Kyle Bailey, CEO of automotive odor-elimination product company NuVinAir, knows a thing or two about launching a business from the ground up—and managing growth when that business takes off.
“It’s difficult, especially when you don’t bring in VC money and you stay true to your game, and you believe in the journey that you’re on, and you sacrifice, and you go all-in,” Bailey told Chief Executive. “It’s a difficult challenge, but I can say that we did it.”
Chief Executive spoke with Bailey about building the right team when launching a business, how he’s managed growth as his business has expanded and how his leadership style has evolved over the years. Here’s what he had to say:
The importance of building the right startup team
I think some of the principles that are the most important when you’re trying to build a startup is the core team has to be identified, and the culture has to be the same. We all have to have similar principles and moral compasses, right? And so loyalty, integrity, transparency, I think that if you talk to anybody on our team, our corporate meetings really start with getting rid of the rust first. Not giving compliments but getting rid of rust, let’s clear things up, what was their friction? Because if the core team has any bit of rust and that poison hits the roots, the tree dies.
And so I think just having that philosophy and keeping a healthy transparent culture, you start to find that even if you have a bad hire, they don’t fit the culture and they end up pruning their own branch.
How company culture has evolved at NuVinAir
When you can build the culture from an infant seed to a root, to a tree, it takes the correct leadership and team. So I think that for us it’s always been about doing business with people—we are people, people do business with people. It’s not selling the sizzle and really taking it back to the transparent roots and how this company developed. And I think no matter what, the transparent nature in the way that we talk to our potential distributors, our clients down to new employees, it becomes so refreshing that it just organically develops.
The core principles for us are and always will be integrity, transparency, drive, and passion. And I will fight as leader the company to always ensure that at least the core team continues that kind of communication amongst each other and our clients, distributors, customers, etc.
I think that we’ve had people that have tried to plug in, that were really good at blending in. But when you have a room full of seasoned men or women that are transparent by nature, open to conversation, or will identify the problem and create solutions amongst each other, you start to develop just this organic nature that nothing else really can plug into it unless it fits that culture.
And then I think that just really starts to drive outwards from your C-suite to your management, to your employees, to your clients. It’s almost like for us, with the way that we’re growing, we had somewhat of a proven concept, but not comparative to what people seen. Usually they want FDDs, and financials, and that type of thing. But I think the transparent nature in itself becomes what they’re doing business with. And so keeping that family environment, it’s so important and it’s something that companies I see too often run from, especially when they taste success.
On managing growth at NuVinAir
When you [launch a business] from seed, you have to learn to wear every hat, which I think is really good for an owner as the company develops. I understand what it’s like to be out there scrubbing. I understand what it’s like to be in a room full of attorneys. I understand what it’s like to be at the manufacturing facility. I understand what it’s like to be behind the managers desk, etc. It’s a difficult road when you don’t take on a whole bunch of fuel because you have to learn it all.
And so kind of having this one resilience, but always staying focused on the problem and making sure that we don’t get ahead of ourselves has really developed a solid platform for this company to grow on. You need to stay within your means, learn to sacrifice, learn what it’s like to survive, and build your company from that.
How his leadership style has evolved
For me, I never hide behind the title. But there have to be layers of the company and you can’t have your hands involved in it all. I think my leadership is just direct and honest, not scared to identify a problem, not scared to apologize as a company. We never get to a place where we’re hiding stuff under a desk drawer.
We’re very open with everything because we hold ourselves to the same standard and accountability. And if it’s falsified by our words and sliding stuff under the desk, that’s when you start to build a crack and your company can shatter. So I think my sense of leadership is allowing this openness of a family culture and continuing that just through our partners and from our core team.