New Prediction & Strategy Platform for CEOs | Joel Trammell from Khorus

CEOs have to make decisions about the company’s future, but they don’t need to do it alone. Your staff has valuable information about their positions and where they see their work going in the future. But how can you collect that data?

In this episode of UpTech Report, we talk with the Khorus CEO Joel Trammell. Khorus is a platform created for CEOs. Your staff fills in prediction and strategy data for their positions each week that can help you put together the overall strategy of the company.

This platform intentionally excludes other data. It is solely for CEOs to make decisions about the company with a simple, democratic process. This process also allows your staff to better see how they fit into the overall strategy of the company.

Predicting the future through data

One of the important advantages of Khorus is that is able to get a predictive insight from every employee of a company weekly. And during these tasks, they realized most of the people don’t necessarily can predict their job.

“I’m a big believer, if you wanted to build a predictable organization you got to teach everybody in the organization how to make those predictions”, Joel says.

Joel Trammell is a successful CEO and entrepreneur with more than 25 years of experience in IT-related software companies. He is currently the Founder and CEO of Khorus, which provides a business management system for CEOs and other leaders. Previously, he served as CEO of network services provider Black Box Corporation (NASDAQ: BBOX). 

He is also Chair Emeritus of the Austin Technology Council and Co-founder and Managing Partner of private equity firm Lone Rock Technology Group. In addition, he serves on the boards of several public, private and nonprofit companies.

Joel’s leadership as founder and CEO resulted in successful nine-figure acquisitions by two Fortune 500 companies. As CEO of network management software firm NetQoS, he delivered 31 consecutive quarters of double-digit revenue growth and a $200 million valuation. CA Technologies acquired the company in 2009, generating more than 10x return on capital to its private equity investors. In 2010, he co-founded Cache IQ, a storage software company that NetApp acquired two years later.

Joel is committed to using his experience to help current and aspiring CEOs. He provides advice and insight on his blog, The American CEO. Joel’s book – The CEO Tightrope – describes a systematic approach to the critical chief executive role. In addition, he runs a CEO seminar in Austin every year.

Joel holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Louisiana Tech University and is a former instructor at the Naval Nuclear Power School.

He and his wife Cathy live in Austin, Texas and have three children.

DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!

Alexander Ferguson 0:00
In this episode UpTech Report, we talk with chorus CEO Joel Trammel. Khorus is a strategy execution software built for CEOs to track performance. Joel shares how he’s positioned his tool to help CEOs, thoughts on growth, future plans, and also how he continues to personally innovate. Thanks, Joel, for joining us. I’m excited to learn more understanding how you’ve grown in your business and where you guys are going into trajectory and how you are innovating as you move forward. So to start us off, where are you joining us from today?

Joel Trammell 0:35
I’m from Austin, Texas.

Alexander Ferguson 0:37
Awesome. And what year did you start your business?

Joel Trammell 0:40
We started the business in 2014.

Alexander Ferguson 0:43
Gotcha. And the industry that you primarily serve is,

Joel Trammell 0:48
well, we serve CEOs across really a wide range of industries. We’ve had users in the nonprofit sector, the technology sector, really across all industries, as long as they have a significant organization of 50 or more people

Alexander Ferguson 1:01
got it 50 or more people. And it’s really the the opportunity for them to get on, tell me more about the pain point that you’re solving with your platform.

Joel Trammell 1:11
Yeah, so I’ve spent a long time as an entrepreneur and growing businesses and you know, when you start out with zero to 20 employees or so you can get everybody in the room, you can get them aligned, you can change directions. And then as the business grows from 20, to 50 to 100, suddenly, you no longer can get everybody in the same room. And you’re dealing with issues where you don’t know exactly what everybody does. And so getting employees aligned across the organization is one of the key pain points we deal with in our business,

Alexander Ferguson 1:40
how many customers you currently have on your platform? Yeah, we

Joel Trammell 1:43
have about 60 companies running on our platform. That’s awesome.

