The Story of Pillar – On Safety FM

The Story of Pillar – On Safety FM

Barrett Pryce

Barrett Pryce

Marketing Manager

Barrett Pryce is the Marketing Manager with Vivid Learning Systems, an online safety training provider making life a little easier for safety professionals.

Old school safety isn’t getting it done anymore. Vivid’s Director of Marketing Barrett Pryce joined Safety Talks with Steve Sisson, to talk about changing the way safety professionals work with Pillar, a new, transformative safety platform.

Launch Safety Talks Podcast: Episode 6 - Pillar by Vivid Learning Systems

Steve Sission:

Well, everyone, welcome to Safety Talks. My name's Steve Sisson, and today's guest, we have Barrett Pryce from Vivid Learning Systems. That's an HSI Company, and he is the marketing director. Barrett, welcome to the show.

Barrett Pryce:

Steve, thanks so much for having me on. I'm really excited to talk about Pillar today. I appreciate the opportunity here.

Steve Sission:

Hey, not a problem. I appreciate you being on. You just mentioned Pillar. We know you guys as Vivid Learning Systems. Can you tell us what Pillar is and what gets you excited about it?

Barrett Pryce:

I can. We have this crazy idea, and it's been a couple years in the making, but we want to change the way safety professionals work. That's what we want to do. There are many systems in the EH&S space that automate tasks and make life easier for safety professionals. We're really close to our customer and the voice of the customer. We've been on a mission to build a customer-centric organization for several years now. Cut to Pillar, Pillar is online safety management. It's professional safety online. It's a suite of safety applications that are integrated. For our customers, it's really simple. That's not an accident. We wanted to give them one place, a home online, for them to log in and get more safety stuff done, daily management, daily tasks, some of the things that are organized, or disorganized, I should say, or overcomplicated using many other systems and tools.

Steve Sission:

Okay, now Pillar itself, from what you've explained to me and what you've just mentioned now, is ... There's safety people in the field have many different platforms to work with. You may have eight to 10 different programs that you work with, so Pillar is a one-stop-shop for a safety individual?

Barrett Pryce:

Exactly, Steve. With your background as a safety pro, you know this. It's a really big job. We want to empower anyone in a safety role by making that job just a little bit smaller. What's happened is our prospects, we talk to them, thousands a month, hundreds a day. We talk to safety professionals all over the United States. I think, at this point, we’ve probably talked to every single working safety title in North America. I'm not kidding, there. But it's a big job, and our prospects tell us they're stuck using the business tools of the '90s. Right? They're using things like PowerPoint, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word. They don't have a lot of tech support, and they don't have technology. If they do, and they have access to it, they're working, again, with siloed systems. You might have one thing for safety data sheet management and work with one vendor there. You're managing this network of tools and also, I mean, if you're fortunate enough to have a budget as a safety pro and a substantial one, to acquire software or licenses there, then you're managing vendor relationships too.

You got this complicated network of mismatch or piecemeal tools just to help you get stuff done on a daily basis. If you're building training, you might be doing it in PowerPoint. Right? That takes a lot of time to plan on and execute. If you're managing your safety data sheets, a lot of folks are still doing it with Excel. Keeping current with that is a big challenge in relation to OSHA’s Standard for Hazard Communication compliance, which I know you're familiar with. Our premise is this. Old-school safety is not getting it done anymore. It doesn't work for the employees. It doesn't work for our customers, whose job is to send these people home safe, and protecting livelihood, and also the operation that they support. There's this gap, and what's changed in the world here, is that technology is supporting a lot of other business teams. Your accounting team, your HR team, your sales team, they all have software that they work with, and interface with, on a daily basis.

Safety has never really had that. It's never had a job platform, something to tie the whole thing together on a daily basis, and supply a singular source of data for management of, what we feel and know to be, a fundamental operational hole for any organization, and that's workplace safety. We want to empower those people with a tool. That's really what Pillar's all about. We feel like we can change the way safety professionals work today. Our mission behind the scenes has always been to make life easier for safety professionals. We've been near, and dear, and true to that for many, many years. For us, this is a dream that's coming true. That's what Pillar is for us. We're close to our customer. We've talked to them routinely, and this is the thing they tell us they want and need the most. Which, maybe you can speak to your experience, Steve, and some of the tools you used, and just how challenging that big job can be without the right resources.

