Inside HqO: Larry Simmons

Larry Simmons

Vice President of Client Services and Support at HqO

As the VP of Client Services and Support, Larry is responsible for all of HqO’s customer-facing teams. This includes the customer support, implementation, and customer success teams, as well as the engagement and programming teams. He’s based in Boston, but his work often brings him to other major cities in Europe and North America. He’s been with HqO for about six months. 

It sounds like you have a hand in a number of really important areas. What does your day-to-day look like, in light of that? 

I like to organize my day into big blocks. One of those is customer-facing work. It’s a big part of my role to talk with customers about what they do with us, and ensure that the teams know what success looks like so that we can make it into a reality.

I also spend a lot of time recruiting, because we’re a  high-growth company. We consistently need new and talented people in many of our global offices. That means that we’re constantly on the lookout for high performing talent that we can bring in from the outside. But, at the same time, we also really grow by fostering existing employees into newer and bigger positions. The whole point is to get an updraft of talent, as we grow we want to see junior people grow to be mid-level people, and mid-level people grow to be senior people.

Can you talk about what it’s like to work in a senior position at a high-growth company like HqO? What kinds of challenges or unique opportunities arise from that?

I’ve been really lucky to work in several high-growth companies, and I think it’s really helpful to remember that, in these situations, you can only draw on history to make the best plans and then iterate.  Realistically, you have to face a lot of unknowns, and you have some tools in your toolkit that are categorically necessary at different stages of growth to make it a success. I like the iterative nature of growth companies — as soon as you solve for one set of challenges, you have another set of challenges to work on.  Past experiences provide a lot of working material to identify and solve different patterns.

Another key principle is to not get too far ahead, because it’s easy to over-design or overcook things that may not require as much depth. You need to solve for short- to mid-term problems and ensure that you are directionally headed towards the long-term. However,  you also don’t want to be too shortsighted either, where you’re always playing catch-up with the business. I always say that we like to see around corners, which I think is a good method because it means you’re not always trying to see all the way to the end; you’re just trying to see around the next corner, and predict where you think your issues are going to be.

You referenced some of your previous experience at high-growth companies – was that in real estate? What was your existing background before coming to HQO?

I started my career in consulting. So, I spent 10 years traveling around the globe, helping companies do integrations and process redesign, and a whole bunch of other stuff. I covered lots and lots of industries over those years. 

About 15 years ago, I decided that I really wanted to play a bigger role in a company where we had a product, and where I had more stuff to lean on so that I wasn’t always reinventing what I needed to know in order to go and solve problems. Since then, I’ve been playing roles similar to the one I play here, although I’ve also been in some more technical roles.

My only real estate experience prior to this was actually building houses. Back when 9/11 happened and the tech market crashed, nobody in the tech space in Boston really had a lot of options with regards to work. I’m not a guy who likes to sit still; I like to learn new things and I’m pretty handy. So I went to work for a builder for a little while, and that was a lot of fun. Even today, I do lots of renovations and other stuff.

That’s so interesting. Is that at all common at HqO? Are certain people coming to the company from different industries?

I think we have a mix of people, and that’s important, because you’d be surprised at how many times a pattern in retail or financial services or some other industry is useful in another. Just because the industry is different doesn’t mean that the patterns don’t exist elsewhere.

What we really need as a company is a lot of different types of thinking in order to arrive at the best possible solution. That means that we need real estate people. We need some non-real estate people. We need some tech people. We also need some ‘people people’ to speak to the hospitality aspect of our product. You need to mix it up in order to get the best outcome for the customer.

Definitely agree. So, thinking about the tech a little bit more, is there any technology in the real estate world right now that you think is particularly exciting? 

A big part of the reason why I joined HqO is that I think we’re at a point in time where technology matters more than it has ever mattered in the physical workspace. I believe that people are meant to be in buildings together. It doesn’t have to be every day, but I do believe that we really need that kind of contact. And I also believe that, with all of the changes of the last few years, this in-office experience needs technology to be rewarding. It can’t just be people left to their own devices in a space with a phone and a desk. 

When I started my career at Accenture, we were all hoteling. And, even in the nineties, I’d show up to my office in a new city and see that they’d rolled out my drawers, that my phone had been changed, and so on. Everything had been tailored for me, even at a desk space that had belonged to somebody else the previous day. And that was really meaningful to me because, when I showed up, I understood that it was my space, and that they knew that I was there. Everything kind of happened the way I expected it would happen. 

Nowadays, people have an expectation that things at the office can be integrated and made personal or hospitable. And we as a company need to exist in a way that accounts for those expectations.

And how does HqO fit into that?

So at HqO, we have two exciting things. One, we have a great platform for extending and providing services that are bigger than just our footprint. We have a great technical platform that has lots of incredible facets and functionality. But we also have a great integration story. In a specific building, there are lots of different things that you may or may not need. And HqO has the ability to integrate everything without having to build it all from the ground up. And I think that’s just a necessary thing in a building. No one is going to have the exact same footprint, and certainly nobody within a company is going to have the same expectations, because every building is different. And I like that optionality in what we do. It’s really exciting.

Thinking about the future of the workplace more generally, how would you say that workplace experience technology is shaping the future of the industry?

I believe that we’re just really getting our feet under us as an industry from the standpoint of using workplace experience software, and in terms of employing and utilizing workplace experience professionals. Again, everyone realized that they needed to offer a great experience for workers when they returned to the office, and that’s what really led to this rapid change.

More specifically, I think that we, as a company, have a very data-driven approach, which has told us that preferences vary a lot depending on the region. And then, beyond that, it’s told us that the technology needs to be dialed into your specific building or your specific entity.

How does that tie into HqO’s global expansion? What are some of the things that you have to be mindful of as you expand into different international markets?

Every market has eccentricity; you cannot assume that America is Canada. And the same is true of Europe, because, especially in Europe, there are a lot of local customs and then local companies that customers want to work with. Specifically for HqO, each European country we do business in has its own eccentricity as far as culture goes in the office. I can be very firm in stating that what works for programming and what gets interest levels in an office in the US does not translate to Europe at all. In the US, for example, it’s about events. But in Europe, people are sometimes very culture driven around things that are happening in their local market. In some cases, certain food is extraordinarily important, while in other cases, the last thing they’re thinking about food is the office.

What do you like most about working for HqO?

I think the single best part about working at HqO is the people. We have an incredible group all across the board, and everyone’s motivated, and they’re smart; they’re diligent and they’re willing to get creative. And, if anything, my job as a leader here is often to harness that energy and optimize it, not necessarily to be giving pep talks all the time, because we have a really driven, self-motivated group here. It’s a lot of fun.

Inside HqO pulls back the curtain and introduces you to the people who make HqO the undisputed leader in workplace experience technology. For more information on HqO, click here. If you’re interested in joining Larry and the HqO team, check out all of our current openings here.