November 30, 2023

Getting Meaningful Feedback from your Employees

On this episode of the Gross Profit Podcast, James Kennedy sits down with Duncan Murtagh
The Gross Profit Podcast
The Gross Profit Podcast
Getting Meaningful Feedback from your Employees

Show Notes

In this episode of the Gross Profit Podcast James Kennedy, CEO and co-founder of, engages in a captivating conversation with Duncan Murtagh, co-founder of Vetter, a trailblazing software designed to revolutionize the employee suggestion process.

In this episode, James and Duncan explore the transformative impact of employee feedback on company culture and growth. They discuss how Vetter provides a unique platform for employees to contribute their ideas, fostering an inclusive and collaborative work environment.

What You’ll Learn:

  • Empowering Employee Voice: Discover the importance of employee feedback in building a productive and inclusive workplace culture.
  • Innovations in Employee Engagement: Learn about the unique features of Vetter and how it facilitates meaningful employee participation.
  • Transitioning to Entrepreneurship: Insights from Duncan on making the shift from a traditional corporate role to the dynamic world of startups.
  • Challenges and Rewards of Startups: An honest look at the hurdles and triumphs in the journey of entrepreneurship.

Episode Highlights:

  • “Duncan, what are some of the most innovative or impactful suggestions you’ve seen from employees using Vetter?”
  • “How can companies create a culture where employees feel empowered to share their ideas?”
  • “If you could go back, what piece of advice would you give to your younger self about starting a business?”
  • “What advice would you offer to someone looking to transition from a corporate role to entrepreneurship?”
  • “Discussing Audit Shine: How does this new tool enhance traditional auditing methods?”

Duncan shares his personal experiences and challenges as a co-founder and entrepreneur, providing valuable insights for listeners aspiring to make their mark in the startup world. The discussion also delves into Duncan’s latest venture, the 5s Audit Software app, and its role in revolutionizing auditing processes for businesses.

Learn more about Duncan’s software businesses here:

Don’t miss this episode of the Gross Profit Podcast, where James and Duncan delve into the nuances of employee feedback and the exciting journey of entrepreneurship.

Episode Transcription:

James 00:00: 
Hello and welcome to the Gross Profit Podcast. My name is James Kennedy. I’m co-founder and CEO of Procurement It’s the software that helps you take the hassle out of managing your company’s purchasing with magical features. And today, I am joined by the CEO of, Duncan Murtagh. Duncan, how’re you doing today?

Duncan 01:20: 
Doing pretty well, James. How are you doing?

James 01:22: 
I’m living my best life. I understand that you’re heading to Taiwan next week. We’ll talk about that later on. So, you’re obviously a man who knows how to live the good life, like myself?

Duncan 01:34: 
I try.

James 01:35:
 Good. All right. So listen, I want to get into, you know, how you can save, you know, this saving, this case study you have on saving $300k for one of your customers. But before I do that, let’s get a bit of context of who you are. What are you the CEO of, and how does Get Vetter work?

Duncan 01:52: 
Okay, well who I am is I live in Kildare. I’m married with two kids. I co-founded Vetter, which is It’s an online employee suggestion box tool, back in 2011. And more recently, this year, I’ve founded, I’m going solo this time, a new venture, But maybe we’ll mention that a little bit later.

James 02:17: 
Okay, great. So tell me, where did the original idea for Get Vetter come from? Who’s your first customer? What sparked the whole thing?

Duncan 02:26:
 Well, it was back when I was working in financial services. I had a colleague from England who was always in my boss’s boss’s office; he was always getting his ideas heard. While I was back in my cubicle working away, he’d wander back over, he tells us he’s after telling the new idea and we’re going to implement it, blah blah blah. And I’d be wondering, why can’t it be in there? I’m just as creative as you. So now, I began to think, could we develop a simple system, almost a Twitter-like system, maybe with up and down votes that graduated from there. I came to the conclusion, and ideas are not simply good or bad. It’s not as black and white as that. And I had a colleague at the time who was interested in learning how to code, and then Startup Weekend Taipei, because I was living in Taiwan at the time, came up. And we thought, maybe we could, instead of, you know, talking about this, maybe we could jump in and, through that competition. And you know, haven’t started by the end of it, which we did. We came second. Maybe that was a good thing. The company that came first, they got venture capital funding and flamed out in just a couple of months. And we survived. And about two-three months later, we had an Australian customer, a financial services customer, and they are still a customer now. So, that’s what, 11 years, 12 years? Yeah. And they were our first customer. And it was a glorious day when we got our first customer. Perhaps you remember when you got yours?