Steve Sission:

Well, not only challenging, it's very time consuming. In my last few companies that I worked for, we had multiple platforms. It goes on and on. If you wanted to know something specific about an employee, well, let's take a driver, for example. You wanted to know how their driving history was. You got to go one platform to pull their motor vehicle report. You wanted to know if they're qualified under DQ. You've got to go to another one. If you want to know what their, let's say if you had a drive camera or smart drive in your system, and you wanted to know how they were doing it, you have to go to another platform. It sounds like Pillar is really trying to take all of those platforms, eventually, and bring them all into one place. If I wanted to know about a driver, I select that driver, and everything's presented to me right here. Or if I wanted to see about my company in itself, I can select on a company overview and see exactly where I'm at. Is that a direction that this is going?

Barrett Pryce:

Yes. We envision this thing as a growing, scalable platform now. Fundamentally, you've got a learning management system in the platform. You've got a safety data sheet management system in the platform. Then you have the magic of automation between the two and uniting the two. Pillar, out of the box, you've got a massive library of high-quality training content. The LMS piece of this, learning management system piece, is delivery and automation there, and tracking, and record-keeping for compliance with your training program. Right? On the safety data sheet side, it's pretty spectacular, actually, incredible quality of data, GHS-compliant data. We've got 800,000 sheets that are quality sheets with not a lot of data discrepancies there, which, some of the vendors you work with will claim to have millions and millions of sheets. We found those claims, based on firsthand discussions with our prospects, to be specious, at best, we'll say.

The approach that we take with a customer is full integration. We index your sheets. We provide SDS authoring assistance, and that kind of deal. You can manage your chemical inventory, and you can do it across multiple locations. We make it all very simple. Pillar is, at the content level, HTML5-enabled, mobile-ready, cloud-supported. It very much is that online software home for safety, and we expect it to grow. Some vendors, today, are out there doing audit management, for example, right, and the safety inspections. They're out there with mobile tools, and you subscribe to that kind of stuff, too. We want to take care of that, eventually, and also the recordkeeping, and injury and illness reporting piece of this as far as OSHA is concerned, too. But, yeah, document management is a huge challenge, too. We know that. That's an application that is currently under construction.

The plan is to handle as many daily safety tasks that we can help automate and centralize in the platform. Pillar's really this organizing umbrella for the job. It's going to grow in terms of functionality and capabilities. Today, a really strong LMS. Really strong safety content delivery, and the reporting, and it could be metrics that are alongside that with a world-class chemical inventory and SDS management tool. That's basically the sum of its parts, Steve, today.

Steve Sission:

Nice. In our discussions prior to this podcast, you and I had a few conversations and one of the things that came up is whoever can do this product is going to hit a home run because there are multiple companies out there looking for this type of service that is all-encompassing, where everything comes to one platform. One thing that I found very, very good about what Vivid has done is you guys didn't sit in an office and create this. You guys created a focus group of professionals. Is that correct?

Barrett Pryce:

That's right exactly. Yeah, we have, we call it the customer-informed product roadmap, but it starts with a group we call The Avengers. These are our Avenger team. They're our best customers. We reached out to them, several personalities. I think we're up to 16 on our customer round table with this group. We want them to drive the organization at the level of product development, primarily. We want our customers to tell us what they need, and then we'll build it. It's really that simple. This group is super-engaged. We've loved working with them up to this point.

They've carried us a long way. We have sent them beta exercises, and tasks, and asked them to complete those. They've been with us every step of the way throughout this process. That's not changing, either. As we continue to add applications and functionality to Pillar, that group's going to be the driving force behind those changes and, ultimately, what we shape and create for the customer. They're a fantastic resource. That's a really strong story for us. It's an organizational shift that we made about two years ago to start to focus on that. It seems like a no-brainer, let your customers advise you and guide you on how to make them happy. Happy customers is what we all want.

Steve Sission:

Absolutely, and I love the name of The Avengers. I think that's, of course, awesome. I've been looking for this kind of product for many years, and I've had a lot of companies tell me, "Yeah, we can do it." We sit down, and we send data, and we try to work through APIs, and all of this good stuff. Then they come back and say, "You know what? We're just not ready. We're just not there." But it sounds like Pillar is a, probably the closest one that I've seen so far that is there, and it is taking the steps one at a time rather than trying to makeshift it at the last minute to satisfy a customer. You're trying to use the customer to build the system based on what's needed in the field, using The Avengers, and then be able to deliver an awesome product.

