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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.