Michael Zalle, CEO and Founder of YellowBird, tells us how the company uses an internal matching algorithm to match the best Professional with your organization within hours, to ensure the right fit every time.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded YellowBird.
Michael Zalle: Currently, I’m the CEO & Founder of YellowBird. My college journey began at San Francisco State University and was completed at Pepperdine University Graziadio Business School while working full time and traveling at age 19.
Over the last 25+ years, I have created, built, and launched multiple new concepts and companies, resulting in numerous successful exits. My businesses and purpose are ever focused on serving others. Whether it be satellite systems for First Responders, environmental products for flood and spill response, or time and economic support for difference-making organizations, I truly believe in “doing well while doing good.”
I’m fortunate to be married to a wonderful woman for the last 22 years, and we have two children. I spend much of my free time at lacrosse games chasing balls, applying band-aids, handing out snacks, or at dance recitals cheering on my daughter. I enjoy traveling and various sports, including golf and tennis; I rank myself as an incredibly average golfer and perhaps even worse tennis player. I’m also a lifelong member and mentor for the Amputee Coalition of America. I love giving back by mentoring kids with physical challenges.
I came up with the idea of YellowBird in the back of an Uber. I was chatting with my driver, who turned out to be a Colonel in the Chilean Air Force. How a man of such status was driving for Uber with his talents boggled my mind. I started thinking about the safety folks I’ve worked with over the years and how there really is no way for these people nearing or in retirement to use their skills without a full-time job. That led me to realize there’s also no easy way for companies to access these highly qualified individuals.
And that thought process led to YellowBird. YellowBird is a two-sided EHS marketplace connecting skilled Environmental, Health, and Safety Professionals with companies that aim to stay OSHA compliant to reduce accidents and risk further while saving money long-term.
Do you have small habits that made a meaningful impact on your life and business?
Michael Zalle: Whenever I am in the car, I have podcasts on.
I always wake up early to get a head start on the day.
Making priority lists is a priority for me, and I keep it within eyesight to keep me on track.
How does YellowBird market its product/services online?
Michael Zalle: We are a tech startup, and as such, we embrace technology. In addition to email nurture campaigns, YellowBird has a social media presence organically and with ad accounts.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to manage your online marketing?
Michael Zalle: We have a fantastic marketing team led by our VP Marketing, Megan Trummel. Her team uses a platform called MediaPlanHQ to keep all of our marketing efforts, including online marketing, in one central location. This platform allows her team to maintain deadlines, accept requests from other teams, and stay on top of their work to keep our marketing efforts moving forward.
What is your hiring policy/process, and how do you retain your employees?
Michael Zalle: We hire for culture first. A culture fit is critical to our org. After a solid culture fit, we look for signs of grit and experience, and knowledge, in that order. We continue to have team-building activities, even as our company grows, to ensure everyone feels included. At our monthly all-hands meetings, where important info is shared with the team, we embrace our core value of Be Spicy with a Spicy Monday competition. This competition is a costume contest and the winner, as voted on by the team, gets to pick the next theme. It’s a great way to let personalities shine and be creative, no matter their day-to-day job.
How are you funding your growth?
Michael Zalle: We were self-funded for the first 6 months, then did small friends and family raise, followed by 2 rounds of Venture Capital funding.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Michael Zalle: Parts of our business we compete with others. For example, if someone looked at us as temp staffing, we could be considered that. Some would say we complete with large consulting practices as we offer some of the same services they do. However, as a whole, we are disrupting the market, and currently, there is no one else doing exactly what we are doing.
Tell us a customer success story of yours.
Michael Zalle: We worked with a construction company that last minute, was in need of a Safety Manager for a project in rural Illinois for 6 months. They didn’t have anyone internally they could send for this project and be stuck between a rock and a hard place. We were able to provide a Safety Professional who took their fifth wheel and parked on site and was available for 6 months which turned into 9 months.
This was one of our first “gig staffing” opportunities, and not only were we able to help this construction company, but our Pro also made sure that everyone on site followed safety policies to get home safe at the end of every night, which ultimately is our goal.
Your final thoughts?
Michael Zalle: Making the world a safer place in today’s day and age requires embracing technology. And that’s what we’ve done with YellowBird. By making safety accessible to people in all 50 states through technology, I think we’re headed toward a safer and brighter future.