MENTORSHIP WITH MICHEL: Disengagement, Purpose, and Self-Fulfillment

Okay, we’re good.

Cool. So, yeah, I think you know a little bit about me based on the email I sent you, but, yeah, for the past… Let’s say the past year I’ve just been kind of feeling… Feeling a little lost. I’ve had a lot of great opportunities in terms of my career so far and I’ve been able to run my own business. I’ve been able to know what it’s like to be able to travel, make some good, above par money and I’m just kind of feeling a little stuck, and now I’m just kind of to take a step back and I’m like, “Okay, do I want this for the rest of my life, you know?


The only thing I really know… And it was to work in this field…

It was construction, yeah?

[Massimo] Yeah, in construction, and so now taking a step back, I’m like, “What do I do? “Where do I start? “Where do I find this inspiration?” And I’m almost thinking that your purpose doesn’t come to you like this overnight. You don’t just have an idea and like, “Oh, this is what I’m gonna do.” I feel like it’s through trial and error of different things and I wanted to know what you think about that.

Where do you find your disengagement? What would you believe your disengagement is caused by? Is it the industry? Is it the role within the industry? Is it your environment?

That’s a really good question. I feel like part of it… Maybe it is the industry as a whole. I’ve never put a lot of thought into that before, but…

My next question, so that’s the first thing, is auditing what is causing this displeasure and this disengagement? It very well could be the industry. Maybe you don’t like the blue-collardness of it, maybe you don’t like the early mornings of it or the… Whatever the circumstances might be. So do a deep-dive in that and when I do an audit of my engagement, I don’t bring technology with me. It’s kind of like a Kumbaya time. It’s just a notebook and I just let these thoughts come out of me, and then I look at it and I’m like, “What did I just write down and what is the common theme?” And that will bring you closer toward your answer. When it comes to understanding what your purpose is, I’ll share what mine is and to your point didn’t happen overnight. My purpose is just like meeting people and helping them achieve their goals, and I know that that might sound like a platitude and something for the media, but it’s very, very genuine. For me, it doesn’t matter about the industry. My engagement in hospitality is the same when I am advising a dental practice which I do outside of Toronto. It’s the same when I speak on stage. So my purpose is leading people to deliver better experiences to other people being customers if we were to talk about the commerce side of things and my business aspect of it. So when you audit your engagement and your fulfillment and happiness, take time and think, “When am I at my most engaged?” For me it’s when I’m meeting people. For you it might be interacting with contractors, interacting with whomever or it might not be that at all. You said you spent some time traveling…


Within the last 12 to 18 months?


Okay, it was probably some fulfillment there. Now I’m not suggesting go just just keep traveling, but along your travels you probably thought of something. You’re like, “That would be super cool.” The thing that you don’t want to do is, you don’t want to restrict yourself and say, “Oh, well, I couldn’t possibly build a career out of that.” Even if it sounds obscure, I’ll give you an example of a guy named on Instagram and social media, he goes by Nomadic Matt, and he wrote a book, and I’m paraphrasing, but it’s how to travel the world on $50 a day. So if he… And he’s been doing this for 10 years, and if he had told somebody, “That’s what I’m gonna do.” It probably sounded nuts to him, but he made it happen, and also for me to have achieved a goal of speaking in front of thousands of people at a Subway Conference, that sounded crazy to people, and even to myself as well too, but–

That’s the stuff that kind of excites me. Those things that are so… It feels so out of reach, but you almost know that anything is possible ’cause those things are possible and… For me, public speaking, I’m really afraid of it, but that’s also one of the reasons why it kind of interest me a lot too.

The reason people go skydiving, right? Even though they’re–


I’m scared of it. There’s something that I want you to look into and research and it’s gonna help you create a framework of what you want the next four years of your life to look like. Google painted picture 1-800-got-junk and when… Spend a weekend researching everything you can that comes up on page one of Google about it, but, essentially, what it is is it’s a document that you write four years out. So, for example, I’m working on mine right now. I’m assuming it’s the year 2020. I’m writing it like it’s the year 2024 and I’ve accomplished all these things. So, for example, it could read like this, “I’m the CEO of a company that has 100 retail locations ‘and thousand of employees. “I was just voted entrepreneur of the year in Canada. “We were recognized as one “of the fastest growing companies in Canada. “My relationship with my parents ‘is the strongest it’s ever been. “My body fat percentage is x.” So it allows you to envision what the next four years looks like and then you just reverse-engineer it, which is…

I’ve head of this theory before of almost writing out what you want and kind of reviewing it every single day, becoming more familiar with it and more familiar with it… Until you–


That you kind of reprogram your subconscious into thinking, “Hey, that’s actually gonna happen.”

So, for me, if you… I am… I swear by visualization and kind of the mental training that goes into achieving the goal. If you wanted to drive from Toronto to Miami, you could follow your GPS and have a plan, or you could just try to figure it out without the plan. I’m sure you’ll still get to Miami, but it’s gonna take you double the amount of time and it’s going to cost you double the amount of money in gas and all that. So that’s why I’m huge on creating concrete plans that you don’t deviate from. What I see a lot of people do, which I think is inaccurate is they’ll create a plan, they’ll see themselves struggling. They’ll change the plan to make it more manageable. I’m like, “No, that that doesn’t help you,” and your grip and your perseverance is like, you have to create the plan and be so content and it does have to be realistic but you have to be so content, that that is what I want my life to look like. Don’t allow yourself to to deviate from the plan, and make it easier for yourself, but I wanted to go back to the… Your fulfillment, your engagement, what can you do? It might sound like a rudimentary first step, but take some time to yourself, get out of the city, perhaps, get out of your… Put your phone away, put your laptop away, and just… When am I my most jacked up, my most engaged, my most fulfilled? And start documenting things, and it might not hit you in just a one hour session, sitting by yourself with a coffee. You might need to write some things down, put it away, come back a week later, write some more things down, put it away, and come back. This isn’t gonna happen overnight.


It took me awhile to figure out what… It took me year to really get super clear on what it was at engagement.

I know you worked at 1-800-got-junk and you built your MBA, so to say, in there and then… What happened in between there and then when you started your business, did you take some time off? Was there an awkward period where you didn’t know, but you knew what you wanted to do?

No, I was really clear. It took me about a year to figure out exactly what I wanted to do after I joined the company. I knew I wanted to build a business, but that’s so vague. I was like, “Well, what type of business?” And as I was like, “I don’t know yet, but something will come, and as I was working diligently with 1-800-got-junk, I recognized that building strong relationships with customers and employees, and the strategies that go into that is very advantageous for a company to grow. I recognized, “You know what? “I actually want to help companies build these strategies,” but I knew that I needed to cut my teeth and earn some credibility, so I stayed four more years with the company to earn that credibility and then in 2012… So after five years of being with the company I ventured off on my own and started this very small consulting agency. It was just me and it was who’s doing very tough, man, for six months was very tough. No paycheck every two weeks, move back in with your parents, I’m in my mid-20s borrowing money from anybody that would even give me the opportunity to borrow money from them. It was tough, man, but it’s not supposed to be easy. I don’t think… It’s supposed to be easy–

I think that’s the best part of it, that’s the beauty of it is now you’re in obviously a better position and you knew eventually you’d get there, you’d be here and you’re gonna be even… Hopefully even further, but I think just enjoying that process, that’s the feeling that I want, that kind of feeling where at least I know I’m working towards something. Honestly, I have lots of resources in my business. I’ve already thought of maybe one or two other businesses that could branch off from what I’m doing now, and they interest me, but… I figured if there’s a chance now to try something completely different, it would be now, now that I’m 25.

Oh, you’re 25, man?

[Massimo] Yeah.

I just met somebody, another young professional like yourself who’s 25, I’m like, “That’s the golden years, man, you’re youthful, you can still stumble and make mistakes. I was just worried that your… I’m assuming you don’t have kids.


Right, so, okay, the liability is very low, man.

[Massimo] Right, so this is the whole point I’m trying to make. I’ve already built a very comfortable nest for myself. For me to go to work tomorrow or even today and start making money again, it has nothing to do with that, and for me to put everything I have on hold, that entire life on hold, means that I’m really curious about what else is there. If that makes any sense,

It does.

And I really thought about, “Okay, if I’m going to do something, make the decision now.” Make the conscious decision now before, let’s say you’re 30 and you’ve got a few mortgages, you’ve got a serious girl or whatever. I’m not tied down to anything. I think this is the good time to do it.

Yeah, it’s a great time, absolutely, for you to be doing your discovery and your audit because, let’s say in six months from now you figure out what that is and you venture off and go do that, and then you spend the next two or three years head down, working diligently, making a name for yourself before you’re 30, man, you’re sitting pretty. The number one piece of advice that I could give people in their 20s is that you have to be prepared to eat shit for a while.

Oh, yeah.

And with a smile on your face, and just know that this is a part of the process, that those scars that you have, you’re gonna look back and be like, “It was worth it.”

[Massimo] 100%.

And that is you have to go in there humbly and, like I said, cut your teeth, and it’s gonna be a rough go, right? Especially if you’re going down the entrepreneurship path where that guaranteed paycheck after every two weeks, it’s not gonna be there anymore, all right? So it’s really gonna test your grit, your perseverance, but for me I wouldn’t have my life any other way. So, yeah.

I 100% agree with you on that. I’ve always been the type of person that’s created my own jobs and I got a lot of fulfillment out of that, and… I know tomorrow with my qualifications I can get a nine to five job. I don’t put myself on a pedestal or think I am better than that, but at the same token… I’m not sure if that kind of lifestyle would be for me, but… There was an opportunity that I thought would teach me the necessary things like the necessary information, kind of like you. You worked at 1-800-got-junk, but that was your education so I don’t mind working somewhere, but as long as the experience is going to be worthwhile. It’s not going to be a dead end thing, and I’m sure a lot of jobs, you can take a lot of different things from there, if that makes sense.

One thing that I advocate to companies is that you need to have a balance between meaning and money, and what I mean by that is that organization just can’t give Massimo money and expect him to be engaged. They have to give him some sort of meaning that is more than money. So for example, at 1-800-got-junk, my meaning at that company was they were teaching me entrepreneurship and I was like, “I can’t believe this company “is paying me to learn.” Of course I contributed to their success in the ways that I could, so they got a fair shake as well, but I wouldn’t dismiss working for an organization that you feel like, “You know what, maybe this isn’t “The industry that I expected to be in,” but I’m learning so much, and I’m gonna take that education and use that as a springboard to the next thing. Do you think I grew up picturing myself working in a call center, answering 100 calls a day where some of my shifts started at 4:00 a.m. for a garbage company? Of course not. I never drew that up, but what I did consciously know is that I wanted to start a business one day and one of the things that you have to remember is that you have to learn before you earn. Very few people can just build an app and be like, “I’m a billionaire,” right? Instagram turned into a billion dollar company after a year and a half or so, so learn before you earn is one of the biggest takeaways that I can share with younger professionals as well too. There’s so much to learn. That’s the thing is that a lot of companies aren’t built this way, right? I want to build a company, and we’ve done this, where we teach our employees how to read a P&L statement, what’s a balance sheet? How do you create a marketing plan for a restaurant? How do you do all of this and expose them to that education, and I’m not worried about our team members leaving. If they leave smarter than when they joined us, that’s a huge win.


So that’s another thing that you, perhaps, could do. I know Shopify is massive, not just in size but big on education. While there might not be an abundance of them that truly care to educate team members on how to build a business, there are a few out there. So that very well could be an avenue that you explore and be like, “You know what, for a year I’m gonna join “this company, I’m gonna earn some bank, I’m going “to learn and then I’m gonna do that next thing. “I’m gonna open that pizzeria, I’m gonna open “that whatever, right?”

Yeah. I’m certain that whatever you choose to do, if you told five people today they’d be like, “What,” right? And that’s fine because at the end of the day it’s what you have to live with. It’s your life, it’s your purpose and nobody can dictate what this other than yourself.


[Mentor] Does that make sense?

That makes a lot of sense. That makes a lot of sense. It’s a matter of finding the right company and I guess having the same values.

Do you feel pressure to come to your conclusion, or your discovering what your purpose is, or do you know that this is just a part of the process?

