5TT 42 Kenny Blakeslee | Culture Of Empowerment

Above every marketing strategy and brand building is an effective team that can work together towards a specific goal. And nothing can bring you closer to the results you’ve been targeting than instilling a culture of empowerment within your workplace. Carrie Charles talks with Kenny Blakeslee to share how he implemented such a culture that spelled success for both Apex Site Solutions and Pulse Signal Solutions. He explains how core values must always come into play in real life and helping employees understand why through various programs gives them a bigger professional purpose than they could ever imagine. Kenny also talks about the philanthropic work that puts him and his team in the middle of a battle against human trafficking, further empowering their belief and ideals beyond just being tower leaders. 

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A Company With Heart: Building A Culture Of Empowerment With Kenny Blakeslee

I am excited to have with me the President and CEO of Apex Site Solutions and Pulse Signal Solutions, Kenny Blakeslee. Kenny, thank you for being on the show. I’m so excited to talk with you.  

Thanks for having me. I know that the names are a little bit of a mouthful and a little hard to remember. They’re long-winded but we wanted to capture what the company’s doing.  

I’m excited to hear about it. I can’t wait. Kenny, you have a cool story of how you started in telecom and how you got to where you are. Can you talk about that a little bit?  

Achieving high standards is always necessary, but you have to balance out too. It can’t always be accountability and calling people out.  Click To Tweet

I feel like I’m a perfect example of what’s possible in this industry. I started back in the ‘90s when I was still in high school. I was working in a yard for a company back then. They were called UCCI in Roseville, California. I was working in the yard on a summer job. I left and went into the Navy. I did my four years in the Navy as an avionics technician. When I got out, I came back to work in the industry. I was working for my dad. It was only supposed to be temporary on my way back to do college after getting out of the military. I got hooked and never left. I eventually left my dad’s company. I was young. He was younger. We butted heads like the classic father-son story. I left and went to some other companies, got more experienced and climbed the ladder. In 2010, I started Apex Site Solutions and built it from there. I went from working in a yard as a temporary job and continued to climb the ranks. I think that’s a perfect example of what’s possible in this industry and what makes it exciting for a lot of younger folks.  

Tell us more about Apex and Pulse Signal.  

Apex started in 2010. I was working as a project manager for a company that was subbing out most of their work. They wanted me to grow in that role. I was having a ton of problems finding good subs that could do high-quality work and understood what we were doing and understood the quality that was required, the closeout requirements. At that point, I said, “Why don’t we do this? I’m going to go get my contractor’s license. I’ll go to work for myself. You start selling some stuff to me. You’ll have at least one subcontractor who can do the work at a high-quality level and that you can trust. Put all of it on my plate.” 

I never planned initially to grow Apex into anything massive. It was an opportunity that I saw. I said, “Let me go work for myself and hire a couple of people. We’ll build some sites. It will be a lot of fun. There’s an opportunity there.” Soon more opportunity came. More people wanted us to build sites. We hired a few more people and continued down that road of organic growth. Soon I looked up and we had twenty people working for us. I realized, “This is turning into more of a company than just a guy out there that build the sites.” That’s when things started to shift. I had to make the choice. Do we continue to grow or do we stay extremely small?  

At that point, I was still doing everything myself. I was still doing the closeout packages. I was still doing project management. I was still sending the bids while also still trying to be out in the field working with the teams. I hit that trough of sorrow where everything felt it weighed so much on me. As we talk about the culture that we’ve built with both of these companies, I’ve got to admit, it wasn’t always this way. When I was going through that trough of sorrow, this wasn’t a great place to work. I was a borderline miserable guy. If the leader is miserable, that’s going to pass down to everybody else. We weren’t a great place to work. We had a lot of turnovers.  

5TT 42 Kenny Blakeslee | Culture Of Empowerment

Culture Of Empowerment: Bringing in people to take on different responsibilities can force your leadership skills to grow.

