Former Eleven Fifty Academy president rebrands, grows talent-management firm

John Qualls has a long career in technology.

But his most recent gig resembles that of a baseball manager.

Qualls

As the CEO of startup PurposeHQ, Qualls helps companies put its workers in the right positions according to their strengths and form internal teams that can make a play.

Qualls, 51, launched PurposeHQ as Purpose.ly in October 2018 and left his job as president of tech scion Scott Jones’ local coding school, Eleven Fifty Academy, in January 2019 to focus on his new firm full-time. He rebranded the company in June.

There’s a lot going on with Qualls’ company right now as it works on producing and hosting a big event and a new artificial intelligence-driven product. Qualls said details on those projects will be unveiled in the coming weeks and months.

PurposeHQ, Qualls explained, helps its customers—and their employees—align their culture, job fit, team fit and leadership.

PurposeHQ has pioneered a platform that helps companies evaluate its employees, how effectively those employees work together and the effectiveness of the teams those employees compose as well as the impact and effectiveness of leadership and management within the company. PurposeHQ also helps its customers define job roles and hire the right people for those jobs.

It all sounds a bit like pie in the sky.

Lloyd Easters, chief investment officer of local investment firm JarredBunch, insists it’s not.

JarredBunch, which has 40 employees, started working with PurposeHQ six months ago.

“As we ran our company, PurposeHQ was the tool we were missing,” said Easters, who has been with JarredBunch for six years. “Now we can get a complete picture of the effectiveness and productivity of everyone on our staff and our teams. Before, what we were seeing was one-dimensional.”

Qualls compares his approach to corporate staffing and culture management to the way Major League Baseball team executive Billy Beane manages the Oakland Athletics—as portrayed in the movie “Moneyball” starring Brad Pitt.

Beane uses a mathematical and scientific system called sabermetrics to build a roster for the team.

“PurposeHQ is essentially Moneyball for professional people,” Qualls said.

Easters said he’s run all his employees—as well as job candidates—through the PurposeHQ assessment. “We’ve hired two people this week,” he added.

The predictive index helps Easters put together teams within JaredBunch, matching employees that will work well together and combining characteristics needed for maximum performance.

“At the push of a button, it shows me the profile of any employee and I can customize it and create any team I want,” Easters said.

The platform offers insights and solutions, but Easters added, “If I need additional insights on anything, I can call John or his staff. It helps put all the puzzle pieces together when we’re hiring, promoting or moving people around within the company and putting together teams.”

After all the employees are assessed using PurposeHQ’s platform, the software gives Easters a dashboard detailing the productivity of its employees and teams and explaining why the company’s employee organization is or isn’t working.

“It also shows us where there are holes in our organization chart and what the ideal candidate is to fill that position,” Easters said.

Employees get access to their own assessment via a dashboard. “My employees really like it,” Easters said. “They’re mystified at how accurate it is. It spurs deeper conversations with employees. It opens up a dialog among employees because they share information.”

Qualls said PurposeHQ’s platform measures a person’s personality and behavior.

Next, he said, it looks at a person’s “journey of emotional intelligence.” Then it considers the person’s “diversity of experience.”

“We bring all that together in one platform,” Qualls explained. “This process is driven by technology, data and science. In the past, this was all done by gut feelings.”

And it’s not just people PurposeHQ gauges.

“You have to look at culture, the one you craft versus the one you allow,” Qualls said.

Qualls, a six-year Marine Corps. veteran who served in Japan and Kuwait, got his start in tech working as an information technology manager for Advantage Insurance Network in 1993. He started a technology consulting firm, eOmega Consulting, in 1998 before becoming the vice president of sales and marketing for Carmel-based information technology firm nFrame in 1999.

In 2006, he became CEO of Indianapolis-based data center design, construction and operations firm CVQ before founding local IT firm Bluelock in 2006. That firm was later sold. Qualls spent four years leading Eleven Fifty Academy before starting PurposeHQ.

Qualls said his fledgling company has been growing steadily. It’s been almost totally bootstrapped and, despite the pandemic which Qualls said has “stalled” some of his clients and prospective clients, the company became cash-flow positive last month. “We have $1 million in the pipeline,” he said.

He said the target customer has business units with between 50 and 500 employees and are in the education, tech, financial services and health care sectors.

Qualls warns the PurposeHQ platform is no magic wand. “It’s a process, and it takes a commitment” by the customer, he said.

PurposeHQ’s pricing depends on the number of employees a customer wants to put through the system. A company with up to 300 employees could hire PurposeHQ for $30,000 to $60,000, Qualls said. Some of the firm’s customers have paid as little as $10,000.

“The sweet spot for us is a contract in the $50,000 to $75,000 range,” Qualls said.

The company, which has five full-time employees and seven contractors, is marketing itself through social media and word of mouth and hopes to build a global footprint. It’s currently hiring sales and business development staffers to facilitate growth.

PurposeHQ isn’t currently seeking capital. But Qualls said the firm is developing a system using “artificial intelligence and machine learning for human capital” and as that project matures, a capital raise may be needed.

“Companies need to be purpose-driven and the people they hire have to be purpose-driven,” Qualls said. “That’s what this is all about.”

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