I know it’s part of the process, but I have a lot of people that are like, “Dude, why did you just stop everything? “Why did you… “Is everything okay? Sure, why did you just stop your job? Why did you give up… Why did you give up what you gave up? And I’m just like, “Hey, man, that job’s gonna be there for me.” I’m not overly concerned about it and so I almost have a… I’m listening to other people, what they have to say, I’m hearing what they have to say, but I know I have to take it with a grain of salt because this is my journey and I’m the one that made this decision. I have to live with it. So, yeah, I do feel some external pressure. I do feel that, but at the end of the day, I know I have to tune out those voices, and I have to go with what feels right for me.

Yeah, essentially what you do is just recalibrating yourself. It would appear that you weren’t happy with where you were at and you’ve hit the pause button, and that’s fine. You have a lifetime ahead of you. I commend you for doing that because a lot of people are living within careers that they don’t like and I’m certain that if they had a do over, it’d be doing what you’re doing right now, and I met with another person just yesterday, very similar position that you’re in right now. She was gonna be taking this role and she had to tell the company if she was gonna take this role for October 1st, and she was on the fence, and when I met with her I was like, “You don’t seem like you’re jacked up about this role,” and she was like, “I’m not.” I was like, “Well, what industries would you want to be in? “What does that change look like? And she explained it and I was like, “Well, then turn down the role,” right? Even if you don’t have the next thing lined up, just sit and recalibrate yourself, and take meetings and have goals, and help use that time to find out what you really want to do. Now be grateful that you are in this position where you can get polished. There’s a lot of people that can’t because they have a mortgage, the have kids, they have rent, they have all of this stuff. So be grateful that you in this position where you can kind of reset yourself and you have time to meet with people like myself and others and ask for advice and some guidance, and then take everything that has been shared with you, and just make a decision, and the decision doesn’t have to come to you tomorrow, nor do you need to feel stressed out about it. It’s like the person that hasn’t gotten married yet, who’s like, “Oh, my God, I gotta get married soon.” Come on, who’s it for? That’s a recipe for disaster.

Cool, man.

[Mentor] Has this been helpful for you?

Absolutely, yeah, getting insight from people who have… Who have built businesses, and who have started at the bottom and figured their way out. It’s refreshing to hear ’cause I know it’s possible for me. It’s possible for you. It’s possible for me too.

I’ll share this with you, I genuinely don’t believe I had any extraordinary talents, but what I do know that I have in spades is that I don’t give up easily and I have a lot of grit and perseverance, and so that is why I think some people will reach out to me is because, “Hey, he’s just a normal dude, “nothing too extraordinary about me,” but I just know that I’m very clear on what my vision is and what I want my life to look like, and I’ll exhaust every opportunity. I’ll try to break down every single wall be able to accomplish those goals. Now at 1,000, I don’t hit every single goal…

But at least you know what it looks like, every single day you’re chipping away at it, you feel one step closer and you know you’re on your purpose right now. Knowing your purpose, it feels good. It feels good even to fail, you just know that I’m doing my thing.

One thing that gets me really excited is thinking about big goals where I’m like, “Wow, that is gonna be really hard to hit,” but I’d always come back to something as simple as telling myself “why not me?” If it has been done before in history…


Where the next thing that I go and do, my next business in 2020 which I’m keeping my cards close for now, it’s been done before many times, but it’s still a very large goal, but I just keep telling myself, “Why not me? “Why not me?” And then I think everybody should have that mentality. I know Saperid and someone else, and if I was in the room with a billionaire or somebody who’s built a global brand that I admire, I’m like, “Why not me?” And it’s a great mentality to have. It’s refreshing and it keeps you level-headed, and it keeps you focused.

And it’s probably by people who are no smarter than you. Probably not, because some of the great business professionals of the world have ADD, are dyslexic, Richard Branson can barely read and he’s a multi-billionaire that people admire and respect, so to your point, I don’t think I’m smarter than the next person and I don’t think the next person is much smarter than me. Of course there’s your outliers where there’s absolute, bonafide geniuses that would IQ me off this planet, but what else do I have? I know that I am strong leader. I know that I can get people to follow me in the right respect and that’s my strength. So that’s what I’m gonna bring to the table with the mentality of why not me, and I think I can do it, and I pass along that same message to you, like, “Why not me? Why can’t I do this? Why I can’t I be, in five years, 30 years old, running a multimillion dollar business or whatever it is that you want to accomplish? I know somebody that is 21, has raised millions of dollars, and when I ask him, “What do you want to do after this business, what’s the deal?” He wants to get into Broadway theater, something completely opposite from what he is doing today and that just goes to show that you don’t have to go down a path that is common. You might want to do something for the next five years, but then after that you might want to do something else and then that’s fine. You don’t have to have a career that’s the same thing for 30 years, but for today do what I told you and just try to identify those moments where you’re your most happy, where you’re super engaged and even if you weren’t getting paid, you would still do it.

Even the little things, right?

Yeah, for example, I am my most engaged when I have calls like this. I am my most engaged when I’m hosting a workshop. I am my most engaged when I’m hosting a meeting with our team. I’m not engaged when I’m building PowerPoint presentations, so I punt that, I get somebody else to do it. So I’ve built my career around only doing things that I want to do. Now keep in mind that wasn’t always the case. I earned the ability to pick and choose what I want to do. I ate shit for years and years, and years, and years, so you have to be willing to do that with a smile on your face and just know that it’s a part of that process.


[Mentor] Right?

I don’t feel entitled to just jump steps.

That’s good, great mentality. Massimo, I gotta dip. I hope this was helpful for you.

Thank you very much, it was, man.

Keep me up to date with what’s going on with everything that you’re working on, okay?

Thank you very much.

[Massimo] Later brother, have a good rest of the week, okay?

You too, man, take care.

Customer Service, Company Culture and Authenticity With Bob Glazer

I had the pleasure of sitting down with best-selling author, and culture and marketing leader Bob Glazer. We dive into the importance of customer service for your employees, why companies struggle with authenticity and more.


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The Effects of Bad Customer Service and Why it’s Costing Your Company MILLIONS!

Sometime today or tomorrow you’re going to receive bad customer service from a company that you do business with. It could be a dry cleaner, auto mechanic, dentist, or any company. Immediately you will feel the effects of bad customer service.

I’m not being cynical, it’s just the fact of the matter.

After centuries of doing business, why is something as important as delivering great customer service to grow through referrals and repeat customers seem to get a short end of operating budgets?

Companies like Warby Parker and Starbucks are people-focused which allows them to deliver great experiences to customers, employees and their community.

The outcome is multi-billion dollar companies.

Most companies are either product, sales or marketing-centric. To put it another way, their engineering, business development, and brand teams are much larger than their customer service or HR teams and receive a larger piece of their operating budget.

These companies are focused on customer acquisition through PPC, Facebook ads, expensive sales seminars, influencer marketing and more. I’m not suggesting that any of this is wrong but I will advocate that keeping a customer is just as important, if not more important than inorganically acquiring them.

I don’t believe any company thinks, “I’m not interested in delivering great customer service.” I do believe that we lose focus on what’s most important. Publicly traded companies must grow each quarter at all costs and that could mean only investing in things that will help them grow in the short-term.

Companies like Warby Parker and Starbucks don’t do that. They invest in the long-term even if that means “willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time” as Jeff Bezos famously said many years ago.

Take Amazon, for example, I’d bet that you didn’t know that their tagline and slogan for the company is to be “earth’s most customer-centric company.” It’s not to be “earth’s biggest.” This is a testament to their seamless customer experience that has us buying more and more every year.

Amazon started off as a small, garage-operated website, they earned our trust by selling books. For years they created loyalty by selling one product and when the time was right, they started selling more products in different verticals. Today, they have Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon Basics and more.

I believe everything they did was calculated. They lost or broke even for years because they wanted to. They wanted to continuously reinvest in the business so they could create better experiences for us, the customers. When they knew they had our loyalty they created services – ones like AWS and Amazon Basics – that had much higher profits margins. Now, they are extremely profitable and one of the biggest companies on the planet.

How did they do this? Because of their investment in customer service and to be “earth’s most customer-centric.”

My question for all of us is – why aren’t we investing in the same philosophy?

I believe there are five things to consider to understand why your company is still delivering average or poor customer service which is impeding your growth.

1. You Aren’t Hiring Customer-Centric People

One of the things I’ve grown as a skill set to ensure my companies deliver a great customer experience is my ability to spot what I call “customer-centric pros.” These individuals know how to care about strangers.

After all, at the beginning of your relationship with new customers, they will be strangers. It takes a certain individual, or as I say, “one with customer-centric DNA” to deliver great customer service every single day.

Review the way you interview for, not just customer-facing roles, but every role in your company. What type of questions do you ask in the interview to probe for this skill set? Do they have soft skills? Are they humble? Are they kind? Start saying no to brilliant jerks.

To truly be customer-focused, every single person in your company must be devoted to delivering an amazing experience.

2. You’ve Grown Too Fast

Controlled growth is the way I like to expand a company. If you’re growing too fast without a customer-centric strategy to support this growth, then the seams of your company will start to unravel.

When our company added another venue and 50+ new team members I knew we would need help so I created a Culture Committee team. I appointed individuals from different venues and departments to form a team that came together to talk about our customer experience every single month. It also gave me half a dozen sets of eyes and ears on the ground floor to advocate our customer experience efforts.

If you expect to grow in 2020 and beyond, please do your company and customers a grand service by creating a Culture Committee and Voice of the Customer (VoC) program. If you’re already doing this, great! Keep going and consider doubling down on your efforts. Your customers will never complain about having too much service and you will be rewarded with more profit because of repeat customers and word of mouth marketing.

3. Determine Your Customer’s Pain Points

Customer journey mapping is an extraordinary exercise that hasn’t gone mainstream yet. In short, it’s when your team comes together to identify each interaction your customer experiences when doing business with you from beginning to end.

Take my industry, hospitality, as an example. If we were to host a customer journey mapping exercise we would be identifying customer touchpoints like booking a reservation on our mobile or desktop website, where our guests park their cards, cleanliness of our bathrooms and elevators, how long it takes for drinks to arrive at the table after being ordered and more.

After we’ve outlined each interaction, we start to discuss which touchpoints we’re excelling in and which ones are frustrating our customers and causing pain points for them. These pain points are when you have customers saying,

“Screw this restaurant! I’m never coming back.”

Maybe the pain point is that it takes too long to respond to guest’s emails inquiring about a reservation or it takes too long to receive your bill after dining. Regardless of the pain point or moment that it happens within the journey, it’s frustrating your customers and causing a lot of friction in the experience.

The effects of bad customer service are that they never come back, spread negative word of mouth and write bad Google reviews.

Before you move to the next point within this post, think of which touchpoint within your customer journey map is causing your customers frustration.

4. Legacy is Crushing You

I see this a lot in family runs businesses and companies that have been around for decades.

The people who started the business and did an exceptional job at growing it haven’t sharpened their skill sets over the years and neglected that behaviours – ones of customers and employees – have changed.

If you find yourself thinking, “But, this has worked in the past” to justify doing something the same way as you did ten years ago then it’s likely you’re on the wrong side of the fence.

Sometimes there needs to be a changing of the guard. I’m not suggesting that the leadership from yesterday needs to retire or move into the shadows but I am strongly advocating that they allow the leaders of tomorrow to have a say in how they operate. A fresh perspective can be very valuable to create great customer service strategies.

At the time of writing this blog post, I’m 33 years old. I wouldn’t suggest that legacy is crushing me and I don’t plan on that happen. To prevent this, I regularly meet with more youthful professionals, like Swish Goswami and Kieran Matthew, to advance my knowledge.

5. You’re Not Investing In The Right Areas Of The Business

I mentioned this earlier in the blog post, you may not be investing enough resources into your customer service efforts.

I’m often greeted with, “But, Michel, we can’t afford it.”

My response is always, “Yes, you can afford is. You’re just choosing to spend it elsewhere.”

There may be an opportunity to invest more without actually spending more. Consider this…

What if, next year, you take 10% of what you spend on marketing the year before and invest it into improving your customer service?

Now, before you think, “But, what about our marketing efforts to get new customers?!”

Remember what I said earlier, retaining customers is more important than acquiring new ones that are only going to buy off you once and never again because your customer service is bad.

Do you recall the Starbucks Superbowl ad from Superbowl LIII? No, you don’t because Starbucks doesn’t advertise traditionally.

As former Starbucks CEO said, Starbucks is not an advertiser; people think we are a great marketing company, but in fact, we spend very little money on marketing and more money on training our people than advertising.

That training produces a greater customer experience that allows them to go from four stores to 20,000+ and become a globally recognizable brand and worth billions of dollars.