I met somebody who became a mentor to me. I started interacting with a couple of other people too in the industry like Brian Woodward who started to mentor me on becoming a better leader. He’s like, “You’ve got to hire some people in and start to trust some other people to take over some of these responsibilities.” I was forced to grow in my leadership. By being challenged by people like that, it got me to a place where we started bringing other people in to take on some of the responsibilities. Their leadership started to grow. It started to free up my time and my mental space to become a better leader and to become more intentional with the way that we interacted with our team and everything else.  

It started to grow from there. Admittedly, it wasn’t always a success story. It took a lot of growth. It took a lot of efforts. Even once I decided to make the change, you got to build trust with the team too where you say, “We’re going to change the way we do things.” They roll their eyes like, “Yeah, sure.” It takes time. It takes a lot of effort. That’s how that grew. Pulse came. We launched that in 2019. That’s focused on in-building services, RF engineering, more of the professional services side of things. We saw an opportunity in the DAS world, in the in-building public space, for us to take the RF expertise that we built by working for the carriers, testing and troubleshooting for the carriers and bring that to a new space.  

That’s been a lot of fun. It’s been a challenge. It’s slightly different. We’re going from a construction-focused tower company, Apex, and going into more of a professional services field. It’s been a learning curve for me. We’re focusing on the same things that we focused on with Apex, which are the core values that we stick to and matter to us. Company culture has driven a lot of success and allows us to attract some top talents that want to be a part of the team. They can see our mission. They can understand how we behave and go about our business. That’s been a lot of fun. We’re growing that too.  

Kenny, this is one thing that captured my attention about you and your companies, it’s that culture. I find that it is one of the most amazing culture stories that I’ve ever heard especially from a smaller company. I wanted to showcase that. Talk about your culture and your values. Talk about what your motivation was for creating this incredible culture.  

I’ll bring Brian Woodward back up. I spent a lot of time talking to him. He was a great mentor for me. He started to frame up for me about you realize the difference that you can be making in people’s lives when you give them this career. That’s what’s exciting about our industry. I said that I’m the prime example of it but we’ve got guys and gals that come in with no experience. We teach them from the ground. We love to get them here with no skills, maybe a little bit of construction background but we can teach them the skills and the right way to go about things, the right way to handle yourself as a professional, all the way from the beginning. We coach and mentor them. We teach them these skills, attributes and soft skills, how to go about being a professional. We can lay out a career path for them. We take them from somebody, especially younger folks in their low twenties who maybe went to a little bit of college because they were told that they had to or they’d be a loser if they didn’t.  

Aiming for one big goal is necessary, but celebrating small milestones along the way must still be appreciated.  Click To Tweet

There was no real interest in doing that. They don’t know what they want to do at this point. All of a sudden, we lay this career path out for them and try to teach them the skills and everything else to be successful. There’s so much opportunity here. We can make a generational change. I know it sounds a little much maybe sometimes but it’s true. We can get people in here who weren’t sure about what they wanted to do. They weren’t sure how they could have success in the future. We layout for them that this isn’t a job. This is a career opportunity. You can go from being someone with zero experience in this industry and advance through the ranks of becoming a tower-lead, a foreman or a field supervisor in our company, a project manager and then all the way up to running your own office.  

We’ve got guys and gals that within two years are leading their own crews. Within five years, they’re actual project managers. We’re not talking about the barely trained, scraping by because you’re so busy that you need to put somebody. They’re successful. We’ve teed them up for success. They jump into those roles. They thrive because of the different training platforms that we have and everything else we do. The bottom line is what got exciting for me was realizing that I made that. I talk about coming out of that trough of sorrow that I was in for a while and it got exciting again, where it got exciting was when we realized that this isn’t about building a company. This isn’t necessarily even about serving the carriers or 5G. That’s the goal. The way that we accomplish that goal is by focusing on our people. We’ve got some rockstars in this company that deserves the opportunity to grow. Let’s continue to cultivate that. Let’s find more of those rockstars. Let’s give them a career path. 

