Getting The Right People In The Right Seats – A conversation with Jason Williford of Culture Index

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John: Hey everyone, welcome to Life is Digital. I am your host, John Bianchi, get ready to learn about digital marketing as we share our knowledge and perspectives on current trends, best practices and actionable tips to help you grow your business in the digital age. Well, I am so excited this morning, I have a new and a really great friend of mine on board with us today, Jason Williford, he is a master licensee and a board member of culture index. Hey, Jason, so good to have you on board with us this morning.

Meet Jason Williford with Culture Index

Jason: John, great to be here. Excited to be a part of what you guys are doing. Thank you so much for having me.

John: Absolutely. No, the pleasure is all mine. And I’m really looking forward to our conversation, especially since we’ve actually implemented culture index here in our organization, and I think it’s produced radical change, which has been so impactful to the bottom line of our company and has led to so many advances in different areas, both on our team members and our departments and structure. And Jason, I think in our pre-show, we were talking about this a little bit, about some of what defines culture index and what that means from an organization and how it does impact that bottom line. Maybe you could share a little bit with the audience about that…

What is Culture Index and how does it impact a company’s bottom line?

Jason: Yeah, so what we do inside the culture index program, as we spend all of our time studying interpreting and mobilizing objective data as it correlates to everything around people. So what we do is we basically teach people as we continue to study it and we continue to learn it, much like doctors are practicing medicine, we’re practicing culture index, we’re still learning, but we’re basically teaching people this language of using the analytics to grow their business at the end of the day. So there’s really three things that were attaching this data too, and that’s more revenue, more earnings or net operating income, however you keep score, and then sustainable scalability, which could be buying time back for an owner operator or a leadership team, or it could be obviously selling for an exit or some sort of liquidity event, a lot of people measure that in different ways.

John: That’s fascinating, and I think all of that applies to a lot of our listeners who in their business feel like they may not be gaining the traction that they need, they’re maybe wondering, do they have the right individuals in the right seats? I think what’s important, and this is something that’s been related to me about culture index, is that culture index is not a personality analyzer, it’s a data analyzer and helping people to understand the right roles for their organization, what they need, and then matching the right individuals with the right work traits to those areas. Could you expand a little bit on that and just help people understand exactly. What is culture index?

Jason: Yeah. Excellent. So our co-founders, Gary Walstrom and Cecilia Bruening-Walstrom. The reason they picked the name culture index is because we define culture as the sum total of the people in it. Okay, so that’s what we mean. There’s a lot of different definitions, culture out there, but that’s how we define it. So when we’re talking about how to objectively hire talent, what’s tough is when you make a hire you’re hiring without some sort of methodology around this, we tend to hire people that are more like a… But the reality is, most of the time, 19 out of 20 times, as a matter of fact, you need to hire someone that is different than you, which creates some sort of natural conflict, it’s very, very natural, and it’s human and it’s real, and so becoming objective in how to hire someone that doesn’t think like you to perform in a role is really the first step, so 10% of what we study and Mobilize is, how do I put a square peg in a square hole, even though you might be a round peg yourself… Okay, now the second part to that, and just being straight up honest the easiest part of our job is finding a players, the hardest part, and 90% of where we spend our time, energy, and effort is teaching leaders how to deal with the peg that’s different than them so that they don’t run it off. So step one is you’re spot on, how do I put a specific player on the bus, that doesn’t think like me to perform at the highest level objectively, and then what kind of management needs and organizational needs does that person need to thrive for long periods of time?

John: That’s absolutely fascinating, and I think that goes back to that the age-old adage from Jim Collins, getting the right people on the bus, getting them in the right seats, that is you gotta get them there first and you find where they need to be, and then obviously you have to be driving the bus in the right direction. And I think that’s critical for businesses because a lot of times it’s not necessarily the people in the organization, but it’s the processes and it’s getting them into the right areas so they can perform at their highest level, what does culture index seek to accomplish with the program when you work with a business, what does success look like for you? Or maybe if it’s not success, but it’s that growth pattern that you work with a company and you’re like, This is where we’re actually being able to make that impact. What does that look like for you?

How does the Culture Index make an impact? 

Jason: Yeah, that is a great question, and we get that question a lot. And it’s really, I mean for us, just netting it out, it comes in… Our client retention rate, to me, at the end of the day, if someone signs up voluntarily for another 12 months, then that tells us we’ve done a good job, and I watch those numbers like a hawk out of our Dallas Fort Worth office, and then as a board member as well, and that is… Our numbers have actually gone up through covid, even though the majority of our clients are being hurt financially, so we’re well above 90% of our clients voluntarily, even though they’re hurting fiscally, to write us a check for another 12 months to be a part of our program, so to me, that’s the net net… Like if you just boil it down, how many people are sticking into the beginning of a sharp recession, a pandemic, pressed in time, and the number’s gone up from last year to this year, which is pretty fascinating to me and obviously very encouraging, so how our clients define it, it’s unique to each client business, so we deal with… We’re in the middle right now developing our 28 language for culture index, obviously working currently in 27, have the privilege of serving high growth companies, obviously all over the world, and what we find is everybody measures it differently, some people measure it on maximizing the valuation for a major liquidity event, like I kinda do it earlier, some people getting ownership successfully transferred to their kids, so their kids can sit in the owner’s box and then not worry about this asset. Many different ways.