James 03:47: 
100 percent. Tell me about it. I mean, I remember going way back, before Procurement Express, I managed to get my first $10 online order. And I promptly went out and spent about $200 celebrating with my wife, or my girlfriend at the time. What did you do when you got your first customer?

Duncan 04:03:
 Um, you know, with me, it’s always so drawn out. And it wasn’t a credit card payment. So it was like, can you prepare a quote if we went to court? And we got excited and said yes. And then a few days passed? And he’d say, can you get us a purchase order? And then we’d say yes. And we’d wonder, have we got this? Because we know experience? We didn’t know how that. If it’s a purchase order, as you well know, it means it’s pretty much done. So there was never a eureka moment. Never fist pump moment, unfortunately, but there has been since then. But back then, it was so drawn out that we never really celebrated, to be honest.

James 04:37:
 Very good. Funny that we’re not so great at celebrating successes. Maybe you and I should go and talk, and we can celebrate that first sale Sunday.

Duncan 04:45: 
It’s a great idea. That’s a good, I got a flight at 3 am, so I could go directly to the airport.

James 04:51: 
Yeah, perfect. Yeah. Wow. Okay, know how to plan a big night out for me if it’s 10 am or 10 pm. Okay, cool. So, All right, I want to get to the 300k. But you said something which interested me, which was not all ideas are just good or bad. What did you learn about that? Why can’t you just have a thumbs-up system for your ideas, sounds like a pretty good idea to me?

Duncan 05:12
Well, I suppose it’s people’s perception of what’s good or bad. And people’s understanding, just reading a few lines that have a description of what an idea is, and then to be able to get, you know, to make an assessment, like, that’s okay, if you’re Julius Caesar, you know, down or up whether the, poor fella survives in the ring out there. But this is meant to be a more positive environment. And so we talked a rating system would be better. And that said, companies who choose to switch on the rating system in the software, because it’s one of our features. They don’t necessarily take action, if it’s a five star blockbuster idea, it doesn’t mean they automatically do it. And it doesn’t mean they automatically rejected if it’s has poor performance, they usually make up their own mind helped by the rating and what people felt. One of the reasons companies do switch on that rating feature without getting too much into the weeds is it does make the employees feel that they have a bit of a say they get to have a vote on what’s called what’s bad. And that is an important part of this, we found it’s kind of, want of a better phrase, almost a gateway drug into the actual submitting of ideas. They can vote, they can comment, they can feel comfortable with the software, and then later they can come up with their brainwaves and participate in

James 06:31
Interesting. And I was at a conference that you and I sometimes attend together microcosm for the weekend, and someone described they had, you know, it was more like a feature of vote for software, but they turned it off, because people would just go in and go, Yeah, motherhood and apple pie. These are all great ideas. 5555, regionally, where everything? Is that a problem? Like real people just vote for everything? Or actually, are they too busy, and you don’t have to worry about that.

Duncan 06:57
It’s the business problem, we would love to have that other problem that you just described there, James. Unlike, say, a CRM, or assume your own procurement Express, you don’t have to use our software, okay and if you’re disengaged, or lazy, or extremely busy employee, you might not use our software. And that, that presents some challenges with in terms of sales and retention and stuff like that. But, you know, that’s just the game we play, isn’t it?

James 07:27
So, let’s get into it then about the saving. So let’s say, I’m working on a finance team, I’m guessing, I want to serve people so am I going to ask them? Like what happened with this piping company for example? Did they seed the question? Is it like, I’m looking for any ideas? Or I’m looking for ideas on how we can save money? Or is what the best practice is? Like should the question to ask that I’ve influenced the quality the responses you get?