That’s why our company mission, we sat down and did the hard work of what is our true mission. What are our core values? What’s the vision for where we’re taking this? When I say hard work, a lot of people want to throw some words up on a wall and think it means something, but we put the time to define it to make sure we all agreed on it. It was real. It wasn’t aspirational. This is who we are and what we’re about. They did the hard work of getting it into the company core, weaving it into the fabric of our culture and making sure it’s how we live. We decided our mission is to transform lives by providing growth and development opportunities that empower our people.  

Our mission is 100% focused on empowering our people and giving them all the tools that they need to get there. That’s how we’re going to drive success. That’s what makes it fun. All of a sudden, what seemed like a little bit of a rat race became fun again. It wasn’t about solving the problems of a construction site. It wasn’t about folks calling in sick. When you realize that our job here is to give them the tools to see and give them the opportunity to grow, now it’s fun again. You’re seeing people’s successes. You can celebrate those. That’s one of our core values, celebration. It’s a tough industry. It’s not easy. There are hard days. We work rain or shine. We’re climbing towers. We’re traveling a lot. It’s not an easy job. Once we look at it as a career, then we realize that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and there’s a reason you’re doing this on a day in and day out basis, it makes it bearable. That’s what we’re all about.  

5TT 42 Kenny Blakeslee | Culture Of Empowerment

Culture Of Empowerment: With enough work and motivation, even the most green individuals can rise to become your very own company leaders.

How do you empower your people? How do you keep them motivated and inspired?  

There are a few different ways. One of the ways is by these core values. I continue to back to them. To me, whenever anybody talks about culture, it comes down to core values, living those core values and making sure that you do the hard things with those core values. You hire to those, you promote those and you fire to those too. Sometimes people need to part ways with you if they’re not living those core values or if their mission isn’t the same as yours. They can be the most talented folks in the world, but if you’ve taken the time to say, “These are our core values. This is how we behave on a day in, day out basis. This is what’s going to make us succeed,” sometimes you got to part ways and say, “This isn’t a good fit.” That’s one of the ways.  

The other way is we’ve created a lot of training platforms. We’ve created this career path. We’ve created an On the Job Training career path. It’s keeping with the military system, which is you get called out on different things. We’d gone through the career path from a tower tech 1 to a tower tech 2, tower tech 3, foreman, project supervisor, project manager. We’ve broken down the skills that are required for all of those. There are also the attributes that go into it and the soft skills that we coach to. We’ve got some training that we put them through there. We give them leadership training. Sometimes we go out to outside sources for some of that leadership training.  

This On the Job Training program that we put together breaks it down to the minutia, to the micro-skills that are necessary. Things like wiring a Raycap, testing fiber or splicing fiber. It breaks down all of those skills. They go through at any time that they can show proficiency. They get it signed off. They have to get it signed off twice. We have a practical exam that tests them out at each level. Their career path is in their hands. As long as they’re focused on that and they’re ambitious, they can get through that as fast as they want to. We also know that we’re promoting somebody. We check in on the core values all the time. Anytime we do a job debrief, there’s a section that says, “All of your crew members, how are they living our core values? Tell us where there may be deficiencies. We can coach that.” 

We utilize that to get them clear about, “Here’s everything you need to do. It’s all in your hands. You’re empowered to take your career into your own hands.” We also talk a lot about coaching and coachability. We also assign everybody a mentor when they come onboard. They’ve got a mentor for the first 60 to 90 days depending on how it’s going to make sure that they’re comfortable in the role. That first six weeks or so can always be overwhelming in a new role. We want to make sure that they feel comfortable. If there are any issues, if there are any questions they have, they’ve got at least one point of contact that they can always reach out to and know that they’ll get an ear to listen to them and also someone that they can bounce things off of. We try to keep the open door policy as well and everything else. We find that having someone that’s assigned and is also checking in with them on a regular cadence helps to make people comfortable as they come onboard and make sure that they understand that this is a place that they can thrive.  

