addressing issues, and that may have to be over many, many courses or many pieces of data that you may need to address them on and maybe over time. So again, critically important to hit the nail on the head up front and not wait for situations to occur.

So for me, it's about being open in terms of what's good, what's bad, and what's ugly. And addressing all of those issues as fast as humanly possible. In order to ensure that we are delivering the best possible outcomes to our customers.

[27:46] Thinking Out Loud
Jan Terkelsen: Mm. And Hardik for you, have you got any input into how you have managed those personalities over the years?

Hardik Parekh: Sure. Having a direct, open conversation. Creating an environment where people don't need to guess what I am thinking, but hear what I'm thinking is very, very important. So I do a lot of thinking out loud sessions with people. So it's very, very important that we create that kind of an environment, which essentially then allows people to know as to what is valued and what is not.

We have a very, very extensive, well-defined culture deck that I have personally written over the last 12 years and we continue to refine it. I do a monthly onboarding of everybody new who joins in into our organisation. We have around 1200 people, so we have around 50, 40 people joining different parts of geographies on a monthly basis.

We try and ensure that I personally spend a lot of time to explain the values, the beliefs and what is valued at Searce, and how will you get recognised and what is not valued. What are the various situations in which you can behave in an x or y manner. And that's something that allows people to appreciate that level of transparency and have that understanding that this is what is valued, this is what is not valued.

[29:29] A Happier Culture Deck
Hardik Parekh: And that's something that I feel is a very, very important thing. And by the way the culture deck that we follow is called Happier. So we have a Happier culture deck and it is humble, adaptable, positive, passionate, innovative, excellence mindset and responsible. So that is what Happier stands for.

So we have two questions that we generally ask that, has this person been happier in this situation? Has he behaved in n happier fashion? And have we tried to solve this problem? Have we tried to have lost it? Have we tried to solve it differently? And those are the two questions that is a general part of our conversation and that's something that, when people are aware what is valued, people try and ensure that they are in a position to behave and act in the right spirit.

Jan Terkelsen: Oh, and I love those questions. One is about the people and one is about the process, which obviously you need both. I love the fact that you've got a happier culture deck. We're working with an organisation at the moment, creating or helping the leadership team create that culture deck and understanding how do you live your values, but to your point Hardik, it's actually setting up and being so explicit about what those expectations are.

Because , when you talk about culture, it's the shared beliefs and norms. And a lot of it is that, underneath the iceberg and we want to lower the water line of the iceberg so everyone is really clear about what we mean.

And I love the fact that you are doing the culture deck. It just has such a, I can imagine, such a powerful message that this is important. That you are spending that time with everyone.

This has been such a rich conversation. I have written copious notes, so thank you. I have learned quite a lot in my time with you and just the fact that a lot of the points that you made that everyone, no matter where they are, whether they're working for someone or have their own organisation, can put some of these into place, just around the importance of failing fast, having that excellence mindset and having some questions that really, I suppose ground, is what I'm doing helping or harming? Is what I'm doing moving me or the business forward, or my customer forward? Those are the things that are really stuck in my mind.

So really appreciate our conversation. So wrapping up, Adrian, do you want to finish off with anything, any comment that you would like to make? And then I'll put it over to you Hardik.

Adrian Chu: Look, I think from a leadership perspective, we all need to have awareness about the impact that drives change, not only throughout our organisation, but, through to our customers and also the social impact that we have on the world.

So, critically important that everyone has a contribution, everyone's voice is heard and that culture is everyone's ownership piece. And that leadership start, leadership is a component of everyone, not just people sitting on the top.

Jan Terkelsen: Oh, I love it. I love it. Thank you Adrian, and Hardik for you?

Hardik Parekh: Read the book.

Jan Terkelsen: Yeah, I'll put a link in our show notes, definitely. Thank you.

Look, I really wanna reiterate how rich and meaningful this conversation is because a lot of the work that we do and that we really encourage people to do, you have actually said, but you are actually doing it in your organisation.

And as you can see, your organisation is growing. Because you are putting your purpose and meaning to create an environment that are not only serving the customers but the people that you work with. And I really admire organisations who walk their talk. Because sometimes there are challenges with that, especially when you're managing diversity because you're gonna have a lot of problems that come up with that.

And that's part of that balancing act. So, congratulations for, creating such a healthy impact on the world. We need more of you alright? Thank you.

Hardik Parekh: Thank you.

Adrian Chu: Thank you very much.