Alexander Ferguson 1:46
And that translates obviously to even more team members from those companies on their

Joel Trammell 1:51
right, we average probably close to 100 employees per customer.

Alexander Ferguson 1:55
Gotcha. So you’re almost the math, there’s 6000. I’m not a numbers guy. But that’s that’s fascinating to then have all that traction and communication happening on the platform. What is then the average like package surprising? How do you is it a membership type mindset that you approach? Or?

Joel Trammell 2:13
It’s it’s a monthly per user? model? So $15 per month per user? Is this kind of standard pricing.

Alexander Ferguson 2:20
Gotcha. And you’re the name your company chorus interesting name. Do I guess harmony? Bring? Yes,

Joel Trammell 2:26
yes, get everyone singing from the same hymnal. But spelled with a K instead of the C, I guess I was too cheap to buy the CH, o. R Us domain name. So we use k h. O R Us

Alexander Ferguson 2:40
like it’s a common thing to happen with SAS platforms, ie, you get the domain you can. That’s right, and you build with it. Speaking of then the technology, tell me more about what kind of intellectual property have you built in that is providing value to your customers?

Joel Trammell 2:55
Yeah, so my history, I started my first business 29 years ago, and then I became unqualified to do anything else, and you keep doing it. And so you know, I’ve been CEO for most of those last 29 years of one organization or another. And so in doing that, you pick up a lot of tips and tricks and understandings of the job. And so a lot of that methodology, the way to think about the job, what you should be doing in the job is baked into the platform.

Alexander Ferguson 3:22
So it’s really taking the knowledge that you have, and then platform icing it, putting it into a platform, and automating your ability to educate if you were to do a one on one that would take forever. And right. So how have you found that journey to take your knowledge and then to automate it through the platform?

Joel Trammell 3:43
Yeah, so an example is, you know, one of the key roles of CEO is to look into the future as the as the leader of the organization, your jobs, to anticipate the future and, and deal in the future. And a lot of CEOs it takes time to get used to that because most jobs are doing in the past and present. And so you know, if you like Jim Collins analogy of the CEO, being a bus driver, and so you’re there driving the bus, a lot of information you get back from your organization is data. And data is great. But by definition, it’s historical data is something that’s already happened. Well, your job as bus drivers to look down the road so often equate if all you’re getting is data feeds from your organization. It’s like having the smart aleck kid sitting row behind you on the bus. You as the bus driver, you hit a pothole, and about five seconds later the kid says hey driver, you hit a pothole. And you just want to kind of turn around and slap the kid upside the head and say next time, why don’t you tell me before I hit the pothole. So one of the core concepts, of course, is that we get predictions from every employee in the organization. Instead of saying feed me data, tell me what happened yesterday or the day before. We say using your best judgment, your knowledge of the job and whatever data you collect and your particular role. Your job is to make a prediction about what’s likely to happen, and give me a view into the future,

Alexander Ferguson 5:02
that’s powerful to have the knowledge from your own team members telling you what they see, they probably see things you may not from a certain level, everyone’s from a different perspective. That’s right.

Joel Trammell 5:14
And you know, everybody knows more about their job than I do is the CEO, because I’m not doing it every day. And so I need a way to easily harness that visibility. And we say, of course, we’re the only company in the world that collects predictive insight from every employee each week.

Alexander Ferguson 5:29
So you started this is how you said we so you have a couple of partners?

Joel Trammell 5:34
We Yes, we have a company.

Alexander Ferguson 5:37
And from from this, where do you have you been bootstrapping it? Did you raise some funds? How what was the growth? Like? Yeah, so

Joel Trammell 5:44
I’ve been fortunate in my career to have had some successful exits previously. And so I can afford to fund the majority of the effort myself, I do have a few folks who friends and family who’ve invested with me before and done well, but put some money in but it’s, it’s all owned internally at this point. It’s

Alexander Ferguson 6:01
not an easy road to be an entrepreneur and grow your own business, though you have years of experience, doesn’t this make it easier? Any lessons learned or hurdles that you had to overcome in the past few years that you can share with someone else who’s particularly actually thinking about height? How can I take my knowledge and build a platform around this?