Our goal is to make sure that people know. There are so many things we try to do to empower people. We have a professional development program that we check in with them every six months. We sit down with them, check-in on their goals, help them with goal setting, help them to be accountable to the goals they’ve set out there. That’s both professional and personal. It’s important to figure out their why. What gets them out of bed in the morning? What keeps them coming back to this tough job? Let’s figure out how we can help them succeed in whatever those goals are, whatever they are. For some folks it’s, “I want to earn more time with my kids. I want to buy a truck. I want to buy a home.” Let’s help them frame-up that why that gets them out of bed. Let’s help them achieve those goals.  

Kenny, this is the key to retention, everything you said. You’ve become an incredible leader. How did you learn all of this? How did you know to put all of this in place? Was it intuitive? Are you committed to personal growth and development yourself? These are significant programs that make an enormous difference in engagement, retention and growing your company. How did you figure all this out?  

The deeper you look, the more opportunities you find, even outside of what you are used to.  Click To Tweet

I feel like you must have teed that one up for me because if you see me on social, I’m talking about 1% better every day all the time. That’s something that I’ve taken on myself as I’ve grown as a leader. Number one, I talk about all the time the vision of where we’re taking this company. We’re planning to take it national, both of them. I’m not the leader that I need to be for this company years from now. The person that I’m going to have to be to get us there and to be the right leader at those levels, I’m not that person right now. For me to get there, I’ve got to be focused on getting 1% better every day. I try to use that as an example for everybody to challenge them, “Who are we going to need you to be when you’re stepping up and running your own office or when you’re becoming our national VP of Safety? Any of those examples, you’re not that person right now, but we can get you there. We want to get you there.”  

Our goal is to promote from within. We want to empower everybody to get there. One percent better every day is something we talk about all the time. It’s one of our core values for both companies. It’s through mentorship and seeking out coaching. One of our values is coachability. We expect everyone in the company to be coachable. That means I better be coachable too. I’m always seeking out mentorship and trying to grow, reading books. The bottom line is we’ve got people in this company that challenged me. We’ve got some rockstars in this company. They’re not afraid to call me out if I’m falling shorter or I’m not doing what I need to do. Thanks to them for holding me accountable and for forcing me to grow. Where I stand now isn’t going to cut it for the future. I’ve got to keep growing. That forces me to think about that with our team too.  

Another thing is how intentional we are. We talk about culture all the time. We’re always asking ourselves in our team meetings, especially the core leadership team, how can we help folks grow? How can we challenge people? What programs can we put into place to systemize this to make sure it’s not one-off thoughts? As we scale, as we grow the company, how do we make sure that this carries over in any new office that we open up so that this isn’t true just in the home office and it doesn’t transfer through and translate to a new office? It’s something we’re intentional about. It’s something we’re always looking for. Another example of something that we’d done and it’s a good example of what the team is coming up with it is we give all of our guys their Apex hard hats when they start. We started what we call a brag tag program. It’s almost like the college football helmets where they got stickers for their helmet anytime they do something good.  

We have Friday team calls. There are celebration videos. Anybody can join these Zoom calls on Friday. Anybody within the company can jump on there and shout out anybody else in the company and say, “I want to notice Angel for accountability, one of our core values. He held me accountable for something that came up.” Anytime people shout each other out, they get a sticker that they put on their hard hat and then they start to decorate it. They also have years in service on there and everything. That’s an example of something that when we first thought about it and it came up at a team meeting, we’re kicking the idea around. Would this be motivational? At first, I was a little worried. I’m thinking, “These are rough and tumble construction. What’s this?”  

It was amazing to watch the team embrace it. They’re shouting each other out more than even getting the praise from leadership. When they get praise from their peers, you watch them light up. They get excited about these stickers. They’re proud to decorate their hard hats. It’s something that took off. Not because of the idea of a sticker but the idea of celebrating each other, calling each other out. We talk about it all the time. One of our core values is accountability. We hold each other accountable. We hold each other to a high standard. We want to be the best in class.  

5TT 42 Kenny Blakeslee | Culture Of Empowerment

Culture Of Empowerment: Culture must always boil down to the core values and how you promote them in real life.

