EP1: Be Culture PodcastEP1: Be Culture Podcast

Welcome to the first episode of Be Culture Radio.

We are so excited to share with you some of the most amazing people from different fields who have found success and continue to strive to be successful in all aspects of life. We hope that they will inspire, ignite, and push you to take action to reach out to that success you are dreaming of or have been putting on the sideline.

In this first episode, I’d like also to take this opportunity to share with you my personal journey and what prompted me to delve into the world of podcasting. More importantly, I’d like to thank our team behind this project who’ve worked so hard to bring you only the best possible show. Kudos to Nick Bulwin of Second Flight Consultancy for working with me and making the process as simple as possible.

To ensure that you don’t miss on future episodes, be sure to subscribe on iTunes. If you are on an Android device, you can also subscribe via Stitcher.

If you have any questions, feedback or questions, feel free to connect with us on Twitter @BeCulture or directly to me @BEJohnGardner


John: I want to tell you a little bit about my history and where I’ve come from, where I’m going, and how I could help you and bring you along on the journey we have at BE Culture Radio.

My story begins very simply. I was raised in rural North Carolina. I’m one of eight; I’m the baby boy. I have amazing parents and they’ve been married for 65 years, and they’re still kicking and still giving direction. My mom and dad are my biggest cheerleaders. I have 6 amazing sisters and a brother. I have about 55 people – and I say “about” because it ticking up one or two as we keep adding people to our tribe. I have some amazing nieces and nephews, who are chancellors of universities, they own businesses, they’re executives of corporations. I have my own network to pool from, from my mom and my dad, my sisters, my brother and my nieces and nephews.

On top of that, I have had a partner for the last 30 years, and she and I have been married for 25. Kyra Faison-Gardner, the CEO and co-founder of BE Furniture. We have three amazing kids: our oldest is Alex, he is a special needs child. He’s the love of our life. Then we have Nick who’ll be getting out of college this year and joining us at BE Furniture. Our youngest is Mackenzie; she’s in college and hopefully in a couple of years she’s going to come and join us in the company, so that we can continue the legacy of building a culture, one person at a time.

My background is in corporate America. I started right after I got out of East Carolina. I spent two years there and college was not for me. I didn’t like it, so I left and I went to New York City. I got an opportunity to work for Kimball International, and went up through the ranks. I started as a receptionist and worked my way into sales management.  From there I got recruited and went to work for Westinghouse electric corporation, spent five years there, and was in sales management there. From there, I got recruited by a company which was owned by British Tire and Rubber at the time, and went to the Mid-West.

I spent a few years there, and I would sit down with Kyra at that point in my life and say that this wasn’t really what I wanted to do. For me, my core beliefs and my roles were not aligned. It was one of those “aha” moments, where you say, “I want to do something else.” It made it kind of difficult with three small kids under 5, and then living out in the Mid-West, leaving a job and then had to figure out where to go and what to do. But as I said earlier, I have the greatest partner in the world and so she and I, shoulder to shoulder, figured it out together.

We came back to the East Coast and I started in the distribution business, so I literally worked in the furniture dealer community. I worked until I had the opportunity to be partners with two other gentlemen and we built a furniture distributor from $40 million to $170 million in 7 years. There was phenomenal growth, and great opportunity. Once again, as we grew, the culture wasn’t what I wanted it to be for me, so I stepped from there.

Kyra and I decided to start our own company, where we would create an environment that was better for us, that helped us understand that each person who worked was valid, and their opinions were valid. It created a linear organization, versus a hierarchical organization, and it was very entrepreneurial-driven. We started that 12 years ago with no clients, and drove our revenues to over $10 million.

It’s been an exciting journey for us, and about 6-7 months ago we had the opportunity to meet with Nick Bulwin from Second Flight. Nick is our PR and marketing young guru, a brilliant and creative young man. He has convinced me and Kyra to share our story and one of the reasons I wanted to do this podcast was to be able to share with you the experiences I’ve had in talking to corporate executives across the country, leaders, authors, and people who just get the concept and understand that we can make a difference, one person at a time, one company at a time.

We can actually reach out and help each other, and everybody’s got a seat. It doesn’t have to be a win-lose situation. We can stand on the shoulders of giants, as it is said, and we can all succeed. So if we all pull together and we all have our core beliefs and goals in alignment then we’ll get the fulfillment that we desperately seek in this world. And, each and every single person matters, and at BE Furniture that’s what we strive to do every single day.

We are always trying to get better, We understand that we’re not saving any lives: it’s office furniture. It’s a radio show. So, people matter, their lives matter, and their children matter. One of the things that we talk about, and that we hold dear is: “Be the change you wish to see.” Treat people the way you want to be treated. Those are the basic rules we govern our lives by, we live our lives by. It’s about service to the community, being involved and changing the life of a child. If you can change the life of a child, you can change the world, one child at a time.

We’ve embraced that as well. We go throughout our time here on Earth trying to make the place better than how we found it. It’s what my parents taught me, taught my sisters and brother. I think I’m going to share with you, each and every episode, a different perspective from a different corporation, from an author, from a leader. It’s just people’s opinions, and so you’ll be able to pick and choose what works for you, and build a culture that’s amazing.

I’ll end every show with my favorite quote by Maya Angelou, which is “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” So we strive every day to make people feel valid, to make people feel like they’re part of our tribe, to make people understand that you’ll leave a lasting impression on people by the way they feel. It’s such a a valid quote that we talk about all the time, and it’s one that I hold closest to me. And in sharing this with you this is a labor of love.

I hope that you’ll enjoy our podcast. It’s a situation that I will give to you, each and every week, three times a week, the very best that I have to offer. I hope that you in return will share with me how you feel.

One thing I’ll share with you is that a lot of people find success by things that happen in offices, by deals they’ve made. For me and for my family it’s about the many successes we have with our children and my proudest moments about what my children and what my family has been able to accomplish as a collective unit. One short story that I’ll share with you is, as I earlier said, our 24 year old is a special needs child and when he was born – about a year and a half after he was born, the doctors told us that he would never read, he would never write, he would never walk, and nor would he ever talk. They said that he was severely developmentally disabled, and they were pretty sure he was autistic, but they couldn’t tell.

They said that we would be better served to put Alex into an institute and that the family would be better served, and our marriage would be better served. Again, for us, this didn’t align with our core beliefs and our values and our goals, so we dismissed that idea and went about creating an environment and a culture where, “Yes, Alex is disabled, and he is a special needs child, but there are no special rules for him. He’s expected to contribute to society and he’s expected to participate.” Over the last 24 years Alex walks, he talks, he reads, he writes. Alex comes into the office once a week and visits with everybody. He has a job to shred the papers in the office, and so I and we, and you, can create a culture where everybody can be successful and where everybody matters.

The basis of this show is to help everybody understand that everybody matters, and culture matters more than anything else, because that will lead to the metrics anyway. In closing, I would share with you that if there’s something that you feel is missing, perhaps you might want to go back and check your core values, your beliefs, and make sure that they align. Because if you can make your goals and your beliefs and your core values all align, you’re going to have a pretty amazing culture. I think in doing that the “aha” moments will be very rewarding to you, and you’ll be on a path to success where the ups will be higher, the downs will be not as severe, and anything that comes your way you’ll be able to deal with.

So I hope that you’ll enjoy our podcast. I wish you the very best. Please drop me a line at jgardner@befurniture.com My Twitter address is @bejohngardner and drop me a line and tell me what your thoughts are. Obviously, I’ll respond to you; I’m looking forward to talking to you. I hope you enjoyed the show and I hope that you’ll gain as much out of it as I do. So with that, be amazing.