Shervin Talieh knew he wanted to set up a new office for his company in Boise during breakfast at Goldy’s in a 48-hour whirlwind visit.
“At the end of the day, it’s chemical,” said Talieh, CEO of Partner Hero, which opened in Boise in January. “I can’t teach it, I don’t know how I learned it, but I had that feeling at Goldy’s.” He moved to Boise himself in May.
Partner Hero is kind of a meta-startup. It’s an outsourcing company that specializes in working with tech startups, such as Khan Academy, to provide services they don’t have, Talieh said.
“Everything from customer experience to sales, customer support, software design, software development, graphic design, accounts payable and recruiting,” he said.
Talieh, a partner at the consulting firm Accenture before founding startups, was looking at Boise along with Bend, Oregon; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Boulder, Colorado, as places to expand his company, which he had founded in Honduras while living in San Clemente, California, in 2014. Why them? “I like to ski, I wanted to be within a one- to two-hour flight from Southern California, with a good college and four seasons,” he said.
Talieh tried Bend, but soon found that, with its population of 95,000, it was too small. “The airport was a challenge,” he said.
His first Boise hire was Julia Hodges, now in “people operations.”
“Our first two people weren’t just employees – they were helping us build a business here,” he said. “You need a local to tell you what time it is,” as well as to learn the customs and traditions of the area. “You don’t honk your horn when the light turns green; here’s where you go for the best sandwiches and produce,” he explained.
While other companies provide the services Partner Hero does, Talieh hopes to be more successful by limiting turnover, which in most similar companies is at least 50 percent – 75 percent in large companies, he said.
“You can’t invest in your people if you know they’ll all be gone in 14 or 15 months,” he said. “We believe in a very simple proposition: How do we do everything we can so turnover is under 10 percent. If we get that right, everything takes care of itself.” Currently, turnover worldwide is about 6 percent, he said.
As part of that effort, Talieh eschews managers.
“What are managers? What are you managing?” he asked, scoffing at companies that say, “Our greatest asset is our people.” “Really?” he said. “Let’s examine how you’re treating them, and how much decision-making you push to the edge. Not the power the C-suite has, the power someone who has been here for three years has.”
Similarly, the Boise office doesn’t have cubicles, private offices or assigned parking spots, though the company did provide parking for employees when Talieh learned that parking was an issue for them. Everyone has tall desks and tall chairs so employees can choose to stand.
“You come into an office, you should not be able to tell who has more ‘power,’” Talieh said. He chose the vintage brick building south of Myrtle after working out of Trailhead, the downtown Boise co-working space, for a while.
“What is this magical place here?” he asked the real estate agent, who had been showing him standard office spaces with cubicles – a layout that is “the opposite of who we are.”
The Boise office has 18 or 19 people, with 30 or so expected by the end of the year, Talieh said. The company has expanded so quickly that it risks outgrowing its new office. “In my wildest dreams, I didn’t think we’d outgrow the office in a year,” Talieh said.
Where would a new office be? That’s not up to him, but to his employees, plus he’ll consider locations convenient to where employees and applicants live.
“I’ll talk to our people,” he said. “What’s important to them? Parking? Childcare? Do they go to school? Access to public transit? It starts by listening.”