Steve Chrabaszewski, or Steve "C12" as we call him at PartnerHero, has had a long career in the outsourcing industry. Over the years he's become a whiz at headcount models and volume forecasting. But the thing that most shaped him both personally and professionally? Becoming a father at 24.
Tell us about your career - where have you been and what led you to PartnerHero?
Back in the late ‘90’s I applied for a Team Lead role at Citibank. I had a college degree and thought it would be a great place to start. I was (rightly) turned down for the Team Lead role and I decided to re-apply at the associate level and got the job. In hindsight I feel so lucky that I started out as an associate and not a lead. I now know that any good person who works in outsourcing leadership probably started with a headset on and knows what it’s like to take back-to-back calls with upset customers. It gives you an important perspective and a deeper appreciation for the most important part of any outsourcing operation: the front-line. If I had gotten the lead role I might never have understood the heart of this business on as deep a level. I eventually did complete a management training program with Citibank and spent the next five years with the organization, from there I joined US Bank, spent a few years in document fulfillment (which brought me to the Carolinas), and returned to outsourcing with Convergys (now Concentrix).
Moving from working in-house to outsourcing, I realized that outsourcing companies can add a tremendous amount of value to their partners. Because we often have multiple clients in the same industry you really start to understand the issues that an industry is dealing with and can apply learnings about quality and efficiencies across partners. It puts you in a much more seasoned position, with the ability to really help companies out.
At the end of last year I was looking for a new role and I came across PartnerHero. It was quickly obvious that I had stumbled upon a special company, one where values and culture come first.
You have a lot of experience in the outsourcing industry. What makes PartnerHero stand out to you?
There are a couple of things:
Most outsourcing companies specialize in industry verticals. While PartnerHero does have deep industry expertise, our focus is more on values and cultural alignment across industries rather than a specific vertical. We work with brand-forward companies that value the employee experience as much as they value the customer experience and they understand how those things are interrelated.
Second, most large scale outsourcing companies' business model is to focus on working with big customers who need teams of 100+. PartnerHero acts as a strategic partner for our customers and actually aligns very well with smaller companies and startups because we know this is where we can add the most value and build long standing relationships they scale.
Finally, our leadership team comes from diverse professional backgrounds. Most outsourcing companies are run by people who have almost exclusively worked in the outsourcing industry. In addition to having leaders like myself (who come from outsourcing), we actively recruit people who come from the startup world. For example, our Head of Quality came from Airbnb and our VP of Business Development came from Vimeo. I see how having this diversity of experience benefits our partners by providing differentiation and creativity in building solutions and solving challenges with our partners.
You are often referred to as an operations wizard. What is your “operations philosophy”?
My favorite quote is “You are what you repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.” That is my baseline for everything. This is not to mean that everything we do works perfectly. In fact, if everything worked perfectly, outsourcing may not even exist! Rather excellence is using data complemented with experience to navigate what has not even happened yet to find and execute against the strongest path. Excellence is also measuring the response of the project, the team, the individual and making adjustments accordingly to get ahead of issues before they arise. Systems shut down, processes fail. Excellence is adapting to adversity.
I’ve heard you’re especially good at modeling headcount. Can you give us a demo?
As a quick example? I will do my best.
Imagine you get 20,000 tickets a month.
The Average Handle Time (AHT) is 5 minutes or 300 seconds
That means you need 6 million productive seconds or 100,000 productive minutes or 1,666 productive hours
Each employee works 40 hours a week. Multiply that by 4.3 which is the average number of weeks in a month which comes out to 172 worked hours each month per employee.
Assume employees are 80% to 85% productive once you take into account breaks for lunch etc. 172 x 80% = 138 productive work hours per FTE (full time equivalent)
Now we can do the math: You need 1,666 production hours to handle that volume. Divide it by 138 (productive work time per employee) and you get to 12 full-time equivalents (FTE). Now you need to add back in the shrinkage, 12 FTE x 1.2 (adding back in the 20% shrink) and you end up with 14 as the number of employees you need to hire. This is a simple example of how to help derive the number of persons a project may need based on volumes and AHT, it gets more complicated as we consider hours of operation, coverage, scheduling, etc, however this is something we can absolutely help our existing and potential partners with.
Tell us about a formative moment in your life or career.
For me the birth of my kids, especially my daughter, was the most formative moment of my life. My family got started very young. I met my wife when we were seventeen and had been together seven years when we started our family. The responsibility of being a husband and a young father hit me - I knew that I needed to grow up and mature quickly to care for the most important people in my life. I found mentors everywhere I could and worked incredibly hard. I knew I needed to learn faster than the other people around me my age. Life was very real but it was a good form of duress, it shaped my motivation.
What do you like about working at PartnerHero?
The opportunity to impart 25+ years of outsourcing industry knowledge to a great group from associates to team leads to program managers is what I love about working here. I also love working with our partners who depend on us to be subject-matter experts on topics they don’t know about themselves. Being able to share knowledge with them as their brand and operations become more mature is satisfying for me from a professional perspective.
I’m most rewarded when I feel like I’m developing and teaching people. PartnerHero cultivates employee growth and development, so it is a really good fit.