Collaborating with colleagues stands as the first commandment

Kirk Poucher was fresh off the Georgia Tech campus, degree in hand, when he landed a job at Insight Sourcing Group. Nearly eight years and three promotions later, he remains, hoping to stay on board for the long haul.

Like, maybe until retirement.

“A family reason is the only way I could see myself leaving here intentionally,” said Poucher, 31, a manager.

Poucher’s family grew a year ago with the birth of his first child, a son. One blessing with employment at Insight, at least for those who prefer not to live out of a suitcase, is a minimal amount of required travel. Consultants tend to be road warriors, but Poucher estimates he dims the lights in a strange room only three or four nights per month.

Another feature that distinguishes the firm is workers setting aside their in-house competitive nature when they report for duty. Collaborating with colleagues stands as the first commandment, and achievement is recognized through the lens of a group.

“To have a culture of bright people who don’t care who gets the credit, you can be incredibly effective,” Poucher said.

Employees defer their cutthroat nature to team events, usually — but not always — away from the workplace. Some burn off steam at a Foosball table.

“It gets hot in that room,” he said. “You close the door, and it gets competitive in there.”

Q. With the business having grown a lot since you started, has the culture that existed in the early years changed?

A. Sure, it’s changed in a lot of ways. It’s needed to. It’s had to evolve. But the core things that were important to us eight years ago are still important to us now, which those of us who have been around for a long time are really proud of.

The focus [still] is on making this a great place to work. Taking care of one another. Not just focusing on the business side of things. I can genuinely say that the people I work with are my friends, with whom I hang out on the weekends for fun.

Q. The team events that take place outside of the office — do some employees feel compelled to go to them?

A. I don’t think so. They are pretty fun events. Real good parties. We play golf, have spa days. We take time to reflect on developing relationships with each other outside [the office]. There are never any expectations you have to come.

Q. There seems to be a willingness on the job to drop what you’re doing to help others. Is that a learned behavior, or does it come naturally?

A. It’s reinforced by the culture. Part of it is, we hire people with that kind of mindset of wanting to help out. Be team players. Good corporate citizens, if you will. I don’t think there’s ever a time where it has to be taught. Never been a time where people say, “Geez, you’re being too selfish and focused only on your work.”

We take it personally to find a way to help each other out. [Senior managers] don’t have to say, “All hands on deck. Everyone has to pitch in.” This stuff all happens organically, which is really neat.

Q. The hiring process is often described as “rigorous,” with several people interviewing job candidates. Do you remember your day?

A. I enjoyed mine. I think it was one of the reasons I ended up here. You had a strong gut feeling of, “This is the place where I genuinely enjoy being.”

I probably interviewed with every employee at the firm. I would say it is rigorous. One reason we do it is for candidates to get exposure to folks at different levels. We’re very intentional about hiring for culture. That’s why we have so many different points of view, from analysts who have been out of school for six months to senior executives who have been here for years. Everybody has a say. It can certainly be a little bit like herding cats when you’ve got 20 people in this room with an opinion on a candidate, but it makes for a good constructive process. And we don’t have a lot of misses on the recruiting side. Generally, if someone makes it through the gauntlet, they work out pretty well.

Q. When you put together similar Type A personalities in one place, isn’t there going to be some friction? Is the “collaborative gene” screened for in the hiring process?

A. We hire for it. In the hiring process, we look for who is going to fit that mold of being collaborative. Willing to support and help each other. Part of it is, you can see it in action. People get here and see, “I don’t just look after myself. I can help other people and still be successful.”

Q. Regarding consultants here traveling a lot less than they do at other companies, what do your hear from those folks?

A. I think there’s a certain jealousy. Part of it is, they don’t quite understand it because the big-firm culture is to be at the clients’ side all the time. It’s a foreign concept in a lot of ways. They find it hard to fathom that we have a great mix of challenging work being real consultants, so to speak, but not having to be on the road all the time. Most people can’t quite grasp that you can actually do both.

Q. What do you like most about it?

A. I can put my son to bed at night, have dinner with my family. That’s really important to me. We give a lot of responsibility to our people. As long as you manage it, there’s no real issues. There’s no one watching over me, saying, “Oh, you’re working from home a lot.” Or, “You’ve got to go to the doctor again with your son?” It’s one of those things where there’s a pretty strong common trust.

Q. So there is a freedom to perform your job? What’s that like?

A. That’s empowering. When you have really talented, bright people, I don’t think folks like to be told what to do and how to do it. Part of what makes this job so engaging is, we have a problem, we’ll start flushing out the framework of how we’re going to go about it… . It really stimulates the intellectual capabilities of folks to get [after] it, figure it out, fight through data, bounce ideas off of their peers. It’s much more engaging than having to work through a strict and defined process. We have a process, but how we execute that process is how we have the opportunity to learn and create.

Q. How surprising is it that the company’s financials are shared at the quarterly meetings?

A. It really was in the beginning. I had no expectation at being able to see how we were doing as a firm. Coming in, I thought all that would be behind the curtain, so to speak. Not only was the communication very open, but if we had a down quarter, it was, “Here’s where we missed.”

Q. With the new sabbatical policy [where 10-year employees earn a month off with pay], did you immediately start to think about where to go and the whole idea?

A. When Tom [Beaty, CEO] announced it at the holiday party, I was standing there with my wife and I could see her thinking about where we’re going to go. We’d probably go back to Europe.

You think, “Yes, it is a new level of amazing.” I don’t want to say you almost expect it, but it’s the kind of the things he does. He’s always very interested about finding new ways to invest in people.