Telling a Client Story: Powderkeg

We are starting a series of sharing our client’s stories.  Our first client we want to highlight is Powderkeg.  Headquartered in Indianapolis, Powderkeg is the connections engine for tech founders, investors, and professionals at startups between the coasts.  They are tapping into the power of relationships with over 10,000 members in 11 cities outside of Silicon Valley who connect through events and online forums.  In addition, Powderkeg wants to equip tech companies with the resources and knowledge they need to be successful. For this end, they have developed 5 tech censuses this year alone for Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Denver, Boulder, and Tennessee (covering Nashville, Chattanooga, Memphis, and Knoxville).  These censuses explore the momentum, factors, growth and challenges facing these cities’ tech community.

We recently asked Powderkeg’s fearless leaders, Matt Hunckler and Kevin Bailey, to speak to how their company has been served by FullStack since the beginning of this year as they have grown to 8 employees.  We’ve included a video of Matt speaking to their experience with FullStack, and here’s how Kevin responded to a few interview questions:

Q: How have FullStack's HR services helped you and Powderkeg?

A: FullStack has basically made HR a breeze.  You made the hiring process very simple - I hire someone, give them your information, and you take care of the paperwork and everything else.  Your payroll links up very well with our accounting firm, it is a seamless integration.

Q: What do you appreciate about FullStack's service offerings?

A: FullStack is very savvy, especially in hiring and employee relations, and everything HR.  It allows me to focus on what matters in the business and not worry about things that other people can do easily.

Q: What have you liked about your interactions with the FullStack team?  How have we been helpful to you?

A: We are really impressed with your team’s responsiveness to our questions and needs - sometimes it seems like I can send an email and get a response within an hour!  You have been enjoyable to interact with regardless if the situation is challenging or not.

Powderkeg’s Founder and CEO Matt Hunckler had this to say on the included video below: “We have referred FullStack to a number of our clients and they are super happy with the service they get.  The thing for me that I appreciate the most is that it allows me to focus more on executive tasks, the strategic and big picture parts of team building, where FullStack is an expert in managing the tactical aspects and details of growing and scaling a team.  It has been immensely helpful and I could not be more thankful to be a customer of FullStack.”

We are thankful for Powderkeg’s partnership and look forward to continuing to serve them and other Powderkeg members.

Daniel Fuller
Why Use a PEO?

‘Tis the season for the holidays, where we are all making plans for how we will spend our time with family and friends over the next few months, what gifts we want to give to whom, and what who is going to cook what for the various holiday meals!  I personally am looking forward to making my pumpkin pie recipe that I make from scratch with baking pumpkins grown locally!

‘Tis the season also for business leaders making significant decisions for the next calendar year, including employee benefits open enrollment or shopping benefits providers to start providing new benefits.  You may be considering a PEO as your benefits provider, along with the other perks of partnering with one (payroll, compliance, strategic support). Therefore, as the newest member of the FullStack team, I want to share with you how I am answering the question, “Why use a PEO?”  Let’s look first at the statistics provided by a third-party research firm for the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO) - see references cited below for the link to the research.

  1. PEO Expansion - As of 2017, approximately 3.7 million employees in the U.S.A. were served by PEOs, growing progressively every year since 2008 (1.8 million employees served)

  2. Financial Save - Companies save approximately $450 per year in administrative costs by utilizing a PEO.

  3. Survival & Growth - Companies who utilize a PEO are 50% less likely to go out of business, and grow 7-9% faster than companies who don’t use one.

  4. Employee Retention - Companies using a PEO have 10-14% lower employee turnover

Allow me to expand on the second and fourth points from my experience as an HR/OD consultant and leadership coach working with many business and nonprofit leaders, and as a small business owner myself. A PEO is a one-stop-shop for payroll, benefits, and compliance.  Many small businesses use separate vendors for all three, which means separate invoices, and having to communicate with CPAs, benefits providers, and attorneys respectively for their specialized services. Not only will working with a PEO save companies substantial costs per employee, it will also save leaders incredible amounts of executive time and energy to work with multiple vendors and troubleshoot challenges.  PEOs take care of this with all the respective vendors on behalf of our clients.

As a result of this time and energy save, leaders are less frenzied, and are freed to focus on the essentials of the business.  At FullStack, we believe one of these essentials is creating a healthy company culture where leaders are intentionally investing in the development of its team members.  Not only do we encourage our clients in this priority, coaching and consulting support in this strategic arena is a key offering we call “Empathy Services.”  As people who have started businesses and helped run them at early stages, we empathize with the challenges leaders are facing and strive to be a support to them in these.  This is not something you will find at every PEO, but something that differentiates FullStack. In the next few weeks, we will share stories of how we’ve supported our amazing clients.  Don’t hesitate to contact us if you’d like to learn more.

References Cited

  1. NAPEO White Papers - Research conducted by McBassi & Company -

FullStack's First Client Satisfaction Survey

FullStack, like many other start-ups, wants to make sure client satisfaction is at an all-time high for existing clients. Therefore, part of our strategic plan included developing a quick survey to send to them annually, here in September.

