337: Cultivating A Positive Company Culture Through Leadership – with Steve Rice

337: Cultivating A Positive Company Culture Through Leadership - with Steve Rice

Meet Steve

Steve is the founder of The Globally Conscious Leader & Dotcomjungle. His ability to absorb information about brands, strategies, and technologies, then impart their context and opportunities in simple language, has proved invaluable as a trusted advisor to owners & CEOs. His use of Spousal KPI is a humorous, effective way to help executives develop healthy lifestyles & thriving businesses. Dotcomjungle is his technology team supporting companies in making and implementing wise technology choices.

Why do you talk about ‘Spousal KPI’ and ‘River KPI’, and why does it matter?

I came across this because in my work as a trusted adviser with owners and executives of CPG companies, oftentimes the question is how do I measure effectiveness? I found that what’s true is that the executives that end up getting to know me and that I work with, need someone like me, because they’re lonely, frankly. They might have a set of managers inside their business or a Board of Directors, but they’re still sitting alone at the top of that heap. When you’re someone who’s made something with your hands, and it’s somewhere along the line said, “Gosh, if I sold these to people, I can make a lot of money,” which is a lot of what manufacturing is the United States, you have an ownership responsibility and an emotional stake in the company than someone who’s an executive of let’s say North Face, doesn’t have. So you go home every night to your spouse and you often take the emotions of that day with you. So with Spousal KPI, what I try to do is I say I want to meet your wife or I want to meet your husband, and we’re going to go to dinner because I want them to know that if you’re happy when you come home, that their life is going to be better and if that’s what’s true, then I’ve done my job. So the KPI is the key performance indicator and as I said, if you have a better relationship with your spouse because you’re not bringing home all the crappy stuff that happened that day, and dumping it on their table, then I’m doing my job. The other one, the River KPIs, I happen to be a fisherman and I like standing in the river and I know when my businesses are going well, I spend more time in the river and I get better ideas when I’m standing in the river, and I come home refreshed and go to work refreshed. That’s where those come from and I say it with a smile on my face, but they’re very real because you change the lifestyle of the owner and you often change the culture and the lifestyle of all the people who work in the company as well.

How do you go about discovering the underlying needs of your business and how do you turn that into actionable value?

Well, this is more thinking along the lines of what my trusted advisership leads to which is often bringing in Dotcomjungle, which is my technology arm to understand the true challenges that are happening in a company. The first thing is you have to ask that question of what’s going wrong with your business, or where do you think the struggles are? The main answer to that question is something that we like to call engaging your MBWA, which is different than an MBA, it’s management by walking around. We work with a lot of manufacturers and as I said, they’re usually salt-of-the-earth folks who invented something with their hands and 20 years later, they’re the CEO of a $40 million company that’s shipping to Home Depot and Cabela’s. That management by walking around is something that a lot of executives kind of forget, and part of it is just the nature of a company. As you grow, you build up a team of people who are workers who do the stuff, they do the shipping, you got the janitor, you have somebody answering the phone, and eventually, you have managers, and then you have managers of managers. What gets left behind is that MBWA, and the typical example would be, let’s say a company that is worth 120 million. They have an executive management team that includes the CMO, the CTO, the CFO, the President of Operations, maybe the shipping manager, the supply chain person, and the CEO, and lets they have a question like, we think we need to update our ERP. Well, the natural thing for those folks to do is say, Well, I have three people or two people working under me, and under those people, 18 people are doing the work so they think about it as a flagpole. I bet that I’m at the top of the flagpole so I’m going to move down the flagpole to the next person and I’m gonna say, let me know what we need for an ERP and then that next person is going to then talk to their 18 people and say, give us all the feedback of what you want. What gets lost is that no one’s going and sitting next to those 18 people, walking up to them (this is the MBWA) and sitting next to them and watching them work for a day and saying, “Why did you do that? What did you expect to happen? What is it that you would rather have happened?” If you get into what some people call the five why’s, you have to ask why five times before you get to the real answer. In a certain way, that answer answers the second half of the question like how do you turn those into actionable items? Because if you’re on that executive board, and either you or someone you truly trust, maybe the person that reports to you goes down and talks to those 18 people, the actionable items become clear. You don’t even have to know technology, or systems, or people if you know that you should ask why five times, because they’ll tell you. So sometimes people look at what we do like it’s magic and it’s not. If you own a company, whether its manufacturer or not, you actually want to know what’s going on, it’s not trite to say, Go talk to the stakeholders who are actually using your systems and see what they’re doing. Go hang out with the shipping team for a day, and help them. Go hang out with your sales team and watch what they do and ask them what their frustrations are. You won’t get better answers from other people who are trying to ask those questions that you will if you ask them yourself, and you will create a better culture for your company if you do that. 

How do leadership, communication, and technology becoming HR issues (and vice versa) in most businesses?

Everywhere I go, people love to do good work and if you give them good systems that measure the right things and allow them to succeed, they’re going to be really happy working for you. It doesn’t matter how much you pay them, to some extent. I don’t mean to minimize how much someone should get paid, because we need to pay people well, but happiness matters, and a feeling of success is one of the most important things about happiness. So conversely, if you have systems and processes that people have to trudge through, and they don’t feel successful, and especially if you give them sales goals that are incommensurate to the ability of the systems to support, and they feel like they can’t hit their sales goals because they’re hampered by technology, you’re gonna have a bunch of unhappy people and it doesn’t matter how much you pay. We all know people who left jobs for lower-paying positions somewhere where they just knew they’d be way happier. That’s how technology becomes an HR issue and vice versa. Most companies look at HR, it’s a department and the HR’s job is to provide the legal framework to hire people, and fire people, and then they sit in their silo. But HR means human resources, and the humans don’t stop existing once they’ve been hired and then start existing again when the HR has to deal with them and get rid of them if something crazy is going on like they’re drinking on the job or just underperforming. True HR happens every single day, inside the culture of the company. The technology supports that, the goals of the company support that, the way people talk to each other supports that, so they’re all interconnected.

Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you’ve had?

Gosh, I’ve had a lot of painful moments too when it comes to networking. I am a naturally gregarious person, but I also have a lot of hesitations about networking, direct marketing, and meeting people that I have never met before. At the same time, in the last 30 years, what I’ve realized is that the relationships that I’ve built in the past and the ones I’m going to build in the future are really important. I’ve come to learn that I’m no longer afraid to cold call somebody if I have a real reason to cold call them. I don’t really ever make cold calls, I make warm calls, and I and I do not have a traditional sales funnel. So when everybody out there is thinking about this, they might be thinking about, lead magnets and sales funnels and people getting warmed up, I don’t do any of that. I come out of the outdoor industry and in the world of Patagonia, North Face, rock climbing, mountaineering, skiing, snowboarding, all that fun, active stuff. I was a fishing guide in my youth, I was a rock climbing and mountaineering instructor, I’ve been a hard goods buyer for outdoor stores, I’ve owned an outdoor store, I’ve worked with a ton of consumer products goods inside the outdoor industry and the some of the relationships that I have there go back 30 years. Some of the people who own the larger sales repping organizations in the Pacific Northwest used to be dirtbag rock climbers that I climbed with. We were sleeping in our tracks, not taking showers, and climbing 12 hours a day together back in 1992. I have learned through those relationships that there are a lot more people I don’t know than I do know. One of the success stories I would say is part of my personality is what led me to form The Globally Conscious Leader. It’s different than having a business like Dotcomjungle, like when I call somebody and say, “Hey, my name is Steve from Dotcomjungle,” I wouldn’t blame anybody if they held up the phone, because they don’t know what that means. But when I call somebody and say, “This is Steve from the globally conscious leader,” and there’s somebody from the outdoor industry, which by its very nature, cares about global responsibility, cares about circular supply chain, circular economy thinking, cares about the longevity of the product, repairability of product, the right to repair as a legal concept, they’re very likely to say, “Oh, that’s interesting, what can I do for you?” The success is that it has given me a lot more confidence in just calling up someone. So recently, I had somebody recommended me. It was somebody I’ve known for about 30 years and all he said to the other person was, “You need to call Steve, he’s legendary!” So I asked him, why he called me, and he said, Well, Mike said you were legendary,” He said that he saw everything that I do and that he was lonely and needed somebody to talk to. So that was a situation where, like I said, because of the name, The Globally Conscious Leader, the person who’s making the recommendation didn’t even have to tell him why he should call me, and it turns out, there are maybe five different things that can help that person with. 

How do you stay in front of and best nurture your community?

I’m always working on that and I think that changes a lot. Right now, I think for what I do, LinkedIn is a really great place for me to be. It’s a good place where I can develop my persona, and I’m fortunate that my persona is just me and I don’t have to pretend to be something else. The challenge is finding time to be myself. So part of what I’m learning is that if I could just be on phone calls with you and 50 other people every week, not only would I have more fun, I’d have a better Spousal KPI, I’d sleep better, and I make the connections I need that would not just bring me business, but I bring a lot of value to businesses and that’s what brings me joy. So nurturing those relationships through LinkedIn and making connections via live chat and I grill people, I find out how long they’ve been married, how many kids they have, where they were born. We talk about a lot of stuff before we even talk about business.

What advice would you offer the business professionals looking to grow their network?

Two things: In a protective way, watch out for groups of social networks that aren’t really going to service you. At the same time, you really have to be open to everyone who connects with you, because you don’t really know until you get to know them, whether they’re going to be helpful or not. Every time I get judgmental about somebody in a social network, especially LinkedIn because I get anywhere between two and 15 connection requests a day. If I get judgmental, and say, No, I usually find out later that that was somebody that I should have just said yes to. So I really do say yes to everyone on LinkedIn, that now connects to me and I’ve also learned that the more I do for other people, the more they do for me so I’d say, don’t be afraid of communities of people who do similar things to you. They could bring you into a community and it’d be easy to look at that group of folks and say that there are all these people and none of them are my customers. Well, it turns out they all work with people that are my customers, and what I provide is so unique that those folks who are very likely to recommend me to their customers, as an adjunct to what they’re doing. Likewise, speaking specifically about manufacturing as an example, if I want to talk to manufacturers, the best thing I could do is actually go to a manufacturers conference or get in touch with the manufacturing extension program which are in every state, because they’re already talking to my customers all the time and they’re looking for people like me who can educate their folks. In so doing, what I’m going to do is get those folks to know me, trust me, like me, and then they’re going to give me a call. So take those networks seriously, and don’t be afraid of them and support them, and eventually, they’ll support you.

If you could go back to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell yourself to do more or less of or differently with regards to your professional career?

I think I would say don’t be afraid to step out and start a business now. For those of us who’ve never started a business, whether it’s consulting or another business, it can often seem like a scary thing. My wife kind of heckled me about this. Because once I started one, and I was all of a sudden starting more and more, and partnering with people and trying some things. So she was like, “Can you stop making business and just focus on the ones that you have?” Well, they’re all interrelated and each one special! So I’d say Don’t, don’t be afraid to take that step and create a company, even if you have to work your company and your job to make it happen. That’s that would be the advice I’d give myself.

Do you have any final words of advice to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?

I like to say be fearless and be kind. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people. You’d be surprised how many people actually will be receptive to you if you truly want to help. 


Connect with Steve: 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stevefrazierrice/ 

Phone #: 541-821-2733