Achieving high standards is always necessary but you have to balance that out too. It can’t always be accountability, cracking a whip and calling people out. You got to balance that out with a little celebration, a little love. Celebration is another one of our core values. We do want people celebrating those small victories. Understanding that we’ve got big goals but there’s going to be milestones along the way that we have to appreciate. We can’t get so caught up in that long-term vision that we don’t celebrate the milestones and the little victories. It all goes back to being extremely intentional with the team, talking about it and weaving it into the fabric of the culture.  

Regionally, where do you work? I know that you said you were going to be expanding nationally soon. Where’s your home office located? Where are all your offices located? Where do you do the majority of your work?  

We’re out of Elk Grove, California now, just South of Sacramento. We have one office. We’re planning on opening another office in early 2022, and then starting to grow rapidly from there. We do serve Washington, Oregon, Nevada and California. We serve them all out of the home office. We got some crews that are deployed remotely. We also have a few crews that are set up remotely too. We’re serving a wide region. We’re going to start to expand our ability to better serve those regions by opening offices there and then growing from there. When it comes to Pulse, that’s already serving nationally. With professional services, we can do a lot of work remotely.  

We’re working on projects out in Nebraska. We’re working on some sites on the East Coast. We get called out to do some troubleshooting. We have some high-level RF engineers within Pulse. A lot of times when the tricky problems come up, they’ll call us. We’ll go out and fix what other people are having trouble fixing. We’re deployed all over the United States with Pulse. We also have some team members over on the East Coast that is based there with Pulse too. They’re working to drive each other’s growth. There are a lot of crossovers and they bring each other opportunities. It’s another way that when we launched Pulse, it was important to communicate to the team here at Apex, “This isn’t us abandoning Apex.”  

Apex is still going to have my love and attention to the teams. This is another example of creating opportunity. We’ve had a bunch of people that came from the Apex side. We realized that their skillset could serve on the professional services side. We found that that gets them more excited, “I don’t have to be doing some of that professional services stuff or the engineering type of things, iBwave Design. That interests me a little bit more. There’s an opportunity to go over there. Let’s move you over there.” It’s all about them and it’s all about how they can thrive. It gets back to the mission of empowering our people and giving them a future.  

You said that it’s all about them. That brings me to my next question for you. This is something that moved and touched me when I heard about this. You created a philanthropic organization in the tower industry to make a difference. This is something that I’d like you to talk about. I would like everyone to know what Kenny has created because we can all make a difference here. It’s powerful. Can you please talk about TATE 

I can’t take complete credit for it by any means. We’ve had partners. Jim Tracy with Legacy Telecommunications got behind this thing. Nate is getting behind this thing. I’m excited about it. To tell the full story, I connected with a local organization here called 3Strands Global. They’re based here locally. That’s how I came to know the CEO there. They do national work to help fight human trafficking. I got to know her. I was hearing her story, how they’re helping fight human trafficking and learning about how big of a problem it is. We were doing some work with them. They also source victims of human trafficking when they get rehabilitated, get ready to get back into the workforce. They help source people. We were working with them on that.  

One day she was telling me the story of how they had trained all of the field employees of a local utility company on how to spot the signs of human trafficking and then what to do about it, which is pretty simple. It’s calling the national hotline, report the facts and let the authorities take over. I thought, “That’s cool. We can do that. We got tower workers. We got people going all over. They’re road warriors. They’re at gas stations. They’re at truck stops. They’re staying in hotels. They’re building all these hotspots where they could spot signs. This could be perfect.”  

Growth will be empowered by creating success for the people that are coming up underneath you.  Click To Tweet

As we talked, it grew. How many tower workers are there across the entire nation, especially growing with 5G coming in with the need for the workforce? It’s going to continue to grow exponentially. How powerful could that be if we could take this national and get all of the tower workers nationally? Get them all trained up on this especially since it’s a simple thing. I called up Jim Tracy from Legacy and floated the idea to him. He said, “Let’s run with this. Let’s take this to Nate. Let’s get backing. Let’s do whatever we can.” It grew from there. I also have to shout out John Foley from the Safer Buildings Coalition. We also took it to him and Laurie Caruso also from the Safer Buildings Coalition.  