Duncan 07:54
It may, I can say specifically about that company, they didn’t ask directly for saving money. And I have not seen that approach work that well. 

James    08:06

Duncan 08:07
If you think of it, if you are a junior level employee, and you see the bosses who you might perceive as being open to your ivory tower, asking you to save them more money, you wouldn’t jump to it, would you. So a more or less direct approach usually works best asking people for their ideas. And we actually have a simple a very basic feature called categories. And typically, we encourage people to make categories to guide people into the type of ideas that you’re looking for. So it could be cost savings, waste reduction, continuous improvements, safety, and that just gets people thinking about those elements. Safety is a very good one to ask employees about because it has the double impact of both showing them that you actually care about their safety, and improving safety. So it’s a very good one to ask about. And, for example, this piping customer, they got lots of safety ideas. But they’re hard to measure sometimes unless you do a big calculation and calculate the amount of debt and all that horrible stuff. But they didn’t do that. And we didn’t do that with our 300,000 in savings. That was pure savings on Western materials, or the calculation of waiting time or process improvement that they got to that figure. And I think that was only from five or six ideas that wasn’t from the whole thing that was only from that what they measured. That was about two years ago. And that was in I think, the first year and a half. So I should check in with them again, I might I might get a bigger, more impressive number. If I ask you know

James 09:34
Okay, I think most of us would take 300k that’ll last a nice top up. So tell us about the implementation. So you know, I’ve seen employee suggestion boxes on walls in different places empty and ignored. So what made this company successful in actually getting the feedback because like you say, people are busy, they don’t have time to be hanging around. You know, given the bosses 

Duncan 10:02
Very true. Well, we see two reasons why suggestion programs succeed or fail, the basic two things that they have to do is they have to acknowledge the ideas that are coming in and show that you actually heard them, okay. And the second is just implement, some of them doesn’t have to be all of them could be as little as 10%. But just do something with some of them. And this company certainly did that. I think they were doing that before they, they started working with Vetter. But they just had a very inefficient system, they had the old box stuck to the wall, literally a box on the wall, maybe comforting cobwebs, I’ve heard that often chewing gum was put into these boxes, which is pretty terrible behavior, very juvenile. And so they came to us and they wanted something a bit more modern. That’s, that’s another component of this with manufacturers. So you and I are in the kind of techie world. But the manufacturers are often not very techie. But they want to appeal to younger workers. And they want to show that we’re a modern company, we’re not trapped in the old paper, and, and wooden box times. So they actually came up with something that’s now a core feature of ours, which is a simple QR code, you scan the QR code, and you go directly to the submission page. From that then that evolved to they asked us Is there a way that we could provide feedback to those shop floor manufacturing floor workers who are not in front of the computer who often don’t have a company email address, they asked us how could we get feedback back to those guys. So we designed a simple page, basically that works a little bit like a tracking page for FedEx or DHL, where you input your tracking number and then you can see at a very high level, what’s going on with your idea. It’s a public page, so you can’t see like you can’t see what’s in the package. Or you can’t see what the specifics of the idea. But you can see what’s going on with your own personal idea. And that company puts that up on monitors. And that has the double impact of getting feedback to the actual person who submitted the idea, but also showing everybody else that we are taking action, this isn’t a black hole. Because the page refreshes, we call it that way. So they can see a dribble of activity that’s going on. And that again, shows people that they’re being responded to. So these guys did a lot of things, right. And that’s one of the reasons we were very happy when they agreed to a case study.

James 12:18
Yeah. Hmm. Interesting. So like many things in life, it’s not just as simple as turning on the software, this company actually had to put the effort behind it how to plan and that’s where they got the reward.

Duncan 12:31
Yeah, it’s not just a setup and sit back, put across your arms and see it work. It takes a little bit of work a little bit of effort.

James 12:39
Yeah. So where did the actual money saving ideas come from? Like, what were they in practice?