Customer service training can be your greatest source of advertising, you just need to invest to reap the benefits. Trust me, the effects of bad customer service are not worth it!

How to Stop Hiring Toxic Employees (A Lesson for Every Company)

We’ve all done it.

We hired someone who spoils our company culture. They spoil team alignment, alienate others and are typically only cordial to your company’s best clients.

I’ve mistakenly hired these people before. But today I have guidelines that greatly increases the likelihood that I won’t hire them again. I’ll be sharing these lessons with you in this blog post and you’ll learn:

  • How to create better job descriptions to repel these people from even applying to your company.
  • My two-step sign-off system for every hire. There’s a trick here that will likely be new to you.
  • A sample of my interview process that has been replicated 100+ times by companies like yours.

Before making an offer to a team member, it’s important to understand the cost of a hiring toxic employee and familiarize yourself with red flags.

Cornerstone OnDemand created a report that shared the following data about hiring toxic employees:

  • Good employees are 54% more likely to quit when they work with a toxic employee.
  • By making their co-workers significantly more likely to leave, toxic employees lead to rising replacement costs; hiring a single toxic employee onto a team of 20 workers costs approximately $12,800. Whereas hiring a non-toxic employee costs an employer an average of $4,000.
  • Toxic employees have a negligible effect on the performance of their co-workers. This suggests that they have a stronger influence on stress and burnout than on day-to-day task completion.

This indicates that not only are toxic employees hurting the company culture, but they are also negatively impacting financial results. If this won’t get the attention of every senior executive and director at your company, what will?

Before you put yourself and your company in a vulnerable position by hiring a toxic employee, consider these red flags.

company culture, toxic employees, application, resume, punctuality

Everyone can agree that hiring toxic employees is bad business. Now let’s explore why we still do it.

I think there are three key reasons why companies of all sizes continue to hire toxic employees:

  • These employees “hit their numbers.” For example, a salesperson achieves their quarterly targets, a software engineer ships clean, high-quality code on-time or a digital marketer produces Facebook ads with a CPC of less than $0.10.
  • We’re toxic too. Sometimes leaders attract like-minded individuals. This is one of the hardest questions we need to ask ourselves, “Am I an asshole too?”
  • We don’t have guardrails in place to ensure that cultural misfits and toxic employees don’t even get a chance to join our companies.

Job Descriptions

Job descriptions should accurately represent what it’s like to work at an organization. These documents should clearly outline what’s most important to the company, how to be successful operating within it and what will alienate an employee.

Too often companies will go to Google, type in “job description template,” and plug and play. I’m not suggesting that using a template for benchmarking purposes is wrong. However, I am suggesting that before you use a template, ask yourself, “Who wrote it?” “Are they credible?” and “Do they have a similar company culture as mine?” If you can’t answer those questions confidently then don’t use it for something as important as hiring for your company.

Remember, your job description is the first impression that your company gives to new applicants and anyone looking to build a relationship with your company. This impression should align with the current state of your company culture. If your culture is performance-based, like Netflix, then have it read like that. If it’s more fun, like Zappos, then ensure the job description reflects that. 

Use Warby Parker’s job description as an example. Notice how it reads? It’s welcoming, playful and sets clear expectations. 

Also, it aligns with one of their core values, “Create an environment where employees can think big, have fun and do good.” 

Most importantly, it includes language that should repel toxic employees, such as, “Along the way, you’ll  partner with motivated, collaborative individuals who take their work (but not themselves seriously.”

toxic employees, company culture, warby parker

Key Takeaway: review your job descriptions this week and ask yourself, “Does this document represent our brand well in order to repel toxic employees?”

Two-Step Sign-Off System

In any company I have ownership in or advise on, I implement a two-person sign-off system. Every person that is hired must be approved by at least two (often more) senior leaders within the company.

You’ve likely heard of the two-person sign-off system before but it’s what we sign-off on that is most important. Often, companies will sign-off on the candidate’s ability to perform the job at hand. This is important but what is equally as important, and perhaps even more important, is their ability to join the team, and contribute to company culture without being disruptive to what you’ve already built.

When it comes to the two-step sign-off system, I have found that it works well if you follow these steps:

two-step sign-off system, toxic employees, company culture

Taunton Village Dental, the only client I still advise today (I retained this client after stepping away from consulting because the dental industry is tough and I like the challenge), is a real-world example of the two-step sign-off system working well. The dental practice needed to hire an associate dentist urgently. After a series of interviews, which included a working interview, the dental practice’s Director of Operations was prepared to make a candidate an offer.

Before making the hire, the Director of Operations met with her Treatment Coordinator (someone from a neighbouring department) asking for feedback on the hire. The Treatment Coordinator shared observations that she gathered from the working interview that indicated that the candidate would be toxic to the culture. After discussing these observations together they determined that it would be wrong to hire this candidate so they did not make an offer. Together, they reviewed the pool of candidates, aligned themselves and hired an associate dentist that they both agreed on.

Key Takeaway: Ensure that the two people signing-off on each new hire work in different departments. It works brilliantly!

The Proven Interview Process

Hospitality is known for many things, one of which is high employee turnover. In 2016, before I embarked in owning restaurants and bars in the city of Toronto, I knew that this would be a challenge to overcome so I built a regimented interview process.

Not only did this interview process help with improving our employee retention, but it also ensured that cultural misfits or toxic employees didn’t even get the chance to join us. I can’t say that we haven’t made a bad hire. However, I can confidently tell you that it has drastically improved the quality of candidates that we have made offers to. This interview process has been replicated by over one hundred companies such as Subway, Alfa Romeo, LUSH Cosmetics, and others. I teach my proven interview process through keynote speeches, workshops, and my book.

Pay close attention to the structure of the process. Notice how the culture interview happens before the skill set interview? Prior to gauging their skillset to the best of my ability, I want to learn how they will behave within our culture. At this point, what they have accomplished in the past isn’t as important as how they will contribute to our company culture in the future.

company culture, toxic employees, stop hiring toxic employees

During our culture interview we follow these steps to identify toxic employees and remove them from the process:

  • We probe for behaviours during times of turbulence by asking questions to better understand how they will lead or be led when things aren’t going well in the business.
  • We don’t bring their resume to the culture interview. All you need to know is their name and position they are applying for. I don’t want the hiring manager to be enamored by their resume and ignore the fact that they could be toxic to our culture.
  • We have five core values within our company (celebration, ownership, foresight, integrity, humility). For each core value, we ask two questions that help us identify whether or not the candidate will be a good fit for our company culture. It’s difficult to fake it over a series of 10+ questions
  • If the candidate doesn’t pass the culture interview then we remove them from the interview process immediately. It doesn’t matter what their resume says or what their past accomplishments are. Our culture is too important to us.

Key Takeaway: Don’t allow yourself to gravitate towards the candidate’s resume and past accomplishments. Evaluate whether the candidate aligns with your company’s values and team members first.

A company can’t afford to have an imbalance between hiring for skills and hiring for camaraderie. According to the Center for American Progress, employee turnover can cost organizations anywhere from 16% to 213% of the lost employee’s salary. Follow the three suggestions I’ve listed and watch your hiring methodology improve, and finances increase. 

Want more?

Company Culture & Customer Experience Keynote Speaker: Subway Global Convention (2019)

Before 2000+ attendees in Toronto, I was Subway’s headline keynote speaker.

During my keynote speech, I shared company culture, customer experience and employee engagement strategies with the Subway franchise owners.

Watch this video to learn how my company interviews employees and onboards them memorably which ultimately delivers a better customer experience.

Visit my website to learn more about my keynote speaking services

3 Customer Experience Stories (From Companies Not Named Starbucks) That Will Inspire Your Company to Deliver Better Customer Service

Disclaimer: I love Starbucks but I recognize that we share Starbucks stories, and companies like theirs, frequently. I wanted to start sharing stories from companies you might not be too familiar with to give evidence that regardless of your industry or size of company, you too can become a case study. If you know of a great customer experience story please share in the comments section of this post.

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I’m going to share something with you that has helped me be the best customer-centric leader that I can be for my company, team and customers.

My partners and I run a business that has 150 employees – people who rely on us to constantly be customer-focused. After all, it stems from the top! We welcome over 50,000 guests per month to our venues, so we have to build scalable systems that allows us to deliver great customer experiences each and every time.

What’s my secret?

I spend a few hours a week studying other companies and use their stories as motivation to constantly strive to be better than we are today (as of writing this blog post our Net Promoter Score is 79).


I wanted to share three stories from companies that inspire me. One of the companies I mention below I have a relationship with (I’ve hosted a full-day workshop for them), one we’re familiar with but, perhaps, doesn’t get the same press coverage as companies like Ritz Carlton or Zappos, and the last is one my business partners and I own and operate.

As you read this blog post, I suggest you think, “why not us?!”

Why can’t WE lead our industry like this?

Why can’t OUR team consistently deliver exceptional experiences like this?

Why can’t I lead MY team like this?

The answer is…YOU CAN!

If you like what you read, please consider sharing this on social media and with your team. Enjoy!

CBC Federal Credit Union


The story: One of their members (their terminology for customers) who had been a member of theirs since 2004, recently had something happen that impacted him and had nothing to do with banking or finance.

Mr. Arteaga (second from the left) came into one of their branches in California for an everyday banking need. While being helped at the branch, the CBC employee learned that the member recently had something stolen from him that was very precious to him, a scarf.

The scarf was a gift from his son who brought it back from a trip to Spain. The scarf was particularly special to him because it was one of his favourite sports team, FC Barcelona (you may have heard of they’re star player, Lionel Messi). Mr. Arteaga expressed how upsetting it was to him because it was a gift from his son.

Armed with this information, the CBC employee organized the company to purchase a FC Barcelona scarf understanding that it wouldn’t hold the same sentimental value, but a thoughtful act nevertheless.

When you hear this story you might think, “that’s nice!” But, listen to what Mr. Arteaga had to say about the customer experience:

“You guys have been more than just a financial institution all these years and I am just blown away by this. You say it is a small act, but you have no idea. Coming here is like going to my Abuelita’s (grandmother’s) house.”

Over the years, this member has been a true advocate for the business recruiting his wife and other family member to do business with CBC Federal Credit Union.

My Take and Question: when I hosted a full-day workshop for CBC Federal Credit Union in October 2018 I introduced them to my micro customer experience (MCE) strategy. This framework will grow a business and inspire an entire organization to exceed the expectations of customers or, as CBC calls them, members.

The MCE program works when you train your team to listen and take action on what you’ve heard, provide them with an operating budget and lead by example (CBC Federal Credit Unions CEO, Patrick Miller, is pictured on the far right).

Have you provided your team with the operating budget (something on your P&L) to deliver these exceptional customer experiences?

Hampton Inn


The story: A Hampton Inn employee in Pennsylvania named Kahlief did something that surely will resonate with this young guest named Colin for years to come.

Colin has autism and doing card tricks is not only a passion of his but also helps him focus. When Colin met Khalief he asked if he wanted to see some of his card tricks. Khalief marvelled at Colin’s experience and went ahead and showed Colin a few tricks of his own not once, but twice on consecutive days.

Something Khalief didn’t know is that Colin had recently lost his father, was living with his mother and sister and longing for more male interaction since the passing of his father.

The Hampton Inn team member could have easily excused himself from being able to entertain Colin because he was too busy. But, he took ownership over his role and was able to manage both serving guests and delivering an experience Colin has never seen before.

My Take and Question: You might think, “This is a nice story” but let’s not stop there. Your employees need, what I refer to as customer-centric DNA, to do this authentically. You and I can’t train our employees how to do this habitually. Khalief is a perfect example of a professional that willingly delivers memorable customer experiences to guests. As leaders of our companies, it’s our responsibility to find team members like Khalief and get out of their way to deliver these types of customer experiences.

Before I explain the ROI of doing this, isn’t it something we should be doing to build true businesses? Ones that our communities love!

The ROI of customer experiences like these are customer loyalty, engaged employees (team members with this type of DNA thrive off being able to do things like this in the workplace) and free media as many major local and national news (ABC News, Today and Good Morning America) outlets have shared this story.

During your interview process, do you ask probing questions (like this one) to identify if the person you’re interview has a customer-centric DNA?



Okay, okay, okay. This customer experience is from one of my businesses but I stand behind the story because it’s a great one!