Originally we said, “It’s Towers Against Trafficking.” They said, “That’s only a small part of our audiences. Let’s make it Telecom Against Trafficking and Exploitation. Let’s take it to all of the telecoms.” They made it even bigger. We launched the portal, which means that the training’s gone live. It’s Telecom Against Trafficking and Exploitation, TATE. Nate’s helping us to push this out there to all of their members. We want to continue to grow it from here. It’s a simple ask. It’s 30 minutes worth of videos that anyone can watch. You can get RAN certified. We tried to keep the industry acronym there. It’s Recognize And Notify. That’s all we’re asking. Get your people RAN certified.  

When they watch these videos, they learn first about the problem of human trafficking, how big of a problem it is and the fact that it takes place in our own backyard. It shocks a lot of people that it’s happening right under your nose. Second, they get trained on how to spot those signs of human trafficking after they’ve learned about how big of a problem it is. Third, they learn what to do, which is as simple as picking up the phone. There’s a national hotline. You call that hotline and you report the facts. It’s 30 minutes worth of training. We can put all of our field folks through it. They’re empowered to take action when they see this problem happening. Hopefully, we can start to shut down some of this problem.  

As I learned about it, it’s an enormous problem. Anything we can do to help out. Any good that can come with it is awesome. It’s completely free of charge to anyone employers that want to sign up. We’ve got sponsors that have signed up. We’re also accepting other sponsors. Sponsors that have signed up to fund this like Legacy Telecommunications, Enertech Resources, my own company, Quality Telecom out of Rocklin, California. Companies are writing checks to sponsor this so that it remains free of charge. The platform will stay there. All you got to do is sign your folks up and get them trained. We’ll get them certifications. We’ll get them stickers and everything else. It’s another example of empowering the people in our industry for their future too. It’s a simple ask.  

What we’re going to be doing with our company is anybody onboard is going to get this training. We’re already putting them through RF safety, climb training, OSHA training, all the other training we do. What’s 30 minutes more of a video to educate them on this, to let them know, “This is important to our company that you look for these signs. One of the things that we want to do is have an impact on our community as we grow. This is an example of how we can do it.” Anybody onboard is going to be going through this training and then we’re going to be certifying all of our folks that have been here a long time too.  

It’s something that’s important to me. I hope it’s going to grow and take a life of its own from here on out. It’s not something that I necessarily want to be leading the charge. I want this to grow. We got to start it. I want it to grow from here, get organic and become something important to our industry. They understand the power that our industry has to do good. Our industry already does a lot of good. They come together all the time especially with the Tower Family Foundation, things like that to help families of tower climbers that have died. There are a lot of examples of how our industry is already doing good. This is one more way that we can make an impact.  

For the readers who work for a tower company or who know a leader of a tower company, what can we all do to get the word out? Can you give a website or a place someone can go? How can we all help this cause?  

Any questions that anybody has or if they want to reach out and learn a little bit more, they can email [email protected] They can get info there. Also, the portal for the training where you can go free of charge, get registered and you can do the training is www.3SGF.org/tate. I know that’s a lot of info. Anybody can go there. Anybody can reach out to me as well or Jim Tracy for Legacy Telecom. Reach out to any of us. We know what’s going on. We can get you pushed in the right direction because we want to get as many people to sign-up for this as possible and let it start to take a life of its own.  

Thanks for sharing that, Kenny. The next topic I want to cover is the workforce. What are you seeing out there when it comes to talent? Do you have to turn away work sometimes because you don’t have the skilled labor to do what you need to do? What are you seeing out there?  