Joel Trammell 6:18
Yeah, it’s funny, you say that the, you know, people think the second the third times easier. And I tell people, it’s not easy. It’s a little bit like the second and third kid, you know what to expect, but it’s not nearly as exciting, either, you know, they’re gonna throw up in the middle of the night or, you know, they’re gonna cry or you, you know, that isn’t necessarily something to look forward to. So there are pluses and minuses to having the experience of building the business. But, you know, you got to do something that you’re excited about, you believe you’re adding value. And then you got to stick with it. Because no business is just up into the right all the time. Every business has challenges. As times, you know, I’ve just recently read book, you know, book about Uber and all the challenges they went through, that was a crazy, crazy journey. And I think every business has its ups and downs. And you just got to be confident that you’re doing something that provides value and that customers will recognize that over time.

Alexander Ferguson 7:11
Stick with it. It’s a good, good piece of ice to say, and I appreciate your analogy to children I have to and my second one, you’re right, it doesn’t make it any easier. You know what’s happening, but you still have to go through it through partnerships, API’s connections, obviously, there’s benefits to be able to connect with other pieces of outside resources or other websites. Have you built any? Or do you have any on the roadmap?

Joel Trammell 7:36
Yeah, we take an interesting view, as far as the way we look at our platform, we like it as a platform for the CEO. And we actually intentionally don’t connect to other data sources. Because again, we want the human element, we want the human intelligence in the company to come through. And what happens when you connect to data sources, you basically then are responsible as the CEO for managing that area. Whoever interprets the data for the area, they’re the kind of head of that area. And so I’ve seen a lot of CEOs that really, I think, mess themselves up because they want to look at every deal. They’re working in sales or whatever. If you do that, you’re effectively being the VP of sales, you’re not being the CEO. And so, you know, we intentionally don’t connect to other platforms in order to force the employees that sign up for their particular goals and objectives to make predictions and be accountable. Hey, you told me you’re going to get it done, go get it done. How you get it done? That’s your challenge. Whether you get it done, that’s what I need to monitor is the

Alexander Ferguson 8:35
I imagined for a platform like yours, where it relies on the other team members employees to engage with it. So top down, have you found any issues or solutions that’s even better on helping these CEOs to say, hey, people, you better get on the platform using it? Any?

Joel Trammell 8:55
Yeah, there. There certainly that what we find is typically the CEOs are excited because they’re going to get access to information they haven’t had before. So they’re a big fan. And then what we find is typically, the individual contributors are also get very excited, because it’s the first time in many cases, they’ve seen how what they do really contributes to the greater whole. So you may have a CEO that’s up, you know, giving a presentation, and he’s talking about the profit we’re gonna make or their earnings per share or something. And they can’t relate what they do on a day to day basis to that. But with this platform, it gives you the ability to see kind of up and down the whole organization, what everybody’s working on. If we get pushed back. It’s often kind of for mid level management or the executive team that says, Oh, I don’t need another platform. I’ve got Salesforce, if I’m a sales guy, and we you know, what they’re not understanding is that’s great for sales. But the marketing people probably don’t understand and certainly the CFO and the product, people aren’t in Salesforce every day. They can’t understand that data. They don’t know how to interpret it. And so the ability to function as a team is what we really provide playbook that everybody can kind of follow what’s going on in the organization? Got it?