One day a woman called into Baro to make a reservation. While our hostess was accommodating the guest on the phone, she mentioned that she would be heading to Punta Cana the following day for a vacation.

With this “customer intelligence” in hand, our hostess alerted our manager, Christina Parihar (someone I profile in my People-First Culture book) and our marketing department. They put together a customized brochure profiling information that the guest would find useful for her trip: places to eat, typical climate, local customs and more.

Prior to the guests arriving for their reservation, our hostess team had the brochures placed subtly inside their menu which were placed on their table before they arrived. Sure enough, we received the reaction we had hoped for which was the guest thinking, “How on earth did they pull this off?” You see, we had less than 24 hours to gather the information, design the brochures and have them professionally printed.


As you can imagine, this was another example of creating an experience your customers have never seen before that is worth sharing with family, friends and the internet.

My Take and Question: Examples like these aren’t just reserved for customer-facing team members. Notice how we included our marketing team, employees who typically aren’t customer-facing. Our finance team has been trained to do this for our investors and our vendors such as our payroll company, banking representatives and insurance providers. To truly build a people-first culture, you must include EVERYONE in your company to deliver experiences like these. It’s not just reserved for customer-facing roles.

During onboarding, regardless of the department, do you train your team and make them aware that everyone is responsible for creating experiences like these? Do you habitually mandate that these experiences be delivered regularly?

If you’ve been inspired by this post, please consider sharing it on social media and with your team!

For information, on how I can help your company create experiences like these for your customers, email me or visit my website to learn about my private workshops and keynote presentations.


Why Customers Have A Responsibility To Help Companies Improve Their Customer Service

I believe you and I have a responsibility – that responsibility is to help companies we do business with improve their customer service.

How? When was the last time you received great customer service? Did you go out of your way to call or email the employee’s manager and tell them of the great experience?

Watch this video to learn why I believe we as consumers need to step up and help the employees of these companies!

Comment below: name a company that delivers great customer service to you and recognize their efforts.

I’ll go first – my favourite company is Starbucks! No matter where I go in the world they always deliver an amazing experience. If you enjoyed this video make sure to subscribe and connect with me on LinkedIn where I share videos just like this on a daily basis!


Talking Company Culture, Entrepreneurship & LinkedIn’s Reach with Swish Goswami

In this interview I sit down with Trufan’s founder, Swish Goswami, to talk about how he motivates his team, what type of culture he’s looking to build at his business and why he’s going hard on LinkedIn with content.

Talking with Swish about his vision for his business is always exciting. He’s a young entrepreneur who understands the value of building a strong company culture.

This interview covers 3 main things:

1) Do’s & don’ts of LinkedIn
2) What startups should be focusing in their early days when it comes to company culture (and how to deal with employees who go against what you’re trying to build)
3) How to grow your leadership skills

Click the video above to watch the interview with Swish or read the transcription below.

Michel Falcon: Hey, everyone. I’m here with Swish, the CEO of TruFan, somebody I greatly admire. He’s on the speaking circuit. He has a book coming out.

Swish Goswami: October. I know. It’s on youth entrepreneurship, how to start a business while you’re still in school. But I’m really excited to be with Michel here.

Michel Falcon: Do you have a title for the book yet?

Swish Goswami: Yeah. The Young Entrepreneur.

Michel Falcon: Sweet.

Swish Goswami: Yeah.

Michel Falcon: I’m going to jump right into it. You have been advocating LinkedIn-

Swish Goswami: For a while.

Michel Falcon: For a few years.

Swish Goswami: Three years.

Michel Falcon: Three years.

Michel Falcon: How old were you when you first started at Linkedin?

Swish Goswami: 18.

Michel Falcon: Okay.

Swish Goswami: 18.

Michel Falcon: Gary Vaynerchuk in recent weeks-

Swish Goswami: Has gone crazy with it.

Michel Falcon: He’s been advocating it. He’s been pounding his chest. What makes Linkedin so attractive today?

Swish Goswami: That’s a great question. There’s three things. One is vulnerability. You can’t really show that level of insecurity and failure and vulnerability on Instagram. Because a lot of people when they come on Instagram they’re looking for positivity.

Michel Falcon: True.

Swish Goswami: They’re looking to be happy. They’re looking for positive stories that uplift them.

on Linkedin you really have folks talk about failure in professional setting, and to meet that with people that can relate to it directly.

Swish Goswami: Number two is the organic reach on the platform. I don’t even know how the algorithm works entirely, but it works. If you’re authentic, if you’re engaging in the comments with your community. If you’re trying to find ways to collaborate with people, you will see the results of that.

Swish Goswami: And the final thing is, it’s basically like Instagram and Facebook eight years ago. You know there’s so much you can do with the platform. You know there’s a lot you can do. I did meet ups for example. We’re now in over 480 cities that we posted Linkedin locals in, and it started in New York when I started back for the first time with 20 people that came out to a meet up. So, that was kind of two years ago. You really do something new on the platform.

Michel Falcon: So, those were the do’s of the Linkedin.

Swish Goswami: Yeah.

Michel Falcon: What are the don’ts?

Swish Goswami: The don’ts, I think one don’t be overly salesy on Linkedin. I think it’s easy to do that because it’s a professional platform. You’re like “I want to get customers. I want to close these deals online.” What you really should be trying to do is cultivate relationships and then eventually if there is a customer that you’d like to close, do it in an offline setting. Right, go and meet them or get on a phone call with them. You’re not going to close them in the comments section of a post. Unlikely.

Michel Falcon: Right.

Swish Goswami: Number two is I think try as much as possible to be yourself and that obviously is a very, you know- everybody keeps on saying authenticity, authenticity. But people don’t really understand what it means. Being yourself means, if I was coming up to you in person how would I interact with you.

Michel Falcon: Okay.

Swish Goswami: So, on Linkedin the reason I think people liked me on the platform originally is when I engage with them in the comments section, I’m literally talking to them. My periods and my commas are all over the place. I’m not speaking in grammatical sense and whatsoever, but I’m speaking to them as if I’m right there with them and they can have a conversation with me in the comments, which is really authentic.

Michel Falcon: Whose doing Linkedin very well right now? Maybe not the Gary V, maybe the not so familiar.

Swish Goswami: So for video Quentin Allums. He’s a guy, Quentin Allums is a good friend of mine. He puts out some of the best videos I’ve seen.

Michel Falcon: What makes them so-

Swish Goswami: They’re short snippets like minute to two minutes. They have subtitles on them, which is really critical as well nowadays, because again Linkedin is an international platform. You’re going to have people that do speak very well English, but also people that are just coming in and learning English for the first time. The final that thing I love about Quentin he engages with every single comment he gets.

Michel Falcon: okay.

Swish Goswami: It takes him awhile. It’s not like he’s always on Linkedin. He has a marketing agency on the side and obviously there’s a crossover between that. But at the same time even if you commented at four days after he replies to you, I as a consumer of this content feel very rewarded to get that comment back. That’s him for video.

Swish Goswami: I think for articles, for any text based posts my initial inspiration Michaela Alexis, she has over 140,000 followers and she is crushing it. She got laid off from her job and she got a job through Linkedin and she just talks about how to be able to go from basically rock bottom to be able to now speak around the world on a topic she loves. And pretty much a topic that changed her life’s trajectory entirely. So she’s very open about talking about everything, you know recently she talked about how her and her husband had a hard time conceiving a child. Like even going into topics like that…

Michel Falcon: Really.

Swish Goswami: …to being very vulnerable about it but still keeping it professional…

Michel Falcon: True.

Swish Goswami: …and not entirely personal.

Michel Falcon: Okay. So Quentin, Michaela we’ll tag them up in this so that anybody watching this can, recommended by Swish, connect with them, follow them.

Michel Falcon: What needs to happen for LinkedIn to siphon some of the attention away from Instagram to get those young professionals focused on a professional platform?

Swish Goswami: Well A., I don’t really want that ever. From my end. Well when Gary was promoting LinkedIn, I’m like, damn it! Everyone figured out the secret now! More and more people eventually come onto the platform and saturates it and I do agree with Gary that marketeers ruin everything.

Michel Falcon: True.

Swish Goswami: So the minute people are like, oh my god the organic reach is high there, the amount of, quantity of content, not quality, but quantity of content is going to drastically increase. But that being said, I think LinkedIn has a number of things around live video and that’s their next step. They put out a beta, that released to a couple of users, about 500 users around the world and they’re incrementally going to be rolling out live video. And if that can catch on, and if the right professionals come on, not only to do live video resumes, which I think would be a really cool thing, but to even take live video to networking events and start doing that all on LinkedIn as a professional platform…

Michel Falcon: Right.

Swish Goswami: …that could be really cool.

Michel Falcon: Would you have an idea on when the live…

Swish Goswami: Live video?

Michel Falcon: …videos going to be rolled out?

Swish Goswami: I’ve been told that October is when everybody will get it.

Michel Falcon: Really?

Swish Goswami: But they’re going to incrementally give it out in regions as well.

Michel Falcon: okay.

Swish Goswami: So right now, any of the beta users are all in the United States, next Canda, and then they’re going to release it in New York.

Michel Falcon: Sweet.

Swish Goswami: Which is really pretty neat.

Michel Falcon: Alright, can you trust that it comes sooner than that.

Michel Falcon: TruFan, your organization, raised a million dollars.

Swish Goswami: A million dollars right now.

Michel Falcon: And I’m sure you’re going to use those funds for many great things.

Swish Goswami: Yep.

Michel Falcon: One thing that I gravitate toward in building a company is focus on company culture.

Swish Goswami: Yeah.

Michel Falcon: What should startups be focused on to build their culture in their early days? Whether they a million dollars or not?

Swish Goswami: Yep. So I think A, it’s pretty straightforward, find the right people initially.

Find those four or five people you can really set as a foundation of your culture. These aren’t just kind people, but these are empathetic people, people who would go out of their way to not only sometimes do the right thing, but also care about each other and each other’s success.

So if you even have one toxic person on the initial team, it can ruin the entire experience. You remember Brian Scudamore 1800GotJunk fired his first ten employees because he just wasn’t having fun, and it was a toxic environment. He didn’t have optimistic people around him. So, if you want to set good company culture, it comes down to the initial people. The people who have been with the company the longest.

Swish Goswami: The second thing I think is trying as much as possible not to have a clear chain of command. I think it’s very easy for especially young CEOs to be like “I’m on top and I want everybody in the organization to know that.” But if you can make that first five to ten employee experience for them very collaborative where they feel like even if they don’t have ownership in the company they feel like they do, they would go and make this their life’s work that is the greatest thing you can give company culture. It’s having more and more people come into the company not thinking this is a stepping stone to the next opportunity, but thinking “This is my life’s work, and I feel like I’m as much of the process right now as Swish is.” Which is really cool.

Michel Falcon: Okay. I believe that there is no one size fits all for company culture. You take a company like Netflix. They’re high-performance, but then you compare them to Zappos and Zappos as they say it are weird, it’s in their values.

Swish Goswami: Very weird, very weird, yeah.

Michel Falcon: How do you describe your company culture?

Swish Goswami: So there’s three things. One, basketball. Females or males, everybody on our team loves basketball. We have a mini basketball net in our office now.

Michel Falcon: I’ve seen that.

Swish Goswami: Yep.

Michel Falcon: Do you throw down?

Swish Goswami: I can throw down.

Michel Falcon: Yeah.

Swish Goswami: But like a mini net that’s like seven feet? Probably.

Swish Goswami: The second thing is memes. We’re very humorous people. We have a memes group. In our eight people we still are very active in our memes group that’s sometimes even overly more active than our work channel. We’re really active in the memes group. And we just love having a good laugh at each other, even if we’re all in different places. I’m traveling a lot, our head sales travels a lot, we’ll all be in different places but we can share a laugh with each other, which is great.

Swish Goswami: Third and final thing which I think is really important is we all are social entrepreneurs. Even if you’re a person that isn’t an entrepreneur per se, you could be intrepreneur, which is someone that thinks entrepreneurial within a company, but we’re all very social oriented. So a lot of what we do isn’t just behind trying to make money, it’s very purpose driven. We love seeing our clients use our tools to set up really cool fan experiences and then record that to put out to the world. Because, I don’t know if you saw Chris Paul, or Yannis, both of them had incredible fan moments in the last two weeks. Those videos went viral because the emotion behind it.

Michel Falcon: Wait, Chris Paul when he crossed the …

Swish Goswami: Chris Paul when, no no no, Chris Paul had a young kid, a ten year old kid come up to him after the game and just hug his leg and cried.

