Vicki Tambellini is the founder of The Tambellini Group and the Enterprise Hive. Founded in 2001, The Tambellini Group is a consulting firm that provides management strategy recommendations and detailed expert research and advisory services for higher education executives. The Enterprise Hive was founded in 2009 and the firm develops and supports enterprise-class social business software and solutions.
Tambellini has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning software company executive, author, blogger, consultant, guest-speaker, and entrepreneur. She has received numerous awards and honors from companies including PeopleSoft, Oracle and NCR. She’s also been a guest speaker at SACUBO, the Oracle HEUG, E!Learning Summit Events, Smart Woman’s Network, Richmond Venture Forum and numerous private venues.
WashingtonExec spoke with Tambellini and she shared the story behind her starting her businesses, the challenges of running two businesses, the federal procurement and acquisition processes, what she looks for in hiring top talent and more.
WashingtonExec: What’s the story behind you starting the Tambellini Group and then the Enterprise Hive?
Vicki Tambellini: When I started the Tambellini Group back in 2001, I had been in the technology industry for nearly 20 years and over the course of my career I came to understand that software and technology play such a significant role in how people can improve their lives. I wanted to have a consulting service initially that was built on the idea that with data, people could make great decisions but it would be fair and unbiased because it would be backed up with information rather than just opinions.
About 2005 I began to think about how to make the information that we were gathering, researching and storing available online. I thought about how we could look for a platform to deploy the information that the Tambellini Group was researching. I wanted to see if we could make that available free online so that our customers and prospects could do online research, and it wouldn’t necessarily mean that they had to always talk with me or always talk with somebody that worked in our organization in order to get information that they needed to make a decision. We developed a platform ourselves, which later became HiveSocial, that allowed us to create private social software communities, private secure communities for our customers to network with each other.
WashingtonExec: What are some of the challenges do you run into while running your own small businesses?
Vicki Tambellini: I think that we have to be careful to hire not only the right people, but the people that we need that have the skills that are right for our business which is something that everyone deals with. We also need people that want to work in an entrepreneurial environment because to work in an entrepreneurial environment, you have to be highly motivated, very self-directed and you have to be able to thrive in an environment that’s changing very quickly. You have to be extremely adaptable.
“I think that we have to be careful to hire not only the right people, but the people that we need that have the skills that are right for our business which is something that everyone deals with”
WashingtonExec: What exactly do you look for when hiring top talent for your businesses?
Vicki Tambellini: Because we are customer-focused I think it’s really important to hire people who are able to be good listeners. Active listening is one of those skills that is really an important skill; we’re looking for somebody that can listen to what other people have to say and be responsive to that in any type of situation. Everyone needs to have a strong desire to serve the needs of our customer – it is important. We also are driven to develop a really high quality product so we want people who want to be associated with a strong brand and with a company that is delivering a strong brand in the market.
WashingtonExec: How is your company responding to the potential cuts in federal spending?
Vicki Tambellini: From our perspective, there is no doubt that the sequestration is having a real impact on organizations throughout Greater Washington and in many parts of the country. We are focused on driving value for our customers by staying focused on what matters which is developing products that meet and exceed their needs. For us, this era of budget cutbacks really demonstrates and shows the importance that software and technology has today. Because we are selling software as a service, it’s not a capital expense for an organization so it makes it easier and less expensive in terms of the investment for organizations to consider implementing a tool like this to fuel productivity and help innovation. Another cost for organizations, especially when you are so concerned about budgets, is employee turnover and on boarding of new employees. Certainly we are concerned about it, but we are also staying mindful of the benefits that our software specifically offers.
WashingtonExec: As a small business owner, If you could change one thing about the federal procurement process and acquisition process what would it be?
Vicki Tambellini: We need to change the process so that it’s simply easier and less costly for small businesses to provide affordable solutions for the federal government, state and local government. Small companies like ours for example are the ones that create real new product innovation and speedily innovate in the market. We need to come up with a better way for government to take advantage of these innovations.
WashingtonExec: As a female entrepreneur what advice do you have for other women who aspire to start and run their own businesses?
Vicki Tambellini: I’ve been a lifetime learner in both my personal and professional life and I recommend this trait to anyone, no matter what your occupation – learning and succeeding are closely linked and every day I consume information in media and from other people; especially from people on our team. We need to stay aware of news and trends that impact the business. I would also say that like many women, I’ve known difficulties in making my way in the business world and at the same time I have found time and again that if you surround yourself with good people, good things happen. You want other people to feel good about being with you and working with you, and you can be the bedrock of that positive energy that you want to see in your organization.