Duncan 12:48
They were simple stuff such as materials usage. That was a lot of these, they’re making a lot of products processing a lot of product. So it was simple materials savings, it was reducing processing time so that you could get more material out. These kinds of simple changes make a huge difference when you’re going volume, volume, volume, three shifts a day, changes 65 or changes almost 65 days a year. It’s nothing more glamorous than that. But they are often the most effective ways that you can save money or, or make more money. Yeah.

James 13:25
What I like about this is, it’s a simple way to be innovative. I was at a trade show recently where it was a panel on innovation. And people joked about using, you know, dark blue instead of light blue in their Excel sheets in terms of innovation in the finance team, because that’s as far as he got sometimes. But this is something that the finance team could actually roll out. You could measure the result. And it sounds like I mean, it’s also I mean, without getting too woolly about it, it’s good for employee retention fields, people their feedback, more, more part of the family, so to speak more part of the business, like it helps with your, what we would call ENPS or employee satisfaction. Have you any stories, have you any sense that this is a good effective tool for encouraging engagement with your staff over and above the call centers you can get?

Duncan 14:16
I don’t have good numbers on that. But I can tell you, I know you care a lot about leads, leads, leads, we get a lot of leads from where somebody has done an employee engagement survey, and the results have been bad. And they think that something like our tool could help them and often it does. I wish I had better data on the results. Maybe that’s something I should roll up my sleeves and do but yeah, that’s the connection we have to engagement. In fact, when I was trying to get that case study done with the piping customer wanting he communicated to me and he wanted included in the case study that the actual cost savings were just the tip of the iceberg. He called it that was his phrase and because the increased engagement was what they really benefited from. And that was actually the goal. Sometimes the savings are just a kind of a side benefit. And it’s the pure engagement and the feeling that staff have a voice and belong and are listened to, that has more value than just the simple money.

James 15:21
What about, you know, you’re wasting worst nightmare with all the suggestions are, we should have a four day week and let’s have biodegradable rat poison, instead of the usual stuff. And, you know, we should be maybe offsetting our carbon is a reasonable one. But like, what, how do you handle stuff that you just can’t action? Or is it a way for employees to sort of, you know, express their dissatisfaction? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Duncan 15:49
Well, I suppose people could still say those things at a meeting, right? They could still email those round CC the whole company, 100 people. So unless, unless you’re stopping that kind of thing, people are going to share these kinds of ideas. About half the customers do switch on a feature not to get into the weeds too much whereby they have control, they can approve or reject the ideas coming into the software. So it depends a little bit on your culture, whether you want to do that. And that usually is a way that they head off and block anything related to I don’t know, sport, or the politics in America, which we know can be very divisive, or anything, that’s a pure complaint that they should go directly to HR about. So it hasn’t really been a problem, James, I have to say. Very good.

James 16:45
No, I can see it. I mean, its better you know about it, right. And the other thing that strikes me is some people are great on email, and great in meetings, but the quiet ones, sometimes have great suggestions, or at least suggestions you want to know about it. And this is a way of they can get involved with I guess it can be to be anonymous, or is there always like an eight? 

Duncan 17:07
Yeah. So most customers give people the choice to be anonymous or not. Again, it depends on the culture. And then some companies are like, No way, are we doing anonymous. And yesterday, I had a call with a nonprofit in New York, longtime customer, and they want to be completely anonymous. So there’s huge contrast in attitudes. But the important thing is that the door is open to new ideas.

James 17:34
I guess. I mean, if you have a whistleblowing policy, you know, it might be useful to allow a non [inaudible] so you can get

Duncan 17:42
It’s a slightly different area. I don’t know, James, I don’t know what you’re taught. So you’ve a bit more experienced than me is would you stay away from that? I don’t want to be testifying, although I could get a free flight to Washington and testify to Congress.