Barrett Pryce:

Yeah, that's right. It's an excellent point. A lot of folks will build anything for their customer, or they'll say they can do it. They'll over-promise and then under-deliver. That's the kind of thing that can kill you in this business. We know that firsthand. You can look around the industry and see how some of that fast, lets-make-a-buck-now decision-making has ultimately resulted in customers fleeing vendors in droves. That's also true for other SaaS software as service business types that have recently seen some phenomenal growth with HR tools or accounting tools. They outstrip their ability to support the customer, and they over-promise on the product. That's something we're very sensitive about, and that's why having that round table, and having them with us, and leading our product development efforts, that's certainly a problem I know we'll avoid. We're going to be, and are, very candid about what the system does and offers today, and also optimistic about its growth in the future.

Steve Sission:

It's funny that you say that your philosophy, Vivid's philosophy, is really doing what they can to help the safety professional because, and you made a point of it earlier that safety professionals usually don't have the resources they need. It's either the financial. It's either the personnel to do the job or get the job done effectively. So anything we can do, or any company can do, to help the safety professional out there is the way that companies need to be focusing on because helping them, saving them 10, 15, 20 minutes a day, even if it's that little amount of time, that actually is a whole lot for a safety professional because they're so overwhelmed with the amount of work that they have to do.

Barrett Pryce:

Exactly. We actually have a few prospect personas, but one of them is drowning and needs a life raft. Right? We talked to a safety professional who's in that situation, and they cop to it immediately. We'll ask them, "It sounds like you're just really challenged right now by many different things. What can we do to help you?" They'll say, "Yeah, that's me. That's me to a tee, and I need 50 different things right now. Anything you can take off our plate, or help me with ..." is something that they're highly interested in. That's a well-known sort of cliché in the safety world, but it's a cliché because it's true in a lot of cases. Big, big, big job.

The same businesses that our safety professionals support, they have some needs that are universal. They all need training content. They all need to deliver safety training. They all need easy access to that. They need to be compliant with the regulatory environment, be it state or federal. That's another thing here. They have these needs, the laws and the regulations don't change every day. They're fixed, to an extent. We certainly keep up with those and are in step with the regulatory environment at the OSHA level just like any safety professional must be to do their job. They have these needs and so that's part of what Pillar addresses, these fundamental needs that every organize helps. This lets our safety professionals support their organizations in a more effectively, while owning that role at a leadership level.

Steve Sission:

Yeah, helping the safety professional. That's the key. You guys get this product developed the way you guys envision it. I'm telling you guys, you're going to hit a home run here because there's safety people, there are risk people, work ... You name it, of individuals out there looking around for this type of product, looking for one-stop-shop for all of their data to go into and come out in a logical way where they can press a few buttons and get all the information where you can go into a corporate board of directors and say, "Here's our information," rather than doing what you said using '90s technology and taking loss runs out of Excel, and doing pivot tables, and trying to figure out what's the frequency and severity of my claims, and then transferring it over into a PowerPoint so it looks nice and pretty. You guys are on the track for a home run, here. Pillar really excites me. I'll tell you that.

Barrett Pryce:

Yeah, you touched on something and that's metrics and reporting. Getting buy-in for a safety program is one of those fundamental challenges for our prospects, and we know that. The challenge, there, is all right, how do I get it. Well, you need information. You need to be able to do budget forecasting. You need to be able to have or demonstrate some of these business skills that may not seem native to the role. Right? We have a course, a webcast, that we do, and it was put together by our chief safety officer, Jill James. I think I'd mentioned her to you before, Steve, but Jill is a safety professional. She's been there and done it all. She started as an OSHA inspector. She was once one of our best customers until we did the smart thing. We hired her so we can start to get a little closer to our customers, and build for them, and really focus on supporting the safety pro with resources.

Jill has always dreamed of having this kind of one-stop-shop, but buy-in and helping these safety professionals finding themselves in that situation where they're having trouble getting even clear expectations from management. This is one of her passion projects, so she put together a presentation that's really popular. It's called Safety 101. It's for people who don't speak safety. This isn't surprising to you, or probably the audience, but a lot of people don't. There is a lot to learn. There's a very steep learning curve when you start walking into the job. Right? It's not just about not having accidents today. There are a million things to learn. Our prospects are lifelong learners. Our most successful customers are the folks that are focused on continuing education. They've figured out how to feed themselves with information. They've taught themselves how to fish, and stay compliant, and stay up to date with regulatory changes, for example, and also what resources are out there with their workers' comp providers, for example, some of the free help that you can access there.