John: That makes absolute sense. I think that leads into my next couple of questions, which are really more around the process of implementation, how does a business implement this system, how difficult is it… Maybe that’s two different questions, but I wanna get a gauge from you of when companies come to you or CEO’s and the business owners come to you, I think the first thing that they might look at is How much time and talent is it gonna take for us to take on another system when maybe some of the things that we’re already doing or not working as well as they could be, people may be frustrated, they’re worried about buy-in. Obviously, any time when they’re implementing a new system, how difficult is it to implement culture index?

How difficult is it to implement Culture Index?

Jason: Yeah, good question. And really, we have a four-step process as far as difficult, while the language obviously is very complex, the way we’ve set it up is we strive extremely hard to keep it simple and manageable bites, so I refer to his right foot left foot… As a good friend of mine says, meaning, we know what steps you have to take. They’re very consumable and really to force that process, and the first thing we do is assess, and it only takes about seven minutes per an employee to do the survey. So that’s the assessment phase, then we diagnose, which is a two-way street, that’s the second step, then we create a plan based off of the diagnosis, and that is we look at the existing team and we look at the goals of the growth goals of the business, and out of that plan comes the execution, so it’s something that is extremely complex science, we work very, very hard to make it consumable, and so that it can be implemented. And you’re going through that process right now, John. So you could speak a little bit too. It’s a little bit overwhelming in the beginning, but once you start, you’re like, Oh, right foot, left foot and it continues to grow.

John: I can’t agree with you more, and I actually think that culture index for our organization has been an absolute game changer, so from my perspective, being able to understand the traits and the communication traits of different team members is really the core of… I think where a lot of challenges come in businesses where whether it’s with you and another team member or you and a client, I think there’s opportunity to better communicate what we do on a day-to-day basis is really the key in the core to achieving success, I’ve had so many conversations with clients where once we just… I even have one this morning where we just talk through and everyone gets on the same page, things become so much more smooth and effective, and I think from you throwing that back at me and saying, We’re going through this, I would say that culture index has radically changed mine and our organization’s ability to understand the communication styles, traits and work behaviors of our key players in our organization, and obviously, like I said, even our ability is how we front face to the market. You know, Jason, we’ve had a lot of different topics that we’ve kind of covered here about culture Index, some of the key areas of how this can impact the bottom line, the growth of a company. I wonder if maybe you could you can encapsulate what we’ve chatted about here today and leave the audience with a few key takeaways that they might be able to use in the immediate… Obviously, I think there’s a huge opportunity for them to reach out to members of your team and at least learn about what culture index is, I think it’s important to implement in our organization, but maybe you can leave us with a couple of key takeaways that a business owner can kind of chew on and say, You know what, that does make sense, let me go ahead and explore that a little bit more.

Jason: Yeah, sure, our co-founder, Cecilia Bruening-Walstrom, said this to me 11 years ago, and it’s stuck with me and really transformed some of my thinking, We can’t help anyone if that person doesn’t have intellectual curiosity, so if you’re an intellectually curious person, then here’s… Here’s the take away for you. Okay, I want you to get alone, shut all the technology off to the clean piece of paper, and on the very top of the piece of the paper, I want you to write… If I had to fire everyone on my team today, who would I enthusiastically hire back tomorrow? And this isn’t a hypothetical question, this is a real question, write down the names of all the people that you would enthusiastically hire back, if they get a paycheck today or last Friday or next Friday, and they’re not on that list, the best time to fire someone is the first time you think about it, in other words, now is not the time, it’s a phenomenal time to be hiring, let your C players go somewhere else where they can become an A or B player and back-fill with A’s and B’s.

John: That… That makes so much sense. I think that that is… I’m actually, I’m reading through EOS and understanding some of Gino Wickman’s material, and obviously, I know he references culture index, and I think that’s the key takeaway for me, just as you’ve mentioned, is that you have to have that right people in the right seats. So I can’t agree with you more.

Key takeaways

Jason: Gino is… Quick note, Gino is definitely considered a friend, and when he replaced himself as visionary, I think it was about seven years ago at EOS, I spent the better part of an afternoon with him, consulting him on the process, and then he, myself and Mark Winners sat outside of a Starbucks for half a day and really had it out, had some healthy conversations when they wrote the book Rocket Fuel. So if you’re interested, if anyone’s interested out there and they would like a complimentary demonstration of how we do what we do, we’re more than happy to open up an account where you can survey yourself and all of your team members, and we’ll give you a couple of hours of free consulting. And if you like, we can talk more, and if not, you’re gonna get some great consulting and you can just go on down the road.

John: Well, Jason, I really appreciate you sharing that with the audience, ’cause I was gonna ask definitely how people can get in touch with you and what might be some of the next steps, because as you’ve said, if you are curious and you have that… You have that mind or saying, Hey, I wanna do something with my business, I want to take my company forward, I’m just maybe not sure what that might be. I think a conversation with you or a member on your team is critical in that first step of saying, “How do we take our company from A to B?” Jason, it’s been an absolute pleasure to have you on board today. I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with me and I’ve even learned a little bit more about culture index by talking with you today.

Jason: Thank you so much John.

John: And I appreciate you the audience for joining us on this episode of the life is digital, once again I am your host John Bianchi please remember to rate, review, and subscribe to the show. Until next time, don’t stop marketing.

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