Michel Falcon: No way!

Swish Goswami: He’s been a fan of his for a while, and he signed an autograph and everything like that and this kid was just melting. I had never seen tears that much come out of a little kid. And then Yannis had a girl that had been drawing paintings of him for the last four years. She’s like twelve years old.

Michel Falcon: I saw that. That was cool.

Swish Goswami: Right? And she gave her book to him, and he came around and she started crying. That’s kind of like the essence of our platform. And I think everybody on our team loves that emotion. They love that feeling.

Michel Falcon: What’s a meme that is making you laugh today …

Swish Goswami: Right now?

Michel Falcon: …that will make you laugh in two years?

Swish Goswami: All the Winnie the Pooh memes. I don’t know if you’ve seen these…

Michel Falcon: Yeah I have.

Swish Goswami: …but there’s like the clean Winnie the Pooh and the business Winnie the Pooh. I love those ones.

Michel Falcon: What do you do when you have hired somebody who you are like total culture fit, checks all the boxes, but then three months later, they start going against your culture. How do you manage that?

Swish Goswami: We’ve had an extense of that before. We’ve definitely laid people off. I think, to not obviously give names or anything but to give context, we had a remote employee that I thought would fit in really well because they would–

Michel Falcon: What told you that?

Swish Goswami: Their job was marketing, performance marketing, they were really smart, they came recommended by two advisors of mine

Michel Falcon: Two?

Swish Goswami: So I wanted to give them a shot. When we gave them a shot we realized they were coming on to every team call, but they weren’t self-driven. And for them at the time, they were the head of our marketing department, it was a really really hard for us not to have somebody who wasn’t self-driven in that role. Because I couldn’t babysit their role, and also do mine effectively.

Michel Falcon: Of course.

Swish Goswami: The first thing I do is always approach the person. I’m very honest especially between my co-founder and I, too, if I have a problem, I will speak out about it immediately. I hate the lettering, letting anything fester, especially resentment, because if you have resentment against someone else and you don’t tell them immediately, it festers and it grows over time. And then that’s where complications really start to happen. So the first thing is approaching them.

Swish Goswami: The second thing is giving them a clear expectation of what I want them to do every month. So for us, every Wednesday actually we set a weekly deliverables, where as a core team now of four people, we will sit together and be like this is what you have to do this week, this is what you have to do this week, and we’ll compare, how did the last week go. And be very honest about things we hit, things we didn’t hit. That’s number two.

Swish Goswami: And then number three is having to be honest about letting them go. The person we did let go, he’s still a part of the company, because they were with us pretty much from the beginning, but at the same time, if things aren’t working, and they understand that as well, it’s just better to get rid of them early than to keep them on and have them drag the entire process of the company down.

Michel Falcon: Okay. You mentioned you have advisors in the company.

Swish Goswami: Yeah.

Michel Falcon: Is there someone past or present that you would want on your advisory team?

Swish Goswami: We have a pretty strong advisory team now, but I … past or present… I think Seth Godin would be great. Seth Godin is one of my favorite marketeers. He wrote The Purple Cow, you should definitely read that book. But he is also the type of person that, every time I’ve gotten on a Skype call with him, he’s always taken problems that I had and just simplified them. I feel like these problems are very complex, I’m rambling on for five minutes being like, “Seth, I don’t know how to get out of this,” and he just simplifies it like, “What do you want to get done, what is the main issue right now in terms you being able to get that done, and who do you need to contact for it?”

Michel Falcon: Okay.

Swish Goswami: That’s it, he distills every big problem I have into very simple actionable items, and that’s what you really want with an advisor. They’re not here to babysit you and guide you through, they’re here just to clarify situations for you.

Michel Falcon: How would you describe your leadership style?

Swish Goswami: Leadership style, I’m quite assertive. I’m definitely very honest. I move very quickly. That’s something my entire team knows. So when I ask them to do something, they never ask “when do you want it by?” That’s just not a question that ever comes up now, because if I ask you to do something it’s likely because I need you to do it ASAP. But I also do like to give a lot of autonomy to people. For me, for my co-founder, for our head of sales, for CMO, CFO whatever, I know that the reason they’re in their job is because they’re the best at what they do. So, I am in no position to tell our CFO how to do their job. IF they want to work eight hours and then the next day go to the beach with their girlfriend, as long as they got all their work done I’m happy with that.

Michel Falcon: Sure.

Swish Goswami: But I’m not the type of person that would go in and try to make them work like me. I don’t want them to be another me, but at the same time I do need things done and I’m quite assertive about that.

Michel Falcon: Okay. For the useful and the veteran professionals that are wanting to invest in their leadership skillset, where do you recommend people go?

Swish Goswami: So, A, for confidence, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. I don’t know if I can swear, yeah? Good, yeah. Marc Manson. Best book I’ve read in my life.

Michel Falcon: Really?

Swish Goswami: Best book, I mean–

Michel Falcon: It’s hard to escape the book.

Swish Goswami: It is indeed.

Michel Falcon: And I’ve heard–you see it everywhere, and I’ve heard a lot of recommendations that it’s probably the best of the times.

Swish Goswami: That’s number one. Number two there’s a paper called The Five Myths of Great Leadership.

Michel Falcon: The Five Myths

Swish Goswami: The Five Myths of Great Leadership. I’ll send it to you, you can link it. That’s a great paper. Its also like ten pages long. Pretty easy read. It’s really good because it’s counterculture, like a lot of great leadership advice that you’ll see on Instagram, or you’ll see on viral content, they actually debunk that and they go very deep into talking about how that’s not really the case.

Swish Goswami: One for example is a lot of people say that leaders should eat last, right? The idea that Simon Sinek put out in his book. There’s a really really cool myth that leaders are the person that they want their entire team to succeed and they only succeed, but there is actually a counterculture approach which is a lot of times your team if they see you as a role model and if they see you already “eating”, they’re going to want to work to be like you. So they kind of do stuff like that and it’s really cool because obviously leadership there’s no real definitive way to become a leader, and yes there’s a science behind it, but there’s also not. So, you kind of have to figure out what works for you.

Swish Goswami: I’ve seen leaders that aren’t extroverted. I’ve seen leaders that are quiet, they’re silent ninjas. But at the same time, leadership comes in different forms, and it also is based on how you build your team. If your team responds to threats, and they respond to really assertive people, then if you’re not that type of person you probably don’t have the right team around you. But if you have a team that’s around you that you know will respond to how you work, and if you set a good role model for them, they’ll follow, that’s for you as well.

Michel Falcon: Is leadership born within oneself, or is it developed?

Swish Goswami: It’s developed. It’s definitely, obviously natural characteristics people can be born with, like confidence can come naturally, it can also be nurtured at the same time. But at the end of the day, again I’ve seen leaders that are the people who go out of their way to make their employees’ lives hell. Especially after Steve Jobs passed away, everyone read their books everyone saw the movie and stuff. I saw a lot of people were entrepreneurs that were like “I got to be like Steve now, got to make my employees really miserable because that’s how their creativity will spark,” but I’ve also seen CEOs like Brian for example and he’d go to these huddles at 10:05 or whatever–

Michel Falcon: 10:55.

Swish Goswami: 10:55 every morning, they’re there, they’re in front of the team, they’re clapping with their team, they’re approachable. And the people around Brian, I was even talking to them, they idolize Brian. Which is great, I think I would want to be at his [inaudible 00:16:43]

Michel Falcon: I was in a couple weeks ago and I did a video with Brian and we talking about leadership…

Swish Goswami: Yep.

Michel Falcon: …and in a very similar environment as I’m doing with you right now, and one of the things we talked about was his slogan “It’s all about people.”

Swish Goswami: Mmmhmm.

Michel Falcon: And I kind of challenged him on that, and I didn’t necessarily need to because I’ve developed my career at his company, but a lot of people can look at that and think that’s such a platitude, that’s something a nice rallying point.

Swish Goswami: Yep.

Michel Falcon: How do you recommend companies go from having platitudes to actually embedding it into the DNA of the company and making it authentic?

Swish Goswami: Cool. That’s a great question. I think number one is not overthinking it. Having those huddles is great, but if Brian didn’t have those huddles, it didn’t mean that he had a crap company culture.

Michel Falcon: Sure.

Swish Goswami: Right? The huddles actually came out of the company culture itself. It wasn’t like Brian initially was like at the start of the company, we’re always going to meet at 10:55. It’s just the team got to such a size that they needed to build that as another element of their culture. So I think A is not overthinking it, go along with the ride. Be very responsive to what your employees want. If your employees do not want to have a huddle at 10:55 A.M. but they’d rather do Skype sessions every week, or they’d rather go and have a client meeting that you come with them on, right?

Michel Falcon: Right.

Swish Goswami: Stuff like that could be a lot better as well than having the huddle where everybody meets. The one is responding to what your employees want over time and not overthinking it. The second thing is as much as possible take a look at what works in terms of your company culture and know that if you’re at ten or fifteen people, it might not work when you’re at fifty.

Michel Falcon: True.

Swish Goswami: Right? It really might not work when you’re at fifty. But the big thing that you’ve got to do is you have to inspire the initial ten to fifteen people to be like you when the team was really small.

Michel Falcon: Right.

Swish Goswami: Which is they have to go in to their divisions and spark their own internal company culture. So the overall company might be doing really great, and there might not be any cross pollination between sales and marketing, but if each of those individual organisms have great company culture, that is a win in my mind.

Michel Falcon: I’m going to borrow something from our mutual friend named Jayson Gaignard…

Swish Goswami: Who is that?

Michel Falcon: Going to get his ass beat for [inaudible 00:18:59] first. If we were celebrating something a year from today, what are we celebrating?

Swish Goswami: So I think A would be TrueFan. TrueFan, we’re hopefully going to be at around twenty people by the end of the year. That’s where we’re projected in terms of sales, in terms of hiring. And we’re making a lot of good moves within the cannabis industry within esports.

Michel Falcon: Nice.

Swish Goswami: So it could be really neat to have a big partner come one day and even have us license our project out entirely. Which I think is very probable. Incredibly, my co-founder is incredibly passionate about that space–

Michel Falcon: Okay.

Swish Goswami: So he’s been willing all those projects on really really well. The second thing I think would be my mom. My mom has been through the last two years have really been a personal battle if you will, splitting up with her husband, my father, and we’re at the endgame now. Avengers coming out, that was a reference to that. We’re at the endgame now, and I’m really really excited to be able to celebrate with her where she doesn’t have anything in the back of her mind.

Michel Falcon: Moms are the best human beings…

Swish Goswami: They actually are.

Michel Falcon: My dad is a pretty, like a lot of brawn, and everything, but my mom is a hundred times stronger than he is.

Swish Goswami: Yeah, yep.

Michel Falcon: Moms are a beautiful thing.

Swish Goswami: Yep.

Michel Falcon: Alright, Swish, thank you so much my brother. Follow Swish, where can they find you?

Swish Goswami: LinkedIn, Swish Goswami S-W-I-S-H G-0-S-W-A-M-I or you can hit me up on Instagram as well, very approachable, @GoSwish G-O-S-W-I-S-H.

Michel Falcon: Did you learn something by watching this awesome interview? Click the share button, click the like button, and I’ll see you next time.

This Empathy Tip Made Me A Better Leader

Welcome to another People First Monday.

You’re going to crush this week. Click the hashtag because I’ve been creating these short videos since the beginning of the year, follow along, learn about the topics that I’ve been speaking about. This week I want to share an empathy trick that I use in my career to become a better leader.

That trick is when an employee comes to you with a challenge or something that they’re struggling with, before you form an opinion or say a single word, I want you to reflect for a moment and ask yourself have I also experienced that in my career or in my personal life?

Being able to have a connection to something that you also have experienced will provide you the ability to authentically experience empathy for your team members. Use this trick, it’s working fantastic for me in my career, have a fantastic week and I’ll see you next week.

What Is A People-First Culture? (Fireside Chat With Jayson Gaignard)

Earlier this year, Jayson Gaignard, WeWork and I hosted a fireside chat where Jayson interviewed me about my People-First Culture book.

Watch (or read) the interview if you’re interested in:

? Understanding why I focused a lot of attention on purpose-driven companies within the pages of my book
? Learning about my Employee Advisory Board and how it’s helped us create a great workplace
? My approach to customer experience strategies to grow a business

Interview Transcript


Jason:                           I’ll throw you under the bus. Actually, why don’t we just toss it to you? What’s the most unpleasant job you’ve ever had Mr. Falcon?