Alexander Ferguson 10:06
Are you plan on using any sorts of automation of AI or machine learning to aggregate data? Or is it really meant for the CEO to read through each of the updates that team members bring,

Joel Trammell 10:18
there are certainly some opportunities. As we get history with people predicting information to learn how good somebody is at predicting to, to help them manage their predictions, what you want over time, obviously, is you want people to get better. And what we find when we first deploy the platform is a lot of people in an organization typically haven’t been asked to predict their job. Right. And so we you know, kind of ad by process or asking every week a predict how you’re going to do this. And, and so most people are very poor at it. But over time, as they practice it, they get better and better. And you can even you know, if you want to calculate a score, kind of your predictability, how accurate you are in predicting. And you know, if you’re a CEO, that’s what you get judged on, for delivering predictable performance. I mean, whether you’re, you know, if you’re a public company, you go to Wall Street every quarter and say, here’s what we’re going to do next quarter. And if you miss that, even often, by just a couple of cents a share, often you can lose me and driven billions off of market cap just because of that. And so, you know, I’m a big believer, if you want to build a predictable organization, you got to teach everybody in the organization, how to make those predictions.

Alexander Ferguson 11:27
Moving forward, what’s your five year goal? Where do you see your company in five years from now?

Joel Trammell 11:34
Yeah, I think the big opportunity, when I talk about a CEO platform, most people look at me and go, what would that be? You know, they, there’s really not that understanding. So we’re creating a market, anytime you’re creating a market. There’s a challenge, I would hope for within five years that, you know, boards of directors, experience CEOs start looking for a platform and thinking yes, just like, you know, it took a while before Salesforce was adopted, right? There’s a great story in the beginning of Marc benioff’s book where he’s sitting down with Michael Dell, at the beginning of Salesforce, and he’s about to quit, he says I you know, I’m going to go back to Oracle and sell software because I can make a million dollars a year doing that. And this Salesforce thing is really hard. You know, it’s really hard getting people to adopt it. And Michael’s famously says, No, I think I’d stay with it a little while longer if, if you know, and then everything worked, right. And so I think it’s a little bit the same thing here, I hope in five years from now, you’ve got boards, you’ve got experienced CEOs, you’ve got other mentors who are saying, if you’re a good CEO, you’re running the company, using a systematic methodology, and a software platform to help you do that, just like every other executive in your organization probably is today.

Alexander Ferguson 12:47
Would you say that moving forward to realize this vision, it’s kind of crossing the chasm of people realizing oh, this exists? And while this could help me, would you would you agree with that’s a hurdle to overcome?

Joel Trammell 13:01
Oh, absolutely. It’s an educational aspect at this point, you know, you do it one company at a time, and then they, you know, maybe tell one or two of their friends, they know, hey, this is cool. You know, I never had this visibility before, I can’t imagine running an organization without this. And that’s what I think our CEOs say, once they had that information, those predictions, going back and looking at raw data, just doesn’t make any sense anymore. It’s just, you know, it’s not interesting. Once they’ve had predictions

Alexander Ferguson 13:29
for you, as obviously, the space is always changing, and you try are trying to be innovative and providing this new technology, what are you doing yourself to innovate and keep current in in your space?

Joel Trammell 13:42
Yeah, so I spent a lot of time on the phone with CEOs. Right before this, I was on with one of our customers, and asking them, you know, what other functionality what other thing? What are the problems can we solve for you, but understanding, you know, the CEO role, talking to as many different roles, different industries different, you know, we have nonprofits we have for profits. And so there have been a lot of uses. We even have some some fast food restaurants, I never would have thought a fast food restaurant would have the challenge that a large technology company does, but they like it and are using it. So it’s interesting to see the application seems to be quite broad. And so it’s just a matter of visiting with those folks and figuring out what’s next.

Alexander Ferguson 14:24
That concludes the audio version of this episode. To see the original and more visit our UpTech Report YouTube channel. If you know a tech company, we should interview you can nominate them at UpTech Or if you just prefer to listen, make sure you’re subscribed to this series on Apple podcasts, Spotify or your favorite podcasting app.


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