The opportunities there in this industry, there’s a ton of work going on. The deeper you look, the more opportunities you find even outside of what we’re used to. For us at least, the bottleneck is people, getting people trained up as fast as possible, finding good talent that stays committed to this. It is a tough industry. It isn’t necessarily for everyone. We understand that. There is still a decent amount of turnover that we experienced because even when we interviewed people, we try to talk them out of the job. We try to say, “There’s a great opportunity but here’s what you’re going to have to deal with.” We spend a lot of time doing that. I think people still come in and get their eyes open in the first few months of, “This is intense.”  

I don’t know that I necessarily want to say we’re seeing a shortage, but if we could speed up the process of getting more talent in the door and getting them developed even faster with all the effort we’re putting them in, whatever we can do to empower more people to get into this industry, understand the benefits and the opportunities that are here, it would benefit us. We do consistently turn away work because we’re flat out too busy. We don’t want to rush anybody into leadership positions that aren’t ready for it. We were methodical about it. We’re going to make sure people aren’t asked to do more than they’re capable of. We are having a situation where we want to speed this up.  

Every company in telecom is experiencing the same thing that you said. What’s interesting and what makes you different too is that you have a training program inside of your company. You have development inside of your company. You bring people up. You bring new people in that don’t have experience and you train them up. You may not be feeling it as intensely because of that. You’ll bring in green people and say, “Let me teach you. Let’s plug you right into our training, development and career pathing and get you going.” That’s huge for companies to develop their own training programs and apprenticeships to get new people into our industry. I think that’s significant but even still, there’s so much to be done and much work that we’re still facing the shortage. I couldn’t agree with you more. Talk about 2021. What roles are you hiring for Apex and also at Pulse? Are you hiring now? What is the outlook for 2021?  

We’re always strategic about how we’re hiring. I’d say hiring tower technicians especially with no skillsets, that’s evergreen for us. That is our big goal, to bring people in with no experience, set them out on that career path and watch them succeed. Occasionally, we do bring in people that are experienced and talented especially for some of those higher-level positions as we need to grow. Sometimes we got to bring in outside talent. We’re hiring. We plan on hiring a lot more in 2021, tower foreman and signal foreman, project coordinators, project managers, RF technicians and RF engineers. That’s more on the side of running test equipment, doing troubleshooting, some iBwave experience. It’s wide-ranging. 

There’s a whole bunch of roles that we’re going to be looking to fill. We’re hitting that point in our growth where sometimes the random ones pop up. We promoted internally because we got lucky and had some talent joined the team. We promoted a Director of Safety where we used to have someone that was wearing multiple hats. We’re at the size now where we can’t be doing some multiple hats. We need a full-time dedicated person that’s safety obsessed within our company that’s going to take us to that next level of safety. We promoted from within there. We hired a talent acquisition manager. I think you guys are hopefully working together. The reason we did that is we’re going to need to do a lot of high-level hiring. We need to get a lot of good talent in the door. People that are eager to learn, eager to grow with us, and want to embrace our core values. We can set them up for success and then they can set us up for success as well. We’re going to rely on them to help us to grow and to be smarter than I am and teaching me how to do this thing.  

5TT 42 Kenny Blakeslee | Culture Of Empowerment

Culture Of Empowerment: Everyone can benefit from speeding up the process of getting more talent and empowering them when getting into the industry.

I have a question. This may be one of your secret sauces in your company. Where do you find these tower climbers and tower technicians that have no experience? Where do you look?  

It’s the standard places. We’ve got ads out on Indeed. We’ve got ads out on ZipRecruiter. We’re going to Facebook a bit. Social media for our companies is not about driving business. It’s not as if American Tower or AT&T and Verizon is going to social media to look at profiles to see who they’re going to hire to do work. Our social media is built around letting potential hires know or helping our recruiting so that people know about what our values are, what we’re all about, the opportunity we’re offering. The bottom line is some of the fun stuff that they can get to do.  