James 17:53
Well, I mean, I know a lot of charities have to have a whistleblowing policy, you know, and, and certainly in Ireland, and, you know, it’s a mechanism for actually getting the feedback. And if something’s not right, and it should be, and, you know, this speaks to embarrassment sometimes as well. Like, what happens? It happens in organizations more than you’d like to think. And, and fraud, also, you know, but you do, you don’t want to necessarily be the one associated with it. But getting that information from pretty important, so you can see value in it, you know, for sure. Wish there wasn’t but you know, keeps everyone honest. Even if you know, there’s a whistleblowing policy, it just puts a blanket of extra keeps everyone on their toes if you’d like it is best practice. So I can see it being a benefit, you know, for sure. 

Duncan 18:41
Yeah, I don’t fancy that, James. I think we’ll stay away from that feature for now.

James 18:47
All right, fair enough. So let’s go back to you as an entrepreneur basis. You know, you’ve been in business more than more than 10 years now. What advice would you give your younger self? If you knew now, what you knew, and or if you knew what you knew now? What would you what would you what advice yourself?

Duncan 19:06
Well, I would tell myself, don’t bother trying to learn to code. I tried three times, maybe four times and I failed, failed, failed. And this isn’t any kind of overcoming failure story gems. I didn’t overcome failure. So I gave up. I look back now. I wish I tried to learn something cooler, like the drums. You’d look good. And you get to hit stuff. Yeah. So that was a waste of time. Yeah. Apart from that I mean, I don’t know I I feel you have to kind of make the mistakes along the wave with a lot of stuff. Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t tend to think about stuff like that. I don’t know about you, but I don’t tend to look back that way. Apart from about the coding, because I mean, it was multiple times that I I said I’m definitely going to do it. First time, I gave it a proper goal, but it didn’t work. Yeah.

James 20:03
Well, I personally love coding. But I totally agree. It’s a total, I wouldn’t say waste of time. But especially now with no code solutions that are available, you’re far better off being a product, what I would say a product manager, like someone who can design is, especially now with AI is the commodity that’s in most demand. It used to be a struggle just to build anything. But the real struggle is to build something people want. That’s the hard part actually put the ladder against the right wall, as we call it. So and I agree, don’t learn to code. I know it’s very unpopular to say that, but I say don’t learn to code learn. You say, yeah,

Duncan 20:43
It’s funny, you say no code, because I mentioned a little bit earlier, or the choice that is built in no code. And I am a proficient no coder. Yes. In contrast, I don’t know why. But it’s just enough technical stuff that I can wrap my head around.

James 20:59
So tell us about auto chime as sort of a bonus here for the listeners. What is it? What does auto chime do? 

Duncan 21:05
So it’s a brand new auditing and checklist app, mostly targeting manufacturing? It’s helps with those daily or weekly audits that are going on in factories? I don’t have you ever worked in manufacturing? No, no. Okay. And it’s going on in 1000s and 1000s, of locations in in Ireland as well. They’re daily or weekly, sometimes multiple times a day, and about 50% of them are still taking place on paper. And James, if I told you, the company I talked to on Monday, a big Irish company multinational that are still using paper in their clean rooms, you would be shocked that this is going on all over the place. They’re taking their paper to putting against the computer, they’re manually importing it into the system. And it’s a huge source of wasted time. And I feel that an app could greatly help with that in numerous ways, including error reduction. And yeah, it’s it seems a little bit unglamorous. But I think the market opportunity is large and possibly larger than Vetter

James 22:04
Wow, unglamorous. I mean, I put my hand up, we’re in the most unglamorous software app ever. And but the way I look at it is we send 1000s of people home 10 minutes early. That’s if you’re one of those people, you’re pretty glad we’re doing what we’re doing. So I’ll vote for that. Okay, great. So, Duncan, how can people get in touch with you maybe find out more about how they could set up their own engagement program for ideas for employees? Where can they find you online?

Duncan 22:34
Well, personally, just look me up on LinkedIn. I think there’s only one Duncan Murtagh. And it’s me. And of course, And auto I will respond. If you hit the contact us form, it will probably be me that respond. I respond to most of those. Yeah.

James 22:51
Very great. Now Murtagh is one of those names specially designed to catch out the foreigners. Right

Duncan 22:58
Yeah, the Americans struggle with it. Yeah. Yeah.

James 23:06

 How do you spell Murtagh? 

Duncan 23:07

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