The Safety 101 is really something that we created so safety people can give it to their bosses and say, "Look, this is what safety is at a very fundamental level." It takes a historical perspective look. The OSHA Act was, I think, 1971 or two, or 1970. Starts there, takes you all the way to modern day. Right? Along the way, we talked about that gap between safety and technology. That's really what Pillar is exploring today. We're trying to create, trying to eliminate that distance between safety and technology relative to some of the other business teams in organizations. We want to do that to enable the safety professional in their role.

They can come to management and say, "Look, we've got accidents in this area. I would like you to invest in, say, some hazard mitigation. This, in turn, is going to reduce our accident and injury rates here. You are going to experience, Mr. Executive, an ROI from the safety function." They need data and they need tools to accumulate it so they can make a business case, just plain and simple, in their organizations and have that seat at the management table. That's what we, our secret dream, is to empower this younger generation of safety leaders, and have this tool be something that is just foundational for them day-to-day.

Steve Sission:

I like that you said that with the new safety people coming up. I've got to work with some people coming out of college, and they're baffled about the technology that we're using. They've used more higher-quality technology going through college than we're using in the business field. We've got to step it up. It sounds like Pillar's doing that, which is fantastic.

Barrett Pryce:

That's right. Old-school safety isn't getting it done. Your workers today, they expect a modern training experience. They expect to work with modern tools in the business context. For someone just like you, you're fresh out ... Say you're fortunate enough to have a higher education in safety, and you graduate with a concentration in the occupational health and safety, and you're out in the business world, and you get your first job. You will have used more technology than will, most likely, be available to you in your current business context. So you're going to come to your employer, and you're going to say, "Hey, look, I need a tool here." They're going to say, "Why". Right? You're going to walk into that scenario, and you're not going to have a lot of historical data available to you or at your fingertips and on command.

How do even get support for something like that right away? How do you explain it to folks who need an education in safety and the discipline. We had an exercise a few weeks ago, and I'm laughing because it's a little bit absurd, but just ... We looked at resumes posted for occupational safety jobs or environmental, health, and safety jobs, which about five, six, seven, eight. Not one of them is similar. There are a couple of different overlapping things, but it's almost like they ... They're just throwing stuff out there at the recruiting level. Right? All right, we need a job description for safety. We know that, to us, these three things are important. Fill in the blanks for the rest of it.

We looked at about five or six of those, and then we just aggregated all the stuff that was different across them all. It was just phenomenal. It's so huge, what the job can look like as a safety professional. I mean, the tasks that, and expectations, that you're expected to handle. If you're one person, and you're alone, it's got to feel like you're walking up just the largest mountain with no snow gear. It's going to be rough. I just can't imagine standing in those shoes. But that's what we try and do. We want to stand in the shoes of those individuals. We want to build and create for those folks. That's why I'm so optimistic about Pillar. I mean, nobody's more passionate about this concept than I am, except for maybe our chief safety officer so...

Steve Sission:

Where would the listeners here, if they were interested in Pillar itself and learning more about it, where would they find that?

Barrett Pryce:

Vividlearningsystems.com. We've got plenty of information out there. We've got a bunch of helpful resources for safety professionals. A lot of stuff ... We have fun building tools, and then giving them away to safety pros, so if you were ... It's still early in the year. If you're still putting together your safety budget or you're even ahead of the game in putting one together for 2020, we've got a budget calculator tool. We've got a ROI calculator for training so you can run some numbers with your organization. We've got many other free resources. Training for compliance is another one of our tools. This will tell you, based on hazard exposure, exactly what training you need to offer, and it also will give you a custom report with frequency, et cetera. It will match you up with the right kind of courses to help you reach compliance. Also, it's got best practice recommendations, too, as well. A lot on our site is not about Pillar. That's going to change, too, but you can certainly find information about Pillar in our top navigation. It's right there at vividlearningsystems.com.

Steve Sission:

Nice. Well, I've been on your website, and there's a lot of information, a lot of good information. I like the calculators and the toolbox you guys have. With that, this is Barrett Pryce, Marketing Director with Vivid Learning Systems, an HSI Company. Thank you for listening. This has been Safety Talks, and I am your host Steve Sission. Please join us next time when we talk all things safety. Looking for more information on our host, services, or even more podcasts, please go to safetyfm.com. If you want to see it in app form, you can download the Safety FM app on the Apple Store or Google Play. Until next time, stay safe, my friends.