Michel Falcon:              Bag boy at a grocery store in north Vancouver. Only because it’s such a thankless job. Because when you pay for your groceries, a customer says thank you to the person that takes payment, and is out of thank you’s by the time they pass you as the bag boy. It’s a thankless job. I would say that was probably the worst, most difficult job I’ve had.

Jason:                           So you went from grocery bagger …

Michel Falcon:              I was good. The best.

Jason:                           Right. So then you went from that and then eventually found yourself making 10 bucks an hour at a call center at a 1-800-GOT-JUNK. Which, if none of you are familiar with the brand 1-800-GOT-JUNK, I think they’re very successful. In a sense that our mutual friend, Cameron, joined and were at 2 million dollars. They went from 2 million to 126 million in 6 years, with no outside investments. Now they do …

Michel Falcon:              I believe?

Jason:                           Multiple brands, and Brian is just crushing it. When you started working for 1-800-GOT-JUNK, what was the goals that you held within the organization? Then what were some of your big takeaways?

Michel Falcon:              Working for such a great brand. Before then, first I was in business school, in Vancouver. I’m not academic. I struggled at that for about a year and a half, and recognized if I want to learn how to grow businesses, I should probably go work for one that grew from nothing to something admired. That was either going to be 1-800-GOT-JUNK or Lululemon pre-Ikea. I told my mom, and my parents, that I’m going to leave the university to work for a garbage company. I’m South American, so they’re very traditional. You go to school, you get married really young, and have kids really young, and whatnot. I took this other path.

Michel Falcon:              My first job was at Colson Industries, for a year. Much love to the Colson Industry. I speak at some of their events. It just wasn’t for me. It wasn’t what I was going to build my crew around, or on. From there, I got promoted a couple of times. I gave myself to my career and my career choice. I worked my butt off, got promoted five times in five years, and eventually ended up in the operations’ department of the company. So I’m head office of 1-800-GOT-JUNK in Vancouver. It was there that I found what I was going to leverage to build my career. That’s essentially three things. Company culture, customer experience, and employee engagement, and how all those three work together to build an admired, profitable company. Pretty much everything you’ll find in the book.

Jason:                           How long were you in this organization for?

Michel Falcon:              Just under 5 years.

Jason:                           After your time there, is that when you started leaning to advising?

Michel Falcon:              Yeah. I had the aspirations to grow this big experience, design advisory firm in my early 20s. I remember speaking to my manager. He was doing my performance review, and he asked me something along the lines of, “What do you want to do after this?” or in the future. I said, “I want to build this experience design company for employees and customers in culture.” And I want to advise for companies like Coca-Cola, and he … I remember his name, but I won’t say it. He was like something along the lines of, “keep your goals realistic.” I just looked at him sideways, like, “Mother,” right? Just because you didn’t do it, doesn’t mean that I can’t.

Michel Falcon:              I left. I called the name of my company Falcon Consulting Group, because preemptively, I thought there was going to be tons of employees and a dope office. Truth be told, it didn’t get bigger than me and my dog. The clients started off really small. $2,000 engagements, $1,500 engagements, small retainers. Eventually the first big boy/big girl client that I got was Verizon Wireless.

Michel Falcon:              I went from advising a million dollar company to 100 billion dollar company. I was like, “I hope I can figure out how to submit an invoice, and write a proposal. I might need a phone number that’s not my cell phone.” I spent two and a half, three years advising, speaking, hosting workshops, while I was still in Vancouver.

Jason:                           This may seem overly simplistic. How was the culture at 1-800-GOT-JUNK? I wouldn’t throw Brian under the bus, if it wasn’t great.

Michel Falcon:              I believe 1-800-GOT-JUNK was the godfather of company culture and [inaudible 00:05:05]. They were talking about company culture in ’05 when people weren’t even talking about it. Best place to work in Canada in 2006, second best place to work in all of Canada 2007. They were in there early. To answer your question, it was fantastic.

Michel Falcon:              Then the recession hit. They went from … this was great, real-world experience that I could not have paid for in a university. I saw the company go from 125 million dollars in one year, to 88 the next. Needless to say, there was rounds of layoffs, and I found myself not in the office when this happened, while the layoffs were happening. I avoided three rounds of layoffs. Then the culture was different. It was survival of the fittest. It still was a part of the DNA of the company. Imagine losing a great percentage of your company three times in a year and a half. Your friends that you’ve worked with, built these programs with, had wins with, had losses with. Now they’re gone.

Michel Falcon:              It was tough, but the culture was still within the DNA of the company. Once the market turned around, it was like pre-recession.

Jason:                           This may sound like an overly simplistic question, but why invest time and energy into culture? Actually this kind of plays into the question of how do you get leadership to see the value of investing in the culture.

Michel Falcon:              I’m on a crusade right now to help companies, just by way of conversation. The book, and any way I can share a message, that there should not be a divide between the relationships that you have in your personal life, as you do the ones in your professional life. The example that I give, is that when I go home back to Vancouver on December 20th this year for the holidays, and I spend time with my mom, going on a walk with her, or cooking her something to eat, am I asking myself, “What is the ROI of doing this for my beautiful mother?” Of course not. That would be psychotic. Yet, we still have that thought in our workplace.

Michel Falcon:              If you bet on humanity, where if I do something good for someone, like we were talking. We’re cynics. Then good things will come to me too? That is the bedrock of building a great company culture. Servant leadership is something that every single person, regardless of whether you are a leader by title or not, is something that we need to be studying and advocating. Servant leadership, and benevolent leadership. Those two things help build a foundation of any great company.

Jason:                           Let me play devil’s advocate here, real quick. I love my mother. I don’t look at her from an ROF perspective. That’s a long-term thing. When you have staff, you don’t own that staff. I know there’s this big fear of what if i invest x amount into my team, or what have you, and then some of them leave. How would you address that viewpoint?

Michel Falcon:              So be it. Right? It’s just if you’re fearful to invest in somebody because they might leave you, then you already are in a divot. I would question one’s leadership if that is the case. I actually want people in my company to leave. If they want to grow within the organization, if they want to be the director of x-y-z department, awesome. Let’s do that together. If they inspire to do something else, and I’ll go even as far as compete with us, by opening up a bar or a restaurant of their own, great. Let’s do that together, because that’s such a great representation of your brand.

Michel Falcon:              One thing that I am very strict on is language within our business. We don’t use the word staff. Staff is a German term to represent a group of assistants. I don’t see our team as assistants. They’re team members of our culture. I’m not paralyzed by what if’s. What if I do something go for somebody, and they leave me? Or what if I cross Duncan street and I get hit by a car, does that mean I’m not going to leave here tonight? Might some people say I’m naïve? Sure. If I’m wrong, by somebody I invested in? I could see why.

Jason:                           How would you articulate to, if you’re not in a leadership position, do you understand the importance of culture. Is there something that you would tell somebody to point to, or something to say specifically? Is there a way to show that culture actually does impact the bottom line?

Michel Falcon:              Yeah. Let’s just visualize you can measure how much you’re spending in training and development, and if we’re able to review some employee turnover, that is all cost savings that goes straight to your bottom line. There’s three things in the book that I outline. It’s one thing made up of three. It’s the three P strategy. It’s purpose. Understanding the purpose of your company. I hope it’s not just to make money. What is the purpose of our company? What is the purpose of our employees as individuals? Not as staff, or employees, as individual human beings. What is the purpose of our customers.

Michel Falcon:              Once we’re able to intuitively understand what those three things are, then you can start building processes to enrich the lives of our employees, our customers, and our community. The output is profit. I can’t tell you when you are going to ear that 10x on that strategy or whatever the case might be. I can’t tell you when you’re going to do that. If we look at companies that have come before all of ours, the ones that have withstood troubled markets, great competitors, they all have that people first culture built into the DNA of the company. When I’m asked what is the ROI of this, what is the ROI of that? The first thing that I’ll do is I’ll work backwards to what would happen if we didn’t do this? What would happen if we didn’t invest in our employees?

Michel Falcon:              I can equate what that would be. Our employee retention goes up. Sorry, our employee retention goes down. Our customer turnover goes up. Then you try to equate those things. I guarantee those things will outweigh what’s on the other side of the equation.

Jason:                           For the entrepreneurs in the room, who here has an organization from 1 to 5 employees? 5 to 15? Let’s say 25 plus? Okay. When would you, before we get to the tactical stuff, because you touched on the three P’s, which I wanted to get to in a second. Before we get into tactical stuff, for those that have their own businesses, their own organizations, when should they start focusing on culture?

Michel Falcon:              Yesterday. I’m going to believe that all of your companies are going to have a huge 2019. That will bring you into 2020. As your company grows, and if you neglect to put some of the cultural things in place now, it’s going to be infinitely harder to implement and create culture within your companies. It is yesterday.

Michel Falcon:              There’s some light. I don’t like spending a lot of money to arrive at an outcome. I like to do things in a very cost effective manner. There’s a lot of cultural things that you can do within your organization that will help you gain momentum. Let’s stop obsessing over Air B&B. A company that I absolutely love, or organizations like that. There probably at 20 billion dollars. Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by companies. You work as well, too. Right?

Michel Falcon:              They started somewhere years ago! Look at them now. Don’t be overwhelmed by these massive companies, and just start somewhere. Gain momentum and just start building. I have a rule of thumb in my business where it’s three strategic initiatives every quarter. Has to be deployed, whether it’s big or small initiative, to enrich lives of our customers, employees, and community.

Michel Falcon:              That’s where we’re at now. We started off with one initiative every three months. Where are we going to be two years from now? Maybe at five initiatives? Perhaps. Just start somewhere.

Jason:                           The one thing I, while we’re back on it, that I even have this notion that culture is expensive, right? We’ll keep on that, hopefully, a bit later. You did talk about the three P’s. The first one being purpose. I was actually surprised how much of the book you dedicated to purpose. That wasn’t even remotely on my radar, when I think of culture. Getting clear on your purpose, getting clear on your company’s purpose, getting clear on the employee’s purpose, and ultimately your customer’s purpose. If we move into the natural process side of things, where does one …

Jason:                           Let’s say somebody started from scratch. Where does one start to really employ this culture thing throughout the organization. Is it the hiring process? Is it prior to that? Is it creating core values?

Michel Falcon:              Yeah. It’s difficult to give you a one-size-fits-all answer, because each company’s different. You have to anticipate your growth. Let’s all be positive thinkers, and assume that our company’s going to grow year over year. Let’s prepare for that growth. You hit the nail on it’s head. As soon as you start getting ready to employ or hire one employee, 10, or scale to 100, or beyond that, that is where culture is going to start to deteriorate.

Michel Falcon:              You are the ambassador of your culture, and you must surround yourself with individuals that will contribute to your culture. Ensure that you do not hire people that are great skill fits. The skillset fits are poor culture fits. Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix says it best. He says, “We do not tolerate brilliant jerks because the cost of teamwork is too high.” The first time I read that, I was like, “Oh! That was brilliant!”

Michel Falcon:              The first thing, one of the things that you can do is prepare for that growth and scale up to welcome one person, two people, ten people. Ensure that you’re front-loading the culture assessment to identify if they’re going to be a culture fit before anything else. Look, I know it can be paralyzing, where you’re like “Oh, but this person has such a great resume, but I don’t like them, at all! No one’s going to like them, but, oh, they used to work at the Ritz Carlton, or they used to develop for Amazon, but, ugh, I don’t like them.” Say, “No!” Right? You wouldn’t do that in your personal life, right?

Michel Falcon:              Then there are other little smaller things that you can do to be a great, benevolent, and servant leader. There’s something I do called Breakfast and Jams. Once a week, I sit down with an employee and I have breakfast with them. We jam, and we talk. Often it’s not all work, unless they want to make it about work. This is something I learned from you, actually. Just take notes on people. Pull out your phone. The amount of times I’ll be in a Breakfast and Jam session for an hour and go to the bathroom, is to go write notes about the person, just so I don’t forget it.

Michel Falcon:              I’ll pull out my phone and write in the notes section Binley’s mom’s birthday is on March 3rd, and so forth. The hiring stuff is very structural, but the Breakfast and Jam stuff is very tactical. Please, please, please don’t tell me you don’t have an hour a week. Yeah, you do.

