Baby Birds: Risky Living Until They Take Flight

Written By Michael Zalle
August 5, 2022

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It's YellowBird's THIRD birthday. And that's hard to believe, for so many reasons. I filed incorporation papers in July 2019 with the idea of changing the way EHS consultants and safety experts market themselves and how companies source those knowledge holders. The 'Uber of' concept seemed so clear at the beginning, and in many ways it still does, but we don't need to be described that way any longer.

Don't get me wrong, I love two-sided marketplaces. Connecting the willing labor pool, some of whom had never even considered extra side hustle, with a consumer willing to pay for efficient and transparent service. But, what I underestimated were the differences (and value) of what the market wants from YellowBird. Comparing transactional lower-skill level services with skilled professional services was naive and overly simplistic.

With that, here's what I've learned in YellowBird's first three years in business:

People Aren't Numbers

We are within days of having 1,000 what we call “Match Ready” Professionals on our Platform. This means that over 1,000 people have registered on the Platform, built their profile, uploaded supporting information (Certifications, accreditations, resumes, awards, etc.), have met one-on-one with our team and attended an Orientation meeting. Everyone is different. No two Pro's are the same. Personal and professional experience makes a person, and we must match for more than a resume and certificate. We match using the Pro's YellowBird Score, which tells us the probability that the Pro will exceed expectations. Our Platform was built intentionally to avoid unconscious bias during the matching process. When we're asked about adding Pro photos to their profile, people are often surprised to hear a resounding “No.” What our Pros look like is not what's important. Their ability to keep your employees or clients safe through EHS services is what matters.

Roadmaps and Playbooks are Awesome…Until They Aren't.

Don't get me wrong, I love a good plan. I love our product roadmap, our marketing and sales playbooks, our end-to-end customer workflow and customer-experience metrics. The truth is, everything you think you know today, and the plans you make for tomorrow, will likely be deconstructed and rebuilt. This is why being always willing to learn and adapt is vital. Until you learn to accept that inevitability, you may miss the moving target. That skinned knee, in the form of the wrong hire, the poor vendor selection, the expensive internal advertising program that's yielding no results, these are the moments that help continue to rewrite the playbook to bigger success.

Diamonds are built under pressure. So is character

YellowBird is often described as a startup success story in Arizona and nationwide in our industry. People see that we are solving real problems within the EHS and Risk Management sectors. What you don't see from the outside is the grind, the three years of raising capital, the big wins, the competitive losses and the team putting one foot in front of the other. Having a solid team alongside you, a co-founder who is also willing to sacrifice, and an executive team that steps up and LEANS IN when times are tight…that's when you know you have the right people around you.

Rewarding Beyond Measure.

I'm frequently asked about my post-YellowBird plans. Read: the 'exit' and potential spoils that will come with it. Honestly, I'm so excited about what we are doing now that I can't answer. Today, we are working on a few game-changing efforts at YellowBird. We are developing an upskill path on the Platform. We are launching a subscription plan for insurance agents, brokers, HR, and other enterprise executives to have even easier Health, Safety and Risk on demand. We are working on enhanced AI matching to leverage the best matching experience for both the Pro and the Company. I'm more excited today than I was three years ago. The bird leapt from the nest, was falling toward the ground and we have just begun to spread our wings…Updraft!

My Third-Year Reflection

We are creating something truly special, but many good things come at a cost. I'm a blessed man to have two amazing kids that tolerate a sometimes disconnected dad, a patient and gracious wife who is my partner. She's has received too many “I'm sorry, but I'm not going to make dinner” calls, and more delayed replies than I care to admit to friends who reach out. We are entering this next chapter with a capital raise concluding, a team ready to accelerate, and continued value for our customers as indications of a recession seems to be coming into view. YellowBird is fortunate to have a model that can help when times are tight, staff is reduced, subject matter experts are retiring or hiring is frozen. We are here to help improve efficiency and provide opportunity during this transition.

I'm very excited to enter a chapter at YellowBird where I can spend more time speaking on behalf of the disability and disadvantaged communities, spearhead efforts around inclusion and equity, and continually showcase YellowBird as an example of doing well while doing good.

Let's Soar!

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