The good news was that we had 70% participation, which is actually pretty good for super-busy business owners and operators. The super good news is that we have an overall Net Promoter Score of 86% (we were aiming for over 80 for the first survey), with operational areas scoring in the 80’s and 90’s. There’s always places in which we can improve, especially in our first year, so even though we’re perfectionists, we are happy with this constructive feedback and look forward to improving.

The best outcome is that we had some REAL feedback that we have already begun taking to heart, with items we could take action on straightaway. One thing we’ve heard the most is asking for additional services to help our client owners learn about HR and collaborate, so this week, we sent our Slack channel invites to FullStack’s client leaders. We’ve already had some use of the page for private messages and questions, so we’re looking forward to continuing that and letting it grow organically among our client leaders.

It’s all part of our greater mission to help businesses emerge and thrive - You have to have connection in order to leverage knowledge in our business communities, and you have to be willing to communicate with one another to help one another succeed. We’re happy to be helping our clients do so and hope these connections will help them exponentially as they grow and evolve.

HR Start Up Probs

An attorney friend who works in the HR consulting space reached out to me, with three very specific questions, as he’s being interviewed to help grow his business.

  • What do YOU feel are the most significant employee issues that your clients face?  

  • What do they struggle with the most?  

  • What do they NEED the most (either additional internal resources or external/vendor resources, whether they realize it or not)?”

It made me realize that, although every HR issue is unique in a given space or given set of circumstances that are unique to the specific organization, they really do face a common set of issues. FullStack clients are primarily in the emerging business space, so it's the "what do we need to have" from a minimal perspective as they are starting up. Whether it’s hiring their first employee or their fourth employee, there are initial things needed - employment posters, basic handbook, core set-ups with the state (which we handle), payroll set-up, benefits elections, etc.  

Then, once we put that in place, they ultimately will face their first employee issue and face the "what precedent are we setting with what action we take". I had an interesting situation in the last few weeks where a new manager had an employee with an attitude - They were able to talk it through, the employee didn’t realize his/her actions were being perceived as an attitude, and both parties could use it to learn and grow in their roles to help themselves, and ultimately, the company. Sometimes it has that positive outcome - but not always - so we are there to coach them through best practices and follow-up.

As they grow, it's the age old HR issue of "Do we create an HR policy for the few, or do we manage for the many?". They also face common issues like, “At what point do I need a formal PTO policy, and how should it be constructed? How do I balance offering a generous policy to my employees but also making sure I have the resources I need to accomplish the work? How do I construct the policy to be advantageous and a perk to employees, while also not financially accruing a ton of time and facing a shortfall later?” . Then they also have the run of the mill HR items, including attire situations, attendance and performance situations, etc.

For FullStack, while there are patterns in the life cycle of the company, these patterns also indicate what HR problems will arise and when. However, we aren’t complacent about them in the slightest, because every organization’s own unique set of variables will alter the best practice recommendations to those problems. We love working with our clients through these issues and coming up with what’s best for the organizations and their people!

Engagement versus Satisfaction: Tips for Startups

I recently went to a presentation about focusing on Employee Engagement instead of Employee Satisfaction. Employee Satisfaction is taking a pretty hard hit in the media these days, because if you are merely measuring satisfaction, you’re already behind. Satisfaction is essentially how “okay” a person is with his/her job daily; whereas engagement is the buy-in piece you’re searching for from an employee who is truly leaning into his or her work from an overall buy-in. You have to do more than Net Promoter Score.

For more information, one great summarized source is Gallup’s employee engagement management model, which is divided into four different areas of entitlement, contributions, community, & growth (


  • Entitlement: Do you know what’s expected and do you have the tools to achieve your expectations?

  • Contributions: Can employees contribute daily, in a meaningful way? Are the recognized for this? And can they see how this helps someone (the business? A key client? The world?)

  • Community: Do you have a best friend at work and a voice that’s heard?

  • Growth: Do professional development opportunities exist, in addition to growing within a role?

For startups and growing companies, there needs to be a contrived strategy to address these four areas, on regular timing and intervals; beyond the typical pitfall of “What’s expected of me? Anything and everything to get the job done. Tools to do it? I have to figure that out on my own. We’re a startup, that’s just how startups are.” Creation and delivery of this starts and ends with a leadership team dedicated to it, then empowering the employees to live it with their own voice, speaking up if they are lacking in support in an area.

The true driver to employee engagement is employee buy-in. If employees feel both invested in all four areas, and supported in all four areas, they will be engaged. Daily they will have satisfaction, which will increase productivity. So...what have you done to help engagement of your people today? Pick an area, look at it critically, and ask...but be prepared to act and make it better if it needs improvement. Then tackle the next area. It really is that simple. Start by looking at each area, and be prepared to pivot and identify your organization’s needs. Also be prepared to invest in your people so they have what they need at each step above. The startup journey can be harrowing, you need your employees engaged every step of the way.