INTERVIEW: Ultimate Software CEO Scott Scherr on the Foundation of a Successful Business

(Editor’s Note: Today’s post is sponsored by Ultimate Software, a leading provider of people management solutions. They deliver comprehensive HR, payroll and talent management features in a single solution to deliver every workforce need from recruitment to retirement.)

I’m really excited today to write a post about Ultimate Software. Because we’re like neighbors…literally. Ultimate Software’s offices are walking distance from my home. And while that’s really nice for me, you’d also be excited to know that Ultimate was ranked #25 on this year’s FORTUNE “100 Best Companies to Work For” list. They have more than 2,300 customers with employees in 115 countries, including Adobe Systems Incorporated, The Container Store, Culligan International, Major League Baseball, Texas Roadhouse, and Yamaha Corporate of America.

So it goes without saying, Ultimate Software is a company worth paying attention to. More importantly, given all of their achievements, it would be great to understand the reason for their success. Luckily, Scott Scherr, CEO of Ultimate Software, was willing to share with me recently a bit of history about Ultimate Software and the secret to their success.

Thanks for speaking with me Scott. Can you tell me what inspired you to start Ultimate Software?

I was working in the industry, and I thought that businesses should have more choices for their human resource and payroll management—especially providers that could deliver great service and a great product with a dedicated focus on the HR industry and the people in it. So my goal was to create a company with a sole focus on people management that truly takes care of its employees so they would in turn take care of the customers. 20 years later – I think that is what we have achieved.

Ultimate Software recently updated their logo and added a tagline “People First.” Can you share some of the background for the change?

Our previous brand was created many years ago, in a different time for us and the industry. We felt it was time for a change. As a technology company, we have evolved tremendously in the last decade, and we wanted our image to reflect that we are progressive and changing with the times.

Our belief—and it is a simple idea—is that successful people are the foundation for successful business. People First. We live that every day at Ultimate. And we want to build products that reflect our philosophy. Products that we love to use because they are useful, and that our customers—from the HR director across to the line of business manager—love to use.

Having said that, the ‘People First’ principle is really a summation of who we have always been. ‘People First’ is not who we want to be — it’s truly who we are.

How are customers responding to the “People First” tagline?

At our recent Connections user conference, we asked customers about our new brand. We were surprised at how strongly some of them responded. They absolutely love it without question and it really resonates with them. They believe that ‘People First’ brings together our culture, our product, and our service and that it is a complete reflection of who we are: focused on employees, our customers, and their employees.

This is an unsolicited email I received from one customer about our new People First brand:

“Love, love this. It truly depicts the company and your focus on both your employees and your customers. When asked why we chose Ultimate, my response is ‘the people’ and that is the absolute truth. We knew then there was something different about Ultimate. We made that decision almost 12 years ago. It just keeps getting better.”

I’m sure “People First” also resonates with employees. What feedback have you received internally?

Employees also believe we have truly captured who Ultimate is with the ‘People First’ tagline. They really love it, and I think it has struck a chord across our company. When we had the internal launch, it was a wonderful day and many employees were visibly moved by the new visual image of Ultimate. We have had hundreds of comments — all positive — through word of mouth, emails, and social media posted during the streaming of our internal brand launch. We expected people to like it, but we had no idea how much they would embrace it.

Here is one email we received from an employee:

“Just want to say that the team did an AMAZING job with the new brand. It is absolutely awesome! I feel like a kid at Christmas … can’t wait to get my new business cards!“

Where do you see “People First” fitting into the future business goals at Ultimate Software?

We believe the best businesses are people businesses. And software should work for people, not the other way around. Our person-centric technology improves the personal work experience and, as a result, strengthens the business. From our beginning, Ultimate Software has put our employees and customers at the heart of our own business. And across our company, our employees know that one of our primary responsibilities is to help our customers achieve success. As a result, we are constantly innovating and expanding the value of UltiPro for the people who use our solutions. With our new brand, we are clearly stating what we know is so vitally important to every company. Ultimate Software really does mean people first.

Many thanks to Scott for taking time to share with me the Ultimate Software story. If you would like to learn more about the company and their solutions, check out their website and blog, like their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter or hang out with them on Google Plus.