Michel Falcon:              When I was advising companies, I remember this one CEO of this probably 5-million dollar company. He was like, “Well, I don’t have time to do that.” I said, “Well, you’re not that important.” I got fired, but it’s okay. Nobody is. That’s 1/40th of your week, of the minimum workweek. There’s things that you got to do. Some of the things you have to do.

Jason:                           I remember one friend of mine, I may have mentioned that, she uses this gut test of whether or not she wants to hire somebody. What she does is she actually invites people to stay at her house for the weekend. I actually use that for a potential business partnership. We went away to the Bahamas. I was so in. We’re so going to do this business deal. A day and a half in, I’m like, “I’m going to kill this guy.” That’s a cool gut check, you know how you will see real core values on some of the clients.

Michel Falcon:              Yeah. That’s a great example. I can’t believe that you did that. You could also take people out to see how they treat the person at Impact Kitchen that brings them their food, Portland Variety. Naming every venue except my own.

Jason:                           So modest.

Michel Falcon:              No self promotion here.

Jason:                           A lot of the times, one of those things I remember hearing you say. I think it all the time. How you do anything is how you do everything. Again, going to a restaurant, see how they treat the servers, and that kind of stuff goes a really long way. Also, I’m very much in the hiring mindset right now, because I’m looking for director of operations. There’s a great book called “Who” by Geoff Smart and Randy Street when it comes to a process of hiring, and that kind of stuff.

Michel Falcon:              Actually, I want to interject right now. You’re about to make a massive hire.

Jason:                           Yes.

Michel Falcon:              What challenge did you have right now?

Jason:                           What challenge do I have?

Michel Falcon:              Yeah. Is there any anxiety that you have going into this big hire? I’m sure there are individuals in the audience here. I’m going to flip the script and interview you. Is there- because I’m sure there are many individuals in the audience right now that are about to make a big hire, or anticipate that end goal. What do you have any-

Jason:                           There’s a reason I’m interviewing you on the topic of culture. At my last business, we didn’t have great books and resources like this. Or, at least, I didn’t take time to read them. We had about 25 employees and I never focused on culture. We had B-level players, I had C-level under them. The culture was so bad that I would only show up to the office once a month. I moved to Grand Lake. Let this company crash and burn. It was a 7 million dollar a year company. I’m still licking my wounds when it comes to that. I’m trying to be very cautious with this. Master my talents in the new organization that we have.

Jason:                           Director of operations is a scary hire. It’s one of the key hires that you can make as a visionary if you follow Gino Wickman’s “Rocket Fuel” his philosophy around that and traction. It’s not a cheap hire either, right? It’s one of those things that you want to get it right the first time. Hire slow, fire fast is generally the rule of thumb when we were paying potentially 6 figures for Paul.

Jason:                           You don’t want to wait six months then be like, “Oh, darn, that was the wrong hire.” Not only because it cost you a lot of money, but that was a lot of waste of time.

Michel Falcon:              Absolutely.

Jason:                           Yeah. I’m pretty scared.

Michel Falcon:              Well, you got me there.

Jason:                           There you have it. Read the book! Not on purpose! That takes us through recruiting and hiring. Which is where we just kind of get it wrong, assuming for the most part. Then you have emotional onboarding.

Michel Falcon:              Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jason:                           Can you explain what that is?

Michel Falcon:              How many people have, show of hands, raise them high. How many people have worked at a company as a team member, and on day one, nobody knew who the [explicative] they were, and their computer wasn’t set up, and it was just a disaster? Raise your hand.

Jason:                           If you worked for me, that wouldn’t happen.

Michel Falcon:              Okay. There’s a lot wrong with that.

Jason:                           Sure.

Michel Falcon:              A lot of companies will focus on the technical. Like, “Jason needs to have his lanyard, and his login, and we have to invite him to Dropbox, and all that onboarding stuff.” This is a great conversation. My girlfriend’s here somewhere, and she was onboarding in her company. I was just kind of sharing, “this is what onboarding is like.” That’s the technical stuff.

Michel Falcon:              The emotional stuff is where I’m, pardon my English, but I’m a pig in [explicative]. I’m so happy on the emotional stuff, because I am about to ask a team member, regardless of position, to give themself to a stranger. A customer, a colleague. So I must give myself to them first, to show them that we’re not asking them to do something that we wouldn’t do ourselves, and to help them realize and feel what that looks like.

Michel Falcon:              Emotional onboarding is something that … and we can play a game right now if you’d like. What is an indulgence? Here’s an interview question that we ask in our culture interview. [crosstalk 00:23:32] that’s both of you. You both pointed at the other person. What is an indulgence that you can’t live without that costs less than $20.

Speaker 3:                    We put that in our interview because of you. It works great!

Michel Falcon:              It works great! Okay, thank you.

Speaker 3:                    Fantastic.

Michel Falcon:              That didn’t work as planned, but thank you. Let’s say that this gentleman is interviewing for a bartender position, and he said it’s a bottle of wine. I’m going to say, “What type of wine? Red or white?” He might say red. “Okay, what type of grape?” He might say a Syrah. “Okay great!” I’m going to write that down. “Any type of brand?” He might say something. “Cool.” On with the interview. A week later, we might hire him.

Michel Falcon:              On day one of his first day, before he does anything, after a “Hello, welcome,” we hand him a card saying, “Thank you for joining us. Thank YOU for joining US because you have tons of options, especially in hospitality, so, thank you for joining us.” Not like, “You’re lucky to be here.” It’s the other way around. Then there’s that bottle of red Syrah, Cayman’s red Syrah, or whatever the case might be. Then this individual might say, “Red skittles, or cool ranch Doritos.” We’ve heard a lot of stuff, right guys? It’s cool, because you have a group of four, five, six people, all starting on day one, and they’re all looking at each other’s gifts. Be like, “Hey!” It’s a great ice breaker. Not only that, there’s always a rhyme or reason for everything that I do.

Michel Falcon:              Not only that, you’re about to ask these team members to go into training. You want their engagement to be very high, because you want their knowledge retention to be even higher when they come out of training. They sell better. They market better. They’re more efficient. All this good stuff. It goes back to serving others before you ask them to serve someone else. That, at the core, is servant leadership. Again, if you’re going to takeaway one thing from this talk, aside from following me on social media, Google servant leadership and get lost in Google. Click links, go into Wikipedia, and you’ll get so lost. Have you ever been to Wikipedia and click one link? Then another link, then another one, and you have no idea where you are by then? That is emotional onboarding. Do stuff that is different.

Jason:                           I think it’s so important, because I’ve been an entrepreneur for 14 years. A lot of what you read out there is around customer experience design. Really focus on customer experiences. I have this question around how do you scale without losing touch. You care about your staff or your team members, and ultimately they will care about the client base.

Michel Falcon:              You have to balance macro and micro stuff. The macro are those big strategies that you’re going to deploy every quarter. The micro are those light memorable touches that you, or your employees, or your customers. Truth be told, I started my career as customer experience management being the thing. Then I soon realized there is no customer experience without employee engagement and company culture.

Michel Falcon:              I spend 80 percent of my time focused on what’s happening internally within the business, because I know if we can get that part right, then what happens external will be taken care of. You have this company that has it built into their DNA. I don’t believe the customer is always right. I spend more time serving our team than I do our customers.

Jason:                           The end result for you guys is what’s the industry standard retention rate for hospitality?

Michel Falcon:              It’s bad. I can’t really say a number off the top of my head, but think about it. I’m sure lots of people have worked in hospitality before. It’s kind of one of those careers that you have at one point in your life. Retention is god-awful. It’s so bad. Our retention rate, last time I checked, was 2.5 times higher than the industry average. Now I’m not so in love with employee retention as a metric anymore, because there’s voluntary and involuntary turnover.

Michel Falcon:              I want my team members to leave. I genuinely do. I have one team member that left last month, and I’m happy for him. He gets to start his own business. That is what he is destined to do, so I wanted him to leave. We supported him. I have another one leaving in five weeks, and that’s going to be a happy time for me, too. It’s going to suck [explicative] having to replace him, but I put him first.

Michel Falcon:              Retention is not a DPI that I like to track. I like surveying employees, and just asking them simple questions anonymously, and taking that data and creating operational improvement plans from that.

Jason:                           That’s one thing I will praise you for. I will honor you for in a sense that I did a behind the scenes tour of Baro, which they should offer as a public thing, similar to Zappos. I was blown away at the onboarding materials we had. It was all where I’ve dropped the ball as an entrepreneur is I hire somebody, they show up, I forgot I hired them, all the time. I have no onboarding whatsoever. It makes total sense. We all have a deep desire to feel seen, and heard, and appreciated, and valued. There’s an opportunity, when people are most vulnerable, to be their biggest fan. That’s the time you make an investment in that relationship, when they’re vulnerable. I can’t think of a more vulnerable time than when you walk into an organization. You’re scared about the job. You’re scared about you’re going to meet. You don’t know anybody. Those kinds of things.

Jason:                           You make those little micro investments. They pay off dividends in the future. That’s where I’ve screwed up as an entrepreneur myself, for years.

Michel Falcon:              A lot of people have, right? When I first suggested these strategies, I had one of my business partners look at me sideways and be like, “That’s fluffy, man.” I was like, “So be it.” Right? If you feel like, “I’m not that type of leader. I’m a bit extroverted, or introverted.” That’s fine, but that doesn’t excuse you from implementing things like that from within your business. Find somebody in your company that can be that ambassador, and that flamer for you. Because it has got to be a part of the DNA for your company. Look, don’t just take it from me. Go study the Air B&B’s and the WeWorks and so forth. The commonalities are they are doing these things. I can tell you, you cooperated, it works. The playbooks. I was told something earlier in my career that resonated with me forever, to this day, and it’s been about 9 years. People don’t fail, processes do. People don’t fail, processes do.

Michel Falcon:              Let’s say you have someone on your team who’s not getting it, okay? “Billy’s not selling well,” or whatever. That very well might be the case, but you hired them, or someone in your organization hired them, so it’s your responsibility to figure out why that is. Ask yourself first, “Is it our training process that failed that individual? Or is failing this individual? Did we set them up for success? Do we have module-based training?” If you can say, yes, our training is fantastic, then ask yourself another question. “How did this person get through our interview process?”

Michel Falcon:              We’re supposed to have safeguards. Especially if they’re not a culture fit. Your supposed to have safeguards in place to ensure that great culture fits and high performers join your organization. If both of those processes are very strong, then consider off boarding them. The question I’m asked most often is, “okay, I want to build my culture, should I fire 50% of my team that don’t fit the culture?” No. Obviously not. Again, you hired them. You’re wanting to build the culture, you have to give everybody the opportunity to live within that culture with your coaching. Then make the decision if they’re going to fit within the culture or not.

Jason:                           That was going to be one of my questions. Is if you had an existing business, and the culture isn’t great. Tony, from Roma, is a [inaudible 00:32:36].

Michel Falcon:              Really?

Jason:                           Yeah.

Michel Falcon:              Awesome. Can you give them a part of the show?

Jason:                           To Tony Gareri owns a company called Roma Moulding. He’s a friend of ours as a company in Vaughn. They have 150 employees. Typically, they make frames, like picture frames. They’re the second largest framing company in the world. Anybody here familiar with Peter Lik painting, photos, and that kind of stuff? They had a photo, for example, sell for 6 and a half million dollars, that this company framed. Anyways, all I have to say is he’s super passionate about culture. He came to talk with mine. One of the questions that I had, was if you have an interesting business, but terrible culture.

Jason:                           Tony, for example was a family business. His father was old school Italian, and didn’t care about culture. He was not sexy at all. To talk about culture. He was taking over the company, and he had to let go of a third of the people. I was curious to know that you have an existing company, you’re already 20, 30 employees deep, 50 employees deep. What are the first steps to turn that culture around?

Michel Falcon:              I would present what this culture’s going to look like. Whether you do something like a vivid vision, or develop a mission and values. Introduce them to each individual one on one. Or as a company, and then doing it one on one. Then you’re going to know. You’ll know. If you know your team well enough, that’ll help you too. Who’s going to fit within that culture or not. You’re going to have your ambassadors and your ‘A’ players. They’re going to support you and help you grow this culture. Then you’ll know. “I don’t know if these four people are going to make it.” It’s still your responsibility as a leader to allow them the opportunity to grow within this culture. They very well might have never worked for a company where culture mattered.