We’re utilizing tools like that. We’re trying to use our social media to get our message out there so it attracts folks. We’re having some success there. We’ve also got referral programs within our company. Anybody that comes in and is liking it and realizes the opportunity here. They can start referring in their friends. They get some cash in their pocket for that. We’re trying to get creative and do anything we can. When we get those folks that walk in and they’re the right person, it’s exciting. It excites the rest of the team. You’ll have a tower foreman that says, “Keep him on my crew. I want to keep working with that person because I feel like I can turn him into a rockstar.”  

Everybody within the company understands that our growth is going to be empowered by creating success for the people that are coming up underneath you because that’s how you’re going to be successful. Every tower-lead that’s going to become a tower foreman, we tell them, “That’s great. It’s your job to create two tower-leads for this because you’re going to need to leave one where you were and you’re going to need to take one with you. If you want to be a foreman, train up, mentor and coach two new tower-leads and now you’re a foreman in a truck as long as you’ve gone through the OJT program.” That’s what it’s all about. We’re using every technique we can to try to get people.  

Kenny, I want to celebrate you and acknowledge you for who you are in the industry, who you are for the industry and most of all, who you are for your people. It’s so refreshing to hear that you are people-centered and focused and that’s your number one concern over anything else. It’s wonderful. I think that we can all learn something from you. I’m sure everybody who’s reading this wants to work for Apex or Pulse. Where can we all go to learn more about Apex and Pulse if someone wants to hire you or someone wants to work for you?  

The website is www.ApexSiteSolutions.com. There are ways to reach out to us there, www.PowerOfPulse.com. You can reach out and connect with us there. There are also some fun YouTube videos that we’re doing and some podcast we’re doing called Tap Talks on the Pulse Signal Solutions page. You can check out more about us there and have some fun with us. There are our social media accounts, Apex on Instagram, LinkedIn and everywhere else. You can feel free to email me at [email protected] There’s also [email protected] There are all the standard ways but if you go to our website and click any of those links, you’ll get ahold of us and we can get connected that way. That’s the simplest.  

Kenny, thank you so much for coming on the show. This has been valuable. I’ve enjoyed talking to you and learning more about how you run your company and how you value people. Thank you.  

I appreciate it. Thanks for the microphone and the megaphone. Thanks for taking the time to talk about TATE too. That was special.  

You take care.  

About Kenny Blakeslee

5TT 42 Kenny Blakeslee | Culture Of Empowerment

Kenny Blakeslee brings 20 years of training and experience with multiple aspects of RF and RF theory. He is President of both Pulse Signal Solutions, an end-to-end provider of Public Safety and Commercial DAS, and Apex Site Solutions, which serves the macro tower side of the wireless industry.

While leading the team at Pulse, Kenny also plays an active role in spreading awareness and increasing education throughout the in-building wireless industry. He is passionate about bringing together stakeholders throughout the industry ecosystem, aligning AHJs, FCC licensees, fire officials, contractors, developers, and building owners on the importance of quality in-building wireless systems.

Kenny began his RF career serving in the Navy. From 2001 to 2005, he served as an Avionics Technician, repairing components from jets on the aircraft carrier, John C Stennis. He achieved the rank of Petty Officer Second Class in three years.

After his service in the Navy, Kenny worked at various tower companies where he quickly climbed the ranks from “greenhorn” to foreman to RF tester to project manager, gaining the necessary skills and knowledge along the way. While serving as a project manager, he managed 10 internal crews along with subs in the completion of AT&T UMTS projects.

Kenny launched Apex Site Solutions, a DVBE, in 2010. Starting with just one employee, he has grown Apex to a team of over 90. Leading at Apex, Kenny also effectively implemented teams, processes, and systems that allow him to develop and mentor leaders to deliver industry-leading services. He has facilitated and grown relationships with all major carriers, tower owners, and service providers in the wireless telecommunications industry, and oversees the development of a comprehensive professional development program to speed the growth of a highly skilled workforce. In 2019, Kenny launched Pulse Signal Solutions, utilizing the RF acumen he has developed with carriers to bring RF expertise to the public safety communications industry.

Kenny currently resides in Elk Grove, California with his wife Brooke and two kids, Colton and Boston.

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