Michel Falcon:              It’s not fair to them for you to exit them right away. It is your responsibility to help them thrive within the culture. It’s a nice win, if you’re able to turn someone around, and get them to live within your culture. I can tell you, first hand, it’s a great win that you can have for yourself. It’s a feather in your hat.

Jason:                           Who here has clear core values for their organization? Alright. So this is a great place to step back to on some level. For my organization, I didn’t have core values for the longest time. Actually, it was with Tony. I did the tour with him. He has 150 people working for him. He’s the sweetest guy in the world. I’m like, “You’re so sweet, how do you fire people? I have such a hard time. You’re such a nice guy.” He’s like, “We have very clear core values, so if somebody is not in alignment with the core value, we can just point to the core value. By the time they meet with me, they already know what core value they’re not in alignment with.”

Jason:                           I don’t know if you have any structure you can share, as far as how you identify core values. Two years ago, I’m like, “I’m going to get serious about core values.” I Googled it, then I found this step-by-step. You need post-it notes, and sharpies, and a retreat. I took my team out, and we were like, “What are our core values?” We put them up on the wall, and we voted. After that, we had these core values. By choosing them, I forgot what they were.

Jason:                           How does one create those core values? How does one keep them on top of mind?

Michel Falcon:              The first part of that question. How do you create them? If you are the entrepreneur or the leader within your organization, or soon to be entrepreneur, ask yourself a simple, yet really difficult question. “What do I want this company to stand for? How do I want it to operate when I’m not even in the building?” You just start brainstorming sentences and phrases. You know you’re on the right track if you’re three pages deep of key words and phrases.

Michel Falcon:              Then take a step back. Leave it alone for a week, or two. Then revisit it again. Ask yourself, “Do these things still matter?” As soon as you set your values in place, that’s it. You shouldn’t be changing your values. It’s not like, “what matters to me this year?” Once you have all these phrases and key words, I recommend working with a copywriter. Somebody that can wordsmith everything for you. Whether it’s three, five, or ten values. Like, Zappos has ten values, we have five. It doesn’t really matter, because it’s your business, you can call the shots. Go back to them and say, “Is this exactly what I want my company to stand for?”

Michel Falcon:              From there, the hard work comes into play. That’s the easy stuff. The hard work comes into hiring people according to those values. Celebrating them when people win, and live within them. Coaching people when they’re not living within them.

Michel Falcon:              If you go, and I implore all of you guys to do this, go to Baro, go to pay cash, and ask anyone what our five values are. My expectation is that they will be able to recite them. Hey, Carl!

Speaker 4:                    Oh, boy.

Carl:                             Yeah?

Michel Falcon:              What are our five core values?

Carl:                             Ownership …

Carl:                             Foresight, celebration, ownership, humility, [inaudible 00:38:12] integrity.

Michel Falcon:              Thank you. What that both of them that said that? We have to know what they are, and how they were created, and why they were created, and how can I be successful in them. If you’re going to ask a full team of people, whether it’s one or 1,000 people to live within them, they have to intimately understand why they were created, how to live within them. You can’t just be like, “here are five things! Go!” Like, what the [explicative] are these things? Why were they created.

Jason:                           Two questions. Question number one, how do you keep core values top of mind with your team? What are some of the things that you do?

Michel Falcon:              One, make sure they know how to recite them, so that’s already been mentioned. Two, we do something at 4:55 before service. It’s kind of a huddle. It’s a pre-service meeting. We talk about one core value every single week that we’re going to drive. Maybe it’s ownership. Be like, “Guys, ownership is the core value this week. Who’s going to do what by when to live within that core value?” Right?

Michel Falcon:              Have dialogue around them. If you use Slack or post Facebook group for your company, make sure that you’re celebrating people when they’re living within the value. For example, we survey our customers using a promoter’s score. If we read a comment from a promoter customer, that says, “Zach was absolutely amazing! I never had to ask him once to refill my drink.” Well, he lived within the ownership core value, because he took ownership over the guest’s experience.

Michel Falcon:              We’re going to take that, and message everybody through Slack, and Facebook, company wide and say, “Kudos to Zach for living within these values.” Those are three things. Those three, easy simple things that you can do. To add one more. If you do have those one on one sessions, whether it’s a Breakfast and Jam, or something more formal, like a goal setting review session or something like that, ensure that you go through your values. Highlight the ones that they’re living within, but also target one that you feel like this individual needs to pull up their socks. Be like, “I think you can do better in this core value, and here’s some examples. What do you think?” Give them some opportunities to talk about it. Those are some ways to be able to live within the values.

Jason:                           Beautiful. Awesome. I think we’re at around 10 minutes, or so? Roughly? Do we have any questions for Michel?

Sonny:                          Jason!

Jason:                           Sonny, you beautiful maniac.

Sonny:                          Yo, Michel.

Michel Falcon:              Yo.

Sonny:                          Can you talk about the employer deboard. I think a lot of people are going to get a lot of input from that.

Michel Falcon:              Yeah. Thank you for being here, Sonny, I love you. He’s the nicest human in the world, and is the only person that has better hair than me in the city of Toronto.

Michel Falcon:              The employee advisory board. Yes. This might be my favorite strategy. We have many departments. Dishwashers, hostesses, and so forth. Going in to this industry knowing that employee retention was very, very low, because they don’t have a voice often in this industry. I created something called the employee advisory board, where there’s one representative from every department. Is elected by their peers, to join me once a month for an off the record conversation for a few hours. The only thing that is on the agenda is the current state of our company culture, and for them to describe the workplace of their dreams.

Michel Falcon:              My business partner and I, Brandon, take notes. What are we doing well, so we can double down on those efforts, and invest more resources into those efforts. Where do we need to get stronger. It’s off the record. Managers are not allowed in the meeting. The reason why managers aren’t allowed in the meeting is twofold. One, managers already have their own meetings. Two, I’m trying to grow that next level of leadership. If we scale as a company, we’re going to need more leaders.

Michel Falcon:              I’ve seen leaders develop within the employee advisory board. We take that feedback, and then I immediately call a meeting with our management team, and share this information with them, that is anonymous. It’s really interesting that the things that I find out. I have ears everywhere. It’s not to sabotage our management team. I’ll be like, “Hey, so what’s up with this?” They’ll be like, “Yeah, we’re going to fix that.” I’m like, “That’s awesome.” Here’s the good, too, guys. This isn’t a reprimanding session. This isn’t an opportunity for employees to just air their dirty laundry, that’s not the point of this.

Michel Falcon:              A number of things come from this. One, those employees get to go home with a greater sense of purpose. “Wow, I got to share my opinion.” It’s worth noting, for me. Those ambassadors from each department are responsible for crowdsourcing feedback from their peers, too. Our next meetings are actually Monday and Tuesday. They have this entire week to go to their peers in their department and say, “Hey I’m on the employee advisory board meeting, give me some feedback, the good and the bad.” They come and share everybody’s opinions. Again, it’s anonymous.

Michel Falcon:              I’m going to assume we’re all really humble leaders. There’s a lot of value that is received from the team members when they go home and talk to their spouse, or their mum and dad, and they’re like, “I got to sit down with one of the leaders of the company.” I remember one year at 1-800-GOT-JUNK they did that to me. It wasn’t an employee advisory board, but they gave me a voice. Then, on the opposite side of things, you’re going to find so many strategies that you can use to create better strategic initiatives within your business to grow it. That is the employee advisory board. It’s highlighted in the book at length, if there’s more context that you need.

Jason:                           Thank you, Sonny. Two more questions? Here up front?

Speaker 4:                    Thank you for everything you said already. It’s amazing.

Michel Falcon:              Thank you.

Speaker 4:                    I have writing company at TML. My question is how do you champion company culture when your whole team is remote? I have like one person with me, but 20 of them all over.

Michel Falcon:              It’s a very, very common question. You have to be communicating on a daily basis, and leverage what tools you have. Are you leveraging Slack or something like that, to communicate with them?

Speaker 4:                    Yeah. Hangouts.

Michel Falcon:              Google hangouts, okay.

Speaker 4:                    I don’t communicate with them as much as the accounts team does.

Michel Falcon:              Okay. You’re the leader of the accounts team, right? You got to be communicating with them more. They look at you as the- you’ve got to be the flag bearer. Now if you have a layer below you that can help you be flag bearers, then that’s amazing, right? Not a lot of companies have that. Leverage the people within the company to be flag bearers. I have two people on each property that are flag bearers for me, because I can’t be there all the time. Ensure that you’re advocating your core values. If you don’t have them, create them, and then share everything that I shared before. Just, top of mind, again, I’m happy that you brought that up, Jason. Always be communicating, always describe what, and why the culture is built. You’ve almost got to sound like a broken record. You have to ingrain it into the DNA of your company.

Michel Falcon:              Doing it virtually is challenging. Right? I’m in an advantageous position, and I’m sure many people are, too. You get to see your team members all the time. It’s as simple as a fist bump, or something like that. It’s hard to do that virtually. There’s emojis that you can show for fist bumps and stuff. Yeah, just communicate often. Celebrate people. Remove people that aren’t within, even if they are virtual, living within the culture. You got to be that person. Nobody’s- they’re not going to care as much as you are going to, because it’s your business. If they see how much you care, then you’ll see an uptick in their engagement.

Jason:                           Virtual must be really hard hiring them, because you’re not sitting in front of them.

Speaker 4:                    It is. The writers are always going to be provoked, so.

Michel Falcon:              Hiring people virtually, yeah. You don’t get to have that one on one conversation, but there’s some pretty good software out there. Like video conference in BlueJeans and stuff like that. Believe it, or not, there’s a software called BlueJeans. It’s about asking the right questions. It’s not the medium or the channel, it’s asking the right questions. If you have, in our business, we have 5 core values. We ask two questions per core value during the culture interview. To understand if this individual is going to fit within the culture. Ownership is one of our core values. We’re going to ask them two questions to understand would this person take ownership over the guest experience?

Michel Falcon:              Foresight is another core value. I ask them two questions. It’s not so much the medium, or the channel, or the environment, as the type of questions you ask to see if this person is going to fit within your culture.

Jason:                           We’ll take one more. One thing I’ll throw out there, there’s a book called “Remote.” I don’t know if you’ve read it yet, by Jason Fried. CEO of 37 Signals, or Basecamp, they have like 45 employees? Highly profitable, and very driven. Full remote team, currently worldwide. I’d check him out. One more question.

Michel Falcon:              All the way at the back. He’s brown. Alright, perfect.

Speaker 7:                    I can yell. You receive lot of ownership. Do you give ownership to all your employees?

Michel Falcon:              The question was, we talked about ownership. Do we give ownership to our employees? As of today, we do not. Profit sharing programs are something that we’re going to be looking into. Do I believe in giving ownership to employees? If it makes sense, sure. I’m starting to see companies give away share packages to everyone. Look, like, just because millennials ask for something, doesn’t mean you have to give it to them. I am a millennial. I’m really like a lot of grassroots companies. Not to say that we’re greedy, but right now it doesn’t make sense for us to do that. If it makes sense for you, that’s your prerogative, right? By all means, go ahead and do it.

Jason:                           I think there’s, within the entrepreneurial circles I find myself in, there’s this great debate. There’s pros and con’s to either one. I definitely think it’s a lively debate that I think we can have. With that said, I stole the mic. I will take that one back. Do we have names for the winners? Hot [explicative]! We have-

Michel Falcon:              Boro would be the first one.

Jason:                           Which one sounds better?

Michel Falcon:              Good question.

Jason:                           For petty cash, we have Hailey Rudolph? Heyo! Alright. Pass this out. Can you pass this down? I trust you. Then I always get this messed up because of the French in me.

Michel Falcon:              Stefan Dyre.

Jason:                           Stefan Dyre!

Michel Falcon:              There you go.

Jason:                           There you go!

Michel Falcon:              Booze and food usually draws a crowd, so that was good. I could ask, or answer a billion questions on these topics. This doesn’t work for me, so that’s all my social stuff. That’s my email. That’s my website. Feel free to hamper me with questions after today. I’m good.

Jason:                           I’m going to ask from you guys. If you grabbed a copy of the book, or you purchased a copy of the book, I think Michel would greatly appreciate if you left a review on Amazon. Those reviews actually really do move the needle from a social group perspective. Please do that. How much do you normally charge for a speaking engagement? 15 to 20 thousand. So if you want advice, it’s free tonight. Feel free, ask him questions. He’s around most of the evening. Thank you all for being here.

Michel Falcon:              Thank you guys.